I consider myself a no-nonsense mother. I have been told quite often by my older child, a daughter of nine, that I am a ‘strict’ mom, as compared to the other mothers she’s met. What made the whole thing more obvious was that my husband hits the absolute opposite in the pamper-o-meter. Needless to say, he is the favorite parent in the family.
So it came as a surprise, even to me, when I fussed around my school-ready son on his first day of school. New blue shirt, cream trousers and sparkling new shoes; I must have clicked a few hundred snaps to capture the image of my 3 year old son in his new avatar.
He couldn’t understand what all the fuss was about. “Just another day of going out, Mom”…. his face seemed to say. Oh! That sinking feeling of sending my baby out into the ‘real’ world without me! The saving grace was that he would be going to the same school as my daughter did; in fact he would even have the same teacher as my daughter did, in her pre-school days.
I accompanied him to his bright, loud class, where other anxious moms and dads from the same species were battling their inner demons of fear. The sight in that classroom would have looked comic for a detached watcher…. Kids varying in emotions: from those howling at the top of their voices, to those seated determinedly in the seats they were parked at by their parents, refusing to let other scheming parents place their kids there.
Let me clarify the reason here. We parents are a weird lot – we goofed away our entire studying years in the back benches of schools and colleges, but come the first day of our child’s school, we want them to sit right under the teacher’s nose; or right on her table, if possible!
Well, my 3 year old was more determined than his mom – he walked straight to the last table in the last row and placed his prized possessions there -water bottle, toy car (which he refused to leave at home) and his bright red ‘Ben Ten’ bag. No amount of coaxing, threatening or bribing helped move him from the last to the fast filling seats in the front rows.
“Takes after his Dad” I muttered sheepishly to the smiling teacher who assured me she did not have eyesight or hearing problem – so my son would be taken care of even in the last row. Moreover, she reminded me; they are seated in rotation all the time.
I gave another tight hug to the part of me that I would be leaving behind for a few hours. My son, no doubt tensed and worried about being left alone, gave me a stone faced wave as I took a few steps towards the door.
“Momeeeeeee” he screamed, when I almost reached the door. I turned to see him run towards me, trying to look brave. He came into my arms and in a small voice said, “Will you come back for me?”
I was shocked at the question. I had been telling him for the last couple of days how I would leave him with his new friends and a lovely teacher for a few hours, and how I would come back for him after that. This sudden doubt was unusual of my son. “Yes, baby. I will come back by lunchtime and we will have an ice cream on the way back home. OK?”
He thought about this for a second, and then asked me something which changed the way I understood little minds – “Even if I sit in the back row, you will still come back for me?”
The teacher standing next to me intervened, as I had lost all control over my own voice. “Of course, sweetheart! She will ALWAYS come back for you! Even if you sit in the back. Right Mommy?”
The dumb struck mom that I was, I just nodded and hugged my son before letting him go running back to occupy his last seat in the last row, visibly happier and more confident. The teacher took me outside the classroom.
“Mrs. B, your son taught you something today that most parents don’t understand till it’s too late in life for them to make amends. Each child is unique, with skills, talents and challenges that are different from each other. Each child needs to understand that love – whether from their parents, or their peers, is not dependent on their agreement with your views. It does not depend on following the norms or the trends. And most importantly, everything does not have to be the ‘best’.”
As I tried to find my lost voice, the teacher went on. “Unwittingly, it is us – the parents, the teachers and the other ‘grown-up’ well-wishers, who teach these innocent children that it is important to get the ‘best’ out of material stuff in the world. We teach them that only the smart ones, the selfish ones, the ones who fight the hardest, survive. We teach them stress. And then we wonder why the world is getting worse with each generation! Mrs. B, I have been mentoring these young minds for over 15 years now. I have refused opportunities to teach higher classes,because this is the class that keeps me closest to being a good human being. Your son, along with the other young brains in there, is the answer to preserving humanity. Let’s keep them that way.”
I finally found my voice enough to thank her, and came back home humbled; and yet, happier.
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life at www.lafemmenirvana.blogspot.in and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training at www.hospitalityshowtime.blogspot.in