The thought that I am a bit more selfish than I would like to admit to myself occurred to me a few times, but each time, I warded it off saying that it is not the case. But last Sunday, I peeled off all layers of ego, and told myself that I am still a bit more selfish than I would like to admit.
I must confess too that I feel I am way too considerate of others and it inconveniences me sometimes.
Last Sunday, my family and I attended a Bhuddhist Ceremony of offering a religious hat to His Holiness Lopen Thegchog in Paro. So many people had gathered and the hall was so packed. My three year old daughter Dechen and I were squeezed in a corner in the last row. Because there was a small space next to me where my daughter sat (but currently left empty as she sat on my lap), people eyed it and took it up. So we were even more squeezed. She got so restless after a few minutes and she had least interest in the ceremony. When my ideas of keeping her engaged got exhausted, I told her that it was okay for her to go out. She went out twice – stepping on people’s laps because there was just no space at all. Both times, she came back shortly (I later noticed that there were people sitting crowded even at the doorstep and stairs). A nun sat in front of me and because Dechen touched her shamthab, a woman sitting next to me made a comment that she is anim nyenzey ( a celibate nun) in Sikkim. After a while, the same woman told me that there is a shed outside where we could sit. She meant to tell me that we should leave the hall. So taking all the hints from frowning faces, we left. But when we got outside, she saw a pair of sandals she liked and she didn’t want to wear her own sandals. She had been forced to stay inside for way beyond her patience and her mood being not well, she sat on the ground, in the dust, telling me that she was not going to wear her slippers. I let her sit there and taking command, I told her that if she was not going to wear them, she was going to walk barefoot! When a young boy helped her up, I told him that he could let her soil.
I must have been both angry and embarrassed because I don’t really remember whether I carried her or she walked barefoot to the meadow where we sat down to eat lunch. She must have been hungry. She finished her lunch (which is not usual). I was already feeling empathetic and wanted to hold her so much, but I told myself that I had to be tough. So I still held command. After a while she came to me saying that she hurt her feet and she was going to put on her slippers (the way children tell you that they were wrong is very gentle and genuine, and cute).
After lunch we did not go back inside the hall. We roamed around, played in the stream nearby and then we met a woman I know who also has a daughter her age. Though both of us seemed to have forgotten the bad afternoon, I was still feeling very uncomfortable inside. The way something is lodged inside your throat and you could neighther swallow, nor cough it out. It didn’t go until the next afternoon.
So all the while, I have been thinking over the incident and I realized that when we lose our temper with children, it is almost always because of ourselves and not because of them. We correct them way too much, we see fault too often – when we are not in our best mood. That day too, I think I was more angry with the way people looked at us in disapproving glances than at her restlessness. It was also because I didn’t want them to think badly about my daughter and the way I took care of her. We also tend to take on them when we want to shout at someone. This realisation makes me feel bad, but honestly, I think we often scold them, or spank them when we want to get off the foul mood we are in. And it is never because we genuinely think correcting them is going to make them grow up to be a good person (though that thought is there too). When we genuinely care about them, we find a gentler alternative to correct them.
This thought that I am taking on her because I know she is helpless and she cannot hurt me back gave me a very awful feeling. I feel it even as I write this article. There could be some of you who disagree, but that is okay. I heard that there was a teacher in Bhutan who fought that there should be no corporal punishments in schools because when teachers beat their students, it is never out of genuine care for the students, but out of their own anger. I am with him.
Next time you want to spank your children, or scream at them because they did something wrong, please hold yourself. When you were their age, you made mistakes too.