I have debated long and hard on writing this article. There are plenty of parenting articles out there – what could I write that will be different? I will not go too much into what parenting should be, because everyone’s journey is so different, but I would like to share my own personal experiences with you.
Being separated from my extended family after moving to a new country, and raising three kids all on my own taught me a lesson or two on parenting. If I ever was worked up or anxious, my kids would behave that way. They acted out, venting their emotions, which indirectly stressed me out too. I learned to be chill. I guess your own personality comes in to play here. I generally have an easy-going attitude and that reflected in my parenting as well.
I was not worried about my child performing at the top of the class. While I pushed the child to do better, I did not create a ruckus when they did not. My second child had frequent wheezing issues. Instead of getting worked up, I taught him to recognize the signs and to tell me when he was having an episode. My third child could not do math. I tried the traditional methods only to have her lose confidence and fear the subject. Instead, I learned and figured out all the short cuts to help her get past the exams. She barely scraped through her exams, but I had a child who was not broken, accepted her limitations and figured out a way to work her way through her problems. She learned, she coped and she is able to manage now. Could I have done something different? Perhaps!!!
What I had not recognized at that time was that I was indirectly teaching them to cope with their difficulties. Instead of taking over and doing things on my own, I was teaching them to recognize their own struggles, to take charge and to figure out a way to manage them. Can’t say there were no stressful periods and that I did not lose it — I did, just like any other parent. There were perfect days and just as many imperfect ones.
Was I a perfect parent? Honestly, I don’t think so. Could my children have done well? Perhaps. Would they have performed better at school, or in life, had I not been so accepting, so ‘easy-going’, with their grades or decisions? Probably.
I have often wondered if I had somehow enabled this ‘easy-going’ behavior in them when they had the potential to do better. Would it have been better if I was more rigid and strict? Would my children have made it to Harvard? Or would they have struggled with confidence, because they needed to fulfill my expectations. I don’t think any parent will find the right answer and be happy with it. To me, what was more important was my child’s emotional health.
Parenting is a lifelong learning process. It is an experience with no guarantee of an outcome. It is one of enrichment, commitment, fulfillment, selflessness, of self-exploration and so much more.
Being a parent brings the happiest moments in our lives. We get burdened with expectations from society and really fail to enjoy our kids. Kids will grow up, irrespective of whether you get it right or not, and soon, they will not need you.
Enjoy them while you can, cherish these moments. Don’t let your own expectations ruin those wonderful relationships. We will talk of expectations another day. For now, have a perfect day listening to their silly banter, sigh when things are not going right, show frustration if you must, but take a step back and remember the joy of raising your child. The purpose and all. Happy Parenting!!
Alpana Pal is a registered Clinical Counsellor with Singapore Association for Counselling and the Association of the Psychotherapists and Counsellors in Singapore. She aims to help individuals overcome their dependency and related mental health issues. Her warm and outgoing personality helps her build instant rapport with her clients.
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