My hero

Compulsory Hero by 1927 was a favourite song when I was a child (Click here for lyrics). I have no idea why such a melancholy song made it to my playlist at that age, but it did.

Last night as I sat in the park watching the kids play as dusk fell, the song came back to me. I usually feel rather cranky when I take the kids to the park. The sun shines down relentlessly on landscaped gardens struggling to overcome the dry Haryana heat and red mud. A bunch of eye-poppingly colourful swings scattered between straggling cactii and palm trees and in some Gurgaon complexes, that funny turf thing to protect kids from getting hurt. There are no trees to climb and no knees getting scraped. I sit there like the antique that I am, muttering to myself and wishing I could set the kids free to run wild like I did instead of being restricted to this tiny patch. I suddenly see why we hear of so many playground fights these days. They are turf wars. In our time there was enough place for everyone to do their own thing and you didn’t have to push someone out of a corner to skip rope. Running along the train tracks throwing coins, playing treasure hunt across the entire old Bengali locality. Never knowing a moment of fear, or a mother who is scared they’ll get hit by traffic on the state highway we live close to or get kidnapped or molested. There is something about the dusk that brings your worst fears out of hiding and even as I wished for a freer childhood for the Brat and the Bean I shuddered at the thought of letting them out of my sight.

The boys were playing some sort of army game, running around screaming, shooting, throwing themselves down in the grass and dying, crawling on their bellies around hillocks with scant regard for the clothes they were ruining. Imaginary bombs were tossed, the enemy was attacked and then one of them got hurt and a real skirmish broke out. The Brat who was part of the commando troupe was hidden behind something and I suddenly saw the bush erupt and this little whirlwind rush out. Oh my God, I said, he’s getting into the fight. But I held my ground and watched. And after a few minutes the noise died down and then the kids slowly drifted back to their positions, resuming the game. Peace was brokered. I was too far away to hear what he said but I sat there smiling, glad that no one could see my eyes shining with tears in the gloom.

Women love men in uniform and since I didn’t marry one, I ended up wanting my son to be one. Years ago I wrote a post my old blog about how proud I’d be if my son joined the armed forces. He was barely a year old and I had a heart full of dreams for him. By the way, that post too was inspired by a song – Lukka Chhupi from Rang De Basanti. I so wanted to wave my son goodbye in his uniform, Bollywood mother style. And on a not so filmy note, I also wanted to see my kids do something for the country/ for the environment/ forsomething other than themselves and not just buy a third house as investment.

But as he grew and I saw the quiet, dreamy child he was turning into, it was clear he didn’t have the temperament for it. His line ‘Even if I hit to protect myself, it is violence,’ ringing in my head, I set aside that dream, albeit with a tinge of disappointment. And made my peace with him coming home with a scratched face one day, a bite on the back the next and an arm twisted behind him the third. I could not always be around to protect him and if he didn’t learn to do it, there was nothing more I could do.

A few days ago I went to school for his progress review and sat there flipping through the wiggles and squiggles his teachers called art. Looked at his awful scrawls that didn’t resemble the alphabet in any language. And smiled at the lumps of clay that were supposed to be dinosaurs. Even as a fond mother I could see no special talent in them. And then the teacher mentioned that they call him the class encyclopedia. Why is the bald eagle bald? Do you know which dinosaur was mistakenly identified as another? Have you any idea which country has the most pythons? The class always turns to him for the answer. But that wasn’t what made me proud. It was what came next.

Apparently he doesn’t get into fights. And when there is a fight in class, the teachers ask the two kids in question – What do you think the Brat would do in your place? Apparently he is the shining example for solving conflicts. And if the teachers are busy, they send him in to mediate and he does! I sat there listening, and couldn’t help but remember all the many posts I wrote on how my son was gentle and kept getting hit and beaten and bullied through his babyhood. I worried, I fretted, I stayed up nights and when I did sleep, it was to have nightmares of him being bullied until he broke down.

In all my years of blogging or even life, I doubt anyone can accuse me of being peaceful or resolving conflicts in a gentle manner. So for my son to be the exact opposite of me is a constant source of amazement for me. Not only has he learnt how to settle a dispute and deal with bullies, he’s also learnt to help others do that.

I guess even without hitting back or being in uniform, my son is my hero.

57 thoughts on “My hero

  1. Awww.. what a sweetheart! God bless the little encyclopedia!
    I always have a big lump in my throat when you write about what a gentle kid he is. My bil’s son is that way and I constantly fear that the world is going to eat him up. Now, I have hope. That for every grey cloud we see, there is a silver lining after all! 🙂

  2. Yay! I am so happy to hear this, as an old time reader of your blog I do remember your posts on the brat’s peaceful nature, part pride and part, dare i say it, exasperation. It does my heart good to read that not only has he remained unaffected by some of the ‘corrupting influences’ of growing up but also that people, his age and older, appreciate his solid goodness and take inspiration from it. *wiping off tear*

  3. oh what a wonderful post! My husband is somewhat like your son – very gentle. I love that quality of his, and wish my daughter gets it as she grows up.

  4. Beautifully written Mad Momma .. Even from a third person’s perspective.. a “kid” having the ability to resolve conflicts, and be a shining example for his class for his non-violence is so amazing. You have inspired me – I was resigning myself to the fact that “boys will be boys”.

  5. I might sound like a broken tape playing on loop, but you make me want to have babies right now, every time you write about yours. This little boy is responsible for so many of us falling in love with a baby we’d never met, 6 years ago. And while some of us may never meet him in person, I hope you know that every time you write these posts, there are smitten aunts, sniffling into their computers, letting a stray teardrop fall and smiling proudly at the thought of this little boy. Heart of gold, that is what he is!

  6. hugggssss! tight squeeeegy ones for brat! god bless him! we need more people like him!

    and i agree that the aggression in kids is because of turf wars. and thats not only on playground, everything is in short supply, teacher’s attention, college seats, jobs, and hence stiff unhealthy competition for everything!

    • Very true. I wanted to write another post on something like this but it comes across as very classist so am waiting to sort out my thoughts before I put them down.

      • hahaah on a different note, the word classist remiinds me : a friend once commented that sending kids to pvt schools was being “elitist” (this was in US). the public schools there are good in some districts, and houses therein are expensive…so anyway u look at it, u pay for “elite” company/education.
        so yes there will be folks who will misread stuff and label “classist”.

  7. You give me hope. DD’s useless when it comes to using her fists ( a fact I am secretly thankful for). Worse, she ends up crying in case of any conflict which only causes her to be bullied more. She has been hit, pushed, shoved and on one occasion, strangled at which point I stepped in and threatened the bully with bodily harm.

    I have settled for this being the way of things until she learns to defend herself. What you said finally has me believing she doesn’t have to hit, push or shove. That being a pacifist may not be such a bad thing. Thanks, this has bolstered me and provided me a measure of peace.

  8. Wow! The Brat is such a shining example for all kids. I was one never to take up a fight in my childhood, but I didn’t have the guts to go settle others’ brawls. Your son has those guts. Don’t you see he’s got them from you? 🙂
    The brat will always be in my heart, any girl would want to have him as a son, husband or brother. And you have him. You’re lucky 🙂
    The bean on the other hand, will always be in my mind, reminding me the importance of being fierce and fiesty. To get my way no matter what. To believe in myself.
    Kids teach us so many things.

  9. Oh my goodness, me! If my daughter ever did get to that stage, I’d be ready to die and go to heaven!

    Give the brat tight hugs from me please!

  10. Hi Mad Momma,

    Just wanted to cheer the Brat on after reading your post. You go, Brat!

    I have been reading your blog for a long time now but have never before commented, though many of your posts have touched me (an example would be the one on how touched you were when your parents sent you their furniture). I have admired pictures of your house. I have rooted for the bratty Bean, smiled in admiration at the gentle, not very well-named Brat, waited for birth of Baby Button, yet I have never felt the need to connect. I was just happy reading all of your stories and happy that you felt the need to write and that you would so generously share with absolute strangers.

    Today I just had to write to you! You make ME, a total stranger, feel proud of Brat! Do keep writing. You have an amazing gift!


  11. 😀 So there can be peaceful ways of resolving issues – the Brat seems to be learning very quickly… Really, if he can even resolve others’ conflicts – BIG BIG hugs to him… He’s growing up so fast MM!!

  12. We need more boys like your son. Gentle boys are the ones who grow into amazing men. Who don’t feel the need to fit into whatever is the current stereotype of macho. With an amazing mother like you, how can there be any chance of your son not being a hero 🙂

  13. The Brat is truly a hero. At this tender age to stand unbiased and resolve conflicts…WOW…
    I have seen older kids who can’t even see reason..let alone resolve a fight.
    A big tight hug from me to the Brat.

  14. I have to stop reading your posts, MM. Or read them at night when no one can see me shamelessly crying over posts, about a little boy I’ve never even met.
    Big hugs to you and your hero.

  15. Wow, MM! I feel like squishing the not-so-little-any-longer Brat for being such an admirable darling. And just because I can’t help teasing you… so who do you think he gets this from, the OA (along with his looks, if I may add)? 😉

  16. That makes the brat a superhero. I hope they make children’s animation based on conflict resolution instead of fisticuffs. This is what we need in the current world.
    PS: I want to thank you for introducing Indu Sundaresan’s books. I shied away thinking that they are expensive but have enjoyed the “Shadow princess and Twentieth wife”. I’m now waiting for a delivery of the “feast of roses” :). Do you read Philippa Gregory?

  17. MM,
    But why do you think he will not become a good soldier?I am married to one who is as gentle and down to earth as can be.We need sons like yours joining the Army.Modern day army is not about fighting.Its about resolving issues,its about leading your men and motivating them when the morale is low cause of seperation from family.All officers’ I know are generally like the Brat is.So don’t loose hope and encourage him to join the forces.Its all about Leadership,patience and endurance.

  18. does Brat get this quality from the OA? i know he didnt get it from you:-)
    my son takes after his father – a firm believer of non-violence. i too worried a lot about him getting bullied due to his shy, introverted nature but he asserts when he needs to, which makes him a favorite among his class friends. he is not the class encyclopedia like brat (which is so awesome), he is the ‘class clown’.
    just like you, i am hot headed and i am glad he isnt. as for my daughter, well, thats a different story altogether. i dont at all worry about her being bullied-i worry SHE may be the bully;-)
    nicely done, MM.

    • hah! definitely not from me and quite definitely from the father. You know me, if someone smacks me once I’m likely to kick ass rather than turn the other cheek. The Bean is not a bully either, but she will at least come home and tell me if someone hurts her. With the Brat, unless I saw the signs, like bruises and teeth marks, I’d never know. I used to hysterically check and frantically question him everyday.

  19. He is my Hero too. how’d he turn this way… how and wherefrom????

    MM do you sometimes do posts on request? can you do one on nature vs nurture please if you have your ideas on it.

  20. MM,

    I’ve said this before – the Brat is a wonderful child, and I am sure he will grow up to be a wonderful person. You and the OA should be very, very proud of him.

  21. Maybe what the armed forces actually need are “settlers”. Those without the visible aggression, who can actually do what it takes to settle things? I know, it probably sounds like its against the whole point of being in the armed forces, but I couldnt help but think, there is something about being a settler in this day and age. It is not so much that he is non-aggressive and a push-over, but that he is a pragmatic, sorter of things maybe? That in itself is a huge gift.

  22. You know, I get a little misty eyed at every one of the PT interactions I have for my kids. Just beaming with pride on their small achievements. If brat were my son, I would be wailing buckets of joy and embarrassing the daylights out of him. Glad you are more composed 🙂
    Lots of love to him. And hey, preserving that spirit is the work that God has cut out for you. Not quite a walk in the park.

  23. Beautiful!

    I am married to similar gentleman. A couple of days ago, there was a discussion at work about Dowry. Of the 10 men & many women in the group, this husband of mine was the only one who spoke against dowry, albeit very gently & welcomed the thought of women fighting against this injustice.

    I am very proud of the fact that he has many women friends because of his quiet, forgiving & non violent nature. Quite opposite of what a stereotypical macho man is like!

    We are blessed MM!

  24. Gives me another perspective and hope for my son too who is gentle as one can be. Sometimes I want him to toughen up but then there is always a reason somewhere… thank you for this!
    Love to the darling brat.

  25. Awwww
    This is such a beautiful post. Brought tears to my eyes.

    I could relate to it, because I have always shied away from fights since childhood. I never got into scrapes as a child, and was so painfully shy that my parents were worried about me faring well in life. In the end, everything has worked out, or so I like to think….

  26. Pingback: And the Brat turns seven | The Mad Momma

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