I thought long before I wrote this post. Would it bother you later? Would you come back to hate me? Then I figured, kids will find something to hold against us anyway, so let’s make it easy for them!
About 9 months ago, after you went to big school, we realised that your personality was suffering. You’d slowly gone into a shell, stopped speaking or begun to speak only gibberish, had given up holding a pencil, had spells of violence and then of absolute silence – and the worst? You cringed if I put out a hand to push a lock of hair off your face or wipe chocolate off your face and that spoke volumes. There were plenty of other problems that I shall not blog about, that we needed to take up with the administration, but the main thing was to get you out of there.
So we moved you back to your old nursery school from the terrible, terrible school we’d put you in. About 20 days later, I was called to meet your teachers. It gave me the heebie jeebies – what could be wrong? The teachers gently broke it to me that you might have a learning disability. And communication problems too. And they said the scary words – Special Ed teacher.
Every mother thinks her child is special. A genius. Brilliant. And every grandparent thinks their grandchild is twice the genius their child ever was. Which is why your Nani-G’pa were understandably in denial. I on the other hand, was willing to listen to the teachers and take remedial steps if that is what it took. We had a meeting with the principal where I reminded her that you were one of the brightest kids in the class the year before that – in your Montessori class. She remembered – she also called in last year’s teacher to speak to her. I mentioned that the school we’d moved you to, had affected you deeply. Your father and I were really worried about your behaviour at home and to hear that you were having trouble at school, was even worse.
I was willing to pay for the Special Ed teacher if you needed one, but I wanted them to keep in mind that you had been through a shock. That you’d regressed for a reason and up until then had no problem learning. That the school we’d pulled you out of, was way behind your nursery school in terms of curriculum. They were still teaching you to draw standing and sleeping lines while this school was teaching you the capital and small letters at the same time. As for the social problems, well, considering you’d regressed to barely talking and had joined the new class 4 months after the other children had formed their little groups, I could see why. I just didn’t want them to label you – but I didn’t want to live in denial either.
Anyhow, the decision taken was that you wouldn’t be given special ed, we’d all just work harder with you. And that’s how it began. Now I am not a teacher. I am your mother. And a very impatient mother at that. It’s also why I get very irritated that the teaching in this country often lies in the hands of those who couldn’t figure out what else to do. Those with husbands in transferable jobs. Those who want to go home early to their kids and need a job that ends at 2 pm. I fully appreciate the enormity of the task and I don’t at any point imagine its an easy job to do, which is why, I took on the task of helping you catch up, with great trepidation. We’d already made a mess and I knew I didn’t want to screw things up further.
I think this might be a good time to confess that I am ashamed of losing patience at times. Mostly because you’re such a good child. You’re stubborn, but as a mother it’s my job to understand that and work around it. There were days I had deadlines to meet, while you and sister danced around the house like little dervishes. There was the alternative therapy doctor to take you and your sister to. There was housework to be done. And I snapped often enough. And wept myself to sleep with the guilt.
But you were patient with me. Patient with your father. Patient with your little sister who hopped from one excited foot to the other, blithely and ignorantly encouraging you when you were doing something wrong. I don’t know how we managed, with a guest room that permanently had guests in and out of it, people sprawled across our bedroom carpet or on bean bags, the constant bustle around the house – but I guess that is where the natural resilience of children makes its presence felt. You learnt. You learnt from all of us. And each of us taught you in our own way.
I wondered if we were confusing you, or hampering your progress. You know, so many people rushing in and out of your life, so many different ideas. But it worked. It worked in its own way. We did a review with your teacher two months later and she was beyond pleased with your progress. You were up to the class’ level inspite of having not just started four months later, but having had a lot of other problems.
I often criticise your father and your Tambi maama for their terrible handwriting. But as I sat with you day after day and watched your little hands grasp a pencil and painfully shape an alphabet, I was in awe. In awe of the human mind and the effort it takes to draw even something as simple as a straight line. It made me doff my hat to adult literacy programmes. Schooling your hand, learning to put the right amount of pressure, getting your brain to tell your hand which direction to take and then actually taking it… So much that we just take for granted, once we’ve picked up the skill.
I wish I could tell you how your father and I held our breath each time we asked you for an alphabet and you concentrated, a frown appearing on your little forehead (you get that from me) and then produced it on paper promptly. I wish I could tell you how we went from sleepless nights to falling asleep with a smile on our faces as we recalled you bouncing into the room excitedly and saying, “Mamma, I want to study!”
And it wasn’t just that. We slowly saw the old Brat reappear. You had begun to shy away from guests but soon my little boy was peeking in at the drawing-room door saying “Good evening maashi” and giving them a quick glimpse of his sunshiny smile.
Another day I had on some music as usual when you came into the room and said, “Mamma, look at me.” And then you had a fit. Shaking and squirming until it hit me – you were trying to dance!! Proud mother though I am, let me safely assure you, erm, Fred Astaire is turning in his grave. So is good old MJ, God rest his soul.
Anyway, I digress. Slowly, you came back to us. In so many ways. You began to talk again. Your eyes lighting up with your wild plans. Your voice rising and falling with your tales. You took to pen and paper with a vengeance.
A few weeks ago, you drew me a lion. A blue lion. “A blue lion?” I asked you. Yes, you said. “Why not? A black and white giraffe can have a blue and pink baby… because a brown mamma pig has pink piglets.” Sound logic, that.
And I backed off. If it was blue lions you envisioned, well then, blue lions they would be. It bothers your father, at times. He’s a little more conventional. For instance we have these lovely books where you have to pick the odd one out and I’ve completely bypassed the pages where you have to pick the odd one out – a purple penguin, a hen with tusks… Because knowing you, my little Brat with no limits in your head, you’d wonder why they’re considered the odd ones.
Another day I asked you to draw something you like, and it’s not hard to guess what you drew. Something, that you called, err.. the Bean. With long hair and earrings and five fingers neatly attached to each arm, from armpit to wrist. Picasso, you are (NOT!). I laughed after you’d gone, till the tears rolled down my cheeks (yeah, I’m mean like that) – and cousin K walked in, and did the infuriated maama job on me. “How can you laugh at his work? It’s so sweet. He’s drawn his sister with such effort and he’s only four years old!” And he walked off in a rage, his eyes brimming with love for you.
A call from your teacher three days after you went back to school confirmed it. “Ma’am, I just wanted to tell you that your son has come back from the holidays a different person. Over the last 6 months he’s not just made up what he lost in the last school, but caught up with the class and has finally regained his personality. I think you’re doing a great job with him at home, so keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.”
I hung up and called your father and cried. He listened to me… the silence over the phone line saying more than words could. I know he’s worked hard too. Coming back after work and playing word games in between wrestling. Playing number plate games in the car. Taking you places, helping you write, his big hand eclipsing your little one, protecting it. I often say that it takes more than half a teaspoon of sperm to make a father and your father has.. well, he’s done more than I ever imagined a father could.
As for me, its been a packed six months. Six months that have taught me so much about you, about parenting, about love, about literacy and about the joy of watching something bloom before your eyes. Now as you write your name with ease, spell out little words, and shock me with your photographic memory, I release the breath I was holding from the day they told us you might have a learning disability. I’m glad we got that shock. It gave me some time to think about what I would do if you did have one. Well, as your mother, I’d just deal with it. Simple.
But more than your father and me, you worked. You worked with us. You gave us your time, your energy, your enthusiasm, (sometimes your malingering!), your little spongelike baby brain soaking it all up and greedily wanting more, Olive Twist-like.
You are already fantastic at simple addition and subtraction, something you’ve picked up on your own (although I think you inherit that math brain from your father!). Your school has not begun that section yet, but you blithely add and subtract toffees and birds. You’ve picked up the language brilliantly and now you do funny things like singing Feliz Navidad – but replacing the ‘dad’ part with your father’s name. A friend whose nick is A-something is now called B-something, C-something and so on. Something only a mind like yours, open to all possibilities, could have come up with.
You dance sometimes, your face coming alive, even though your limbs all seem to have their own agenda, not a single one complementary to the other!! You love to paint and you do beautifully with water colours, staying well within the lines. You draw fantastical creatures with strange body parts and entertain me with their exploits. You tell me stories, you make up rhymes and more than that you laugh, you tease, you cry, you live, you breathe, you smile, you love, you are whole, you are healthy and I am grateful for all of those every single day. You make me proud my son.
I love you,