Even when my marriage fell apart, I wanted my son to not lose his father. I always figured that parents do what is best for the child and no matter how a person fails as a spouse, it had no bearing on their role as a parent. You see I am an ardent believer of families. And if it were truly possible, I would want for a child a complete unit to grow up with. Let children learn the lessons of love, respect, understanding and commitment from their parents. Let them understand the value and the importance of relationships from you.
But if you know, that you as parents cannot lead by example, move apart…show them those values as two separate dignified adults. You don’t need to be together to give them those life lessons, do you? And in that belief, I started sending my child over on alternate weekends even as we separated.
He would come back exhausted, cranky and clearly there was some conflict building up. No matter how hard I wished it would work, shared parenting was not working. How could it? The very concept is flawed. How can two people with contrasting value systems come together to build common values. Shared parenting expects a shared rationale and sensibility that is build on common ground and one’s ability to put the child’s needs above oneself. Clearly I was barking up the wrong tree and that’s how I took the decision to end this.
In my attempt at shared parenting, I had allowed a lot more damage to my child than people can imagine. Have you heard a three year old pointedly tell his mother he hated her? Mine did. I was being threatened by that toddler and told that he was going to leave me and go to his other house. Why? Because I may have asked him do something he didn’t want to. At three, my child was angry. And he knew he had someplace else to be, some place without rules the two days he was there, that did not demand of him a certain code of behaviour.
Today, my son is a different person altogether. A year and three months later, friends are surprised to see the changed him. Yes, he is a naughty, unstoppable, over-excited, bubbly chirpy and a crazily energetic child who will smother you to bits to show his affection and exhaust every cell in your body. But you have no idea how much better it is to come back to a child who is not conflicted, confused or angry for no reason.
His teacher who met him almost a year later was surprised and couldn’t stop telling me how calm he seemed. And I know that to a large extent it’s because he has not seen any negativity. We don’t talk about issues. We never spoke about his dad, their family…we never had to. He never once asked me where his dad was…I have had no reason to lie. He learnt about court and lawyer a day before he was summoned to court to see his father and no matter how disappointed I was, I pretended it was a badly designed office that we had to visit, just like we went to the bank. He is allowed to comment and ask questions but I have found ways to get the conversation to flow in another direction.
And then kids have a busy life…there is school, friends, she didn’t talk to me and we are not friends anymore issues, new games to learn, new stories to read, alphabets to practice and the biggest hurdle of all, food to eat. And then there are the battles that we fight…head on with each other.
I tell him to do something like “pick your toys, yo”. He ignores me.
I speak up…Sometimes he looks up with the sweetest ‘yes mama’; other times with the ‘what do you want’ look.
I repeat the instruction. He throws me a reason why he shouldn’t.
I tell him again. He says he doesn’t want to.
By then I have taken a stand that he HAS to and he has made up his mind that he CAN’T/WON’T. And then it is war, as mother and son decide who is boss. We have so much going on as is. Where is the space for any other source of drama?
Crusaders of shared parenting tear women like me apart. Women who say, No, No more. And I very often fall for the ‘What a terrible mother/woman’ pit that they have dug up for me. I have been told consistently that I have ruined his life, messed up his childhood for my selfish needs and ego.
And I wish for my kid’s sake, for the sake of hundreds and thousands of other kids in his position, that they would stop. And that we as a community would stop pretending that being a parent is someone ‘s right. That we would just understand and respect children for who they are.
Kids are not toys. They are not playmates and ego boosters that are meant to give you a sense of meaning when you feel down in the dumps. They are not here to entertain you or be ‘ghar ke chirag’ that will take your meaningless family name forward. They are people for heavens sake who deserve nothing but happiness, steadfast love and good upbringing.
Why would you force on them the presence of a person, who even if is a parent, brings no value add to the child’s life. Would you allow your child bad company otherwise, maybe his/her peer, classmate, neighbor? Why then the special consideration for a damaging parent?
I will soon be forced back in to this sytem of ‘shared parenting’. And as I look at my son, the one who today never gets tired of telling his mom how much he loves her and kisses her a hundred thousand times a day, I wonder how many more days are left into this carefree life that we have together built. How much longer will this happiness last?
And despite the conflict he may have to soon take upon himself, I hope that my son will grow up to be a man who respects women, who will take responsibility for his actions, who will own up to his mistakes, take control of his life and refuse to play victim. And above all that he never forgets to love without fear and laugh without care.