Yesterday, my fourteen year old daughter told me that she wanted to talk to me about something important. Immediately, my heartbeat went up and I got a little scared as when your teenager tells you she wants to talk, you start fearing the worst possible scenario. Luckily, her life was on track, no girlfriend drama, no forgotten homework or bad grades, no stress issues and no bullies. (Thank you, God!)
She sat me down, looked into my eyes and said, “Mom, I think you yell too much at dad, he is a good man, he does not deserve that.” It hit me like a bullet that what she was saying was right. I do not scream everyday but sometimes I do get stressed out and worked up, especially when I have had a bad day or I made dinner and my husband cannot come downstairs and eat it right away. Unlike me, her dad is mostly calm and balanced and does not freak out easily. I felt ashamed but I also marveled at how she made me aware that I need to stop shouting. I did learn and now, I always try to breathe and exhale and maybe have a glass of wine when I know I might explode and the floodgates of anger might break open! I told her that I really loved dad (which I do) and I would try my best to be respectful, nice and polite.
Children are extremely perceptive and intelligent beings. Sometime last year, I recall that my daughter came downstairs, all dressed up and ready for school and she was radiant and glowing and so I kissed her cheeks and said: “Mansi, you are looking so pretty, meri raani kitni sundar hai (My queen is so beautiful)" and I was generally going overboard like I always do and she says to me very calmly, "Mom, what would you do if I was really ugly, would you still love me?" and I was totally stumped! Then, at a complete loss for words, I said, "What do you think?" She said, "I think you would love me a lot but you would be disappointed" and I was speechless again! Of course, you would argue that every mom finds her child to be the best looking, that no child is really ugly, but the above exchange did open my eyes to the fact that I can be very vain about outer appearances.
She loves to tease me about this vanity of mine too. When she was younger, she told me, “Mom, you know, all three of us may get the total package.” I replied with some bewilderment, “Total package? What does that mean?” She said, ““Glasses and braces is the total package and very soon all three of us may have that and we all will look super geeky together,” and she laughed gleefully and hysterically at the look of horror and shock on my face trying to visualize all three of my children wearing glasses and braces at the same time.
My twelve year old boy has taught me how to be creative and have fun. Arjun plays in the forest and the creek in our backyard, he picks up lizards and turtles, he takes pictures of snakes, he makes bows and arrows out of tree branches, he made a pulley on the balcony railing with a bucket attached to it to get stuff from downstairs to upstairs without going up and down the stairs, he makes robots out of k’nex pieces, he bakes cakes and other desserts and he is always up to something. I want to imbibe his limitless imagination and his sense of wonder. He has exposed us to different cuisines and taught me that cooking can be a relaxing and enjoyable experience. Paulo Coelho has said “A child can teach an adult three things: to be happy for no reason, to always be busy with something, and to know how to demand with all his might that which he desires.”
Children are very accepting of your flaws. They love people for who they are and they love unconditionally. They are also very caring and forgiving. We can get very critical as we get older. Once, I was feeling beaten down about messing up something important out of sheer foolishness and forgetfulness. I am always very hard on myself when I fail at something and I told my youngest son, “Why do I behave this way, I wish I could be more organized and careful.” My nine year old told me so sweetly “It’s not your fault mom, you were born this way” and in that moment a load lifted off my head and heart and I hugged him tightly. Incidentally, my youngest is very efficient and works in a systematic way. He is an artist and his markers, paintbrushes, glue, scissors, crayons etc. are always lined up in a certain way. Whenever I go shopping, he stops me, gets a piece of pen and paper and writes down a list for me so that I do not forget something.
Sometimes, when I am too tired or lazy to grocery shop we run out of snacks and on one such occasion my youngest pulled out an amazing snack supply he had saved in his room and I was unaware that he had done that. I said, “Why are you hoarding snacks in your room Armaan?” and he told me, “You need to save for a rainy day mom, you have to be prepared” and boy, did his snack saving come in handy that day, it saved me a trip to the store!
We, as adults can get rusty and jaded. Recently, at a staff training day at work we listened to a speaker and then at the end very few people had questions. It was the last segment before lunch break and so people were more interested in wrapping things up and heading out to eat. Children are consumed with curiosity; they always have a million questions!
Do not let the child in you die. Do grow up and be responsible and mature but do not forget to stop and smell the roses or see that pretty red bird hiding on a beautiful tree. My children build my self-esteem as much as I build theirs. I tell them that they are the most beautiful people on this planet and they can do whatever they set their minds to. My son told me that I was the prettiest woman in all the universes and they collectively get upset at their dad if he ever dares to call me fat. When I tell my children that I do have some dreams but I am getting old now, and I never have enough spare time, they tell me that I have many years ahead of me. They tell me that if I want to do some volunteer work or open up a charitable organization, I should go for it and they will help me and back me up in every way they can. In this journey of parenting I have found that I have learnt a lot more than I have taught.
About the column: Midlife Moments is a slice of my life as a forty something part time reference librarian and a full time mom to three children. I am a simple and honest person and I write from my heart with honesty and humor. These are simple essays on day to day life filled with interesting interactions and observations. I hope that the readers can relate to me and my experiences and we can all connect and join in the conversation.
About the author: Mona Verma has a master’s in English Literature and a master’s in Library and Information science. She grew up in India but has been living in South east USA for the last 18 years. You can read more of her blogs at http://monaver.blogspot.com andhttps://www.richlandlibrary.com/users/mona-verma