Today was not my best day as a parent. There are days when I feel accomplished and proud, and those that are ordinary and monotonous and then there are days where I say things I should never, ever have said, behave in ways that make me cry with regret and shame later and act like those thousand books I feverishly devour and the gazillion articles I peruse through on conscious and positive parenting have just slipped through the sieve that is my brain.
Why else would I repeatedly make the same mistakes over and over again, in spite of knowing better, in spite of all my mindful chants and cleansing breaths?
What transpired today is this:
A daughter’s friend broke a china cup. This actually routinely occurs in our household thanks to our butter-fingered maid who drops favorite mugs with alarming nonchalance but here it happened to be an exquisitely pretty miniature cup from Rumi’s tea-set.
At this point I must confess that I am a trifle obsessed with Rumi’s beautiful toys. I take great pleasure in running my hands over the smooth, cool surface of her wooden blocks, arranging her 64 crayons according to shades or finding the most unique toys for her that I can. My current happy place is her toy cupboard.
I can’t think where it comes from. My childhood was far from being toy-deprived or anything-deprived. I just find toys and children’s books very happy and feel good and aesthetically pleasing (if you’re creeped out please read no further!)
So on a weekend trip to Lonavala, I found this perfect little tea-set. The shop was dark, dingy with the most hideous china on display and I had the salesguy unpack every single item he had before I saw this utterly cute cucumber green and white polka dotted set and immediately bought it for the girl.
My rational self knows and understands that a child cannot possibly be expected to play with ceramic toys without any casualties, nonetheless a tiny part of me still expected Rumi to be careful with this new treasure. I think now that my continuous shouts of “Careful” and constant hovering whenever she played tea-time would have really marred the whole experience for her.
Anyway, the tea-set made it to its first anniversary without a blemish until a fatal accident today knocked over all four tiny cups (and a big piece of my heart!)
What really broke my heart apart from the loss of the cups was the fact that it was not Rumi but another child that wilfully pushed the cups down in the throes of a temper tantrum. This child is a part of a duo of girl cousins, mischievou, spirited, feisty little girls who are Rumi’s BFF.
The girls are in and out of each other’s houses all the time but they end up playing at our place more often than not. They are older, more boisterous, and they do timid little Rumi good, although watching over all three of them means constant intervention, a careful division of toys and periodic firm talks about using things carefully and tidying up later.
I found myself in the middle of all this today. With the husband working late, I was trying to cook dinner while attending to tiny fights and tantrums galore.
After covering the couch with coloring paraphernalia, the girls moved on to play Kitchen. I started my periodic chants of “Careful!” as I started frying off my onions for Chicken Pulao. The two cousins started bickering and CRASH!!
One child had thrown down all four cups in anger. All four gone at once! I came out of the kitchen with hands on my hips. I didn’t say much but with my big, menacing eyes, I didn’t need to. The girls fell silent.
“This really wasn’t good behaviour” I addressed the little girl in question. I silently picked up all the shards and put them in the dustbin. When I got back to the girls, they were all looking petrified. Before I could go any further, Rumi burst into tears. I was bewildered as I wasn’t scolding her at all. However, it really hurt her and I saw her anguish and heartache and stopped myself. Playtime ended on a subdued note.
While giving Rumi a bath I tried to talk to her. I asked her whether she feels scared of me. Even though she said no, the thought stayed with me long after she had gone to bed.
Am I a scary Mom? I do give Rumi quite a hard time for lost pen caps or misplaced toys and objects. I want her to value what she has but in the process, am I giving her the feedback that material things matter more than her? She slept in a good mood but I am unable to let go of the uneasy guilt that has taken over me.
What is one China cup when compared to Rumi’s tears? My anger today was manifold. A part of it was on behalf of Rumi herself (somebody else broke her precious toy and my protective instinct kicked in). Another part was the loss of a beautiful object (I realised I loved that set even more than Rumi). And yet another part was directed at myself (why didn’t I preempt this situation and put away the ‘fine’ toys?)
Rumi felt sad that I scolded her friend. But part of her also felt fear when I walked into the room with my big eyes and shouty voice.
This is so far removed from what I want. I want to provide that loving, safe receptacle for all her secrets and inner demons. Instead, I am giving her guilt and a feeling of wrongdoing over something as trivial as broken crayons. I don’t want her to feel this fear when she grows up and goes out drinking and wants to be picked up or if she dents her new car. But if I continue the way I behaved today, she might grow up afraid of me instead of trusting me fearlessly.
She is asleep now and I am grappling with my emotions and hoping to improve tomorrow. As for what is left of the oh-so-precious china set, I am going to put the lone teapot on my shelf where I can see it every day. Not just to admire its beauty but to be reminded that nothing, absolutely nothing is more important than the fragile, blossoming self-worth of my child.
If I am able to keep it safe, maybe i will give this teapot to Rumi one day, when she is struggling with difficult emotions of her own, to remind her to forgive herself, take a deep breath, and start over the next day.