I became a mother at 34 and I must confess that I was nervous about parenting. While I’ve always enjoyed being around children (still do) and was voted the go-to baby-sitter of choice in the neighborhoods I lived in, it did not prepare me for parenthood. I try my best to be a good one, learning something new on an almost daily basis and today, I am blessed with a wonderful relationship with my now-teenage son.
I read somewhere that as challenging as it is for parents to bring up children, it is equally (if not more) challenging for children to bring up parents. It was an “A-Ha!” moment for me. And it got me thinking – what have I learned about parenting from children? Plenty.
Here are a few treasured memories from what my son taught me about parenting
Keeping the faith
An incident I will always remember fondly was during my son’s first year of school. Their class was asked to say a few words on “My Mother” He said, “My Mother is very kind. She loves me. She never scolds me in front of anyone. She always talks to me nicely. She laughs a lot and I love her. She is my friend”.
My heart swelled with happiness when his teacher told me what he said. And while I do exert my authority on occasion, at that moment, I immediately secretly pledged that I would never scold him or make him feel bad in the presence of others. This makes a huge difference to a child’s self-esteem and helps to build trust and an open relationship.
Out of the mouths of babes
Around the same time–the first year of school–I remember, I used to get very worked up about what to pack in his lunch box every day – Monday through Friday. Those days they had to be in school at 7.15 am, which meant being ready before 7 am. From grade 1 to grade 3, they were expected to carry two snack boxes, the first small one for a mini break and the second for the actual lunch break. I function with lists, so I would write down all the possible options. I would then ask him what he wanted to take the next day.
I quickly realized this is not the right way to go about it. You know how exotic children’s desires can get. Like the time he wanted a tiger for a pet. But let me not digress. Even as I wondered how to tackle this, he came up with a brilliant idea. He said, “Mummy, why not make a time-table for lunch boxes like the school time-table?” Oh, I was grateful – and we a lot of fun, meal-planning.
It was endearing to see him sit with a pad and pencil and the “snack time-table”, and writing earnestly, filling the calendar. I also realized he could be very organized and systematic with the things he cared about – more about that later. The benefit for me is a hassle-free morning, secure in the knowledge that I knew what to do, not to mention the satisfying time-management. We follow this practice to this day.
Creating a routine is the best thing
At one point, a couple of years ago, when my son struggled with a weight problem, we realized that it was necessary to include activity since football and games at school were not enough. I was a little puzzled by this – football is quite a strenuous activity.
Delving deeper, I found out that he preferred to play chess most days. O-ho! While he looks like an athlete, a routine medical examination at school showed him as a few kilos overweight. Now, nobody enjoys hearing that and he was no different.
We discussed this and created an action plan to overcome this. Ideally, I would have preferred to go out for a walk in the morning, but that is ruled out on week days as I am up at 5.30 am to make breakfast and lunchboxes before he leaves for school at 8.00 am. Instead, we decided to go for a walk at 5.30 pm in the evening. Depending on the weather, we do it on our vast terrace or go to a walking spot nearby, preceded by warming up exercises and wrapping it up by cooling down.
We enjoy this time together every day and after forty-five minutes, use the remaining 15 to chat before we head back home. It is amazing what your child will tell you when you are outside the house and relaxed! I value this very much as it not only helps us keep fit, but also means fun together time, helping us understand each other better.
The most important things I’ve learned about parenting from my son are: communication, listening, empathy and being flexible are critical – these can almost always help tackle any situation. Nobody’s perfect – and in fact, nobody has to be. Being realistic with expectations can eliminate a lot of rough spots. Sometimes, when expectations are reasonable, there’s no harm in living up to them, is there?
This post also appeared here.