In general, Francine has a sunny disposition. She’s all sorts of rambunctious, loves jumping around and laughing and just generally spreading cheer just by being her exuberant self. 🙂 Maybe it was influenced by my own disposition during my pregnancy: I tended to just smile through difficulties and focus more on things that make me happy, mostly for the sake of not stressing the fragile baby in my tummy. 🙂
Still, sunny disposition notwithstanding, it is imperative that I actively do my part to keep her happy, at all times if possible. That means providing for all her needs (physical, mental, emotional, etc.) and always going the extra mile to give her what she wants too (except for the iPod, that’s non-negotiable), all while keeping my patience and sacrificing some of my own indulgences for hers if need be. It’s not just the huge stuff either, sometimes it’s the small things that make her smile more. Like our lambingan/kulitan before I give her her milk bottle. Or doing silly faces and behaving idiotically just to make her laugh. Or letting her wear high heels while prancing around the house. Or just holding her hand and letting her lead me where she wants to go. Oh, and the most important thing: I always, always tell her and show her that I love her every chance I get. 🙂
I may not be able to give her every material thing she wants, but I can and I am giving her something better: the freedom to choose what she wants. Instead of outright saying no when I can’t give her what she asks for, I give her alternatives and let her decide which she likes best. Even if it’s only small things for now, like the which dress she wants to wear or what she wants to order at Jollibee, I believe it builds her confidence to let her know that I trust her making choices for herself.
In the same vein, I always listen to her. I remember something I read once: If you don’t listen to the little stuff when they are little, they won’t tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them all of it has always been big stuff. (Catherine M. Wallace) I have been taking that advice to heart since I want her to grow up knowing that I value her thoughts and opinions. And that she can always come to me for anything. I want her to know me not just as her mother but as her best friend and best ally too.
As much as possible I always try to talk to her like an adult, or as seriously as we can both manage. Though she’s still young and probably couldn’t fully comprehend it yet, I still apologize for when I lose my temper with her. Like, I explain that I just don’t want her to get hurt that’s why I sometimes shout when she climbs up the furniture or plays with electrical cords. Things like that. I like to think that that helps, and that she’ll understand and appreciate it more as she grows up.
Teaching her discipline (which admittedly is not one of my strong points) is a challenge for me since she’s such a headstrong girl. But I learned through trial and error that it pays to be firm and keep my word when disciplining her. For example, she got my nocturnal tendencies and normally sleeps very late, often even past midnight. It doesn’t help that my father (who takes care of her during the day) watches TV until late into the night, tempting her to get out of bed and watch TV too. It really irks me since (1) kids are not even supposed to stay up late in the first place and (2) I have work early in the morning and she won’t let me sleep first before her. When I finally had enough, I told her that if she goes out of the room to watch TV, I’ll lock the bedroom door so she can’t get in. She just grinned at me as if I was joking and went to Papa anyway, so I did lock the door and a coupla moments later she’s banging on the door wanting to get in. I let her in but after a few minutes more, to make it sink in that I mean business. Still it happened a few more times, so one time I did not open the door until she’s already crying. It may seem cruel of me to do that, make her cry deliberately, but I like to think that it’s better for her in the long run to understand that I mean what I say. Now, when she’s already in bed and asks to go watch late night TV with Papa, I tell her she could go out and watch but that I’d lock her out of the room. So she stays and goes to sleep.
So yes, I let her learn from her mistakes as well. I don’t unnecessarily shield her from pain if there is a lesson to be learned from it. This is somewhat related to something I read or heard from Maricel Laxa way before. Like, to teach her daughter that playing with a knife can hurt her, she (gently) prodded her daughter’s skin with the knife to show her that indeed it does hurt. It’s a more effective way of teaching instead of just yapping away about the dangers of playing with knives, don’t you think? Children, especially toddlers, learn more from experience and action than explanations at their stage of development. Like the old saying goes: Kung anong gawin (at sabihin) ng matanda, siya ding gagawin (at sasabihin) ng bata. So it really is a conscious effort on my part to be a good role model for her.
I am not a perfect parent though I strive to be at least an excellent one. I’ll be the first to admit that being a mother is not easy, especially with such a headstrong, willful daughter. And Lord knows I don’t have that large a reservoir of patience to always keep a level head when dealing with her antics. I guess I’m beginning to have an inkling of what I put my own mother through while growing up, although I have a feeling I was a bit less willful than Francine at the same age. 😛
I take it as a partial measure of her emotional development how she treats her dolls and stuffed toys. I get that warm fuzzy feeling when she hugs her Pooh bear and says “Love si Pooh” or when she cradles her Barbie doll pretending to rock it to sleep. I get the feeling that maybe, I’m not fucking things up as much as I think and that maybe, I am doing something right after all. 🙂