Here’s a scenario: Someone posted up a photo of her kids hugging each other and grinning at the camera. You thought, “Well, they get along very well.”
Here’s another: Someone storied about her day as a stay-at-home mom to a few kids. You thought, “Wow, how did she do it? She must be a supermom! Her life and children are perfect!”
And here’s the ugly truth: Behind these rosily depicted words and images, there could also be tears, tantrums and frustrations. Screaming, threatening and possibly corporal punishment too. Not to forget the guilt and emotional breakdown the mom went through, and endless moments of “Where did I go wrong?” and “How do I get this right?”
Confession: That’s my real, day-to-day life. What I haven’t been telling you is, I’m nowhere near the kind of mom I’ve always envisioned myself to be – calm, firm and loving. A mother who walks the talk and cultivates good values on her kids by being the role model herself. A mother who plants seeds of love and wisdom so much so her kids grow up to be greatly independent that they will no longer need her one day, but want her.
Pregnancy and giving birth are easy. Raising them is relatively a walk in the park too – once you get the hang of it. The challenge is imparting proper, life-long values to them: what’s acceptable, what’s not. What’s right, what’s wrong.
Behind the scene
I won’t pretend that everything’s okay when they are not. I won’t try to hide what happened behind the scene. This is my dirty secret:
Things have been a lot harder with E since Xan came along. Siblings jealousy and rivalry. The first two months were manageable. Then it started dwindling when people began to pay attention to his baby sister only. Now, don’t come asking me if I have tried this and that because we have done everything needed to prepare him for the presence of another family member. Believe me, we have.
It got worse when he stayed home with me 24/7 during the two-month summer break. One’s a tormenter, another’s a crier. I screamed, blackmailed and threatened. Gave him time-outs. Put him in a self-reflection corner. Let him have a taste of his own medicine. I let my emotions got the better of me. On days when exhaustion took over my reasoning abilities, I hit. Yes, I spanked. Then I apologised, promised him that I won’t do it again and spent the next few days soaking in guilt and misery. I questioned myself repeatedly, what are the messages I’m sending across to him AND her? That it’s okay to scream when we are angry? That hitting is the way to solve a problem? That big people can bully small people?
Monkey see, monkey do. It doesn’t help when my mind kept haunting me with thoughts that Xan is watching my behaviour, will imitate me and do the same to her brother or other people when she’s older.
Then it happened again. And again. And again. It’s a horrible, terrible, vicious cycle.
The emotional roller coaster took a toll on me. I disliked my reflection; doubted myself all the time. I searched everywhere for the wisdom in patience and empathy. Then it dawned upon me – my kids are reliving my childhood.
Enough is enough
No doubt I grew up to be okay despite the constant belittling and beating, but I feel that things could have been a lot better (and maybe different) if my parents were to raise us a little less conventionally. Don’t get me wrong, I love my parents and will be forever grateful to them for all they have given me. It’s just that how things were done back then cannot necessarily be applied on children these days anymore. Things have changed. That’s a fact we have to accept.
To err is human, to forgive is divine. He’s the divine, I’m the err. Despite the number of squabbles we have had – no matter how ugly they got – he has always forgiven me with an open arms within minutes. I wished I could be a bigger person like him.
Negotiating, persuading, encouraging, motivating and rewarding don’t work. Screaming, humiliating, punishing and hitting obviously don’t work too. Separating them is not a permanent solution too; they’re siblings for God’s sake! They need to learn how to share their parents and possessions and live together harmoniously. They need someone to guide them. That will be ME. And that ME needs to take charge and learn from someone else if all of the above have been tried, tested and proved unsuccessful.
This long confession is the reason why I will be going for a four-week parenting course named Toddlercalm soon. A new parenting approach founded in 2012, it is apparently not the ordinary toddler-taming approaches used by Supernanny, Dr Sears, Gina Ford and the likes of them. Feedback from parents who have attended the course has been positive and encouraging, with many of them citing that the method is gentle, eye-opening and most importantly, works. No harm trying, right? Only thing is, I feel they should change the name to Mothercalm instead. Calm the mother, not the toddler.
I need to change, I want to improve. It is with hope that I will be enlightened and emerge a better person, mother and wife after this. Wish me luck!
P/S: If time permits, I may be sharing what I have learned in IATH. If you are keen to know, motivate me by dropping me a comment 😉