Parenting is the hardest thing I have ever done. Much harder than walk in alone on a first day in a new school. Much harder than owning up after telling a lie and much much MUCH harder than any exam or test life ever threw my way. PhD’s have nothing on Parenting. And here I am not talking the drgudgery and toil associated with being a mom; those feedings or diaper changes or baths or clean up- that all is easy manual labour. I am talking of the stuff you have to understand and un-learn to be able to let you child grow in peace and happiness.
Being Nadi’s mom is especially hard. I have never yet tried to verbalize why because I didn’t think I had the words to do so without making it sound like I think something is wrong. He is literally the most amazing person I know. When I can see it clearly and am not clouded by grime of everyday living, it hurts my heart to realize he has this gentleness of spirit that gleams from his eyes, along with the naughtiness. I have noticed him standing one step back from the action because he is assessing it, to see if it feels right for him and who he is. I get scared of his ability to feel so much and realize so much because as much as I hate a cliche, I know the world is a strange place- where sometimes the people who are who he shows the strains of becoming are left behind because they do not fit what is the more accepted notion of being.
I nudge him sometimes and sometimes in panic, I admit I push. “Go play with the other kids” I urge him, when all he wants to do is be a lion and prance about by himself in the garden. “Why don’t you want to do what the other kids are doing?” I ask him, bordering on the exasperated, while he sits and reads the same book for the millionth time pointing out these little things, nuances which I would think are amazing if only I wasn’t trying to compare him to the others. I love the printouts he takes and sticks on his shirt in order to imbue that characters essence so he can truly BE the foosa or Kaa. I love of the dedication and attention to detail he bestows on everything that catches his fancy, poring over the intricacies till we are both cross-eyed and cranky.
I want so much for him it hurts. I want him to be the confident, hilarious kid in public that he is with his own people and yet I marvel at how privileged it feels to know someone is a way just with you. It brings back memories of when you wished that someones demeanour would change from private to public and yet here I am now, not appreciating that nugget of gold in my own son.
I want him to be the best at all the things that matter and I am sometimes foolish enough to think those are the daily things like school and sports and performances and playtimes. Isn’t he already the best elder brother a little girl could ask for with his little paws that tickle and the little eyes that shine with love when she calls out to him? Don’t his eyes sparkle joyously when he sees babyaah after months, even if his hands stay firmly put by his sides? I have seen his eyes worry for me if I am thinky, I have seen them dance in joy and mischief for naughtiness yet unperformed. I have seen them tell a thousand stories of things he will one day do, and yet there are days when I want him to be typical, to say the obvious, to be the usual just so that its easier, for both me and him.
We live in such a confusing world sometimes, confusing of our own making of course. I value all these things that I have in my life seen weigh more and yet I get caught in the trap of wanting the things that I have known don’t necessarily bring that elusive contentment. I have struggled for a while to make sense of having a child who is shy, most probably because I am not shy myself, and recently I read a description that reminded me of Nadi and teared me up with pride for the him-to-be, “He has a solid self-concept- an inner peace that shines; if the extroverts would be quiet long enough they would notice its glow. He tends to be an attentive listener, a private person who exudes a welcome presence even without saying a word. He is a reserved person with a lot of valuable inner stuff for others to discover. He warms up slowly to new acquaintances, but once comfortable in your presence he’s charming. Matthew is just a nice child to be around.”
We wade into the muck of parenting thinking so confidently that we will be our own kind of parents, that we will not cave into the claustrophobic obviousness of the world but as things speed up and our children interact with the world, we sometimes forget to honour that promise. We pull and push at the person he is becoming in order to fit him in with the less painful conforms around us. Social. Talkative, Outgoing. Fun.
Then suddenly it rains, and there is clarity of vision as the murkiness dispels, and you are able to see again without the world-tainted glasses, the harder to live with qualities that shine, maybe not as effortlessly or brightly, but with as much intensity. Focused. Attentive. Gentle. Reserved. And you pray that this time the knowledge remains, without the outside chatter to distract you, so that you are able to continue to see your little boy for the wonderful man he will become one day. (amen)