I’m proud of you because…

Haven’t all parents said this to their children at some point? Maybe not in the same words, but the underlying meaning is the same. I’m proud of you because you were good. I’m proud of you because you got such good grades. I’m proud of you because you played well. You get the idea.

I say that to Vivaan too sometimes. He has been learning karate since last 3 months now and is doing much better than when he started. ‘Better’ is of course a relative term. In this case it means he listens to the sensei 90% of the time, does not stop in the middle of the class to stare at what other kids are doing, play with his belt or worse, with the much more interesting stuff inside his nose (it did happen once)!

Since he is doing better now, I try to encourage him by telling him after class that I’m proud of him for doing such and such. But every time I do that, a small voice inside me tells me not to. After all, isn’t a parent’s love (and pride in the child) supposed to be unconditional? Regardless of his ‘performance’ in various arenas, regardless of what the society’s standards of being ‘good’ are, should I not always be proud of him? Then why do I subconsciously  tell him that I will only be proud of him when he meets those standards – which may not even be the same as my own.

It is commonly said that a parent’s, especially a mother’s love for a child is unconditional. From what I perceive, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. From the minute they are born, we start expecting from them – that they will return our love, do well in school and sports, be nice to others, and in general, grow up to be ‘successful’ adults. If there is so much expectation, the love cannot be unconditional, can it? We may say that we want all this for their own good, but the truth is that we want them to fit in and meet all the benchmarks our society has created for them. So that we can be proud of being parents of achieving, successful children.

So next time, I will keep all of this in mind when I tell my son that I am proud of him. Instead of feeling a little let-down when he is always last in the little warm-up race they have before karate, I will be proud that he is the only kid who runs carefully so that he doesn’t step on other children’s toes. And I will tell him that and mean it too. Because it doesn’t matter if he turns out to be just an average or below-average achiever by society’s standards, I will always be crazy proud of him for being who he is.

As long as he doesn’t send me to an old people’s home…


What’s in the color

My little boy is getting bigger. He is almost four but sometimes the things he says make me stop in my tracks and wonder if I should start taking him more seriously and treat him like an older kid.

Just the other day, I told him that a friend of mine would be visiting us for dinner. His first question was: “Is your friend like this (touching my face) or like this (touching his own face)?”. The question came as a little surprise to me because he has never asked anything like this before. So this is how the conversation went.

Me: Are you trying to ask if my friend is a boy or a girl?
Viv: No! I’m asking if she is like this or like this (repeating the gesture).
Me: What do you mean by that?
Viv: I’m talking about color.
Me (thinking WHAT THE !?@! and trying to come up with the right answer): It doesn’t matter what color she is, because everyone is the same from the inside.
Viv: But I’m talking about her face!

Luckily for me, he got distracted by something else because I would have hated to answer that question. For some reason, I find it hard to use colors to describe people. It is just weird calling someone white or black or brown. I would rather use nationality or race because I think using skin color to identify someone undermines everything else that they are and brings the focus on just one thing – the color of their skin.

Anyway, just a day later, we had to visit another friend and I was telling him about it when he asked “does your friend speak Hindi?”. Chetan and I gave each other a WOW look, sharing the same feeling, that our little boy is growing up. Maybe, after this recent trip to India, he has realized that the people around him are diverse, that he is different from others, or that his parents are different from others (hence the question: is she like you or like me!).

Whatever it is that goes through his head, it is probably the start of a confusing, but interesting journey for him. In the meantime, we can take comfort in the fact that it is still a while before he will start getting embarrassed by his parents’ accent, and enjoy every moment of growing up with him!