… when you step out of the house. You never know when you’ll have an accident and need to be taken to the hospital in it.
This was just one of the pithy bits of wisdom my grandmother imparted to me instead of teaching me to make a mean mutton biryani like most other sensible grandmothers would!
She also told me that if I got down on my knees and crawled around with my son, he’d be there in my old age when I didn’t have knees anymore. Of course the poor old lady didn’t know I’d lose my knees at 30.
But anyway, down on my knees and crawling around is what I did with my son today. On his Sports Day.
The OA couldn’t make it for the first time since the Brat has begun school and was rather devastated. I had to take an hour off my morning hours and attend alone. We had to dress up in red and white and I couldnt decide if I felt more like a candy cane or Ronald Mcdonald.
The school has a lovely way of doing it where every class performs at a different hour and the parents are called only for that one hour. So our class of 26 kids performed and we 26 pairs of parents sat around the the field and watched without struggling to get ahead or record it.
I have always dreaded the Brat seeing me at any event because I know he’s the kind who is easily distracted and will start misbehaving. So while other parents enjoyed the ring side view I looked around shiftily wondering if I could hide behind something. No chance.
And then the kids straggled on to the field. Warm winter sunshine. Bright happy faces. Proud parents. I avoided looking at him but he saw me and started to wave. I waved back reluctantly and then – nothing. He sent me a flying kiss and smiled with all his heart but stayed in line and didn’t shy away. And my heart skipped a beat. It’s no secret that I think my son is the cutest and most handsome child in town. It helps that he has a lovely open smile. There was a drum roll and I told my beating heart to be still – only to realise that it was the games teacher actually getting started on the drumset.
They began to march around the field. I watched in pride and all of us began to clap and say left, left, left, right, left… keeping time with them. What I loved about the event was that it was so cosy and warm and just perfect. The kids streamed past us, some staring at their toes, others grinning widely… My son walked by frowning into the sunshine. His face a picture of concentration. But you could tell he’d tuned out of the sports day and was thinking of something else.
‘Lovey-dovey..’ I called out, forgetting that he was a big boy in school… and that I should call him by his given name.
Mama! He smiled back at me.
March, darling, like the other babies.. good boy.
Okay, says he easily.. and begins to swing his arms… and march in earnest.
My little absent-minded professor.
The sports over, the yoga began.
They marched out, lay down on little mats and began to do their routine. The Brat is pretty good because he loves joining me at home when I do my yoga. But here again, he lay down for a particular pose and a cloud caught his attention. He lay there watching it float by and I knew he was playing our favourite game. Lying out on the balcony, watching clouds and trying to figure out what they resembled.
Dovey…I call out.
He snaps back to earth and joins the class. Teachers walk around helping them do the correct poses. I enjoy watching it. As do the other parents. A little girl bursts into tears in the middle and teachers rush to her. Her mother is sitting on the edge of the seat and looking pained. I feel her pain.
And then the yoga is over and they annouce that it’s time for the parents to join the fun.
What? Me? I have a knee injury… I begin to explain to a teacher and then realise that she won’t insist. But my son’s heart will break. As it is his father isn’t here and if his mother doesn’t join in, he won’t be a part of this event.
I get up hesitantly, my knee frozen, and limp to the start line. I’m most inappropriately dressed thanks to the red and white dress code the school asked for. I came up with a pair of white capris and a white chiffon kurta with a red stole and a pair of red patent leather peep toe flats.
The Brat watches me walk up to him with a big grin on his face. And then flinging his arms around my knees, puckers up and looks up at me, offering me a kiss. I bend down gratefully for this public display of attention that may not last many more months. Sometimes the Brat’s generosity of spirit and affection shames me. I wish I could be like him. He dreams, he loves, he gives, he smiles… and I shrink to a small, petty person in the face of his warm spirit.
We stand at the start line and I suddenly realise what is expected of me. I have to run with him, go under a rope that is festooned with streamers, without them touching him or me, jump over a row of stools and then crawl through a tunnel created out of cardboard cartoons.
My heart sinks. I can barely walk and I have to do all this and drag my son through it?
Mama, let’s go! says an excited little voice. I look down at the most beautiful eyes and I know that melodramatic though it sounds, I am going to give this my best shot even if my bum knee dies completely. I grab on to a trusting hand and we wait for the whistle. My son will not be bogged down by a decrepit mother.
The whistle goes and I realise we’re the only ones left at the start lines. Other children have both parents lifting up from either side and are already at the rope we have to crawl under. So I take off like the wind, careful not to jolt the Brat’s weak arm.
We go under the rope, over the stools and reach the tunnel of cartons.
I shove the Brat in unceremoniously screaming – ‘Go baby go… go go go go… Mama’s coming.’
The skinny, lithe Brat shoots out like an eel and I lie flat on my stomach in the mud, white pants and all and start to slither through it. My knee catches and there in the midst of the tunnel I freeze. And oh on – this is not the worst. At that moment.. my … err.. my pants split. I hear a distinctive ripping sound and I know what it is.
These capris were meant for ladylike brunches. Not shimmying through cartons. I contemplate my course of action
a) living in the box for the rest of my life
b) picking it up and walking off the field with it around my waist
c) pretending it’s part of the design and walking out.
And then I realised I was wearing underwear that was nice, clean and the same colour as my pants. Nobody would notice unless my luck gave out further. Thanking my grandmother for her advice I remembered I was still in the carton. A puzzled pair of eyes looked at me, wondering what the hell I was doing in there when there was a race to be won outside. I gathered my wits, shot out like an arrow, knee forgotten, caught the Brat’s hand and ran like the wind. To miraculously – come first!!!!!!!!! Well, someone came in with me. So we were either first or second.
I turned around to figure out by what miracle I had won and realised that every other child had two parents, of whom one was either overweight or old. They were stuck in the box for various reasons and came in slower. Even if fit – waiting for both parents to crawl through was taking time. I mentally thanked the OA for not making it and clung on to my thrilled son. It didn’t really matter because this school doesn’t give awards and prizes.
Fire in the mountain was played next – only by the parents, while the kids watched and cheered. The Brat screaming – Run mama!!!!!! And sending me flying kisses. I think I got a little distracted, sending him back kisses and soon I was out. Yes, embarassingly, my son seems to be able to concentrate on the matter at hand better than I can.
I lowered my stole to hide my butt and carried on like nothing was wrong. Soon it was over and ‘prizes were given to all the children.’
We next lined up and sang the school song and the national anthem. A few days ago at the Brat’s school concert we sang the national anthem and I remember mentioning that there is nothing more beautiful than hearing young 3-year old voices ring out across the auditorium, singing the national anthem. Well, there is something better. It is singing the national anthem with your baby. I can’t believe my son is old enough to have a sports day, to sing the national anthem and in general do me proud even while doing nothing extraordinary.
The Brat and I held hands and went home. He skipping with excitement. I limping. I wondered again if the Brat would ever be an exceptional student or sportsperson or achiever. I realised it didn’t matter simply because he just makes me so happy being just the way he is. Always smiling, loving, cheerful and warm. Always spreading joy. Even if no great talent emerges in the years ahead I have a feeling this will get him very far…..
I think I made up for my bad behaviour last year… Somewhere up there God is writing it down in His big book and I hope He knows that I am sorry for last year and that it won’t happen again.
**** For those who missed that. I lost my temper last year at the Brat’s sports day and walked out. I missed his bunny race. For what its worth, he didn’t know the difference because he couldn’t see us anyway. And I didn’t know he was in the race. And for the nosy people, I lost my temper because the school read out his name wrong. Without my surname. Yes, I’m trying to grow up. With him. It happened this year too and I didn’t walk out!