According to my parents, I was the naturally cautious but sunny type as a child, so they did not really have too hard a time disciplining me, whereas going by my MIL’s account, my husband, though also the sunny type, was definitely not cautious, or too amenable to being told what to do.
One of her favourite stories, and now mine, is how at the age of seven or so, he had climbed the outside of the seven story apartment building they lived in at the time, to get to the roof and watch aircraft take off and land at the airport nearby. He had to be calmly requested to come downstairs before my MIL could give vent to her very natural reaction at his not using the stairs to reach the roof. Before I became a mother, my unspoken lesson from stories like this was that she had been too lenient with the husband.
That’s why, when my son was born, even through the daze of the early days, I had no illusions that someday in the distant future, I would have to harden my heart and actually say “NO” to my toothless bundle of smiles, whereas my husband was very clear that “we” should not hold him back from pushing his boundaries. Time passed in a blur of hectic activity, as it generally does when there are little babies to be raised, and some months later my sunny little one had begun to pull himself up and explore the world around him by any means necessary.
His first clearly understandable word was “NO”, because the distant future had already arrived and I had become that mother, you know, the one whose vocabulary largely consists of variations of the two letter N word.
My husband on the other hand was still the cool level-headed one, the parent who would stand back in quiet pride with a smile pulling at the corners of his mouth, as the offspring determinedly stacked up, rock steady things like rickety legged side tables, and then pulled himself up gleefully by his fat baby arms, to repeatedly switch on and off the light switch. Being the parent who was at home most of the time, it had become by default, my job to be rainer-on-the-parade of my boisterous toddler, but as my son grew more adventurous, I found myself fighting a losing battle to stop saying “No” every 5 minutes or so. I kept rationalizing the “discipline” by telling myself that I was doing it to keep him “safe” and that despite his fearless exploring, my child had never gotten hurt because of my vigilance.
However, nature had to take it’s course, and despite my efforts to the contrary, I had to go to the sleep/use the bathroom occasionally, and so before he was one year old, my son had managed to have a few accidents like falling head first out of his pram trying to make the wheels go around while he was still strapped in it. Every time he fell or bumped his head or bum against something hard, there was some initial shocked crying (on his part) and a little bit if rubbing out the hurt from mamma or baba, and five minutes later he would be well on his way to getting into even more trouble ! That’s how, I began to slowly realize that he was stronger than I gave him credit for and that saying no was just a waste of breath most of the time.
So, after much internet research and some incidental facebooking, I came up with another plan called “Distract and Hide”. The rules were simple, instead of exercising the throat muscles, the idea is to exercise one’s brain, hands and feet. For example, if baby is set on gnawing the wires to the bedside lamp, the best way to stop him from getting a rude (and electric) shock is to point out that there’s a cat sitting at the door, pick up the kid and run to see the cat who has sadly run away, while frantically signing at any other adult in the vicinity to quickly hide the lamp.
However since actual fast acting adults were not always available, my plan didn’t work at maximum efficiency, and here I am, three years later, with a kid/sponge who has beaten me at my own game. How else would I explain the fact that when asked in a particularly stern tone of voice, why he’s playing with mamma’s “jineeshkaajer” (stuff meant only to be used by mamma), he will answer “I luv u too mamma”!