April 2017 Chitra Jha reflects on her parenting journey, and concludes that she would give herself eight out of 10 Ah! Parenting – a subject very close to my heart. That’s how I could write a whole book on this subject. But this article is not about how to be a good parent, it’s more about reminiscing how I have been as a parent. As I look back, I can see myself discussing our “would-be” kids – one boy and one girl – with my then boy friend. I guess I was deeply influenced by the thought: Thoda tumhara thoda hamara; Aayega phir se bachpan hamara. (A bit of me, a bit of you, Will bring back our childhood hue). And since I was easily influenced, I remember later getting influenced by my sister-in- law’s philosophy of “no kids”. It seemed like freedom. Who needed kids anyway? We had so much going on in our lives that we could do without an additional responsibility – and a drain on our meagre resources. I didn’t want to do anything but bask in the romantic love of our marital togetherness. But then biology doesn’t get “influenced” by the world. It has its own agenda. And my body wanted to produce children. I had a very fertile womb, and Somnath’s seed was potent. For the past 31 years, I have offered gratitude to our two bodies for not listening to our minds. Yes, ever since I decided to be a mother, motherhood has defined my life – until very recently, when I told myself that the boys have become men now, and I no longer have to “mother” them. As I look back at the past 31 years – yes, our elder son will turn 31 this year – I see myself in various moods and modes of motherhood. My initial reluctance to be a mother soon turned into an obsession with motherhood. I identified with my role and its responsibilities so much that I wouldn’t accept any offer of help in any way, if I could help it. I simply wanted to do everything myself for my dear darling. And then when he was about seven months old, I conceived again. And this time I wanted to keep the baby – against all medical advice. My insistence paid off. One year and four months after a C-section delivery, I delivered our second son by natural birth. The parenting journey Having two boys close together was the best thing that happened to us. They grew up almost like twins – and they remain the best of friends till date. We really didn’t have to do much with them, except for looking after their physical needs. They engaged themselves with each other most of the time. This arrangement happened to be economically sound too, as the younger one inherited everything he needed – right from clothes to books – from the elder one. Luckily for us, he never made a fuss about it. It was the most natural thing to do in our times. In fact, his cousins inherited what he outgrew; and no one really complained. In raising our children, my knowledge of nursing and homeopathy played a great role. It equipped me with enough strength to almost single-handedly take care of all childhood illnesses, with minimum intervention. Today, I realise the magnitude of that blessing. Not only did I not panic as a mother, but I also waited, watched and trusted the body to heal itself. I truly believe that all parents must do a rudimentary course in homeopathy and in nursing. There ought to be such capsule courses available for new parents. As my children grew, I grew with them. I was educated in Hindi-Punjabi medium schools; with my children, I learnt all that I had missed during my schooling. In fact, I so enjoyed learning that I guess my enthusiasm rubbed off on our boys as well. However, the educational system is not always about the joys of learning. More often than not it’s about rote learning. And while our younger son had a photographic memory (which stood him in good stead), our elder one was more of a creative person. He could never mug up. Instead, he would understand the question and make his own answers. Ideally, such a boy should excel (and be encouraged by the teachers), but, alas, that wasn’t so. And as a mother, I took it upon myself to “correct” the anomaly – not in the system, but in our son. If I have to go back and correct one parenting mistake, it would be that. With my current understanding, I would defy the system, and correct the anomaly there, while honouring my child’s innate strengths. And even though I like to think that I wasn’t influenced by the mob mentality, I am wrong. As an individual, I was myself; but as a parent, I was like all other parents, who wanted their child to fit into the school system, whichever way it was. I felt helpless about it, and helpless about my inability to make my child what he innately wasn’t. I do not know how many times I have asked for forgiveness from my son, and from myself, for being an ordinary parent; for not exercising my innate intelligence when it came to our schooling system. Another thing which I regret at times is sending them to a boarding school when they were just about getting out of my shadow. I feel they were thrown too early into the testing waters of this world, before learning how to swim. But for my immense faith in the Grand Overall Design (GOD), I would have died of guilt. Today, I understand that everything happens FOR us, as a part of the Grand Overall Design. I firmly believe that parenting (and you can parent a plant, an animal, a project) is a natural instinct factored within all humans. Parenting means to nourish, to value, to honour, to protect, and to love life’s new expressions. Life has to move forward and we have to contribute to it in every which way, like a parent. Moving on When children grow up and take over the role of parenting their own projects, it’s time to pass the baton. To me it signifies the end of the Grihastha Ashram. My husband and I are in that phase now. Our sons do not need any more parenting, but they do need to know that they are loved – forever, come what may. And that’s what I endeavour to convey to them through my verbal and non-verbal communications. It is not for nothing that every parent is also a child – someone’s child. And as that person – my parents’ child – all I have ever wanted to know is that I am loved; that I make them proud; that I have not let them down. I know that deep in their hearts, our children feel the same – as all children do (however big you may grow). They too want to feel loved, valued, and appreciated. These are universal human needs. My job as a parent is to meet this need wherever and whenever I can. That’s all. Right from day one of my parenthood, one piece of writing that has influenced me has been Khalil Gibran’s poem, Your Children are not Your Children, and I have tried to follow that philosophy to a T – faltering at times and succeeding at times. Today, if I have to write my own report card as a parent, I would give myself eight out of 10. If I were writing this article in another time, I would have lamented the fact that my husband was more often than not, not as involved a parent as I – primarily because of his job as a soldier, and secondarily because of his nature. But today, I see that he shares a great rapport with his sons. In fact, many a time I see their connect as “men” running deeper than my connect as a “mother”. In the end, all I can say is that we get the children we “need” just as our children get the parents they “need”, for our optimum growth – as an individual and as a family. This one thought brings me back on the track whenever I tend to stray from it. My parenting gyan • No matter what, just love your children enough to allow them to be who they innately are. • No matter what, just let your children know that they are precious. • No matter what, just trust that life happens FOR everyone – including your children. • No matter what, just trust in the Grand Overall Design and its wisdom. • No matter what, just know that you are the best parents your children could ever have, as they are the best children you could ever have. You are custom-made for each other’s optimum growth. • No matter what, just celebrate life, along with your family Bio: Chitra Jha is a writer who lets the words flow through her. She considers writing an honour and a privilege.
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