Choosing to become a parent is a decision we make. It is not something that is thrust upon u, even though we like to play victim sometimes. We very well know the challenges of parenthood, before we become parents – the sleepless nights, the financial constraints, the constant negotiations, disciplining, media, safety, you name it! We have discussed all this many times over and heard it incessantly from people around us who are already parents. Yet, we decide to go ahead and bring a child into this world (or adopt a child). Why are we doing this to ourselves? Why do we do this?
I don’t have any theories or experiments to prove or explain why we do what we do. I do have my own understanding and instincts for why we put ourselves in a position laden with challenges. One is the obvious – the kind of warmth, love, admiration and fun that comes from a child, is unparalleled! You could be mad as hell but that one puppy like hug from your child and your anger vanishes into thin air.
The other could be our natural urge to take care or nurture – I believe this is more prominent in most women, but that does not mean that its absent in men. As an adult, we are not able to play with and care for our toys and dolls and hence we get a real life one? You can pooh-pooh this all you want, but dig deep and for most of you, this maybe one of the reasons.
Could it also be because we think we can do better than the others we have heard parenting horror stories from? Then there’s also the usual explanation about the natural need for proliferating our species.
One of the reasons for why we become parents, came to me tonight, while putting my daughter to bed. Could it be a way the universe is telling us to become better? Better citizens, better friends, better listeners, better people. As a parent, each one of us wants only the best for our child – the best schools, best clothes, best toys, best opportunities, best friends. Most of the times we already think they have the best parents in the world
While we try to be the best parents we can and teach them whatever little we know, we seldom realise that our children are in fact, teaching us larger lessons – lessons we have forgotten along the way, lessons that are in the back burner to be used someday when we are free from our duties, lessons that we know will only make things better but they are also lessons that require us to step up and do more and be more. Who wants to do that willingly?
Parents! That’s who! Here we have someone who is hearing (notice I did not say ‘listening’ 😉 ) every word we say, whether it is to them or not, observing every move, every cringe, every smile, every tear held back, every piercing stare. It takes every ounce in us and every inch of our body to bring up the energy and the courage to constantly remind ourselves to do the right thing.
Parenting reminds us to keep our ego aside, be humble, realize and accept that we may make mistakes (okay, most of the times, the children will be quick to point out what mistakes you have made, but sometimes you have the luxury of figuring it out yourselves). It reminds us not to be hard on ourselves for the mistakes, but to learn from them and move on. Isn’t that what we tell our kids?
It reminds us that sometimes it is okay to be defeated and fail. We brush ourselves, get up and try again. Isn’t that what we tell our kids?
It reminds us to be better listeners. If we don’t listen when they talk, they won’t talk when we want to listen. I’m sure you have heard that! Listen to me! Isn’t that what we tell our kids?
Life is in the details for children – it is the broken crayon, it is the crumpled page or the favorite water bottle. Before you know it, it will become the broken heart, the crumpled notes to self, or the most favorite person in the world. It reminds us to care about the little things, because it is the drops of water that make up the ocean. Isn’t that what we tell our kids?
We are all struggling with understanding ourselves and our emotions even as “grown ups”. We learn to deal with some and we wrestle with some, sometimes for life. Parenting is a reminder that having strong uncontrollable feelings for something even as little as a drawing gone bad, or something as significant as body image, is okay and normal. What is important is to learn to accept, cope or change, as we see fit and possible. Isn’t this what we tell our kids?
If you are willing to put your “adult” ego aside and think, you realize, as we go through the various phases of our children’s lives, our lives at any point are not that different from theirs. We are both in this journey together. Children enter our lives and provide a constant reminder to us to show up, be better, do better and live better. Every moment with them is a reminder to be present, be your best, and most importantly, be yourself. Isn’t that after all what we tell our kids?
-Sharda Kalayanaraman (Anu)