When I first read Nick Vujicic's Stand Strong - which is a book that teaches you how to overcome bullying - I didn't expect that I would learn a tip or two about parenting too (by the way, Nick and Kanae are expecting their second child, yayyy and congrats!). There was this section that struck a chord deep in my heart and I pondered over it for a long, long time.
Did you know? There is this thing called The Space - space not as in an empty room or outer space, but the space between feeling and acting.
As a mum, there are many times that I regret over the things I said or did, usually in a spur of the moment because I just couldn't seem to contain my frustration, sadness or anger. I keep telling myself that I won't do it the next time and I will be more patient, but the time comes, it's hard not to lash out at all unless I bite my tongue.
Not surprisingly to say, at this stage where I have a 5-year-old and a 2-year-old, the big girl gets more of the blame and has to suffer more scoldings from Mama.
"Why are you eating your breakfast so slowly? I'll tell teacher that you don't want to go to school."
"Come! Come! COME! How many times do I have to ask you to come before you do so? What's wrong with you?"
"You are so big already and you still want to sit on the stroller. Can't you just let meimei have it and walk with me?"
"I'll count to three and if you don't do it, I will punish you."
"You all wanna snatch over the toy when Mummy cooks, is it? Right, give it to me. NOBODY gets to play with it anymore."
"You are not a good girl tonight. So two bedtime stories for you instead of three."
"If the first thing you come home from school is to disobey me, then I might as well leave you in school longer."
"Why didn't you set up the table? I told you I am going to serve dinner already, right? Why can't you all do something to help Mama? Can't you see that I am very exhausted from a whole day of chores blah blah blah..."
"If meimei fall, it's your fault. If the ants come, it's your fault. If the toy breaks, it's your fault. If we don't get to go out, it's your fault. If we cancel the holiday, it's your fault. If it's not your fault, it's still partly your fault....."
"You must do it. You should do it. You need to do it. Don't ask why why why so many times. Because Mama says so, so DO it!"
Gosh, I can come up with many more things that I had said which made me feel guilty after. Seriously, what was I thinking? Or if I was even thinking? I always tell myself not to resort to threats but you know, there is a grey area between threats and consequences and at times I just give myself the excuse that no, I'm not threatening them, I'm just making them pay for their actions. As for the times that I pinch or smack the kids, even if I don't cane them, those are moments that I am not proud of and I'm not even going to go there.
Did I need to do all that? Was the shouting, screaming, crying, beating, punishing all called for? Do they really deserve this? Is this the best way to teach right from wrong?
Is this the kind of mother I want to be?
Sometimes, I shake my head and tell myself I'm a bad, bad mum. Sometimes, I keep thinking about the things that have happened, the words that have been exchanged, the tears that have flowed and I find it hard to go to sleep. Sometimes, I take a longer bath because I am hoping that the hot rain shower can clear my head and wash away the melancholy. I try to console myself that for all the wrong and bad things I did, there are still many other 'good' things I accomplished and so I can't be that bad at this stay-at-home mum business. Eventually, the whole cycle repeats itself. Again and again. And it's hard not to doubt myself sometimes. Is it just me or does anyone feel it too? I suppose this is all part of motherhood but then again, is it really?
So for now, whenever something bad happens on a typical day of parenthood, I am going to step into the space and ask myself:
- Why am I angry?
- Is lashing out the best response? Will it help more or hurt more?
- What are my alternatives?
- What can I say or do to make things better?
- What can I say or do that will be beneficial to us in the long term?
I am going to remember to calm down, breathe and think before I react. A life of no regrets - that is a dream I am going to work harder towards. It is through all the tough moments that we learn to be better parents and embrace the joy of this journey, don't you think so?