I have Four Children: Here’s How I Manage
“Do it with your heart and mind, not just the mind.”
As a parent of four children, the questions that get thrown my way by many who find this out for the first time are aplenty and they never fail to amuse me. One of the most common questions that gets thrown my way is, “How on earth do you manage?” To which my usual response is, “I don’t; I can’t, but I just try.” As nonsensical and ridiculous as that may sound, it, frankly, is the truth.
Now, before anyone thinks this is heading towards a post lamenting how I regret having children and how I hate parenthood… IT IS… NOT. I have enjoyed every moment, witnessed every birth, cut every umbilical cord and relished in the joys of being a father.
Then why the seemingly negative tone when asked if I could manage?
It’s simply because parenting, for me, has really been a journey. With every milestone, comes a whole new set of challenges. And with each child being unique, so are the accompanying challenges. As soon as I foolishly think that I have successfully “managed”, the next milestone comes to sweep me off my feet, and new challenges await. And so, I’ve learnt that I’ll never really successfully “managed”— and it doesn’t matter. All I need to do is try.
Try, because that is where the fun is.
Try, because it gives me newfound understanding of my child.
Try, because the continual effort strengthens the bond with my child.
Try, because I want my children to know that no matter what happens, no matter the mistakes you make, no matter how the world treats you, no matter how far you’ve gone, Daddy will never give up on you.
As I try, I’ve learnt that too many times as a parent, I seem to operate from my mind: Getting angry when they don’t score well in their exams, getting upset when they don’t respond quickly enough, getting irritated when they pester me on a tiring day… the list goes on. I’d even justify myself, thinking that my anger was for their own good or they would never learn.
And as soon as I am aware of how “mind-ed” (cognitive) I am as a parent, my guilt overwhelms me and I try to engage them purely from my heart: Giving in to almost every demand, bending the family rules that I had previously set while operating from my mind, letting them run so wild and free that when the time comes for the inevitable need to settle down… it becomes an impossible feat. Then I go straight back to operating from my mind, and the vicious cycle repeats.
Thankfully, as I keep trying to be more mindful and aware, the vicious cycles are becoming far and few between.
I am reminded of a quote by Dr Clarissa Pinkola Estes,
“My brain has no heart, and my heart has no brain. That’s why when I speak my mind, I appear heartless and when I do what’s in my heart I seem thoughtless.”
A much needed accompaniment in my quest to “just try” as a parent. A constant reminder that as I try, perhaps I need to try harder to strike a balance: To always remember to use my heart when disciplining my children— so that they learn from their mistakes, yet are not fearful of failure— and to keep a clear mind when rewarding them— so that they know what love is, yet never have a false sense of entitlement.
A possible feat? I’ll never know, but all I can do is try.
Joshua with his family of four children