I realise, second children are made to mock the smarties out of the parents.
Just when you gloat and think you’ve done well with the first, along comes the second and dismisses every parenting tool you choose to use.
With Oviya, from the beginning we followed a routine. Meal times, bed time, no-TV days etc.
But with great foreboding we realise that with Nilah, our test as parents is going to get horribly tough.
There is a daily routine that I find cute now, but has the potential for extreme embarrassment soon.
Every day, as soon as I return home, N climbs onto me and peeps into my shirt/blouse/kurta. Then she flashes this ‘aal iz well’ smile. For the rest of the evening, she takes quick breaks from play/harassing O/shadowing K (babysitter) and repeats the peeping-Tom exercise. When she is bored, she decides to do a touching-feeling thing too.
For her there is no discrimination of time and place. Even when we are out, she sits on my lap with her hands safely ensconced inside my tops. Cute, you may think. But not if she insists on doing this in the food court of a busy mall! Ha! What were we thinking, by even trying to have a normal life with a toddler in tow.
Second borns also serve another very useful purpose. You appreciate your first more! At least in our case, we are increasingly grateful to O for letting us believe parenting is easy.
When I raise my voice with O (even when she was really little), she immediately pays heed. When I do that with N, she screams back. But I am quite sure this horrible behavior is in no way a reflection of me as a mother, but more a reflection on O. As a big sister, she is way too indulgent with N and misguides her. I am not to be blamed. Hmph!
After a long, long time I heard the term ‘boy cut’ at a saloon yesterday. That should have been inspiration enough for me to jump off the chair and run out with a ‘not-quite-finished’ hair cut… hindsight and all that. I stayed put and left only after the ‘boy cut’ was done – complete with stubble on the neck, which R says only the Marines still find fashionable. Yeah, the man has a smart mouth which he should keep shut to save his teeth from being knocked off.
The two most important people in my life, who are not related to me by blood or by marriage, are T the tailor, and K the maid.
My life as I know it will go to pieces without these two fantastic human beings. The first provides me with almost-stylish clothes, that I don’t find in my size in stores. The other runs my home, and cares for my children.
But sometimes, I wish they would just SHUT UP!
Two weeks ago when I picked up a set of new suits from T, I told him he seemed to have got the measurements wrong. And pat came the reply (arms stretched wide, as if I would misunderstand his Malglish and need the charade): “You’ve become fat!”
K, till a few days ago couldn’t stop boasting about how ‘anthee’ was one of N’s first words. As if that weren’t irritating enough, yesterday she tells me with a pretend-sad expression: “N is not calling me ‘anthee’, she keeps calling me ma-ma!”
If I didn’t need them so desperately, I would kick them.
A man who has a way with money is appealing.
A man who can make you laugh is attractive.
A man who opens the door for you is charming.
A man who brings home the bread is dependable.
A man with kind eyes and a cool bike is sexy.
But a man who can fall in love unconditionally, without hesitation, and carry the trust of his girls with pride… plain HOT!
I’ve known R for over 13 years, been married to him for 10.
However, I honestly and irrevocably fell for him when I saw how he was with O.
And as if to remind me, and to warn me against taking things for granted and giving trivialities importance, the scenes are enacted once again.
O was the first baby he ever carried or touched… but I guess with loving you don’t need practice. That’s why the second time around too, with N, it comes just as naturally to him.
So for this tag from Deeps, where you are supposed to pull out a photo from your picture folder and give the story behind it, I chose the two below. And as they say, a photo is worth a thousand words.
On the left is R with N, and the other with O
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.
The logic of a 7-year-old, infant moments, and umm gloats…
Umm: You have to eat that
O: No, I don’t like the taste
Umm: It tastes good. I just had some
O: Each one has a different feeling. In my mouth it doesn’t taste good
O: Can you give me money for the canteen?
Umm: Let me check with Umm M if she is giving M
Umm: Then we will decide
O: But why? You keep asking me not to compare with others. And you are doing that…
Umm and N in the bedroom. And everytime Umm calls out to O, N twists her neck in every conceivable direction till she spots the door. And when she hears O, she breaks out into a loud laugh.
O acts nonchalant… or at least I hope it’s nonchalance.
Naw comes home thrice a week to clear the mess we make. N gives him a big smile everytime (N is always on the lookout for people to smile at, and if she can manage, engage in a conversation too).
Naw after receiving a particularly radiant and long drawn out laugh from N tells Umm: “She is so ready to smile. Just like Sir.” (Sir being R)
And just in case I didn’t get his point, Naw reiterates: “N is like Sir, laughs and smiles a lot.”
I force a smile in agreement, and bite down a grouchy cleaning instruction on the tip of my tongue.