K who helps me take care of my girls, and makes sure we have fresh food everyday is besotted with N.
“Good baby, never cries,” she keeps telling me in Hindi.
“Just like O,” I say.
“Really,” she asks, annoyingly unbelieving.
“Yes. O never cries. Uhh… never cried,” I say indignantly.
**and she rarely did. she was a fantastically cheerful child**
“Then when did she become irritable,” K presses on.
A little, when she started going to a babysitter (and then I pulled her out), and a little more when she started regular school (and I could do nothing)… the pressure to fit in, to be liked, to fake it… it all starts way too early. It makes me want to weep.
But I never saw O as an irritable child. K had to point it out to me. What the heck, K was comparing O to a 14-week-old baby that has little else to do but nap, suckle and crap in its pants.
For O, it’s a cruel world. Complete with all the expectations and politics of the adult world, but without yet knowing how to play the game with fluency.
Yes, at the end of a long day (her days starts at 5.30 am and goes on till 8 pm when she drops off to sleep) she can tend to be cranky. But compared to most (there I go again comparing. but double standards are my thing) she is really cheerful and friendly.
The sad, unarguable truth is that schools chip away at and erode a child’s individuality, forcing them to conform; dividing the bunch of them into two clear groups.
The cocky and over-confident bunch vs the meek and self-effacing ones… so often O shows signs of the first. R & I come down hard on her, asking her to show a little more humility.
Then, as often, are the moments of worry and self-doubt and we try to give her a boost, try to tell her she is great as she is…
I guess it’s best to step back and let her find her groove, and only intervene when absolutely required.
The challenge is: How do we define “absolutely required”?
Last week I attended a school function, at which I met this kid who has done brilliantly in his 12th CBSE exams, cracked one of the top entrance exams in India, and still looked like he lost his cat, his only best friend!
Where was the spring in his step? The smile on his lips? He is only 17, a super achiever already, but looked like he had the burdens of an old man.
He was so inarticulate, so nervous and under so much pressure. And guess what? Surprise! Surprise! His dad is never happy with what he does, it seems.
What is wrong with these parents? Super-ambitious, bouncing their failures and successes off their children…
I do expect O to study for her tests, prepare for her classes, and take her schooling seriously. When I find her genuinely struggling with something (as against fooling around), I give her the attention required and try to help her along. Because it’s education that’s going to give her the freedom to choose the life she wishes.
Do I expect her to win the Nobel or find the Missing Link? No. Would I want her to? Not sure.
I am highly ambitious for my daughters, but not in the sense that’s best understood these days.
More than anything else I want them to be known as fair human beings.
People who give more than the rationed two hoots to the world around them.
I want them to grow to be women who are moved by another’s sorrow and struggle. Even if it means that they will not be as ‘rich’ or as ‘successful’ as the rest.
And in that quest if they choose an academic route, so be it.
But if they’d rather hug a tree or fast with Medha Patkar, I’d be just as happy.
I am terribly afraid that they’d never know all the wonderful opportunities awaiting them, which are not determined by the degree they hold or the bank balance they have.
I am afraid that what I wish to tell them will be lost in all that they see around them.
Schooling and Peer Pressure, Barbies and Hanna Montanas, may all combine to make my word null and void.
I don’t want O to be known as an ‘irritable’ child or N to grow up to be one.
I know they are not going to be smiling and laughing all day through – if they did, I will be checking their pockets and draws for sure.
But I want them to take their troubles (however big) lightly and carry their joys (however little) with pride.
I don’t want my babies to be cracking the Da Vinci code and yet be incapable of communicating it to the world, depending on someone else to. I’d rather they be the communicators.
Oh, I am so ambitious. So very ambitious for my babies.