So, in my previous post on “The guilty mother” series – Part 1, I had mentioned about how the son (and hubby as well), do not make it any easier for me to maintain a museum of a home. Apparently, I hate museums. Going by my previous posts, you would know that I sustain in chaos. There has to be something arranged in a haphazard manner to make me feel at ease. And so, one can imagine how stressed I feel doing house keeping knowing for a fact that, it stays impeccable only when I am the only living person in the home. But then, what is a home without some craziness? Now, coming to the crux of today’s post, I have some serious topics to discuss.
The guilty mother in me kicked me in the gut!
Yesterday, the son came back from the park. He was cheerful. We even played badminton in late evening. And then, when I was tucking him into bed, he slightly winced in pain. On being asked, he showed me a cut on his thigh. Some child of his age probably and accidently pushed the swing in his direction and, he got hurt. I asked him – “Why did you not tell me earlier?” to which he replied – “Ma! You only said that we do get hurt in playing and that, we should not complain about it!” The guilty mother in me kicked me in the gut! Thankfully, the cut was not deep but, it wasn’t too superficial too! I felt bad, very bad as my son tolerated that pain only because I told him that getting bruised and falling was all a part of the game. Somehow, I had a very disturbed sleep. And as I was still trying to figure out a way to reach out to him in a way such that he doesn’t misinterpret my advice, another incident happened today.
In the morning, a couple of his friends came over and asked Arjun to join them. After all, there is still a week for the schools to open. I gave my regular instructions – “No playing inside anyone’s homes!” Now, here I would like to point out that one of the boys is my neighbour who stays all by himself for a major part of the day while his parents are out for work. And, the boy is going to fourth grade and so, he is still a child in my eyes. I would have happily allowed the son to go along, which I eventually did after looking into those deep cajoling eyes of my son. The guilty mother in me gave in to that coaxing look, but the strict mother in me came out and added her lines to the permission – “You can play, but not inside anyone’s home. You either play in the park or, you play in our lawn and block space. To put it candidly, you play in an open space!”
The friend clearly did not like my idea. But I am an elder and, he had to listen. So, they went to the park, played for 10 minutes and came back. Later, the friend asked me again – “Can Arjun come over to my place, please? Please, Aunty!” My answer was a NO as there was no adult supervision in his home. (Now, I will be shortly coming to the point on why I have been sceptical about letting the son alone with the said boy in case you are already judging the guilty mother in me as a domineering one too!) The boys spent some more time loitering around. Later, the boys drifted away and, Arjun came back with an expressionless face. He came in quietly, removed his footwear and headed into the bedroom and, opened his favourite book. I knew he was not studying. He was not crying. There was not a flinch on his face. But, the guilty mother in me knew he was upset. To steer him out of his unhappy mood, I asked him – “Can I play badminton with you?” Suddenly, his face lit up and, we played for a while until he saw the boys again on the street. Well, after that he went inside. I asked him – “What happened?” and, that was it! His eyes welled up and he looked at me accusingly – “I won’t be able to make friends like this! Why do you restrict me from going to his place? You know, he has many friends! All his friends come over to his place. And, you do not allow me! Why?”
“Mum, I saw something the other day….”
Now, I will narrate an incident that happened a few months ago. My son was going regularly to the said friend’s place. That boy also used to come over and play at our home. However, the boy’s uncontrollable energy resulted in tearing off my bean bags. Needless to say, some of my cushions were also ‘injured’ in the process! I am sure his parents who are gem of people are oblivious to his actions till date. But I also dreaded the fact, how a home would look like if there were four to five like the boy! Anyways, I am digressing. Coming back to the incident I was talking about, my son had been to his place during one of the vacation breaks. Everything was normal until one of the days long after the incident actually happened, my son mentioned to me candidly about how the boy had shown him something on the phone and that, it was dirty! I asked Arjun to explain the word dirty (I did not want to judge a child). But the son replied back – “Ma! You know what dirty means!” His look churned the pit of my stomach. My son knew what he was talking about. And, I knew now. I spoke to the hubby and, he called the son and said, “Son! You are going to be six years old soon. You have a choice to decide your company. Good children do not watch clips on phones that are not meant for them. Now, you know that. Tomorrow he will call you and, you might go to his place again. This time, he might expose you to something murkier. What is worse, he is a child too. He is not having adults to chaperone him in the major part of the day. But, you have! Now, you decide what you want to do. Son, keep in mind, studying and playing are the two goals of your life for now. Nothing else should distract you. That said, you can play with him. But remember, if I get to hear anything negative about you from anywhere, I repeat, from anywhere, you will see a side of me you do not want to see ever! The choice is yours, son! Rest assured, you can play with him in the park. I will not say anything. But, no going to any one’s home from now on.”
The impact was deep considering the fact that, hubby is the cool cucumber in the family. He does not raise his voice. The one time he spanked Arjun was, when Arjun tried to lean over from a fort wall at Mandu! Otherwise, it is always the emotional mother in me who is the self proclaimed Cruela De Vil! So ever since that incident, the son never went to his place in the absence of the boy’s parents.
However, today I knew that he was being arm twisted into doing something he knew was not right! And, a part of him wanted to ‘fit in the crowd’. I left him to his space after the uncomfortable face off and, immediately made a call to my mother who is currently vacationing in Chennai. I told her about the situation and, she heard me out patiently. Once she had heard the entire thing, this is what she said to me –
“Narayani, as a parent, you did what had to be done then. But, a NO like that doesn’t go well with children. You have to make that No sound like a No for him from himself. Now, how do you do it?
Remind him that he has some amazing friends who are also going to join him in the first grade although they do not stay nearby.
Remind him that park friends are not permanent. After all, he is a fauji kid and, he is never going to have the same set of friends permanently.
And importantly, remind him every now and then that it is more important to have good friends than having many many friends. True friends will always be less in numbers.
Every day, remind him that, he is his own best friend first! He may not understand immediately, but repeat it to him every day. A few months down, the change will set in and, he sure will find his happy space. A mother’s intuition is always right. So, don’t second guess your parenting. When one dicey experience strengthens your intuition, do not dismiss it. You may only appear domineering in tricky cases as this but actually, you are not. And then, being a careless parent is worse! This is just the first of his many to come heartaches. Don’t let him dwell on it. At the same time, do not restrict him from playing with the boy. Sometimes, a NO dents ego badly and, a child may not understand the reason behind the NO fully. Like you said – “Play in open spaces like park” is a good way of putting your message across. And in case, that boy doesn’t include him in the group, tell him it is fine. In that case, he can cycle or perhaps, play badminton or chess with you. And believe me, there are so many options out there. Make him realize that!
As a parent, keep a watch on him from a distance. And, I know my grandson well. He will not do something notorious to harm someone. Have faith in him J”
I felt a bit relieved. I finally had a talk with the son and, pulled out my mother’s pointers in the most delicate way possible. He listened to me intently. After a pause, he said – “Mum, there are some very big boys that come to the park to play football. I also want to play football.”
This was my chance to push my son out of his comfort zone that he believed was his age group friends! My instant reply was –“Go! Ask them! Tell the big boys you want to play with them.” His sceptical look told me his fears of being rejected. I added, “If they reject, it is fine. No issues. I will get you a foot ball in that case. But, you ask them first. Take the first step. How do you know that they will not include you without you even trying to make the first move? Ask them. Politely.” He suddenly recalled how he had kicked the ball many a time and that, they sometimes would ask him to kick the ball back when it went a little too far.
That was it. The uncomfortable sensation clouding my son’s aura was gone. He was back to normal and, we played badminton till the Sun pushed us inside with a warning –“Get inside or I will burn you both!”
There are times, I question myself a lot. I second guess my parenting means. The guilty mother in me corners me every now and then. But my mother tells me one thing and, she repeats it all the time.
“Every child is different, Narayani. Some children are innately daring. Some are born with a lot of patience. Some are aggressive from the beginning. Some are born with the art of manipulation. As parents, we can only channel the energies and guide the children. We cannot change their nature. Just like you cannot change the spots on a leopard because you like checkers! So, there will be times when your son may not prefer to go with the mass. Do not get perturbed. People often forget that geniuses do not come from masses. So, just have faith in him. He will learn to fight his battles. And, as a parent, be his safety net. Rest, let destiny unravel the wonders J”
So, dear guilty mother, take a chill pill! Relax……Being a mother is incomplete without the “good mommy, bad mommy” factor!
As for the wound, both the son and I know, will heal. Therefore, situational awareness will be my next subject of learning that I shall be imparting to my son.
So stay tuned, peeps! 😀
P.S: For reading The Guilty Mother ~ Part 1, click here. 🙂