No votes for me

For years ours has been the go-to house because I’ve been a work from home mum and parents feel safe sending their kids to a place where they won’t be left to maids or where they’re sure there are no unknown males. The last couple of years have been ground floor homes and I often smile over my cup of chai as I see the bunch of cycles thrown at my door, higgledy-piggledy. Kids running in randomly with an Aunty, paani, request. Pile ups at my door as they rush in from school while their mothers beg them to at least go home for a quick wash.

Increasingly though, that crowd is thinning out. Because ours is the only home where the kids don’t have a TV in their bedroom. Our TV is out in the common area and even so, kids who come over to play are encouraged to pick up one of the many games lying around. I don’t actively prevent them from watching TV, but I usually pull out a board game and start them off. Or an art session. Or suggest that they all go for a swim. Or a cycling race around our complex. If we do put on the TV its not for uncontrolled endless viewing but because we’ve planned a specific movie evening with popcorn. And once the movie is over, the TV goes off.

The Brat is almost 10 and his friends are into Playstations and the like. We don’t have one. The Bean’s friends are allowed glitter nailpolish and heels – at 7. I don’t subscribe to those either.

Friends drop in at all hours but on school nights I have a strict curfew and I don’t know how others let their kids play basketball till 9 pm because heck, my kids won’t wake up for school if they don’t get to bed on time.

Snacks at my place are fresh fruit, milk and peanut butter or tuna sandwiches. At other homes they are Maggi, Chocopies and jam biscuits with aerated drinks. I also insist that they all sit around the dining table and eat instead of taking it into the nursery and spilling crumbs all over the beds.

Clearly our place isn’t winning a popularity vote.

I know my kids would prefer that I loosen up but it seems people around me are loose enough for me to have to stay tight to maintain the tension it requires for this tent to stay upright. This is not easy. I am liberal by nature and in my politics. I hate policing the kids and this is not the way I was brought up. But I see little kids wearing glasses earlier than ever, I see overweight kids (they were so few when we were children) and I see all sorts of ailments and lifestyle diseases becoming more common than we realise. I hate being the strict aunty. I love having a houseful of kids and the sound of them playing and chattering is truly music to my ears. It doesn’t disturb me in the least.

While all kids love to get out of their own homes and go to another’s for a change, I am well aware that my kids prefer the laxity in other homes. The endless TV, the junk food, the lack of supervision by parents, the over flowing toy bins, not being embarrassed by their mother who insists that all the kids help tidy up their room before going home (just as I insist my kids do when we’re visiting someone). It’s tempting to let it slip, to go back to being the most popular aunty like I was when I spent hours reading to kids when they couldn’t read and were mostly surrounded by maids or with grandparents who couldn’t play hide and seek with them.  But it would go against what I strongly believe in and I struggle to stay on this path.

Interestingly (and of course they don’t know this yet) I think the OA and I will be among the less hysterical parents when they do begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I believe obesity, modified foods, sugar, refined flour, additives, food colouring and lack of proper supervision in their formative years are more likely to harm our children than the odd bottle of beer. I do believe in instilling healthy food habits and lifestyles so that when they do grow too old to listen or care, they’ll have healthy habits and hopefully healthy bodies. I believe if they have some amount of discipline and health on their side it will be easier to fight or even experiment in some sort of controlled moderate manner. I’m proof if anything, of someone exposed to sex, drugs and rock and roll, only to turn out a complete teetotaller who is nonetheless entirely tolerant of people who make those choices. Of course there are no perfect solutions or easy answers. And so I bumble on and hope for the best.

All I know is that right now the cries of children in Palestine is making it hard for me to think straight. Signing off on a fairly bleak week. Try and stay safe and have a good one, you.

Here’s a mother who punished her daughter by selling off her Katy Perry concert tickets on a closed Facebook page. What do you think of that sort of disciplining? I’ve often been strict and taken away privileges etc (which is why my kids think I’m a mum from hell) but I don’t know if I’d have publicly shamed the kids, specially in their teens. That said, if I had to pick an extreme I’d pick discipline over nothing.



27 thoughts on “No votes for me

  1. You get my vote for sure.
    TV n kids room is something I don’t get. Both hubbs and I categorically and vehemently oppose it. The kids know it well. In fact they know that they cannot have a phone, a TV, a FB account or get on any social media, drink, do drugs or smoke until they are 21. 😉
    And yeah, it feels great to know that there are other mums from hell.

      • Replying to this a bit late but I don’t think this is feasible AT ALL. Most colleges nowadays have Facebook or whatsapp groups to let students know the happenings. After a certain age IMO a phone is a necessity. The part about Doing drugs, smoking and drinking is a bit more enforceable but your kids become adults at 18 and it will be very difficult to control them at college. As a teenager myself, I am urging you to please reconsider this:)

        • LOL! Don’t worry. Neither Suk nor I would actually enforce that. But its good to tell them they won’t get it before 21 because then when we do give in, they’ll be absolutely over the moon. To say nothing of the fact that almost every decision gets reviewed every year based on circumstance and the child’s nature.

  2. I would vote for you too! I am the same way, we don’t have a TV, yes we don’t have a TV! The husband and I watch movies on our laptop after the kid sleeps or we read books or talk(or in my case I just sleep). The kid gets to watch a little video here and there but that too with us, not by himself, and after that is done the screen shuts off. Most times we are found just sprawled in our living room playing silly games, kid parking his cars, or reading books. We also don’t have a shitload of toys for him, and i hope we keep it this way so he actually gets bored and finds things to do by himself.
    So yes, I would vote for you again and again and again!

  3. Funnily enough, I got glasses at 7 because I read far too much in far too dim lighting.
    I am actually not convinced that being liberal about drugs does much good. From what I have observed, parents who are okay with their kids experimenting with drugs tend to have kids who blow off college to smoke up-skip mock exams, in fact, to smoke up; and while prosecution is rare, marijuana continues to carry the death penalty in Malaysia, so I simply don’t see that smoking weed regularly makes any sense. With alcohol and sex, I don’t see that it does much harm.

    • No, I don’t think smoking weed regularly makes sense. Neither does alcohol or tobacco. Anything can get out of hand. But I do think experimenting is harmless. Eventually people do what they want to as adults, regardless of what we as parents prevent them from doing while they live under our roofs.
      But I know I tried everything once before I dismissed it. It was my choice and that is probably why I have remained this way. That said, my parents would have probably kicked my butt if they’d found out about the grass!

  4. Hi loved what you have written. Sometimes it’s worth it to be a mad mom 🙂 I am settling back in Kolkata from dubai and it pains me to see that no one plays in the lanes where I grew up playing cricket and badminton with 15 odd friends both boys and girls. One day I took my four-year-old to looks for children playing but couldn’t find a single one. Then I enquired with a few of my neighbours who have children and I came to know they have gone for tuitions, so some singing, dancing or cricket coaching class.

  5. So many of the things here that I agree with but my favorite is the act of sitting around the table at meal time. A seemingly small ritual but one that I love (I didn’t particularly enjoy it as a kid but since the option was to either eat at a table or miss dinner, I dragged myself to the table) and I am so thankful for my parents that didn’t give us a choice. Actually, the more I think of it, the more I realise that the things I am most thankful to my parents for are all those matters where they didn’t let us have a choice – no cable TV, no sweets/ junk food, no heels, eating all veggies and fruits, summer holidays with no agenda (the Bored word was banned at home), insistence on playing in the sun (I am always a crisped up shade of chocolate brown in most childhood pics). And yet, my sister and I got pampered in ways that most parents didn’t, their kids. And yes, the freedom – so much freedom to voice opinions, discuss things, ask questions.

  6. Let me tell you this from a kid’s perspective.

    While I was growing up, my Dad was the strict one. No TV, no violent sounding hindi music, no staying out till late…in short everything you are doing now. And I hated it. I longed for my parents to go out shopping/for a movie/to a relative’s house, so I could have some stolen moments of freedom. But I never crossed the line, and I knew where my limits lay. All the same, I grew up not understanding what I had done wrong to not have a “chiller” dad like most of my other friends did. I was embarrassed to call my friends over and hardly went to late night parties.

    I know now. Now that I am 27, I see youngsters (adults?) my age behave the way they do, and I can’t help but thank the many gods that I had MY dad, and not theirs. I know very well that it was not easy for him to be the bad cop, he was risking a lot of distance from his only daughter, he knew I would grow closer to my mom than to him…but he braved it and did the right thing anyway. And if anything, it makes me love him more than I ever thought I could.

    I now have a small team I work with, and it breaks my heart every time I have to be a little tight with them, berate them a little before the bigger people do….and it makes me wonder what my Dad would have gone through. And it makes me swell with pride. And cower with responsibility. I cannot let him down. And I am not talking of the doing drugs/having sex before marriage letting down, I am talking of not being able to be a person who is not as brave as he is.

    If there is any kind of bravery worth having, it is this. If there is any kind of education worth having, it is what your kids are getting right now. So there, 20 years hence, their votes are gonna be yours. And I know thats all that matters 🙂

  7. Hey there – I feel your pain. My kids are a little older but at least where i live, many people feel the same. The bigger issue for me is fighting my own family sometimes to keep these rules straight – when grandparents visit for months at a time. They want to stay popular with the kids and end up breaking every possible rule to make the kids happy and to keep the kids thinking thatha and paati are heroes. It makes mom a bigger villain than ever and I do admit, I have to come across a zillion times harsher than if I was just going against people and their kids outside my home 😦
    That said, there are things I make my kids do – I pull up articles and have them read those to try to make them understand why I ask them to not drink soda or eat junk. I had a tupperware cup with pasta sauce stains, let a can of soda stand in it for 10 mins and rinsed it off clean – I did this in front of them and asked them what they thought it did to their stomach. I told them that because I love them so, I couldn’t willingly give them something that would hurt them like that. I also asked if given a choice and seeing what they had seen with that, would they offer their kid cousin the same drink? In short, I tried to get them to empathize with me. If anything, they understand to a some extent without liking it, but atleast they dont rage against me the way they used to and grudgingly listen most of the times,
    Sorry for making it so long – I just wanted to share the strategy that has worked for me. Give them most of the information you have on the subject, the grosser the better and make it seem like it’s a choice they have to make. They will mostly end up making a good choice and the few times they don’t, heck, everyone can loosen up once in a while 🙂 It might not be as big a battle then.

  8. Yes, indeed. Don’t you think we’re fighting against a whole generation of moms with our so called outdated parenting ideologies? 🙂 I mean – no TV, go to be on time, eat breakfast in the morning, healthy food mostly etc etc seems arcane in the popular beliefs. That’s what makes it so hard – because most kids are being raised so differently. But let’s just stick with what e think is right.. as long as we’re not stressing ourselves and our kids with it, it should be fine. Beliefs are one thing, executing on them in a fun way without causing upsets is another..

  9. You know MM, my mom is often called hitler-mom. I often joke with her that she probably NEVER fed me and she replies, yes, you started eating when you were 1 year old on your own. Our owners, whose place my parents had rented when they had to set up a home of their own, after having a fight with my father’s parents, will often narrate the story of how ma would get so tired with trying to feed my 2 yr old sis when I was a new-born that she would just give up and let her starve. So “anna”, my owner aunty’s son would sneak my sis out to see the moon n stars and coax her to eat. Something Ma didn’t approve of. But that’s my mom. Very practical and doesn’t get love confused with disciplining. She was very strict about discipline. And we felt Very loved. Small things…like as soon as you come from school, you change your clothes, put your bag in its spot , wash your face mattered a LOT to her and that’s how we grew up. Since I was in Grade 1 and my sis in Grade 3 my mom has had a full-time job , but discipline was in our blood and almost felt like the norm. By the time we were in Grade 5..we both would come back home change, wash our lunch boxes, wash our faces, go out to play for 1 hour, come back home to sing a li’l prayer in front of God and then get on with studies . We had TV at home with access to remote n all, but were never interested. My parents would return home around 8 PM and we would all sit down for dinner together. I often wonder , how did she instill that sense of discipline in us even when we knew she wasn’t looking over our shoulder and wasn’t physically there supervising us? A whole bunch of adults in my family will say my sis and I were the best babies to raise and created no trouble. I really don’t know if the credit for that goes to my mom or us.

    And oh yes! We did do sneaky things.. things that ma yet doesn’t know of and will be shocked if she knows. Boyfriends, alcohol, cigarettes, drugs..can proudly say we have tried them all. But that I think is the right to live our life thru the childhood and teenage years, that each of us have. ( and may be this is a whole different topic , ‘coz I have always felt very conflicted about parents being a friend to their child and having a relationship where-in the child tells them EVERYTHING) What is important is we never lost control. Our fundamental motto used to be do NEVER do anything that will make my parents hang their head in shame. How did that motto even occur to us? I do not know!

    A school friend of mine, could share scandalizing stories from school with her mom and I remember then wondering if she is lucky to have such “cool & liberal ” parents. She even served beer at her 18th B’day party in her home and I would have been skinned alive if I had even suggested that to my parents . But know what, in our 20s when we faced some of the most complicated dilemmas of life…it was easier to deal with my parents. That’s when I could go to my mom for EVERYTHING! She on the other hand was in for a rude shock, her parents did not approve a certain BF, coming home drunk etc and she struggled coming to terms with it ‘coz she thought her parents would be cool with everything. That’s just what they had led her to believe.

    Honestly, my parents made parenting look very easy. Today when I see most parents talking about being there and supervising and chalking out a schedule for TV .. I wonder how my parents managed without any of that? I know we did turn out alright and that is not just by chance. I just don’t know what their secret is.

    Sorry MM..this turned out to be a very long comment.

  10. When I grow up I wanna be you MM. I have a lot of growing up to do in the parenting dept.
    I have a 3 year old and reading your blog gives me direction on how to raise my child. I did buy all those useless toys for my child and realized all my baby needs is our time and anything we do with her gives her more joy than any of those toys. Please continue to be the MM you are and I shall keep learning from you 🙂 . Your kids will thank you later for being strict now

  11. My vote’s for you, MM! And like Sumana so succintly put it, we’ll just continue to do this with the hope that our adult kids would thank us for it!

  12. Liberal is more hard work, allowing popular opinion to be your opinion is actually the easy way out. So, all those parents are lazy and you are not. That’s all it boils down to. If any job is worth doing, it’s worth doing well.

    I hear you on how hard it is for the husband and I to police not just our kids but all other kids in the mohalla. For now, I’ve gotten away with not allowing them to go very often to their friend’s places, I prefer they play together in the common areas (playground, tennis court, skating rink, cycling in the podium etc). Ofcourse I do it under the pretext of – Its healthier to play in the outdoors logic. And Bangalore’s fabulous weather- muaah, here’s where it is SO helpful.

    Another thing that helps is the age old – encouraging my kids to hang out with kids whose parents share the same parenting values we have. Ofcourse this could and will backfire someday with my kids wanting to only play with the kids I disapprove of, but for now it’s working. Sneaky work all this is, and quite tiring in some ways. (Not as tiring as clean up at a later age will be though. When the acne and obesity induced by junk food, the sullenness induced by less sleep and more digital media…etc etc shows up)

    No idea how much longer I can do it though.

  13. Yup, you will get the votes in 20 years and heres the funny thing. They might turn out to be stricter with their own kiddos than you were. Now won’t that be poetic justice, MM?:-) And who knows you’ll be the killer grandma who lets the gran’kids off the hook for just about anything and has roaring arguments with beanie and brat tie over the laxity you show them in your dotage:-)

    But am with you on all things except the sex and drugs ok?:-) I’ve told V he can experiment with sex, alcohol, experimenting with fire and some such when he’s begun earning sufficient money to take care of the consequences. And as for drugs, only after I die. Apart from that you and me are twin mommas. No really. TV is in the living room and not of much interest to him anymore since he’s gotten very heavily into his hobbies now but it took some years of strict policing to get to this point. We all watch a movie or docu on Friday evenings with a glass of coke in our hands and home made pizza and popcorn. Thats about it. Once in a blue moon(in our part of the world they are pretty rare) we all go out with friends of his for a movie that is a must-watch on the big screen to a cinema. Laptop time is strictly restricted even though the school makes them use it for every ble..dy thing. But I noticed tired eyes a few months ago and now restrict his time on it severely. We also have parent spyware installed to check on what he wiffles thru online(not worried about much except child pornography and pedophiles etc) but he finds away to de-install is so Sigh…we’ll see. Friends of his have formed a google circle and interact like crazy but V isn’t allowed. But…..V is allowed to discuss whatever he wants with me and M even to the point that some may consider inappropriate for a child of 10 to do so. But thats the way I want it because I grew up with a squeamish mom who was for the most parts a very fun mom but unable to really discuss touchy topics with her daughters.

    But I love, love the family and the home you’ve created over the years and inshallah, let’s keep it that way, ok, honey?

  14. I bet youre tired of hearing this, but the description sounds like my home when we were growing up. My parents werent the cool parents, and we were always the kids who didnt have half the stuff other kids did. We some times complained about it, but mostly bumbled along just believing “oh well, we got the parents from hell”. However, there is a point in adulthood after which things go full circle. Iv only realised the value of the simpler, less opulent and disciplined childhood I have, in the last 6 odd years. And I find that the way I approach my life is more streamlined than even my own husband who comes from a home where bringing up a child = never saying no to anything.
    I see the difference, its so stark, and I realise to what extent the foundations of a healthy upbringing shape the rest of your life. Its only now, in the recent years that I find myself actively choosing the lifestyle my parents set us off with, and find myself turning into my mother, hahaha, doing all the things I curled my nose up at 15 years ago 😛 and now believe my parents were the COOLEST folks around! I think that Im trying to say is you may or may not get the votes now, but think of it as an investment for votes later in life.

    • We some times complained about it, but mostly bumbled along just believing “oh well, we got the parents from hell”.
      – Ditto! Hahaha, I can actually picture the times my sister and I mumbled about this (mostly when we’d take off on our saturday morning cycle ride to buy ourselves ‘goodies’ out of the 8 rupees allowance each, that we got. My dad’s logic? If we wanted something, we tell ma and him. They will get us if it was a justified request. Money was not to be dealt with by us). Haha, if only I’d known then that there are others suffering similar fates 🙂

  15. OMG! Life at your place has an uncanny resemblance to mine while I was growing up!

    I had it all – strict bed timings (9.30pm every night till I was 15yrs old!!!), fruits for snacks, no tv in any bedroom, almost never got something I asked for, I was told I needed to earn it through good grades! Bah! My cousins used to call my parents the Hitler couple and feel sorry for me!

    Now that I’m managing my own household, I feel my parents took the right calls for me! I think I’m a better person and so much more healthier than my peers! I’ve never called my parents and thanked them for it! Maybe I’ll do it today! Thanks MM!!

  16. Vote – I am as bad too and have no plans of changing ;). Doesn’t mean they do not enjoy life. Yes they do watch Programs on TV- but selected ones. They after them. They have to talk softly (work in progress) – but it is easy for me as they do not have many friends – that is the bad part sigh!

  17. You get my vote too.

    No TV at our house, no cable. We watch something on Netflix after kids sleep. They get their iPAD/video time for few mins here n there but nothing major.

    We rarely eat out. All homemade food. I don’t even buy bread from outside. I make fresh meals daily and they snack on fruits, nuts, dates, etc.

    I can see how I am less popular among other moms. Kids who never eat vegetables at their homes will eat proper meals (cooked in a way different from their mom) at our home. They always get healthy snacks. And my husband will take the kids to their backyard and engage them in play. We end up doing more work but I rather do that than send them to someone’s house and have them watch TV all the time.

    We need more in our clan.

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