by Anne Abayasekara
Today, I have great pleasure in welcoming a Guest Blogger to my website – none other than my Mum, Anne Abayasekara, a journalist for over 70 years. This article was first published 55 years ago in the Sunday Times of Ceylon 1961 (and later in her book ‘Hurrah for Large Families’). It was penned when Anne was aged 35 with seven young children aged 11, 10, 9, 8, 6, 5, and 3.
And now, without further ado, I give you ...
New Year Resolutions by Anne Abayasekara - 15.01.1961.
We were having dinner in the garden and out of long habit I found myself shouting instructions to the children: “Sit properly Ranil”; “Don’t talk with your mouth full, Sarla”; “Stop arguing boys and eat”, etc. etc. Suddenly I listened to myself and felt somewhat ashamed. I looked up to find my husband smiling at me and I said,
“I must have changed a lot in fifteen years.”
“How do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, I expect I must sound quite ‘bossy’ now, after managing seven children. I must have been different when I married you at 21.”
He continued to smile, wisely making no comment.The next day, we had to attend our daughter’s school prize giving and Husband said he would meet me at the school straight from work. Almost without thinking I said: “Then you had better change your shirt at lunchtime and for goodness sake, brush your hair down before you come.” Husband chuckled. “There you have the answer to your question of last night—how you have changed.” He grinned. “You wouldn’t have spoken like that 15 years ago. You sound positively managerial.” We had a good laugh together over that, but I've felt inwardly chastened ever since. And among the New Year resolutions I have made,
No.1 is TO BE LESS ‘MANAGERIAL’ IN 1961.
It may be old fashioned to make New Year resolutions at all, but January is an appropriate time to take stock of ourselves and our families. The children are making new beginnings in new classes and new schools and parents have had a hectic time with school entrance tests, new books and helping children to unfamiliar places, faces and routine. When I finally wave the children off to school in the morning, I flop into a chair at the breakfast table (which has been left in a fine state of disarray). “Peace and quiet for the next eight hours and time to get things sorted out”, I say to myself. And sometimes as today, while I get busy picking up clothes putting out towels, airing mattresses, tidying shoes, putting away books, my mind too becomes active, dwelling less on the children’s deficiencies than on my own shortcomings!
Life is such a rush for the modern child. The day hardly seems long enough for all they have to do. Unconsciously, we urge them on all the time, from one thing to another. From the time they are woken up in the morning - we dare not let them get up when they please – it’s a case of “Do hurry up—you’ll be late.”
Children seem to have precious little time for relaxation, no time at all “to stand and stare.” And I guess I am not the only mother who in my anxiety, am guilty of nagging a good deal. Children are not left in peace even to perform their natural functions. I bang on the bathroom door with the eternal “Hurry up—you’ll be late!” Even when they come home tired from school they cannot dawdle over their tea. They must wash and change quickly and dash onto their next assignment—music, elocution, dancing or just extra tuition.
When mother starts to feel a mental wreck just to get the children off in time for everything, it is also time she paused awhile to consider whether she might not be driving them nuts eventually unless she slows down the pace. So that’s another of my good resolutions for 1961:
· TO GO SLOW WITH THE CHILDREN THIS YEAR
· TO NOT EXPECT TOO MUCH OF THEM.
· TO LET THEM ENJOY LIFE WHEN THEY ARE YOUNG.
On a Christmas visit to friends who have no children, I was happily surprised when our host and hostess both commented on our children’s good manners. “They all say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ remarked our friends in evident surprise. “That’s after years of dinning it into them”, I said. “But so few parents seem to trouble to “din it into them today” our hosts replied.
I don’t know if that is so, but I have another aspect to this matter of teaching children good manners; in their eagerness to turn out polite, well mannered citizens, many mothers are guilty of discourtesy and impoliteness themselves. I know I am.
Instead of setting my children a gentle example of courtesy in my daily dealings with them (and alas even with their father), I tend to shout precepts at them in an impatient tone. I forget to say ‘please’ and ‘thank you’ in daily intercourse with family, I am a bad listener. I interrupt children’s conversations. I break up their games. I shout at them with scant regard for their feelings. I am often rude.
I remember once, my eldest daughter related a rambling account of something that happened at school and all the time I was thinking that her teeth looked yellow. The moment she finished, I said “You must brush your teeth properly”, and she replied in disgust: “Oh Amma, you never listen!”
I seldom conceal my irritation at their constant questions. Even husband has now become accustomed to receiving impatient answers to simple queries, though he once mildly observed that I was much more polite when we were newly married. So it is no wonder that my third New Year resolution is:
TO BE MORE POLITE.
I have one last and final resolution too, one that I sincerely mean to try to keep, even if I fail with all the others.
TO BE MORE LOVING.
It is a harsh complex world that our children face today, with conflicts and problems that are not of their own making. Today’s children are aware of racial and religious antagonisms, of class conflicts, of all kinds of issues in which their parents are involved, of the great ideological differences that divide mankind to opposing camps, of the possibility of extermination through nuclear warfare and of man’s general inhumanity to man.
If I can help it, I should like my children to grow up in a home where love is the binding force and where they see in concrete form that if there is any way to soften this human heart, to kill evil and hatred and all that goes with it, it is not through hatred and cruelty, but through charity, love and understanding.
Anne Abayasekara - Sunday Times of Ceylon, 15th Jan 1961
In conclusion, I’d like to add, 55 years on, that Mum's aspirations have been amply realised. I know I speak for my brothers and sisters as much as myself, when I say we are deeply grateful to God for Amma and Thatha, for all they have been to us over the years, mostly for the secure foundation they gave us in a very happy childhood. Our parents' unconditional love for us was the binding force in our home and the cornerstone of our lives.
And after all, love is the key to life isn't it?
We love because He first loved us." 1 John 4:19
"Love is patient, love is kind. It does not envy, it does not boast, it is not proud. It does not dishonor others, it is not self-seeking, it is not easily angered, it keeps no record of wrongs. Love does not delight in evil but rejoices with the truth. It always protects, always trusts, always hopes, always perseveres." 1 Corinthians 10:13:4-7