Thursday, October 26, 2017

Zero Tolerance

I came home last night as I normally do to a house full of activity.  I heard Baltej (11) practicing his Dilruba in our prayer room and Himmat (9) doing homework in the playroom.  My wife (Jasmine)  was cleaning up the dinner in the kitchen and Avtar (5) was enjoying his ‘electronic’ time on her phone.

As our normal routine my wife and I use our kitchen island to catchup on the day.  The routine of how the day was, how the kids behaved what was the status of the homework’s and other activities the kids were up to.  During this time, I am also setting up my dinner plate and we are normally interrupted by one of the boys coming and greeting me with a hug or just trying to get into our conversation.  So I noticed that Himmat (middle child) and Avtar had come by but Baltej went straight up to take a shower after his practice.  When I asked about him Jasmine proceeded to tell me how he had acted up that evening throwing a ball at one of his siblings and then another friend who had come to play on our driveway.  Though these were uncharacteristic of his behavior, we have enough kids and have spent enough time with them to know nothing is awkward and boys do some really stupid stuff from time to time (maybe girls too but I cant speak to that!).

After our conversation and my dinner was finished, I noticed that Baltej had not come back down stairs, this is again uncharacteristic of him and, so I decided to go talk to him.

As I walked up the stairs I noticed that his door was closed, and lights were off, this was another atypical sign at 7pm, normally he is full of energy and trying every excuse to extend his bedtime.
When I opened the door, I found him in bed under the covers, I went over and sat at the edge of his bed and lifted his covers, he must have been under them for a while because his head felt hot almost feverish.

I asked him what was wrong and if he was just tired, he looked at me with a very concerned and serious face, “I feel a lot of pressure” he said.  He went on to explain how he had gotten a zero on one of his makeup assignments.  He was fearful that I would be upset along with his behavior that evening with his siblings and friends. 

Being a parent is a very difficult job, anyone who has kids can tell you there is not one way, there is not one answer, there is not one strategy.  You are constantly thrown into unexpected situations or conversations.  Along with that you have the burden of knowing what you say, what you do, even how you say it, how you do it all gets recorded by little impressionable and very observant minds.  It’s a miracle that anyone grows up normal! 

“Its ok, I am not mad at you” I started off, I knew he already felt the stress of his behavior and failure, this was not a time to be upset or make him feel worse.

It was a rare moment where not only was I in the right frame of mind to give the advice, but he was in the right frame of mind to receive it.  Most times these moments come in the heat of something else going on, or in the midst of needing to get somewhere and so we miss these opportunities.
In what I hope someday he remembers as his dad’s ‘calm’ voice, I went on to explain to him that he was feeling stress and that he can’t change the past, the zero his behavior is all in the past now.  What he had under his control is his future actions.  I felt him feeling a bit relieved that he had dodged the ‘I’m in trouble bullet’ but of course I was not going to let him out that easy.

I used that moment where I had his captured attention to dish out some advice I also could use myself sometimes.  You cannot change the past, when you make a mistake or an error, there is no sense focusing on that missed chance.  The only thing we should get out of that is to learn by never forgetting that feeling.  I told him if you want to remember anything from today it shouldn’t be your grade or your behavior, but just this feeling that you had afterwards, that is the best chance to not make the same mistake again.  By this time Jasmine had also come upstairs, and I’m sure she too felt this was a good time to drive home some points so, as I was getting up and leaving she took my seat at the edge of the bed.

The Indian in me of course kept thinking about that zero he received, and as I was getting up I said I am not upset at the zero this time, but if it repeats then there would be something I would be holding him accountable for…..after that the desi part of me felt relief not letting the education expectations down!

Tuesday, July 25, 2017

Disconnecting to connect

For Father’s Day my son was asked to draw me and then point out my characteristics.  When he brought the drawing home and I took a look, it caught me off guard.  It was a picture of me holding my phone.  As one of my characteristics, ‘What does your father like to do’ he had written
“My father likes to watch funny videos on YouTube”

Children provide the most accurate reflection of you.  They show you the unbiased view that you seldom want to reflect on.  The one my son pointed out was most likely true, I was on my phone constantly.  I would love to use the excuse that it was because of my new job, and the demands of it and maybe I could chalk up 25% of my phone use for that, it would be inaccurate of me not to acknowledge the social media and entertainment aspect.

The truth is I am like many normal adults now a days, we use our phone for work, for information, to socialize and also cure our boredom.  Quite frankly I cannot even remember the last time I was bored.  Even places like the bathroom, the phone provides the world at your fingertips, you can google random questions you always had, research cars you will never buy, play games or communicate with anyone you wish.  The pull to use the mobile device is very strong, and truly addictive.

We try to justify our use because we don’t want to admit the truth.  We can survive without our phones, we can survive without social media, and most importantly if I wanted my kids not to be addicted to this technology, I would have to lead, by example, not lecture.

So that is what I am doing.  Today I deleted all my social media accounts, and had a discussion with my wife.  Though I had not talked to her about it previously and she was surprised she was quickly on board.  We have strategized to place our phones in a box at home, and only check them once every hour or so, for important emails.  I am also setting up some VIP emails so that if there is an emergency at work I can get some sort of alert, and not look completely careless!

I am an above average social media junky, I had too many friends on Facebook, followers on Twitter, and Instagram, and though I never really understood the appeal of Snapchat I had downloaded it just to see what the hype was about. 

For me the goal is simple, to disconnect to connect to what is truly important.  I had been on Facebook so long I don’t even remember how life was before it!  Ok I do but I do not really remember how we kept in touch, I am guessing via a phone call?  The aim is that come next father’s day, my son does not draw me with a phone in my hand, and for “What does your father like to do”  I would like to see the answer :

“My father likes to spend time with me when he is at home”

Monday, April 17, 2017

Money cannot change hearts and minds.

Recently National Sikh Campaign launched the “We are Sikhs” initiative.  Where a vast amount of money was spent to make an Ad/PR campaign to educated the American population on what Sikhs are/stand for.   All efforts to educate and spread awareness have their place and should be applauded, however I do believe we have started to cross the lines of what we should be standing for.

Money cannot win the hearts and minds of others, commercials cannot express the deepness of our beliefs.  Historically Sikhs have consistently been underdogs, and under constant scrutiny either by the government or other forces.  Never has a time come where Sikhs turned to self-preservation, they in fact did the opposite, the more they were taunted, the more they were hunted, it increased the self-sacrifice and service for others.  This is where the mind shift is happening and where I begin to see a new problematic thinking emerging in Sikhs.

Just following the ideals of Sikhism would provide ample amplification of our values.  There have been many examples of Sikhs doing just that and getting Viral posts with millions of views, Fauja Singh running for the charity, Ravi Singh going to Haiti and other remote areas to assist those in need, Balpreet Kaur’s exemplary response to an online bullying incident, and recently Angad Singh tying a turban in the middle of Times Square.  Our core beliefs and values when practice in real life would/and will provide a free of cost understanding of who we are.

Are we putting our resources to best use?  When we were younger we thought why do we have so many Gurdwara’s with such a small population, we wondered what was wrong with the previous generation wanting to build bigger and larger buildings when they did not agree with one another.  This generation has a new challenge, we now understand that the brick and mortar are not the best use of our funds, however we must think and do some soul searching on what we are now doing.  We are using our funds to educate others about us, sure this is a noble cause, and it may even have a place, but does it need to be the consistent focus?  We have come a long way since 9/11 and our community has been reaching out since and has done a lot better than before, yet we continue to use attacks against us to make ourselves fearful.   

Let’s truly introspect on what we are trying to achieve, what sort of community are we trying to become?  Our glorious heritage is full of courageous acts, where Sikhs defied odds, not for their own gain or to make their lives easier, but to fulfill a larger destiny, for mankind. 

The Sikh creed is to stand out, doesn’t matter if someone knows why or why not from first glance, every Sikh’s actions and words should change the hearts and minds.  We ourselves are the commercials, we ourselves are the advertisement, we ourselves have the power to change the perception.