Become an angry young man.


I believe one of the most rewarding aspects of parenthood is observing the slow emergence of the questioning, thinking mind of a child. It is a delight to see your child becoming socially conscious, questioning the wrongs that s/he sees around him/her, asking you for your thoughts on it and trying to figure out the chaos in his or her minds in his or her way. Questions, innumerable questions are hurled at us at all times. We try to answer to the best of our ability and resort to internet when we run out of answers. I personally try to convert each question about social equality or justice into a teaching moment by leading their thoughts in a certain direction and allowing them to persist and think it through.

While changing bed linen the other day, such a teaching moment arose when my younger child, Ryan followed me to the room asked a very pertinent question.

“Mom, do you get very, very angry when you read about all the bad stuff that happened to women in the past, that you read in history books? I feel bad for women that they had to suffer but I am a man and I don’t feel as angry as you or Sahana about it!

Every time I hear about violence done against women, my belief about teaching our sons to respect women (and men) gets reaffirmed. We are equally responsible as the law and order system in the world to bring about the change in the mindset of men and women regarding the equality of all. And we can do that by teaching our sons to respect women and teaching our daughters that they are not inferior to any because of their gender.

So I took Ryan’s question as a teaching moment to teach and reinforce fairness and equality.

I told him, “Think of the injustice done to the women throughout the ages as injustice done to humans. Don’t think of them as women. Think of them as a part of human race who were not given equal rights. They had to fight for their rights, they were ridiculed, violated, oppressed yet they continued their fight and continue to do so to this day. You get angry when you read about how the whites treated blacks, how the homosexuals are treated in the world still, right? It is the same with women. They were not treated equally and that should make you angry even if you are a man. And use the anger to help women fight for equality which is their right.”

He listened silently and walked out of the room. I knew I had planted a seed. I just hope the seed grows into a tree and bears fruit and the world receives a young man who gets angry at any form of injustice and uses that anger as a fuel to right the wrongs done.

Questions! I love them….most of the time!

I don’t have all the answers to their questions. But I felt good about this answer and I write it and store this away in my treasure chest as a good mommy moment.

 

The spectacular now

I will give you four pennies if you give me ten dollars.


I often ‘borrow’ money from my children. I am always out of change for lunch money or snack money. So I tell them ‘Just take it out of your money jar, I will pay you back!’ I keep a mental count on how much I owe them and pay them back with a little interest…..most of the times. Sahana has smartened up lately, she puts all her money in a bank account and keeps nothing at home. Young Ryan loves his money jar and he can be seen, often times, sitting in a corner, counting his pennies and nickels. I look at him and think ‘Shylock’ in my head!

Recently, I took three dollars from the above mentioned, precious money jar and asked Sean to pay him back. Since we vowed to take care of each other at our marriage, we fulfil our promise. I take care of his nourishment, his laundry, our children, he takes care of me in tricky situations, like when I have to repay my debt!

The following conversation is a result of my eavesdropping. And I am recording this because I want Ryan to read this write-up when he is doing his Major in Math at Harvard!

Before Ryan’s bedtime, Sean went to return the three dollars and decided to make it a teaching moment as well.

‘Ryan, how much is 10 minus 7?’

‘3! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, all the way to Japaneze!’

‘Right, big guy! So I am giving you $10 and taking $7!’

A moment of silence, then a cry of desperation,

‘WHY ARE YOU TAKING $7 FROM MY MONEY JAR???’

‘But I am giving you $10 and taking $7! So you get back your $3! Remember you said 10 minus 7 is 3! So 7 plus 3 is 10! You had 7, now I am giving you 10 but taking away your 7! So you see, you have the $3 back that mommy took from you.’

At this point, I believe Sean proceeded to take his $7 back.

Wailing.

‘NO! NO! DON’T TAKE MY $7! I will give you four pennies if you give me that $10!’

More math. More teaching, a few moments of silence and then desperate pleading.

‘Take four pennies dad, for that $10! Not $7…..!’ Sniffles added at this point!

Sean said they will talk about it the next day and left it at that!

The next morning, when Ryan woke up for school, he rubbed his eyes, sat right up on the bed and said in a groggy, morning voice, ‘Can I have my $10 dollars, dad?’

We will talk about it tonight!’ I think Sean was scared to broach the subject…. understandably. He decided to break the ten at a store and give the boy 3 one dollar bills. He also thought of using poker chips or something of lesser value than $10 to teach this complex math fact!

Once, when Ryan was about four, I was trying to teach him subtraction. I made the mistake of saying, ‘Ry, if you have 5 candies and you give 3 candies to Sahana, how many candies will you have left?’ Without missing a beat, he said, ‘I don’t want to give ANY candies to Sahana!’ I debated which lesson to teach him at that moment! The lesson of sharing or subtraction! Decided to go with math, just had Sahana give her candies to Ryan. Things went smoothly from then on!

Tonight, before going to bed, I found Ryan standing quietly in front of Sean’s bedside table.

‘What are you doing here, buddy?’ I asked.

‘Trying to see where daddy put MY $10 dollars!’

Sean and I both looked at each other and then the letter proudly stuck on our refrigerator, saying, ‘Your child, Ryan Callahan has been invited to a first grade Math instructional seminar in school….’ It is an early form of Gifted and Talented program in Math!

Doing math?