We might have heard of words of wisdom about parenthood and parent-child relationships, on how action speaks louder than words, parents’ behaviour will modify their childrens’, the home is the child’s first environment for learning, etc. Nothing I have heard and read, however, beats watching it in action.
For over a year, I would wait for the bus at a bus stop on the way to meeting my kids after work. And sometimes when the timing coincides, I will meet a mother and her young daughter of about 5 or 6yo waiting for the same bus. And for over a year, I was able to observe and mentally chart the young girl’s growth and her relationship with her mother. What piqued my interest when I first met them were 2-fold – why in the world does this young ‘boy’ with very short hair have a pink school bag and pink sandals, and why are all ‘his’ teeth black and rotten? What’s going on?
I soon had my answers – I had assumed (wrongly) that girls don’t have baby teeth decay.
Appearance aside, the mother’s dedication and love for her (most likely) single child is most striking. Presumably, the mother works at the offices opposite this bus stop, and the childcare centre the daughter is in is also nearby. They have to cross the overhead bridge every evening in order to take the bus home. The daughter will prance about and walk ahead of her mother, carefree as a bird. The mother, carrying her workbag, her daughter’s school bag and sometimes an additional shopping bag, will lag behind a little.
The daughter is active, and loves to climb onto the benches the moment she reaches the bus stop, while she waits for her mother to catch up. Predictably, without fail, the same drama would unfold when her mother joins her.
Mum asks Daughter about her day. Daughter would answer in ever-improving English (since 1 year ago). In her normal, slightly low tone. After 1 or 2 short answers, the focus shifts.
Putting on a high-pitch whiny voice, Daughter calls out: “I’m hungry. I’m veeerrry hunnngrry”. Then Mum would quickly dig into her bag and fish out a tub (yes a tub) of snacks and unscrew the cap. It’s a different snack each time, but snacks from the same category in the food pyramid. The top of the food pyramid.
“Kit Kat okay?” Mum asks, holding out the snack. Daughter grabs the snack from Mum’s hand. Then on second thoughts, hands it back: “I don’t want Kit Kat. I DON’T WANT KIT KAAAATTT!!!” Same whiny voice. Mum hands out a couple of other options for Daughter to choose. Daughter finally makes her choice. Mum opens the wrapper and hands the snack to Daughter. Daughter takes the snack from Mum and sinks her teeth into it immediately.
Their conversation resumes. Daughter munches on her snack while answering in her normal voice again, running around the bus stop and climbing up and down the benches. Being carefree. And Mum watches her daughter with a smile on her face and love in her eyes.
Every time I meet Mum and Daughter, I reflect on my own relationship with my kids. And I wonder if I am being too strict with them; making them carry their own (heavy) school bags and things in general, they cannot run around nor climb up and down if it would result in disturbing other people, no snacks before mealtimes, no whining. And absolutely no rudeness. In the process of upholding so many rules, I often drive my blood pressure up. It’s often a battle of “Should I let go? How much do I let go?” within me. Sometimes I get it right, sometimes my stubborness get in the way. I am learning to be a better parent (or just a normal mother) every day.
Luckily till now, my kids still love to talk to me, and I listen to them as much as I can. Will I be a good mother? Perhaps I would only know the answer 20 years later, or perhaps I would never be certain…