Through most conversations we have, my best friend and I talk about what kind of mothers we’d be. She always makes a comment on my lack of cooking skills, saying that my kids will knock on her door almost every day just to enjoy a meal that isn’t burnt or tasteless, and I find myself teasing her for her innate lack of confrontation, saying, “You will come knocking on my door when you find out that your child failed their first test and I’ll end up giving them the tough talk instead of you.” Apart from that, we say that we would be unabashedly accepting of our children and the decisions that they make, be it their career, their love life, their personal choices, or absolutely anything for that matter. 

We promised each other that our children will grow up with the best set of parents in the world and that we will be there to put each other in check if either of us fall on our faces, but we forgot the fact that that will be the first time we will be parents and that we will make plenty of mistakes. We will drop our babies at some point in their childhood, we will lose our cool and say nasty things we don’t mean, we will accidentally end up suffocating them at times with our protectiveness, we will falter. 

This inevitable reality brought me to think about my own parents. I have been so critical about them all my life, backing all my bitter thoughts with the sheer logic of “But they are our parents and it is their duty to do that!” when I could have been more understanding of the fact that they are not just “mum” and “dad” but rather people, human beings, individuals. They have had their share of traumas, their dark past, their achievements, failures, errors, accomplishments, etc. because they are as human as we are. But, nowhere must we endorse or tolerate grave mistakes made just because the perpetrator is a person with a life, and as there are boundaries of understanding set for children, there are such boundaries set for parents as well. Parents will always have that vital responsibility on them since they are to raise another human being from scratch. That child that they call their own will later on become a member of society and a lot of their future is majorly dependent on the way they are raised. Parents do have the right to make mistakes but they cannot go wrong. 

Your bad apples mustn’t be dumped into your child’s basket

Parents, I get you. There are certain aches and bruises we carry with us for the rest of our lives and every time we look into the mirror, these physical and emotional scars are a harsh reminder of all that we have endured. It can get terribly difficult for anyone to rise above their traumas and troubles, and temptations like unhealthy coping mechanisms can be hard to pass, but remember this before you decide to be a parent: your developmental history should have little to no effect on your child. We may have grown up in abusive homes, under the wings of neglectful parents, in the company of bad siblings, rotten friends, whatever it may be. Parents are to not let their child continue to bear the brunt of an inherited burden that wasn’t theirs or their child’s to deal with. 

Little things like making friends, engaging in conversation, discipline, reasoning, rationalization, decision-making, etc. are severely affected. Cognitive-motivational competence and healthy socio-emotional development can take place in a child only if they are under the protection of attentive, warm, stimulative, responsive and non-restrictive caregiving. If such caregiving isn’t provided to a child, the inherited burden becomes an heirloom that is passed on in a snowball effect, it just gets worse with every individual’s added trauma and no one deserves to live with burdens like those.

Work on your harvest to make sure that your child reaps the best fruits.

When I was about 14, my mother started to work as a full time employee with a proper full time job. It was a time of great growth for her. Over the next couple of years I saw her transform before my very eyes. It was the small things, you know. She started to dress better, and explored her own style. She started to give time to self care. Her laugh started to sound more open. Her words were freer than they used to be. She started to stand up for herself and her rights as a daughter, wife, mother, and woman. There was a certain skip in her step that developed over time. To say that I am proud would be an understatement. 

Today when I look back at all these six years that have flashed past my eyes, I notice a peculiar pattern. When mum used to get dressed, I watched carefully the way she applied eyeliner, or lipstick. The corporate etiquette she picked up over time started to seep into me as well. Her confidence and joy brought so much positivity my way, and within two years, I saw myself start to flourish. I did not realize this back then, but now that I do, I’m baffled.

Although there may not be much literature readily available on this aspect of parenting, it still stands true. Your personality as parents will, no matter how much you’d like to avoid it, be picked up by your children. Your constant growth is crucial for your child’s growth as well. Observational LEarning plays the biggest role here. Children are always watching their parents, constantly picking up patterns and habits because you are their hero and they will innately want to be just like you. This is partially genetic, I will admit, but a lot of it depends on individual psychology as well. I don’t even want to imagine the kind of person I would be if mum hadn’t transformed this profoundly. She became her own hero and I wanted to be just like her so I became mine. 

Water your plant. Use fertilizers. Give it all the sun it needs.

After watching Mogli, I couldn’t, for the life of me, figure out how on earth the entire thing played out. It made no sense to me. Yes, I know you’ll say, “It’s just kids fiction! Leave it alone!” Trust me, I know. I was a child not very long ago and loved Mogli, but it did lead me to a particular study that changed my perspective on parenting. In 1960, Bronfenbrenner spoke about parental involvement in a child’s life and how it affects the child’s growth. Human children require that extra special care from their parents. We cannot work like most animals; have the child be up and gone once it knows how to hunt for food. Parental instincts remain for a very, very long time which allows us to be actively involved in our child’s life no matter their age and parallely, human offsprings require that support and that long term affection too.

There’s no other way to put this. You need to be involved. You need to physically and mentally nourish your child. For their development, make sure you can provide them with as many resources as possible to explore and learn. You’ve got to let your kid go for that bharatanatyam class, or that abacus training program. Go buy them the books they’d like to read. Encourage their endeavours in sports. Be that person they can bank on matter what. Let them know through your actions that you care about their life, the direction it takes, their passions, their likes and dislikes. You need to tell them that that incorrigible drawing they made is a masterpiece. You need to push them to keep running if they fall in the middle of a sprint. 

We mustn’t be that one parent who only brings home the money, or the one who dotes over their child beyond necessity. We mustn’t be the only one to discipline the kid and neither should we be the one who helps them escape a pasting. I’m sure you know this already; there is a vast difference between protective support and overprotective support. 

Take care of your garden. Water all the plants. Nourish them. Love them. Protect them. But, you need to let them learn how to stand grounded in storms. You need to let them learn how to harness the sun to strengthen their roots. You’ve got to let them grow.

Until next time…

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