It began when I read a friend’s comment on her face book page. It was her birthday and she posted a lovely card made by her little daughter. It was indeed pretty however one sentence on the card overjoyed my friend. It read, “Ma, you are the best cook in the world” and my friend commented how special and extraordinary it felt to get that title from her. That’s when it occurred to me how, very subconsciously, we are looking for our children’s approval in our lives no matter how young they are. Apparently and consciously it is only our kids who come to us for approval or admiration. A painting they made, a clay dough they moulded, a room they tidied or even a lemonade they stirred. Any activity or task invariably ends with the same question “Mum or Dad how is it?” There is such an excited and heightened anticipation of being accepted, admired and liked that no matter what and how they have done you just got to hug them for their enthusiasm and effort.
In truth, as adults we too look forward to the same emotions of acknowledgement, acceptance and admiration from others around us. What we never realize is that we are also very subtly and unconsciously seeking a sort of approval from our kids. Almost as if asking them, “Are we good enough?” When my son beams, “Mummy the cheese wrap was so yum!” I despite knowing that the others also enjoyed it confirm with him, “Really Aman did you like it very much?” And his affirming nod so boosts me up. When I paint along with him, he is totally surprised at times and exclaims, “Wow mom, you know to paint well!” And I for no reason or some reason feel so delighted at his remark. Not that it makes me anymore skilled but just the fact that he thinks something worthy of me is unexpectedly reassuring.
This mutual need for acceptance made me realize the very symbiotic relationship between parents and their children. I have two adorable kids who without fail, make sure I lose my mind every single day on hourly basis. However, every Parent-Teacher Meeting that I have attended over the years for my son, the teachers have generously praised him. Every time he has a play date at any of his friends’ homes, he always returns with compliments of how good, calm and well behaved he is. Of course I feel great and so proud of him. However, his story at our home is quite contrary. Recently, I left both my kids back home while I was away on a two week trip. And before leaving I pleaded with my son not to trouble his grandparents while getting ready for school. Trust me, I literally drag him to the bathroom and shove him into the shower on atleast four out of five school days. Usually I have one lucky day when he is more cooperative. So I was stunned when my in-laws told me that they never had to wake him up for the two weeks. He was up at 6 on his own and ready before time without any fuss whatsoever. This made me reproach him, “What is it about me Aman that you decide to be so difficult with everything when it comes to me?” Of course he didn’t reply. But I tried deciphering the answer myself.
A couple of years back, I was at my mom’s place and my niece had a phase of frequent crying episodes for no real reasons or unreasonable ones. I am accustomed to such episodes because of my own kids. However, I could comfort my niece with ease. I tackled her gently and intelligently and she would normalize. My mother was watching me from a distance and later she commented, “How come you are so patient and composed with your niece and nephew but always screaming at your own kids?” The truth and validity of her remark struck me. My mother’s words have stayed with me ever since but sadly haven’t changed me any better. Over time similar situations have occurred and I have reacted the same way. For instance, when I drop my daughter and her friends to school there is a very delightful ruckus in the car with singing, teasing and playing but in the midst of this delight there’s also screaming and jumping which needs my intervention. And I have repeatedly seen that when Amaya jumps, hits and screams I am very stern, threatening and furious with her but when her friends do the same I am soft and polite though tactful and firm.
You see there is such a strong reflexive behavioural disorder between our children and us. We clearly take each other for granted to a considerable extent. Somewhere deep in the subconscious they have come to believe that it’s alright to misbehave, throw a tantrum, make a fuss, be stubborn and demanding when they are with their parents. Same as we think it is fine to be fuming, shouting, yanking and threatening our own child. But as soon as we both are in others company; children with other elders or guardians and we with other kids, both their attitude and our approach are drastically changed.
Of course there’s no dismissing the fact that we are dealing with other kids and they are dealing with other elders for very limited and brief periods where it is easier for all to maintain the facade of politeness and goodness. But when it comes to constant haggling with our own kids and for them constant nagging by their parents all manners, all patience, all calm just fly out of the window. Basically we have taken a few liberties with each other. We would shout at our own child but not at another’s because who wants to hear, “You are such a bad aunty. I don’t want to come with you again”. We would slap our child in private but not in the midst of guests for we might be termed insensitive and impatient parents. And maybe the child goes through a similar psychology, someone else branding him as “You are being a monster and driving me mad” or intimidating him, “We are sending you to a hostel” might hurt him much worse and disturb him much deeper. And so rather innocently he tries to contain or restrict such situations.
But what makes this symbiotic relationship so resilient and strong is the unique layer of parent-child reconciliatory bond. No matter how much we may complain, haul, punish, and get frustrated with our children, at the end of the day we cuddle against them to coo “I love you my little lamb and I am sorry to have screamed”. We want to go back to those little benign beings and nurture them. And no matter how many times they feel offended and bang the doors, sometimes even hit us or say bad mummy or daddy, they come back running to find comfort in our arms. This mutual need, faith, and sort of non-egoistic love is the basis of the most fragile, sensitive yet the strongest symbiotic relationship of a parent and child.
I hope to grow up to be a parent whose symbiosis with her growing bunnies gets stronger with their every birthday. And maybe on some odd birthday of mine, I might earn the title, “Ma, you are the best.”