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As the phone vibrated in my hand, I scurried out of the pandal, trying to move away from the blaring speakers to more respectable decibel levels.
‘Hello? Listen I’ll call you in a bit. I am…’
‘No! You have to listen to me NOW!’
That was my friend. And her tone suggested that she didn’t really care for the blaring speakers or the fact that I was compering at a college function. I went inside the Botany lab where the singer who had now reached a crescendo sounded just bearable and more distant.I pulled up the rickety chair and sat down, hoping the senior co-host won’t miss me once the singing ceased. This was going to be a long monologue.
The next ten minutes were spent with me trying to muffle the laughter building up while my friend very emotionally recounted the whole conflict she was in with her 10 year old and how the father just didn’t understand.
‘I don’t know what to do…it seems that I am not a good mom after all…’
That was it. The muffled laughter broke all barriers and for the next few seconds she silently waited before asking me to explain the funny part to her.
‘Sorry,’ I said once I sort of calmed down.
‘Well? The part that was so hilarious was…?’
‘Arrey, I couldn’t help it! It seemed like you were reading out my story baba with only the characters changed! Its the same story here. Welcome to Preteens!’
That’s a sample of conversation that we seem to be having pretty frequently nowadays. The tantrums for toys, which were forgotten quickly thanks to limited memory span, have been replaced by more persistent, entirely nerve wracking, battles which stretch across days, and sometimes weeks on issues ranging from home work, to the choice of clothes, to just about everything. Its not the teenage that parents dread anymore, its the preteens, since by the time the real thing arrives, you are too numb to react, and have resigned to fate.
Whatever happened to my tiny little baby? That’s a question which shall haunt us forever, ladies (let’s not even get into why the men wouldn’t feel that way)! You remember seeing those old movies where there was this absurdly huge diamond in the middle of a room protected by a maze of laser beams? The hero touches one beam, and the entire place crumbles or worse wakes up an eight headed monster, each head baying for the hero’s blood. That’s exactly how a mother of a pre-adolescent kid treads - tiptoeing across life carefully, yet stepping on land mines each day.
‘So what do I do?’ She asked me, desperately hoping I’d give her a magic spell.
I couldn’t. I was standing on the land mine of the day. While talking to her, the phone had already gotten ten calls from home.
‘Nothing. Just bury your head in sand.’
I didn’t wait for her to understand and hung up. Eleventh call on the cell.
‘Mumma. This is it. I can’t go on like this. You have to cancel the home work for today! I can’t concentrate with your younger son hovering over my head, and I hate maths anyway. I will become something which doesn’t require maths. Why can’t I leave maths?’
'Quick!' My mind was telling me to find the nearest sand pit to bury my head in. The sand pit walked to me! A student came running to call me back to blaring speakers, the senior co-host was indeed missing me. I hung up on him amidst vehement protests, and completely avoided a serious upcoming debate on non-mathematical career choices.
The night too ended in an exhausted mom, with hair greying faster than the garden chameleon changes colours, a disgruntled boy who felt entirely unlucky and denied of all his ‘rights,’ and a father’s distant, self-endangering statement about the mom being too strict. And the younger one silently taking notes for his future reference.
Each night, when the entire household is asleep, the dogs snoring away, the fish gracefully swimming at one place, the boys sprawled on their beds, I do the last round tucking them all in (don’t worry, not the fish!). I linger on near my ten year old, give him an extra kiss, and just sit there and stare. I stare at this five foot tall boy who thinks of himself as a revolutionary in the morning, the oppressed unfortunate boy in the afternoon, and gets too exhausted by night to think anything anymore. The mum in me frantically looks for the tiny bundle that she had carried home from the hospital two days after he came into this world, the tiny fingers that were forever wrapped around hers, the big round eyes that forever were following his lifeline, his mum. All I see in that snoring face is a fledgeling, sprouting wings, trying to take to the sky - a fledgling who sees me, the same mum, holding him back.
Alas! He would understand that parents do not hold back when one day he’d be standing on a bed side staring into a tiny rebellious face and wondering if he is a good enough dad. But then again, he is a man….for all you know he might be snoring away in his room while his better (much better) exhausted half stands and wonders like I do today.
The questions still hang in balance, ‘Where the hell is my baby? What do I do? Where am I wrong?’ The answer - Nothing. All you moms out there, do nothing. Just wait for the storm to pass! And wrong? Are you kidding me? We are the best things that happened to our respective families. Its just a phase, which shall pass, and transform into a storm bigger than this, so brace yourself for the ride ahead ! The baby is in there somewhere, or so we fool ourselves. Do what you do best - love unconditionally and breathe deeply. You just might make it without that trip to the shrink!