In the words of Bruno Bettelheim, “Raising children is a creative endeavor, an art rather than a science”.
These are very inspiring words, but “art” yes, it is indeed! Parenting has no right or wrong way; it’s just “my way”.
My motherhood journey began more than 11 years ago when my daughter wailed and announced her entry into my world. My joy knew no limit since a girl child is what I desired all along and I can’t say how it feels when your heart’s desire comes true. She became the centre of my universe and the apple of my eye.
Before long she just had to point something out and the thing was hers. It was then when I was woken up from my motherly bubble. I realised that I was equating material things with motherly affection and in the bargain my daughter had got into the habit of not leaving a shop without me buying something for her. From there began my tussle to balance her wants and an appropriate level of discipline.
During her early school days, I saw many mothers waiting outside the school to pick up their wards and exchange class notes. I was guilt personified since, as a working mother, I was not available to drop and pick up my daughter or discuss day-to-day gossip with the other mothers. But one day I received a call from my daughter’s friend’s mother asking if my daughter had some kind of issue since her daughter was complaining about something within the group of friends who travelled together on the school bus. I said I would check and get back to her. When I got home that day, I asked her what was going in and was surprised with her mature answer. She, all of nine years at the time, said, “Mom, don’t worry. The issue is nothing and I shall sort it out.” That day I felt that amongst all the things that I might have done wrong, there must be something that I did right for my child to feel empowered to handle her own situations. Here was a case of self-reliance being inculcated due to me being a working mother.
I have been asked most often which extra-curricular classes my daughter is engaged in. Her classes were chosen depending on her state of mind at that time and whether she continued with them or dropped them depending on her changing likes and dislikes. Somewhere I also feel that rather than pushing kids to continue with the class for competition purposes, it is better to drop it if your child does not show any interest or competency towards the subject. Having said this, if I feel that my daughter is capable in the chosen art, or lacking in some aspect which needs grooming, I do not shy away from pushing her to continue with it for her own benefit. Children can only indicate their likes and dislikes at a point in time. It is for the parent to evaluate the situation considering other factors and decide upon taking up or continuing with any particular extra-curricular activity. The gist is what might work for you, may not work for others.
Parenting is a constant discovery and at every age of their development you get new lessons. I used to be clued up on my daughter’s studies so much so that packing her school bag and ensuring she did her homework was my key focus when I got home from work. One such incident opened my eyes to the fact that she needed to take responsibility of her actions. I started slowly extracting myself from packing her bag and making sure she did her homework. This resulted in her getting in spot a couple of times at school but then having burnt her fingers and me having pushed the responsibility onto her, slowly I could see complete independence in her work.
I can go on and on with all the years of personal experience but the essence of all this is that no one size fits all. Here are a few random pearls of wisdom from me:
1. No person is perfect so parenting too cannot be perfect. A perfect parent is a myth
2. It’s absolutely all right to make mistakes and admit them. Kids learn that mistakes are acceptable
3. Parenting books can provide guidance but it is for each parent to discover for oneself the way that suits them
4. Parents are role models so you need to set the benchmark
5. Each of us is not a “know it all”. Recognise the needs of the child and seek help wherever required
6. While providing for the child is the prime responsibility as a parent, don’t over indulge your child. It’s acceptable to say “no” to your child’s unreasonable demands
7. It’s natural for a child to lean on their parents for everything but it is the responsibility of the parent to make a child independent. There is no right and correct age to do so. It depends on your child’s maturity and readiness
8. While you can be a friend to your child, you are a parent foremost and they need to accept and respect this
9. Teach your child to love oneself and life
10. Comparing children comes naturally to us but each child is different and your child needs to be nurtured with the strengths and help provided to develop and grow
All these and a mix of more depending on your child’s personality and attributes can give you a perfect recipe for parenting.
Lastly, children are great imitators, so give them something great to imitate. Happy parenting!