For the longest time that I can remember, while I was childless, my interaction with children was transactional. I’ve always had a problem showing my emotions and when it came to children, I froze! I couldn’t simply greet them with a hug or pick them up in my arms or plonk myself on the floor to play with them. I never spoke gibberish nor did I do baby talk. Now that I think about it, I believe I’ve always dealt with children like mini adults!
So many people (within my friends and family circle) subtly expressed their doubts about my capability to be a mother when they heard I was pregnant. Honestly, I did too. This was going to be my child, my flesh and blood and I had no idea how I would manage. From worrying about a late pregnancy, to being physically strong and eating right, I additionally began worrying about my performance as a mother. Then a close friend said, ‘why are you worrying? You’re a good person, caring and loving in your own way. You are who you are. Don’t think about how to change yourself. Your child will know you as the mother and that is all that will matter. You will be a good mother.’
His words did put my mind to rest and of course, immediately after the birth of my daughter I completely forgot about this. I was busy taking care of a helpless bundle who only cried, fed, peed and pooped and slept! For the next two years all I did was survive motherhood with absolutely no time to intellectualise the issue.
Then one day, while I was having an animated conversation (read with a lot of screaming and shouting) with my daughter, my husband got really upset. He reminded me that I was dealing with a child and not a peer or contemporary so I had to tone down what I was trying to say. I looked at him and then at her – there sitting on the floor was my daughter, with her legs stretched apart, hands folded across her tiny chest, her eyebrows furrowed and just a single droplet of tear almost on the verge of falling from one of her eye – staring right back at me. That I believe was the classic stance of a temper tantrum but she looked so adorably cute that I burst out laughing. I scooped her up and hugged her tight. Surprisingly, her face broke into a smile and she began to laugh too!
It was at this time, that I remembered the conversation with my friend. I remembered his words. It stung me that I had been dealing with my child too like a ‘mini adult’ while she was still just a baby. I was her mother and although I knew I was a good mother, was I really the ‘right’ mother for her? I felt miserable.
I beat up myself for a while and then recalled his words again. This time they slowly started to make sense. ‘I was who I am,’ did I really want to change myself? Perhaps I was trying too hard to do just that and the ensuing frustration was making matters worse. I had reached a deadlock. If I kept trying to change myself for her, then for how long would I be successful? Who would help me take a step back and start afresh, every time my natural self-resurfaced? No, I simply had to work with the person that I already was.
Since then I’ve been on this quest for balance – between being the person that I am and trying to connect with my daughter using my logical reasoning but explaining that logic to her in words that she understands. I don’t talk gibberish and although I love listening to her baby talk, I don’t encourage her by talking back to her the same way. I really enjoy conversing with her and sometimes need every ounce of my sense of humour (read patience) to get me through her quintessential ‘whys’. To me connect through conversation is important. I can’t deal with crying just to be heard.
Of course, sometimes I fail miserably – i.e., I become an adult interacting with a mini adult while at other times I surprise myself. I’m not sure I’ll ever be able to strike the right balance. All I do know is that I won’t stop trying.
And the one thing I believe will get us through being the mother & daughter duo that we’re meant to be is that when it comes to her, displaying my emotions freely comes naturally.
(Mini Adult was first published on World of Moms on July 22, 2015)