The game of cricket is a lot about having the qualities of self-assuredness and practicality while staying true to one’s roots. Ravichandran Ashwin and his wife Prithi Ashwin are loving parents to two beautiful, little girls and they want them to grow up with similar values while being unafraid to get out of their comfort zone and take on life’s challenges.
Mother to Akhira, who is 2.5 years old and 11-month old Adhya, Prithi is an engineering graduate and a classical dancer. She has known Ashwin since their school days. The couple, who celebrated their sixth wedding anniversary recently, are quite hands-on as parents. At a 'Mom and Me' carnival organised by WSquare in Chennai, the lovely Prithi spoke exclusively to ParentCircle on motherhood, the importance of having grandparents in your life and parenting in the digital era. The couple’s own approach to parenting focusses on allowing the children to explore while setting some limits, in a nurturing environment.
She tells us that the two girls have very different personalities -- while the younger one, Adhya is more assertive and knows what she wants, Akhira is the gentle one. Adhya seems to be going her Dad’s way as she has already started kicking the ball!
Excerpts from the interview
Q. You have always travelled with Ashwin and watched him play when he was on tours. Now that you have two little children, how has that changed?
A.Yes, I travelled a lot before I had the children, and it has been a great experience. I do travel even now with my kids, but it can get a little challenging, especially because both of them are under three years of age.
But it is not impossible -- travelling with children has become a lot easier these days. Airlines are much more receptive to the needs of families and moreover, lot more mothers are travelling with children. I travelled first with Akhira when she was just four months old and I was able to manage alone. But after I had the second one, I needed help.
The biggest challenges, I would say, come in the form of flight-delays because food can become an issue then and children can also get cranky if they miss their sleep. My advice to mothers travelling with small children is --
- Plan ahead and pack enough kid-friendly food so that they eat on time and are not hungry.
- Manage their sleep cycle in such a way that it coincides with the flight timings. I try to keep them awake before a long-haul flight so that they are tired enough and will doze off in the plane.
- Always carry basic medications for the children. You cannot afford to reach a place and then hunt for a pharmacy, in case one of them gets sick.
- The earlier they start to travel the better, they see things, they get used to it and then they get comfortable.
Q. Like you said, both your children are toddlers and the difference in their ages is just over a year. Was that difficult to manage?
A. It was very tricky because the elder one did not understand the arrival of the second baby. I had to address her insecurities -- I prepared Akhira by making her understand that Mama’s attention will waver a little but I will always be there for her. So, when I had the second baby, I had to give the older one that much more attention. Because of that, she was reassured and got very accepting of the little one. I also had a lot of support from my parents and in-laws, so the settling in was not that difficult.
Q. Has motherhood changed you?
A. Yes, it definitely has. It is not so much about the responsibility, but I think I have become a lot more emotionally vulnerable. I am a bit more scared of things while earlier I wasn’t…I was much more adventurous. Now, I think before I do something. For example, I would probably take much more risks earlier than I do now. Just before getting pregnant with Akhira, I went sky-diving but now, I would think twice about doing something like that. The biggest change is how much time they take up in your lives.
Q. Do you think it helps to have a support system in the form of grandparents?
It does. For me, it really makes a lot of sense. Because my husband is mostly away and even when he is home, he is quite busy with practice and a lot of things he is demanded to do. When he has the children, we make sure it is primarily only quality time. I don’t want him wasting time on other chores. So, it helps to have my in-laws and parents around because managing as a single mother can get really difficult sometimes, especially when they get sick and need constant care. I also strongly believe that children should spend time with their grandparents. Interacting with the elders gives them insight into a world different from their parent’s world. They also bring in a diverse set of values and a look at life that comes from experience. That is an important thing for a child to grow up with.
Q. What is your’s and Ashwin’s parenting approach?
A. Both of us are very clear about how we don’t or do want our children to grow up. You see, we are a joint family and my parents live close by. So, I and Ashwin are both very much in touch with how our parents brought us up and would like the same for our children. We are happy to reprimand them when it is needed but also give them loving support, so they grow up as confident, respectful individuals. We are bringing them up in such a way that they are comfortable in their surroundings and open to new things.
I was a shy girl and not into sports, completely opposite to my husband. My comfort zone was in being a dancer. Now, I think it is very important for them to go out and embrace the world, take up sporting activities and not be shy about it. Also, since Ashwin is often not around I have to take up the role of both, and I am happy to do that.
Q. Is Ashwin hands-on as a father?
When Ashwin is at home, he is very hands-on with the kids. He likes to spend time playing with them at home or sometimes he takes them to our coaching academy for outdoor play.
Since he is around less he would love to indulge them and let them have their way. Since Akhira is still very small, she is yet to realise that Appa is quite pliable but it will happen very soon (laughs). By the time she is three or four years old, she will know that she can get anything done by Appa! So I’m the one who has to draw the line.
Q. Does Akhira know that her father is famous?
She still doesn’t know that her father is a celebrity and that he is doing something important. She just knows that he is on TV, she watches him when he comes in to bowl and gets excited to watch him on television, even though she does not necessarily understand the importance of being on TV. When she sees him wearing the blue jersey, she gets excited and says Appa! Appa!
Earlier, she used to be quite clingy when he is at home and had to go out to the ground. Now she understands when we tell her that Appa has to go for practice.
Q. As a family, what do you do for fun and to spend time together?
A.We have three dogs at home and we spend a lot of time playing with them as a family. Fortunately, both the girls are very fond of dogs. In fact, both are really into animals and wildlife. So we take them to Guindy National park, Snake Park, Vandalur Zoo. There are also limitations on places we can go here.
Recently, Ashwin had a county stint, so all of us joined him there in the UK. That was a great experience because the children really enjoyed and when Ashwin was not playing, he could spend quality time with them. Also, it was much easier for Ashwin to be himself and hang out in public. We did a lot of outdoor stuff, went camping and chilled out in a beautiful place.
Q. Do you allow Akhira screen time?
When I was having the second baby, Akhira was feeling a little forlorn. A month before I was due to deliver, I introduced her to the gadget because she seemed to derive some comfort from it. But it is always monitored. I give her limited screen time -- about 10 minutes in the afternoon after she is back from school. She does not like watching much TV, she gets restless. She is not allowed to browse because I know it can be dangerous, instead, I have downloaded Youtube Kids on my phone. I select about five to ten videos for her to watch. I have noticed that this helps her stay focused and enjoy those particular videos. There is a lot of inappropriate stuff these days online and as parents, we need to be careful. The internet can be a scary place and once you start browsing there is no end to it.
Q. What values do you want to inculcate in your children? How do you want them growing up?
Ashwin is a very grounded and down-to-earth person. And those are qualities we want our children to have. Not just because he is a celebrity, even if he was an ordinary person with a regular working job those qualities, I think, are essential for every child to possess. We have put Akhira in a regular pre-school, because we want her to meet and interact with people her own age, considering at home, she is largely surrounded by elders.
Today, It is a very fast-paced life that we live in, very different from how we grew up. Children get exposed to a lot of things -- internet, media and so on, way earlier than they should be. Sometimes, I feel like I want to build a little cocoon and keep them safe inside (laughs). But seriously, I want my children to be as close to ground reality as possible, be out and about, do all the regular things. That’s really important -- so sometimes I tell Akhira to just play with the neighbourhood kids outside or once in while I tell her, ‘let’s walk to school today.’ Just to show her that different things in life are possible and she can do all the regular stuff. Otherwise, you are always in this comfort zone and children do not get exposure to the world outside. It is important for them to open up their mind to new experiences.
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