I always saw my parents stressing when I’d fall sick. That didn’t stop me from getting flu, getting into accidents, playing in vehicle impoundment yards, construction sites, electric generator rooms, and the list goes on. My question was: if the street urchins can, why can’t I? Why should their childhood be filled with dangerous liberty – teaching them to navigate high risk situations – and mine be guarded like that of a porcelain doll in a glass cage? I wasn’t a parent back then. I had no idea of the high risk factor that goes with bringing up a single-child.
First time my boy fell sick and couldn’t stop crying was when he started teething (yet to see those teeth, but it’s been on since he turned 2months). My heart had stopped, I rushed to the Kindernotfall. You can’t do anything to a baby under 3 months but to patiently wait it out and hope for the best I was told. Over the time he had RSV, Influenza and so on and I had the luck to lower his pain and fever with prescription meds from the doctor (after of course yelling at them that I don’t want holistic healing – for that I can pay 3000 CHF and fly my child to India and get a baba hitting him with peacock feathers). Yet there is no denying that when he aches, I ache too. Perhaps more than him, cause of the fear that something life threatening can happen and losing a child is not something I can deal with.
Last few weeks, little boy went from respiratory virus to flu and for the first time I called home and asked my parents to simply stay online with me. We FaceTimed for hours, no words spoken, just the comfort in knowing that my parents are there on the other side of the phone call, visible, watching TV, seated in the livingroom where I grew up, just being there. Familiarity. While my son slept in my arms. Familiarity.
That was the moment I realised (and I sincerely hope all parents do too, particularly Indian/South Asian parents), there’s no point in clipping your child’s wings (particularly if it’s a daughter). They will get into trouble (or not) – whether you monitor them closely (or not) – what you can do is give them the comfort of knowing that you are there for them. Always. Fear of being scolded or dismissed can make a child lie, deal with unthinkable mishaps by themselves just because they think you will never understand! So give them the safe space by showing them right from wrong without fear-tactics. See how they trust you then. And don’t break that trust.
When they are in pain, fear, panic, anxiety – whatever the stake – just be there. That is enough. That familiarity is enough to boost confidence, to help them fight and overcome anything and everything.
In my eight month old sons case it is the flu, when he looked into my eyes visibly in pain with 40.1 fever, I could only keep him in my arms and look back into his eyes and say: “it’s a part of growing up my little Bub. Life is full of pain. You have to fight it – that’s what will make you strong.” He listened. How much he understood I do not know. But he went to sleep in my arms knowing mommy is there for him as he fights he has his cheerleader behind him. Just as I did. My parents in their living-room, quietly waiting it out with me.