“I want him to be a Rambo-baby” Conversations with a young mother- Part Two

As parents in the present times, we all struggle with the directions in which children should be guided. Should the focus be on leaving the child relatively free, should we have a firm hold on moral training from the start, what focus should be placed on academic learning, should we allow children to play freely, should there be clear boundaries to children’s actions? Should we decide how a child should be spending time or should it be something a child should learn to decide on his own? So many questions and so few answers. For those of us who have passed the early stages of children’s development, we can look back with a confounding mix of reassurances and regret,” maybe I should have done a bit more of this, or done a bit less of that; I wish I hadn’t lost my cool about such a small thing, maybe if………” Whatever we may think, there is no way of knowing how things would have turned out. All we have before us is the outcome of choices that we made and what Nandini calls a child’s “character”, an expression she uses to label the unique characteristics that people are presumably born with, that will determine their main approach to life and learning. This week we present a conversation with a young mother of one-and-a-half year-old Vivaan, and their adventure through the early years of parenting a young toddler. Illustrated with videos of their ordinary adventures, we see how the child’s personality emerges in the conversations and how Nandini frames her role and relationship as a mother. I found my conversations with Nandini to be absolutely fascinating. Her self-assurance and confidence were impressive. To be honest, I even felt a touch of envy at her clarity on friendships and family. She seems to have sorted out so many things in her youth that many of us struggle with life-long. I am quite sure you will find my conversation with Nandini to be as impressive as I did.

Enter the Sand-boy!

Here is what Nandini has to say:

“I have seen many kids and parents. Many of the parents keep their children inside and also stay in themselves. They never allow kids to talk to strangers, engage with pets (especially stray dogs) and roam freely. I was born and brought up in a village. From childhood we were connected to people and nature. I am basically from Coorg where it rains for long periods. People in the village try to increase the immunity of kids by allowing them to be free, rather than restricting them from playing and exploring. I used to take Vivaan out from 15th day after my delivery which is usually not normal in our families, but my in-laws and mom supported me as they knew that I will take care of my kid properly. I introduced him to mud, water, sand, stray dogs at a very young age. In Coorg, the locals are okay to send their kids to play in mud, water, sand etc but definitely they say ‘No’ to playing with stray dogs



I believe that if a person is good with nature, definitely he will be good to humans for sure!! I wanted him to respect nature and it’s creativity. Other things can be taught at school. I also feel that basic things should be taught at home so I try to spend more time with him and connect him to nature. I love the way he enjoys whatever he gets to see.”

Splash!

Usually Nandini has her hands full, with work and a little child, her mother and her in-laws living nearby, she also has two pet dogs in her household. Her parents-in-law leave around 200 mtrs. away in a separate house and her mother lives in her home to help with her son. When we had this conversation, she had time to talk as it was the first day she had been without her son who had left for their native place with the grandmother. Dealing with this new feeling of his absence, Nandini says:

“This is the first time that I have left him to be with my mother for a few days, and I think I am missing him more than he is missing me. Actually, I think Viv will be okay (about him being separated from her for a few days) because he will not be able to express, right? Maximum he can cry. And any way he is used to my mom who has been there from day one, so he will be okay. It’s the parents… As soon as I enter here, now that they are in Coorg, Mom is not there, kid is not there, no one is there in the house, just my work station. At least if I was in my in-laws house, there will be someone else there. This looks like a desert to me. I am thinking “What the hell is happening with me. I am …like…okay…first day right….tomorrow will be different, I suppose. It’s been one year six months and I have never left him like this. People may think what they like, but I know what I’m doing.”

Chatting with Chutki

About what others may feel about her decision, she adds: “I really don’t bother about others. They say, “how can you leave…..” I know it’s difficult. I think we now have maternity leave of six months. Previously we never had this……earlier people used to leave their children at three months and go back to work. They would even leave kids in day care and go….(back to work). Our house is just 200 mts away from my In-laws’ house in Bangalore. My Mom belongs to Coorg, but because of me and my kid, she has moved to Bangalore temporarily. Next week there is a festival and my Mom wanted to go back for a week, to clean and do other stuff. Anyway, I also had a plan of leaving Viv with my mom for sometime….also I wanted my Mom to rest. She’s 50 and for the last one and a half years she has been taking care of him. I think I have taken enough rest, not my Mom.”

Conversations

“Frankly, my Mom is my pillar. Without her, I can’t even think about raising Viv. Even now, I’m all alone, but my kid is taken care of. She has never said no for anything. I have had this privilege that I have my mom with me to support me and my kid. This also gives me free time to run every alternate day and work. And now, there is no one, my mom is not there, my kid is not there, I feel that I’m missing something. Oh no!….I’ll be okay in a couple of days, I think. Anyway next week I’m going, I’m like, I’m compromising myself, I’m sending him now and I will follow later.”

About her husband as a father:

“My husband is into business. He has also never experienced our son being away, once he comes back from office today, we will know. For the first six months I was in my mom’s place [in Coorg], so I don’t think he will feel as much. Last week, there was a festival at my home in Bangalore, so last Saturday I went to my in-laws’ place and didn’t return to my place till Tuesday. My son saw me after two days, so that was a trial. Both houses are just 200m apart, so my mother and kid were here only. In between I was missing him so much I couldn’t control, I came and saw him. Now he is far so I can’t do that. For me, I can say, it is a new learning.”

“I have seen many people, including my sister [referring to a cousin]. So, she did not allow her child to talk to anyone. She was also born and brought up in Coorg, alright….but she is different. On her first birthday I could see my niece, she was crying loudly. She had never seen so many people and she was scared, she hadn’t spoken to any stranger. And other people around her were so enthusiastic to take pictures and everything, but the little one was not enjoying. She was obviously feeling overwhelmed, you know, every day she used to be all alone and suddenly so many people. She had spent time only with her parents and grandparents, that’s all. And once in a while, I used to go and talk to her (my niece) and come back.”

“She is not my real sister, she is my cousin, just three months older than me. She got married very early and she had a child early. Her daughter is six, this was before I got married.”

“And one more thing is I used to stay in my own rented house before I got married, so there, I have seen the owner’s kid from three months of age and I was working from home.”

About her ideas of being a mother:

“So, I had a very good plan and followed it. This was my plan. I decided that post- maternity I will request my mother to come and live with me for my emotional support. My in-laws are aged so I know that they won’t be able to look after the baby. They are very good. My In-laws and my mom, everyone supported me. See, when a baby wants to touch a street dog everyone’s in-laws will say no, but my in-laws are mature enough, they have travelled the world and lived abroad also. From day 1 they accepted me because, they trust me. I am a runner, so they knew I would bring up my child well. They allowed me to be. It is not my sole journey, I have had a lot of support from people around me.”

About rural and urban living and her son:

“I want my kid to know both sides……you see, ….whatever he does, right?….he should be up front. If he’s making a mistake also, he should be ready to accept it. See, I have seen many people……..I don’t have any restrictions towards my son…..what he wants to be. I feel that education, children have to cram so much in school, whatever you learn, when they start working…….they cannot even remember it. Nowadays, parents also want their child to get 80-90 percent. What are you going to do with these marks? This is just competition. Why do we have cut off 35%? That is the basic, right? See, I’m very clear, I always say….now everyone wants to be in limelight…even me….I came second in a run and I wanted to be first. Even I have that. I’m also a human being, I also have this in my mind. I can’t change it. In one or other way, we are competitive. But it should be healthy competition. You do your stuff, don’t bother about others. You should compare yourself, and you should want to be better, healthy comparison is good…..but sometimes it leads to a different level. See for me, everything should be there in life. I am not a saint. I eat, I drink, I workout in parallel. Some people workout to lose weight and stop eating. I am not like that, I eat, I burn. I eat, I burn.”

“When I see children of rich families, if they are lost, I feel, they won’t even remember any phone numbers in that moment, and if they are lost, they won’t be able to reach home. But some children can reach home, can find their way. I want my son to be like that. If I lose him also, he should be able to figure out a way to return home.”

“I’m telling you frankly, I want him to be Rambo baby, and I tell him that also. I teach him kindness to animals, okay? But when it comes to human beings, I say, if they hit once, hit twice. My mom taught me this, you know. In Kannada, there is a saying that if someone says something to you, then you say “You’re … Dad” You give them a threat, doesn’t matter. My husband is also like that. My husband wants me to drive only a four wheeler and he says if someone is troubling you, you hit them. “Doesn’t matter”, he says, “we will go to the police. Just hit them”. You know, I am not so polite, I am very upfront. I want my son to experience everything, it is not only politeness. He is my kid, like a village boy,…….. so he should know everything. It’s not like we will do something after this or after that. No! I have no time. Whenever he is learning the stuff, let him learn, I don’t mind.”

About her dogs:

“I have two pets, one is Chhutki and one is Lucky. Lucky is 11 years and Chhutki. After three years of having Lucky I got the other pup as a gift. Both are strays. Lucky is a sensible dog and polite, while my Chhutki is the opposite. We can’t do anything, their character is like that.”

About the influence parents can have on children:

“Only to a small extent. I believe that whatever you talk, when the baby is in the womb, right? How it will grow, right….? Everything is in-built. Maybe I can try to bend him a little bit, but, can’t do it [too much]. Karma I can’t change, I can hope and try to change, but I can’t change much. There is a limit to how much a parent can change a child, and we don’t know that limit and I think no one in the world must be knowing, for sure. My husband, he’s very polite, people will say, looking at him, how he’ll manage, right? I am different, I am arrogant and if anybody says anything to me, I hit back, I am like that. I am very rude. I can be very rude. But I’m very polite to animals, and yet it is the same Nandini.”

“I feel we just have to give direction, people have their own character, whether its kids or dogs, they have their own character. We just have to give direction. That’s how it is.”

Asked if she is like her mother:

“I am not like my mother; they are so polite. I don’t know how I became like this. I was like that in college also. I was like this only; I think this is my character. Could be that the surrounding can make me polite. My brother is different, he is polite. But I am completely honest and upfront about my feelings which comes across as blunt.”

“You won’t believe, my brother was in first standard, I used to go with him to a shishu vihara, a kids’ resting place, like an anaganwadi, not like a kindergarten. My mom used to send us there, and we had two slates, one for my brother and one for me. My mother saw that where my brother had written Aa where my mom had written, and he converted that Aa into an O, like a zero. So many times he did that. I tried to write next to that. And it was not even Aa and not even o…and I said this is Aa. My mom, that day she realised, this girl is like some mad kid, I can’t teach her. My mom said she cannot teach me. She never told me to study so I………I never followed anyone, I follow myself, whatever it is. I have role models and I don’t follow. My mom was totally different, from there it started she studied only till tenth standard, but she is very good-hearted. She will follow truth, not follow me, she will say, I will stand for truth, not my daughter.”

About making mistakes in life”

“I have made mistakes, what can I do, but now I think 100% before I make mistakes. But still I do sometimes, can’t help it. Maybe I take some time, but I correct myself. What I’m trying to say is that my son has to grow on his own. Whatever it is. I give him the direction, that is all. For me, studies also, if he is getting just 35 marks it’s okay with me.”

“Parents who try to influence their children are making a mistake. What I feel……people are changing, people will realise, this is how I appreciate foreign culture.”

About childcare arrangements and work:

“I thought of taking a break from my work for my son. For a moment I thought. Then I asked my mom, and then she said I will stay, then I thought, instead of a maid if my mom takes care of my son, and my dad supported, he stayed alone in Coorg and my mom came to stay with me in Bangalore. And luckily this lockdown happened, and I could spend more time with my kid. My company people were also very supportive with maternity leave. They requested me to join one month early and I refused, then they said can you work from home, and I agreed. Live for yourself, because if there is my work seat, and if someone comes and grabs it although it was allocated to me right, but someone can take it away, right? From that day I realised that as long as you are useful the company is with you, the day you are no longer of use, they will discard you. I made this statement very clear, everything is part of life, it is not that everything IS life.”

Walking along

Teaching her son:

“I am trying to teach my son that. It’s you first, then animals, and then other human beings. I usually teach him everything, I was teaching him numbers, but he never indicated he had learnt it. But months later a neighbour came to visit us, and he rattled off from one to ten, we were all shocked. He counted. You see, whatever I do, he will be observing and listening. I was so happy. How come this fellow knows what I taught him three months ago? Whatever you do, he is watching, whatever I say whatever I do, he is keenly observing. I am very clear, if you fight with me also, don’t fight in front of my son, that’s what we do. He is replica of me. He is mischievous, whatever I do for him, he is the same. People are so happy that he is like me. I am happy, whatever he does, I should be able to take it, right? My kid is showing me everything, whatever tantrum I show,  he inturn shows it on me. How rude I am to others, my kid is also doing the same thing to me. But I am okay with it, because I am prepared for it. I always feel, I don’t want my kid to be polite like role models, okay. So nice and all”.

“Last month, my kid went to someone’s house, and he was just standing outside. He never entered and Aunty said, “you have taught him so well”. But I said I didn’t teach him. People attribute both good and bad teaching to parents. “He’s like that” I said, I didn’t teach him. People should take both positive and negative aspects. I can’t take only positive things from my son. My son, you know, he can harm people by being naughty. He is like my second pet, Chhutki, very mischievous. I always scold my Chuutki. In Kannada we say “He acts like you”, I scold her. Literally, my son is like Chhutki.”

“Let him grow how he wants”:

“Everything is fine for me, whatever it is, it’s fine. Whatever his character is, we should teach him life skills. This is what I feel. I will not teach him anything else. My son doesn’t walk, he runs. I’m okay with it, what does it matter. My mom also said, let’s slow down. I say that, if he’s able to pick it up, why should I slow him down? Let him be, he will learn when to slow down. So this is how I am, so I don’t want to teach him anything, let him grow how he wants.”

Experiments with gravity
Rambo baby!

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