Raising Kids.. who raises whom?

By Vandana Tilak

I truly believe that the singular purpose I was put on the Earth was to be a mom.. my children, now 29 and 26 made me realize the grandiosity and the audacity of believing that I had anything to do with raising them. Here’s a look at how perceptions change as a parent from the birth of a child till they finally move out of the home.

In 1983, we married in Bombay with 800 people as witnesses. Everyone assumed we would one day become parents. Moving to Los Angeles, however, there were no thoughts about the magnitude of raising children in a country and culture so completely alien to the one I was raised in.. changes would have to be made in my thinking and most probably the changes would be imposed on me by what constituted a “good” mom by my own kids.. of course to their advantage.

My daughter born March 30, 1985 was a little old granny the moment she took her first breath. Not only did she first look at me like she was judging me, but also incredibly had a gray hair on her otherwise bald head.

Just to show how independent she was on day one, she refused to nurse putting the household in complete turmoil. At 2 years age, Anjani made plans, gave detailed instructions on how she would like to be fed, dressed, carried around (pacing the apartment holding her till she finally fell asleep), how she wanted to be strollered around in the park and most importantly, leave her toys exactly where she left them.

I don’t remember walking upright across the room, the first 7 years of being a mom.. I was either bending like a rice farmer picking up toys or cleaning out her room and closet while she was asleep. ..and oh, lets not forget that the only syllables she uttered till she was 18 months was “ne-ne”.. how does an 18th month old baby control a 23 year old grownup with ne ne?? She did!! Maybe there should be an app for that for all the employee challenged bosses of the world.

Then in 1988, along came my son, a quiet saintly type of person.. we named him Kedarnath.. another name for the God Shiva who is known for his intense expression of anger and wrath in the dance form of tandava.. Kedar was and still is a sweet, benign, devoted son.. except when he would get angry.. mostly related with being a boy who was hungry immediately after washing his hands after the last meal.. On the other hand he was and still is an expert negotiator.. once in an expensive toy shop my husband wanted to buy him Babar the elephant. Kedar was ecstatic. He loved elephants. Here’s the negotiation ploy! Tears welled up in his eyes.. he asked “Dada, how do you only buy the Daddy elephant, he needs his kids with him and the kids need their Mom” Sold!.. We still have Babar and his entire family.

Our kid’s American pediatricians compared our children’s growth to a growth chart handed down by the American Pediatric association.. which showed that my kids should have been about a dozen pounds heavier, a few inches taller.. I finally told the doctor, “we live in a melting pot right, well melt this chart and see if you get some better numbers.. my kids are of Indian descent.. look at my scrawny 110 lb body and figure it out”.. needless to say I soon changed the pediatrician, much to his relief..

Growing up, we had only two rules in the house, you do not play with doors (no missing digits to farm off the floor) and two – never drive in another persons car.. a rule that served me well with not having to worry about drunken driving..

After high school, they could choose any profession they wanted.. my son was absolutely positive he wanted to be a trash collecting truck driver at 4, a businessman (like his Dad at 6) and somehow wanted to make a lot of money after 10. He now works in the family business as an administrator, project manager, printer repair guy, attorney liaison and in his words, doer of all things at the firm.

Our daughter on the other hand lived up to the Indian standard of aspiring to be either a doctor, lawyer or engineer.. she chose to be a doctor.

To this day, my daughter still calls us dangerous parents, says we gave them too much freedom with their choices….

But look at it from my POV, when I made a choice, they patronized me by following it for a few weeks and after that just got so disinterested, I feared I was losing money and sleep over it, that I was happy to cancel the classes. One lesson I learnt, never commit to package deals – ever! They skipped kumon, drum lessons.. and any and all attempts at making them “better” human beings.

I realize now that there are a lot of parenthesis.. pun intended..parents come with parenthesis..you are always trying to rationalize and compare parenting to something that has no rules or comparisons.

These days our friends very often ask the secret to raising such considerate, kind and hard working kids. Here it is. The secret to succeeding as a parent, be what you want your kids to be.. they will follow, if not, you follow them.. makes for an awesome time.

Rules or no rules: Staying at home with my kids has been the most fun I have had in my life… my kids grew like weeds, I fed them, clothed them, taught them all I knew. Unbeknownst to them, I had their backs for all the trouble they couldn’t handle by themselves while playing the perfect hands off mom .. to this day, i do not know nor will I ever know, who raised whom?

Which brings me to conclude that we raise each other, just as our ancestors did and so will our children’s children.. there is no formula.. it’s the very reason each child is different and therefore does not come with an instruction book. They don’t and neither do we as parents..

May 14th, 2014