Monday, 29 March 2010

Better eight than never

Emirates Parent Plus. April 2010.

Five perfectly formed, shining examples of excellence lay neatly arranged in the order of their size on my little fighter’s palm.

Fighter, because he had gone off in a huff, to do my own thing, after grudgingly doing me the favour of drinking his evening milk down to the last drop.

The shining examples were five clay models of vegetables that he moulded in the anger of having to do tea at tea-time. Of course, it didn’t come free – but more of that in a bit.

He does this to me often. Eating quickly enough, just doing anything without a well-wrought explanation, not stopping a task to why? at everything (this is Why?-Phase II; you will be subjected, resistance is futile) are all events I have to be grateful for. And when any of these rare feats is achieved, God knows, I am eternally grateful.

Then he takes off stomping and returns before I could have regained my breath, with a stunner. Maybe for only a little, teeny, weeny while, but at that exhilarating moment, I have to relent. He wins. Again.

Like he did the other day after he had presented his masterpieces in clay and wangled a study-time exemption for it (I did say it didn’t come free). He continued to huff and puff through his dinner and right across his pre-sleep routines. It was an enormous effort to hide my smile, for, coming from an otherwise independent child, this toddler-like scowling was beyond cute (yes again, I did not dare say that to him to his face!).

Our role reversal continued and I played to all his whims. Mary’s little lamb, I-me-myself, in a bid to make it to bed in time, did all that was ‘told’ so as to make sure that the next morning wouldn’t be a nightmare rush to school. The odd raised voice, promptly won a ban against our customary goodnight kiss and cuddle, before my ever-charged battery-on-legs, entered Dreamworld within seconds. Confirming that the steady breathing was indeed of sound sleep, I grabbed my peck on the cheek without which ‘I’ surely would have spent the night awake.

My thoughts hovered long over how powerless he makes me feel at times like this. Squeals of joy when he does something new, the constant giggling on making seven runs and going for more because the ball is stuck on the hibiscus branch beyond my reach, sudden breaks into hip-hop moves when he comes home with a stellar mark sheet ... pain me in a way, because along with the immense love that wells up within, I also realise that before I know it, he will find the means to find joy outside my realm. My little boy won’t want me snooping around his playmates and soon the door to his room will be locked with me on the outside.

Does that leave me enough time to give him all I want to give him? Will I be able to teach him all I want to teach him, while he will still learn from me? Will he remember all the times we’ve shared laughing together? Will I get over all those sleepless nights I spend waiting to wake up, to fall fast asleep at the crack of dawn only to wake up again in minutes? Will he get over all the naughty-corner moments? Would I have done enough? How much is enough?

Or have I got it all wrong – is it me who is learning all the time? “Child is the father of man”, are no hollow words. I realise the truth in them every time I lose patience, to give in eventually. My little child has made me realise, way too many times, that all is well and will continue to be so.

Retrospect (oh! that annoying phenomenon of existence) repeats that what I perceive as insolence, is really, an intelligence beyond his years and hence beyond my expectations. If it is his occasional impishness that gets to me, it also somehow becomes the very reason I glow with pride. Or is it a very regular eight-year-old factor?

Look at the event that triggered this piece, for instance. He did everything in his eight-year-old might, to avoid study-time. He even risked the unpleasantness of infuriating me in his attempt to buy that time to push his task further away. In bringing his clay out and simply getting started on it when I turned my back for a quick hand-wash, knowingly or unknowingly, he had already set off a winner. The delight with which he called out to exhibit his handiwork: masterstroke!

He knows he can churn out art that usually amazes. But first, it also excites him – that kind of thrill is not a candidate for pretence. The little extra touches though: the tiredness and wanting an early dinner, that evening? Thoroughbred fake! It was after 7:00 PM. I simply had to call it quits.

What is he then? A smooth negotiator, a mind player or just an innocent little boy, innocently doing what innocent little boys should be doing, anyway?

Doting that I am, I am certainly no fool for love. My adorable brat, I cannot help believe, knew exactly what he was doing. The more I claim to be an expert on my child, the more he is learning to read ‘me’. He knows when to cajole and, oh! yes! he certainly knows when to bite! If either of these don’t reduce me to tears (though complete exasperation often causes me to forget that I can cry), his earnest, What’s wrong, ma?, most certainly turns the tap trickling.

So where do I stand in the scheme of things? A loving mum, a strict disciplinarian, a tireless facilitator? Or am I just a confused soul that thinks she is smart enough, until it is bed time and her endearing cheeky monkey blows her cover, most often, with a heart-warmingly sleepy, Can you cuddle me, mamma? Tighter?