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When my daughters were born, obviously, we were thrilled. For several reasons. You already know that.
But then everyone exclaimed how lucky I was to be blessed with two little angels."Not like boys,” they said, “you’ll see, girls are such an asset, you’ll have peace and quiet and there’s nothing quite like daughters to heal a mother’s soul.”
Ever skeptical, I resolutely went through the enigmatic stages of breast feeding, weaning, bottle feeding, diapers, potty training, the mashed vegetables, the stage when every time I sat to eat, one or the other would want to go to the loo, the stage when all I ever got in a restaurant was mismatched leftovers of food I did not want to eat, the stage when I was regurgitating Class VII Geography in my sleep…and waited for them to turn into the little angels I had been told they would become.
I’m still waiting. The girls are now teenagers and not only isn't there the slightest hint of a halo on either head, I suspect the "Angel" phase has completely passed them by!
When the girls were much younger, at a party another mother had sighed, “you are lucky you have girls; I have two boys, you can’t imagine the noise and the mess.” I invited her then and there to visit my house. Somehow I would manage a semblance of order in the rest of the house, but their room always, but always, looked like a hurricane just passed by. I seriously suspected a ghost lived in that room. The cupboard doors were perennially open, flapping about in the wind, clothes lay strewn on the bed, books took up residence all over the floor, some naked headless limbless relics of Barbie dolls stuck out of the toy basket and the study tables resembled a kabadi khana. And if that wasn't enough, a roller skate could be found strategically placed on the floor so that any unsuspecting entrant would slide halfway across the room to cause serious bodily harm or at least stub the toe.
Now, nothing much has changed. Except that there is no toy basket or roller skate. The cupboard doors still hang open, washed laundry from last year waits to be put away and the dressing table is a multi-hued assortment of junk. And instead of Barbie dolls you have shoes and chappals peeping from corners.
I yell. Two “angels” peer at me after some delay. No, no one knows how the room is messy, just as they never knew when they were younger. Even the excuses have not changed: “But Ma I had closed the cupboard door, Ishadidi must have taken out her clothes” and “I never touched those books, how would I know how it got there, it must be Amisha.” Sigh. And since we do not have a cat to blame all this on, it must be the ghost!
I order them to clean up……they groan. "We'll do it, "they insist as they propel me out of their room. Earlier, at least they used to listen. They would fight, there would be a lot of “stop its” and “shut ups” and “Ma, she’s not helping” but they would at least do SOMETHING. Now, If I peep into their room after a while, one is lolling on the bed staring at a screen and the other is draped on the bed, staring at a screen. The wi-fi never goes off in our house. And yes, the cupboard doors are now half open, someone has made a feeble attempt to kick it shut from the bed, you see!
When the girls were younger, I had another battle to face: studies. Thankfully, that stage is over and I am quite clueless about what they are doing in school. I never could understand why on earth I had to teach my kids all those things that I thought I was over and done with quarter of a century ago! And back then, I knew mothers who were very knowledgeable and informed, they dedicated themselves to inspecting the child’s bag when the child returned from school. They attended every parent teacher meeting and school discussion and had a network of other mothers to fall back on when the child was unwell or (God forbid) forgot to copy the homework, I was never one of them. I did not have one single iota of patience in my body. I did not know my daughter’s friends’ mothers, I had no retentive powers when it came to the alimentary canal of a frog and I seriously did not care that the people in Jammu spoke the Dogri language. Yes, I was a self contained selfish individual who did not want to fill her head with useless bits of information…can you imagine, a judge would ask me “and what do you have to say to that, Mrs Banerjee?” and after a slight hesitation, I would reply, “a baby cockroach is called a nymph, the process of growing up is called molting…” Yes, that used to be one of my recurring nightmares!
Anyway since that stage is over my evening duties from the time I am free till I retire for the night, (specially now that summer vacations are on) consist of telling them to turn the volume down or prodding them to do things like remove their chappals from the living room, remove their story book from the sofa, switch off the wi-fi , all of which goes in one ear and out the other. Only when I moan that I am a hopeless mother and have not been able to raise them properly do they sit up and take notice. Only to shrug and mutter "drama queen" under their breaths which I pretend not to hear. Sometimes I wish I was teaching them Maths again. A few fractions or algebraic equations would be more fun!
I keep telling my husband that I was not made for this life. I should be lazing indolently on my bed in a chilled room all day, servants running at my beck and call and have pet Labradors who I will cuddle once in a while for diversion. I’ve even thought of names for the dogs: Whiskey and Soda and I will wear designer jogging suits and casually take them for a walk in the Lakes when the whim strikes me. And when the kids (who are obviously well groomed and perfectly well behaved) come home from school, I'll wave a perfectly manicured finger at them and they shall silently retire to their rooms! Once in a while I shall attend Kitty parties and shop for diamond.
Only that is not to be. Here I am stuck in an endless world of two pouting teenagers with hair that fall all over their faces, eyes that are perpetually glued to some screen or the other and voices that are forever asking me to "chill" or telling me that "it's under control".
I don't know what they have under control but I do know it takes every ounce of self control on my part to NOT have a fight with them . Because you see, fights are always , but always, bubbling under the surface. Anything you say, however well-intentioned, can, may, and most likely will, be used against you! An innocuous question, for example: "have you brushed your teeth?" or "won't you comb your hair?" or even "where are your slippers?" can well be the beginning of World War III! I just cannot wait for the holidays to be over, I am hopeful that once school starts in earnest, there will be some semblance of discipline in the house!
Yes, yes, I am fortunate. I do know my life is full of light, laughter and sunshine. I know I should enjoy the years I have with the little darlings because all too soon it will be time for them to leave home and I will pine for them. I know my children are the daughters of Life’s longing for itself and I house their bodies and not their souls or something like that as Kahlil Gibran has wisely said. And so many people have told often enough that daughters are little angels in waiting.
You know what? I'm beginning to think they were lying!