Parenting gets better, perhaps easier as the kids get older… or does it really? We no longer have to hold their little hands when they are crossing the road — instead we just end up doing different things for the bachchas who are now in a different age bracket. One thing that happens as they grow older though – and this is happening at a younger age than earlier – is that children seem to think that they have control of their lives, and can so control the world and its aunt around them.
Control – the operative word that drives our lives in almost all its aspects, and most so in our relationship with our kids. As they are growing up, it is only natural for us to initially control what they eat, then what they do, what they watch on TV and sometimes even the friends they make. Our subtle and not so subtle control works well (or so we think) until they realise (which is also now happening earlier than before) that they can exercise a choice. Children do this from even before they can speak – indicating their likes and dislikes by crying. In their infant stage, since we are busy inculcating a routine and most important values, we tend to take it in our stride, interpreting their signals/words the way we want. Giving in sometimes, at others making the kid toe our line of what is right and what is wrong.
It is when they are old enough – and mature enough – to know right from wrong, correct from incorrect – then perhaps we have done our job well and can breathe easy. Till then parenting is a rollercoaster – albeit an enjoyable one. For soon you realise that they have grown up enough to be treated as equals.
Recently, two occasions showed me how – despite our daily volcanic eruptions, long distance arguments and busy-with-my-schedule routines – mutual affection knits us together. A few weeks ago, I turned a year older… and since it was a landmark year, Aakanksha turned up in town braving an immense toothpain.
A visit to the dentist, which she did alone, indicated an emergency extraction was needed. She had it done, returned home, and after a short nap, plunged happily into the business of celebration. So what if while we ate pasta and garlic toast, she was ingesting soft curd rice? D-day thankfully loomed better and the feasting continued to a family lunch on Sabbath. A flurry of activity between the three (Aakanksha, Gaurav and my niece Jyotsna) resulted in a cake with a lovely message on it. They had written all the ways I have been addressed over the years on it….. “Mom, don’t cry!” they sternly warned before the waterfall erupted. Ah, kids!
Just last week, I went down with viral infection. One evening – the day Mumbai got caught in traffic snarls – I reached home after a two hour drive with fever. Two of Aakanksha’s friends – Tanvi and Mitalee – took me to the hospital for a blood test, and while I was waiting there, my daughter called. After giving her a quick update, I wished aloud that she were here. “Mom,” she said, “It is your son who has called me up and told me you are ill.” The kids’ network sustained me right through till I was back to my normal irritating ‘Mommy’ self.
This is only to say that in nuclear families where most of us live with our children, it becomes but natural that roles change when kids begin to realise their responsibilities. From the kiddy game of playing ‘House, house’, they seamlessly take on more responsibilities when the need arises. All we need to do is let them do their bit. It is only then that they will learn and realise what needs be done – and whether we say it or not, we are proud of them.
The writer, a executive editor with Verve, is, in her personal space, often driven to distraction by her two growing ‘young adults’, but she loves the madness of it all