My darling, darling, little menace, Bean,
I’d always thought I’d have a menace of a son, but you can see who grabbed that title. By the way, have I ever mentioned how apt your name is – Bean! You ARE full of beans. I chose the name after a babycentre mail described you as being the size of a bean, in utero. Funnily, you haven’t grown much even out of the err.. utero.
The last year has been particularly troubling as friends grow in leaps and bounds and you stay tiny and petite. Your ankles and writsts so delicate, they might snap, your feet slowly outgrowing their resemblance to your father’s ugly stubby extremeties, and your fingers turning longer and slimmer – could you please stop biting your nails, though? You get that from your nani although she swears she’s never bitten them in front of you. Hellooo – there is that little matter of genetics.
If there were any doubt on the gene issue however, it becomes clearer everyday. You are a spitting image of my nani – tiny, slim, spitfire, intelligent, always laughing, vivid imagination and so on… You have a heartshaped face and neither your nani nor I are a patch on her. I think we’re both suitably grateful that you look like her. The jury is still out on what we think of you getting her impetuous, tempestuous nature.
‘She looks just like you..’ people say and I look at them in shock. What? My beautiful, delicate baby…? Not at all, I want to say and I’m not being modest. I don’t see the similarity between my flat, broad features and your delicate pixie face… But I remember the same scene over and over again – years of visitor telling my mother that I look like her, and your nani looking quite annoyed – how dare they say her beautiful daughter looked like her… surely her daughter was a beauty!
Maybe its a family thing. Maybe we think the world of our daughters. Maybe our daughters are a distilled version of us, each generation a little sharper featured, a little sharper tempered, a little sharper..
I’m trying to look back on the last year and tell you what it’s been like, but we’ve already got the blog to do that (go read my archives when you’re old enough and care!). Let me tell you other little details I might have missed.
Did I mention your hair is a mess. All the time. And that getting a comb through it is impossible. My grandmother had a bengali explanation for it – quarrelsome women have knotty hair, she’d say, struggling to comb her own and then mine. You see the pattern? We’re planning to shave your head in the summer holidays because this is the last year I have the courage to do it. I want to shave my head too, but your father will have a shit-fit if I do, so you’re going to have to do this alone.
They say the first borns seek attention *koff koff* because the second borns get it. In our case, we did our best to give the Brat attention after you were born and I think we went overboard because you’re the little attention seeker in the family.
You are quite the hostess and if people drop in (which they always do, without warning) and I am unavailable for a few minutes, you walk into the living room and make conversation with them. If you like a particular guest, you feed them chips until they beg you to stop.
You come up with priceless rejoinders and as I prepared you for your birthday party yesterday, trying on dress after dress, you rolled your three year old eyes and said – Aren’t you done with me yet?
No, I’m not. I’m never going to be done with you. Even when you’re a mother and when you’re a grandmother, I’m not going to be done with you. All I know is that I think the world of you. When you’re thirteen and you hate the world, with your mother topping the list, I’ll send you back to this post. Then you can see her eyes shining with love and adoration and maybe we’ll weather that storm like we did the one this morning as you refused to eat your breakfast. You’re certainly a stubborn little so-and-so.
We’ve had a few showdowns over the past couple of weeks and as Cee mashi says, we just need to be more stubborn and carry through the threats we make. A few days ago you refused to climb into your car seat. You refused to get into the car at all, actually. So I said we’d leave. You called my bluff, so your father and I left you and drove away with the Brat. It was our local market with all shopkeepers who know us well and they grinned. We didn’t go far – barely 3 meters, but you came running behind us – while the Brat was in the car, howling for you. Damnit, but disciplining you is hard with the Brat’s constant interference. Remember to cover up for him when you grow up – you owe him a LOT.
A few days ago you broke another house rule and I told you that people who wanted to live in our house had to follow house rules. To which you tilted your chin stubbornly and walked out of the door. I shut it behind you and told you to be careful that the garbage man didnt mistake you for the garbage and take you away. You sat there for five minutes before your imagination took over and you came banging on the door – ‘Mamma, the koodawala is here and he wants to take me away… let me in!!!!!’ Crisis averted.
You have a vivid imagination and you’re as much of a little mother as I was known to be. Your family of elephants are carted around in your arms or in a little wheelbarrow and the Brat is shoved to a corner of your bed as your family of elephants shares your bed. To his credit, the Brat’s been rather accomodating about your obsession.
On other days he wakes up and scoots across the bed to you.. putting his big head on your skinny, frail chest – and you stroke his head and pat him back to sleep. I walk into your nursery some mornings to see you two awake, hugging each other and lying in the silence and the comfort of familiarity, looking out the window at the palm fronds swaying in the breeze.
For all your dadi-amma behaviour, your precociousness (which I can’t stand and am proud of in a very strange, detached way), you are my little tail. At times I enjoy being the centre of your world, at others it brings out the worst in my impatient nature. But your attachment shows through in everything you say or do. You tell me me to sleep in your lap… and then as I lie down, you stroke my head and tell me stories that always revolve around mummies and babies. Sometimes fathers and brothers make an appearance, but your world is mostly full of mummy and you.
You pick up a terracotta turtle and bring him to me. “Where’s his mamma?” you ask. I shrug, waiting for you to bring this tale to its conclusion. You cup him in your little hands and coo at him. Gently stroking him with a tiny finger. “She’s gone for a walk… but don’t worry baby turtle, I’ll take care of you, don’t cry…” I glare at the decorative turtle balefully and say ‘”What’s he crying for? Shall I give him a whack?” No no… you say…. “He’s only a little baby. We can’t whack babies.”
Hmm… you have your theories clearer than I do. I have to admit that in the last few months you’ve felt the weight of my hand on your skinny backside. You have a willingness to play by the rules, you understand routine and you know what needs to be done. But I notice you flouting them all the time. Not because you truly don’t want to do something, but because you want to create a scene and want to be fussed over and pleaded with. Thats mostly early morning when we’re rushing for school and you end up getting a whack and I end up carrying the guilt for the rest of the day.
Your eczema has mostly gone but you keep developing all sorts of skin problems and I took you to the doctor recently for yet another rash. As we sat there, you letting her examine you, chattering away like a monkey, I gave her a quick rundown of your history. And she looked at me and smiled her admiration saying – For a little girl with so many problems she’s remarkably cheerful. That’s it. She hit the nail on the head. I’ve seen kids with skin problems and asthma and a lot of them are understandably cranky. I’ve heard them cry and fret and my heart has gone out to them for the problems they’re undergoing. And yet I don’t notice or realise how many problems you have day after day, from your never ending cough, your runny nose, your rashes, your tiny frail body, your stick like arms – because you’re just so full of energy and hope and sunshine and cheer. It took an outsider to tie it all up together for me. I don’t notice anything other than the larger than life spirit inside the tiny little body that is half the size of its contemporaries. Here’s a picture of your father sleeping on your tiny little shoulder as we wait for yet another doctor’s appointment.
You are a little parrot. Unlike your brother who is slow to show that he has twigged on, you repeat everything we say, after us, and then happily reproduce it to anyone who has time to spare. I tried to guilt myself about neglecting you, given your brother’s learning issues. But I see its not made a bit of a difference. And I guess it all evens out in the long run because he was exactly your age when you were born with eczema and we ran from doctor to doctor with you, sparing him only time for the essentials. A year to you, a year to him.
A few weeks ago I was teaching the Brat his letters and you kept getting in the way – finally I gave you a pen and a piece of paper and this is what you did –
Your montessori class is nowhere near teaching you to write – and there you were, not even 3 years old, writing your alphabets with no one to teach them to you.
I took the paper from you and felt my heart break just a little bit. Were we neglecting you to the extent where you have to even teach yourself. And then I couldn’t take it anymore. Between your physical issues and the Brat’s learning problems – your father and I are torn. We struggle to keep both of you going and this wasn’t a bad thing. This was a good thing. You refuse to eat while the Brat quietly shovels food into his mouth. The Brat refuses to study or even do half his syllabus while you soak up the learning in the air like a little sponge and reproduce it for us. Your father and I should be thankful to the two of you for helping us along, for doing what you can. I hope you don’t see the stress on our faces and the physical exhaustion as day after day we work with both of you in different ways and try and hold down jobs and run our home to keep it comfortable and safe for you.
I’d like you to appreciate it just as I would want you to appreciate any effort anyone makes for you – but thats about where it begins and ends.
You’ve grown into a real little girl now – brushing your hair in front of the mirror, wanting to ‘look pretty’ – Mama, am I looking pretty? Mama, can I wear lipstick? Not now? When I’m a big girl? Mama put some perfume for me also!… ‘ and so on. But within minutes you and your brother are back to rolling on the floor and wrestling, having burping and farting contests and I’m wondering how you’re ever going to grow into a lady! And with that I abandon all hope of you ever growing into the woman I have hoped you will. Simply because even in these three little years I have realised that I have neither the imagination nor the wit to even begin to imagine the person you’re going to grow into. You will far surpass my imagination and dreams.
You are fearless, you are confident, you are brave, you have a wicked sense of humour that I envy, you are self assured, you are bright… and I am a mad mad mother.. mad about you, that is.
Unlike your cautious brother, you don’t look before you leap. You take that leap of faith and then glare at us if we’re not around to break the fall. You are used to be served and adored and taken care of. You throw yourself into things with abandon, you fall out of trees, you tumble down the slide, you walk into doors, you trip over your own feet and you dust yourself off and stand up each time. You love new experiences and be it horse riding or the swings – you reach your arms out high and want to take a huge bite out of life. As I push you on the swing in the playground you scream, ‘higher mama, higher..’ And I push you higher and higher, my heart in my mouth… Unable to stop myself because you don’t want me to. Your eyes are burning with life, your little body pushing hard as you soar up… your laughter fills the air and I carry that image around with me… my lovely, lively daughter, my little princess…
God bless you