My elder son turned twenty this month. And as I looked back at the years where he transformed from a cherubic smiling kid to a grumpy teenager to a much calmer adult today, I also saw my own journey as a mother, in parallel, specifically in my mothering (is that even a word!) style.
Motherhood took me by shock. From not having a single bone of loving to hang around with children, I was instantly transported to a world of very different kinds of responsibility! I know I am supposed to have had nine months to prepare for it, but I was busy being mollycoddled and eating away to glory in those months. As soon as I saw my baby, I distinctly remember asking the folks around me – Am I responsible for this little fellow’s life? How will I know why he is crying? While others around me laughed and assuaged me that I will instinctively learn it, I was in a state of super turmoil.
Well, I did learn. And did not stop there. I also went in for a second baby after a few years.
But I was a changed person right from that instant, when I delivered the first time.
However, as the boy grew, and one more came in, I realised that the fundamental rule of the game of motherhood is – it is constantly changing! By the time I learnt how to play it for a certain age, the context changed and I had to go back to the drawing board to think and learn again. And to top it, my next child turned out to be totally different with his needs and demands being in total contrast. There you go, I was back at the drawing board.
While I may jokingly ruminate, the reality was hard.
When a 11-month-old is constantly crying you would have, by now, come up with a list of probabilities and can jump into elimination rounds – wet nappy, piercing button of the dress, irritating wool of the sweater, colic, tummy ache, mosquito bite et al. Once you isolate the main problem, removing it and patting the baby back to sleep would do the trick.
It only gets tougher further, bringing out the varied feelings within the mother. From tenderness, we move on to compassion while understanding the challenges of 3 – 9 year olds that range from the deep desire for that perfect pencil box or beautiful dress to the friends they have made or would like to make. A bear hug and wiping their tears could still do the magic.
From 10 – 15 years, it is all about tolerance and acceptance that your children are not yours. As Khalil Gibran says, ‘Your children are not your children. They are sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you. And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.‘
And 15+ is a game with ‘big kids’. That is what they are. Big, but kids. And while we may perceive them to be kids, the reality is that big is a more loaded word here.
This is a phase of deep revelations for both the children and the parents. And both do not understand each other here.
But it is what it is.
As a parent, the biggest shock is the realisation that what used to bring them comfort and solace all this while, does not appeal to them and often irritates them. Bear hugs do not have the same magical effect.
If they are unable to make it to the school football team, or have lost that first position in the competition, or their best friend does not hang around with them anymore, or they are unable to make it to school of their choice owing to lower scores – we cannot go and offer solutions or just shoo them away or worse sit on a pedestal and pontificate.
These things hurt deep in that young heart which is just stepping out of our cocoon.
And we cannot just go, apply some balm or antiseptic and kiss the wound away. And we should not too.
We cannot offer quick fix solutions to their problems, give our unsolicited views, and worse debunk their whole feelings as irrational.
Now that is tough.
More so for us – parents of today – who are all smart achievers and are at the peak of our careers where the world walks up to us to ask our views, opinions and advice. And which we offer with élan and find them to be invariably successful.
But back home, the story turns different. We are helpless. No one is listening.
We need to just hang around there to enable our big kids to hang in there.
We drop them and pick them up from their games and just stand on the side. We pack lunches and snacks knowing they may not eat them. We show up in all their events even though they may only briefly acknowledge you there. At times, may not even see you in the seats.
We just be there. For them.
We cannot solve their problems. We cannot write their entrance examinations. We cannot fix their friendships and relationships. We cannot make up for their disappointments by buying them an ice cream or a smart gadget.
We just tell them and show them we are there for them. We have their back and can feel the pain along with them. We are cheering them from the sides and will accept them either ways – winning or losing. And we will not step in their way and make things either easy or complicated for them. We just allow them to freely walk their path while we stand back as their invisible safety net.
Invariably, once they have gone through the whole emotional turmoil and exhausted all their individual ideas and options, they will turn back and come to you – and you must be there waiting to embrace them.
Well, these were some of my musings from my deep dive back into the past where I learnt, and am still learning, that motherhood is also about stepping back and gradually weaning off.
*All images used in this article are either Eyra’s own design or widely and freely available on the internet.*