Friday, June 09, 2006

Loving Your Children While Leaning On Waheguru!

One cold Thursday afternoon, I rushed in the Child Care Centre after doing two hours of errands holding ~3 month old baby Harjap to pick up my two-year-old Sukhmani.

"Your daughter pulled hair of one of the children," the teacher said, and gave me-and my little toddler-a disapproving stare, as if somehow perhaps I had something to do with this bad behavior, and that it would surely lead to a life of crime.

"I am so sorry," I said, taking Sukhmani's little hand and gathering her diaper bag and jacket to leave. I felt terrible about her pulling that child's hair, but they'd already left so I couldn't apologize to his mom.

This was my middle child. She was usually so good. Such a happy toddler that since she was born people in grocery stores often stopped us to say what a good baby she was! Neighbors were warmed by her smile.

While this wasn't the only time one of my children exhibited less- than-perfect behavior, it did teach me a good lesson (one which I had numerous other opportunities to practice as my three kids progressed through childhood and I witnessed some occasionally rough waters of adolescence of my nieces and nephews)-never be too smug. Why? Because we all make mistakes. Because Waheguru loves a humble heart. And because the truth is, we never know what our precious little child or teenager is going to do next. While we can take our kids to Gurdwara and do everything possible, we can't always keep our teen from rebelling or making a failing grade or bad decision. While we can teach good manners and encourage sharing and kindness, we can't control their behavior or make them do the right thing.

Now in the case of my toddler's pulling hair blunder, I don't know what sparked it. But I was rehearsing possible reasons as I stumbled out that childcare door to my car, like--it's her first time at this childcare; she didn't know any of the kids; maybe got tired of being pushed around by the bigger kids since she's quiet and mild-mannered. She had communication problem as she could only speak Punjabi at that time. However, my usually cooperative, good-natured Sukhmani might have just been having a bad day. Of course, I scolded her and explained she wasn't to pull hair of anyone, and fortunately it was an isolated case, not the beginning of a pattern of hostile behavior!

But the truth is, as moms we must never be too smug. Webster's Dictionary defines "smug" as highly self-satisfied, complacent, and scrupulously correct.

How do you know you've gotten smug about your mothering? Here are some tell-tale clues:
-Critical thoughts creep into your mind when you see other less- than-perfect kids. Another mom's kids at the grocery store are begging for something, wailing, making a scene, she's embarrassed and dropping things and finally yells at the children and you think, "That'll never happen to me. My kids would never do that."

-There's no room for improvement, new ideas or advice from someone else. For example, if you think you've got the corner on great parenting because you home school (or have chosen private schooling) and feel everybody else is wrong who has their kids in public schools and think that if only they'd do it like you do all the problems in our country would be solved;

-if you have followed some parenting formula that worked for you and don't value other parenting styles; if you change the subject or tune out if your older mother-in-law starts sharing her experience with you-you may be becoming a little smug.

I have learnt that when we lose our ability to learn from other’s experience, we are missing out on some wisdom Waheguru may have for us that we are going to need on the journey ahead.

If you feel some smugness has crept into your attitude or if you want to avoid it, here are some tips:
Walk in humility and gratefulness, no matter how well your kids behave, how high their grades are, or how fast their spiritual growth is progressing. And besides, if our kids are doing great at the moment (or turn out great in the end) it's more about Waheguru's grace than our expert parenting skills. Thank Him!

Value and respect other ways of mothering, schooling, and operating as a family-especially if it's different than your way of doing things.

Be compassionate instead of judgmental. Do an ardaas for that mom in the grocery store whose kids are going ballistic. Instead of judging the broken-hearted mother whose teen is more interested in partying and alcohol than youth group, put an arm around her and pray with her for her son or daughter.

Avoid "if-then" thinking. If I raise my children according to Guru's teachings, if I always take them to Gurdwara, don't allow them to (you name it), if I require them to go to Sikh camp every summer, then they will turn out exactly the way I planned them to turn out. I hope they turn out wonderfully well, but all our kids have free choice and "if-then" thinking can set you up for disappointment.


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