Friday, October 28, 2011

Brothers and sisters

(So since it’s Bhau bij here in India, I thought I’d tell a little sibling story.)

‘You don’t love me as much as Dia.’ 5 year old Krisha, said to her mum. 
She'd been sitting quietly on the sofa, her face in a book, and it seemed like the statement came out of nowhere. 
Well, it was disguised as a statement, but was really a question that wanted ‘No’ for an answer. A hesitant need to know that yes she was as important as her younger sibling, who she saw was getting more attention than her these days (as infants automatically do).   
She was asking for reassurance - that she’d still keep her place in her mum’s heart. 

Siblings, as much as they love, also resent each other.. (And I say this with a smile on my face). At least for the young years of their lives, as they play tug-o-war for their parents attention. Then they grow up, move away and realize how precious their bond is. 

But this is about Little siblings.
Older ones think that the younger ones are treated like people in first class. And the younger ones think that the older are just have so much more power, and entitlement because they arrived earlier. The ones in the middle, well... mostly they just feel confused. 

But through all the ‘he took my books’, ‘she took my colors’, there’s one questions that many kids have in the back of their mind. 

‘Does mummy (or daddy) love Bhaiya (or Choti ) more?’.        
And though easy to ignore as just a childish phase, it is a real thought that haunts them. 

The strange thing is, however much you may evolve as a parent, and show all your kids love, some thing, little things you do – even caring for the baby when she cries - will make the older child wonder. 

And unfortunately, they create and carry the belief that they are less loved, less preferred than the other. When none of it is necessarily true.

Which is why, it’s important to communicate with them and find out how they feel. That communication helps them accept them for themselves, lets them know that they are unique, and special in their own way, and builds an even stronger bond between the children.

Krisha’s mum took her close, and told her this: 

‘Look now, I have 2 hands... They help me carry you both. Help me hug you. Help me cook for you. So which hand would I love more? Both, right?

Krisha nodded.

‘You are like my hands. And I love you as much as myself. Yes, you are both different and unique, and I love both of you in different ways. But I love you both equally.’

Result? Sweet satisfied grin on child’s face. 

You can also use the ‘Apples and Oranges’ analogy. Apples are apples and Oranges are Oranges. You can’t compare. Of course, my niece said.. ‘Yechhh, I’m not an Apple...’ then preening… ‘I’m a Mango’,. I’m guessing you know how to deal with that. Or then, call me.  

Note – While it is important to communicate this, it is also important to stop and be aware to how much attention you pay to each sibling, to sense out if a child is feeling ignored, neglected, sad. And then of course, balance it out, or explain.    

Tuesday, October 25, 2011

Two words that can make one rich.

How do you explain the happiness that comes from saying Thank you. From ‘feeling’ grateful.
No, I don’t mean the prodding, ‘Say thank you to aunty’ that many parents insist on as part of ‘manners’.  
No, I talk about the joy you feel right down to your fingers… the unexplainable happiness of feeling grateful for something.

Of course, it’s not always a fizzy feeling like when somebody gives you a big loving hug, or a flooding of mad emotion when you win a trip to Italy, win an award. Sometimes it’s like butterfly wings - a quiet whisper in a church pew, or at the rain, or just the thankful sigh for feeling the baby in your arms breathing softly, gently, trusting you with her life.   

How do we teach this to our kids? True gratefulness.
A recognizing of how wonderful it is what you just got, or have.

One little mom did a little experiment with the help of her little son. She bandaged his thumb down to his palm for half a day, with his consent of course. Fumbling around funnily, he learned how important every part of his body is… and gives me a lecture on it every time I visit.

Another takes her little girl to the orphanage. Yet another family I know, say ‘grace’. Not the ‘learn-by-rote’ ‘Bless us O lord’ prayer, but a tasting of the food and thanking for the farmer who planted those seeds, the rain, earth, the person who cooked it, the deep deliciousness of it…. Imagine no tastebuds.. Thank you tastebuds, for being there. J  (Yes, being grateful for food can also bring you to mindfulness and be a meditation.)

 And yet another, uses gratefulness to lift her children’s spirits. When they’re sad, she helps them remember all the things they could give thanks for. Things that made them happy: The goal they scored on the school ground, the dragonfly they saw, the kind teacher (versus the stern teacher), the little tree sitting on the window sill and flowering when it feels like, the chocolate they ate.   

But the most important way to teach Them the joy of gratitude, is learning to show gratitude Ourselves. Stopping to notice the littlest things that life has blessed us with.
A friend taught me a Gratitude ‘prayer’ to do at night. Before you slip into slumberland, give thanks for all that you have, or all that made you happy in the day. Or, and if you can, all that made you sad, angry, fearful, and all the lessons that will come from it.

Encourage your little daughter or son to learn it. Let them choose what they’d like to give thanks for. You’ll b surprised. Besides the loving thank you for daddy and mommy…I’ve heard thank yous for ‘for the balloon that went high to meet the sky, the sound that cornflakes make... and Bruno, the neighborhood labrador.’. And yes, also, ‘thank you for cancelling the test.’

When we do this, we learn to appreciate more in our lives. The seemingly ordinary things are shown for the precious things they are. And life becomes a lot more luminous.

Oh, and yes, one wise person also told me, that the more grateful you are for something, you automatically invite more of it into your life.
I know for sure that many parents are going to give thanks for sleep. I just know it. :)


Thank you all for reading. And for all the support and love. From my heart.


Check out what Hailey created. The 365grateful project is inspiring. See how it can lift you.

Tuesday, October 11, 2011

A map-shaped chapatti, and other ‘mistakes’.

‘I made a mistake,’ the four year old said, very upset with herself, holding the chapati that looked like the map of some strange country.
‘And what will happen if you made a mistake?‘ I asked. ‘Will your little nose grow wings and fly away?’ She burst into giggles.  

What is it that makes us believe that mistakes are ‘bad’, that it’s ‘wrong’ to make them?
 Yes, we’ve been taught, and admonished, time and again, that not doing the ‘textbook’ thing, veering off a prescribed path, or writing in black ink instead of blue, was ‘wrong’. 
And thanks to that, we’ve come to beat ourselves up too - Don’t you keep beating yourself up / start to feel guilty if you yelled at your kid in the heat of the moment? Or put the wrong slide in the PPT? Or mixed the whites with the coloreds?  It comes so easily to us.  

But we don’t want our kids to grow up thinking that it’s wrong to make a mistake, do we? So for our own sakes and therefore for our children, let’s say aloud, yes, aloud :).  
It’s ok to make a mistake.

Hello, Chris Columbus’ discovery of America was a mistake.
And mistakes are about discovery. Finding the ‘Oh this is a shorter route!’, or ‘Hmm, this color isn’t so bad,’ Or damn, better not to not invite those people the next time’. Making mistakes are part of our everyday existence, and part of living, learning and growing as human beings.  
We all make mistakes!  Teachers and Presidents. People with super IQs, and loads of experience.

So let’s allow ourselves, and our children to make them . They will learn not to beat themselves up and see it for what it is. ‘A mistake’. A detour. A different way to finding a solution.  And in being unafraid of making a mistake, will try harder the next time, and so choose adventure and fun.  

If a child is made to feel like a failure, (read that as ‘Why are you making a mistake, you silly child?’/ ‘How can you do that?’, and ‘What is wrong with you?’), she will most likely feel inadequate, and often give up. Or not begin at all. Or just end up making ‘more mistakes’ out of fear. Sad, huh?

So let’s be compassionate, to ourselves, and to our children. To remember that making mistakes do not makes us small, less, or weak, and won’t make any of our body parts disappear. That it’s ok not to know something. That we can’t possibly know everything, or be ‘efficient’, ‘smart’, alert’ all the time –Sure  Einstein came up with the Theory of relativity, but d’you think he’d know how to burp a baby.

What making mistakes will do is, let us learn. Give us a chance to make better decisions the Next time armed with knowledge they didn’t have before.
And when we know it’s ok to make one, it’s so much easier to admit it, to let go of the torment of having made it, the embarrassment and guilt. 

So encourage mistakes, and funny-looking chapattis, so that they may dare to dream big, and learn from loads of mistakes along the way.

And yes, when your child says her night prayers, maybe add this - ‘And dear lord, thank you for all the mistakes I made today, and the ones I make tomorrow.’  It lets you, and them remember that what you did, and what you do, is ok.

An example conversation: She makes a mistake. What do you say to her? ‘It’s ok sweetheart. Everyone makes mistakes. But let’s What do you think we can do about it? Is there another way to do this?’ OR ‘What did you learn’ At first – because she’s been conditioned to follow one ‘right’ path, she may not know, or be hesitant. Help her by saying, ‘Ok what if you changed this?)