As a mother of two boys, I have experienced a whole gamut of emotions from the moment they were conceived till they arrived into this world and every single day thereafter. Of all the feelings one experiences as a parent—joy, pain, wonder, insecurity, fear [for your child’s safety], anger, tenderness and bewilderment—the one feeling that has moved into my subconscious permanently is guilt. Oh, yes! All parents experience this emotion; mothers more than fathers because women think, feel and ponder over things much more than men.
My elder son, who is 10 years old, has been behaving like a teenager for the last couple of years. Too early, you say? If you could see the anger he feels and expresses [verbally and with much vehemence] at this age, you’d probably agree. I was totally stunned when I witnessed his rage for the first time—it was like listening to myself when I am angry. Immediately, I went digging into the recesses of my mind to find out when the spark had set off.
He was about two years of age… just out of his diapers and into a play school. School can be daunting for kids as it’s their first step into a world filled with strangers, away from the warmth and comfort of their homes. That’s when he started wetting the bed. Initially, we brushed it off as an accident and dealt with the mess likewise. Then, it started happening too often. Every morning, we had to wash his clothes, change the sheet, clean the soiled sheets and scrub him till he smelt clean and fresh. At first, we made him use the bathroom every night before bedtime. No change. Then we told him to sleep with us so he could wake us up in the middle of the night if he needed to use the toilet. No change.
The only difference was that, now, apart from him, my husband and I would be soaking wet and smelly in the morning too. It was frustrating. I distinctly remember giving him a bath in the morning after one of his episodes, all the time slapping, smacking and yelling angrily at him. He just bawled loudly; he was only two.
Another incident that is etched in my mind is when he was a little over three years old. My sister-in-law had moved into our home for a while as they were looking for a house in Mumbai. She had a daughter who was as old as my son. They got along well but had their spats too. Both mothers had to intervene in their fights and since she was a girl, my son was told to treat her gently and share lovingly. Having a girl and a boy in the house at the same time tends to tilt the balance in favour of the girl. My son started reacting to this sudden shift of attention by stammering. We pointed it out to him and told him to stop doing that consciously, little realising that he had no control over it. It was also the time I was expecting my second baby so I was already dealing with physical exertion. One evening, the kids started fighting over toys and my son was accused of not sharing. I blew my top and whacked him savagely, even kicking him till he lay on the floor crying his eyes out.
In both these instances, I exhibited and expressed anger in a manner that was brutish…to the point of being potentially damaging. The ghosts of those incidents still haunt me from time to time.
Why am I sharing this with you? Because I want to clarify that mothers are not beyond reproach and all women are not made in the same mould as Mother India. We use sarcasm, blackmail, anger, harsh words and even inflict physical pain to achieve something or vent our feelings. We are short-sighted in that we cannot predict the repercussions our words and actions will have on our children in the future.
But before you start to think that we are monsters all the way [and my son did write in his class assignment that his mother is a witch!], let me share one of our most redeeming qualities—remorse. We drive ourselves crazy agonising over our actions and their effects. I have wished so often that I could go back in time and erase some of the things I’ve done. But what’s done is done. Whacking my son hurt me such much that I vowed to never whack him again. I’m proud to say that I kept my promise.
The guilty realisations have also helped me change the way I express my feelings. Now, in addition to not raising my hand on him, I also try to be more expressive in my actions by hugging my children, kissing them and spending time playing and reading with them so they know that my outbursts are not directed at them for who they are but for what they did/didn’t do. Someday…they might be able to forgive me…hopefully so will I.
Questions to ask yourself…
- Am I cramming my child’s day with too many activities, pushing my child to be someone she is not and forcing her to stretch beyond capacity?
- Is my attitude towards my child influenced by the behaviour of other mothers I know?
- Am I taking out my frustrations from other things on my child [especially when I am yelling, punishing, spanking a tad more than required or when it isn’t required]?
- Am I only focussing on what I am unable to be or give to my child rather than keeping sight of what I am able to do/give?
- Am I influenced in my role as a parent by the kind of parents my mother and father were?
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