A reader wrote in telling me that she was inspired by my Life Lesson #14: To measure our lives in love. She said that it was inspiring but hard to do and asked if I could write about how to handle stressful situations, and how to lovingly set firm boundaries for her 2 kids.
I won’t go into details on how to do that as there are too many scenarios. I’m sure as mums, setting boundaries is something we all know how to do. The question is how to do it lovingly.
One is to imagine them as teenagers. Well, I don’t have to imagine, as my 3 older girls are firmly ensconced in the ‘teenage phase’. I can tell you that this is the real litmus test of whether you have done your job well as a parent. They will be faced with peer pressures and negative influences and have to make many choices. What do you want them to be able to draw from? Many happy memories with the family? Being able to easily remember times when you loved them, cuddled them, showed them that you care? Or will they find it hard to picture such memories, and instead only remember that you were constantly shouting at them or barking orders and instructions to them?
When you are able to stop yourself in your tracks and picture your teen desperately needing to draw from a fountain of your loving relationship with them to navigate through the tough adolescent years, you will naturally know how to handle the situation in a more loving manner.
The second thing I think of is being on my death bed. No, I’m not being morbid but after volunteering at a hospice and seeing the realities of life at the end of our days, it has become very real to me. When I am close to death, do I want my kids to be there with me simply because it is their duty to do so? Or do I want to celebrate a life where we had a very close relationship. The older I get, the more I see that it is not a given that parent-child relationships are automatically warm and fuzzy. How will my kids see me? Will they see me as a mother who was only concerned that they went to bed on time, ate their veggies or scored good marks? Or will they see me as a mother who was patient and kind with them, who disciplined them firmly but with love?
There will definitely be days when you can’t find it within yourself to show them love. Days when you yourself are so depleted. Be gentle on yourself. If today was a bad day, leave it behind. Tomorrow will be a brand new day. Kids are such amazing beings. They forget. They forgive so easily. They have such a great capacity to love. Sometimes, we have to soften our own hearts to allow them to teach us. To teach us how to love so purely. Not to love them only after they have done what we told them to do. Not to love them only when they have achieved something great. Not to love them only when we are in a good mood.
Many times, we do things because we love them. We scold them, punish them, make them do things they don’t want to do all because we want the best for them. We tell them that one day when they are adults, they will understand that we are doing all of this precisely because we love them.
But while they are growing up, do they feel our love? Perhaps we should find ways and space to bring back love into all that we are doing with them and for them every step of the way. Let us strive to learn to love them in ways they understand. Let us not wait until they are parents themselves to realise how much we love them, but let them feel our love accompany them along their journey of life.
Life Lesson #8: Teach our children compassion by little actions
Life Lesson #9: What have we done to our children
Life Lesson #10: Why we went on holiday just before the PSLE
Life Lesson #11: What must kids do for us to stop pushing them over the edge
Life Lesson #13: Confronting death teaches you about life
Life Lesson #14: To measure our lives in love
Life Lesson #15: The day they fly
Life Lesson #16: Do our kids even know we love them
Life Lesson #17: What are we worth, mums
Life Lesson #18: What do you do when you get sick of parenting
Life Lesson #19: The tragedy of our society
Life Lesson #20: Will you teach your girls to find a rich husband
Life Lesson #21: Are we slowly killing ourselves
Life Lesson #22: What does it take to keep a marriage going