There are probably a dozen reasons why I wanted to write this post. What I wanted to write about was my set of parenting rules I have learnt and implemented in the last few months. Some of these are advise passed from my friends, some I learnt from my experience watching other families, some from internet and some that just made sense to me. But I have postponed writing this for so long, now. I don’t know why. Sometimes, I think its trivial, sometimes I cant believe I haven’t written this yet. The main reason I am wavering so much is that grandparents have driven me ABSOLUTELY crazy about what I was doing. I know all my thoughts conflict with the traditional/orthodox way of parenting, but, no one said that way is the best or is what works for every one of us. This was my major struggle during my Hyderabad trip and later. The feedback was so harsh that I started feeling guilty about what I was doing. I thought maybe I was wrong. But, in someway I knew I wasn’t. I wanted to put this down here and ask everyone ‘Am I crazy to be doing this?’ I don’t want anyone to judge me about how I am raising my kids (and they are only 17 months old), I don’t want to feel guilty about doing what I think is right for us. I don’t want to be a bad mother.
Despite thinking about all these things for months now, going back and forth, I still am so confused in my head. I guess that’s the main thing that’s forcing me now. I want to clear my head, put it in writing and see. Plus with Abhi and Achu going to be more tantrum-y in the next few months, I need to tell myself that it’s not wrong to set limits.
♦ The first advise I received from my American friends after I mentioned that I was pregnant was ‘to keep the babies on schedule’. One of them, a dad, said ‘I know it’s not easy. But, sooner you do it, better it will be for all of you’. But I didn’t do it any sooner. The first four months of my motherhood was all about survival. After that at our drs. appointment around the same time, our pediatrician (also a twin mom) reminded that this is the time to start taking control. I tried. But again, I didn’t go all crazy to set a schedule. I started simple. With Abhi, trying to let him sleep on his own. He obliged and slept on his own for the rest of 8 months of his first year (I am so proud of you, Abhi. 🙂 ). When we tried this with Achu, she protested so bad that I gave up after two days. It was not until the Hyderabad trip when I was with Abhi and Achu 24 * 7, I thought of taking the advise. I started to put them to bed at same time, woke them up at certain time, fed them same time etc. Yes, there was some crying for the adjustment and all, but our life couldn’t be better. It was no longer chaotic as it was before. I knew when they were going to do what. It was one of the best things. I have seen our lives with and without being on a schedule and would pass on the same advise to any new parent. Unfortunately,this didn’t go well with the grandparents. All that they saw was kids crying while they were trying to settle down into a routine.
♦ This is something I have learnt watching my sister give her 2-year-old some four or five cashew cakes (this kid can hardly digest 2), only because we had family friends visiting us then and my sister didn’t want the kid to cry/throw a tantrum in front of them. (By the way, that night, my sister;s kid cried for almost two hours because of tummy ache from the extra cookies). Since when is crying not normal for kids? Which kid grows up without crying? And why is it wrong for a kid to cry in front of others? Once an Indian mom colleague of mine was telling another American one that ‘Our Indian kids throw a lot of tantrums when we go shopping. Yours don’t do at all’. The reason is really not in the Indian kids, is it? It’s in the parents who give in because we don’t want the kid to throw a tantrum in the public. This is one thing I have in my mind for future, to not give in (I am not saying I am going to do all this, but I at least want to give my best try).
♦ Same colleague(I mentioned above)’s daughter is very attached to her. But when the mom denies the kid something, she runs to her Dad. Dad gives in and gets the kid what she wanted. All in all, the point mom was trying to make to the kid is lost and mom becomes the villain. Quoting one of these incidents, she said, all parents must be on the same page. That sounds true to me. Otherwise, its only going to confuse the kid. I am trying to tell Achu she can’t take that toy away from Abhi, someone else gives it back to her, behind my back (because she can cry otherwise), it’s not going to help.
♦ No, I don’t go running to Abhi and Achu each time they fall down. When they are not hurt, its okay to tell them they are fine (In our lingo, we do Ishi Ishi, bye bye 🙂 ) and get them back on their feet on their own. I don’t go pick them up each time doesn’t mean I don’t care. They learn they are okay and they become normal. There is no need for more drama each time. Once, Achu slided down from her car seat on to the carpet in front of us and someone said that Achu was burning with rage because I didn’t go hold her. Really? You know, even if it wasn’t for an ever smiling Achu who was happily smiling about her little adventure, I think I would know if a 12 month old baby was ‘Burning With Rage’.
♦ Why does the dictionary meaning of soothing a kids always mean ‘picking him/her up and carrying him around for ever’? I didn’t really think picking Abhi and Achu each time they are about to cry is a solution (especially given that I have two kids). One of our neighbor aunties at Hyderabad (she was the best) told me to differentiate between fake crying, real crying and act accordingly. That’s exactly what I have done. Especially, with Achu who was doing a lot of that, by then. Till date, diverting her attention or ignoring her is the best way to pacify her. Same for Abhi, too. Again, didn’t go well with grandparents who are used to picking the kid up even before he/she thinks of starting to cry (The first time I saw the grandparents wanting to do this, I let them. They soon gave up and left my kid for crying. The next time, I put my foot down and said no holding kids for each and everything). My only consolation, so far, is one of my aunts, openly pointing to me that Achu forgot her crying and returned to normal after I ignored her for a while. If she could see what I did worked well, I feel slightly relieved.
♦ Sleep training kids aka ‘time when mommy is seen as baby villain because she is making the kids cry’. You know, in the last 17 months, our current nanny, P and I are the only ones who thought of sleep training Abhi and Achu so that they could sleep better. That’s because we three are the ones that have put Abhi and Achu to sleep and know the problems. When I went to Hyderabad I really thought someone would help Achu sleep better. No one had an answer except that, ‘that’s how kids are’. That time, she went to sleep crying, woke up crying (at least 6-7 times a night). I am sleep less all night. And how was I supposed to wake up at 6/7 in the morning with Abhi, bathe/feed them, make them nap and stay active during the day? Achu also looked exhausted all night. The only thing that was left to do was teach her to sleep on her own which obviously would take a lot of crying (because its Achu. She WILL protest and fight). I see Achu now and remember how she was few months ago during that time. After teaching her to sleep on her own, she sleeps much better. We still have episodes once in a while, but she wakes up smiling, many times.
♦ Just because the other family friend’s grand daughter is eating all nuts and spices when she is 8 months old doesn’t mean mine have to. I do all the hard work for Abhi and Achu, cooking for them, feeding them and taking care of them when they are sick. And as a first time mother, I am not very confident of what I can do or what babies can take. I go with doctors advise and do what I feel safe with. I am not worried about my kids matching their skillset with others (yet). We will do things when we are comfortable with it. But again, this is something I want to be a little vigilant about. I maybe much scared than I need to be. Maybe I can take things a little easy and not worry too much. This is something I should change. (I think all about this, finally let go of my fear, take Abhi Achu for a walk outside in the cold and then they get sick 😦 )
♦ Do you know how many times during our trip, I have seen someone keeping the TV turned on because, otherwise, kids would be bored? They thought, since Abhi isn’t crawling at all and is only sitting still at one place, keeping the TV turned on will entertain him. I thought that was true. Then, everyone kept complaining that he wasn’t walking or crawling, which he should have (according to their rule book) by then. I realized, having TV is the reason Abhi wasn’t trying to crawl or move. He is so glued to the TV being entertained, why would he even try? A good two months passed by the time I realized this. Abhi totally skipped his crawling stage and that’s because of the damn TV. You know, there are other better reasons for not letting kids watch TV, but what made more sense to me was what they could do if they are not watching TV. Since we came back from India trip, we have the no TV rule and we had such good fun moments because of that. It’s more fun to play or teach them something on our own than stare at the TV and pass time.
Another thing I was worried about was if what I was doing was age appropriate. But, if its working for us for good, how can it be wrong? And how can people not see that? There are also so many little things I did different than what grandparents thought was right. I dont have to list them all here. All in all, I am tired of giving everyone explanations on why I am doing what. Its true I get all defensive and give elaborate reasons quoting experiences to all around me, because I think everyone is going to thing wrong like grandparents did. I don’t have to do that. I am tired and sick of feeling guilty or feeling judged. Twins are a whole different world. Like Murali once said, raising kids for 30 years in the same style doesn’t necessarily mean a parenting experience. Raising different children in different styles that suit the kid is what counts as an experience. I agree. Abhi needs to be raised in a different way and Achu needs something else. But, that’s a whole new topic.
To be very frank and blunt, I happen to be the first working mom in my family that hasn’t left the kids to the grandparents. I was offered so many times to leave Abhi or Achu back in Hyderabad because it would be difficult to manage everything here. That’s not what I wanted. That’s not what Murali wanted too. So, instead, I chose to follow some rules, train Abhi and Achu make our lives less chaotic.
If terrible twos are going to be as chaotic as everyone says, things will get more complicated for us with twins (in different ways). So, good or bad, do let me know your thoughts.