Like most mothers, I like to think that I am a loving mom who dotes on her child. I see to his well being and safety at all times. I ensure that he is well fed, well clothed, well educated, well this and well that.
Am I doing enough ? Am I doing it right?
Often, we as mothers, believe that being a ‘mom’, pretty much puts us in the ‘We are really doing our best here and if anything needs to change around here, it’s something else’ (most cases the father!) category. We look after our children, keep house and many times also do a ‘paid’ job. I think most moms would go “You really think that we can do more!”.
We all go to great lengths to ensure that our child does not become a screen addict, eats fresh nutritious food, brushes his teeth every night, etc. That is good and important. but these things are essentially of a non-critical nature, meaning, it is ok to slip sometimes. But what is of super importance for a child ? Critical? No slips-up are ok ? Well, if you think from a child’s perspective, having a stable, secure, loving environment to grow up in is far more important than always eating healthy wholesome meals, going to bed at the right time… And while we believe we provide that environment, de facto, that is not necessarily the case.
It throws me off when Tej sometimes suddenly turns to me and says “Aai tu khush ka nahies?” (Mom, why are you not happy?) For a child of 5, to be able to read my face and come up with that question, shows me what is important to him.
That is why, even when we do so much, we still need to focus on the critical aspects and if required, even cut down on some of the not-so-critical.
The first (& probably only) item on the critical list is: Respect the child. It is a must-must-must do for a parent. Respect your child when you are tired, frustrated, upset, sad, disappointed, disillusioned, insulted, defeated. Respect at all times.
Respect here means respect for his person as well as his intellect. One often hears parents call their children lazy / fool / idiot… I am sure that these words coming from the people the child adores the most, cause great harm to the child’s self esteem.
Respect him like you would respect a grown up that you look up to.
It is the go to – the one sum of all things, the most important aspect of parenting. The problem is understanding it. What does it truly mean ? Of course I respect my child, always did. Hmmmm. Respect is a pretty misunderstood word.
What does it really mean ? It took me such a while to figure it. I have always thought of myself as a well mannered person. And I extend that courteousness to my child too, except when he misbehaves of course. And that was the problem. My husband, Harshad would keep saying to me: “Do what you do, say what you say, but without getting angry at Tej even when he is wrong”. I couldn’t get my head around this for a long time. What in the world does he want me to do? I have already become a much calmer and patient person compared to the one that existed before my son was born.
Every time Harshad would tell me to calm down, I would get frustrated at his abstract lines. “I am not doing anything to the boy!” My outward fake calm cracking. “But if the boy is misbehaving, if he is simply plainly in the wrong, do you just want me to watch from the sidelines ? Is that what this is about ? Is that what you want me to do? Should I just let him do as he pleases?” No, Harshad would stoutly persist. Just do what’s right, without being angry.
I would give up the argument, out of sheer helplessness, at being unable to crack the wall of miscommunication. How am I supposed to not be angry when he does something wrong, I would wonder hopelessly! Was it even right, to not be angry, when he was wrong ? He is the apple of our eyes, so should we be blind to all his follies? Also, If he didn’t know that certain things make us angry, wouldn’t he just keep doing them?
Then one day, it all seemed so obvious. So easy! My son was doing something that would have ordinarily earned him a hard glare accompanied with a few snappy lines. But just then, I got distracted by his small innocent perfect face and his big eyes, though angry and expecting reprimand, also showing his vulnerability. In that moment, I knew I had got it. I did not feel any anger at him. In fact, I wondered how I ever could have felt so much anger at his childish misdemeanours. I did admonish him but without the glare. No mean lines. I just told him what he should be doing instead.
When you do not feel anger inside you, your reactions become tempered. Your thoughts are in perspective and your lines come out firm but kind. When you feel anger, you lose perspective and your lines come out mean, disrespectful and hurtful.
The child gets drawn into your anger. The anger you get back from the child is actually your own, regurgitated.
Ever since, I have kept careful track. He gets up to all sorts of things that test my temper, I do scold him, he does annoy me, but somehow, I feel we are connected more than ever. He knows we love him and he does his best to please us – all children do. And I know, even when he misbehaves, there is more to the story than he is telling and I just have to be patient and loving to unravel it.
There is a song in my favourite movie “Sound of Music” that Maria sings when she goes to the home of the Von Trapp children the first time. A line in it goes “I will be firm but kind”. Harshad would often look to remind me of that mantra by singing it out. I smile now when I think of it..for I think that I now truly live it. Or at least try my best to. Of course I slip-up. But there is understanding now to guide me back.
Update: After my new improved avataar, I’m happy to report that Tej responds wonderfully even to my admonishments. He is also able to control his own anger a lot better. Though I do get angry with him sometimes, I am mostly able to keep perspective and be more understanding.