There’s a huge gap between seven and seventeen. The ten year gap between my youngest child and my eldest showed a markedly different parenting style although both are raised in the same household, with the same set of parents, observing the same rules, practicing the same values, and a plethora of other Do’s and Don’ts.
They say when a child is brought forth into the world, a mother is born. It follows then that for each child, a mother is reborn, reinvented. Answering the call in each child’s specific need. A mother is a versatile creature, or tries to be.
Here are the ways parenting the seven and seventeen differed:
1. When the seventeen year old was born, I already memorized all the parenting guidebooks I can get my hands on. I watched every breath he took, recorded every milestone, remembered his first utterances, and was generally obsessed that I was parenting him right. I was also very selfish, I wanted to do everything and excluded the nanny.
When the seven year old was born, my expectations were shot. She defied parenting books in many ways, and became a poster child of textbook reference behavior in other ways. All I can remember now was that she didn’t walk after she learned to stand up. She ran. And I was only too happy to hand her to welcoming arms so I can grab some Zz’s. Her pictures? They’re all digital files.
2. With the first born, I demanded a lot of maturity from him at an early age. I realize that now. His days were structured so much so that it was natural he did his homework by himself daily even at the age of six. A practice he carried on until highschool. I demanded excellence, though these demands were sugar coated and hidden well. I pushed books at him and realized I wanted him to be like me, which is a terrible thing to do.
The seven year old fixes her own schedule. Oh she follows my schedule, albeit grudgingly with much frowning and grimacing but she tends to march to her own drum. And I let her. Yes, some days I’m so exhausted, she gets away with it. Or the seventeen year old will reprimand her. She is at once a responsible child and the spoiled brat. No I don’t spoil her. Her siblings do.
3. I went to each and every PTA meeting for my first born and lobbied for changes in the school administration. Extended lunch breaks etc. I have the adviser’s phone number, the guard’s number, the number to the principals office etc. And yes I rang them regularly.
Now you can’t find me if there’s a meeting. My child demands I attend one because “So and so’s mommy goes, why not you?” I’m just happy her adviser calls me regularly.
4. I went ahead and finished university because I can. Young pregnancies are somehow considered a death sentence to higher education and I had a lot of detractors, sadly, some were family. I had to make my son proud. I went back to school after giving birth and finished my degree. I had my yaya blues, and those trying times, he attended the 1 hour 30 minutes lecture in whatever subject I had at that time.
The youngest might see me earning my masters or doctorate or nothing. What she may see me do is tick off stuff in my bucket list. The road ahead is full of possibilities but the yoke of proving myself was lifted even before the youngest was born.
5. I fought dragons with the eldest, because everyone knew best how to raise my child and I was having none of it. It was a period of establishing who’s who. The youngest enjoyed a more mature mom, comfortable in her own skin and knows where to draw the lines. I guess the eldest enjoys that too, today.
Each and every child is unique and lumping them together using a single parenting technique might not work. A mom needs to trust her instincts, love unconditionally, discipline rationally, and laugh freely. For what is a child other than your heart and soul on wandering feet with a mind of her own?
In every birthday of a child, little attention is given to the mother who in truth, continues to grow into motherhood in tandem with her child. Snaps to all Moms out there.