This is continued from Tips for Dads (part-2)
Extending your family…
So, in Natasha’s early childhood, she has had a lot of "quality time" with her parents. But on the other hand, she extends her love to a much wider circle. She really does have an "extended family" rather than a "nuclear family". Partly by default, of course, because of my divorce. I can’t really say how much her natural extension of affections is her and how much is her upbringing, but I can share a bit about both. Natasha has three grandmas. One is my mum, one is her mum’s mum, and one is an elderly lady, a neighbor—not a "biological grandma", to coin a phrase, but for Natasha just as important.
A kid at her school, about a year ago (when Natasha was around 4) informed her that she “can’t have three grandmas, it’s not possible.” To which Natasha, in her inimitable way, peaceful yet authoritative, responded, “If I love someone, they are in my family.” And similarly, my new partner is, for her, "Aunty". Natasha is very close to her. Part of the secret is the times me and her Mum (and her grandmas and Aunty) have spent with Natasha when she didn’t feel well—those moments mean she feels a strong bond, which allows her also to feel safe and happy with others. Sri Sri’s articles on bringing up children were again an inspiration here: encourage children to make new friends every day and not close them within a familiar circle. Sri Sri’s tips have been a great help to me when dealing with other people’s children as well. An example: there was a period when I taught primary school children English as a second language and designed courses for them. Of all the tasks I have taken up in my life—running a business, teaching Art of Living courses, academic work—the only one that was really a challenge to me was teaching large groups of children. It was both much more challenging and most rewarding. Testing all my emotional responses, patience, and how much—if any!—wisdom I have acquired. Sri Sri’s tips were priceless—they broke the mold; often went against the grain of habitual teacher-parent responses—but worked brilliantly.
Sri Sri listening to children…
When I was making use of Sri Sri’s advice for teachers, I often had to also think and work to figure out how best to implement his advice. I really put my heart into teaching. For example, he mentions that we tend to be tough on tough kids and soft on shy kids where we should do just the opposite. But how to be soft with tough kids without coming across as a weak and "middle class" can’t-do-so-I-teach teacher? Actually, Sri Sri emphasizes in his talks for teachers that we need to meditate, be calm and confident, and then solutions will come to us. Some things we have to figure out ourselves. I figured out that sitting next to rebellious kids when addressing them—not face to face or opposite them—and subtly tapping them on the shoulder in a gesture of manly "camaraderie" worked very well. Body language communication. Step by step, in ways like that, I built up team spirit with the toughest of kids. In the end, those same kids were proud to greet me in the morning, and while they were still a little rebellious (they didn’t lose their nature so to speak), the nasty or aggressive behavior disappeared. They started to show their toughness by leading a group and helping others, and so on. Anyway, I hope all that will look good on my CV when I apply to be dad for Natasha’s teenage years!
Tip no. 6 for Dads: Read the article Human Values in the Classroom by Sri Sri Ravi Shankar, in the book Wisdom for the New Millennium. Actually, all the articles there confront the most difficult challenges we face in society today and the most puzzling phenomena, like death, immortality, success and failure, karma, and so on. Another book I found helpful was How to talk so kids will listen, and listen so kids will talk, by Faber and Mazlish. Instead of long texts, there are helpful cartoons illustrating the real mistakes we make and ways to respond you can try out.
Tip no. 7 for Dads: Install Skype and extend your family! Even when your extended family is in another country or city (like mine) or if you’re divorced and so have to share the days with your kids, the face-to-face contact of Skype is a godsend. Natasha, at least, does not always like talking on the phone, but once she can see you, she’ll chat for an hour, show you what she’s doing, and just sit there enjoying your presence. And once again, the calmer you are for those precious one-to-one times, the closer you’ll be to your kids. And meditation is one great way to discover this.
I wish you all the fun and learning in the world in your fatherhood—from me and Natasha!
Written by Patrick Trompiz