Becoming a Parent: 5 Lessons I Picked Up from My Childhood

Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels
Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels
Photo by Cleyder Duque from Pexels

It still feels hard to believe that soon I’m going to have my own kid – I’m still a kid! πŸ˜‚

It freaks me out as much as it excites me that I’m going to be a mom soon. It’s really all for a simple reason – for the longest time, I’ve shuddered just thinking of my childhood. Now, I have a wide spectrum of traumisting things that occurred – so, memories get triggered a lot.

(But I’m supposedly high-functioning, so nobody actually realises I’m reliving trauma in that moment. Yes, I know I’m crazy due for therapy.)

But because now I’m going to have my own little one, I decided to force myself to review my past, so I can give Pichu a better future. πŸ‘ΆπŸ»β€οΈ Trust me, if it weren’t for Pichu – I wouldn’t even think of turning around to look at the ugliness I worked so hard to leave behind me.

But lately, I decided to see it this way – since I went through so much pain, why not convert them into lessons for myself to be a better parent for Pichu? No sense in wasting any of the hurt I went through myself.

With my newfound determination coupled with the help of some parental therapy books, I went through an incredibly painful journey (still am!). I spent many nights seated on my bed, forcing myself through eye-opening and memory-triggering chapters as angry/sad/hurt tears broke their way through my ducts and finally freed themselves.

I’m glad I got to cry it all out! It kind of feels like it washed out all that goo in my eyes and helped me see things with a fresher perspective. 🧐

Today I wrote about 5 core memory experiences that I picked up from my childhood, which I converted into well-learned lessons as I trudge closer to parenthood. ❀️ And I’m hoping that it’ll help other parents/parents-to-be as well. 🌻

Warning: this is a pretty long post! And some of these stories can be very triggering for some people, so please read with discretion.

Lesson 1: Kids hear a lot more than you think they do, and they remember

Even Especially when you think you’re alone with another adult, because children tend to be curious. Extra precautionary measures should always been taken when! Lock the door, speak a little softer or whatever.

My memory:

This one happened when I was much younger, a few years after my dearest daddy passed away, and I happened to pick up the house phone when I heard Mother talking to her friend.

You remember those old days when you picked up the phone and you could listen into someone else’s conversation? 😝

Well, it was another day of Mother being very unhappy with me. That day, in particular, was because she was angry that I wasn’t more welcoming to the new man she brought home.

I was crying in my bedroom; mostly missing my dad and wishing he took me with him, and wondering why she was oh-so-eager to please that weird man. Then, I did something I really shouldn’t have… could’ve saved me years of pain. I slowly picked up the telephone and heard her going on about what a terrible daughter I am and then she said the one sentence that tormented me for most of my childhood.

“I wish I never had her, I’ll be happier.”

I gently put the phone back down and resumed crying; wishing even harder that my daddy’s spirit would come for me. After all, I was only a little girl back then – where else could I go, if I were unwanted at home?

Now, as an adult:

I can understand people say things they don’t always mean when they’re angry, stressed, sad etc.. but unfortunately, a young child might not be able to understand that.

So, whenever I get infuriated with my child(ren?) in future and simply need to rant, I would do so with caution. Because to me it might just be an angry rant, but to the child it could be a scar for life.

Lesson 2: Always be appreciative of your child; your child isn’t responsible for your happiness

Probably sounds like the most ‘duh’ thing to some people, but I guess it can be easy to take things for granted.

My memory:

This one happened some years later on one fateful Mother’s Day.

That year, I still wasn’t old enough to legally get employment. So, I asked one of my aunts to let me do odd jobs for her to earn enough money to buy a branded wallet Mother said she liked.

To celebrate Mother’s Day, the whole extended family gathered at one of the hotels for a buffet lunch and I was really excited to give her the wallet. Mother always hated festive occasions since daddy passed and I thought I could finally make her happy. πŸ€—

But… well, you guessed it. She hated my gift. And she made it very known to every single family member by sharing out loud what a disappointing daughter I was, for buying her something that doesn’t suit her at all.

It didn’t matter to her that I worked after school to earn that little bit of money, it didn’t matter to her that I did what I did for her happiness – she just continued tearing me down bit by bit, till I had to excuse myself to the washroom to cry. 😭

Then when I came out, she was unhappy because other family members told her she didn’t behave appropriately. Which conversely made her even angrier at me, “No, I was the one that was hurt! My own daughter, who is supposed to be closest to me, doesn’t even know me well enough to buy me a present that I will like!!”

Now, as an adult:

Well, even now I just think Mother is an ungrateful and narcissistic cunt. Lol. I’m sure you’ve received gifts that made you go, “Oh lord, what in the world??” But you’re still kind about it, because the person made the effort to gift you something.

This is all the more important for your own child – because every child wants the love and approval of their parent(s). If you can be kind to a colleague who gave you that hideous mug, you all the more should be kind to your own child.

No child should have the job of making their parent happy. Most children will certainly try – but it shouldn’t be their job. And you most definitely don’t make them feel horrible for trying to make you happy.

Lesson 3: Your child doesn’t always realise you’re more than ‘mom’/’dad’/’aunt’ etc.

When you’re a child, it can be hard to comprehend that your parent is also someone else’s husband/wife, a worker/colleague, sister/brother, friend etc. It’s almost impossible to expect them to understand there you have whole other worlds beyond being their parent – because it’s all they know at that time in their lives.

My memory:

When I was in primary school, Mother decided to return to the workforce and she returned home every single night looking very exhausted and distraught. It worried me and most evenings I tried leaving her alone, because I didn’t want to add onto her burdens.

However, one night she saw I was having trouble with my homework and said if I had any problem, I can wait for her to come home and we can do it together. I was incredibly happy and somehow looking forward to the next time I didn’t know how to do my homework. Haha!

The next day, I returned to my grandma’s after school and was excited to get to spend some time with Mother. I did most of my homework, but left the really difficult ones to conquer together with her.

She came to pick me up quite late that night and when she realised I didn’t finish all my homework, she went absolutely ballistic. She screamed at me at the top of her lungs, scrunched up my homework and threw it into the trash bin, which my grandma quickly pulled out to salvage. I was busy crying in absolute fear and confusion as to what warranted such a reaction from her.

Then she grabbed the wrinkled worksheet and wrote in large capital fonts, “I AM STUPID!”. She thrusted the paper to my chest and demanded I show this to my teacher, so she will know how stupid I am and I don’t deserve an education.

All this happened while my grandparents and aunts watched on the sidelines.

The next day, she asked me if I showed it to my teacher and smirked while I cried.

Now, as an adult:

Well, I should’ve been more aware that Mother was clearly having a difficult time returning to the workplace. It’s never easy to return to anything after a hiatus. Plus, she already showed signs of mental problems before, so it must’ve been extra difficult for her.

Y’see, Mother was reacting because of all the pressures that was on her. Not only from me; she was probably also facing very heavy pressures from work, especially since she held a very senior position. Sadly, she came home and took it all out on me.

So, what happened was – a child was unaware of her mother’s role beyond being ‘mom’ and was didn’t quite grasp yet what it meant for her mother to be a ‘worker’. Then the mother brought all her work pains and stresses back home into the child’s ‘safe zone’. It was clearly a combustion just waiting to happen.

In the past, I was also disappointed at how my other family members often saw me in so much pain and suffering, but just stood on the sidelines. From a group of women who are usually extremely noisy, they suddenly turn meek and mute once they see Mother burst out. However, as a child, I only saw them as ‘other adults’ that could’ve helped me, but didn’t – I didn’t see them as younger siblings that might’ve found it difficult to stand up against their oldest sibling.

Children are indeed helpless to how they’re being treated and what sort of treatment they’re taught to accept – especially when it’s at home, and by other adults they rely on and trust.

Adults, however, can just go “F**k this, I’m out.” #kthxbye

I never ever want my child to have to go through such horror, and loss of trust and sanctity. It’s important to try your darnest hardest to keep your home and work separate; to protect your child’s sanctity from all that nasty negativity from the outside world.

However, even as adults, we’re mere mortals. So, when that happens, take the time and effort to make amends. I, for one, know it would’ve meant the world to me if Mother said she was just under a lot of pressure at work, or if any of my other family members told me that they wished they stood up for me back then.

Lesson 4: If you did wrong, say you’re sorry

Many adults (especially the older generations) seem to think older people apologising to younger people is simply appalling!! 😱😱

But as I said above, even adults are mere mortals and are bound to make mistakes.

And what do we teach our children when they make mistakes? Apologise.

To not apologise, even if it’s to them, is essentially undermining your own teaching and therefore you’re making yet another mistake. πŸ€·πŸ»β€β™€οΈ

My memory:

This one happened when I was older and in secondary school. By then, I was privy that our financial situation at home wasn’t great and if I wanted anything, I had to find my own ways to get them. It was pretty bad. There were even times I didn’t get allowance for food, so I got into a habit of rationing myself to only eating 2 nuggets and water from the water cooler.

Probably explains why I was soooo much slimmer back in school. And also that crazy teenage metabolism… Oh, how I miss that. 😞

Anyway, I wanted a new handphone that time. So, I worked some random jobs for my family and reduced 2 nuggets to 2 seaweeds for a few months. In time, I finally saved enough and asked Mother to bring me to the SingTel shop to renew my contract. πŸ₯³

When she knew I had that extra money, she asked for it and said she would pay for my handphone when we get there. Seemed fair to me. And you might think me stupid, but I actually still had slivers of trust for her back then.

Then, when we got to the shop, we went through the whole motion of paperwork.. blah blah blah… Finally, came payment. She pulled out her card, but it was rejected. She told them try again, rejected. She pulled out another card, rejected.

Then she just told me we’re leaving and we walked out. It quickly dawned upon me that my months of work and hunger was likely for naught, and that I literally gave it away. I started being angry and I told her how disappointed I was.

Then she said, “Let this be a lesson to you that in the real world, you’re going to face disappointments!! Your money should be mine anyway!”

Now, as an adult:

First off – let me say I strongly disagree that a child’s money belongs to the parent. Whatever you give anyone, becomes theirs. Period. If you still believe you have ownership over what you’ve ‘given’, then you haven’t really given.

No matter how I look at this experience, I fail to see an angle in which Mother didn’t screw up. I worked hard and saved hard for that money to buy something I wanted, to make myself happy. If my child did that, I’d be proud of his independence! And even heartbroken that he had to go to such extremes to get what he wants.

At that time, if Mother just went something like, “I’m sorry that I spent your money without asking you first, but I needed it to pay for something more urgent.” I honestly wouldn’t have been soooo upset. Of course I’d still be slightly upset… but after I simmer down, at least I won’t feel so cheated by my own parent. I’d realise there are more important things than me having a new handphone.

Upon reflecting, I realised the power of an apology; especially from a parent.

When a parent apologises, it is a true demonstration of courage and selfless love for the child. Because, at the end of the day, the apology will help amend the child’s understanding of what happened. Most of the time adults don’t want to apologise out of ego, but that’ll be at the cost of the child’s well-being.

Also, when a parent apologises, the child realises that it is indeed okay to make mistakes – as long as you apologise, learn from them and become a better person. You don’t be an as*hole and try to validate your mistake.

Lesson 5: Always assure your child you’re there for him/her

We’re finally down to the last one – kudos to you for making it through such a long write-up! πŸ‘πŸ»πŸ‘πŸ»

My memory:

One day while I was in secondary school, one of my aunts wanted to go on a short getaway to Thailand with Mother and me. So, Mother gave me S$150 to bring to the money changer after school, to exchange to Thai Baht.

That day, we had some mass assembly at school and we all left our bags in the classroom. When we got back, one of my classmates burst into tears because she claimed S$150 was stolen from her wallet. (Coincidence, much?)

Our discipline mistress came in and searched everyone’s wallets and found S$150 in mine – of which, they demanded an explanation as to how come I had so much cash with me. I told them my mom gave it to me to change, because we’re going for holiday soon. So, they asked me to call my mom to validate my story.

I called. No answer. I tried multiple times, but still no answer.

People started glaring at me like I was a liar and a thief. Even the teachers started suspecting that I made up the story and really stole the money. That classmate also screamed at me and asked me why did I steal her money. All that put together, I started crying.

I repeatedly tried to contact Mother, but to no avail.

Finally, after what felt like eons, Mother called me and yelled, asking me what did I want. I told her what happened and I needed her to tell my teachers that she gave me the money; that I wasn’t the liar and the thief they made me out to be.

While I was choking up in tears, I told her I tried calling her so many times and I was so, so scared – I really needed her.

Then she said, “You cannot expect me to always be there for you, you know! I have other things in my life too!!”

At that moment, something in me just snapped. This experience really became a core memory of mine. I immediately stopped crying and became a lot more stoic about the whole situation. That seemed to kind of scare everyone else around me, but at that point, I didn’t give a rat’s ass.

I passed the phone to the discipline mistress who verified the story and I was ‘released’. Then I was told the classmate said she made a mistake and actually left the money at home. πŸ™„

Now, as an adult:

I guess I caught her at a bad time and she just took it out on me, as usual. I deduce that it’s because, at that time, I was a helpless child that couldn’t do anything no matter how much abuse was dished out at me. And at some point, I reckon she thinks I should take any abuse she gives me, because she gave me life.

However, this is where I find fault – I didn’t choose to be born. She, however, consented to my possible creation. And indeed, I was created. Ta-daaaah~!! ✨

So, your child really had no choice in his/her creation. Therefore, it’s really your own responsibility to be there for your child, especially during the first ~20 years when he/she needs you the most.

Because once you miss out on showing your child you’re there during his/her most vulnerable times, you become just the sperm/ovary that created him/her – not his/her beloved parent.

Things would’ve been very different if Mother said something like, “Sorry, mommy was in a meeting. But I’m here for you now. Let me speak to your teacher.”

This experience really taught me that almost anyone can become a father/mother, but not everyone can actually be a daddy/mommy. And I really want to be a mommy to Pichu. ❀️

However, this story wasn’t all bad though – because through it all, the discipline mistress didn’t prosecute me once. And after she spoke with Mother on the phone, she said some of the kindest words, “Don’t cry, I knew it wasn’t you. I’ve seen you around and you’re a good girl. I knew there was an explanation to this.”

Ironically, that made me cry again – but it made me cry tears of relief and happiness. Kindness was incredibly alien to me back then. Again, something that I wouldn’t wish upon my own child.

Why I’m sharing all these ugliness?

You might think I’m looking for pity/attention or whatever other selfish motives, but the truth is – writing has always helped me reflect a lot better and I found these lessons to be incredibly life-changing for me as I near parenthood.

And since I’ve already gone through all that pain, I figured may as well share the fruits of my labour with others, so they can give their own child better and happier childhoods, so we can all have a better and happier world.

Sounds a tad clichΓ©, yes. But I’ve always been more optimistic by nature. 😊

You might say now that I’ve aired shared my vulnerabilities, people with bad intentions can easily hurt me. Well, I actually encourage them to. Because then they’d give me an arena to fight my demons and help make me stronger.

Anyway, I’ve specifically picked out these stories because they no longer hurt me~ πŸ’ͺ🏻 After working through the emotional rollercoasters of it all, they’ve literally been converted into educational moments that I’m repurposing for a better tomorrow. πŸ’›

However, I do feel sad that I cannot seem to conjure any happy memories/lessons. My mind literally draws a blank. 😐 It’s actually quite heartbreaking… but I guess this spurs me on even more to give Pichu happy memories of his childhood! πŸ‘ΆπŸ»πŸŽˆ

Alright, I should end it here.

Thank you so much for going on this journey with me. 😊 Till next time!

XOXO, G.

2 responses to “Becoming a Parent: 5 Lessons I Picked Up from My Childhood”

  1. I’ve always felt that parenting should be a privilege, not a right. Your mum, who said she wishes she’d never had you sounds like a prime example. I wish you joy as you embark on your journey, Gera.

    Like

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