Sunday parenting

Sunday parenting

Learning the new ropes of parenting when your child is in hostel

Anshu Arora

I am in a long-distance relationship. With my daughter.

The biggest need of any relationship is continuous connection.

When a teenage child moves away to a boarding school, where parent connection time is one hour every Sunday, surely the continuous connection is disrupted. 

Not every parent can visualise this or perhaps every parent can visualise this, which is why there is a small percentage that opts for sending children for education to a boarding school. It is a different world. In an Indian style of parenting, we are used to close proximity with our children. From when the child wakes up till the end of the day, we are connected.

Eating, sleeping, friends, clothes, habits, hangout places, we know it all. Our broadcast and connection networks are a combination of face to face, face-time, messaging and even location sharing. We as parents think, we know it all! It’s another story that our children may have a different perspective of if we know it ‘all’. Let us continue to live in this world of our own truth for some time. 

7D-60 phase

The moment the child goes to a boarding school, it’s a clear situation of “no network”. The network bars appear, every Sunday at 2:45 pm and they vanish in sharp 60 minutes. 

This article is about what you are able to do in those 60 minutes and how do you prepare during the period of “7 days minus 60 minutes” for those 60 minutes of connection with your child.  Let us call that period of “7 days minus 60 minutes” as 7D-60. A distance parent’s life is divided into these two parts: 7D-60 and the showtime 60 minutes!

When you are in 7D-60 phase, there is a lot of anxiety, fear, faith, assumption, bad dreams, helplessness, longing and hope. You watch all possible photos and videos of your child, you write letters and emails, hoping to deliver the same when you meet. You collect small things and many a times stop yourself from collecting things because you know that those would not be permitted in the school. Clearly the scope of pampering is shrunk. Largely, it is your interaction in those 60 minutes that decide how 7D-60 phase would look like. 

Subtle nuances

If your child has spoken in a chirpy voice, you will find yourself at ease, more productive and there are no mental webs. However, if your child says, that she or he is tired due to physical activity, is sleepy, or is just about neutral with low or no excitement in the voice, then you are up for an anxious week, crying without a reason, constantly and repeatedly doing SWOT of the decision of sending your child to the boarding school, looking at other children and thinking, which part of normalcy is your child missing, or sometimes secretly and sadistically looking at the Instagram stories of your child’s earlier friends before the boarding school and thank God that the child is in the boarding school without a phone every day.  

7D-60 phase is preparatory stage and showtime for parenting is that 60-minute slot. 

In that 60-minute slot, I find myself to be an Authoritative parent. One who establishes rules and guidelines, however, is much democratic at the same time. I make a conscious and mindful effort to be responsive and willing to listen to questions. I will be honest, that I do expect a lot from my daughter, but I try to do so with warmth, feedback, and adequate support. Not all days are full of accomplishments and achievements, there are times, when my daughter’s response to a situation is not good for her own sake. It is difficult, yes, however in my 7D-60 phase, I try to prep myself to take on a nurturing and forgiving attitude. Mindfully, in 7D-60 phase I make some decisions – about setting standards, even taking an assertive and supportive route rather than an intrusive, restrictive, or punitive stance. I have realised that it has to be a combination of expectation and support. 

The catch here is these are emotions and intentions, the tone of voice, the volume, the excitement in the voice all contribute to the final message that your child will receive. I would admit, I have many a times, played the script in my head. I have thought of how I will let my daughter know my stance on something. Really, the intention has to be communicated correctly, honestly and effectively in those 60 minutes, because not to forget, how we speak to the child also determines how their week would go as well.

Making the most of it

Sixty minutes of show time, is also about expression of appreciation, belief, love and confidence in the child. As they say, “Behind every young child who believes in herself, is a parent who believed first.” There’s no way to be a perfect mother in these 60 minutes and a million ways to be a good one. To be appreciative of every small accomplishment, to trace the journey of progress and acknowledge the small steps ahead becomes integral. I try to do a lot of that. Not in an exaggerated manner, but in right and believable measures. I also add to this a dash of unconditional support. Well there could be situations that the child has to face as a fact. Sometimes, it is the behaviour of a teacher, being judged and not being understood, trying and not being able to make it or simply a heart break. As a parent, you have to ensure and in-all-honesty extend unconditional support. 

Author William Martin once said, “You do not have to make your children into wonderful people. You just have to remind them that they are wonderful people. If you do this consistently from the day they are born, they will believe it easily.”

Handling the mix

No matter the distance, vast or small, long-distance parent-child relationships can bring down even the most resilient of parents with a serious case of heartsickness. It is Sunday, today as I write this. Today when the call ended, my daughter was so tired, that when it was time to hand over the phone, and we were closing the conversation, I said, “I love you beti, I love you very much!” She just said, hmmm. I said please say, I love you too, but she said, I am really tired. She did not say I love you back. Now at 4am I am unable to define my emotion. It is a mix of a feeling of being incomplete, hollow and a tad bit disturbed. 

Well, by the way, I have heard that before. If you have a teenager at home, you will not judge, because you know that this happens, it is unintentional. Anything that is asked, especially expression of love, will be restricted, because it has been asked for. Please note that it may flow like the rhythm of an ocean one day, without having to say a word. You have to be parent- enough to remind yourself of the ‘ocean-days’ in these heart-sick moments. On the other hand, children will do best with the long-distance relationship when they can count on hearing from you consistently. Keep the lines of communication open at all times, being careful to be always available for the weekly call is important. So far, I have missed two calls because I was in a different time zone and travelling for work and I am guilty as charged. Being reachable is one thing, but being emotionally available is even more important. You can achieve this from any distance.

It starts with staying true to your word. Always follow through and live up to your commitment. If you say you’ll attend an event or visit the school as per schedule, always do it. Do not disappoint your child. It is a fact that children do better when they have healthy relationships with both of their parents. You may be separated or may not get along, maintaining good team-work and leaving aside your concerns for those 60 minutes can result in a more fulfilling long-distance relationship with the child.

Technology to the rescue

Talking of heart-sick moments, I am grateful to technology. Technology that gets you to see your child. I wish soon we graduate to a touch some time because human beings crave touch. Sharing physical contact in appropriate ways shows respect towards one another, builds positive relationships, trust and opens up the doors for deep connections and honest communication between parents and children. Hey, tech wizards listen in! Build in some AI perspective around this. In the meantime, being able to do a video call, being able to see the room, space, the board is such a blessing. To be able to see your child is such an important thing. Thank God for these online video calling apps with HD quality, you really can connect better. If you have older children, studying away from home, they can even be involved in creating their own calendar to share with you. I know of parents using universal calendar that has an app version, such as Google calendar or iCal. Or, you could opt for an app created just for tracking co-parenting schedules.

Well, those 60 minutes are very important, both for the parents and for the child as well. Make the most of it. Connect, communicate, be authentic and expressive. Children remember strange things. Children interpret differently. Read the tone, catch the words. Listen in. Ask for fun-facts. Ask about what they hate the most. Ask what they ate. Ask what they bought from the tuck store. Ask how are the roommates doing? Ask if your child did something for her/his friends. Ask if a friend stood up for your child. Ask about the words of appreciation that your child received. Keep matching the frequency, keep catching the channel, keep trying. 

You won’t get all network bars on all days, not all days will be the same. Keep unwavering faith in your own decision. Remember, that you researched before you got your child admitted to the school, believe in your homework. 

Secretly, all parents hope that Sunday should come with a pause button. However, the clock never stops. There is never an extra second in those 60 minutes. Post those 60 minutes, hand over and surrender in full faith and positive thoughts. Believe in the power of prayer. Believe that a supreme power is always there with all the children of the world. Protecting and guarding them, always. 

So, the next time you worry about the sheet covering your child at night, have faith, that it shall be done. 

“Don’t raise your children to have more than you had. Raise them to be more than you were.”