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So we thought that with the dawn of new age global schools, extended days, after-school classes, we could kill two birds with one stone. For progressive moms like me, this was all good news and then some more. I could pursue my job, passions and endless list of chores while ensuring that my kids were on a round-the-clock regimen of learning, exploring and growing.
Don’t get me wrong. Like so many others in my generation, the one thing I always am short on-is time. I am smart and open to consider all and any ideas that short-cuts the ‘means’ and still achieve the ‘ends’. So YES to the pre-fermented dosa mix, online grocery shopping and annual subscriptions. And when my kids became part of the school choir or when they returned with medals for winning swimming competitions, I knew that the after-school music classes and extended-day swimming practice was paying off. They were developing skills and receiving accolades. I was proud, as I should be.
I had found the right balance. I grew in my career while my kids were already turning into independent rollers. Every week night we would return exhausted with the toils of the day, with bags full of our stuff and plonk ourselves into the nearest comforting couch just to let the muscles relax and mind collect the lessons of the day. I knew that in a decade or so, when my kids would be in college or more, this grind would give them a big leap and it would be all worth it.
On one of the rare occasion, when we took a holiday, we went to Pune for a wedding. I dreaded it. You see, we did not have any guests- with good reasons- we did not have much time to receive guests. But worse still, the outstation wedding parties include living at close quarters, sharing bathrooms, getting dressed without the privacy and indulging with people you would some times avoid. Any how, we were there and we were in for the ride. Everyone we met was very warm and generous. They were interested to know what and how we had been doing. The food was delicious and we were stuffed beyond the happy-point. My kids, 10 and 12 were bored though as there were not many in their age group. In the evening more family arrived and with them arrived kids. I was happy to see that my kids would have some company. they hung out together that evening. At bed time I enquired about their new friends. Both were nonchalant. “ they just go to school and don’t do anything else”. we have no common interest. Nisha is learning to swim now. Mom, she is 11!, mentioned my 10 year old son in shock and disgust. And do you know whats more, they go to park to play cricket and swings and some such other silly thing in the evening.
I was quite surprised at this review. I had seen the kids all evening. they were polite and curious. Both were calm and considerate. In fact I had seen their mom forbid ice-cream after dinner. well everyone was having it, inspite of it being nippy. they wanted to have a scoop. their big eyes did not hide their appetite. But they had not argued and seen the wisdom in their mom’s decision. I let it pass thinking that the children would click on their own and I should not fix whats not broken.
The next day was Sangeet and my daughter, 12, wanted to wear a beautiful lehnga. I preferred she wore it for the wedding dinner. At least thats how I had planned the wardrobe. What began as a simple choice of dress among only 5 dresses quickly escalated to a big war about looks, hairpins, dresses and matching sandles. I was furious. the screaming match was reaching a crescendo when I finally gave an ultimatum and expected obedience. What I got instead was disbelief. Finally she said, I have to be the best looking or I am not going! I let her do what ever she wanted. The other kids were is simple and comfortable dresses- with enough room to run around and play.
I realised that in my race to make them super-men I have perhaps robbed them of childhood. I longed the dependence that children have on their moms; and the priceless joy moms get by fixing little things for their kids. Instead I am converting them into snobish tyrants who are disrespectful to everyone; who believe it is their way or the highway. How would they succeed with these ethics. Did I forget the class of family value and ethics and manners. Did I forget the session on sharing and team work. I guess these softer-winning-qualities were always my job.
Perhaps I would need to re-invent the winning model. And remember that my kids are not trophies. They are my future and they need to make me proud by their conduct before impressing other with achievements.