My husband and I like to teasingly ask our children who their most favourite people in the world are. We are almost always taken aback with how honestly and seriously they answer the question. There’s rarely, a politically correct “I love everyone the same” answer from either of our boys, and we have come to realise how precarious our positions are in their top 10 list. Last year, after a holiday at a home stay in Wayanad, my youngest declared that he loved the owner’s Dalmatian Sunshine the most in the world. I didn’t even feature on the list that week — all the other four legged friends that lived on the plantation and their puppies made the cut instead.
However, my older son is some what more steadfast in his lists. Since he could articulate the sentiment and string together the words, my mother resides at the top. Most favourite. Best loved. Numero Uno. I come in second, and I won’t lie, I have often tried a wounded look in the hopes that he will switch our places and make me number 1. But no. That never happens. Instead I am appeased with a soft pat on my back and a whispered “I love you too.”
This past Christmas vacation, my parents were visiting and we played the top 10 game again. The 6 year old added Yoda to his list, retained Sunshine and placed me at number two grudgingly while the 9 year old remained loyal and reiterated that paati was indeed his favourite.
I couldn’t help myself, and asked “But why do you love her the most?” “Because she listens to what I have to say.” he replied simply. “And she shares her snickers with me.” He was right. When chatting with the boys, I often rushed in to tell them how they feel. I rarely listened. Really listened I mean. “You don’t mean that.” “I think you feel” and “What I think you should do” are mainstays of our conversations. My mother on the other hand is adept at soothing feelings and tears with a warm hug, an ear to confide in and half a bar of snickers to share.
This isn’t my only parenting foible, and if I actually listened to and watched my children when we’re together I’d be able to write out a long, long list. I know for a fact that their eyes glaze over thirty seconds into a lecture. In fact I’ve been told by them that they often keep things from me in fear of a lecture. I have to promise to then listen without judgement and not say a word when they’re done. Of course, I then go in to the bathroom and recreate my own version of Edward Munch’s ‘The Scream.’
I spend a lot of my time doing things that I think will make me a better parent. I read books and blog, listen to podcasts, watch TED Talks and drink martinis. Perhaps what I should really be doing is listening (REALLY listening) to the things my children are saying. And not saying. I hate to say that’s a resolution for the year, because the last resolution I kept was never. Let’s just say it’s an intent. That, and to drink more martinis.
The writer’s philosophy is: if there’s no blood, don’t call me