Of Loneliness & Being Alone…

Coming back home after I dropped my daughters at the airport gave me a lot of time to introspect about what well meaning family and friends were telling me. Everyone was concerned about how I am going to spend my time, how much I will miss the girls, what would I do to keep myself occupied, an empty nest, silence at home, etc etc. kids

I was surprised to find that most people around me think that I would have nothing to do or would be thoroughly bored. It actually got me thinking why parents end up feeling that way. It also got me to delve into memories and observations. Don’t get me wrong here. I, for one minute, do not say that I will not miss my daughters. Of course! I will!!! But, hey, guess what…I have brought the up for this day. The day where they step out as young ladies, take charge of their lives, work towards fulfilling their dreams and lead a life on their own terms. I would rather celebrate such a day than mope around.

So, here is my two bit for everyone whose fledglings are about to fly off the proverbial nest.

Have faith in your child. Many a times, parents go on harping about how their children don’t do this or that. You have brought up your own children. They have seen you do all the things that they are doing now. Remember, when you complain about the value system your kids are following, you are basically complaining about the value system you have taught them. Trust your upbringing and trust the way you are bringing up your next generation. After all, you didn’t turn out so bad yourself!

Communicate regularly, but, effectively. I have agonized over how much communication is enough communication with kids. At what stage of life do I share certain things. I’m sure a lot of you parents out there think about this. And then we tend to go overboard both ways…either we are constantly communicating (kids call it breathing down their necks) or we clamp up (kids call it uninteresting, boring parents). It is a difficult path to walk. What has worked for me is to share a combination of thoughts and feelings. I have consciously avoided sermonising. The biggest mistake a Mom or Dad can make is to go into “when I was your age” mode. Children so detest it. If you want your child to be an exact replica of you, my take is to clone yourself. Parents have to accept that their children have a personality of their own. Allow that personality to bloom. We can only nurture with love and affection.  kids making_mistakes

Mentally let go. While your teenager will move away physically, a lot of Moms find it difficult to cut the proverbial umbilical cord. Please do not do this to your child. They will never be able to take decisions in their lives. I strongly believe that the best gift you can give your kids, is the ability to take decisions. Let them not become worry warts and procrastinators and not take decisions in life. Empower them in such a manner that while they are away, you know they can take care of themselves.

Avoid over involvement. Allow your children to experiment or make mistakes for themselves. So common is this “helicopter parenting”, in which Mums and Dads hover close by, whether their children need them or not, that Universities find it difficult during counselling sessions. Sure you are concerned, but don’t make the University/college/counsellor or even your off spring feel cornered. Most educational institutions have a fairly good communication process with the parents or guardians. If we follow them, we come to know how our child is progressing. Micro managing their lives will not allow them to grow up as individuals. One new recruit at a software company was overheard on the phone to his mother saying: “I’ve got to go to London tomorrow and they haven’t even told me how to get there.” You really don’t want that child to be yours. quote-it-s-a-hard-call-but-i-ve-no-desire-to-live-my-children-s-lives-i-think-my-job-as-a-father-is-to-ernie-hudson-88733

Your life is your life. I presume most families have both parents working. You do have your work, your friends, your hobbies. I know a lot of parents give up their hobbies, socialising while the kids are growing up. This is the time to get back into the groove. I started branching out and doing different things almost a year ago. Being an entrepreneur helps, as I am able to manage my time effectively. It gives me time to indulge in some activities that I could not do earlier. Also, it does not make me feel guilty that I am doing something ignoring my kids. Most of us do not indulge for ourselves because it makes us feel guilty 🙂

Create your own support system. Make new friends, develop new hobbies, work for a social cause, spend time with extended family. Revel and share your children’s achievements with all these people. They will also love it and you come away feeling positive. Do not make only your spouse your support system. I agree in some cases the Dads have it a little easy…a boys’ night out they share with their friends gets the “missing my kids” feeling out. With Moms who have not gone out with friends because they did not want to leave the kids alone, will find it difficult to do a girls’ night out. My recommendation, do go out…after all it is your life. Your spouse and kids will not grudge you that 🙂

Ideal time to spend with your partner. We have started rediscovering each other the last few months. Yes, the conversation is also mostly about the children. However, with the children going away, our time is our time, again without the guilt. Both of us are looking forward to more adventures, companionship, travel and doing new things together. All I can say is let your love bloom again.

A lot of parents discover that there is nothing really for them together once the children leave home. Sad, but, true. Acknowledge it. See how you can work on the relationship. You as a couple know best. If a split is inevitable ( I see more and more of this happening), manage it sensitively. Even though the children are young adults, you both are still the parents. Ensure that your children know they have emotional & physical space in your new life. That is very important for them as they are away from home.  quote-sometimes-we-re-so-concerned-about-giving-our-children-what-we-never-had-growing-up-we-neglect-to-james-c-dobson-51822

Pay attention to your younger ones. Very often, when the older sibling goes away, the younger ones are lost. They feel the absence more than any one of us. Perhaps because they haven’t anticipated the effect of an absent brother or sister as well as parents might have done. And if you’re moping around, it may make them feel second best. My younger daughter felt that and she expressed herself. It helped me correct my own behaviour and the time I spent with her increased. We discovered fun stuff that we could do together without my older one being around.

One thing I am sure of is when we are confident of allowing our off springs to build a life they are going to be proud of, we automatically feel proud of who they are. Like I always say, I believe our legacy will be defined by the accomplishments and fearless nature by which our children take on life’s challenges. As parents our responsibility (not duty) is to enable and empower them…and then allow them to lead their lives.

 

 

 

 

Being A Parent…Being A Friend

A question that I’m asked frequently by a lot of people – what kind of a relationship do you share with your children? I often find it funny that parents ask me this question. What am I supposed to answer…I share a great relationship with my daughters.

I was pondering this question as I was recovering from a bout of viral the last couple of days. It struck me that the people who have asked me this question aren’t very sure about their own relationship with their children. I am no one to sermonize others on bringing up kids…I have had my fair share of doubts of being an effective parent versus a good parent. However, I have to thank my daughters, Urvashi & Urmila for endorsing time and again that I managed to be both on different occasions… 🙂  Parenting1

The thought process continued and it reminded me of a conversation I had with a friend who also has teenage children. My friend summarised our chat very effectively and I’m sharing some of those pointers here. Even if it helps one parent out there, I’m happy!

Communicate Easily & Freely: I have noticed kids respond to communication in any form. This is a process that must happen from birth. Communication means sharing. Very often parents expect their kids to come and talk to them, but, rarely share what is on their mind. Of course the child must be at an age & in a position to understand what the parents are sharing. This communication changes as the kids grow from childhood to adolescence…what’s important is to keep the process going on.

Allow Questions: I have been working with the youth on different projects. While addressing a batch of college students recently on their participation in the nation building process, I had the opportunity to interact with students and faculty. As usual, I noticed the faculty pushing the students to ask questions as soon as the talk was over. And, as usual, the students hesitated to ask questions in public. I don’t blame the students here. As a society, we do not encourage our young ones to ask questions. Children must have the liberty to ask…if we as parents are incapable of answering their questions, it is not the fault of the child. It is our problem…we need to find the relevant answer to satisfy the question.

Parents, go back to your own childhood…how many were encouraged to ask questions? What a child can’t receive, he can seldom give later in adult life. Parenting2

Encourage Decision Making: Both my daughters were encouraged to take decisions from their primary school days relevant to their age. The pros and cons were explained and they were told the consequences of not taking a decision. Even in adult life, most people are scared of taking decisions because they want their decisions to be right. My question to such people – if you don’t take a decision, how will you know whether it is right or wrong? Allow your kids the luxury of making their own decisions. They will automatically take responsibility and ownership for it. And even if it turns out to be a mistake, so what? Haven’t we made our share of mistakes in life?

Allow Them Their Mistakes: I have noticed parents constantly cautioning their children about situations, people, relationships in life. I understand that as parents we do not want our children to go through rough times, get cheated, ragged, bullied. Tell me, how much will you protect them? One day, they will have to face the world on their own! Then what? Children brought up in that environment have a warped sense of life and end up thinking that the world owes them everything. While as parents we know, that is a far cry from the truth.

Share Your Story: a lot of kids grow up thinking their parents are super heroes in the initial years. And then the teenage years descend on your off springs and their view starts changing. Erma Bombeck (one of my favourite authors) says, “Have you any idea how many children it takes to turn off one light in the kitchen Three. It takes one to say What light and two more to say I didn’t turn it on.” That’s what teenage years do. One thing that stood me in good stead was sharing my teenage years with my daughters when they had “curious” questions. It helped them to know that their mother had gone through similar experiences in life. I was declared “normal” by my kids… 🙂

The worst thing I could have done was to have a “holier than thou” approach in front of them…Jane Nelsen very nicely puts it, “Where did we ever get the crazy idea that in order to make children do better, first we have to make them feel worse? Think of the last time you felt humiliated or treated unfairly. Did you feel like cooperating or doing better?” Parenting3

Finally, it’s not just children who grow. Parents grow with them. I have grown with my lovely daughters. As much as I wait to see what they do with their lives, they are also watching me to see what I do with mine. While I tell them to reach for the stars,  the moon & the sun…I am reaching for my own stars, moon and the sun!!!