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Today morning, just as I open the fridge to take out some vegetables, my one and a half year old arrives and starts fiddling with the bottles on the fridge door. I see him pull out a bottle of chilli sauce. I ask him to put it back, he obliges and I turn my attention to the vegetables. Just as I take the beans in my hand, there is a loud crash! The big new bottle of tomato sauce has been smashed to bits. The poor bottle looks like a twisted, bludgeoned creature, lying on the floor. There is sauce splashed all over the kitchen floor, shards of glass everywhere and a shooting pain in my foot. I feel like venting my anger on my toddler but I stop and remove myself from the ‘crime scene’ to tend to my poor foot, while hubby steps in take our toddler away.
As I clean my wound, I observe myself firstly simmer and then slowly cool down as I make my way back to the kitchen to clean the huge mess. I would have reacted impulsively had I not recalled that I had lost my privilege of acting out as an instinctual human being the day I became a parent. Also, my acting out would probably not make my little one learn any lasting lesson about glass bottles being breakable.
I have learnt (the hard way) that for small children to process and internalize, even simple instructions need to be repeated (maybe a dozen to even more than a hundred times) before they finally follow. The hard part is not to repeat, but it is rather tough to stay calm, consistent and never lose patience in the process of repetition. I am not immune to it either and have heard myself start statements with “How many times do I have to tell you to….”
Another important aspect of parenting is Unconditional Love, irrespective of the behaviours our child shows. Our love for them is not so fragile that it can change and shift based on their accomplishments, acts of mischief or academic achievements. We may or may not like certain behaviours but we love them all the same. It does not matter how many times or how many ‘walls’ they make me climb, they are always the most loved.
However, our love for them does not mean a lack of Discipline. In fact the greatest gift we can give to our children is Discipline, but that too does not need the extensive use of our vocal cords or limbs. That would indeed be the worst for our children.
Even in my limited experience as a parent I have realized the importance of patience, practice and passion in mastering the science and art of parenting. The same applies to anything else we would want to master and it is true of parenting, only more so.
Just like in a video game the levels keep changing and getting tougher, the same thing happens to us as parents at every progressive stage of our child’s development. A game is always interesting and enjoyable and so is parenting, but this is one game you never want to lose!