People said the first six months would be the most difficult. That they would crawl by and the adjustments would be hard. And those everyone unanimously mentioned right after, how 6 months plus would be a “really fun age”. Sometimes I cannot believe we have had Naddu for only six months- it feels like we have known him a lifetime. And at other times it’s like have we had him for SIX WHOLE months? Feels like it was only yesterday that he was born. My mom insists the feeling remains the same even after 30 years. She would know.
Six months old today and I was telling k (quite emotionally) that Naddu has become so big and soon he will be off to college. K, in his usual stoic way of putting up with my melodramatic (hilarious?) exclamations said (hiding a smile), “Yes, love but it will help him if he can learn to sit up first, don’t you think?”
On Sunday Nov 18, 2007, I introduced Naddu to the sea. He cocked his head smiling, listening to sound of the waves, but then when I dipped his feet in the water and a small wave washed over them, sandying his toes, he let out an angry torrent of baby babble at the sea for daring to be so free and familiar with him when it was only their first meeting.
“Give him pheneregan for the flight,” suggested someone.
“Sit in the back so you don’t distrub too many people” said another.
“Keep him slightly overfed so he stays asleep mostly” tells me yet another.
You can ask for advice and plan all you like- but things with babies have a way of happening exactly as they have to. Our first flight was thankfully, wonderful. Luckily the seat next to mine was free so Naddu got to sit supported by cushions, through most part of the trip thoroughly enjoying the crackling sound of the newspaper the man next to him was reading (one of his favourite sounds). A few very excited yells of happiness got us some looks but since it was a morning flight and a less than full plane, the mood was indulgent. First flight for Naddu, check one more first for me.
A friend asked me what I am upto these days. In the pause before I answered, a squillion answers regarding baby, work, job decisions, upcoming weddings, personal projects on hold and god knows what else rushed through my head and I discarded each of them before casually answering, “Oh nothing much, just momming about.”
To my extreme discredit, I had always been one of those people who looked at screaming kids on the plane and blamed the parents. It was beyond my understanding why it was acceptable behaviour for a child to scream throughout the flight while the parents, with their practiced sense of denail would calmly keep reading/eating/sleeping, and the rest of the passengers suffered. One would think that having a baby myself would have mellowed me out- made me less judgemental- made me exchange knowing smiles with other pained parents, but alas, it hasn’t been so. Maybe my own chiuldhood of travelling with my mother and two baby sisters is imprinted in my head- we never made noise unnecessarily, played happily with our colouring books and puzzles and generally stayed entertained rather nicely.
I have also been one of those who look askance at the parents who bring their children to nice fancy restaurants and then let them run wild. The children run around between tables, screaming shouting throwing things while the sets of parents either smile indulgently or completely ignore them, leaving them at the mercy of the little child-ayah who runs behind them with a spoon and a bowl, trying futilely to get them to eat. (more on the child-ayah later). And please don’t get me started on children and weddings.
Having Naddu has made me more empathetic. I do realize how difficult it is to manage situations. Control moods. Seem like you know what you are doing. And sometimes, yes, the entire scene does spiral out of control as a child succumbs to sleepiness and cries incessantly or screams loudly. People understand that. Unfortunately, however, I still remain one of those people who believe that, more often that not, it IS within the parents’ duty to take charge and manage the situation without paining the world around them. Without putting out a whole restaurant full of people who want a relaxed evening out. Or irritating a cabin full of people who have paid the same money for their seat that you have and cannot jump out of the plane. Or upsetting the poor bride and groom who really don’t want children hopping on the stage during their photography session on their big day.
Behaviour is a learned response. We are the examples to our kids. When our kids are doing soemthing wrong, does it not become our responsibility to stop them? To say no? More and more I see parents who take the laid back approach to parenting, who refuse to realize that we share the environment with other people and have to respect that. Making us parents does not automatically excuse us from norms- although happily enough, a few leeways do get made from time to time.
I don’t claim to have years of experience as a wife or mother. Both are fairly new job descriptions for me, and I am still stumbling along, trying to take each day as it comes (my sisters would laugh right about now at my words) trying not to let the highs make me smug or the lows take me down. People ask you every step of the day how you are coping. Are the nights unbearable, ask the non-parent types. Are you going back to work, ask the aunties. Does k help, ask the dadis and how are you REALLY doing, ask the friends. Every time someone asks you something, you turn inward, asking yourself what you are doing, how you are doing and appriase your performance crictically. In so many cases, you come up lacking- could have done this better, could have done that better and in many cases, you come up shining because you thought you couldn’t do it at all. And then you realize somewhere along the way that people will always make comments and judge you but its your own standards you have to come upto- your own gut feeling you have to follow and your instincts you have to obey.