One of my neighbors knocked at my door at bedtime yesterday. Apparently she was concerned that I always shout at Robert. We were having our usual bedtime argument, because he does not want to go to bed.
This incident brought me up short and made me as usual question myself and my rearing method. Yes, some people are better off minding their own business, but if an outsider views my behavior as wrong or disturbing then perhaps I should take account and correct it if necessary.
Some background information : I come from a very vocal culture, where people are normally loud. My ex husband used to comment that when I speak on Skype with my parents it is always like we are having a fight, but in the meantime it is just an animated argument.
My son dropped a cherished toy that I received from my family in Germany down the balcony yesterday, and I was at a loss at what I should do. I was in my nightdress, and the toy landed on the street at the back of the building where I had to walk all around the block to get it. So I carried him down (I could not leave him alone in the apartment), and was running my mouth at him calling him an idiot… I may also have said that I hated him sometimes, I was not aware that the neighbor was watching. The truth is that I was covering my embarrassment at running in a unpresentable manner on the street, and making a little bit of a fuss for my son so that he doesn’t do this again. I do the same sort of thing when he runs on the street without holding my hand (even if it is a perfectly quiet street) and when he tries to make dangerous acrobatics on the railings overlooking the ocean below.. I consider a loud and angry voice an intimidating parenting tool.
Yet, there is this moment, and another one a few months back. It makes me realise that perhaps I am over-using or abusing this method. Yes, we do live in a very close street, and I hear my neighbors flushing the toilet, and the people next door talking on the stoep. But this is all the more reason for me to be careful and respectful. And If I am ashamed to display such episodes to strangers then I should also control them in front of my son. I should not complain if he has tantrums if I frequently have my own.
I do have a wonderful little child and I do not want to be seen as anything but an appreciative and fond mother. I hate the image my loudness and my temper portrays to other outsiders.
Granted they are not there for the good times. They do not see me cuddling him every night, or telling him that I love him several times every day. They do not see us laughing and playing together, and they do not comment on the fact that I spend more time with him than with anyone else. I did not say any of that to my neighbor, who was perhaps brave, perhaps selfish to come and confront me. I was muted by my shame, at inadvertently showing a part of myself that I am not proud of.