The parent trap

All Woman

Pig ask 'im mumma wha' mek har mout' long so; Mumma sey, 'No mind pickney, yuh a grow, yuh wi' see”

IN other words — the pig asked his mother why her mouth was so long; Mother said, 'Don't worry child, you are growing, you will see. '

That proverb was repeated everytime I passed my place and made an assertion about the right to do as I pleased between ages 15 and 18. As I watch my now 18-year-old daughter make her decisions about college, career and life as far as she can see, the proverb suddenly resonates with me. My mouth is long as I navigate guiding her and giving her enough room to make her own choices.

I understand now that my grandmother's nagging was really out of concern for my well-being, wanting the very best outcomes for me. I hated her attempts at control. I knew what I wanted for myself and resisted her efforts when she offered guidance. I am happy I didn't always listen as the life I have created for myself is mostly fulfilling — I have most of the trappings of success and I am clear on how I will accomplish my life goals. Despite my accomplishments, though, I feel a wistful ache for the pain I must have caused the loving adults around me, especially my grandmother, when my rebelliousness reared its head. I know now because every time I get the urge to challenge my teen, I withdraw as I see the me in her manifesting.

As we were having one of our now common disagreements, I found myself saying, “pig ask har mumma wha mek har mouth long so; mumma seh 'no mind pickney, yuh a grow, yuh wi see”. She looked at me and laughed so hard that I started laughing too — she, because she declared me mad, and me, finally understanding what the proverb meant.

Parenting is unquestionably the toughest job I have ever had. It takes a lot emotionally, mentally, and financially. Of course, my experience as a parent is simply mine. I witness other parents enjoying every moment, every stage of their children's lives, and through them, I learn that parental joy is not just a myth but something attainable. I think one of the most common mistakes we make as parents is not understanding that we are not responsible for everything our children do and are sometimes confused about what we are not responsible for. We fall into the trap of taking responsibility for things that are not ours, frustrating ourselves, and passing on our anxieties to our children.

A psychologist friend uses the metaphor of a box — “Know how to determine what belongs in your box and what belongs in your child's box”. A box has boundaries and within those boundaries is your personal space. Your child also has a box and within those boundaries are his/her thoughts and feelings. As parents we must figure out what belongs in our box and what is our child's. It is what we do when they take their homework to us for assistance. We do not complete the assignments for them; instead, we show them how to solve the problem. The responsibility of showing and guiding is the parent's, but doing the homework is the child's.

Most of the worry and overly fretting about our children stems from our own anxieties about their future. We do not have any control over what the future holds and the tendency to imagine the worst outcome is perhaps more common than imagining positive ones. So we attempt to fix their futures by trying to make or influence their choices. Avoid that trap and teach them as best as you can and provide the support needed for them to make intelligent decisions for themselves.

The hardest thing for me is controlling my anger when my children talk back at me. I often fall in the trap of reacting to it. These days, I accept their right to a voice, insist on them being respectful in their responses, and remove myself from the space to my safe corner in the house and breathe when it overwhelms me.

Parenting can be frustrating and daunting, but it is the most rewarding job you will have, so make the best of it by parenting with gratitude. Rather than lament the things that you are sometimes frustrated about, consider how all your efforts will benefit them in the end. After all “dem a grow, dem wi' see”.

Coleen Antoinette is a single mother of two girls, and a lover of culture and people. She is an arts marketing specialist and educator. Share your thoughts or own experiences with her at coleenantoinette@gmail.com.

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