TOUGH LOVE

Why are mothers so hard on their own kids? TEE HUN CHING gets a re­al­ity check when she turns into a “mom­ster”.

Young Parents (Singapore) - - CONTENTS -

Why are mothers so hard on their own kids? This mum gets a re­al­ity check when she turns into a “mom­ster”.

I was help­ing out at my son’s school trip to the Road Safety Com­mu­nity Park, when a kid headed for a ze­bra cross­ing in a go-kart, seem­ingly with no in­ten­tion of stop­ping.

His hand ew to the hand­brake only when I mo­tioned for him to pull over. It was my son.

The fa­cil­ity in East Coast Park teaches chil­dren about road safety via trafc games that it of­ten hosts for school groups.

Kids are as­signed one of three roles – pedes­trian, cy­clist or go-kart driver – and are dis­qualied once they chalk up 50 de­merit points for a slew of “un­safe/dis­cour­te­ous acts” listed on a game card.

At a brieng be­fore the game, the 30 par­ent vol­un­teers were told that our job was es­sen­tially to is­sue sum­mons for vi­o­la­tions.

“This is how they learn,” said the young chap from the Trafc Po­lice.

So I did what I was sup­posed to do as a trafc mar­shal: I told my nine-yearold why he should slow down and pre­pare to stop be­fore a pedes­trian cross­ing, then crossed off a box on his game card that cost him ve de­merit points.

He protested, his face dark­en­ing with dis­plea­sure, but I waved him on.

My friend P snapped a pic­ture of me in ac­tion and sent it to one of our Mummy chat groups. “Giv­ing sum­mons to her own son!” she texted.

K, an­other friend, teased: “You are so cruel.”

P then told her how I had given her son a chance when he failed to ex­e­cute the kerb drill prop­erly as a pedes­trian. “This boy,” K re­sponded swiftly. “I’m telling him off now.”

P con­ceded: “I think we are al­ways harsher with our own kids.”

Later that day, she sent a meme that summed up how par­ent­ing has given us split per­son­al­i­ties.

The top half of the im­age showed Rex, the ami­able dino in Toy Story, ash­ing a guile­less grin. “Mom with friends”, read the cap­tion.

The bot­tom half, la­belled “Mom at home”, was a movie still from Juras­sic

Park in which a fear­some Tyran­nosaurus was on a ram­page.

I laughed. It was funny be­cause it was so true and

I quickly sent it on to other friends.

Many re­sponded with the laugh­ing emoti­con cry­ing tears of mirth.

“Well done, HC. I would have done the same,” one said, af­ter I tagged on the road safety park in­ci­dent as con­text. “I al­ways tell peo­ple I’m a ‘mom­ster’.”

AM I A “MOM­STER”?

The thing is, I hadn’t re­alised I was more le­nient with other kids un­til P pointed it out.

I told my son off be­cause it looked like he was about to mow down some hap­less pedes­tri­ans.

I let K’s son off af­ter hav­ing him re­peat the kerb drill be­cause he was nei­ther in dan­ger nor putting others at risk there and then.

But my dou­ble stan­dards had not es­caped my son’s no­tice. In­stead of nd­ing the di­nosaur meme funny, his voice was shrill with in­dig­na­tion.

“That’s you,” he said ac­cus­ingly. “When I told you my friend cried be­cause the teacher caught him read­ing in class and conscated his book, you said ‘poor thing’.

“When it hap­pened to me, you were like ‘rah yah rah gah rah’,” he went on, con­tort­ing his face while spew­ing loud, un­in­tel­li­gi­ble sounds in a laud­able im­per­son­ation of some­one gone berserk – me.

I tried to ex­plain why I did what I did at the park and gave a spiel about the dan­gers of reck­less driv­ing in real life.

He, too, de­fended his ac­tions. He was still get­ting the hang of driv­ing the clunky go-kart when I pulled him over. He was go­ing to stop, but the ve­hi­cle was heavy and did not re­spond fast enough.

I thought we had come to an un­der­stand­ing, but he was still smart­ing from my lack of mercy.

“Aunty H gave me candy when I went past her stop. Aunty S took pic­tures of me in my go-kart. You? You were the only one who gave me de­merit points. You ru­ined my record!”

JEKYLL AND HYDE

It made me won­der then: Just why do we of­ten morph from friendly aun­ties one minute to scary mon­ster mums the next when deal­ing with our own kids?

A pri­vate tutor once told me she had far more pa­tience with other peo­ple’s chil­dren than her own. She used to teach at a top pri­mary school here, but sent her daugh­ter to be tu­tored by a col­league.

“I was scream­ing at her ev­ery day and it was putting such a strain on our re­la­tion­ship,” she re­called.

The same mis­de­meanour that would earn my son a tongue-lash­ing (or worse) would likely draw an in­dul­gent “kids will be kids” laugh from me if it were com­mit­ted by a friend’s child.

The most ob­vi­ous de­fence would be that it is not our place to dis­ci­pline other peo­ple’s off­spring. We can’t x or con­trol how others be­have, but we sure can call the shots when it comes to our own chil­dren.

An­other would be that we ex­pect our kids to know bet­ter. We hold them to higher stan­dards be­cause we’ve in­vested so much time and ef­fort in rais­ing them to do the right thing.

When they don’t, our dis­ap­point­ment is keen and our words even sharper. As a 2014 ar­ti­cle in Psy­chol­ogy

To­day mag­a­zine put it, “we have the least tol­er­ance for the neg­a­tive qual­i­ties of those with whom we spend the most time”.

Since we ex­pect the best from those we love, we of­ten show the worst side of our­selves when we feel let down.

I sus­pect a part of why we tog­gle be­tween Jekyll and Hyde per­sonas has to do with ego, too. Chil­dren are of­ten seen as ex­ten­sions of their par­ents, so how they be­have reects di­rectly on us.

When they fall short, we squirm be­cause we take the lapses per­son­ally and fear be­ing judged. The buck stops with us, so we’d bet­ter do our darn­d­est to make sure they don’t bring us into dis­re­pute.

But guilt of­ten fol­lows when we carry the tiger mum act too far. That is when I turn to other mom­sters for so­lace be­cause they, too, have been there, done that, and then felt the crush­ing weight of re­morse.

WHAT IF I CAN’T HOLD BACK?

Once, at the end of a par­tic­u­larly rough day punc­tu­ated by my scream­ing and my son’s teary tantrums, a friend and I had a long ex­change via What­sapp.

I told her how close I was to slap­ping my son af­ter he bla­tantly thwarted my ev­ery at­tempt to get him to do some work ahead of his ex­ams.

“I’m so scared I won’t be able to hold back one day,” I told her.

She gave her views on why she thought my son be­haved the way he did and sug­gested some al­ter­na­tives to win­ning his co­op­er­a­tion. She could em­pathise be­cause she had snapped one day and given her son a tight slap un­der sim­i­lar cir­cum­stances. The guilt still plagues her.

Com­mis­er­at­ing with other strict mums gives me a bet­ter per­spec­tive and also al­lows me to see the funny side of things at times.

To­gether, we are striv­ing for the happy ideal be­tween the im­pos­si­bly mel­low Rex and the ter­ri­fy­ing T-rex with se­ri­ous anger is­sues.

The trip to the road safety park holds lessons for me, too. I have to re­mem­ber to en­joy the jour­ney with my kids and stop xat­ing on the des­ti­na­tions. It doesn’t hurt to close one eye some­times, even if the ride is bumpy, veers off course or, yes, runs afoul of a few rules.

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