The parental guilt
“Oh crap! I should not have done this to him”. “May be this would not have happened had I not been a single parent”. “He does not have anyone other than me”. Invariably all parents go through the “Oh my God! Am I a bad parent?” feeling. And single parenting sometimes has the effect of pouring salt into the wound.
There are many days when my son’s playful mistake gets him an undeserving reprimand from me. I go overboard in yelling at him for no mistake of his, only to realize later that it is purely pent up frustration from work. On some days, I go all guns at him without giving him a chance to explain his point even though it isn’t his fault. Assuming his action to be a tantrum and ignoring him, even though it is not. And as a parent you know this list is never ending and the outcome is that you are overwhelmed with parental guilt.
The saga does not end with that feeling. In order to make up to him, I offer him consolation. I go overboard in making up to him. He learns that I am getting overtly friendly. He pushes his tantrum a bit more to get more stuff done in his favor. I continue to make it up to him thinking that he is really hurt. He connects the dots and concludes that if he does something bad daddy dear will try to go out of his way to make it up to him. And, voila, I successfully pave a path for a vicious cycle. Do you get it? Let me summarize one more time. He does something bad; I reprimand; I feel guilty; I go overboard in consoling him; he likes it and he repeats his bad behavior hoping to get me to make it up to him some more.
I have started repeating four things to myself to help me break the guilty feeling:
I know I am the best
As a parent I know what is best for my kid. I should never doubt that. Whatever I do for him will be in his best interest. There is a reason he feels the most safe with me. He trusts me more than anything in this world. So why the self-doubt?
It does not hurt to apologize
I acknowledge and own up all my parenting mistakes. I do not go looking around for reasons to justify my act in any way. If it is my mistake, it is my mistake. Period. The more I run it in my head, the more I feel guilty about it. If I hold on to my parental ego, I sit on the guilt hoping that he forgets the incident. But that does not help our relationship a bit. Incidents I thought are minor have been a big issue for him and he has carried the emotional baggage. So I reach out and talk to him when we are not locking horns. And I do not hesitate to apologize for any blunder. The incident ends with the apology, no prize in kind or bribery. In a way my son is being taught to be truthful and own up to any wrongdoing on his part.
Whether one is a single parent or not, one has absolutely nothing to feel bad about. I am not to be fully blamed for even the smallest inconvenience it may cause him. There are parents who don’t have time for their kids while I am doing everything possible to keep him happy. I am in no way handicapped in parenting because I am single.
Kids are resilient
If at all I had to learn and experience the word resilience, my son would be the best living example. He could shout back at me and we could bring down the house during our fights, but at the end of day he comes back brushing him against me (I always love giving this analogy of lion cubs with their mother). Kids bounce back from hate or anger to love much quicker than us. My adult ego has no ceiling. I have received many of those cute “I am sorry” notes with a smiley after a nasty fight. Even if he is at fault, this action of his displays his resilience.
Sweet little criminals
He is probably half my height but functions at double my speed, thinking and reasoning to get around things. He looks for patterns to extract favorable words from my mouth. He applies learning from the past to make sure his mistakes are not detected. He constantly refreshes his techniques and methods so that I do not see a pattern in his mischievous behaviour. So I can safely confirm he has all the qualifications of a sweet little criminal mastermind. And I can give the criminal his well-deserved benefit of doubt and stop punishing myself with the guilty feeling.
Just like many other parents I had this dream that I should be more of a friend to my son. And realized soon enough that is a farce. My body and mind are touched and influenced by a million other things that influence my parenting mode. It is not like changing shirts to switch to a different mindset immediately when I am with him.
In summary: ‘to err is parenting, to learn and move on is smart parenting’.