3. On obedience
Developing the ability to think for one’s self is a gift. Obedience in my humble opinion kills this gift and the natural curiosity that is our birthright.
Obey: don’t question, don’t engage your brain, forget about your opinions, they don’t matter, do as you are told.
Obedience is something born of fear, guilt and shame, not love. I don’t want my child to sacrifice her curious nature to obey me out of fear. I want her to question and offer alternatives. I want her to always be part of the process and solutions and to truly understand why we ask somethings of her, do it because she wants to or has a good enough explanation, as to why not.
Her autonomy should not take a backseat to my need for obedience. I don’t want my child to ever view me or any authority as absolute. If she blindly obeys and accepts everything I say, that would mean that my actions and demands of her are always right, which is so far from the truth.
I have lived 3 decades and still, I’m so far from getting it right, how is it that I expect a 2yr old to? I try to be reasonable, teach kindly and be more of a guide than an authoritarian. In no way does this mean being permissive or giving in to all her whims.
I wonder what would have happened if my curiosity to learn how things work was nurtured, and not beaten out of me, with the claim that if I wasn’t “dehorned” I would be a misfit! Am I “whole” from the beatings or from the qualities that my parents choose to love and nurture? I do not have an answer for that, but I’m sure my mom would say it was the beatings that set me straight.
I feel that corporal punishment is a lazy approach. A temporary fix which in the long run does not aid learning. All the beatings I got taught me not to get caught, how to lie and wiggle myself out of situations. They never gave me the why of the beating.
When I was 12 yrs old, I got the beating of my life from both my parents, for having a boyfriend! I frankly did not get what was wrong with that and nobody explained why I could not be friends with a boy I liked.
As an adult, I now understand I was beaten because my parents were petrified. I can almost hear their thoughts, is she having sex? She will get pregnant! Her future will be ruined, She will bring shame to the family….! It was much easier for them to beat me than to actually have a “difficult” conversation about how these things work. That beating was meant to teach me fear and keep me away from the boy. Needless to say, It did not work, I learnt to be sneaky.
I was not sexually active, this boyfriend thing was so innocent. The most we did was stand by our gate for hours talking and laughing our teeny heads off. It would have been more effective had they taught me the consequences of sex and why it was important to wait. Chances are I would have still seen the boy but at least I’d have been a lot wiser.
Once in primary school, I got into a fight with a friend about something inconsequential. My mom found out about it, I got another beating of my life! To teach me non-violence! The irony in this!
We all agree that sexual abuse, verbal abuse are things that our children should never have to endure. We would not accept these acts even in moderation. How is it that physical abuse, emotional abuse is acceptable?
Obedience is unvirtuous to me. It is selfishness at the expense of my child’s freedom and autonomy, it is oppressive and detrimental to her brain development.
4. Breaking the cycle
My parents raised me the best way they knew how. My dad died when I was 13. I had not yet developed the maturity to see him as an individual and so he is forever on a pedestal. My mom never remarried, she raised us as a single parent, (hats off to her) always working hard and self-sacrificing, to provide a safe and healthy environment for my siblings and I. Age and space allowed my perception of her to develop. I realised she is not simply my mom but an individual with real feelings and shortcomings. She had to come down that pedestal that little me had built her, in my quest to be like her.
When I think of her as an individual, who has collected her share of scars unknown to me, it is easy to forgive the shortcomings that I experienced as a child, which are now more apparent as an adult. When I think of her from the standpoint of a parent, it is paramount to forgive whatever slights I bear. I cannot imagine how difficult it must have been, being a single parent.
With the knowledge that everything she has ever done as a mother, no matter how I perceive it, was done from her place of love or as a direct reflection of how she was parented. I find forgiveness for everything that haunts me from my upbringing. This forgiveness validates her humanity and so I’m able to believe in mine.
I have always been a very assertive person, much to my mom’s dismay! A direct reflection of her. Now much to my thrill, my daughter is a mirror of the both of us ( my mom always told me, “I hope you will have a child just like you, to give you the hell that you give me”). Her patience was non-existence, my assertiveness was viewed as being naughty, I was constantly labelled the “bad child”. I got spanked a lot, deservingly or undeservingly.
The problem was, I questioned a lot, was highly opinionated and had problems blindly obeying as was expected. In my culture and more specifically in my parental home, kids are not allowed or given space to voice their opinions. An adult word is always the truth. No, is never an acceptable answer coming from children, they are expected to consent with all adult demands. Sit still when needed to, jump when told to……An adult can ask a child a direct question, then claim the answer as backtalk! Backtalk earns a child a scolding or a beating.
Parents NEVER apologized to their children, even when they were clearly in the wrong. I remember feeling constantly misunderstood and unloved. At some point I stopped caring too much what was expected of me, I did not care to please anyone anymore and the fear of a spanking was not too dreadful. I lived up to my “bad child” label and as a result of this, my relationship with my mom was strained.
I am consistently and mindfully breaking a generational cycle of passed down parenting methods which do not serve my family. Sometimes I fail at achieving this. It seems this way of parenting is embedded deep in my subconscious. My strong want and need for conscious parenting keeps me doing the deconstruction work and creating habits more aligned with our family values.
I’m lucky to have witnessed a different culture which I can borrow from. On the larger scale im influenced by my own culture. There are beautiful aspects of it that I hold dear, which I will soon share.
5. There is no perfect parent or child
There is the constant debates on breastfeeding vs formula, co-sleeping vs sleep training, sahm vs working mom. When you are a new parent it is so easy to get lost, trying to finding footing on where you belong, especially in the western culture, where community is sort of a foreign thing. I found out quick enough, as soon as you have a babe in arm, you are not judged on your merits anymore but on how your child behaves.
I felt a lot of pressure to be “the perfect mom”, I’m not sure if this was for my child or for said society. I would judge myself too harshly and allow space for others to judge me, when I failed to reach the unattainable standard society holds mothers to. It took a breakdown from parental exhaustion to set me straight. My child did not need a perfect me, she just needed me. My husband reminded me, there was a reason why in case of anything on a flight, we are advised to put on our own mask before assisting others. It is the same in parenthood.
When I learnt to tune in to my intuition and primal instinct I found that parenting got easier. When the noise of others expectations and do’s and don’ts is too loud, we can hardly tap into our own sixth sense, then we are not living our own scripts.
Now when mistakes are made, forgiveness is given a bit more freely, lessons are learnt and I live to do better on the next day. Mom guilt is overrated, it chops away at our existence and doesn’t make us better in any way.
Being a perfect parent or expecting perfection from a child is an unrealistic goal. Our kid just needs us to be there. Present and supportive. loving her even when we are correcting her behaviour, when we are running late, When she is being a little savage, and even when she is throwing herself on the floor and slithering like a snake, screaming bloody murder in public. Loving her when she is being difficult because let’s admit it, it is so damn easy to love a child when she\ he is giving us all the reasons to, but the real test is when they are being “difficult” especially in public, where our merits are judged on their behaviour.
“A lot of parents will do anything for their children expect let them be themselves”. I read this somewhere a while ago and it deeply resonated with me. We tend to love people on condition, When they are pleasant and happy we want to be around them. When they show us the other side of the coin, the one that’s flawed we tend to pull back. Sadly our children are not exempt from this.
Thank You for taking your time to read, kindly share with us your experiences. Stay tuned on the final part of this series on, How mind-blowing parenting can be.