“Mom, did you happen to see this article in the papers?” asked my eldest son, with a deadpan expression on his face. (And FYI he’s pretty savvy.) I didn’t even glance at the article and thought to myself – what a chip off the old block he was. Not! I figured that it was yet another article on the nastiness that some parents dole out to their offspring in the guise of parenting. “What a cruel father! Isn’t that right, mom?” chipped in the second son while my third looked on with a cherubic, butter-won’t-melt-in-my-mouth expression. And sure enough! I had surmised correctly where the conversation was veering. “Father jailed for pulling child’s ear and calling him stupid,” was the offering of my youngest son to the conversational gambit.
I fully understand the message implied: that I have to toe a careful line in dealing with my sons. This dose of intimidation is meted out to me on a regular basis, lest I forget who the actual boss in the equation here is. My eldest, after scanning the entertainment section of the newspaper (his favourite), skims through the other pages looking for articles like that. News of that genre, he perhaps (nay, surely!) thinks are extremely potent weapons in his arsenal to keep me under check. Perhaps I am the only one in my household under the mistaken impression that I am a fairly doting mother. My cruelty is now limited – as I am recently separated from my husband and doing the balancing act on Damocles’ sword – to making them get up at an unearthly (for me – as I am definitely not a morning person) early hour in the morning (they won’t if I don’t, LOL) so that they make it to school in and on time.
The unearthly hour, though, is for my benefit. And that is because of the daily soap opera that unfolds without fail every morning at 5:30. I won’t go into it. It’s enough to drive most sane people to drastic acts of cruelty! My most cruel acts (in the eyes of my children) are to get them to clean up the myriad messes they create and to help with daily household chores, or to make them get down with their homework. Sigh! The travails of parenting!!
I have always endeavored to be a friend to them – along with cracking the whip when I deemed it to be a requirement. But it is they that break this fragile bond of friendship the moment I request them to turn off the TV and study. It is they that snap it the moment I tell them to brush their teeth before going to bed or to go for a shower when they return home sweaty from playing outdoors.
Then there are the lectures (for them), motivational talks (for me). I try to keep them succinct and contextual (after having rehearsed them countless times before the mirror) -MAJOR stumbling block in our friendship. My inability to get them their preferred mode of transport – all terrain bicycles – at this juncture of my life, along with other amenities which are pretty important for boys their age, perhaps also contribute towards quashing any overtures of camaraderie with my sons. I console myself by repeating the mantra: boys will be boys.
They reciprocate my friendship a tad if I give them some pocket money and increase it when they demand citing inflation. To my way of thinking, rising inflation should result in a decrease in their pocket money. After all, I have to run the house with my constant, limited ‘salary’ but rising costs. But my sons have a different logic. They need a hike because the rates of ice-creams have risen and the cyber cafes charge more for the games they want to play; besides, other children get more. I try to explain the new situation to them, but it is their logic that prevails while mine fall by the wayside!
Then…I am deemed to be a good mother when I keep my cool when they come home with poor results. They appreciate me if I believe all their BS – nay, excuses – for doing badly in their exams without batting an eyelid or losing my shirt. They rate me as an ‘acceptable’ parent if I relent to their excuses for playing truant from school. There are umpteen other such acts that would make me worthy of their approval and coveted friendship (duration not guaranteed) but I fail to make the grade time and again.
I struggle to ensure that even my well-intentioned behaviour with my children does not lead toward any long term damage to their psyches. If my children are to march to the beat of a different drum, then darned, if I’m not ready to procure that drum and learn to play the beat myself! I have no preconceived notions, but find the response elusive to date.