Updated: May 26, 2020
I was happily doing my work when the peaceful environment was interrupted by shouts and laughter. They were my kids' shouts of glee as they played ball outside yesterday.
I heard my helper sternly telling them to behave themselves, to stop playing and be quiet!
Yet, the noise continued. Then, one child got hit by a ball and started crying. Loudly.
My instinctive reaction was to stop what I was doing to comfort her. She was only 5 years. As her wails got louder, I suppressed the urge to rush out to scold the older kids and hug her.
After a few minutes, her crying subsided.
I called my helper to me who was visibly upset, and processed with her.
I asked how she felt. She admitted she was upset because the kids were noisy.
I asked how she had dealt with the issue.
"First I ordered them to keep quiet ,and then because they would not listen, I tried to ignore them."
We laughed as she admitted that her commands fell on deaf ears and she was left with no choice but to walk away. After all, it was 4 against one.
I asked her to reflect on why she was upset. She thought for awhile and replied.
"I had to keep my younger siblings' quiet when I was young. If they were noisy for more than 5 mins, I would be scolded...
Also, the second is what people will think of me. As the oldest girl, people will judge me for jumping around and making noise. I should 'know better'. So I was really upset when they made so much noise."
I completely got what she meant.
We live in a society with unspoken rules - 'kids are meant to be seen and not heard" is such a big one that I use to react whenever one cried or another was expressing herself too loudly.
Often, these episodes would end with me marching into the scene, scolding them or insisting they stop immediately.
They would comply, but it was emotionally tiring to be 'police-mommy' all the time.
I realised a major reason I was NOT tolerant of their emotional expressions whether positive or negative, was because I had supressed so much of my own emotions.
The day I decided to release all the pent-up accumulation of joys and pain and sadness, is the day I was free to allow my own kids to be free.
I realised I could not be with negative emotions because I was taught to be strong when I was young. That meant I always had to put on a strong front no matter how I felt inside. Slowly, I numbed myself. Being strong was so ingrained in my identity that I got upset in movies when I watch the victims drag the others down. I never could never empathised with the weak ones, always wondering why they couldn't be stronger, smarter or faster.
My kids even mentioned, some tender loving care would be good when they fell and I realised that while falls are a 'part of growing up', I could be more nurturing in moments when they needed me.
Interesting how we are fine with babies crying to express their needs, yet condemning the same expression in kids. Yes, as we grow, our vocabulary enables us to verbalise how we feel. Yet, that does not make the emotions disappear. When the negative emotions are not expressed, they actually get stored in our bodies. They stay as negative memories in our cells long after the bad incidents have passed, accumulating over the years. Why would we consciously keep toxin instead of release them? Because being strong is a strength while being weak is frowned upon?
Outward display of positive emotions was the other area I found myself frustrated by. Especially when they got loud.
Why do we penalise kids for expressing themselves?
Because of what the neighbours will think? What friends will say?
Truth is, we can never please everyone and people will continue to judge anyways. I have chosen, and continually choose not to succumb to the tyranny of 'what others will think.'
The fear of being judged is so strong that we all strive to 'look good' or be socially accepted. to fit in, so we tell our kids to control themselves.
Yet, we have transited into a society where authoritarian parenting styles may not be suitable or relevant anymore. Notice how we were more compliant as kids, and how different children are nowadays?
If we continue to parent them they same way we were parented, it will end in frustration and unnecessary outbursts. An alternative would be to allow them to freely express themselves. To let kids be kids. Especially when we are around, allowing freedom of expression is healthy and communicates that they are unconditionally accepted for who they are.
Do you have a good friend who accepts you just the way you are? Someone with whom you can share your huge mistakes, little upsets and know that you won't be judged for all your imperfections. Why then, do we frown and make them feel small in our presence just because of what others will say? Why then, are we their biggest critic instead of strongest supporters?
I want my kids to feel safe whenever I'm with them. Not policed. Not judged for being a kid. I want them to laugh out loud and hopefully, I'll catch their infectious laughter instead of being a serious adult all the time.
I experienced the same din while working. Yet, hearing them play together brought a quiet smile. I smiled because I was proud for keeping to the 'no ball play at home' house rule. Their happy shouts reminding me of Whitney's 'Greatest Love of All' lyrics "..let our children laughter remind us how we use to be..."
So, while a child maybe well-behaved on the outside, it tells me nothing of the parenting. Maybe the child is has been taught to suppress all their emotions, both positive or negative. Maybe the child is emotional balanced and has a good space to freely express themselves just not the moment I'm watching.
What is a good parent? Someone who provides a safe space for their kids to freely express themselves or someone who clamps down on their kids' emotions so their kids know how to look good in front of others but are emotionally handicapped?
I'm not sorry if my child is laughing out loud or crying in pain in public. I have learned that nothing is more important than these dear ones I vowed to protect with my life.
My children will have the freedom to express their emotions because that is part of being human. My children do not have to behave in public for me to look good.
Oh, and the crying child? I checked on her after and she was fine. Anyways, "Getting hit by a ball is part of playing with a ball right?"