As this year comes to a close and we look forward to the new year, many of us may be thinking of resolutions, endings and new beginnings ...all in an honest effort to be better, do better, live better.
I am in the same boat, reflecting on how the year has gone, all that has happened with home, family, work and children. The last two are a little intertwined for me as I work with Parenting Matters. What I learn at work I try to apply at home with my boys, and the practical experiences at home in turn enriches my knowledge and work.
This year I have tried extra hard to stay on the path, understand and connect with my kids better. It has been fun and frustrating, chaos and clarity, and a lot of learning. So carrying this into the new year, I am resolving to try and practice staying in the moment with my kids. You might be thinking, that is so cliched, such an overdone phrase, especially in our times! Bear with me as I try to explain what I mean.
One weekend some time ago, will be etched in my memory, not for any fantastic event, but for some simple realizations. From Friday to Sunday, on all three days, my 7 year old had a ‘melt down’ for one reason or the other, fighting with friends one day, being defiant with adults in the family the next and so on. After the incident, he is usually very loud, crying and yelling, and takes time to calm down. A lot of you will understand when I say, no amount of logical reasoning, or talking, works in these times. By the time the Sunday situation played out and he was crying, both of us were exhausted. I did not have the bandwidth to actually think, and this funnily enough helped the situation.
As I was trying to just be there for my son, holding him and letting him cry out his big emotions, giving him the time he needed, I realized I felt what I would probably call unconditional love. Typically, I would be annoyed, frustrated and worried, thinking ‘There he goes again’, ‘Why does he have to react like this for everything?’, ‘Everyone will just think he is loud!’, ‘Why can’t he just go along and listen like other kids? How is he going to handle situations when he grows up?’
Instead, I suspended my thoughts, my judgement of him, my fears, my expectations, and I just sat there with him, having a tough time dealing with big emotions, understanding that all he needs of me is to be there for him now, accepting him, still loving him wholeheartedly.
In our courses, we talk about empathy and how that is the key to helping children grow into resilient, kind, independent human beings. This one time I felt I was able to actually do just that, empathise, in its most basic essential form. I was able to just be there in the moment with my child.. The immediate thought that jumps out here is to question, ‘is this even practical or possible all the time in our day to day lives? To stop all the chatter in our heads and just acknowledge the child’s emotions, and be there for them?’
When my two and a half year old spits at me and calls me ‘stupit’ twenty times, because he is angry that I opened the bag of cashews the wrong way!
When my seven year old calls all the activities I planned for him on a trip ‘boring’, because his mind is on getting home and playing a new video game!
But also in the sweet, joyful and funny moments, when the older one calls me a really good yelling machine! Or when the little one stubbornly says he doesn't want to go to school because he misses me when he is at school...
Well, this is where I want to approach this ‘resolution’ with the awareness that things come with practice, and patience. We don’t expect to master tennis or cooking with just a few classes right? In the same vein…...I am hoping to slowly and steadily build it as a habit.
One important point to keep in mind is that I am working with little human beings, with thoughts, wishes, feelings and minds of their own. Not all moments need to be teaching moments with our children. Infact, my kids are teaching me that if I can withhold the advice,instructions or learning (along with the yelling, threats and consequences!) and just offer support and acceptance, they will do the rest ! My older one apologised to the friend he was fighting with that weekend, on his own, when he met him next.
So here is hoping I can work on this ‘resolution’ and really be in the moment with my boys!
My dear fellow parents, caregivers and nurturers, what are you parenting resolutions for the coming year? Whatever you wish to work on, be it lesser screen time for the kids, more bonding, being calmer, or more patience,we at Parenting Matters wish you the very best on this journey. May all of us have a fulfilling 2020!
Author: Samanta Dandapani is a parent educator in-training at Parenting Matters, an organisation which empowers parents to build deeper connection within families.