I was talking to my sister-in-law the other day on Skype. When we chat it is usually relaxed and long chats and on different topics. She is a lovely person and I admire her for the way she manages her home, work and tuition mostly all by herself. She is constantly running around but still she finds time to do some kind of artwork with kids and she spends useful time with them.
We were rambling off about different things when she said how tired she was and felt she needed a break! I said I was planning on travelling the world when the kids get into university. She laughed at me and said, “But bhabhi, you will still worry about them, about if they ate or not, about if they have clean clothes to wear, about a million different things about them.”. I just laughed at her and thought for a moment. I knew I was not that kind of mother.Was I?
Then it hit me. I wasn’t that kind of mother alright. She has seen me live for the sake of my children, or that is what she thinks!
When I found out about my son’s allergies I had given up dairy, not to sacrifice for his sake but because it made my life easy. I could give him anything from my plate anytime without thinking, even on days when my brain wasn’t working! I breastfed my children and co slept because life was just easy doing that. I didn’t have to get up from my bed in the middle of the night to make up the formula, check if it is the right temperature and feed them, just pop out the boob and both of us could comfortably fall back asleep! And of course, the high immunity part is just an added bonus!
We homeschool because it suits us, not because I don’t want them getting out of my sight. Yes, I am careful about not letting them go out with others, that is because I was abused as a child and I don’t want my children go through that at any stage. I am a paranoid mum when it comes to that. But they are learning karate and I have taught them good touch and bad touch so slowly I will let go of them even on that once I know they can defend themselves.
All of the above probably makes her feel that I will be a mother who will worry about my kids 24×7 even after they grow up! Hell! They are already grown ups. Half the days I don’t have to make breakfast for them. They switch on the stove by themselves and make their own toast, dosa, idli, paniyaram or aapam without my intervention! They know when they are hungry and they know where the cupboard/fridge is and they know what is where and don’t wait for me to give them something to eat when they are hungry. They go and take what they want. When I go to the shops they send me a list of what they want. They help me in baking and chopping veggies, doing the dishes, laundry and cleaning the house!
I haven’t picked clothes for them to wear for the day in at least a couple of years now. They even check the weather report themselves to decide what they want to wear. They pack their clothes when we travel. They set up the alarms if they want to wake up early. They put stuff on the calendar when they know there is something on. They decide if something is expensive or not, so they know their finances.
I realised a few interesting things. Firstly, parents are worried about their children when they don’t trust them. I trust my children. I have taught them enough and they are learning and so am I, with them. We learn to trust each other too. When I trust that they know their bodies and their needs and wants I can trust them to do things on their own sensibly.What if they take a wrong decision? Then they can think over and take a right decision the next time around, what is the big deal about it?
I can give you one small example. A few days ago we were on a holiday in Sardinia. While holidays are fun, it is also stress times for me because of my son’s allergies. Day one, he reacted to something that he had eaten so I gave him medicine just before bedtime and everything was fine. Day two he was coughing just before bed time again and I thought it was yet another allergy reaction and gave him medicine. He went to bed but was moaning in his sleep and I could hear him struggle to breath so I finally gave up waiting for the medicine to work and I was in a rush to give him his second dose. For two hours he just refused to take the medicine, which is very unusual of him. Then he finally gave up fighting and threatened me never to take allergy medicine again if he took it that night. I couldn’t understand what was going on but gave him the medicine and was awake nearly the whole night. He woke up in the morning and didn’t feel any better so I promised him that I will take him to the hospital. Once I said that he was fine, he even had a glass of hot water and some bread. We headed to the hospital and guess what? He was right, it was not allergy but he had a very bad chest infection. He knew his body and it was me who was not trusting him because of my own fears about his allergies. Lesson learnt, step back!
Second thing is our ego. When kids are small they need us to take care of them but as they grow bigger they get more and more independent. But somehow, as adults we feel we are older and they don’t know anything and we need to take care of them. Well, at one year yes, but if we still think of doing what we did for a one year old at their tenth birthday then there is a problem. But what I see is that many parents want to do that when their kids are twenty, thirty, forty and even much longer! Let go! A child who is capable of managing multi million dollar accounts in office will be able to handle their hunger too! Or look at it the other way, if a person can’t even handle their hunger, how will they handle their work?
Third thing is that things change! Let’s face it, when they are babies their world is the home and everyone and everything in it. As they grow their world expands and they learn more as they meet new people, read new things and hear from the world outside. When this happens, things change. They develop new tastes in food, music, books and everything. So expecting them to remain the same is so very wrong. We just have to learn to appreciate their new taste, accept it and move on.
Fourth thing is that we project our fears onto our children. I know of mothers who are afraid of water never allow their children to learn swimming! Imagine that! We need to let go and trust our children and not put fears into our children’s head because we are afraid of something.
I tried my best to explain to her all this. Told her how I as a mother would love to be there if and when my kids needed me, but that would be it. I will not hang around and expect them to run to me for everything. I want them to have their life and enjoy it. My duty as of now is to equip them with whatever skills they need to have a happy life. That I am trying to do. After that my duty will be to let go, watch them fly high and be happy.
I hope she understood at least some part of what I was trying to explain.