The past one year or perhaps two have been the most difficult yet vital in my journey as a parent. Difficult because I struggled, stumbled and found myself on the edge on more occasions than I can count. Vital because it has been the time when I seriously started contemplating on finding a resolve, a concrete one to end the discord between me and my child.
Ever since I embarked on my journey to find answers, solutions and everything in between to what had been dictating my life as a parent, I have been working on a number of theories in my attempt to lead a peaceful life.
I often felt I have been running in circles, reaching nowhere concrete, till I realized that the spiral was leading me into the core of my heart because all the answers lay within me and nowhere beyond.
This is perhaps another chapter in this series ( part 1, part 2, part 3 and part 4) that I have been recording to gauge my progress in the matter. Nevertheless, every milestone is important because without having reached it, I couldn’t have been at the place I am today. The point where I am beginning to see desired results, albeit only in hints and glimpses.
It’s unbelievable how relieved children feel when parents let them do their thing, at their pace.
This is a new aspect of my journey as a parent.
The good news or perhaps the only good news has been that my conscience was always in code red mode, never letting me sit at peace. I wouldn’t call it mommy guilt, because what I have been feeling hasn’t been guilt, instead of an impending feeling of unrest that chose to never let go.
Not even in the days, I have been very happy.
Not even on occasions when my daughter made my chest swell with pride.
In retrospect, I can say, this was because, though I had a vision of something being very wrong in my relationship with my child, all this while, I had been tackling the wrong problem.
All this time, I was focused on changing my child, to make her or rather help her behave better. This was one of the major mistakes that I committed continuously. My goal has been changing or rather molding my child while hoping to become a better parent in due course of time.
As ridiculous it sounds today, I was rather convinced that though this was tough, as hard as learning to walk barefoot on a wall laden with broken glass shards, but doable.
Yes, the mommy, the eternal optimistic mother in me was rather convinced that mothers are blessed with superpowers, one of them is to go to any extremes for the good of their children.
Though I still have faith in the above theory (that moms have superpowers), I am shaken by the finding as to how wrong a road I had taken in the rush of fixing things in my life.
Never mind, finally when I was tired of the many hit and trials in my quest to seek a peaceful co-existence with my child, an unusual realization dawned on me.
The equation I had been relentlessly working on, had only one variable in my control, me. Yet, all this while, all my focus was on controlling my child who lacked both the maturity to think like I do (as an adult) and most importantly is too young to fathom why her childlike behavior was agitating her mother.
One fine day, I sat myself down to ask the difficult questions. What was that one thing that made up the crux of the matter? What was I aiming to achieve when I am with my daughter. Initially, I came up with a variety of answers. I struggled to pinpoint between happiness, love, and peace.
Time helped me sift the chaff and finally, I had the answer I was looking for.
I was seeking love. I craved for love from my child and on a closer look, her behavior told me that she too was seeking the same from me.
With that part clear, I decided to run my day through my mind noting every little action I did, everything I said to my daughter to see where exactly were the things going haywire. Surprisingly, it didn’t take me long to note a pattern.
My happiness was continuously based on tasks being completed, on work being done perfectly, the room staying spik and span, my child looking impeccable at all times. And when that wasn’t achieved, the pre-conditioned me would be in the grip of an urgent need to push Pari into doing everything, near perfect, when I felt she must do it.
This performance mania seems to have its roots in my preconceived belief of not doing enough for my child in the capacity of being a single parent. No matter how many people try to convince me that this is far from the truth, the realization had to dawn from within me, to make anything substantial happen.
If I had allowed myself to continue the above-mentioned mad streak of (trying to) play the tyrant parent, our summer vacations (with a truckload of homework from school) wouldn’t have been what they are today.
No, we aren’t doing anything unusual or exemplary, but the peace in the air is palpable. It is something I have only been yearning for but could never sustain for longer than a few days in the past.
I started this a while ago. I gradually let Pari do her thing, at her pace, only guiding her but nowhere pushing her; by pushing I mean, repeated revisions, micro-managing her handwriting, being fussy about her sticking to the plan of the day, etc.
The instant outcome was, I was dissatisfied with what her work looked like. There were red ink marks in her notebooks marking areas where she’d not respected the boundaries of cursive writing, an occasional silly mistake here and there and we didn’t accomplish as much I’d hoped to on a daily basis and week at large.
But, in exchange, was a calmer, happier 5-year-old who had come to enjoy spending time doing her thing without sulking most hours. I’d be lying if I say, I wasn’t tempted to go back to my old ways, to push Pari to excel every time she puts a pencil to paper. At those trying times, I tried two things.
- Keeping the quote, “Have Courage & Be Kind” in mind; and
- To put me in Pari’s shoes.
At all such instants, I was amazed to be transported to my childhood, where I could visualize my mother play the same perfectionist parent I had been until recently. Though I gained from having the best handwriting in class, throughout, I was appreciated for never being the messy or the careless one but honestly speaking, those hours of chasing perfection hurt me and my relation with my mother more than any good they did for me.
This understanding gave me the much-needed inspiration to never go back to who I have been while playing the teacher to my child. In the hours when Pari shies away from doing her school homework these summer vacations, we both do our thing, only to return back to the homework at a later hour.
Though I am still a strict teacher to my child, I am (hopefully) more relaxed than I was before. I still value her respecting the boundaries, but now I wait for her to see it herself and bring it to that effect without my nagging her for it.
From being a borderline cleanliness freak to becoming a tolerant-to-disorderliness mom has been a major transition for me. And to say the least, it has been the much needed good for my well-being and also of my child. There’s more fun, play, laughter and fewer spells of dissatisfaction both for Pari and me.
Pari has been surprising me with her ability to pack in so much more in each day that includes going to movies, shopping, playing, reading, dancing, baking and more, while still making room for doing a page or two of the school homework when she feels like it.
“They both seemed to understand that describing it was beyond their powers, the gratitude that spreads through your body when a burden gets lifted, and the sense of homecoming that follows, when you suddenly remember what it feels like to be yourself.” ~ Tom Perrotta
In the meantime, am loving the new-found joy of not being shadowed by the worry that there’s nothing ‘perfect’ in my relationship with my child. Perhaps, it is the acceptance of our imperfections lies the key to our happy existence.
The song on my mind: Tu is tarah se meri zindagi mein shamil hai ~ Aap to aise na the