I was 34 when I became a mother. I’ve always loved children—still do—and have been voted the go-to babysitter of choice wherever I lived. However, all this did not prepare me for motherhood. Oh, of course I try being a good one, and learn something new every day, both from my Mom and my son. I am blessed with a wonderful relationship with both.
It is said that bringing up children is a challenge for parents and that’s true. But it is equally challenging for children to bring up parents.
“Do you cry when you are sad?”
“Do you make mistakes?”
…made me feel like I had a halo around my head. Seriously. And of course, questions like this when he was a three year old,
“Ravana had ten heads. Did he have ten bums? Did he need ten potties at a time?”
…made me laugh out loud.
I believe that my inspiration to be a good mother came not only from my own Mother, but also from my son, and I consider myself really lucky that my son knew her for twelve years. I wish she were here.
I’d like to share some treasured memories that double up as inspiration to be a better Mom.
Moments I always cherish
- When he asked me if I would be his best friend
- When he sends me greeting cards for every occasion to celebrate
- When he writes me beautiful poems in at least three languages
- When he argues with me, holding on steadfastly, without giving in
- When he appreciates every little thing
- When he hugs me back as a “thank you” for everything
So here goes!
Just four of the zillion ways my son taught me to be a better Mother.
Keeping the faith
This is a fond memory from my son’s first year of school. He was five-ish. They had a number of activities, one of which encouraged them to talk on a given topic. On this particular occasion, it was “My Mother”
When I went to pick him up from school, his teacher made him repeat what he had said, and standing just so, looking at me in that loving way only he can, he said “My Mother is very kind. She loves me very much. 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 best friend”.
Of course my heart swelled with happiness.
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
At around the same time, just like every other Mom, I would get all worked up about what to pack in his lunchbox every day, Monday through Friday. They had two breaks, one lunch break and a mini-break. School started at 7.15 a.m., which meant being ready to leave at 7 a.m.
Being a list-person, I made lists of all possible options before asking him what he would like to carry in his box the next day. Of course, I quickly realized this was not the best way to go about it. Children have exotic ideas—“I want a tiger for a pet”—“I want to live in the Zoo”. So not happening!
So anyway, back to the lunchbox topic. As I freaked out over how to deal with it, my son 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 so grateful! Why had I not thought about that?
What followed was a lot of fun, planning meals and options. I still remember the sight of him sitting with his pad and pencil, after drawing a time-table grid, and writing down small break, big break, and then filling the calendar. That, perhaps, was also my first glimpse into what an organized and systematic mind he had—about the things he cared about. Never mind that I am wary about opening his closet for fear of an avalanche hitting me, ha, ha!
The direct benefit for me was: a hassle-free morning, confident about what I had to do, and great time-management.
Best part? We followed this until he finished school two years ago.
Joy is in the routine
By the time my son was six, I realized he was also a fan of habit. Put him on a specific routine, and he would stick to it diligently. From his first day of school, he followed a routine: return from school, bathe, have a snack/lunch, do his homework, mark his calendar-planner on the wall about forthcoming important school events/projects, play, pray, have dinner, read, get his bag, shoes, etc ready for the next day, then go to bed.
You’d laugh if I said that he followed this diligently until he finished school two years ago.
That habit of his sticking to a routine kept me saner than I could ever imagine being on my own. He took care of his bag, his schedule, his homework. It was a rare day when I supervised his school stuff—and only when he had to buy something for a project. Yes, his projects were slightly wobbly and looked very homemade, but that helped him learn to manage his stuff even if it didn’t compare favourably with other parent-made stuff produced by some of the kids. Oh, my boy loves home-made even today! Because it is fun, and because lots of learning points!
I’d be crazy to say that presents don’t matter—of course they do. I’d look very disbelievingly at that parent who said they never bribed their kid! I definitely did—I called it bartering/trading. This for that. And I took care that the “that” or “this” were healthy, reasonable things—as in cultivating a new good habit, or eating something he normally preferred not to. And yes, my son does believe that happiness is a pizza with a lot of cheese, among other things.
So there was this point when he struggled with a weight issue. There was games at school, yet that wasn’t enough. He was fit enough, and could run up five floors easily, but he suffered from wheezing until he was 12, and was on inhalers. We had to build his immunity.
Then later, I came to know from school that our man was happier playing chess than football. He looks like an athlete, but had to lose some weight.
We had a talk—a round table conference—and made a—you guessed it—a list with an action plan. The list included eating more salad and fruits, less processed and packaged. It would have been great to go for a walk in the morning, but that was ruled out since I had to be up at 5 a.m. and get started with preparing breakfast and lunch and packing it in time to be out at 7 a.m.
So we decided to walk at 5.30 p.m. in the evening. We’d either walk on our terrace, which is quite large, or go to a walking rink nearby. We’d start with warming up exercises, then walk, then cool down with some moves. We enjoyed this time together every day. After 45 minutes of this, we hung around for another 15 to chat about our day before getting back home.
I must say, I was often amazed at what our son shared with us during this time out of the house, and in a relaxed setting! It was one of my favorite parts of the day—fitness combined with bonding, understanding one another better. I loved how he wanted to know about our day and listened. “What are you working on now, Mummy/Daddy?”
Still does. Every day!
When he’s home now during college breaks, we continue to do this and I love it. Oh yes, we also fantasize over the shapes of the clouds in the summer skies and get excited when we see the parrots streak past above us, mindful of the kites gliding around, watching.
The most important things with being a Mom are communication, listening, empathy, and flexibility. This helps deal with almost any situation.
Nobody’s perfect. And I believe that nobody has to be.
Also, it is important to be realistic with expectations as this can eliminate most rough spots.
And sometimes, when expectations are reasonable, there’s no harm in living up to them, is there?
I celebrate Mother’s Day every day, by honoring my Mother and by being one to the most wonderful son in the world. Just as my Mom shaped me into who I am today, my son has, too, showing me a whole new world through his eyes. I am grateful to him for the refreshing, and sometimes, unusual view, the laughter and joy he continues to bring into my life.
Yep! Happy Mother’s Day!
I meant to publish this post in the morning, but got swept away with various things, then went out with my favorite folks on a movie-binge at INOX. A lovely day!
There is no way to be a perfect mother…but a million ways to be a good one.