Modern Parent
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Modern Parent

“AM I DOING THIS RIGHT?” MODERN PARENT CONTEST

Reeling My Daughter Back To Normalcy

In these abnormal times

Image: Me and my daughter

This post is an entry in Modern Parent’s “Am I Doing This Right?” writing contest.

“Mama, can I please watch for some time?”, goes the question again. I look at my 10-year-old daughter and suppress the sudden urge to say no. I look at her and think.

She has already exhausted her watch-time. How long will she watch? As it is, all the classes are online. What about her eyes? And all that I have read about the adverse effects of excessive watching. But it is not her fault — Corona. She is bound inside the house. Sticking to schedules and being too rigid — will it help her? And then, I cannot sit with her now because I have to finish ________ (there is always something that needs to be done these days, now that no help can enter the house).

I look at her as I am thinking and she looks back with her face full of anticipation, of affirmation.

“Okay, but just for 15 minutes”. She turns away with a big smile on her face.

I take the liberty to speak on behalf of every parent — the clock a child refers to runs different from a normal human clock. The formula is something like this.

1 child minute=10 human minutes (when watching)

1 human minute= 10 child minutes (when studying)

And when it is a ‘No’

And this is the story several times in a day. But sometimes instead of a yes, the response is a no, which emanates a tantrum, followed by a string of excuses, and loads of accusations.

But why can’t I watch? What am I supposed to do? I can’t even go out!

Then follows an argument where I try to reason and she tries to negate, straining every cell of her brain. After these run their course, it is the turn of theatrics where she stomps off to her room. The show culminates, with a loud banging of the door; which she does, with a sole purpose — to irritate me.

After a couple of minutes comes a wave of guilt — It is already difficult for her and I have just made it worse for her.

Now it is my turn to go talk to her. There she sits with a sulking face and not willing to hear anything that I have to say. It’s her chance to avenge her hurt ego. Eventually, the storm settles, followed by a deluge of promises by her.

And then as a show of good faith, I agree to let her have 15 minutes of screen-time — again, the child clock!

So, you see, both ways it ends up the same — only the first one takes lesser time and energy (emotional) and the latter is exhaustive and time-consuming. With things turning crazy at my end, managing so many things at the same time, the first option is becoming a more favorable one.

And as days become weeks, and weeks turn to months, it is clear — corona is here to stay.

The realization dawns

I observe a trend by now-the requests are more frequent and the graph of screen-time per day is soaring! At an alarming rate.

Along with that, I notice some not-very-welcoming changes. Her attention span is reducing. She gets very irritated soon. Earlier, a not-so-great-looking letter would have been erased and re-written. But now, she just scratches it and rewrites it or worse, leaves it like that. Her handwriting has become sloppy. She is in a hurry to finish her chores. From borderline OCD when it comes to cleanliness in her room, a messy bed and dusty table fail to catch her attention now.

I have been reading about how this pandemic is affecting children at a psychological level. Though not equipped to assess the same, I am unable to put a finger on whom to award the blame to — the fact that tens-are-the-new-teens, excessive watching of digital content, or the psychological effects of the pandemic.

Am I doing this right?

There is a thin line between being understanding and being oversensitive to things. Somewhere amid these tumultuous times, I had lost that sense.

How it all started

  • The advent. It was all a cyclic thing. One thing leading to another. First came the disturbing videos about the virus — people falling on the roads, doctors having seizures after working relentlessly, the deserted streets, and the severe steps taken to contain people at their homes. That was happening (apparently) in another country, but creating panic everywhere.
  • The reaction — stop school, stop going to the office, stop stepping out of the home, stop the house help, stop unnecessary orders. PANIC.
  • The effect. With that came a deluge of work, and it was too much to take. Filled with all the negative emotions- anxiety, fear, uncertainty, ignorance; things were getting tangled. Our conversation was all about the pandemic, our actions were all about the pandemic.

And all this was being imbibed by my daughter.

How she reacted

With me and my husband engrossed and obsessed with Corona, she was not getting the right amount of attention. Somewhere in our attempt to organize our lives amid this chaos, she fell off-track.

  • A different world. And she resorted to a world devoid of these- the digital world. And she ventured into new worlds and got engrossed in that. There was a solace there. No panic, no worry, no fear. And thanks to the content creators all around the world, there is no dearth of things to watch that interest you. Hence, the voyage began.
  • The unstoppable. Unlike older times, when content was limited to one episode per week or interrupted by commercials, today’s content has no speed-breakers. That is a major reason putting down the phone or switching the laptop becomes more like the test of one’s willpower.
  • What happened then? And the curiosity to know what happens next drives everything else in fast-forward mode. Hence, the have-to-do things become sloppy and just have to be ticked off from the list. Result — the illegible handwriting, silly mistakes in maths, and high irritability quotient!

Learning the facts

I cannot control the pandemic. That is the harsh truth. What I have in my hands to do is how I can manage my environment and my family. I sat down and tried to shred my life and look into it more objectively.

Watch and learn

Children see and learn. That is how it has always been, since time immemorial. There will be trying times in life. It is how we react to them, is what matters. When I succumb to these things, I radiate that energy to my daughter. That this is something so daunting, which is happening around, that it needs to be dealt with differently.

Who manipulates whom?

Children are smart, trust me. We feel it is we who manipulate them, but in reality, it is the other way round. They sense everything. Every subtle change is a stimulus for them. Hence, it is best to be in a state of normalcy around them. The basic assumption that they understand little of what is happening is foolhardy.

Expecting them to know what is right won’t help

I know it is right for her, but expecting her to know the same and act upon it would not be that rewarding. I have to make her see sense and have to gently lead her back to more productive options. Once I accept that, my irritation level drops when she does not do the right thing. And I am in a better frame of mind to handle her.

Setting things right

Heart to heart

They are a piece of our heart and that is where we have to talk from. Talking to children exactly what you want to convey is the best parenting practice. I sat down with my daughter one evening, on our balcony, and just casually as one topic led to another, asked her how is she feeling about the changes happening in our lives. I was amazed at how informed she was! And she shared with me her fears. All I did that day was listening to all that she had to say.

Listening opens the door to an effective communication.

After I processed all her thoughts, I had another talk with her in a relaxed setting. I updated all about precautions we are taking, vaccine development, and previous pandemics. I emphasized the fact that it is just a phase and that being positive and making the best of what we have is the easiest way out.

She had her own point of view. But she was receptive to what she was being told.

Setting the right example

Somewhere in between juggling all the chores and work, I myself was losing the cool at times. How I react is what she will learn. It was a lesson for me as well. Letting go and being at ease — even I had to practice some traits.

Take advantage of the online era constructively

Pulling her away from the screen altogether would have been an extreme reaction. So, we sat down together and decided what was productive and what was not. We also hunted down some great classes she seemed interested to attend.

Diverting to a better content type that interested her as well as taught her a thing or two. And it is by this she discovered an artist in her. Gavel’s Club was a wonderful find. Owing to the pandemic, online classes were a boon. Baking was an all-time favorite too.

Some paintings by her
Donning the chef’s hat

Some carrot, some stick

Instead of lecturing her on the effects of excessive watching, all the time, I devised some carrot-stick strategy.

  • Time WELL spent in painting, writing books, or art and craft was rewarded with some bonus watch time.
  • Sending her works in the family and friends group and showing the appreciations received motivated her to do more and garner more praises.
  • At the same time, excessive watching would lead to deduction of the next day’s watch time.
  • Segregating her watch time into ‘Helping’ and ‘Not Helping’, to give her a sense of how she is utilizing her time.

Prioritize work

A happy child is more important than a spic-and-span house. I cut down on my daily chores and spent that with her. She enjoyed doing things together, more when she taught me things. I play my part of the student to the teeth. I love our baking time, card games time, riddles time, doodling time — basically the together time.

As I bid audieu

Life has gone for a toss these days. But there is calm in this chaos. A little awareness is all that is needed. This pandemic has distanced us from everyone, but we are closer to each other than ever.

Change is inevitable. Children will not be spared. But, as they say;

Hard times don’t create heroes. It is during the hard times that the ‘hero’ within us is revealed.

Bob Riley.

Each one faces a new challenge in their own way. But we will find ourselves happier and stronger on the other side of this pandemic. Just keep at it.

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Lipika

Lipika

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