Parenthood is a great tool for self-help, I discovered. Do you believe our children make us behave better? I think they do. Gee, now that I think about it, time to clean out the pile high self-help books on my bed side table! Yes, I need a lot of help. Instead of those books, I simply use my children to get my act together. They seem to be a reflection of how we think, feel and act, in their formative years, so I watch my step. Like any of my fellow humans, I am full of follies, (really wish I could say otherwise)! I have made, and sometimes still do, terrible choices. Well, that’s exaggerating a bit, not terrible, terrible, but bad choices. Spoke harsh words, been mean and selfish! But after the two little humans came in my life, I have felt the need to change, for the better.
I am pretty strict when it comes to academics, I want the children to get straight A’s, B’s are tolerated but not appreciated, C’s… now that’s trouble. I push my kids to try harder in whatever they do and I want them to grow up thinking “I gave it my best shot”! I have read Amy Chua’s ‘The Battle Hymn of the Tiger mother’, while I can’t be a parent like her, I understand where she comes from and agree with her to some extent about pushing children to reach their potential. But my primary goal, is to see them grow up as decent humans with compassion, love and respect for others. Fortunately my partner shares the same aspirations for them. Since two pairs of little eyes are constantly monitoring our every move and emulating our every action, we feel we need to clean up our act. So I eat my veggies, tell the truth, try hard not to be judgmental. Help myself while I help them, at the same time. A few years ago, it was scary to see Sahana parroting what I said, forming opinions on things based on mine. Another me? Uughhhhhh, I don’t think the world can handle that! But not to fear, she is developing a cool, unique identity of her own, slowly yet steadily. Ryan still walks in his father’s footsteps, daddy can do no wrong in his eyes. So I glare at poor Sean when he makes fun of broccoli at dinner table, “Oh, we are eating trees today!” or says ‘Dumb, dumb,dumb!’ while watching football. Hate that word. Oh, we don’t use the H word in our house, we say ‘strongly dislike’ instead. And when my kids say ‘Can we say the S word in this case (I think we were discussing the genocide in Rwanda, when Ryan asked this question)?’ They mean STUPID. On retrospect, I should have let them use a much harsher word in that particular case. They are not allowed to say “I am bored!” either. Don’t tolerate that. There are books, tons of them, in the house. Pick up one. There is a yard outside the house, bats and balls, bikes and scooters, go play outside, create your own fun, but don’t say you are bored! That is my stand. Do you feel stifled? I feel a wee bit that way just writing these things. Whatever happened to self-expression? Maybe I should ease up a bit! I sometimes worry that my kids will only eat Mcdonald’s and drink teeth-decaying soda when they go to college. By the way, I am glad to report that when I read this particular bit to Ryan, he vehemently protested, “Never, I am not going to eat that stuff!” Yessss, with a fist pump in the air! They are soda and Mcdonald’s deprived. They will probably use obscenities a lot too, while talking to their friends (maybe they do now, I don’t know) just to get it out of their systems.
My mother swears I gave her enough grief to last for a lifetime when it came to eating. Now, I eat everything on my plate and DO NOT balk at the idea of eating steamed brussel sprouts like I used to! My kids won’t go to that extent but they are easy when it comes to food. Don’t get me wrong, there are days when all I want to do is guzzle soda, eat ice cream for lunch and candy for dinner. But a tiny voice tells me “little people watching” (oh, dear!) and I reach for a granola bar for snack. But please don’t get the idea that we don’t eat ice cream and candy in our house, we do, only occasionally. I am not fond of exercising, give me a book and a couch any day. But I haul my unwilling self to the gym to get rid of those sneaky, extra calories, as well as frustration, crankiness, so I can be somewhat pleasant when I remind them for the eighteenth time that they need to get their swim bags and get in the car!!!! I want to be there for them, healthy and active, to see them grow up. So I do my part.
I try my best to be honest and truthful with them and give them straight answers so they will continue to confide in me and ask me questions instead of taking them to the playground. I bend the truth sometimes though, especially when my six-year-old sings “I am sexy and I know it” at the top of his lungs and asks “Mom, what does sexy mean?” in the same high pitch voice, in a crowded supermarket. I mumble something like “attractive” and hope the interrogation would stop there. I try hard not to be judgmental, which, unfortunately, is my nature, so my children would learn to give people a second chance before jumping to conclusions. These two also taught me the important lessons of selflessness and unconditional love. I finally learnt to put others before me. Being an only child and a pampered spouse, I was selfish, before these two came along.
Yet, I don’t want to give them the impression that I am perfect. I am asked often, “Did you like doing homework?” The answer is no, not always. I had some favorite subjects, and some I didn’t want to touch with a ten foot pole. I want them to see me with my imperfections. When Sahana was younger, she asked me with awe “Mom, you are perfect. Do you ever make mistakes?” That worried me. That kind of perception of me is a burden for both of us. First, that is so far from the truth, and second, she will never relate to me if she saw me as perfect. I confessed my vices (ouch, that’s a strong word), I am inherently lazy, impatient, procrastinator. I should be cleaning the house right now, instead of writing a blog, just to give you an example. There is a lot of room for improvement. I told her I was still learning to be a good person and trying to overcome my weaknesses. Sometimes I can, and other times I fail but I promise to keep trying. She said she wanted to grow up just like me. The best compliment I ever got. I am pretty sure that has changed, she doesn’t view me in the same light at age twelve! Children often see their parents as infallible, yet when they get older and see their parents flawed like any other, there is a tremendous sense of let down. That is something I don’t want Sahana and Ryan to experience.
I do think parenting helps us improve. If we act the way we want our children to behave, we will end up being better people. The daunting responsibility of nurturing the body, mind and soul of young humans is enough to make us walk the line. When we falter, we feel the piercing gaze of those little eyes, we apologize and get back to trying. Hey, that’s another thing I learned to do post kids, say sorry when I make a mistake. I used to be obstinate and willful. I don’t know what my spouse will say about that, if you ask him, so please don’t ask! Just take my word for it.