Some people say that motherhood gets easier as the years go by and the kids get bigger. I don't really believe in that because I think while soiled diapers, terrible twos, tantrums and backtalking might pass, the challenges that we face as parents just come in different shapes and forms when our young hit their adolescence or adulthood. While challenges might change over time, what remains is that as parents, we are trying our best to raise good, and happy, children.
I've been having some bad days with the big girl that left me in frustration, agony and guilt. Frustrated that we seem to keep going through the same cycle, agonised that she doesn't learn from her mistakes, guilty that I have to resort to shouts, screams and even threats.
To think of it, I'm not sure if my expectations of her have heightened because she is going to be the role model for her two younger siblings soon. I wonder if she sometimes regresses and acts like a small, whiny kid just to get my attention focused solely on her again. I keep telling myself to "take a deep breath", to "let it go" and chants "patience, patience" for the umpteenth time only to find myself being pushed to my limits and there we go again.
I get infuriated when she procrastinates and takes one hour in the morning just to get dressed and eat her breakfast, no matter how many times I nag at her. I refuse to help her pack her bag because she has to understand that we have no helper at home and the kids have to learn from young to be independent and pick up after themselves. In any case, she takes less than four minutes to pack her bag if she focuses. The issue we have is that she ends up getting distracted from the task at hand, for instance walking around when she should be eating, singing when she should brushing her teeth, playing hide and seek when she should be getting dressed, or simply just daydreaming when we are getting ready to head out. So many a time, we end up going to school when class has started even though we woke up way ahead of time. I start getting paranoid because this can't continue once she gets to primary school.
I get upset when she forgets her manners when we are out and fail to greet her elders or show respect to others. She has this tendency of being scared to answer questions or join in discussions, so at times, she will choose to give a blank look or simply look away when others talk to her. At first, I took things slowly because I wanted to help her build up her self-esteem and be more confident in talking to others. Over time, when things did not improve much, I started to chide her whenever she was being rude without being more considerate to her needs.
I get impatient when she can't answer a simple maths question that we have practised over and over again. For instance, she can forget that two fifty cents make up a dollar or she can say that 6 + 7 = 12. Is this acceptable for someone entering primary school in less than half a year's time? I seriously think she can do better and sometimes, I wonder if it was because I excelled in this subject back in school that I now hope my child can be as good as, if not better than, me.
I get mad when she gets into a bicker with her younger sister and tells her to give in so I can continue with the chores. I know she doesn't dare to hit the little one but I have caught her squeezing her arm or pulling her hair at times, and even if these actions don't end up causing any hurt, that is when she gets reproached by me. For the record, the little one has used Lego blocks and water bottles to hit the sister on the head but she doesn't seem to get a heavier punishment.
Obedient. Responsible. Well-mannered. Wise. Loving. Selfless. These are the values I've been trying to instill in a child but are they truly my own expectations of my child or am I simply trying to make her live up to societal expectations?
With all these thoughts running through my mind recently, I then came across this quote shared by a friend.
She runs with her might after the little sister to pull her back whenever she goes out of sight.
She willingly shares her last biscuit just so the sister, Daddy or I can have a bite too.
She is the first to wake up on some weekend mornings and will do her own drawing or colouring instead of trying to wake the whole household.
She helps to fold and keep the laundry and always puts her plate into the sink after a meal.
She loves to read and tries to pronounce the difficult words on her own during our bedtime reading sessions.
She takes care of the little sister during bath time so that I can have a rest and is learning to bathe her so that I can focus on taking care of the newborn next time.
She doesn't show off but instead helps her friends when they can't read or write a word, according to her teachers.
She can be stubborn but to see it from another perspective, she is a determined girl who tries to overcome hurdles and doesn't give up easily.
She listens to me when we are out and makes sure we all stay close together so no one gets separated.
She never complains about the food I cook no matter how bland or boring it is, instead she says "Mummy, thank you for cooking for me".
She is an avid learner who doesn't shun away but is usually enthusiastic when I ask her to practise her spelling or do her homework.
She likes to make cards and will draw a happy family with words like "Mummy Daddy I love you" or "I love my family."
She helps me to carry the groceries when we go shopping at the supermarket and always carries her own backpack when we go to and come back from school.
She likes books, toys and holidays but doesn't desire for more tangibles than what she already has because she knows that contentment is bliss.
She hugs, kisses and greets me every night before she sleeps and never fails to say "Good night, meimei" and even "Good night, baby" nowadays.
These are just over a dozen of the many things she does that bring a smile on my face every time. How could I, just how could I, have been so blind to forget and fail to see all the goodness she already has in her?
No one is perfect, and no child is perfect too. Instead of trying hard to rectify her mistakes or in a sense 'fix' her, I should focus more on nurturing her strengths and letting her bloom. As a mum, instead of finding faults, I need to learn to praise more and pinpoint less; to applaud more and accuse less, to love more and lambast less. I must also remind myself to have patience, be empathetic and be encouraging.
While she needs to know that she has room to improve in some areas, she also must be aware that there is absolutely nothing wrong with her, that she is a great daughter and sister to have, and that every one of us, not just her, should strive to become a better person.
And never, never will I become so concerned about raising a good child that I forget I already have one.