Six years ago today my life changed forever. My son was born. I became a mother. But I hated him on sight and refused to even nurse him for the first hour or two (some of you read that story) so great was the anger. I was shocked at how mercurial my feelings towards him were. One moment he was inside and I was waiting eagerly for what I hoped was a daughter. The next minute I am told its a son and I feel a surge of disappointment, frustration and exhaustion. This isn’t what I waited 9 months for (we can blame this on hormones, can’t we?).
But we all get what the Good Man up there thinks is important and I think for a feminist like me, having a son was necessary. I needed to see that men are not the enemy. That men are not always aggressive. That men can be fair. And I needed, with my strong views on equality, to give back something to society – a man brought up by a strong mother. And that is where the Brat entered the picture.
I am happy that God gave me this little man to show me what it is like to love a male unconditionally. To know that humans with external plumbing can also be thoughtful and gentle. I am happy that God knew what I needed, better than I did – a little chubby cheeked bundle of joy who continues to delight me everyday, even if the chubbiness melted away, leaving just ribs on show.
I thank God that he gave me a child I learned to love for the person he is, as opposed to a daughter whom I’d have rejoiced in simply for her gender. It was an important lesson and one that only got clearer over the last couple of years. One that trashed all stereotypes and made me eat humble pie.
Gentle, sensitive, compassionate, stubborn, affectionate – he is everything that the OA is, ten times over. And for the first time, he is not the enemy. He is mine. Born of my womb, my flesh and blood. Guarded fiercely by me instead of the other way around. Before I knew it, I had the easiest most lovable baby ever and I was itching to have a second one. As I often say – the Brat was the sales pitch. If I’d had the Bean first I’d be too ragged to even consider a second one. He was and is my ideal child.
We’re getting ready for a party and he scrambles into my closet and pulls out a crisp white cotton kurta, dupatta and churidar. “I’ll tell you what to wear ma,” and he hands it to me. When I am dressed he takes the bindi off my mirror and settles it crooked above an eye. I correct it. “You look so beautiful” he says. I feel my heart fill up with joy. I’ve always dressed for myself and today a little 6 year old telling me I look beautiful makes me feel beautiful.
It’s a hot afternoon and I lie down in the nursery telling them that I will kill them if they disturb me. They play quietly around me. Using stencil cards as cash. Selling each other pet pythons and mammoths. I drift off listening to baby voices bargaining, giving change, coming up with new ideas. I wake up, stretch and thank them. “Thanks for letting mama sleep without disturbing her, babies.”
The Brat responds gravely – “We could have been quieter I think. We made a little noise. Next time we will try harder to be quiet.” He’s a good little man. Someday he will be a good big man. And I can’t take credit for that, anymore than I could have taken the blame for him being anything else. This is just him. His nature. And this is proof that men come in all shapes, sizes and types and some of them – are just a plain blessing. My son is my blessing. And yes, I am aware that I sound like a typical Indian mother!
He walks into my room and grimaces, his finger in his mouth. I kneel down in concern – what’s wrong baby? He has a shaky tooth. I feel something flip in my stomach. This is my child. And I’m not prepared. I’m not prepared for my son to lose a tooth. It seems like he only just got them.
I hold him close and explain to him that he is turning a big boy and soon he will lose the milk teeth and get big boy teeth.
Will I be a big boy then? he asks.
I nod and pull him closer. Refusing to put into words the awful fact that he is growing up.
He presses his face against my chest. “I can hear your heartbeat, mama…” Silence in the room as he listens attentively.
The he looks up and asks suddenly “Will you still be my mama when I am a grown up? Will you still love me?”
Uh huh, I nod… just as long as you can hear my heart beating.
Happy Birthday sunshine. Happy Birthday bright eyes. Happy Birthday mama’s life. Keep smiling, keep shining…
ALERT – for all those who think he looks grown up here, this picture was taken at four. He is now even more grownup and looks very different Yes, that shatter was the sound of my heart breaking.