Tag Archives: mothering

When My Child Doesn’t Like Me

Teen AngstI’d always wanted my children to like me, to enjoy being with me, to think I’m a cool mom. This was fairly easy when my kids were toddlers, preschoolers and then preteens. I was their regular playmate and companion. We are homeschoolers, so I’ve also been their teacher for several years now. During some of our earlier homeschool years, I made our lessons and my children and I enjoyed learning together. We made arts and crafts, read and sang together and went to our own little field trips. My children liked me and I enjoyed it.

Two years ago, I lost a preteen and gained a teenager. Gradually, my relationship with my elder child changed. Since becoming a teenager, she has been spending less time with me and more with her friends. She no longer wants to do lessons or learning activities with her younger brother and me. When at home, she spends most of the day in her room, away from the rest of the family. I know that she is trying to form her own identity, but it felt like she was drifting away from me. It felt like she didn’t like me anymore.

I tried to be the cool mom. I met her friends, gave them rides every now and then, and welcomed them into our home. I let her go to the mall with close friends unsupervised. I went clothes shopping with her once and, after seeing for myself how hard it is to find nice but fairly conservative shorts, I convinced her dad that our daughter’s shorts don’t always have to be mid-thigh in length. Though her dad and I draw the line at anything tiny and stringy, I went with my daughter once to shop for her sporty bikini. I bought her little knick knacks when she asked for them. I was very flexible with what time she needed to sleep and wake up, when she could and couldn’t have friends over, and when to do her homework. As much as I could, I allowed her what she wanted because I wanted her to still like me.

On a few recent occasions, I’ve had to be more strict with her homework and her social activities. I found myself saying no to her more often that before. And this made me a very unlikable mom. I know she was very unhappy with me then (I remember being a teenager too, and definitely not liking it when my mom didn’t let me go out with my friends), but I was surprised at how unhappy I felt when I saw how disappointed she was. And the realization hit me. By not setting clear boundaries and values, by trying to be her friend, by wanting to be liked, I was failing as a parent to my child. I was failing to love her, to guide her well in her own journey to becoming a respectful, responsible and resilient woman.

I was reminded that liking is for cute things, cool movies and crushes. Loving is about a commitment to the beloved’s growth and wellbeing. Liking is about feelings that come and go. Loving is for honest relationships that stay with the ups and downs.

I’ve learned that I have to live with the moments when my child won’t like me. I will remember that these growing pains, these struggles in the parent-child relationship will not break me or my child. I will remember that these difficult times make us more resilient persons. My child doesn’t need me to be a likable friend. My child needs me to be a mother who loves her unconditionally, steadily and wisely, not only during the happy “yes” days but also during the angry “no” days.

 

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No More Shame in Breastfeeding My Way

Breastfeeding in public #FreeTheNippleBetween my two children, I’ve a total of about four and a half years of breastfeeding. Those years were challenging, educational and fulfilling. I was fortunate to be one of those mothers whose milk came in easily and in good supply. With my first child, my milk did gradually lessen when I went back to work. I took malunggay capsules and expressed milk while at work to keep a good supply. Eventually, I had to start mix feeding with formula milk.  Despite these challenges, I was able to breastfeed my eldest child for 18 months.

The greater challenge came when I breastfed my second child. It wasn’t a challenge in milk supply, biting (of course, my baby did bite but I was able to handle it) or any other physical difficulties that can happen to a breastfeeding mother. It was the emotional part of breastfeeding that got to me. Unlike with my first child whom I breastfed mostly at home, my second child was basically attached to me and breastfeeding whenever and wherever. By then, I wasn’t working in an office anymore, so I was almost always available to him. Because of that, I didn’t see the need to express milk and to teach him to take milk from a bottle. (He learned to drink water from a sippy cup.)

We moved to Singapore when my second child was months old. The challenge was when my baby would cry in public. It was easy when we were in one of those malls with peaceful and well-appointed nursing rooms. While hubby and daughter went around the mall, baby and I would have a proper nursing session. However, when we were in the train or bus or in a park and he would start crying loudly, I had no choice. Despite getting disapproving looks or curious stares from strangers around me, I pulled out my nursing bib and let my baby latch on right then and there.

During the first few times I did this, I felt ashamed. I thought that I was being inconsiderate by making other people uncomfortable. I thought that even though my breasts were covered, I was still being improper. I didn’t stop breastfeeding in public, but I secretly felt ashamed.

I read about breastfeeding, and I remember someone saying that I shouldn’t be ashamed to breastfeed in public, that I shouldn’t worry about the people around me and instead put my child first and think about comforting him.

I chose to breastfeed my second child until his toddler years. When he was a year old, he only wanted to nurse to help him fall asleep or to comfort him when distressed, so nursing happened mostly in the privacy of our home. I didn’t get any stares, but what I received were bits and pieces of unsolicited advice from some people who knew that my son was still breastfeeding. “Maybe you should stop breastfeeding him because he isn’t a baby anymore….Aren’t you making him too dependent on you?” Sometimes, my resolve wavered and I felt that shame again. And I did try several times to prematurely wean him. It didn’t work, and I believe it was because the timing wasn’t right. He wasn’t mature enough emotionally, and he needed me to continue to be there for him through breastfeeding.

I remembered that I needed to put my child first and to stop worrying about what other people around me were saying and thinking. I wanted to breastfeed him until he was ready to wean. I stopped listening to the naysaying voices outside and focused on the inner voice that helped me push away the shame and embrace the joy of breastfeeding. One day, my toddler son just didn’t want to latch on anymore. After a bedtime read, he hugged me good night, lay down beside me and fell asleep. No more struggles, no more tears, and no more shame.

And the chapter of breastfeeding in my life ended for good, with joy and gratitude and without shame.

 

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When Homeschooling My Teenager Gets Tough

00-13I don’t know many parents who are homeschooling teenagers; most of my homeschooling friends and online acquaintances are homeschooling younger children. So when I am faced with the challenges of homeschooling my 15-year-old daughter, many times I am stumped.

Until very recently, I was struggling with putting together her homeschooling plan for 10th Grade (we had started the school year last June). I am always looking out for what is better, what is new and improved, what will bring the best out of my daughter. While it adds dynamism and flexibility, this approach to homeschooling seems to be giving my daughter a feeling of instability and insecurity.

I wanted a more open, less structured approach because I  believed it would be a better way to enhance her obvious artistic talent and inclination. She wanted to follow curriculum that is simple and clear-cut. I wanted her to spend more time in the living room or in the den with me, her father and her brother. She preferred to stay in her bedroom. I wanted her to enjoy homeschooling with me and her brother. She had more fun learning in a center with her friends. I wanted her to like me, to not mind being with me. But I believed that, like most teenagers, she preferred friends to parents, and that is just how it is.

I started to realize that this wasn’t just about finding the right approach and curriculum or materials for my teenage daughter’s homeschooling. Homeschooling is part of my parenting. And it felt like I was in the middle of a small parenting crisis.

Thanks to some homeschool support groups on Facebook, I came across two wonderful blog posts about parenting teenagers. “Why Teenagers are Amazing” by Rachel talked about slowing down, listening to them, valuing them. Rather than fight against them, we should fight for them, fight for their hearts. And her most important reminder – “Start seeing the good first.”

I was blown away by this blog post “When Did I Last Wash Your Hair?” by Hannah Keeley. First, what happened to her daughter happened to mine in (how uncanny is that?). My daughter was also playing goalkeeper during football training when she blocked a ball and fractured her wrist while doing so. She also needed a cast for about 6 weeks. And during those weeks, I had to help her bathe and get dressed. It was also a strange yet familiar feeling of being needed by my daughter again. Aside from that, what really struck me in her post was her parenting motto: “Make sure they remember joy yesterday, experience joy today, and anticipate joy tomorrow.”

These mothers and their words helped me realize that if I focus on being a loving mother to my daughter, if I look after her heart and help her find her joy, if I see the good in her first rather than the bad or the difficult, our relationship will be alright. And our homeschooling will follow suit.

Even though she is already a teenager who seems to need me less and less, I reminded myself that she is still my daughter whom I love unconditionally. I started with small gestures – kissing her goodbye as I dropped her off at the learning center, giving her a good night hug before bedtime and telling her that I love her. I listened to her stories about her friends and about football. I tried to nag her less and to let her be.

Nowadays, it feels like my relationship with my daughter is in a good place. We’re not best friends, but I don’t expect us to be. It’s not perfect, but what relationship is? But now, there is less silence and more laughter. In homeschooling, there is less tension and ambition, more cooperation and compromise. And I know that before homeschooler or teacher, I am first my daughter’s mother.

 

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