Aunts are parents too!

Nirwa Mehta is a doting aunt who wishes she could shake up a few parents in her family

The thing about being almost 30 and single is that not only are most friends and cousins you grew up with married, but they have kids too.  My nieces (six and three years of age) go to the same school I studied in. The teachers who taught me are now teaching them. Except, times have changed, and how!

The other day, my cousin promised his six-year-old daughter an iPad if she got A+ in her final exams in class one. It is 2015 and technology is more a utility than a luxury. Except, who ‘gifts’ six year olds iPads for getting good grades? I kept quiet. None of my business.

I am sure there are games kids could play that aid their mental development on the iPad, right? My cousin’s younger daughter, my three-year-old niece, brought the iPad to me. She wanted to show me how she ‘colours the nails’ in some ‘beauty and make up’ game on the iPad. It was her and her sister’s favourite game, after Subway Surfers. They now choose to play games on the iPad over playing with neighbourhood kids.

At dinner, the six year old decided she wanted to order a pizza. And the three year old enthusiastically agreed, with one caveat: she wanted an entire cheesy dip to go with it. So, a cheese burst pizza was ordered, along with two separate cheesy dips for each kid. Their grandfather, pride swelling his chest, said, “Oh, they are kids, they can eat cheese. Not like they will have cholesterol at this age,” as both the kids smeared their faces with liquid cheese.

The three year old could not finish more than two slices (she licked the cheesy dip clean, though), because she had had chocolate-flavoured cereal for evening snacks after returning from her play school. It made me wonder in this age of information overload, how can my cousin, or his wife, not know that just because a branded cereal offers ‘roti jaise gun’, it does not mean it actually has the goodness of a roti. And I am not even talking about the high sugar content in them.

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As someone who is not a parent herself, I would consider it unfair if I am too harsh on someone else’s parenting skills. However, I do wish I could explain it to new parents that while there is no escaping technology, a few games in the heat and dust, which may lead to bruised knees, will not hurt.  And that processed cheese and butter have high fat and sodium content and are bad in excess, irrespective of age. That healthy eating habits need to be inculcated from childhood, especially when there is a family history of blood pressure and diabetes. That it is not a funny anecdote to bring up indulgently if your child likes to sneak into the kitchen and devour a pinch of salt few times a day.

And please, let your child stay one! It terrifies me to see toddlers with makeup, thereby sexualising a kid and taking away the opportunity from her to be one. I am all for personal freedom, and against moral policing of any sort, and call me old fashioned if you will, but there’s plenty of time to wear makeup when you’re older. Kids’ skins are tender, their minds even more – by letting the child wear makeup, or worse, putting it on her, and then the resultant admiration, you’re teacher her that she needs these things to look pretty. Besides, makeup is best put on when one can handle the unwarranted attention that might come one’s way.

As a loving aunt, I might fret and fume but I love my nieces and nephews just the way you love your own kids. How would I parent my kids, you ask? Well, here goes. Teach a child to be humble in victory and gracious in defeat. That it is okay to lose in a game as long as you don’t lose the lesson. Growing up, life gets tougher. The more you coddle them as children, harder it gets for them to face difficulties when they grow up. Instead of making sure they never fall, teach them to get up every time they fall. And be around when they fall so that they know they can count on you.

And if all else fails, send them to me for lessons on being an adarsh balak.

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