You’ve become kinder now, you know?
In an almost matter-of-fact way, tossing it into the conversation right between an anecdote from school and how she really disliked onions in her food, Gy made this statement yesterday. I was standing in the kitchen, washing up the dinner dishes and I paused and turned to look at her, with a sense of curiosity.
At that moment, a veritable mixture of emotions flooded my mind:
I have become kinder? What does that mean? Wasn’t I kind enough before? And what does she mean now? Does she mean this moment, this very instant or is she referring to the present, ongoing state?
Yes, as you can tell, I tend to analyse everything. Blame it on the psyche. As far back as I can recall, it’s always been a trait of mine- good or bad, you get to decide.
So I decided to suspend the train of thought and actually ask her what she meant. Staring into space, she said, ‘I don’t know. I guess you just learnt to be nicer to me, after I’ve been doing things right for the last two weeks.’
Simultaneously, I felt gut-punched. One feeling was overwhelming gladness that she felt I was kind. The other feeling was incredible sadness that she’d felt I had been obviously unkind less than a fortnight ago and that it was the change in her behaviour that had made me kinder.
In truth, though, it wasn’t she who’d changed. It was I.
If you recall, my mother of all meltdowns happened around then and it also shook me up to make some resolutions for my own sanity as well as for my parenting benefit. What helped me was the acknowledgement that time spent with my daughter wasn’t nearly as enough as I would like it to be. And so, I made a LIST. Here’s what it involved:
When Gy comes home from school, I make it a point now to listen to her babble, her chatter which is often meaningless, meandering and has more non sequitur statements than a political address. But I have chosen to turn off that logical part of my brain and revel in the wonder that she shares with me every single day.
Do you know the complete pleasure you get when you lose yourself in a task? Parenting is also like that. The problem is our minds are constantly multi-tasking, wondering about the undone assignments or the next class that they have to run to or the project that’s due the following week and we forget to lose ourselves in the present moment. So now, I lose myself in Gy. I get totally involved- in her bubbly enthusiasm, her wide-eyed wonder, her helpless giggles as she tells me the ‘joke’ she heard in school- a joke so funny she can’t finish telling me about it without dissolving in peals of laughter.
So simple, and yet so very hard to practise. Do you sit with your child for at least half an hour each day? Whether it is with them while they eat or by their side when they are doing an assignment or just cozying up on the couch, each reading a book? Chances are we are each of us self-involved- the parent with the devices or their books or their accounts and the child in her shell of quietude. Don’t get me wrong. Kids need that quiet time, but they need some part of our day that is spent on them. Completely and wholly.
We are the human race. We thrive on interaction- visual, verbal, social, animated discourse. Who better to teach us that innate wonder than our kids? She is entering the pre-teen phase, which means she is at the threshold of life where she may soon stop talking altogether about her fancies and the things that make her smile. Awkwardness will set in and I will lose her to the mysterious secrets between friends and adolescent aggression. So, I talk now, a lot more with Gy than I used to. And I love it.
Perhaps this has all helped me become kinder. Perhaps.
Or maybe it is just the universe’s way of letting me know that the kindness always existed within me. It just remained hidden under the layers of being busy, distracted and unavailable.