I don’t have a brother. We are two sisters who went to an all-girls school, had a bunch of girl friends and lived in a world peopled with books and board games with basketball and kho kho thrown in for good measure. We didn’t get into fights, definitely not physical ones.
We never knew what it was like to grow up with boys. We had cousins but we thought most of them were ‘terribly naughty’ and would scramble to hide away our toys before the ‘destroyers’ came visiting.
Then God gave me a son. And it had to be a boy as traditionally, stereotypically ‘boyish’ as they come. Perhaps, God in his infinite wisdom thought I needed a few lessons.
As I continued to believe that with the ‘right’ kind of upbringing I could mould my son my way, God was having a quiet laugh up there. And, I suspect, with his quirky sense of humour, he sent down his angel to fortify my son with an extra dose of stubbornness and personality.
It began even before he was two
…when he decided the only game he liked in the sandpit was to fill up his tiny fists with sand and douse himself. With great good humour he extended his spirit of bonhomie to his friends, dousing them too. We never topped the popularity charts at the sandpit.
While he didn’t need his sand toys in the pit he put them to good use at home hammering out music (to his ears only). When we confiscated them he simply headed over to the kitchen and proceeded to flatten out all my spoons with dogged goodwill till we resigned ourselves to the constant banging and perfected the art of eating with flattened spoons.
Then at four
…on his birthday we got him a cycle. And the sole aim of his life became to ride it over every puddle, every bump, every staircase he encountered. He would cruise downhill with me running behind him faster than I ever ran on a treadmill, yelling instructions which he never followed (quite like I never listened to my gym instructor). Soon he was convinced this was a game, this race between mama and him and he had to win each time. He did.
I learnt to dread the sound of ‘Look mama’ as he showed off his latest stunt. It didn’t help that he had pathetic body balance and rarely managed to execute the stunts he tried without bad falls. Yet, try he would.
At six he learnt to read
…and turned into a question box.
Who is stronger – a leopard or a lion?
Which is the fastest bird?
Why can’t we breathe under water?
If babies come from stomachs don’t they get all messed when mums eat food?
At eight he discovered Captain Underpants
and the fart jokes haven’t stopped since. I’ll spare you the details in case you want to keep down your dinner.
I told myself I needed to try harder, to use more discipline, to keep a stricter eye on him – more timeouts, more yelling, more grounding. There were days I could not believe this was ‘my’ son. There was nothing of me in him and that bothered me no end.
The Good God must have watched and laughed as I tried to ‘change’ my son – tried to make him more ‘me’.
Our children aren’t ‘us’
Then one day I caught on. I decided to change the way I looked at him – to accept him the way he is. And things got better from that point on. The thing is my son wasn’t being ‘just a boy’, as everyone would have me believe. He was merely being himself. Our children, girls or boys, aren’t us. They are different people with different personalities.
Thanks to my epiphany I have learnt to ignore dented crockery (I gave up on the breakable ones long ago), to dodge flying footballs and catch flying clothes. I’ve learnt to keep bandaids handy and the doctor’s number on speed dial.
Striking a compromise
That’s not to say I don’t need to remind myself of this everyday. Nope, I haven’t given up trying to change him either; what parent can ever do that? But I have struck a compromise.
– I cannot rid him of his aggression but I can teach him to manage it.
– I might not be able to make him turn away from a fight but I can teach him to fight fair.
– I cannot stop the arguments but I can teach him to be polite while he parries.
– The fart jokes will stay but they have to be consigned to privacy.
My son still bowls his clothes into the basket, dives each time he has to get into bed and kicks the door shut like a professional forward. He still drives me crazy. But some days, on the good days, I see shades of a gentleman that he will certainly become some day.
As he crosses his tenth birthday I hereby confirm to the good Lord that I am learning my lesson well. He can be proud of me. And can he please stop laughing now?
Tulika is a journalist turned stay-at-home-mum to twins. Freelancer, writer, book lover, fitness junkie, amateur photographer and DIYer. Wannabe cook and gardener. Amidst all of that she finds time to run a fun weekly Book Club for kids. If she had one wish she’d ask for 50 hours in a day. At least. Join her on her parenting journey at www.obsessivemom.blogspot.com or find her sharing her book love at www.beataboutthebook.wordpress.com.