Once upon a time taking care of kids was second nature. However, over time I have come resent anyone asking about looking out for their kids. Expecting free service as if child care is the easiest job in the world.
Even taking care of my own son turned out to be such a chore. But that was because of my complex-PTSD. There were numerous times in my son’s childhood I had to take a deep breath, step back and make the effort to be a loving mother. Oh, I struggled with dealing with a child while being overwhelmed with hurtful memories and deep gnawing pain.
I was 5 years old when my mother came home from work and told me to go play with the baby in grandma’s house. She added, ‘he is crying all the time.’
I loved babies, I had a good enough mother so by default I was a natural mother. Harry Harlow has shown this in his monkey experiments. Baby monkeys who are mothered well go on to be caring mothers.
On reaching my grandmother’s home, I vividly remember seeing this bawling baby, lying on the bed. He was so tiny, just a month old. I went up to him, and instinctively reached out and wiped his tears with my teeny hands. Instantaneously, his wailing reduced to subdued whimpers. My little heart broke and I lay down next to him, caressing him and kissing his baby face. He stopped crying. The adults were a bit surprised.
I heard my maternal grandmother telling my mother and my aunt (my mother’s other sister) he has not had any milk since yesterday. They were worried. My mother questioned my grandmother, how could she leave the child, he has not been weaned. My grandmother could only shrug her shoulders saying ‘She wouldn’t listen, she did not even keep some formula to give. The child won’t drink buffalo’s milk, even after diluting it. I’ve told the milkman to get some cow’s milk.’
Shortly the milkman arrived and brought cow’s milk which my grandmother quickly boiled and cooled. She then handed me the bottle. I took the bottle and put it in the baby’s mouth while lying close to him. Hungrily the baby drank and then promptly fell asleep.
I asked my mother where was the baby’s mother? She simply muttered, ‘She’s gone to Kashmir” my mother was the type not to talk ill of people. But for me, it was simply incomprehensible, why the child’s mother go to Kashmir. My mother replied that she had gone for a vacation because her friends were going and she did not want to miss the opportunity. Her baby was the responsibility of her mother-in-law, the village.
Lorenz’s Geese, Imprinting & Attachment
Growing up Baby A was very attached to me. When we cousins ganged up against him (he was the youngest then) in our childish mischievousness,, he’d look at me with those forlorn eyes, like I just couldn’t do that. Oh, I had to relent.
I did not realize it then but now it was like I was imprinted in his brain as his protector. Like Lorenz’s geese, he would want to be with me, spend time with me. Being my cousin I did not think much of it. Particularly, after my mother died and my once close relationship with my brother became nonexistent, it was nice to have someone to laugh and share with.
A Mother’s Deadly Jealously
Then he became a teenager, he grew into a handsome football player. Moreover, he was seriously such a nice guy to be around. He’d still do anything for me. That’s when his mother began noticing his attachment to me. This mother who abandoned Baby A when he was a small baby now wanted to spend time with him. They fought when he insisted on giving me an easter egg which she had made.
From then on her jealousy increased. She was not able to break his attachment to me. I was more important. I did give much thought to the drama of what was happening until one day he confessed that his mother was ‘chewing his brains.’ Furthermore, she was coming to talk to my father about us. She was insinuating that we were having an affair. I was incredulous and afraid that my violent father would believe her because she was the model Catholic. I could only pray ‘dear God protect me.’
Hardly two days later, an aneurysm in his brain burst and he suffered a massive intracranial hemorrhage. He was on life support for a week. The pain of the loss was searing, it ripped through my core. For months I was in zombie-land. I was devastated emotionally. It was love but not love of lovers which his jealous mother construed.
In many ways, he was my first child. I will always miss him.
Bowing To The Demands Of The Career Woman
The second time my mothering skills were required was when mother’s other brother’s (a merchant seaman) wife had 2 children in quick succession. She was the now deified career woman in her late thirties who did her job of producing kids. Now it was the village/mother-in-law’s job to take care of them. Whenever her babysitters played truant she’d come and dump her kids onto my maternal grandmother.
Once she came threatening my grandmother that she would divorce her husband if my grandmother did not take care of the kids. I was roped in, my grandma entreated, ‘I can’t manage.’ So every day, I would go, feed them, clean their potty, bathe. When career woman came back she would just not bother to take over her mothering duties.
The children, a boy, and girl were like Harlow’s monkeys climbing onto me, clinging on for dear life.
Teenage Years – Fruit Ripe For Enjoying
Then they hit teenage years and were fun to be around, the fruit was ripe to be enjoyed. That’s when this career woman’s mothering instinct kicked in. She became the best mother in the world.
By that time the abuse at my home, scoliosis, my abusive relationship only made behave more and more like a 13-year-old instead of a 26-year-old. Which must have been awful to the budding model cousin. As she became more and more successful she turned her nose at me, ignoring me, pretending she did not notice me. She was ashamed of me a hunchback who stilled acted childishly.
I still hoped that there was some love, Refusing to believe that she was capable of meanness, after all, she was the child I raised. She was my child and I blessed her ‘may you become a supermodel.’ Four months later she won the title of super-model in the national contest.
When I called to congratulate her on the radio show, she pretended that she did not know who I was. She denied me. Jesus was pained when Peter denied Him 3 times. I a mortal human, was just crushed with the pain of her rejection. The radio host quizzed her if ‘Cheryl’ was one of the contestants, she lied saying ‘yes.’ She was embarrassed to acknowledge me. It cut like a knife, deep and horribly excruciating.
The final deep annihilation of my spirit was when supermodel’s brother, came to visit me after my son was born. I was financially and emotionally at my lowest. A really tough time as my son’s father was dying with cancer. I asked for help, my son was 2. This brat whom I had fed, bathed and taken care for free behaved in the most reprehensible manner a human being could behave. He walked out on me giving me Rs 300/ equivalent to 5 or 6 dollars claiming that’s all he had. This was a blatant lie as at that time he was working on the merchant navy, which pays really well.
Village Life Is Reciprocal
It’s been 16 years now, neither he nor his abominable family has never bothered to check out on me. Oh, I struggled emotionally and financially to raise my son. To be a good mother.
Now as I bask in the love of ‘MY Child, my own child’ the rejection and wounding the past has slowly eased. I don’t think I will ever come to that state where I will accept or treat another kid as my own. I have realized that in today’s world of competitiveness and one-upmanship people don’t respect the concept of community or know or want to contribute to their village. Their entitlement makes them just take.
This denial of my contribution destroyed that deep sense of goodness I had towards other people’s kids. No, I am not cruel to other kids but neither can I instinctively be good to someone else’s kids. I’ve realized that in today’s world child care is not valued.
What most people still don’t understand is good childcare means attuning to the needs of a child, while putting your needs on hold. It is a transfer of energy from the caregiver to a child – precious psychic energy. Ancient cultures understood this. In our world, only money and success speaks.
Hillary Clinton’s book It takes a Village, attributed to an old African proverb, It takes a village to raise a child. does not understand the reciprocity of village living. A child needs to be taken care of but she/he has to learn about gratitude and giving back. Or else it could mean we are raising a bunch of greedy, selfish and ingrate kids which in the long run does not bode well for our world.