I was once childless too you know. Childless and delusional.
I write this letter to myself, childless, aged 20. If however, the shoe fits, feel free to put it on and shove it somewhere nice and dark. With love of course.
Get off your high horse and seriously…shut up! What do you know? What have you lived? Where do you get your ideas? All the comments that you mumble around mums and their ‘misbehaving’ kids that you say just loud enough that they might (hopefully) hear – all the looks and sneers and judgements about parenting and how it should be done and how they should behave and what they need to be doing – shut up, just shut up. You know nothing.
I understand that you are filled with ideals and fantasies about how you will be different, better.
I understand that what you spout and speak is not so much about what you feel to be true, as reverberated vomit that your parents and society has taught you.
“make them know who is boss, control them, smack the little shits, give them a good hiding, ignore them, shut them up…”
I understand that they sound powerful, definitive, that it seems like the formula for well-behaved kids. I get that logic appears to have a place in the whole child rearing behavioral chaos. I understand you have no sound knowledge, that you are retelling things you have heard, things I know that were said and done to you.
I know what you think – “kids are a pain – what’s wrong with that parent? If that was my kid…” You’ve said them all. And Ive heard them all.
But you are wrong.
It’s tough being an ignorant observer. And I use the term ignorant in its true sense. You don’t think about what’s best for a child, you think about what’s best for you. You don’t consider the effects your actions and words and looks have on a child – or a mother – you think its clever to remark in some witty and disrespectful retort. You judge. You are mean.
Well, grow up. Think about someone other than yourself for a moment. Think about your words and actions – how much of it is more about your feelings of lack of control, your need to be recognised, your limitations? How much of it is about a power struggle? Your need to win? Your selfish ego driven wants? We both know the answers.
So.. a few things…
DEVELOPMENTAL STAGES. Look them up. Seriously.
You appear bold, strong, decisive. Be mindful of your careless words and un thought-out opinions…they may influence others. And this harshness you possess..this wall, this hard exterior – have you thought about why you have built that wall? Have you wondered about why you need it? When did you build it? And why? I know the answers of course. Trust me when I say that those walls, once built, are hard to tear down.
I also know how much it hurt you when you were ignored, when you were not listened to and when you were spanked or sent away. I remember your yearning for compassion and gentle words and a hug. I remember you had no control over your emotions, you were so so sensitive and were hurt so easily. I remember you just wanted somebody to see that. Anybody. ANYBODY. I remember you swearing to be different, to do things with love and kindness. I remember you feeling empty when you weren’t given any credit for having real emotions, real feelings, real thoughts or problems. I remember how much the shrugging off and “she is just a kid” attitude hurt you. How the looks of disapproval broke your heart. I remember all the tears.
And Tiff, I know that those scars have not healed. I know that in the future you search and long to be understood. To be loved just as you are. I know the pain of those early years is raw. Red raw and bleeding. I know that those early words and attitudes have formed your feelings of self worth today; your insecurities and doubts, your emotional disarray. I know that these are not new – I know that there was not a cut off date from child to adult – that those feelings are still there and still need attention and love. They need kindness and exception and to be heard.
Tiff, you are 20, you are childless, please…stop talking. Until you have walked in the shoes of each parent, their past and their present, until you have had a child cry and flail about and look at you broken and muddled with tears streaming down their face…until you have held a child in your arms and known the trust and comfort they seek from only you, you know nothing of how to respond. You know nothing of love and what it means. Until you watch your child hit themselves and rage uncontrollably, completely unaware of how to handle their emotions, their pain, their fears, their frustrations, you know nothing of empathy.
Tiff, today you are a psychology student – you know the research. You know the effects of violence, you know the harm of anger and isolation.
And so Tiff, I ask you, please, be kind. Kindness is what children need. It’s what we all need.
Be strong, be powerful, be gentle. Instil discipline and boundaries and rules, of course. Be firm, be the parent. Learn how this can be done without threats and fear. Know when to bend, when to sway and know what real power is – what real strength is. Don’t cower in the face of objectors, of criticism, dont let the masses guide you. Don’t listen to those who speak of anything but kindness. They only share what they have known, what they ‘think’, and perhaps that is a sad thing. Listen to your heart, trust love. Trust the power of kindness and patience. Move through your bad days with acceptance and an attitude of learning. Show yourself a little love and understanding.
Prevent the walls.
Tiff – the motherhood journey is tough. Please, cut us some slack. We are really really trying.
Kids don’t aim to disrupt your dinner, they don’t scream in the coffee shop just so you can’t hear your friend. They don’t mean to ruin your holidays. It’s not that they don’t want you to do, watch, say whatever you feel like, whenever you feel like it – God knows we miss that. It’s not about you – and that’s the thing.
Sometimes, it just needs to be about them. Not always, but sometimes. And it’s usually when they appear to deserve it the least. Remember?