Can you please tell my ego that I am the best parent in the world? Or better still, I'll tell it to go take an effing hike.
The first two decades or so of my life were quite literally a string of first ranks and A grades and gold medals and merit certificates and awards and prizes. Anything that I failed to make a mark in (arts and crafts, for instance) was conveniently brushed aside as irrelevant and frivolous, because obviously they did not affect my grades as long as I didn’t flunk in these activities.
So now, as I undertake the biggest endeavour of my life … being a parent … I am super-starved for validation.
Can someone give me a first rank please? Tell me I am the best parent ever?
Can someone give me at least a pat on the back please for choosing to stay at home with my little one instead of outsourcing his care? Why have kids if you can’t raise them by yourselves? Because obviously I can’t fathom how impossibly hard it must be to juggle parenting and work life, and so I think only I have it hard while everyone else has it easy?
Can somebody, please anybody, tell me what a wonderful parent I am because I followed child-led weaning, because I did not feed him readymade purees from pouches when he was interested in solids but chose to prepare all his meals at home for the first year of his life?
Can anyone grab a loudspeaker and announce to the rest of the world what an amazing parent I am because … because … because I am a parent?
I didn’t even realise how judgemental and competitive and hungry for validation I had quickly become in this journey of parenting. So much so that when D walked bravely with Miss LaRoche on his first day of school, I was thrilled that he didn’t cry … and when he came out in tears, my heart broke into a million pieces, and one of those million pieces was irked, and it nagged me with an all-too-familiar competitive streak. Was he the only one that cried, I wanted to ask Miss LaRoche? Would it have made me feel better had she said no? Would it have made me feel like I was faced with a big parenting failure had she said yes?
Why! Just the other day, D who took to the swing like fish to water from very early on, wanted to try the swing after ages and was terrified when I gave his swing a push. His reaction startled me. This child, who had never been afraid of anything so far, had suddenly found something to fear. The alarm bells went off in my head. My child was suddenly scared of swings. I couldn’t believe it! Oh, I have to squash this fear right now, nip it in the bud. And so I took out my phone and showed him photos and videos of a much younger him enjoying the swing. I mean, what is life if one cannot enjoy the joys of a leisurely swing? After seeing the videos, he consented to sitting in my lap for a gentle swing. Speaks volumes of his bravery and willingness to try. Speaks volumes of my pettiness. My child had suddenly grown scared of swings. And somehow I needed to fix this thing right then and there. But the truth is there is nothing to fix.
There are some things he likes, and some things that he doesn’t. There are some things he’ll try, and some things he won’t. There’ll be some things he’d excel in today but may not care for tomorrow. And if I can’t accept these changes wholeheartedly, it means I haven’t accepted him wholeheartedly, and that I am not giving him enough space to grow and explore and carve out his own space in the world.
And I want to remember this as we stand on the cusp of yet another school week. After the break last Tuesday, D returned to school on Wednesday more teary-eyed than ever before. Those three days were probably just as hard for him as his first week was. I alternated between mostly feeling awful for him and often getting annoyed that it was taking him so long to settle in.
And then something happened on Saturday morning. We got a call from Miss LaRoche who wanted to speak to us about any concerns we may have about D in school. Among the many wonderful things she told me about D’s behaviour in school was this. “D is a very kind child, which is unusual for his age.”
I spent the rest of Saturday preening myself on this ‘compliment’. I told myself that this was an unsurpassed validation of my parenting skills. I am raising a kind, empathetic child! I am modelling kindness, no wonder he is kind! And then realisation dawned on Sunday. What I am really doing is this … just doing my best to get out of D’s way so that his innate qualities can shine through uninhibitedly. I claim no credit for the beautiful person he is becoming. I only feel a strong sense of responsibility in ensuring that I don’t mar his true self and intelligence en route with my own biases and notions and preconceptions and ignorance.
Oh my dear, dear child … This week you take your time. There is no rush. If there are tears this week, I am there beside you … and after, I will be waiting right outside school for you. If there are smiles this week, I am there beside you … and after, I will be waiting right outside school for you. And my ego can go take a fucking hike!