My darling little Brat,
You turn four today. A birthday I particularly dread because this is the last year that I can call you a baby. After this you’ll be mama’s big boy. I’ve had you in my life four years and yet I can’t remember a life before you. A life before your bright eyes, stubby toes, soft kisses and gorgeous smile. I try and remember the anger, pain and resentment that I felt towards the crude hospital staff. The physical pain of my belly being cut open. The harsh operation theatre lights. The absolute terror as the anesthesia began to take hold. The dread that gripped my heart, as I youthfully, shortsightedly and foolishly – focused not on the beauty and the joy of giving birth but the primal fear of being alone in my experience and of the blood and gore that I was about to experience.
I think of wishing for a second chance. But I don’t really want one. Because then I wouldn’t be your mother. I’d be the mother of the Bean. Your mother will always be the eager, nervous, stumbling, first timer. You, my darling, are unfortunately Dada and my guinea pig. But you also got everything fresh, brand new and shiny. You got our enthusiasm bubbling over. You got us younger. You got us tireless. You got us grinning. You got our impatience. You got our rough caresses. You got our untrained, fumbling fingers and diaper pin pricks.
And we – we get everything a parent could ask for. We got a smiley, happy, accommodating, bright, warm, loving, energetic child. You are our pride and joy. Our flagship store! Our first born. The one that convinced us that babies were good. That babies were almost as nice and fun as puppies – hell, sometimes even more. That babies are worth giving up pubbing and midnight movies for. That babies don’t just poop and puke – there’s more to it. That babies smell of powder and spit up and milk – and make you want to bury your nose in their necks.
I chose this picture because it shows us where you are in life right now. Standing at a window and looking out at the great wide open beyond. So full of hope and optimism. Raring to go. Willing to learn. Ready to forgive. Full of generosity.
I feel bad teasing you but I love pretending to trip and get hurt, or looking sad when you say no to something. Because then you come running and you hold my face in your two little hands and look into my eyes with more love than anyone has ever looked at me with. And you say, ‘ Don’t cry mama, I love you.. see, I’m loving you..’ and then you stroke my cheeks and rub your baby soft cheeks against mine. Showing raw animal affection for your mother. I lap it up hungrily and hope it lasts. Already you show signs of shrugging off my hugs and kisses. And so I take what you give me with gratitude and a desperation as I see it end. Yes, I know love never ends. But I also know that the way you show it will change. Soon you will grow up and be more guarded. More impatient. Mama will do so much wrong in your eyes. And the clay from my feet will rise up and overcome me and someday I will be all wrong.
This single mail cannot really say much about the essence of you. I hope the posts I’ve written over the last three years will tell you more about yourself, your childhood and the girl you turned into not just a mother, but a doting, willing, happy mother.
You’ve started school this year. Big school. Without a word. Dada and I are not too happy with the place and we turn to you for a cue. For you to tell us you are unhappy but in characteristic Brat spirit, in a way that I’ve come to call the Brat way, you’ve taken every change, even the ones we find unbearable, in your stride, and have smiled your way through it. Walking out the door in your little uniform, your bottle hanging around your neck – with that calm smile on your face.
I often wonder where it comes from. You see, your father has that content smile too. A lady I hope you will meet someday, a patima, said it comes from the peace and calm he nurtures within. I suspect she’s right. You hold it too, even at this young age. In between bursts of war whoops and planes taking off, you curl into the couch and dream. I watch your big brown eyes sparkle with secrets I will never know. You dream so much, my little dreamer. I hope someday they all come true. But more than that – I hope you never stop dreaming.
I want to wish you so much in life and yet the best I can wish is that you never change. That you always hold that peace deep within. That you always adjust to change easily. That you never stop loving. That you never stop teaching us to love. Hell, if anyone could get that banker-ish father of yours to say I love you, it was you.
I don’t mean to paint a picture of a saint. You give me my rough moments. Intense, hyper, gentle, sensitive, your moods are so deep and so sudden that I struggle to keep up with them. You bare your teeth in rage at something I refuse you, climb into your timeout corner, with me hoping against hope that you don’t dig your teeth into me, and seconds later you’re dreaming your dreams, blisfully forgetting the punishment.
I must at this point mention your innocence and your resistance to buying into hype. You turn four and I’ve been talking about a party to you, off and on. You show no enthusiasm for it and instead ask us for a small plastic plane instead of the remote control one we were saving up for. We excitedly plan an airplane birthday cake and all you want is a Rs 30 plate of momos. Other kids ask for theme parties and all you want to know is if Lila baby (your first date ever) will come. I hold back tears and wonder how much longer big city life will leave you so untouched.
We went to baby T’s birthday party two days ago and as they broke the pinata, I saw you do something you’ve never done before. You held your loot bag right under it, ready to catch the loot. I don’t know why, but it really upset me. Until now you’ve only gathered confetti with the babies and let the other children go apeshit over the little plastic toys and chocolates that come out of it. When did you figure out that you were picking up the wrong thing? And then the bag burst and there was chaos. When the clouds of confetti cleared I saw that you’d dropped your little loot bag and were back to stuffing your pockets with confetti. I heaved a sigh of relief and looked around to check if anyone noticed the tears in my eyes. By the end of the party you and the Bean were the only two left rolling in the confetti on the floor, like little urchins. All goodies ignored, revelling in the simple pleasure of tossing confetti on each other and then dada. I guess I needn’t have worried. You ARE picking up the right things!
In other notes, you’ve stopped troubling at meal times, you have (touchwood) put on weight, grown taller (you’re among the taller kids in class) and stopped looking like a starved rat. You love your motorbike, not so much your cycle, prefer cricket to football (take me now O Lord!) and have an elephant’s memory but a mind of your own. Unlike the Bean, you hate to perform and to ask you to recite for friends is suicidal.
Oh well, I could go on – but I’ll stop – and get down to the important business of wrapping your gifts and the return gifts. You’ve filled up my life Brattie. And while I could do with a little more sleep, I can’t do with any less Brat. As someone wise recently told me – motherhood never ends. You just stop worrying about them falling off the bed and worrying about them falling into the wrong bed. Oh well – there’s a long life ahead and I know you’ll keep it interesting darling Brat.
I love you and so does the rest of the madhouse. You’re our little superstar.
And now – a letter from your father….
We have endured the Terrible Twos and the Troublesome Threes and now welcome the Fearsome Fours with trepidation! You started out as a friendly and boisterous kid but seem to have quietened down a little while nearing the Four-year mark. I am hoping this is just a short phase and you will go back to being the extrovert you used to be… hey, what the heck, I love you either way! You are a handsome, loving and a genuinely cool dude and I know you will remain so forever. I especially love the ease with which you have accepted your parents’ whims and upbringing, the calm confidence with which you walk into your school and the shy grin you throw at every visitor, which ends up making them fall in love with you.
Lovey-dovey, I’m so glad to be your father…
Happy 4th Birthday!!!
PS: Have you guys cast your second round of votes? No? Go! go! Go!! Vote here for the mad momma!! *climbs atop a van, and waves to the voters, dressed in a cream neta ji?ni? saree!