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     Volume 7 Issue 25 | June 20, 2008 |

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Straight Talk

A Never Ending Learning Experience

Nadia Kabir Barb

It's not fair! How come he can use the bus by himself and he's only 12. I had to wait till I was almost 14!” This little outburst from my eldest daughter really put me in a spot. She was absolutely right --- I had somehow erred in my judgement and discriminated between my children based on their gender. As a parent you evaluate a situation and do what you think is right but that does not mean you always are. Despite the fact that there are so many reasons for not wanting my daughter to travel on her own, I found myself feeling like a bit of a traitor for having double standards when it came to my son. Thankfully my daughter quite graciously acknowledged that this was truly an aberration to my general sense of equality and fair play and I was therefore officially off the hook!

I really had no idea what I was getting into when I had not one or two but three kids! Parenthood is what I would call a gradual journey of self-discovery. Up until the moment you become a parent, we all perceive ourselves in a certain way. However, all that changes when you hold your baby in your arms for the first time. All your emotions seem to be amplified all of a sudden. You cannot imagine any parent loving their child as much as you do, you become empathic as it causes you pain when your child is suffering and derive immense pleasure in their happiness. Then again we can at times be overprotective, have a tendency to mollycoddle and be overambitious for our children. Any balance we achieve between adult and parental identities, between children's and our own needs, works only for a time. Each child is different, every situation or scenario needs to be handled differently and when you think you have got it figured out, something new happens to throw you out of sync. It's just a different ballgame every single time. So we are always in the process of learning to be parents.

There are times when you are confronted by circumstances that show you a totally different side to your own personality. For example, I remember when we were young, going for sleepovers at friend's houses was generally not allowed. We could go over and play for a couple of hours but had to be back at a specified time. These days, my children have friends staying at our place on a regular basis. Times have changed and play dates and sleepovers are no big deal any more. What surprises me is that I find it far more preferable to have the kids staying at our place with their friends rather than them going somewhere for a sleepover. I would never have guessed that I would be so conservative when it came to my children. But you learn to see yourself in a different light once you enter the ranks of parenthood. It can be quite a revelation when you realise that there is a whole side to you that even you were not aware of. Life is full of surprises and children are the biggest surprise of them all. They don't come with a manual and you just have to take each day and each experience as it comes. Whatever it is, it is never dull and you can be guaranteed a rollercoaster ride which can be exhilarating and terrifying all at the same time.

One mistake most parents make is assuming their children will be a mirror image of themselves and are astonished when their offspring express an opinion not in keeping with theirs or behave in a fashion which seems inexplicable to them. I think it is very easy to forget that although they are our children, they are first and foremost --- individuals. If you think back to when we were growing up, especially when we were chided for some misdemeanour or been told that we were not allowed to go somewhere or do something our heart was particularly set on, most of us can recollect how frustrating and infuriating it felt at the time. It appeared as if our parents were being unduly unreasonable. I am sure that most of us at some point or the other vowed not to do the same thing when we had children of our own and to try to be liberal, lenient and understanding. However, those childish ideals are challenged with the reality of a situation when we find ourselves all grown up and responsible for the wellbeing of our children. Our reactions can be far removed from the visions we had of ourselves all those years ago. I know for a fact that when I am dealing with my children I often find myself repeating almost verbatim things my mother had said to me or advice she felt necessary to impart to my brother or myself while we were growing up.

Just the other day I caught myself saying to my children, “just wait till you become parents --- then you'll understand...” something my mother used to say and the funny thing is I do understand now that I am a mother myself. Becoming a parent seems to enable you to understand your own parents and suddenly you find yourself identifying with them. You can imagine the anxiety, heartache and sleepless nights they must have experienced wondering whether they were doing the right thing, making the right decisions. It somehow gives you an insight into what their thought process might have been whether or not you agree with their decisions. The answer to perfect parenting will always remain a mystery but along the way we may hope to discover a little more about ourselves...

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