Some of you wanted a Brat and Bean post and I know it’s been a while since you heard about them, mainly because their lives are slowly growing more private. They might not mind a potty training post when they grow up, but as they negotiate the real world, make friends and learn to deal with conflict I want more and more for that to be away from the public eye. That and the fact that milestones no longer fly thick and fast. Sitting up, standing, walking, talking, self feeding, first tooth falling, cycling without support…. I look back and it seems like their babyhood passed in a flash while I laboured physically to take them through each milestone.
But what has begun to fall by the wayside are the little leaps of mental evolution. The understanding, that I am a person separate from them. I realise that comes earlier to kids whose parents are working full time – they realise that mummy and daddy have a life apart from them. On the other hand, I’ve always been around to scratch an itchy back, soothe a fevered brow and rock a tired child to sleep while singing a lullaby so it is hard for kids like mine to accept that their mother has a life of her own and has indeed, even a separate body. I won’t comment on whether that is positive or not, but that is how it is.
The frustration that comes when they want something and Mama is *gasp* actually daring to take a shit (did I just say that on my blog?). The despair when they are upset over a fight in the school bus and Mama’s inability to make it better. These are little things that no one tells you about. Oh you read about them in books and now in blogs, but they don’t seem to amount to much. Unless you tend to feel everything 200% the way I do, and now I realise, my kids do too. I’ve passed my hypersensitivity on to them, through either nurture or genes and now we’re just going to have to deal with it.
I think it’s nice for kids to know that there is someone on earth who will always drop what they’re doing and be there for you – that is why you have parents, right? Someone who will always answer your calls. Someone who puts you first. And I don’t for a moment believe, that it gives them the impression that the world will do the same. They are, after all dealing with the real world on a real basis and seeing that it doesn’t cut it.
So yes, my biggest challenge has been to give them that limitless time and buckets of attention while still trying to maintain some semblance of a life of my own. Plentiful time and attention rarely spoil kids in my humble opinion. Trying to make up for the lack of either of those two with money or laxity on the other hand is what leads to terribly spoilt kids. I believe that all mothers must live their own lives and not let it revolve around their kids – technically. But I also know that it is a tough line to walk. Read this great piece from a son to a feminist mother.
Having said all of that I should admit rather shamefacedly that the intention isn’t always followed up by action. I work from home on a million and one projects at a time, and end up rather disorganised and flustered. So a cry for ‘Mamaaaaa!’ is usually answered with a snappy, ‘Okay, which one killed the other?’
But yes, should there be bloodshed, I’m there. If they come back from school and someone bullied them on the bus, they can talk about it over lunch. If they’re tired, I see it and sneak in an unscheduled nap. If they’re hungry and I’m not dying under the burden of a deadline, I can whip up something special for them. I don’t blame them for finding it hard to know where to draw the line.
Which is why I was pleasantly surprised a few days ago. The doorbell rang and the Brat helpfully ran to answer it, climbed up on a stool to open the latch, and knocked over a plant I had in the windowsill. I heard the crash and took a deep breath. It was okay, it was just a plant (and broken glass and dirt and a mess and more work for me!). And then he came running to me and said, “Mama, I’m sorry I knocked over a plant. I know you work hard to keep the house looking nice and we don’t have any didis to help you with the work. I’ll clean it up. And then I’ll help you plant another one.”
To say I was shocked would be an understatement.
1. He’d rushed to confess and apologise.
2. He noticed and appreciated that I liked to keep a good home.
3. He acknowledged that I had no help and did everything alone.
4. He wanted to help me and make up for the loss.
It was more than I expected from a 7 year old whose mother ran circles around him. And at some level I guess it is not so surprising. He might be quiet but he visits other homes, observes how they are kept, sees how much help is available and oh dear God – he might just be a sensitive human being!
I hugged him, told him he might hurt himself on the broken pieces and sent him off to get me the broom and pan. That was all I really wanted from him.
A few days later I was in the toilet (Yes, I know this is the TMI moment) and the Bean yelled out to me. Now I am sick and tired of people wanting to have long, complicated conversations with me, the moment I ascend the throne. I’m good for a quick yes or no, after which I get distinctly cranky and hostile. It’s the last refuge of the tired wife and mother and you have no idea how frustrating it is to find no sanctuary there either. But no amount of sarcasm or downright nastiness seems to shoo them away. I’ve come to the conclusion that actually dealing with the issue and solving the problem (unless it’s something like – Mamma! He’s pushing pencils up my nose) is the only way to get rid of them.
So when the Bean yelled Mamaaaaa a couple of days ago, I resignedly yelled back, What?
Oh, said she, ‘You’re in the bathroom? I’m sorry. I’ll ask you later.”
I have to admit I almost fell off the pot in shock.
A realisation that I was in the toilet and an appreciation of the fact that I might want to go about my business in peace and oh dear God – an apology!
I know these little markers whiz by in the dailyness of life but both made me stop and smile. I might have missed them if I’d got too upset over the smashed plant or just as usual yelled something rude from the bathroom. Yes, I might have!
Missed real, honest to God milestones where they slowly evolve from parasites into human beings. Aware, sensitive and willing, once in a while, to give their mother a break. I know I’ve written very often about the gradual physical separation of a child from the mother. The weaning, the self feeding… and now this, the final and hardest break of all. Becoming an individual. Ego, choice, concern, love…
I went to bed smiling. I don’t know how much longer I’m going to be home with them. It could be a year, it could be ten. But watching this, knowing this as I do, I can’t possibly look back in regret.
And while I’m here, let me share with you my current favourite song. The lyrics are awesome (check them out on the Coke Studio Pakistan site) and I love the way their voices blend. I’ve always loved Sanam Marvi’s voice and I don’t know if I can possibly love her more. And the Western influence towards the end is bang on. I can’t say enough, so I shall stop right here.