Thursday, June 20, 2013

Beyond Strategies

Aloka's behavior has changed a lot in the last three months. I often find myself at my wit's end with her constant need for attention from me, and often from others. When she doesn't get the attention she wants, she becomes loud and rude, and who wants their child to be unlikable? And then there is the opposite. When meeting strangers, she becomes totally quiet, refusing even to greet them, and looking downright unhappy. It upsets me no end to see her so cheerless.

Concerned about it, I have been reading up a lot on kids' difficult behavior and worked out some strategies. I have put up a chart with actions I do not want her to repeat (not letting me talk to others, not greeting people, making a mess while eating etc). I have worked out consequences of such behavior (no ice cream, reduced TV time etc). And after reading an article, changed the way I appreciate or scold her (thanks for cooperating with me, I like it when we do not argue about things, can we please do this all over again and this time, let's be nice to each other etc).

But yesterday, it just struck me that I have got it all wrong. Mom and I were discussing how upsetting her behavior can be and I (as is my habit) defended her saying that she is reacting to the change and we should understand her. To that, mom said- "But how does our understanding the reason fix the problem?".

In that moment, I had a huge shift in my mind- our understanding the reason is only the first step. It is Aloka who needs to understand herself. Then I remembered another child who needed to understand himself 13 years ago.

At that time, I was going through the hell of divorce and not being a text-book good mom. I would cry often and openly. Atreya saw my misery and became extra protective of me. He would be upset if even my mother said anything remotely unkind about me in jest. It was obvious that he was very angry with his father for putting me through this pain, though he didn't say anything about him. 

A few months later, I had recovered enough to stop pitying myself and start thinking of this little person in my charge. So one night, maybe 6 months after the divorce, I asked him if he loved his father. The answer was a straight NO. I asked him what he would do if someone knocked at our door and it was his father, whom he hadn't seen for almost a year. His response- "I will not even look at him. I will slam the door on his face!" 

Of course I knew this was my little protector saying what he thought I wanted to hear. At that point, I asked him to suspend all thoughts and look deeply in his heart to find the right answer. He just shook his head. Then, I asked him to stop thinking of me, as if I was not even at home when his father comes knocking, and then look deeply in his heart for the answer.

Atreya, seven at that time, went all quiet. What he said next both broke my heart and gave me hope at the same time. He said "When I open the door and see him, I will hug him tightly"!

Of course, no father came knocking at the door and no child got to hug him tightly in 13 years. The child continues to search for the lost father even now (Don't Go Looking). However, it is my belief that because Atreya understood and articulated his feelings through this miserable affair, it did not have the power to overwhelm him. He turned out to be this fantastic person because of this understanding. 

What Aloka needs is the same. She needs to understand that this move has been tough for all of us, but perhaps the toughest for her. She needs to believe that she will have a great life here, even if it's very different from what she was used to. She needs to have confidence that though she has lost many people she loved, love happens again. She needs to know that life is beautiful, if you just give it enough time. 

Time to make her understand this basic fact, beyond strategies.

No comments:

Post a Comment