One of the most important and frightening things a human being can do is to raise a child. In indigenous cultures, the pressure of child rearing was less. Children were reared by the community, and belonged to the community. There was a set establishment of rules, customs, taboos and systems to rely on. Some of these rules were pointless, like preventing children form eating eggs, or certain foods, Some were downright dangerous, like killing twins, albinos, or deformed children.
Today, parents are pretty much left to their own devices. In a lot of ways, that’s a good thing. It gives us the freedom to ignore the ‘wisdom of ages’ that was not always very wise. But it also leaves in a tricky place, wondering what to do and what not to do, what is right, and what is not.
Having a child when you are young is a blessing. You are able to grow with your child, and the generation gap is cut down to a generation loophole. It’s also less embarrassing for these 21st century babies when their parents fashion sense is tolerable.
But having your child under thirty means you are still growing yourself, grappling with your own life choices, battling with quarter-life-crisis, working out love and relationships and identity, and trying to fit your child into this mess without doing any permanent brain damage.
I have always wished that my child came with a manual. But as I watch her day by day, I realise that she does come with a manual – her heart. All I have to do is learn how to read it, coz it’s written in Greek.
My princess teaches me lessons every day. Some lessons I grasp immediately, and they stay with me. Some I learn and forget after five seconds, just like she does. Some she has to drum into my mind over and over and over again. In a lot of ways, I’m a baby, just like her.
But there are some special lessons that she has taught me. I don’t always abide them, I don’t always remember them, but she has taught them, and if I can live by them, we will both grow into cosy, happy, well adjusted adults.
The most important lesson she has taught me is to love her. And to show it. Do what comes naturally. If I want to hug her, I do. If I want to kiss her head, I do. If I want to watch her, I do – until she says “Mummy, why are you looking at me like that? You think I am a TV?” Then I can tell her I’m watching her because she is beautiful and adorable and I love her, and she can gag and laugh and say “Mummy, you’re crazy.”
When I want to buy her something, or pick her up, I do, and I don’t worry about spoiling her. Spoiling is giving her anything she wants anytime she wants it. But treating is good, and she enjoys it.
She has taught me to let her choose her presents, and her wardrobe, and her food. Because when I insist on buying her fruits for her health, she would rather have alpella, and she will be angry. And when I feel inspired to buy her a packet of bubblish, she will say thank you, then send me back to the shop for some milk and an orange, which is what she really wants at that moment.
When I see a pretty dress and buy it for her, she will hate it, becaue she wanted jeans and a top like mine. But when I take her with me and let her pick what she wants, she will be happy for days and days, and the next time I shop I can pick a gift she actually likes! Even if it’s a pretty red dress.
If she wants to wear the same dress everyday for a week, I let her. It makes her happy, and it really doesn’t matter that the neighbours think she only has one dress. If I let her choose small things like that, she learns that I respect her decisions, and she will let me have my way on some other issues. After all, she learns more from watching me than she does from my lectures.
I have learnt that I can’t always have my way. Because she has her own mind and her own ideas. If I impose my will on her, she will only resent me and rebel. She is not me. She is a lot like me, but she is not me. I have learnt that I need to watch her, find out who she is. I should watch her now, when she is totally herself, before the world teaches her how she is supposed to react, how she is supposed to respond.
I should give her space, and she will learn to give me space. We are still working on that one. Because I do have moments when I need me-time and she wants us-time. I learnt yesterday that sometimes it’s okay to be selfish. Sometimes. Because if I can’t take time out for me, I will never be 100% for her, and will resent her for her demands on me.
There is one lesson we are still learning together. Just because your child rebels doesn’t mean they don’t love you. She is trying to find her way in life, and that brings her in constant clash against my way. The best I can do for her is love her, and listen to her, and let her be. She’s as confused as I am, and as upset as I am. She needs her space, and I need my space. She needs to find her place just as I need to find mine. But as her mum, I should not force her into line. I should only stand with her, even apart, and let us work this out together.
And keep in mind the quote : “Do not worry that your child never listens to you, worry that your child is always watching you.”