I was walking my son to school today when he suddenly chirped up and said, “Look, mamma, Akhil is on the other side of the road”. I looked and saw my son’s friend, Akhil, with his mom. They had not seen us. Then, my son continues, in a wondering tone, “Why is his mom carrying his backpack?!” And, indeed, Akhil is seen striding along while his mom is walking a little behind carrying his backpack slung over one of her shoulders.
I smile and fish around for a reasonable explanation for my son. But, in the back of my mind flashes the images of my childhood in Calcutta. When I was in college, I often used to use the public bus to travel. My rides often coincided with the end-of-school timings and at one particular stop, the bus used to suddenly get crowded with 5-6 school uniform-clad boys getting in with their moms. The unique part of these sessions always was that the moms would anxiously shepherd their boys to available seats, sit them down and then stand guard over them, hanging onto their kids’ backpacks and water bottles. The bus used to sway and rattle and the moms used to hang on with their one free hand to the overhead rails, all the while shouting instructions to their progeny to sit still; or else they would fall from their seats!
As I sat, a mere twenty-something at that time, and wonder at this behavior and how incredibly complacent a child must be to let his own mom stand and hold onto his heavy backpack, I promised myself that I would never be this mom! Yes, I understood that in those days, backpacks weighed a ton with all those schoolbooks and any parent would be concerned for their child having to lift that heavy weight for a long time but, all the more reason for the child to hold it on his lap while his mom is dangling from an overhead railing….. heaven forbid, that he actually have the thought of giving up his seat for her though!
I have vowed never to say never again, but now, as a mom of two boys, I’m happy that both of them are pretty self-reliant. It also helps that we are in a country that is basically a do-it-yourself kind! I do wake up my eight year old, but then he goes to the bathroom, gets dressed, goes downstairs and either pours his own cereal or milk or puts in bread in the toaster, while I get dressed myself. Of course, he ties his own shoe laces and carries his own backpack!
I must say that now that I am a mom and not a strongly opinionated twenty year old, I do feel the painful tugging at my heartstrings every time I see my kids do something by themselves. Last month, after putting my four-year old in the tub, I went to start some cooking…. okay, I lie; I attended to blog comments! I went to see how he was doing after some time. He had actually come out of his bath, rubbed himself down with a towel and was in the process of putting on his clothes. I would be lying if I didn’t tell you that sight just killed me! I realized that he too was growing up and was ready to take the steps towards independence.
At the same time, I when I see some moms still feeding their seven-year olds while they play on their Nintendos, I feel proud to have two boys who don’t need their mom to do everything for them; who are not helpless and dependent; and, hopefully, who will actually give their spouses a helping hand, rather than expect them to wait on them hand-to-foot!
Roshni was born and brought up in Calcutta and is now living in California. Her two rambunctious boys, Big A, age 8, and Little a, age 4, are the main subjects of her blog (http://www.bigaandlittlea.com) and she can be found tweeting away (@RoshniAaMom) in her free time (you may well ask, what free time?!)