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When we see our kids fall, we rush to soothe them. A bruised knee warrants tender care and comforting. An altercation on the playground brings out the mama bear in us and we swing into action to set things right. A task done contrary to our expectations gnaws at that perfectionist within and at some point we realise that it’s time to let go of the inner control freak.
Gy has always been a dreamer of sorts. She is the kind who will stop and stare at an ant because it looks tired. Her footsteps will slow down to delightedly watch a kitten chase an imaginary string or gently lift a flower that has fallen off the plant but is still fresh enough to last another day in a vase at home.
Contrast this with me, who’s always been a bit of a stickler for duties and tasks. I can enjoy the sunset, gaze at a flower, relish the stillness all around, but only when I am done with my tasks for the day. It’s not the ideal way to live, I know, and there are moments when I chuck everything into the air, forget my chores and just spend my evenings doing nothing at all, savouring it with every breath of my being.
So, it’s natural to understand why Gy and I would be at loggerheads when it comes to things to do around the house. It’s a constant battle of wills where I want the task done ‘right now’ versus her promise to do it ‘in five minutes’. It’s a different matter that her definition of five minutes is vastly different from mine.
After a long time of snapping at her for not doing things the way I wanted, it was time for me to exercise the simple power of one word. It was ‘Yes’. It took effort and I tried not to limit her by constantly saying ‘No’. For a long time, that worked. But, if parenting has taught me anything, it is that nothing is constant. Our children change, ever so slowly and perceptibly. What worked for me a year ago won’t work anymore.
Today, I cannot expect that even one day will the be the same as the next. As she inches closer to nine years of age, I realise that a young woman is growing right under my nose, one with feelings, decision-making power, partial control of her emotions and the ability to discern good from bad. She chooses to do what she can, when she can.
This last weekend was busy with so many tasks. In the midst of it all, I’d meant to clean her room, since repeated instructions to her seemed to be falling on deaf ears. Before I could get around to it, she came to me yesterday, sat by my side and said, ‘You know, I think I need to do something every week. It’s time I started cleaning my books, toys and clothes which are all over my room. I don’t get time during the week, but if I make some time on Sunday morning, I’m sure I can finish it in half an hour. What do you think?’
What did I think? My heart was doing the back flip in a complicated acrobatic sequence! Instead, I smiled and agreed. In fact, I offered to help her, but she brushed it aside, saying, ‘You have enough work as it is.’ And that was that. No instructions. No threats. No deadlines.
Doing something because your inner voice tells you it is time, is infinitely preferable to anything else.
After a rather tiring afternoon, as I headed out to the supermarket, she accompanied me saying, ‘I need to do something.’ As we walked to the store, she found a secluded park bench, perched herself on it cross-legged and said, ‘I am going to sit here and meditate in the midst of Nature. Can you pick me up on the way back?’
It was at once beautiful and inspiring to see a child take charge of herself and nudge me towards my own inner peace. Tomorrow, I’ll probably lapse into that control freak of a mom who wants that plate cleared away in the next three minutes, but for today, let me remember this lesson from a person who is younger than me in age and infinitely older than me in wisdom, maturity and self- acceptance.
May that always be the case.