As a new mother, I had somehow developed this belief, that my success as a mother was tied to my ability to stop my baby’s cries, as quickly as possible. If she cried, I felt that I wasn’t a good mother. The outcome was, the moment Pari would cry, I would race to get any and everything I had seen to comfort her.
Needless to say, this attitude was taking toll on my already burnt out physical and psychological state and helping me get no-where close to what I had often read and heard about the bliss of motherhood.
The point I wish to make here is, in the process to trying to literally shut her up I was missing on valuable opportunities to really listen to her cries, understand them, develop appropriate responses and even finding solutions to the problems triggering her cries.
When I gave deep thought to what I have been doing, I saw a bigger problem snowballing. An understanding of which made me stop what I had been doing in the initial months of my motherhood and attain insight over what I should actually be doing instead.
When I was around ten years of age I had read an article in Reader’s Digest. It was a non-fiction story written by a mother. There was something so powerful in that story that it stuck to my mind and I have never been able to forget it.
The story revolved around a happy household of a couple and their ten year old daughter. The mother was a homemaker and took pride in being an active participant in all the activities that were a part of her daughter’s life.
Be it craft or swimming lessons, academics or even visits to her friend’s place the mother would encourage her at every step and try her level best to help her excel in all she did.
The mother was proud of the fact that she was open and quite frank with her daughter and they shared a bond more on the level of friends/sisters as against mother and daughter. The daughter shared all that she did during her day at school and her friends with her mother.
On a few occasions, the daughter subtly hinted her mother that she disliked the way the vegetable vendor in their area looked at her. The mother tried to calm her fears by uttering what most parents say, that it must have been her imagination for what would a local sabziwala have to do with a school going girl, who never even purchased anything from him.
One fine day, it was raining pretty heavy and the daughter returned home with all her clothes ruined in mud. The mother got worried at the sight and asked her what had happened. The daughter simply said she’d slipped in a puddle of rain water and rushed to freshen up and change her clothes.
After a long bath and freshening up she went over to sleep in her room. The mother and father had to attend a party that evening and soon they got busy with their own tasks.
In the night around bed-time when the daughter refused to eat, her mother asked her daughter if everything was alright, was she hurt and many other questions on the same line, to which the daughter replied in a plain NO and went off to sleep.
Life moved on. Many years down the line, when the daughter was in college one of her stories won an award in a prestigious writing contest. The story was even published in a popular magazine.
While the whole world was busy praising the writing skills of the daughter, something broke her mum deeply. Within seconds of having read the story she (the mother) knew it wasn’t fiction. It was about a young girl of ten years who was sexually assaulted on a rainy day by a local vegetable vendor.
The mother who never failed in praising herself for the kind of open and frank relation she had with her daughter now realized how she had failed on picking up the signs, how she’d missed on noting her daughter’s quiet suffering.
I do not know why this story has lingered in my memory over the years, but I do know that it holds a very strong message. The message that comes out loud and clear when thought over with a clear mind, that we need to encourage our children to speak up. Share their hurt, their pain, their guilt, their true feelings and most importantly not to judge them for being open to us.
Having said that, as a parent I have been thinking on these lines from a long time. While we encourage our children to be frank and friendly to us, do we really give enough weightage to what our kids tell us? Do we always take them seriously without our pre-set thinking pattern preceding our replies to them? Don’t we over-discipline them to make them fear questioning our actions? Do we ever think beyond hushing them up for things that in our belief are irrelevant and seemingly harmless?
The list of questions can be endless. But the gist of it all lies in the fact that we need to change our attitude, have a deeper thought of how we treat our kids. Giving a honey coated pacifier in our baby’s mouth to keep him/her off from crying isn’t going to cure the cause that is triggering the cry.
Look for the signs, don’t try to erase them. Pause to listen, find and treat the cause and never mistrust a child no-matter how irrelevant their fear, doubt or pain may appear.
While we teach our children about life, they teach us what life is all about.
The song on my mind: Ae zindagi gale laga le ~ Sadma