Helmet Keeps Us Safe


Yog has been riding a pink, baby, Disney cycle over the last year. Neither the pink color, nor the Disney Princesses bothered him or his friends, even for a moment. At one point of time, the pink cycle used to proudly carry three young boys on it’s miniature wheels. As Yog enters another year, and the wheels of the cycle start to wear, I finally decided it was time to retire the pink cycle and move to a new one. The new cycle is bigger, bolder and blue in color with shining silver balances on the side. It looked just right for Yog but I was worried that he might hurt himself for it could go much faster than the baby cycle.

Before Yog got on the new cycle, I urged him to wear a cycling helmet. He looked at me enquiringly, “Why do I need to wear a helmet?” I buckled the helmet and said, “Because helmets keep us safe.” Yog was satisfied with this answer. Without wasting another second he sat on the new cycle and pedaled hard. It was soon obvious that the cycle was indeed too fast for Yog and he was unable to control it. He tried to put his feet down to stop the cycle only to realize that his feet were no longer touching the ground. I panicked, expected a crash and realized another fact – Yog didn’t know how to use the brakes. He had never used brakes on the pink cycle as he could just keep his feet down to stop the cycle.

Even though my heart had stopped beating, Yog was as cool as ice. Within seconds he reached out to a wall on the side and used it as support to stop the rushing cycle. He then shouted back at me, “Mama, don’t worry! I am wearing a Helmet. I will not fall down!”  For a moment, I thought I didn’t hear him correctly. I was like, “Huh! Who told him that?”

Before Yog could speed away again and look for walls to stop him, I ran up to him and explained the use of brakes. We practiced braking a few times till I felt confident he was ready to go on the road. As soon as we went on the road, Yog saw a truck coming towards us and he moved to the side of the road and stopped. I patted him for driving safe. He quickly looked up to me with an expression, which said, “Mom, you don’t understand.” and remarked, “Mama, I am wearing a helmet. My helmet told me that truck is coming, so move to the side.”

I couldn’t help but smiling now. After a few casual rounds on the cycle, Yog coaxed his friend (riding the smaller pink cycle) into a race. I cautioned Yog and said, “Yog, let’s not race today. This cycle goes very fast and you don’t have enough practice on the brakes.” Yog shrugged and gave me the same look again. With that came the ready response, “Mama!! Relax! I am wearing a helmet. I will be safe.”

Huh! By now, I was wondering whether the helmet was a good choice or a bad choice, for today. Nonetheless, I was impressed by Yogs’ faith in that simple blue device. It had given him the confidence to step out into the world on a higher, faster cycle which even had brakes. Wow! If this is the power of wearing helmets, we should wear it too when trying out new things. I hope it can make us adults also believe that as long as we are wearing it, everything is going to be all right.

What do you want to become when you grow up?

“What do you want to become when you grow up?” This is a favorite question for every parent. I have seen parents (including me and my husband) repeating this question to their children many times  over the years. The first few responses are simply adorable. I am told that my first response to this question was, “I want to become a Dad”.

As the child enters adolescence the response starts to be more thought through. As parents, we also start becoming more serious about it. After all, it is time to lay the foundation of their long term career. If they want to become a painter, they should join painting classes. If they want to become a dancer, then parents should look for dance masters, and so on. Parents nowadays go to great lengths to fulfill the ambition of their children. I know of many parents who even uproot the complete family, just to give the right environment for the child to pursue his/her ambition.

Given that most parents, today, want their child to follow their passion and are ready to support the passion, children of today should be the smartest and happiest kids ever to walk this planet. Unfortunately, I see the reverse trend. It saddens me to see that majority of this generation is more frustrated, confused and direction less than we were as children.

As a young parent, I always believed children’s mind was like a clean slate. It had nothing written on it. It was the parents responsibility to teach them everything. What is right, what is wrong, what food they should eat, what games they should play, etc. If this was true, then the knowledge and sense of purpose in kids should grow as they age. But I see a reverse trend here again. I see younger kids more self aware, confident and purposeful than their older counterparts.

It almost feels like that our whole ecosystem has methodically and successfully robbed our children of their innate sense of purpose over their growing years. Sit like this. Eat like this. Do this. Walk like this. Read this book. Do not run, you can fall. Do not stare, it is bad manners. Do not watch TV, it will dull your mind. Do not hit even when you are angry. Do not cry even when you are sad. Do not jump in the water. Do not roll in the mud. Do not eat chocolates. Do not … do not… do not… Do not think on your own cause you don’t know how to.

Well, if this is what we have drilled into the innocent minds of our children, forcing them to fit into the seemingly perfect world, should we expect an answer when we ask, “What do you want to become when you grow up?” We forced them to forget everything that they were born with. We forced them to believe that their natural instincts were wrong. How then, can we expect them to look deep within themselves and find their answer?

If you have been a parent who has made all the choices for your children so far, do them a favor. Don’t ask your child this question, ever. Decide their career and life partner also for them. Also be around for them till they become 100, so you can continue to guide them and their children as they grow up. You have done a lot already, just do this for a little more time.

Maybe it is time for Happy Mothers Day

A few days back I was casually discussing the sale season with my mother. I like to think that both of us are “smart shoppers” who ensure that we spend the right amount for the right thing at the right time. Given the ongoing sale, I was nudging my mom to check out the stores and complete her shopping list. She, however, sadly exclaimed, “Beta, I don’t feel like going alone to the malls. They are so big and crowded. I fear I will get lost.” My heart filled with love for her. I tried reading beyond her words into what she really meant. After all, my Mom is a superwoman. She can never be scared. She has traveled most of the world alone to reach her daughters whenever they needed her. She has sat outside Government offices on Dharna to evict an IAS officer from our rightfully owned property. She has run multiple businesses in parallel, successfully (some out of hobby and some out of need). She has carried an 11 year old me in her arms all the way to the doctor when I crushed my toe. Was she trying to tell me she was scared of going to the neighborhood mall alone? It couldn’t be true. What did she really mean?

Maybe she was trying to say, that she wanted one of us to go along with her because she always looks forward to our company. Or maybe she is actually getting old and not as brave anymore. But the latter option just didn’t sound right. My mom could never get old. My mom could never be scared. She has been the rock behind my courage and strength. How can my rock ever get weak? I could never let that happen.

I realized a few days later that maybe it was time that Mom could stop being a rock.  Maybe it was time that she can let her hair down and let her daughters take care of her, in place of the other way round. Maybe it was time, that we become the rocks for her.

On Mothers Day this is my message for her, “Dear Matrix, you don’t need to be working so hard anymore. Please relax and allow us to take care of you now. I promise to spend the next sale season together with you. I promise to join you in shopping, carrying your bags and paying your bills too. A very very Happy Mother’s Day to the best Mom we could have ever had. Love you loads”

 

Pic Courtesy: Bhaargavi Toyna Kota. From left to right  – Me, Aartee and Heeral. The hairdos might not match us, but the face expressions completely do.

Protection begins at Home

 

As soon as the summer holidays started, my twelve year daughter took her first independent flight to Delhi to meet her Nani. Needless to say, I consider this as a big milestone for all of us. Her maiden, independent flight is a sign that our little bird is ready to fly out of our safe nest. I was scared, nervous, apprehensive but most of all extremely proud of her. A few of our friends and family who knew about the flight were skeptical. Isn’t she too young? Isn’t the world a bad place for little girls travelling alone? Are you not being an irresponsible parent?

These are good questions for sure. Yes, she is quite young. Yes, I am aware of the crime statistics, especially against women. But No, I am not being an irresponsible parent. For me, protecting my child does not mean keeping her safe inside the home. For me, protecting my child means enabling her for her own safe flight. Having said this, I completely understand the sentiment of all those parents who are scared of letting their daughters out of the house alone. I was there in their shoes 8 years ago. This is the story of how I learnt to switch my parenting shoes from being a protective parent to an holistic parent.

When my daughter was born, I protected her diligently. I carefully observed her friends, bus drivers and teachers. I watched over her in the playground. I did whatever responsible parents are supposed to do to ensure safety and well being of their wards. In her fourth year, one beautiful evening, a few days before Diwali, my daughter met with a freak accident at the park, injuring her right arm. Hours that followed, changed my outlook about life forever. She was diagnosed with a third degree supra condylar humerus fracture which had damaged the nerve of her right arm. She underwent a complex surgery to reconstruct the elbow, but doctors were not sure if the movement of the arm could be restored. As we celebrated Diwali in the hospital, I questioned God. Why did He make my little child go through this? What lesson was He trying to teach me through this? Couldn’t He have chosen an easier method?

It was years later, after my daughters arm had completely healed that I understood the lesson from God. The lesson was clear. It was not my responsibility to protect my daughter. No matter what I did, I could not guarantee her safety 24×7 for the rest of her life. As a parent, it was my responsibility to teach her to protect herself. The only person who could keep her safe for the rest of her life was she herself.

Since the time I realized this, I have invested time, energy and money to enable my daughter to be able to protect herself. It started with open communication, talking to her about what are the possible dangers in the world out there. I did not sugar coat any facts, but I did not try to scare her either. After all, for every bad human out there, there are many more good humans as well. She took classes on self-defense for a couple of years. She was encouraged to step out to the neighborhood shops on her own. Small baby steps over the years, coupled with her resolve, confidence and personality brought us to the day where we stood outside the departure gates that hot summer afternoon.

Again, in spite of my confidence in my daughter, and her confidence in herself, there are no guarantees that life will not hurt her again. That is the fact that humbles us and makes us plan for her future. While we plan for the worst case scenarios, we also ensure that we enjoy each moment for what it is. She still goes to the park regularly. She still gets bumps and bruises. Over the years she has learn to catch her fall most of the times. In addition, she has also learnt to apply first-aid when she needs it. In my opinion, this is the best protection we can give our child.

I do not consider myself a perfect parent. As I said above, I learnt this lesson an extremely hard way. As I write this blog, I realize, maybe God made this lesson so hard for me because He wanted me to share this lesson with other parents.

The only thing that can keep our children safe is their own knowledge, awareness and physical ability. I learnt this the hard way. I sincerely pray that none of you have to learn it the same way.