This week in Village People, it’s Shreya’s turn. Like last week’s Village Person Brook, Shreya also had kids early for her age (maybe because she and Brook are the same age and married and parents to the same kids, but that’s a guess). Always happy to take on a challenge, they had three kids in three years - give or take a few weeks - and two of these were either side of the covid lockdowns. Not content, they decided to start GRASP smack bang in the middle of it all.
What’s an aspect of your own childhood you enjoyed?
I really enjoyed family car journeys. Whether long trips to see relatives halfway across the country, or the 45 minutes it took to get to the nearest shopping centre (hello Metro Centre, Gateshead!) - we’d play singing games, tell jokes, do impressions, listen to Bollywood music. Between all that and the supply of snacks the kids usually wouldn’t be allowed, I remember it as a treat of a time together as a family.
What’s your favourite thing about raising kids in London?
Probably it’s my favourite thing about living in London more generally: you can really get lost in London. I grew up in the small town of Hartlepool, which is not very ethnically diverse so I stuck out a bit. In London, you have the opportunity to bump up against so many cultures and ways of doing things in your day-to-day routines, it makes it very easy to raise kids to appreciate that people are all different.
Black, white, brown, single, children, pets, loud, quiet, english, football, singing, cycling, smoking, etc. I think it helps spark good conversations but also helps to talk about the importance of being comfortable in your own skin and letting people be themselves too.
What’s something about parenting you learnt the hard way?
This is not cheery but… I like to read ahead about everything. If a book I’m reading slows down, I like to glance at the finishing pages. I’ll look at the menu of a restaurant we’re going to ahead of time. So I thought I was clued up about pregnancy and labour and beyond well enough.
But I was not prepared for the shock of postpartum life. I quit full-time work before my first baby, which was the right call for us as a family, but the adjustment was a bit of a crash landing. Because I thought I should “get” it all, because I had “prepared myself”, so I was not very good at asking for help. It took a while to learn to do that a bit better. To be specific and firm about what and when and how and from who! Fortunately, three years on, I’m a lot better at asking, and also setting the limits of what’s going to be feasible in a given day or week. Which, it turns out, is as much about what kids can handle as it is me!
I would be missing an opportunity if I didn’t also say this: when you go to change a nappy, put the new one underneath before you open the full one up. This is also something I have learnt the hard way!
What’ s your pet peeve when it comes to interacting with kids?
It’s not exactly a pet peeve but… I have loved being an older cousin and aunty and this is universal: I just don’t get baby talk?? Like the “did widdle baby cwy when we saw the wabbit”... Like I swear kids just look at you like what are you talking about??? Yeah it’s a pet peeve I guess! I think it’s great to just talk to kids as you would if they were grown up, in terms of pronunciation and tone, at least!
What’s one thing grown ups can do for kids they’re not parenting or responsible for?
Talk! Kids are so much more observant than we ever think, and grown ups who are not their primary caregivers are like an endless source of fascination. My oldest is only 3, but it’s already clear how vividly grandparents, uncles, aunts and friends are opening up his horizons beyond what his dad or I can do ourselves. He’s come away from time with my mum talking about the life cycles of butterflies, or telling knock knock jokes for weeks after chatting to a (grown up) friend at a wedding.
Talk about what you care about - what you do for work, sports you enjoy, your hair care routine - and I guarantee kids will ask you question after question about it. This is how role models are formed… The only flip side is that you have to listen too - after a thousand “why”s, that can feel like effort, but it means the world to a kid to have your ear and makes them feel so valued.
They say it takes a village to raise a child. All the big and small inputs different grown ups have in a child’s life - from grandparents to playgroup leaders to the lady at the checkout - shape how kids grow up to see the world. Who makes up this village is different from family to family, and even child to child. What the people in this ‘village’ offer and model to the kids in their lives is more diverse still. This series shines a light on the different kinds of people that make up the villages around us!