Volumes are written about how to bring up children. Everyone who is someone seems to have their own theory about how best to do it. If one feels that sparing a rod helps spoil the child, then another radically different one claims that children should be raised as free spirits. Magazines, newspaper articles, google searches and even pamphlets distributed with newspapers are taking over the task of telling mothers today, in great detail, about what their children need. Starting from the absolute need to enrol your child in a so and so preschool, to the need for developing multiple intelligence, about how you need to be their ‘friend’, how vacations and quality time are most needed and so on.
When I was a first time mother, I felt that parenting can be learnt by the book, and that books of psychology (both pop and serious!) would provide answers to all my parenting queries. It was shocking to realise that a lot of my beliefs were misplaced. The second time through, I was confident about how practical experience with my first child would pull me through the mothering confidently. Again, I came out confused and scrambled.
Taking care of two children and being a working parent seemed to mimic the experience of being put through the wringer of a washing machine on more days than less. I would wonder about the glowing pictures of mothers and happy kids that I would see in commercials and decide that it was just a marketing gimmick. No woman in her right mind could look that peaceful with two growing kids! At about the same time, I did notice that there were women around me without any high flying degrees, lesser help at home and still considering adding a third child to the list! And, surprisingly, there was no hint of panic anywhere visible on their face or demeanour. The more I interacted with them, the more I came to realise that these people had mastered the art of really enjoying their kids.
Lately, I have come to realize that you have to unlearn almost anything and everything that you heard, read or were qualified in. Of course advice helps, books give you confidence, but on the whole, it is a process of learning new things and going by what you feel is right.
On my earlier list of priorities, I had things like disciplined routine, spending time with the child doing some educational but interesting activity, making sure that I was adhering to the school’s guidelines for being an almost perfect mom and hence as a result of all these, having two perfectly behaved angels who would do me proud. Of course, I would put no pressure, but why would they need it? They would already be perfect.
Think about it- we have many such ideas which tell us how to mould and change our child. But in the process, we have hardly thought about how we, as parents need to change and grow alongside our children. Probably because it is so didactic and sad, many of us do not enjoy the process of parenting. We do love our children, but wish that they behave impeccably all the time and that their problems would sort themselves out miraculously, and they grow into poster kids who make us proud!
Both my children have temperaments as different as chalk and cheese. The one who mostly an introvert would suddenly shift gears in the most inappropriate of occasions! The other one who was wholesomely an extrovert, would choose to be at her grouchiest best on occasions when her amicability needed to be on display! And this was just one difference. The obsessive in me sought to find control, discipline them (by fair means and foul- by which I mean, scolding,pleading,bribes and emotional blackmail), but nothing seemed to work.
Then I thought of a civilized way of solving things. I told them that I would make a list of things which I appreciate about them and one more of things which I did not. They could make a similar one about me. And we would swap lists and try to change the things which were in the list of “not so cool”. They took a minute to ponder before they accepted my suggestion. After about 10 minutes of intense concentration, the papers were handed to me. My list was pretty long and winding about each one. I again told them that it was only their behavior that was targeted, and I loved them in spite of “not so cool” stuff- just as explained in psychology text books. We went over each item of my list, with murmurs of assent and dissent. And then it was time to open the list they made. I prided myself over the fact that I was being an intellectual parent by allowing my kids to poke holes in my parenting method. When I did open the paper, I was surprised to the list empty!
My son smiled sheepishly saying, “Well, we tried, but there was nothing that I could list in the negatives. And the rest is all positive. So, I did not take the trouble of writing! sorry”. To be honest, I know that I’m not the best mother in business. I am lazy some days, so involved in my book that I will not listen to their stories on some other, have strict rules about their behavior when we go out, have a certain fixed idea about how they should dress, occasionally lie my way out of things and have double standards. And I also know that at least my son is now old enough to spot these foibles of mine. I was so humbled and touched to be given a clean chit despite all this. This probably is what is called unconditional love, something which we forget to dole out as we age!
Well, my children taught me a valuable lesson that day. To love completely without holding back, accept our faults but still love, nonetheless. It sort of melted my overbearing sense of discipline. Now I don’t seem to mind lego blocks over the floor, unfolded sheets, waking up uncomfortable with a toy under me, books all over the house, and an occasional piece of cookie on my bed! I can tolerate tantrums better. I don’t fly off the handle and think about how my life was cleaner and easier before kids.I still haven’t changed completely, but I am on my way, and can slowly feel the spring creeping back into my step!
Thanks my babies! In the process of bringing you up, you are teaching me valuable lessons and definitely helping in my upbringing!