Imperfect Parenting and why its ok

Note: This is one of my older blogs.

When my parents used to tell me, “you will understand our actions, only after you become a parent”, I thought they have found a way to say “whatever”; ie disagreeing without giving any logical explanation!

But they were right!

I can finally understand my parents’ or for that matter any parent’s predicament.

The fact that they are supposed to discipline their children and still manage to make them understand that it’s coming from a place of love is very difficult.

My daughter is just 20 months old right now, and when I try to discipline her, try to, not give-in, into every of her little and many times unreasonable demands, she gives me the look, as if, I am letting her down as a loved one.

At this very tender age, she has already understood, that I am the emotionally weaker parent. As a result of which, my husband can say no and she’d probably not try after a point, but if I refuse something, her negotiations- smiling cutely, howling profusely, and giving me a silent treatment continue up until the time, I finally agree to do as she pleases.

Now a lot of parents, would immediately jump in and say, that’s the entire problem- you give in too quickly. And they might be half-right.

But frankly speaking, I find it really hard to let down, that tiny creature, who looks at me, as if I am her whole world, who will follow me around the entire house, will sit with me in the kitchen- whether I am washing her bottles, or cooking a meal. I am unable to tell her, in actions and/or in words, that hey, I cannot fulfill, this one very innocent demand, because I have this uncomfortable responsibility of disciplining you as well.

For the record, I am getting better at the discipline front, but, what I am trying to say here is, I am unable to get the guilt out of my system, while I do it.

Much of it stems from the fact that I have a job and I am away from my daughter for good 8 hours a day. Which is why, when I come back home, I want to spend “happy time” with her, give the entire “quality time” a big high-five and please her (for the lack of a better word).

My mother went through the same grueling internal turmoil for years. She dedicated her entire life to taking care of her family while working full time. Her times were much harder though. We had a maid, yes, but not a full-time maid or a cook, or even the luxury to order food, whenever, she “didn’t feel like cooking”. Those were the times, when restaurant outings, were reserved for special occasions only. She let many career opportunities slide, to keep her family together, because taking that opportunity would have meant, staying in a different city and meeting after long gaps.

My parents managed to raise, two very independent, self-assured human beings. Thanks to them, I was introduced to music and movies, and poetry- something that I continue to seek as a form of meditation of sorts.

There were times, I wasn’t allowed to go on school trips and I resented them for that. Then there were times when I was asked to not spend “so much time” with a certain boy and I felt misunderstood. They took those difficult and unpopular decisions because they could see, what I couldn’t, yet. I finally saw the logic behind all of it, only after I became a mother.

Can you imagine the kind of regret I feel, for giving my parents such a hard time for doing the “right thing”?

Now I live in a different country. I have a family of my own. My own set of responsibilities. I make short trips to my home. Short, hurried, blurry trips to my parents’ home.

I want to tell them, that I am sorry for being such a difficult child. Such a temperamental human being, who sometimes questioned things, just for the heck of it. I am sorry for letting you down, so many times. And thank you for always supporting me, even when I didn’t deserve it, at all. I am sorry for those hurtful words I said, and the superficial judgment calls I took, on your parenting style. In the hindsight, feeling a little stupid.

No wonder, our parents, insist on becoming grandparents soon after we get married. They sell us all kinds of ideas from “we’ll take care of the baby”, “don’t get us started on the biological clock”, “as you get older, it gets more and more difficult to take care of babies, have them now” to the insane ones like, “we are retired and bored, why don’t you plan a baby”. They finally feel free from the torrid task of disciplining children. Now, all they have to do is be popular, by allowing their grandchild, everything he/she wished to do. Cakewalk.

Not just that, they also know (I think) that as soon as the grandchild would arrive, their own thankless, oblivious, “self-assured” child will get the taste of their own medicine- the pill that we have to gulp down when we see our own child, disliking us, disagreeing with us, disappointed in us, even in small ways, even when we know we are doing the right thing. Boy! that hurts!

As a child, I remember telling my mom, with all the conviction a 10-year-old, that I will not work, after I have my kids. Indirectly taunting my mom, for making an obvious wrong life choice.

12 years later, I am almost the mirror image of my mother, as far as our daily routines are concerned.

I have come to know, that kids feel smarter than they really are, only because, they have no idea of what’s coming next. Knowledge makes you humble.

When recently, one of my colleagues, said that the same thing that she’s going to stop working for at least the first 3-4 years after her baby is born, I just quietly smiled and told her, don’t stress too much on the decision right now, take that call when you get there.

There can be multiple reasons, why you couldn’t alter your life, the way, ideally you would have wanted to do, after your child’s arrival- maybe you need the money, maybe you need the independence, maybe you cannot imagine yourself to stay at home and tend to household chores and the baby-related responsibilities, maybe, you changed your mind. Trust me, you are allowed to. You will find a way to raise your special little one, in the best possible way, that you can.

My mom was not always around to pamper me, or discipline me because she was also working full time. She managed to instill independence in me, not just by letting me take responsibility for my own actions but also and more importantly by her own example. She and my father taught me and my sister a very simple yet significant lesson, that if you are ready to work hard in your life, things, comforts, luxuries would follow. Yes, luck will play a part in it, but that is something which is out of our hands for sure.

My child has allowed me to look at my parents in a different light altogether. She has also helped me to not only see my flaws but also to rectify them and if that’s not possible at times, then allowing me to go easy on myself.

In the meantime, all I have to do is manage my time, my energy according to her time and energy. I guess it’s a very small price to pay for the kind of lessons she teaches me about relationships and about being human. Because that’s another thing, the moment you become a parent, you become more accepting and forgiving of other people’s shortcomings, since you have finally seen yours.