Being a parent is tough. I think what we sometimes forget is that every child is different and that we are all doing this for the first time. I will confess that there are times when I wonder if we are doing the right thing, if we are nurturing our boys in the right way that suits their growth. And the scary thing is, we will not know until many, many years later, when they are adults and off into the world on their own.
Recently, we had a string of incidents with A. Last week was his birthday and we made a last-minute decision to join our friends for a holiday at Legoland. It was, as the song goes, AWESOME! We had SO. MUCH. FUN. And the boys were thrilled to be able to play and dance and sing and (eeps) yell together. The two older ones, A and David, did not want to go home and frankly, I don’t blame them.
Come Monday, though, we were braced for the storm. A did not want to go back to school.
He bawled his eyes out and clung out to us like a baby koala. He was miserable. He refused to let us change him into his uniform, refused to let go of us, refused to get into the car seat. And when we picked him up, he was happy to see us but his unhappiness at being back at school (and not at Legoland!) manifested in sob-fests and meltdowns.
It happened again the next day. And the next. The evening meltdowns got worse. On Wednesday, he starting screaming and sobbing even as we were strapping him into the car seat after picking him up from school. All throughout the ride, he just would not stop.
Now, at the end of a long day at work, coupled with sleep deprivation, it would have been really easy to have lost my temper and tell him off. To the eyes of outsiders, he was probably throwing a hissy fit and deserved to be put in his place. Tough love and spare the rod and spoil the child and all.
But we knew better. We knew why he was acting up. And it made it easy for us to empathise with him.
So I didn’t tell him off. I didn’t scold him. I didn’t ask him to stop crying. In the car, I reached over to hold his hand – so thankful that the husband was around and in the driver’s seat – and told him that he could cry for as long as it takes for him to feel better.
Once the car was parked, I hauled him out of the car seat and carried him down to the little garden at the foot of our block. We sat on the bench as a cool evening breeze wafted by. He was sitting on my lap, nestled against my chest. By this time, he was quiet and introspective. I was stroking his hair and speaking gently to him.
I know you are feeling frustrated because you want to be with mama and papa. I understand. But we have to work and that’s why you have to go to school. It’s okay to feel angry at us, and upset. It’s okay to cry and scream. But remember that mama and papa love you very much, and when you are sad, it makes us sad too.
We sat like that for a mere five minutes and I don’t know how much of it sunk in. But he seemed to have understood and when we went home, he was happy and smiling and back to his usual cheery self. The next day, he didn’t cry at drop-off and today, he was perfectly happy to go to school.
Sometimes, we underestimate our kids and their power of comprehension. Maybe if we give them a little more credit and try to explain to them, it may work better than simply yelling at them. This is really from my own personal experience – I used to get yelled at a lot when I was a kid and it did me no good at all. Reasoning with me, on the other hand, allowed me to understand my mother’s point of view and made me more willing to cooperate. Of course, there are times when I get frustrated at the kid and yell (and then I feel guilty). Or there are times when reasoning doesn’t seem to work (in which case, I have the licence to yell, hah!). But thankfully, by and large, A is a very verbal child and he gets it when we speak to him. So incidents like these remind me that I have a young soul to mould and I have to tread carefully.
And that’s the beauty of parenthood, I suppose. We learn new things about ourselves and our kids every day.