Once a parent, always a parent. When a child is born, a mother is made, for life. It is amazing that from the time a woman knows she is expecting, her focus turns inwards. She walks, eats, rests and works out differently. And once she holds her baby in her arms, her world begins to revolve around the little one. Life changes for her and how.
As my two children grew and explored new things, I realised that one of the most used words that crossed my lips seemed to be “No, don’t do that!” God knows what my babies then thought about my No (perhaps they nicknamed me ‘No Mommy’), but the No was not to put a restriction on their growing minds and worlds. Of prime concern then was their safety.
Let me give you a few examples. Don’t turn over, you will fall off. Don’t touch the dustbin, it’s dirty. Don’t eat that, it’s fallen on the floor. And when my kids were babies, we didn’t have the hi-tech gadgets and facilities that today’s parents have access to — to keep an eye on what the kids are doing when they are not in the room or not at home. So, when we left home, we left behind a series of instructions.
As adults, we often trod the path of our lives without fear of reprimand or consideration of consequences. But when it comes to our kids, we tend to develop a little bit of fear. The fears — or concerns — stem from our instinct to keep them safe. Our initial fears are: will they fall down, will they negotiate the stairs safely, will they be happy at school or will they manage on their own when they step out?
As they grow, safety concerns become different: will she reach home safe at night, after office or a party, will he heat his food without burning it? Can I travel and leave my ‘baby’ alone for three days? Will he break his leg again playing football?
The reason why I am dwelling so much on this safety aspect today is due to recent episodes that have grabbed headlines. All of them could have affected any of us — one of the most horrifying being the murder of the girl who had graduated from ILS (too close to home as my daughter is studying there) in a flat in Mumbai. Lawyers tend to work late — so this could be any girl’s story.
When violence gripped South Mumbai recently, we wondered whether Gaurav had been caught en route to class. A few missed calls got no response. But thankfully, before I could hyperventilate, he messaged, “Am in class. Safe.” When the blasts occurred in Pune, I saw the visual runs on TV and picked up the phone. “I am in the hostel, Mom,” she said, “Don’t worry.”
‘Don’t worry’ is not a phrase that exists in any mom’s vocabulary. It could be about simple things too. I remember worrying the first time Gaurav boarded a train alone, whether he would head towards Churchgate or find himself on a Borivali local.
Worry has no age bar. My mom, now in her early 80s, in her time would drive back in the dead of night after conducting deliveries without an iota of fear. But if she learns that I have returned late, she shakes her head out of concern.
We try to mask our fears — not always successfully — lest we clip our children’s wings as they learn to fly. For as Kahlil Gibran said about parents and kids, “You may house their bodies but not their souls, for their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.”
Perhaps we as parents worry because our children are entering a ‘world’ we may not share, experiences that are beyond our yen. Will the flesh of our flesh be safe as they find their own morrows?
The writer, executive editor, Verve, is, in her personal space, often driven to distraction by her two growing ‘young adults’, but she loves the madness of it all