Editorial: I am looking for the perfect parent, because it sure ain’t me

For entertainment, every now and then I get on Daily Mail for some entertainment. This week, I read this piece on parents who reveal the traits that their kids inherited but wished they hadn’t. From bad ears to tempers, everything was on the list. Coincidentally, earlier this week among colleagues, we had a similar conversation. Some of us proudly declaring how our kids were exactly like us when it came to food habits (unfussy, grateful, healthy eater) and how they were exactly like our spouses when it came to temper (short, out of control). You can imagine how that conversation went. Everything that was neutral or good, we took credit for. The not so good? Of course, the spouse’s genes. And when we start to speak about genes, can we leave parents in law behind?

Soon the conversation turned to projecting into the future and many expressed hope that their kids would not turn out like their parents in law. “They are very sweet people, actually. But I hope (my kid) doesn’t turn out like that. It’s not the same thing you know?” This was in lighter vein for the most bit but these things come from a deeper place. A place of being threatened by the very people who are responsible for your child being there in the first place. (After all your parents in law did make your spouse.) I think about how I grew up hearing from my very irate mother how I shouldn’t  behave like my (paternal) aunt; how I shouldn’t be lacking in loving behaviour like her. It was enough to chastise me for a few weeks. I would recoil immediately and it would haunt me for days. As I grew up, any comparison to my aunt in any manner would torture me. And it was ironic because I resemble her in the way I look. So even the most innocuous comment about how I looked like her from someone who hadn’t seen me in a while would make me irate, irrationally defensive.

Some families, talk the same way about the parents, where one parent tells the child, “You’re movie-mad just like your mother,” in a derogatory way. Or mothers who tell their kids, “Don’t be careless like your father.” I myself have said it once to my kids and regretted it for years later, vowing never to say it ever again. Because I realised two things happen when you say something like that. 1. They get defensive about the person you are comparing them to, especially if the child loves that person, and in turn gets angry at you for seeing them negatively. 2. It ruins their own impression of who that person is, so in the future if they are ever compared to the father or the mother, it’s never a compliment. This is lasting damage that takes great amount of work to undo once you are an adult. If only we knew what damage our words did to our kids, perhaps we’d spend a lot more time reflecting than we would spend time saying pretty irrelevant things online. In relation to this, one of the most important studies in child psychology is the one that explores how kids acquire knowledge and retain information. A reading of this helps greatly when you talk and communicate to your kids.

This week we started out a  new column where we’d love to hear from you: little vignettes from your life with your child, observations and ideas that occur to you in your life as your mum. Write in to use with your observations and we would love to translate that into a drawing. I took a hand at drawing my own life with the kids here. Another important story this week was about the American Paediatricians Association’s new recommendations for screen time. They recommend absolutely no screen time for infants below 18. As for older kids, read more here.  Black Lace, this week, goes back to the age old question: Where did I come from, mamma?! And from my very limited parenting experience, I’ve realised that these are the only seven things you need to put into place in order to be a good enough parent. Because, honestly, a perfect parent is a myth. And finally, this very, very important piece about five things you need to protect your daughter from, and it includes compliments about the way she looks. Yep.

Till next week.