From the Editor’s desk: Your kids can take care of you if you let them

My kids came back home after visiting their dad in the summer after three months. Yep, they were gone three whole months because their summer holiday extended extra this year. I was overjoyed to have them back; just like they were to be back with me. This holiday is when I realised that you could be the most doting father, the most indulgent grandparents, but the depth and comfort that your kids share with you as their mother is entirely and completely something else. My kids are (recently) 9 and an almost 8, and are still convinced that if I kiss their booboos it automatically hurts less. I don’t know if that’s a good thing but it’s an instant way to soothe them and make them feel better.

This Wednesday was when school reopened. And as usual, we were up at the crack of dawn so that things go smoothly and there’s no yelling or shouting to get going and OH MY GOD PUT YOUR SHOES ON WHY ARE YOU READING A COMIC. This entire summer, I told myself I wouldn’t be the angry mummy in the morning. That I would breathe deep and see that they are little kids, and need love and gentle attention. Day one went smooth but I realised it wasn’t because of me. It was because the kids didn’t have to be told anything twice. They woke up at once, got bathed, dressed, fed and out the door all without my having to repeat instructions six million times. We got to the bus stop and I hear my son tell my daughter, “85 percent mission accomplished.” They high-fived each other. I asked them what this was about. My son, the younger one, pipes up saying, “We decided we wouldn’t give you any stress any more. I see how much you do every morning from the time you wake up to the time you put us to bed. And I know us not listening to you gives you stress. I don’t want that. I want to do everything so that you are calm and not stressed in the morning and after we come back.” I was in tears and gave them sloppy hugs while we waited for the bus. In her usual laconic way, my daughter says, “Are we making you cry? Then we’ll stop talking about this.”

There were many thoughts that were going through my mind due to this incident. First, how immensely touching a parent-child relationship is and how invariably, a parent is seen as someone caring and concerned, when actually, in my experience, it is entirely a two-way street. Children care just as much about their parents as grown ups about their kids. They just have different ways of showing, fewer ways even. Second, is it fair that a seven-year-old be so concerned about an adult’s stress levels that he take it on himself to manage it? All of what my son said is true. I tend to stress a lot, and I tend to get tired a lot. My day is tightly packed, and I can’t let the schedule alter even by five minutes, because then the entire day falls apart. And doing this as a single parent is furthermore taxing. But to have a child recognise this and act on it speaks to me of a) how completely unchecked I am as an adult and b) how sensitive my kids are to my well-being. While I am deeply touched by what happened, I am also worried that a 7-year-old taking on the responsibility of an adult might be damaging in the long run. Where’s the room, I ask myself, for my little one to be a kid and be all that he wants to be and is meant to be?

When I caught myself going down that rabbit hole, I realised it was the old mother’s guilt that was coming into play again. Why couldn’t I enjoy my son’s caring without the guilt of being a  mother? Why couldn’t I just bask in the expression of love my kids were showing me? Lord knows there’s no other man who says, “Let me take care of you” to me :) And this is the thing I want to talk about today. The fact that we should be free to parent and enjoy the fruit of our parenting -- namely the kids, but sometimes, their behaviour -- without guilt. Why should we be the ones giving all the time? Why should we be the ones making others comfortable always? Why can’t we sit back and take love and care and indulgence from wherever it comes from -- be that an adult or a child? Where does mother’s guilt start? Why do we feel guilty to be loved? Why can we never take a compliment and tell ourselves this is true, I am a good mother and I deserve the love and care of my child.

Half the year is done, my lovelies, and it’s  not too late. I ask you now to remind yourself that every time there’s an expression of love and care from unexpected quarters, it’s okay to accept it. That every time your child does something like this, I ask you to give yourself a little credit, because it is you who has taught them love, care and concern. I ask you to reward yourself with a compliment, a new outfit, a good book, or an exercise class that you’ve  been wanting to take when your children make you proud. Because they are doing a good job of being your children, in spite of themselves, in spite of you.

Until next week.