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Shona followed me to the kitchen as I started preparing our dinner, I knew I was running a bit late and that Shona would be hungry soon. She looked around and spotted a soiled plate that was just within her reach on the kitchen platform and immediately grabbed it. “Shona baby, it is dirty beta, don’t touch that”, I said to her. She put the plate down and went on to explore what else she could lay her hands on. After looking around for a bit and not finding anything interesting within her reach, she went for the plate and grabbed it again. “Shona, don’t touch that, momma said no just a minute back. Put the dish back beta”. This time she did not put it back but kept holding it. “Let go off it – mumma ne aapi do” I said to her a little unevenly as I started losing my patience. She did not seem to be in any mood to comply and held on to the plate as tightly as before. “Shona! Mumma said give that to me” I shouted and snatched the plate from her. Shona started howling with her eyes closed and big tears rolling down her soft little cheeks. She was frustrated at having the plate snatched from her tiny hands and at mommy’s shouting. As she cried at full volume, I looked around exasperatedly and thought this was not what I needed right now. I tried to calm her down and to make her stop crying but clearly she was very upset. Finally, after quite a bit of cajoling she calmed down and fell asleep in my lap.
An hour later, my husband returned home from work and immediately noticed something was off and asked me why I looked so upset. I told him about how I lost my cool and shouted at Shona and made her cry and that was why I was feeling miserable. After hearing everything patiently, he said to me – “if she was not listening to you, you should have distracted her with one of her toys. Or just laughed and talked with her, like you usually do - she would have forgotten about the plate on her own. Why did you shout at her, she is so little?” I got irritated at him and said I didn’t need his free advice and left the room in a huff. As I went to the other room and lied down with my head throbbing - I knew he was right. I didn’t usually scold Shona or shout at her; so I started thinking about why I behaved like that? I knew it was because I was agitated; I was in a rush and wanted to finish cooking and knew that it was getting quite late. I know what Shona did was not such a big deal and didn’t call for the kind of reaction that I gave. She is capable of doing a lot more than this - messing up the house, hurting herself or us as she tries figuring out how to use that boundless energy of hers.
Like just the other day as I was lying down on the bed trying to catch some rest, Shona came and plonked herself with all her weight on my tummy. She removed my spectacles, pulled my hair and poked my eyes with her finger. I said “No, no, no Shona! Mumma’s hair – it hurts, let them go” with mock seriousness. I pried my spectacles softly from her tiny hands playfully saying “give mumma her specs back” and hid them behind me. She was still holding my hair tightly in her fist and tugging at them and I had to cajole her to leave them alone. This didn’t seem to work, so I acted like I was upset and said to her in a firm voice “Let my hair go Shona, you are making mumma angry.” She finally let go off my hair and peered curiously at my face to make out if I was really angry and upset with her. I just couldn’t help myself; she looked so innocent and had such a befuddled expression on her face that a smile betrayed me, despite my trying hard to keep a poker face. Seeing me smile, Shona relaxed immediately – flashed a big wide grin, hugged me tight and splattered my face with her wet kisses. I burst out laughing and so did she. Hearing us laugh and having so much fun, my hubby joined in too and started tickling Shona, who started laughing even harder.
What was different in the two situations really was my disposition – I was relaxed and happy and living in the moment enjoying a late evening with my baby on one occasion and on the other I was worried about how much needed to be done and stressing about running late. Shona was doing what any little kid her age does, trying to find something amusing and trying to get her mommy’s attention. What I learnt from this really was – I am a better mommy and a happier person when I am relaxed. And both my dear husband and Shona are happier around this version of me. As master Oogway said in Kung Fu Panda – “Your mind is like this water, my friend. When it is agitated, it becomes difficult to see. But if you allow it to settle, the answer becomes clear”.
Guess, it is important for me to remind myself from time to time – Oh mommy – relax please!