When our kids rewrite the parenting rule book

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Sabrina Almeida

Twenty-five years ago, I was very clear about my approach to parenting. I was going to be a Tiger Mom and take no nonsense!!! It’s the way I was raised… or at least that’s how I saw it. Of course, I was childless then (and my mum chose to let me learn the hard way) or I would have known that when it comes to kids nothing is written in stone.

Now, two decades and a half later, I have a very different perspective on child rearing. Life has taught me that children aren’t likely to follow any blueprint one might have created. They’re not lumps of playdough but feisty little individuals who will probably bend you to their will rather than the other way around.

I never compromised on my core values but had to strategize, persuade even resort to mild deception at times to achieve my goals. A wise friend once said all relationships, even those between a parent and child, are negotiations. Deft marketing is required to get what you want. It’s what I try to tell first-time parents who often start out being as delusional as I was.

Discipline and healthy eating are top priorities for most of us. Unfortunately, these are also the two areas where we are most likely to eat humble pie. My boys have never been ‘trouble’ in that sense but the first was a naughty toddler and the second stubborn. So, I rarely got them to do anything without a hundred question, but they never crossed the line.

Major portions of the parenting rule book also had to be rewritten when the younger one arrived. As a result, my first born complains that we were too hard on him. I prefer to think experience made me more flexible and taught me to pick my battles the second time round. Most friends with two kids will say the same. In fact, some have admitted to giving in completely.

Mealtimes were always challenging with my second seeing them as a chore he preferred to avoid. My rules about eating what you were served and not wasting food were quickly tossed out the window. He always brought back some of his lunch (sometimes the whole thing) which is why he can stay without eating till around 3 pm, the time school ended. Rarely did he finish everything on his plate. Being a small and picky eater, we also had to resort to smaller meals to keep him satiated. This was a vicious cycle as he filled up on snacks and avoided the main meals. But I guess something stuck because now almost 20, he announced his decision to reform his eating habits. On the flip side, years of living on his own has taken the older one in the opposite direction. During our frequent face offs on healthy eating, the boys and I joke about how they might have been switched in their teens.

Yet I must admit that I have learned as much from them as they from me (I hope). For one, being an only child, I didn’t understand the sibling dynamic. They also taught me that every day is a fresh start and mistakes are opportunities to learn. I learned to see the miracles in little things and experience their unconditional love. I understood that prejudices are learned. Kids are not racist or sexist, we influence their thinking. They trust us, we need to trust them!

My sons aren’t perfect but neither am I so we must accommodate each other’s differences. I’ve learned to listen quietly so I can see their point of view and not impose my will. After all they need my support and not criticism when faced with challenges. I’m proud that they can stand up to me. I won’t pretend I like it but I’m thankful they know what’s right.
And the big one—never to judge other parents because we all have unpredictable kids who have humbled us at sometime. -CINEWS

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