That balancing act

Nobody ever said parenting is easy, but it wasn’t until I became a parent that I realised how hard this parenting business can be.

People say it gets easier the older your kids get, because they are more independent and sleep better / eat better. But the thing is, i think it just gets hard in new and different ways.

We love David’s school, and he does too – most of the time. But navigating primary school life, with all its homework and assessments, routines and norms, hasn’t been easy. Working through friendship issues with my boy has been even harder – I honestly don’t remember my P1 friendships being this complicated! Kids these days…

And because he is “growing up”, it’s harder to know when it is wise for me to step in, and when I should let him figure life out for himself. I don’t think that I’m a helicopter parent, but some days I do wish I could be by my boy’s side to hold his hand through a tough presentation, a (deserved) reprimanding from his teacher, or a sticky situation with so-and-so.

I know, he has to learn to fight his own battles, right? And yet, the words my leader once said to me always ring in my ears – “You don’t just throw someone into the deep end with nothing to hold on to – don’t set them up to fail.” So my challenge is always trying to find that balance between letting go and holding on tight to that safety ring.

I suppose it’s an internal battle many parents face too.

I had quite the epiphany earlier this year, when I realised how differently we can read the same situation. How I process an incident can be completely different from how my son processes it. Which means his take-away message about the situation, about others and about himself would be totally different from how I interpreted it.

Picking up those subtle cues about how he truly feels/thinks is certainly not easy, but those moments have led to some of our most significant and heart-wrenching conversations this year, on loneliness and betrayal, free will and choosing friends wisely.

I am often thankful for the year I spent on my post-grad diploma in counseling – I never expected I would use those skills the most with my own kids…Like I said, I didn’t know the thoughts and emotions of a 7-yo could be this complicated. 😉

And it’s not like my 5yo is an open book either – I often find myself unsure of how much to push him, when to take a stand on things and when to let it be, trying to understand the thought processes that go on inside that little head, trying to empathise but not knowing if I “read” him correctly.

Hubby and close friends do tell me sometimes that I think too much and over-analyse, but I guess that’s a habit/personality style that’s hard to break! Maybe it’s the downside of being trained as a counsellor, haha. And it’s a struggle not to project my own issues/fears onto my kids, but I know it’s something I have to do… any mums identify with me on this?

Then there’s also the balancing of my time and energies among the boys. David does need a fair bit of coaching in his maths on a regular basis, and that has meant poor Daryl has to amuse himself while I work with his brother. That’s because, even though Daryl also has activity books and such that he likes to do, he normally can’t sit still for more than 20 minutes.

The little boy has been SO GOOD about learning to play on his own in the room while mummy and kor kor “do work”, but man, I feel so bad about it some days. Maybe I should just accept that it’s part of life as a younger sibling, but I do feel the mum-guilt, and try to make up for it with more cuddles and one-on-one time at other parts of the day.

The fact is, though, that I don’t read to him half as much as I used to read to David. I don’t intentionally plan out craft activities for him to learn about the world or to fine-tune his motor skills because I just don’t have the capacity. And perhaps I could do these things, if not for other commitments like my Dottieshop business and freelance writing.

The bottom line is, something’s gotta give in this balancing act of WAHM-life. Some days I think it’s all worth it, and other days I feel like I’m completely out of whack.

I don’t have any concrete answers, and I’m not really looking for any either. Perhaps I penned this because I want to keep it real that I don’t have this motherhood gig all figured out. No one does, really, because parenting is not a mathematical formula that you learn and apply – it’s a complex mix of ever-changing factors that will challenge you and change your outlook constantly for the rest of your life. Our children are growing up, and so are we.

Parenting is certainly not for the faint-hearted. It is a sacred responsibility, a special bond, a precarious balancing act and a priceless gift.

It is most certainly all worth it.

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