Of unusual career choices and the parenting dance

Image courtesy: Pixaby.com

I wanted a boy but would've been equally glad to get a girl. Only because it has become a fashion these days to "want" only girls, what with forwarded messages and articles extolling the virtues of having a daughter and how they are better than sons, I never really disclosed my inner feelings. As with most evolving societies, people love to flip to the other extreme to counter old-school thoughts and the gender stereotyping is one such example. This is, of course, my interpretation. I disagree with any extreme and prefer to use instinct, common sense and moderation in everyday life including parenting.

As luck would have it, I got a son. The husband and I have been fair parents till date and have agreed to bring up R without impressing upon him any expectations that should arise solely due to his gender. He's encouraged to cry if his emotions overpower him. He's discouraged from resorting to physical assault as a way of showing disagreement or anger. His rambunctious behaviour is not tolerated simply because "boys will be boys". In short, we strive to bring up a sensitive and empathetic individual rather than just a girl or a boy.

I believe in entrusting age-appropriate daily tasks to R. They could be very simple tasks like keeping his things in their place after he's home from school or cleaning up his room before bed or putting his plate into the sink after food. It's a different story that on most days I feel it's better to get it done myself rather than go on like a broken record. I'm a house proud person and feel that it should not be a gender-specific quality. I strongly think very member in the house must contribute to the housekeeping which otherwise falls squarely on the lady of the house and one person can only do so much. Even if there are maids to help you out, it's a sense of discipline and orderliness that needs to be practiced.

As most often, gender role images are fed into the subconscious without being explicitly taught, I'd ideally like R to see my husband take up more tasks around the house and learn by example. Although I might often pick a battle with my husband for not pitching in as much, I have to give it to him for rising to the occasion whenever I need him around the house. Work and work-pressure are not kind on the salaried class these days and since he's technically the primary earning member (my meager earnings cannot, obviously, count :-p), I do understand his position. On the other hand, he's always been a hands-on father with R which is a huge plus since I'm not the default go-to parent (for most cases).

It's too early in the game to see if our style of parenting will reap the desired results. I do, however, catch a few signs here and there that make me smile in satisfaction. R generally understands his part in the drama of household chores. If I play the card of being overwhelmed with all the cleaning up and ask him to pitch in, he does so willingly. On his own too, he's quick to pick up the cloth to wipe off any mess that he might have created unknowingly. He feels comfortable in the kitchen and gets his own snacks from containers. He doesn't shy away from asking my recipes for his favourite food. He loves watching Food-Food channel as much as he enjoys his star war movies. His eyes do light up at the way the master chefs on these channels seductively put together yummylicious concoctions over beautiful pans and pots.

As with most kids this age, his answers to the question, " what he'd like to become?" changes very often and ranges from wanting to be a magician to a craftsperson to an astronaut. However, one answer seems to be a constant and that is to "be a chef". People seem amused to hear this even as I'm quick to take pride in the fact that he's a free-thinker and does not care for the more popular career choices. Yes, it's rather too early to say, but I'm going to cash in on this phase while it lasts and teach him a few cooking tricks. Whether or not he becomes a chef, he definitely needs to know how to cook, no?

He doesn't know it yet, but I'm rooting for this career choice because secretly I'm looking forward to hanging my boots prematurely and yet have a five-meal course spread out for me ;-)

From the sidelines

R read out the passages from the book, loudly and clearly. The pauses were taken correctly and the intonation was spot on. The audience that was the extended family on the husband's side looked on in awe and admiration. R was the centre of attraction and he clearly loved it. Sometime in between, the spotlight seemed to dim out as the adults got distracted. However, R was not to be dismissed so lightly. He raised his voice above the din and demanded to be heard. The amused crowd decided to humour him. He was mildly interrogated on the meaning of random words and the answers came forth confidently. There was no embarrassment or inhibition when he didn't have the answers. The body language bordered on showing off, "Look at me, listen to me!" 

I looked on from the sidelines secretly happy, yet debating on whether to pull the reins in on him. I was simultaneously filing away these snippets that glared out in contrast to the person I was at his age. Personally, I shy away from being the centre of attraction. A lot of that has changed over time and I do not suffer from panic attacks like before. Yet, I prefer to be a part of a group rather than solo. Growing up, we were asked to imbibe modesty as a virtue. Proactively seeking to display talent rather than complying with requests at gatherings was seen as being a show-off, an oddity. This, coupled with my own personality, is so ingrained in me that I find it difficult to tell people about my skills. I would rather have them discovered by chance. I'm at a loss for an appropriate response other than nodding my head politely when some people completely fill up social conversations about how they excel at something and how they set themselves up for success. I cannot visualize myself doing that.

It is perhaps an offshoot of the mindset that I'm unable to enjoy myself. I balk at the thought of stepping out of my zone during a family function, for example, and announce to the audience that I have the perfect song for the occasion. I'm discomforted with the notion of having to promote my writing, asking, imploring people to read and comment. I call out to my readers on my post in the belief that that should suffice and if the written piece is worthy of a read and a comment, it will follow. However, the fabric of the society has changed. This is an era where you need to scream hoarse about how good you're and even then only hope to get noticed in the melee of the equally talented bunch of peers. The crowd out there is mostly bold and savvy. It calls out to people like me to come out of their shells and blow their own trumpets. Time will only tell if I can be comfortable with putting on the make-up and standing on the stage, calling out to the departing audience to stay back and listen to me.

I have been conscious in trying to keep my personality away from parenting. I succeed sometimes, fail at other times. That day, the person on the sidelines was not just me. It was that conscious parent. I refrained from intervening and let R be. It was his chance to discover his true personality without my need to impinge upon it with my experiences.