Why is my baby scared?

MM?

Her voice on the phone was nervous, jittery. Unlike her usual chirpy, vivacious self.

What’s wrong, love? I ask her.

She needs little encouragement and the whole story comes tumbling out. They’re a nuclear couple like the OA and I. But they’re luckier. They have both sets of grandparents living in the NCR, not too far away. But she’s as particular as I am and won’t leave her daughter with either househelp alone or send her to daycare. It makes for a tricky balance, but then we all know what it’s like to have a dozen balls up in the air and skates strapped on to our feet. So some nights if they head out partying, they drop her with her maternal grandparents. Other times with her paternal grandparents.

Until a few weeks ago she began to act up. Each time she was told she was going to her paternal grandparents home she would act up, misbehave, run and hide in her room. As it happens the mother is an involved, aware one and saw the pattern. Her paternal grandparents usually spoiled her rotten and she loved going there, so my friend was at a complete loss as to why she was behaving this way.

The problem with parents like us, again, the involved, aware ones, is that we’ve heard too much, seen too much, and worry too much. On the other hand, I think we’d rather be this way and worry ourselves bald, than not notice when things are wrong or live in denial. So we both knew what she was suspecting. But neither of us wanted to say the words. CSA.  Child Sexual Abuse. Three little words that put terror into the hearts of every parent.

The political issue here was that it was her in-laws. And while she feared that there was something going wrong at their place, she didn’t want to name her fears and neither did she want to upset her husband. Who to be fair, is as aware, involved and good a parent as any, and a great guy. Why is my child scared, MM, she broke down. Why is she scared?

Anyhow I calmed her fears, told her that if indeed someone was hurting her child, she was best placed to find out. And so the parents sat the little girl down, spent an hour talking to her and cajoling her and finally got the truth out. The grandparents had some regular visitors – neighbours. And of the old couple who visited, the gentleman was very fond of their daughter. He often jokingly told her he was going to take her home and keep her with them because she was so cute.She was terrified that one day he’d actually take her away.

This isn’t something we’re unused to. We hardened kids who grew up at a time when canings in school were par for the course and parents told us that the babaji down the road carried away kids who didn’t eat their greens. Were we scared? Hell yes, that’s how we ate our greens. Did we end up traumatised for life? Erm, no.

I don’t know how my friend plans to request the old gentleman not to scare her daughter but she and her husband did speak to the little girl and tell her that God’s plan was for them to be a family and no one could or would take her away. She went to Dada-Dadi’s house calmly the next night.

False alarm this was, but it was a wake up call. And it was a pleasant realisation that  parents in our generation are paying attention. And are willing to confront family even if it means a very unpleasant situation. Something our parents were loathe to do. More power to my friend and parents like her.

Have you guys seen this video, by the way? Can’t figure out a way to embed it. It’s a punch in the gut.

Be aware. Stay alert. Keep talking to your child. Believe your child. Never mind who it is, stand up for your child. Always. Stay strong.

PS: In case you are wondering how to bring it up, this is how we talk about it with the Brat and the Bean.