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The Sacred Circle

Parenting with love, kindness and respect, for yourself first.


Odds and Ends

My earliest memory of a mother caring for her little one is from a bitter cold winter morning. On the only green patch on a dusty, rock dotted field the donkey stood, nuzzling her merely-hours old foal. It was early morning sports time at my school. Not once did the oddity of a donkey making its way into my boarding school present itself to me.


She may have lumbered across all through the previous day or perhaps, even dragged herself to make it for the appointed hour at night. The minuscule emerald oasis was enough. A bunch of us looked on unbelieving, as the young foal stood on its scrawny legs, ash grey coat glistening with birth wax and the morning warmth. The mother tiredly licked her foal, nudged him around and licked again, giving the other half time to air dry. I was about 12 or 13 years old and had years of firsthand experience as a child myself. Yet, the spectacle of this donkey’s birth brought about an almost reverential awe, at having witnessed something sacred.


Three decades later, I lay in bed unable to sleep, unable to stay completely awake and unable to fight the forces that pulled me into a deep, dark abyss of Postpartum Depression. My two year old son slept blissfully beside me, content over a milky meal and an intuitive sense of my being around. As I marinated in self- deprecation, out of the murky night light – lit darkness landed a sound whack on my head. I shot up, angry and confused. I distinctly remember no pain but red-hot embarrassment burning my being. The way your ears burn after a teacher has just called you uncouth or stupid in front of the rest of your class.


The Invisible Fighter in You

Of course, no one had hit me, there was no one going around with the midnight task of whacking errant new moms. It was me; the stubborn, snarky, strong survivalist ME that hides within every one of us. The ME that says “I am still here” when all the lights have been turned off, the ME that sighs impatiently as you preen over yourself in the mirror for a tad too long, the ME that grits its teeth and looks down at a daunting task.


Postpartum depression (PPD) is a mood disorder that affects approximately 10–15% of adult mothers yearly with depressive symptoms lasting more than 6 months in a sizable chunk of affected mothers. Depression during pregnancy and after delivery may have a negative impact on the development of the emotional and social intelligence of the offspring.


I looked towards my son; he had slept through the entire blockbuster of a movie. I was sure the thump boomed around the walls! As awareness set in, I began sobbing. The more I wept, the more composed I got. I managed to say “I am Sorry” to no one in particular, then perhaps to everyone, especially to myself. It was my personal ‘Ahalya’ moment. Except, it wasn’t divine touch but the strength of my own will that brought me back from the abyss.


My childhood was spent in a bustling Temple Town and all the 300 million gods on earth and beyond weren’t enough to convince me it was a magical time. Every year my brother and I returned home for the summer holidays, our parents set out to catch up on all the parental activities that they had missed out on, with us being at boarding school. Our dad would get us books from the library one week, take us to the College Sports Centre the next week, pull us into discussions on nightly newscasts on TV or take us to more temple towns on vacation. Our mother dusted her recipe books, brought down shiny vessels stored away for special occasions, arranged and rearranged our closets every single day. My brother responded more warmly than I did – he appreciatively ate all the delicacies, gamely gave his opinion on the politician of the hour, and woke up early for a rousing game of Table Tennis or a climb to the nearby hills. But even he drew the line at “Vedic Mathematics” classes my father personally wanted to take.


I wanted to do absolutely nothing – wake up when I felt like it, read my current book (I received the books my dad brought back from the library with great pleasure but never once set foot in there) and go in for my mid-day nap. That’s what I thought being a child ought to be like. When we went hiking, I stopped at the groundnut heaps spread out all along our trail and took in their earthy, rain infused scent. I would eat the raw until the insides of my cheeks turned sore and then call it a day. I loved to play Table Tennis but couldn’t be bothered to wake up early. My lack of interest and appreciation would finally irritate both my parents- my father would plainly express it while my mother would assume a righteous look and sigh “I do all this only for my children” or “I live only for you both…”. Hundreds of queries bubbled up in me, in response, but thankfully I was too disinvested to follow through. It seemed as if my parents had roles to play and us children had to support them with it.


Kindness and Respect for your child

With my rocky start at being a mom, I gained a perspective that was achieved more through circumstances than deep insight. My son needed me to feed him, comfort him and basically keep him alive the first few years. As he grew older, I tried creating aspirations, charting dreams and talked to him about ways he could achieve them. He listened sometimes, mostly he got impatient with my purposeful tone and motioned for me to make it quick! It struck me immediately that I was repeating the role playing.


Parents can be there for their child, creating and maintaining a stable and nurturing environment. When and how they would need us is not predetermined. We just need to be there. I used to think it was wonderful how some parents claimed to be their child’s ‘friend’. As a late teen, I tried telling myself my mom was my friend and how I could share just about anything with her. Reality was I usually couldn’t share everything with her, and I was usually disappointed with her inability to help. I am not telling myself that anymore, I am not trying to be my son’s friend. I usually let him lead, ask questions, and answer the best I can. I think it was the treading on my small personal space, as a child, that most irked me about my parents’ overzealous parenting.


It is well known that children are extremely self-aware. Try asking a young child to choose between two favourite colours, they not only are sure about their choice, but offer up a third favourite colour as well! The Parent-Child relationship influences how our children evaluate themselves, and how competent they grow up to be. The relationship of an adult to a child —the emotional quality of their interaction, the experiences they have shared, the adult's beliefs about the child's capabilities and characteristics—helps motivate young children's learning, inspire their self-confidence, and provide emotional support to engage them in new learning


Now with my three year old daughter, I find myself in tricky situations, just as I did with my first born. Uncertainty, anxiety, and hair fall don’t get better with each new child- we simply learn to avoid pushing the emergency button every single time. In the middle of a head scratching decision, I bring my son into the situation and ask him for help. As outrageous as that seems, his simple and clear perspective sans parental stress, has helped me time and time again. I earnestly thank him for his input and the pride that lights up his face then, is unmistakable.


Now with my three year old daughter, I find myself in tricky situations, just as I did with my first born. Uncertainty, anxiety, and hair fall don’t get better with each new child- we simply learn to avoid pushing the emergency button every single time. In the middle of a head scratching decision, I bring my son into the situation and ask him for help. As outrageous as that seems, his simple and clear perspective sans parental stress, has helped me time and time again. I earnestly thank him for his input and the pride that lights up his face then, is unmistakable.


Remember you learnt from the best

“At least I had parents around”, I hear myself say accusingly. But this is as much about the kindness we show ourselves, as parents, as that we show our children. We endure seismic shifts in our lives – physical, mental, economical, societal, and for some, spiritual too; and we do so in the best way we each can. Yet, we also run ourselves through the most unforgiving self-evaluation, “Am I giving them healthy food?” “Is my absence, due to work, going to impact my child’s relationships?” “Does my child tell me everything from school?”. From my own experience, I sense that our children gain most by just being there for them, in whatever capacity and however long they need us.


At dinnertime, my father insisted we ate together. I always took my reading along, to avoid conversation. I was never a difficult child, just a non-conversational one. That never discouraged him, he would patiently and sincerely ask for my opinion on matters galore – his work, book he was working on, news headlines, anything that was on his mind that day. Hesitatingly, I would respond with monosyllables, then a couple phrases and before long I would be all in and enjoying myself. I remember thinking, not all too unhappily, that my parents haven’t figured out a lot of stuff too and suddenly, I felt a deep kinship and instinctively also very protective of them. This was our sacred circle.

 
About the Author

SSR Sai Sudha Raghu

Sai Sudha Raghu is a homemaker, space enthusiast, loopy tree hugger and has two little treasures in her nine year son and three year old daughter. She and her husband live in Monroe, New Jersey.

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