I have always been a sucker for little boys with good manners. Ones who say their pleases and thank yous. Nadi picked up his please fairly early, saying it cutely and sincerely which obviously meant that the person infront of him could not resist giving him exactly what he wanted. He learnt very quickly that it was only in his best interests that this word be used well and often. However, the Thank you has taken a little while longer. It seems to me that he has the concept down but isn’t quite sure why he needs to say something when what he wants has clearly been handed to him. Then to try to illustrate the point we started substituting the word for gestures. Everytime he got what he wanted we would ohh shake hands for that or hug khala for this or kiss mama, trying to show him that getting what you wanted from someone deserved something in return.
So the other day, he comes to me, asking for a meem (read mint), and I say, “Ok, whats the magic word?” He cocks his head to one side and says “”peez”. So I hand him one and look at him expectantly. He gives me a smile and is about to be off on his way when I say, “Nadi what do you say now?” He pauses for a moment. ”Peez?” he ventures a guess, clutching onto the mint, in case the word he is using is wrong. I shake my head. Suddenly his face lights up and the little imp says something he knows will not only suffice as the answer but also get him out of this pickle, earning him a tight hug, “Mama? Oveyou!”
Story as it was told to me:
Nadi walks into my moms house, scrounges around for his cleaning cart (dont ask!) and having gotten his supplies together, starts dusting, brooming, wiping the filth that is obviously -in his eyes- his grandmother’s quite impeccably kept house. From the corner of his eye, he sees my mother standing there and watching him, so he throws down the jharoo and shouts, “SHHHHHITTTTT, Nanna, SHIIITTTT.” My poor mom must have been completely horrified at the language coming from her precious angels mouth, until of course she figured out that all he wanted her to do was SIT down and relax while he took over the cleaning of her house.
The concept of motherhood is just such a vast and emotional one that no matter how many stories, anecdotes you hear, it only just begins to give you a glimpse of what it could hold for you personally. And even then, the image is fuzzy, unclear and more or less based on a lot of conventional cliches that we grow up seeing on tv and around us.
Unlike a lot of my friends, I could actually imagine having a baby around- in the physical sense of the word. I could imagine life getting busier- insaner. I could imagine the tasks- and I feared them somewhat. I could see life changing- and not in the good way alone. It wasn’t a clear image a lot of the time but safe to say, I thought I knew vaguely what I was in for. However, what no one ever tells you about- probably because on so many levels it defies understanding until you go through it- is the connection you have with your baby. Oh I am not talking the mother-child umbilical cord thingy, I am talking the insider joke connection. The share a look and burst into giggles because you are on the same page connection. The personal only between us comments, jokes and images connection.
While watching his Baby Einstein DVD, yesterday, Nadi was totally absorbed in the number games, playing along as usual when suddenly he giggled. I turned to look at him and he whispered Mama and pointed to the screen- I looked and this cow came on screen and chomped on a flower. We had a good shared laugh over the silliness and that was that. The next day, at my moms, while I was randonly flipping through TV and Nadi was busy with his usual routine of something or the other, there was something about flowers on some channel, and I paused because the flower looked like the one Nadi and I had laughed about a day earlier and before I had a chance to say something to jog his memory, I caught his eye, which was gleaming- literally gleaming- with the suppressed glee of our shared connection. He had his trademark imp smile on his face as he relized that I was reciprocating in the reocognition and he ran to me, giggling, for a hug to seal the deal.
In this recent quiz I did on facebook, claiming to be able to tell me What kind of a mom I am, it said I am a Lilly Munster kind of mom. ”A kind of mom who would be embarassing at times but if my kids really needed me, they would always know I was there.” I remember watching the Munsters (and later adaptation Munsters Today) on tv when I was young. Lilly was the kind of mom who kind of floated through the children’s existence, being too dreamy sometimes, or reversely too inquisitive, too liberal at other times but generally always too supportive of both the good and the bad. As the kind of teenager I was, she failed to impress me. I mean what kind of mother was she that she didnt take a stand? Rule with some sense of discipline and rule? And this is who I am like?!?
While growing up, I was surrounded by friends who all had parents that ruled the school-work with an iron fist. There was strict and non negotiable homework time, rules about TV watching, about socializing, rigid timetables to be followed regarding most of the after school time. In all this, my parents, who in my memory of them never EVER forced me to do my homnework, stuck out like sore thumbs. While my friends swapped stories about their evil guardians and concoct plans to run away from their authoritarian parents, I would stay uncomfortably quiet, feeling left out, that I wasnt suffering at the hands of mine. I would not share stories of how we all watched a movie last night or how no one threw a fit in my house when I didnt get top marks in Arabic. My mom involvement was always a cheerful, almost bland acceptance of who we were, the you know you can do better right? Or the way to go- next time lets top that, shall we? I never got the feeling that they laid much emphasis on the whole first in class thing- or getting amazing grades. It’s weird now that I think about it but I simply have no memories of being made to study.
Of course the teenage years are meant to be angsty and hardly anyone I know actually liked their parents parenting skills. If they were too lenient they didnt care enough, if they were too strict they were ruining our lives. As far as being a parent goes, at that age, its a lose-lose situation. Someone quite wise has said, that nothing like being a parent to put your own childhood in perspctive, and as I sit here having been labelled a Lilly Munster mom by the Gods of Facebook, I realize that my mom was also embarassing in that sense- of never being the “normal” parent who doled out punishment when we failed to perform, for being the one who didnt lay emphasis on the studying as much as the education, for being the kind of parent who doggedly knew that her kid(s) were going to be good-great-brilliant at something, maybe just not at the academics of it all. While I wanted the texbook mom that the people around me had, I got one of those Lilly Munster types. And it looks now like history is about to repeat itself.
When he is up and around, its like life is a whirlwind, a roller coaster and in between the blur of lunch and dinner and conversation and baths and laughter and learning, I madly try to cram in my work. A deadline met here in between bites, an email sent there while changing a pamper. Some conceptual thinking. An article during BabyTV. A layout snuck in. And then I am back to doing a puzzle, painting, watering the plants with my full attention; with Nadi, there is always something that needs to be done.
And then when he finally, finally goes to sleep at night and there is quiet- and there is time to do all those piling things that I have been juggling since the morning, I sit there, looking at him sleep, and I nuzzle into to him- smelling the baby smell, and I mentally count the hours till he wakes up and the mad colours of life threaten to overhwhelm me again…