Thursday, December 1, 2011

Parenting Ex-pat brats!

As well as blogging I have been writing articles for the Rangoli - the OWC monthly magazine which is no big deal as it gets delivered to all members (1,000) whether they like it or not, but its still pretty cool seeing myself in print! Anyway this was in this months issue and spotlights some issues I have!

One of the more subtle changes in my life since touching down in Bangalore has been the parenting issues. We have moved way past the immediate “have we done the right thing” reaction to brat the younger’s tears at the bus stop each morning in our first few weeks, but the parenting issues, nearly a year in, are still somewhat different to those faced in the U.S. I don’t pretend to have any of the answers if, in fact, there are any.

Firstly the helmet issues. Being of US birth and upbringing my kids are used to wearing helmets at the mere hint of a bike ride, never riding their bikes after dark and have endured numerous lectures on “road safety.” Now we live in a community where no child – no matter their age or biking prowess (or lack thereof) wears a helmet and kids on bikes, skateboards and scooters race over speed bumps in the dark with motorcyclists, cars and water tankers. Do I let my kids run with the pack or relegate them to the dorkiest of dorks and insist they wear a helmet and are home before 6.00pm?

I do feel that should one of my kids fall off their bike in the neighborhood someone would patch them up, put them back on board and point them homeward. There is definitely a much stronger feeling of community here than in our US street. However a neighbor with a band aid is not going to be much help after a head on collision with a motorbike!

Talking of motorbikes what then do I say when brat the younger wants to jump on the back of the driver’s motorbike to pop out of the ‘hood to buy cricket cards or because he can’t carry the gift he needs to take to a neighbors birthday party on his push bike? It’s only a two minute trip and I remember motor biking helmetless round the Greek Islands with the wind in my hair and I know that is not the point …………………. But what to do?

Despite having unlimited (almost) freedom in the neighborhood, brat the elder (age 12) has been chaffing to leave the ‘hood parentless with his buddy to buy provisions (aka candy and soda) from the local stores.  On this one I do give the OK. Working out the most sugar and junk food they can get for 50 rupees is good for their math, right?

The only qualm I have when leaving them home with my maid/driver is whether brat the younger will terrorize either into resigning.

I am still suffering from “hover” withdrawal.  Although I was never such a low flying hovering helicopter as some, I did spend substantial time “hovering” –in the guise of volunteering, at the kids elementary school in the US, cheering on the sidelines at soccer, den mom at cub scouts etc. etc.  Here I have had to let go big time and it’s not been easy.  I have much less idea what my kids get up to at school or running wild in the ‘hood once they are home and at weekends. I honestly sometimes don’t know if they are at home or in who’s home. But I guess they are essentially enjoying the freedom and independence I did as a kid – I need to consider maybe I am here to pick them up when required, not to continually prop them up!

Then school, coming from a world of extra credit (yes in the US it is perfectly possible to get over 100%), where phonetic spellings are quite acceptable, praise comes cheap, the honor role is extensive, thorough supervision is provided in the limited free time in limited play areas, parents are welcome to hover as much as they wish…….  there have been some parenting concerns. However brat the younger has evolved from being shy, sad and scarred to requiring some reigning in at times and although brat the elder initially found it difficult to accept that it is not possible to be a straight A student with relatively no effort, he is now enjoying having to rise to a challenge and also looking out for himself a lot more.

Then there have been the questions.  About the poverty, the pollution, the religions, the traditions…… Life  - the good, the bad and the ugly is out on the street – no hiding it away from the brats or pretending it doesn’t exist. In this wild, exotic, frenetic country, there are so many teaching and learning opportunities both for us and to pass on to our kids, I just hope I can do them justice.

If when we leave here my kids have a glimmer of social conscience, a global perspective, a wider spiritual awareness, an environmental responsibility, and a sense of adventure, and of course there have been no bike related trips to the hospital, I will feel as parents we are on the right tracks!!

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