I am grateful to be in a position where I can babysit my own child. I am fully aware that not everybody has that luxury. Many have to leave their children in the care of nannies and nursery homes, not because they don't love their children. Rather, it is because their current socioeconomic condition is such that they have to make that arrangement, and in their best calculation, they have decided that to be the best course of action to take.
I have nothing but respect for these people. They go to work in order to make an honest living, just to provide for the people they love at home. How can you not respect such people? Some of those respected people are my neighbours. Day in and day out, I witness them go to work early in the morning, leaving their children behind. Often times, the little ones are crying as they see their mothers and fathers walk away from them.
No parents would want to see their children cry. Above all, no parents would want to be the cause that their children cry. But in a situation where they have to be in that position, I can only imagine the heartbreak as they leave their children at home in the care of another. If there is any other viable option where they don't have to do that, I have no doubt that they will drop everything and be with their children who need them the most. No doubt.
But this post isn't intended to talk about them, but it is intended to talk to them because in the midst of the nobility of their work, there is something that I think should change: the way they leave their children behind. I understand that they have to leave their children to go to work, but that doesn't mean that they have to be unnecessarily harsh when they do it.
Often times I see them trying to silence their children from crying. That is understandable. When children cry, surely parents to want their children to stop crying. Children crying, especially in public, can be a bit embarrassing and if they don't cry in public, it is still not a pleasant experience to endure.
Having said that, it is not cool to make our children feel bad about crying. Often times I see parents use shame (e.g. Why are you crying, look at the other kid. He's not crying, is he?) or fear (e.g. If you keep on crying, you won't get candy!) to stop the children from crying. Is this the best course of action? What type of feeling are we developing inside our children with that kind of response?
Lets turn over a new leaf.
I think we can make the experience more tolerable. We still wouldn't enjoy it, but at least we can go through it without losing our cool or making our children feel bad. The basis for this is simple, but not simplistic: understand why our child cries. I believe understanding the other is one of the best ways to start handling frictions between two people. In this case, it is between us and our child. When frictions arise, the first step is to get out of our own small world.
We see life through our lens and our perspective makes sense for us. That's fine. The problem comes when we use the same lens to understand the perspective of others when that perspective is generated from a different lens. Our child has a perspective, based on how he sees the world. We need to tap into that world, by first consciously exiting ours.
After that comes step two: try to enter our child's world. People don't do things without a reason. Everything must have a reason, a motivation, behind it. Our child cries for a reason. On the surface level, the easiest reason to figure out is that our child simply doesn't want us to go. He wants us to stay.
At this stage, we might be thinking, "Doesn't he understand that I have to work? To provide for the family?" If we haven't gone through step one (getting out of our small world), then this might be a reflex thought that pops up. But if we have gone through step one, then we should know better that a child doesn't understand that we have to work. In a child's world, he just wants us to be there for him.
In time, perhaps he will understand. But for now, he doesn't. So we, as the adult, should be more careful with how we react to his behaviour. We can't react as if our child can understand why we have to leave. A child has no ability to enter into the mind of the other, yet. That is soon to be developed. A child is inherently egocentric, meaning that he can only perceive his world and his world only. His world is his reality and the only reality.
In his reality, we are leaving him behind and that makes him sad. On one hand, we might choose to get annoyed because our child doesn't understand. On the other hand, we can choose to appreciate his reaction and show compassion instead. Because we know our child has developed the ability to understand the other yet, but we have.
On the surface level, he wants us to stay. On a deeper level, he wants us to stay because he loves us. If we think about it, isn't that better than if he doesn't care if we stay or not? Imagine a situation where our child doesn't cry. It makes no difference to him whether or not we are there or disappear from his sight.
Imagine that. Isn't that heartbreaking for us, as parents?
Obviously, this isn't an encouragement to make our children cry. But this is simply a call to understand and to show compassion. If we understand why they shed tears as they see us leaving, then we wouldn't see it as annoying. We would see it as a sign of love, and we should reciprocate with more love.
Next time, give them a warm hug before you leave.