Being a Woman
I’ve been having a running battle with my offspring for some time regarding the utter chaos in their rooms. A 14 yr old and a 11 yr old should be doing a better job of keeping their living spaces clean, right ? Then why do their rooms resemble the aftermath of a nuclear holocaust ? Each morning after they leave for school, I venture into their rooms with bated breath and a prayer on my lips, hoping to find a miraculous transformation. I must say that my daughters are consistent if not anything else. I find myself looking out onto a battlefield. My 11 yr old is a slight lil thing but the mess she creates looks like a dozen dancing hippos have passed through in gay abandon. Judging by the disorderliness, they must have been practicing their tango. My teen is not an iota better. Of course due to her obsession with books there’s not much art and craft debris so its more like the hippos have restricted themselves to a gentle waltz. There’s more of an even distribution of stuff lying around. My anger simmers the entire day with this scene in my mind and erupts in the evening when the kids get back from school. After much brow beating and teeth gnashing on my part and innocent looking Bambi stares on theirs, we come to an understanding. They’ll turn a new leaf and I’ll stop ranting and raving. , For a few days my children transform themselves into hard working lil elves with one eye on my demeanour. I start off by being Hitler, but gradually get lulled into a state of complacency. When they find that I’m back in my loving mother mode they slowly start easing off on their efforts, until we reach nuclear holocaust stage again and then we run through the whole cycle once more.
A couple of days back, I was relating my continuous battle with my wily offspring to my mother, extolling on my forbearance and suffering. After some time I realised that instead of commiserating with her poor victimised daughter, Amma was trying her best to smother a smile ! I immediately stopped mid-stride and demanded a reason for this extremely cavalier attitude. She quietly told me that the kids were only following my path. For a minute it felt as if someone had stuck a needle up my nose. Shocking and painful ! Then I rallied and vociferously started denying this allegation, when suddenly a stray memory of my room crept into my mind. Ok, it definitely was not the cleanest place on earth. I was still struggling to establish my superiority vis a vis my children to my mother, when again I got a flashback and this time all the pieces of the puzzle fell into place. My God ! my room really was quite messy . The surface of my much abused desk rarely saw the light of day. Teetering piles of textbooks with a novel or two thrown in for good measure, my badminton racquet lounging around somewhere in the periphery and a frightfully large amount of miscellaneous articles were the main culprits. My poor harried mom also tried everything from threats to entreaties but nothing worked until one fine morning I actually turned a new leaf. Ok, that was a part of my past life which has no bearing whosoever on the present day happenings. I immediately caution Amma not to breathe a word of my misdemeanours to the offspring who are always waiting eagerly for any such incident to come to light, in order to torture me and generally have a hearty laugh at my expense.
This conversation with amma set me thinking. What she said was true, they were following my path and I thought of one more path set by me which they were following quite diligently, the art of getting away with left over food on the plate. It’s a rule in our house that during meal times, all that’s on the plate has to be finished. Other than stray curry leaves and chewed drumsticks, not a morsel of food should be seen on the plate. My father was a die hard believer in this philosophy and so is Mr.A. Unfortunately I’ve always had a problem with this rule and hence I became an expert at breaking it . During childhood, spinach was my chief nemesis with a couple of sundry veggies also in this category. My brother and I became quite adept at camouflaging these offending articles so that they escaped my father’s eagle eyes. Yet another tactic deployed by us was to dawdle over the food until my dad left the table. Then it was a mad scramble to destroy the evidence.
My darling children too display the same aversion to veggies and even when I’m preaching passionately to them about the many advantages of vegetables, the child within me is rolling around on the floor laughing at the remarkable volte face in my attitude. Like their mother and uncle, my kids too try camouflaging techniques which unfortunately for them never work. Not only is Mr.A eagle eyed in such matters but I’m totally clued into all that can be achieved in that area. My teen got so exasperated by her repeated failure to hide the veggies that now she just stoically eats everything. My lil one is a different story altogether. She does not bother too much with camouflage but casually builds a wall on one side of her plate with whatever she doesn’t want. On being questioned about why she’s wasting that food, she looks wide eyed at me and says that she was just about to devour it. I too don’t give up. Very casually I demolish the wall and push all the food towards the centre of the plate determinedly ignoring her anguished looks. She sometimes brings out her weapons, which consists of two soulful looking eyes and tears on demand. If I harden my heart to these, she then moves onto her next tactic which like her uncle and mother involves the art of dawdling. I must say that we were amateurs compared to her. We never had the patience to stick around for a long time so we were not too successful at it. My lil one’s speed reduces to that of an art film in slow motion. Each morsel of rice is inspected before it travels at the pace of a slothful tortoise to her mouth. Finally I get so exasperated that I leave the table after threatening her with the most dire consequences if I see any left overs in her plate.As soon as my back is turned, my tortoise turns into a hare on steroids. In a second she’s out of her chair and in the kitchen with all the evidence disposed off neatly in the bin. So by the time I wash my hands and turn around she’s right there with a beatific smile. I rush to the kitchen to find a clean plate waiting to be washed.Again, the child in me stands up and applauds her for her persistence and success in the mission. But the mother in me takes over and I give her a stiff warning that I’m onto her tactics and next time I’ll be more vigilant. Our skirmishes resemble India-Pakistan cricket matches, hotly contested and more or less evenly balanced.
Exam time behaviour is another area where my children behave remarkably like I did. My stock answer to my mom’s question of ‘How was your exam?’, was a very safe’Ok’. This could cover a multitude of possibilities when the results came out. That single word was my safety net. My mom eventually caught on to my tactic and started probing further. After a lot of research I decided that ‘It was not bad’, was the next safest thing to say. Just four words which could again be twisted conveniently to suit the nature of the results. The Gods above must have sympathised with my mom because I find that my teen has started trotting them out regularly. I subject her to a gimlet eyed stare which does not get the desired result because she very conveniently ignores it. So, now I’ve become wiser and do not ask too many questions after the exams. The hapless offspring become quite happy since I do not probe too much. But I pounce on them once the results are out, and if they are not to my liking.
Even though I’ve repeatedly told my mother not to remind me of my childhood offences, she takes great pleasure in doing so. Not only does she get a lot of delight in my discomfort but she doesn’t reprimand my kids too often, saying that kids will do such things. I try telling her that her first priority is to me for which I only get an amused smile in reply ! The combination of my indulgent mother and mischievous children is definitely not good for my sanity. But I’m here for the long haul and shall stay strong and fight till I emerge victorious 🙂