Think motherhood is all gurgling babies and tiny, too-cute-for-words clothes? Wait till your child hits the dreaded teens! Today, Kalpana Shah, mom to a 16-year-old and a 9-year-old shares the daily trials and tribulations that come with being a parent. Tongue strictly in cheek.
Sukanya and me
Sometimes clichés hit the nail on the head – so l’ll resort to one: it seems like just yesterday that we brought our little bundle home. She was not chubby, she didn’t smile easily and her constitution was so delicate that she would have the loosies every single time a new food was introduced, such as a drop of mosambi juice or a smudge of cooked-to-hell daal. But for me, new mother at 36, Sukanya could not have been more perfect.
My daughter is nearly 16 now – and I feel like I’ve brought up at least five daughters! The charming, friendly 3-year-old transformed into a feisty 6-year-old who would argue with her school principal and get her Montessori classmates into programmes meant for children two years older. By nine, she was passionate about animal life and would dare to confront – hands on hips – a group of unthinking boys who were being cruel to a dog. At 13, shy and awkward, her friends circle shrank as she seemed to turn inwards. This full-of-beans child turned into a conformist by 15, looking and behaving exactly like every other 15-year-old. Sigh.
The only defiance now is shown to parents. Some examples:
Me: Sukanya, your exam is just a few days away. Please stop watching so much TV and open your books.
She: Ma, chill. Don’t go on and on. I studied for two hours this afternoon.
Me: Sukanya, please put on a t-shirt and don’t roam around in those strappy things. We’re in a village in Karnataka, not Sweden.
She: I’ll wear what I want! You can’t force me to do things your way!
Me: Sweetheart, why don’t you do some reading instead of spending so many hours on Facebook?
She: I’m not a reader like you. And I’m chatting with my friends.
Me: (at noon) Please get out of bed now. This is the 6th time this morning I’ve tried to wake you up.
She: (Groan) Ma, please let me sleep. You don’t know how tired I am.
Me: Just two days to go for your exams. I hope you have studied enough to get an A.
She: Don’t irritate me, ma. I know what I’m doing.
I shall not go into what follows these typical beginnings of conversations (uh, confrontations?) and expose my own shortcomings as a mother. I’m told every teenager is saying exactly the same things to her parents these days but that doesn’t take away from the gnawing feeling that I’ve gone wrong somewhere. I’m not sure how many more daughters I will meet in my Sukanya but I have not a shred of doubt that there are several interesting years of parenting still ahead. This morning I found a soppy Mother’s Day card next to my pillow – she must have left it late at night after I fell asleep, ignoring my instructions to get to bed before 11pm!
And then there’s Shyam
To balance the roller-coaster ride that my daughter provides, fate has given me a son. Shyam is now nine, and very little has changed in his temperament since he was a fat little toddler. His love of sports is steady, his reluctance to read is constant, his interest in the kitchen unflagging, his general attitude to life sunny. Except when we have to study, there’s a peaceful connection. Four years to go before he hits teendom – but I’m not losing sleep over what might happen.
For if there’s one thing I’ve learnt about life as a parent, it is that NOTHING is predictable.
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