July 30, 2012
I have a daughter.
Actually, I have two daughters (and two sons). Both of my daughters are beautiful, funny, loving, caring, and both very smart. One is blonde with gorgeous blue eyes, and one is dark with the most amazing hazel eyes. One is tall like a ballerina, the other is short like a gymnast. One is 7 years old, and the other is 4 and a half. One is an obedient and responsible little girl, the other is a defiant daydreamer. And it’s the daydreamer that I am writing about today.
Saraya was born in Singapore. She was the baby that we tried hardest for. We lost 4 babies on the journey to holding her in our arms. She was so wanted. And from the moment she was born, she was perfect. She was the perfect baby I’d only ever heard about off other gloating friends. But as she headed into her Terrible Two’s, she became very difficult. Defiant, determined, daydreaming, and daring are words I could use to describe her. Challenging would sum her up totally. She had issues, and those issues were all because of me. I had gone from taking her everywhere to neglecting her when Patrick came along. And she took that badly. She started acting out and craving any sort of attention from me, even if it was negative. I really should have known better, I should have seen the signs earlier. Instead, I palmed her off to our maid (Maribel) and focused on her younger brother.
It wasn’t until we moved to Australia, and left Maribel behind to live her own life, that I realised Saraya had a few issues. I think the big eye-opener was when she sat in the middle of our living room on Christmas Day, surrounded by mountains of presents, and demanded to know why she didn’t have as many as her sister. As horrible as this sounds, that was the moment I realised she was in real danger of turning out like my ex-sister – a horrible, nasty, abusive, and terribly selfish person who grew up resenting everyone around her, and to this day is someone I do not like nor care for. That scared me, as there was no way I wanted to deal with a child/teenager like that.
It was then that I started consciously changing the way I dealt with her. I didn’t want to make the same mistakes my own mother made, even though she did her best, and I decided to try something different. So I started giving her lots more attention, lots of cuddles and kisses, and plenty of compliments. I tell her (and my other children) all the time how much I love her and how proud I am of her. This was something we rarely heard growing up, because my sister got jealous when my mother said things like that to us. In trying to please her “difficult” child, my own mother had to do things differently with the rest of us just so my sister wouldn’t go into one of her moods or throw a tantrum.
Now, I know that there is no user manual for parenthood, and that we all go into this using only the lessons we learn from our own childhood, and (sometimes ill-advised) tips or “memos” from others who have been-there-done-that. Upon realising I had a potential mini-nightmare brewing inside this little being, I looked back on my own sister’s upbringing and saw what went wrong, and I decided to do things differently. I don’t want her to turn out like the other sister I once had.
And so I wrote my own parent manual for Saraya, filled with love, kindness, understanding, tolerance, acceptance, pride, and encouragement. I try hard not to raise my voice as much, as that seems to upset her. When she throws a tantrum, I gather her in my arms and cuddle her and tell her how much I love her, instead of screaming at her and saying horrible things. If I upset her, I envelope her in a hug and apologise and smother her head with kisses, followed by playful tickling. I try to encourage my Saraya Grace, who will surely change the world with her creativity, to sing and draw and tell stories. And when she does something amazing, I praise her. As I do with all my children.
You see, each of my children are different. They may not all be as smart as each other or behave the same, they don’t look alike and their heights and weights vary, and they have wildly different talents and abilities. BUT they are all mine and they are all amazing in their own way. And it’s my job as their mum (and the best mum in the world, according to each of them) to ensure they get all the attention and support and encouragement they deserve. And they all deserve the same amount. There are no favourites in my family, each child is incredible and deserving in their own way. I will always love them, and I will never let them down. I will always be here for each of them, cheering them on from the sidelines as they navigate through this often difficult charade we call Life, and giving them support when they need it. Because that’s what parents are supposed to do. My love for my children is unconditional, but their love for me is dependant on me being the best parent I can be. It’s my job not to let them down, especially when they need me the most. And that doesn’t stop when they become adults.