Kid Kaunda is turning two years old in a few weeks, and he’s been testing authority, asserting his independence, and generally pushing his luck.
He’s also really getting into his role as big brother, helping us to bathe and feed his sister. He loves to share with her – soggy bits of food, or water with unidentified floating objects in it. The soggy bits are as gross as his inclination to share with Tiny Oga is endearing. We like to encourage him to share as an act of bonding and care, but if he doesn’t want to share something, we don’t make a big deal of it.
We believe he should not be made to share everything, all the time.
We apply this principle to his time and space as well. If we are in company, and he doesn’t feel like talking to or playing with other people, we make sure he knows that it’s ok. He doesn’t have to hug or speak to people until he is ready.
He doesn’t always get his way either. That’s life. He will learn that while he doesn’t have to give all the time, he also won’t always get what he wants, whenever he wants it.
I feel strongly about imparting in my children a strong sense of respect for their boundaries and those of others. This is because of my own upbringing. Let me explain:
I feel my parents often overextended us and themselves in the process of giving and sharing as openly and generously as they did. The blanket rule in my family was: if you have something that others don’t have – give. If you have something that someone needs (or wants) – give. We shared everything, even if the sharing depleted us.
And that is one of the reasons I felt (for most of my life) disallowed to say no to people’s demands on my resources and time, and felt guilty about some of my individual achievements and successes.
There weren’t enough resources to meet the needs of a lot of our relatives, so sharing was a necessary act of survival and growth. This was the conscious and intended lesson my parents were teaching.
The necessity of these acts of sharing and giving, meant we often could not acknowledge the negative that came with those dynamics. Some giving and sharing didn’t occur within a context of reciprocity and respect. There was also disregard, entitlement and wastefuless because dololo boundaries.
And if one raised those issues, or tried to say no, the language of silencing was rich and ever ready. Nobody the wants to be seen as selfish, stingy, petty or to be accused of reveling in the suffering of others. The unconscious and unintended lesson was: other people’s perceptions of you are more important than your boundaries, concerns and comfort.
The desire to not be seen as a bad, selfish person caused me a lot of distress in my adult life because I was never quite able to set and maintain healthy boundaries, or free myself from the guilt about having things I couldn’t (or didn’t want to) give to or share with others.
I stayed asking myself if my joys and achievements are only worth something if I bring others into them? I agonised about whether I was allowed to have anything for myself.
It was so debilitating working against myself to make my slay so small and invisible, because of iWorry. I don’t want my kids to go through that. That guilt is oppressive and counter productive.
I am constantly drawing from lessons of my own upbringing and resolving them as consciously as possible, so that my children won’t have to battle with the same issues as I did.
I look forward to my son’s second birthday, because it’s also the second anniversary of embarking on this journey of motherhood which is a constant challenge to get my ish together.