Years ago, as a twenty-something teacher, I was dishing out advice to parents on their children. Then, I did not understand the complexities of parenting and thought poorly of some parents’ style of education. What goes around, comes around. Now that I am a mother of 3, I cannot be more stupefied by the amount of work that comes with being a parent. It is not just ensuring that healthy food is on the table. It is not just clothing the child. It is more than having a clean and safe environment at home.
Parenting goes more beyond the power of money. I think. Whenever we are in a toy shop or souvenir store, just like any other child, Ryan and Gillian will go excited over the toys and novel finds. Which child would not think having a colourful slinky is fun? Or having one more cool looking torchlight/magnifying glass is essential? Most of the time, these toys are not very expensive and thankfully, we are at the position to get them. Looking at the state of my living room, which holds boxes and boxes of toys, I dare say that we have indulged them too much. In fact, we have started saying no to them, unless the toy serves a learning purpose. Maybe in some sense, E and I bought so much toys for the children as we are over-compensating for the lack of in our childhood. Strangely, saying no is much more difficult than what I thought it would be. The children will get grumpy and my mind will go into overdrive, weighing the pros and cons of the getting the random toy. Looking at how both children treat their toys make me feel that they are taking what they have for granted. It is not a good feeling as that was never my intention for them. I want them to be happy. Not spoilt.
The television is another point of contention for our family. Ryan loves his television and he has his favourite shows. I do admit that he does learn a number of things from the television programmes. He knows about the Stonehenge, the Pyramids of Gaza, Eiffel Tower from Go Jetters. He is able to share with me new knowledge about planets and comets that he picked up from Messy Goes to Okido. Turning on the television as a way to keep children entertained is always an easy way out. That way, both parties win. The parents get to be doing mindless phone-surfing and the children are properly distracted by the colourful images on the box. I think E will attest to that but, just like all things, moderation is the key. I think last month, it has reached a breaking point when Ryan will throw a fit when the television is switched off. Not cool right. I might be exaggerating if I say that it looks like an addiction. But, let’s not wait till it reaches that stage of us applying to be on the show of Super Nanny. Once again, I have to take the role of the ‘bad parent’ by saying no to him again. These days, he is only allowed to watch two shows a day. The two children spend the rest of the time arguing with each other while trying to play together. #choiceofthelesserevils
Last night, I read this blog entry from a fellow mother and she articulated my feelings of being a parent so well. If the equation of loving one’s child is all about getting material things for them, going on expensive trips and just agreeing with them, it would be easy right? But loving a child is more of what we give up for them. Mostly time. In this time and age, where we have this insatiable need to be ‘connected’, we end up choosing to be disconnected from real life, from our children. I have to remind myself to take my eyes from my phone and choose to spend that 10 minutes listening to Ryan’s day in school, to spend a short time reading bedtime stories, to just have an engaged session with them.
When I look back at my childhood, I don’t remember having much. My family was not well-to-do. Yet, I can recall my childhood vividly because of the time my parents spent with us. They brought us to parks and playgrounds. We played board games. I remember evenings of me sitting on a high stool, talking to my Mum about my day in school while she cooked dinner. We did not dine out much. Sometimes, we shared a pot of canned chicken soup with french loaf from Delifrance. I can even recall my mother telling me how fortunate we were to have a baguette from Delifrance. I believed her. I thought we were one of those well-off ones.
What is my ideal good parenting then? Having the smarts would be a bonus. Ideally, if we we would want to prepare them for the future, to know that having everything that we want does not equate to happiness, to know that sharing does not mean that we have lesser but we have more. To have the wisdom to make good decisions in life. To have grit. To have the resilience to continue despite failures. To remember that he/she is always loved. To choose a Christ-centered life.
Dear Ryan, Gillian and Megan…
I love you. So much.