I was far from an ideal mother. Never too indulgent, not too self sacrificing. I was never overly concerned about their strife and struggles. I never waited outside the gates, biting my nails or praying silently like other parents. I would rather use the free time to watch a movie or shop in the neighbourhood if I ever accompanied them for an out station exam. I never rustled up a dish because they didn’t like what was on the table. Once when my son complained how I didn’t give choices I told him he had the option to eat dinner or not.
I was not the unconditionally loving and giving parent. I ensured that they do their bit. School was compulsory and if they had to stay home on account of sickness I ensured that they didn’t have fun, insisting that they were on ‘complete’ bed rest! I have zealously guarded my personal space. Not more than two short bells on my phone if I am in my clinic, at a conference or with friends. My afternoon nap always was and still is, sacrosanct. No intrusion allowed unless it is a life or death situation.
I wasn’t surprised then, when I found out that I was listed as ‘gandi mumma’ ( bad mother) in my daughter’s contact list. The truth is I had fun bringing them up, sometimes at their expense. Parenting for me has been about practical jokes and shared laughter. Once when my daughter was watching a horror film in which snakes were jumping around I threw a toy snake at her timing it to perfectly match the antics of the onscreen serpents.
Unless it entailed bodily harm I have tried not to say ‘No’ and let them figure it out on their own. So I let my son try make honey with carefully collected pollen and his own saliva. When he excitedly declared that they were selling motorcycles at hundred rupees a piece, instead of reasoning with him I gave money to buy two! The most important thing I have tried to teach them is the ability to tide through downtrends. When my son was little he would cry and throw the game if he started to lose in Ludo. I would coolly take his turn while he sulked and deliberately make wrong moves till he was compelled to play again. I wanted him to believe that a bad spell won’t last.
It wasn’t all fun and games though. Once my twelve year old son secretly rode his scooty for ten kilometres on a deserted village road to get a notebook which he had forgotten despite repeated reminders. He took such a grave risk to avoid being reprimanded by me. That day I realised that we should not make such a big deal out of sloppiness that kids design elaborate and risky coverups. Guardians shouldn’t be such fearsome authoritarians that children make bigger mistakes trying to hide smaller ones. Offspring should be able to think of their parents as the first line of defence, no matter what. So I have learnt lessons too.
Recently, my daughter planned a surprise birthday party for me sending out beautifully crafted invitations to all my present and past friends. With my indulgent son- in -law’s support she laboured for days to make everything just perfect. My son surprised me with a new iPad with features that I need for these doodles. Ideal offspring! You will agree and so I dare say, the title of ‘ gandi mumma’ notwithstanding, I must have done something right.
( published in the HT on 23/11/2017, due to an oversight ( theirs not mine!) it was also carried as a middle in Tribune on 14/12/17)