Online & Offline – The new normal

I couldn’t have been happier when my son’s school sent the circular for offline classes from the new session.
No…I don’t want to send him away to school for my peace of mind, or to have that afternoon nap. But I do want him to go to school because it’s important for him, not only for his academics but also for his social well being.
Now don’t judge me again, I am not against online classes or the digital world. I truly believe that digitization and our systems’ ability to go completely online has saved our economy to a big extent in the last 2 years of COVID. It has made studies possible for kids, work and business possible for many of us. However, when I look back at the last 2 years of my Champ’s life, I have to confess that damage has been more than the benefits.
Yes, he does not spend an hour in his school bus in traffic, but his morning routine has gone for a toss.
He misses the bus time and chit-chat with his school friends.
Yes, all his extracurriculars are now online, but his physical growth has been affected due to lack of proper sports and activities, that are a part of school life.
But we are still living in a dilemma – safety VS activity? Many of us lost our loved ones to COVID, and the fear is still looming large…is it safe to send kids to school?
Many schools are going back to offline classes but most of the kindergarten and preschools are still continuing in online mode. So how do we make a balance between online education and social development of our kids?
It requires some initial effort to create an environment that makes physical activity possible and use of technology to make sure that our children also grow socially.
Here are a few tips that I tried and worked with my Champ and some that my friends are following :
1. Laziness Alert! Being at home, tends to make us lazy, no traffic to fight, no need to leave home early, no need to be ready on time, no need to wake up on time, no need to sleep on time….in that order are the most dangerous habits being formed. Going to office, or school, instills a routine in our daily life. DO NOT Break that routine. Make sure your child wakes up on time, uses the time, he/she saves in traveling to school, in morning walk or cycling. Make sure the child is ready for school (with or without uniform) just as in offline school.
2. DO NOT serve food on your kid’s study table while he/she attends the class. Wait
for the break and let them move around the house as they might do in school. Serve them food on the dining table only during the break time.
3. For younger kids who need parents’ support to attend online classes or study videos, please DO NOT, learn for them. DO NOT promt them to answer during the classes. More you do that, lesser attention they will have. They know you are more worried for their class.
4. In many kindergarten or preschools, kids are supposed to have self done tasks like taking their mats and working and then keeping them back. Try as much as you can to maintain that environment at home. Do not rush to hand them their books or pencils. Let them get up and take it on their own.
5. DO NOT feel frustrated that your child isn’t paying attention to the class, they are children and they behave the same in school too, and they cope up on their own. It’s just that in school, you are not seeing them all the time.
6. When you are talking to your friends or relatives, try to make video calls. Due to lack of physical gatherings, our kids are losing personal contact, doing video calls helps them to feel connected and also develops their conversation as seeing someone and talking is different than just hearing them.
7. Involve kids in household chores appropriate for their ages. Whether it’s stacking up the dishes or dusting, or cooking salads. This is the time to make them learn life skills and we all know how important these skills are now. Moreover it also helps them keep active.
8. Do you have lots of couriers coming in? Make your child answer the doorbell, with proper masks and deal with the courier guy. Such a simple activity, not only makes them move but also helps them learn to talk to strangers.
9. Learn and teach them the basic use of gadgets and apps that help them to attend their classes independently. BUT keep a child lock on unwanted apps and games.
We have to grow with the time… technology is a boon and we can’t survive if we don’t adapt.
10. DO NOT overdo when it comes to cooking. Follow your pre-covid cooking regime. Cakes, sweets, etc is only going to add up the fat on your and kid’s body. Instead try different forms of cooking where kids can learn methods, like cooking without fire, barbeque, grow your own veggies like spinach, corriandar, chillies etc.
Well, there are many other ways and things to do, and acceptance and willingness to adapt is the foremost task.
Though I sincerely wish the offline school remains open from now on, but for pre-schoolers, who still have online school, I hope that this blog helps in filling the gap of physical and social growth.

You are my Sunshine !

“Mamma, I want this! You have to buy me this toy Papa” Aman was shouting at the top of his voice.

Everyone in the store was staring at him and his parents, Simran & Sanjay. Simran picked up the toy box and checked its price.

She turned towards Sanjay and said, its just 2000 Rs, let him have it. Sanjay also did not have any issues, after all, his son should have it all. He immediately put the toy in their shopping cart and moved ahead. Aman was ecstatic.

As soon as they reached home, Aman tore open the cover of the toy and started playing with it. It was a block game, but an advanced version of it. He started making an airplane from the blocks. After few futile attempts of getting the wings right, he got frustrated and threw away the blogs in all directions. “What kind of blocks are these, I am not even able to make wings. I don’t want it” Aman started crying.

“Its OK baby, we will get you a new one, a bigger one” Simran consoled her only son. Nobody bothered to even pick up the scattered blocks.

In the evening, Aman & Simran head out for their park time. Aman was busy playing with his friends while Simran was walking with her friends. She told the block game story to me and I immediately asked her, “Why did you even buy that toy for Aman? I would never have done that? Kids want everything but as parents we have to decide if they really need it or not”

“C’mon, he is our only son and why are we working so hard? For him, so that he can have a comfortable life? If we can’t even buy him a toy that he wants, then what is the point in earning so much?” Simran retorted to my reaction. I wanted to fight back but decided against it. This is not the first time I have heard these words or seen parents becoming slaves to their kids’ unjustified demands.

Or rather parents are falling prey to their own childhood wishes. As a kid, I always wanted to learn swimming, and had no means because their was no swimming pool in our town. Today when my son somersaults in pool , I see myself in him and feel content. A friend told me that as a kid she always wanted to have a barbie doll and so now her daughter has piles of Barbies. Another friend always had a craze for crocs and so when he bought the first pair of crocs for his son, he felt as if his dream has come true.

It got me thinking, why do we want our kids to have it all, the things that we couldn’t have? Are we trying to prove that we are more capable than our parents? Or is it the twinkle in our child’s eyes that makes us give them everything they demand. Or in our childhood we have so often yearned for something that we can’t stand our kids “longing for anything”.

Looking at my childhood, one day that was very special to me was my birthday. Ah, my birthday! Even the thought makes me smile. I was crazy about it. As soon as the calendar for next year would come, I would first check the day my birthday was falling. It gave me so much of happiness, not sure why, because we never had a birthday party. I always had mid-term exams on my birthday, but still it was a very special day for me. My parents and my brother would wish me, first thing in the morning, relatives and cousins would call and I was chirping the entire day, jumping from one corner to another saying, “its my birthday” at definite intervals. Mom would make my favorite food, Papa would come home a little earlier and my brother would just keep smiling at my happiness. There were no gifts wanted or given. BUT there was a lot of love, motherly love, fatherly love, brotherly love, name it and I had it.

All special occasions, festivals were marked with festivities and not shopping and gifting. On Diwali, my dad would ask us to go around to neighboring shops and offer sweets to everyone. On Holi, it was about making “tolis” and not about wearing white clothes and getting into colored swimming pool.

I still remember summers of May & June when I would cycle from school, carrying the heavy school bag, face red due to extreme heat and my parents were neither worried about the weight of my bag nor my complexion.

And only today, my son complained how heavy his bag was. He couldn’t even carry it from apartment gate to the lift which are hardly 20 meters apart. When I protested that he should carry his own bag, I got “what kind of mom is she” looks from other mommies and daddies. I gave in !!

Why are we underestimating our kids in all aspects of life? Whether its slight manual task like carrying schoolbags, emotional turmoil of handling fights or failures or yearning for a toy, we parents are always at their rescue. We do not let anyone (read anyone), scold our kids, or teach them the right thing to do. “Every child is different, we have to let them be” is what I hear from so many parents, who feel disciplining their child will restrict her/hers’ imaginative skills.

For me, bullying, bad language, troubling other kids, are definitely not imaginative skills. But again, I don’t have rights to discipline or scold any child other than mine. So I let them be.

Now coming to why is this change happening, in parents and kids? Kids are not to be blamed, because they are just exploring the options being given to them and who wouldn’t? So it all boils down to us, parents and I found some examples around me.

  1. Peace Loving Parents: These are mostly no-nonsense parents. Anything which is genuinely required is definitely bought remaining in a budget. Out-of-the-world demands, are a strict no, with an attempt to explain. However at times, they give in to child’s demands, for the sake of having some peace, under peer pressure, or under parent pressure.
  2. “Our Only Child” Parents: Parents in this category are victim of their self-made pity for child, “he is the only one, or he is alone”. “If we scold him then he won’t talk to us or confide in us. He will be emotionally unstable.” Such parents impose the duty of being a sibling, a friend, a caretaker, a punching bag on themselves. They forget the simple fact, that only being a parent is enough.
  3. “Scared” Parents: Such parents are always scared for their children, due to various reasons, like the child happened after many years and complications, or the child had a major accident in past, or too much in-take of “crime patrol”. Media, news, current state of crime against children, all play a role in forming of these parents. And they are not entirely wrong. However, when fear turns into obsession, it leads to major parenting problems.
  4. “Tech Savy” Parents: Such parents are highly technology oriented and cannot be blamed. Technology is our present and future. They make sure that their children have all types of comforts in form of gadgets. Feelings are given less importance. This is another reason of kids being glued to mobiles & tablets these days.
  5. “I don’t force my opinion on my child” Parents: I don’t need to explain much, however there is another side to it. Such parents get forced by their children’s opinion. In quest of allowing freedom and space to the child, they even move out of the “parent corner” of the child’s room.
  6. “Oh my poor child” Parents: These parents are always feeling bad for their child. Any discomfort expressed by the child makes them cringe and they can go to any extent to remove the pricking thorn. They don’t let their child experience the painful part of life at all. Child’s smile is of utmost importance to these parents.

Well I can keep writing….its again a vast topic. The way parenting is happening these days, it imposes serious problems for the future of our children, the same future which we are working so hard to secure. I once read an article that our parents had only one option, to work hard and make a life for themselves, so they focused on supporting their families. We had better options and financially stable background, thanks to our parents, and so we could widen our horizons. And our kids have an ocean to explore, but we are restricting them from taking steps, dreaming, yearning because we are too scared to loose them to the waves. In our quest to make our children’s life blissful, we are forgetting that “falling” is that essential part of life without which “walking” has no meaning.

For every mom & dad, children are their sunshine, but Sun shines only when it burns….are our kids truly shining like Sun?

Under 9

So , I was thinking what should I write on this Friday. Mind was brewing up a lot of stories but heart wanted to pen down some unsaid thoughts. Yeah, unsaid, for many years and will remain so !

When I was in school, I had a friend, a “Hi-Hello” friend actually. Our talks were mostly limited to greeting each other with a “Good Morning”, passing courteous smiles and waving “Bye” at the end of the day. She had her own “gang” of friends and I had mine. We belonged to very different sect of friends, behaviorally & socially. I will not get into the differences because it doesn’t matter….for this blog. May be some other day….I would write about that too.

During one of her weak moments, when she was outcast-ed from her gang, she confessed how much she hated her “so called” friends and was being forced to be with them. Yes, she was being forced, by her parents to be with “those” kids, because her parents wanted her to be like them. I was intrigued, because I saw kids being compared everywhere, at home, at school, at parties, at family gatherings and so on.

Today, when I look back, I find how many childhoods were ruined because of comparison. And I am thankful to those parenting articles which are creating awareness in new age parents to let the child be, a child. BUT, do you think it has stopped or even reduced?

No, a definite NO.

I was out for my evening walk the other day and was chatting with a friend, whose son takes the same class as mine. And she informed me that one of their common friends has joined a class and is being coached for “under 9” tournament. I had a sudden pang of a feeling that I can’t describe and said, “Oh god, so they are also stuck in the viscous circle of “under””!!! I have no doubts about the child’s capabilities, but all I can see is another under 9 child being pushed into a shark tank. And he has to keep floating, because his parents are tied to the same rope as he is and if he drowns, they drown too !!

When I was a kid, comparison was with cousins and friends, now its with 100 stranger kids, whom WE think are better. Why are we doing this to our children? I don’t have an answer. I am a culprit too. My son, once was passionate about a game, today also he plays, he wins medals and trophies too, but the passion is missing. I ask myself, why? Because we, parents, teachers and society, made him believe that he is capable, of doing wonders. And that belief was shattered, when he lost in games, again and again. He picked himself up after every lost game and played the next one with the same zeal, but for how long? Even the toughest of players have bad days.

So the new age term for new age parents is “under x”. Parents take pride in saying, “our kid is participating in under 7, or under 9 or under some tournament”. What they fail to understand is that, their kid is just under 9 and next year he wont be, so instead of pushing him or her to do something which he doesn’t want to or can’t, may be for once, let him truly be “under 9”.

Let them explore what a 9 year old kid should, let them engage in various activities, chose what they like and discard what they don’t. We as parents and our kids should learn to accept their natural capabilities and weaknesses. Because acceptance brings in a sense of satisfaction and also a sense of competition, with own-self.

My advice to all new parents, don’t succumb to the pressures of society, be a mom and dad to your child, scold him, stand for him, pat his back when he wins, hug him when he looses, but never ever say, “look…..your friend got a trophy in under 9 tournament, what are you doing?” Believe me, they will soon be under 11 and you wont even realize where those 2 precious years of their childhood vanished.