“Mummy, can you not eat from my plate, please?” my eleven-year-old said one morning.
What? My daughter is giving ME instructions? Is this the ‘kalyug’ phase? My hair follicles stood erect on my body, rings of fumes erupted from my ears and nostrils.
I would never dare to speak to my mother in this way, even today as I inch towards 4-0 in a couple of years, lest I get the emotional blackmail of a response from my almost 70-year-old mother. “Of what use is having children and sacrificing it all for them. Motherhood is such a thankless job.” One tear is all it takes to put the big child, aka me, in her place.
But, as I scanned my daughter, a tween showing the signs of adolescence already, I realised I had met my match. My mini-me!
“You were a rebellious child. So, you can expect the same from your daughter.” my father grimaced in sweet victory.
He’s right. I can’t be complaining. Karma has to find its way through all those years of rebellion at home, of why I can’t do this or that.
It was my turn to be challenged now. It was battle 2.0 at home. With me, the mother as the reigning champion, and my daughter as the worthy contender in the boxing ring.
I understood that my daughter was right. She had her preferences like I had in my younger days and today. If she didn’t like her food to be plucked from her plate by others, so be it.
Tweens and teenagers come as a much-needed reality check for parents. Parents who can take their children for granted, forget that their babies are no longer ‘babes-in-the woods’ who need hand-holding, and get too clingy or invasive in their child’s space. Our children are individuals in their own right.
I lifted the fork in front of my face dramatically and promptly left it aside on the table before muttering with a poker-face, “Sure!”
As a toddler, my daughter loved to snuggle with her grandparents, who would humour and entertain her with bedtime stories. At seven, she insisted on sleeping on her own and moved into her own room. It broke her grandparents’ hearts back then, who had a tough time weaning away than the child herself. Initially, they tried to talk her out of it, but she was sure that she wanted to sleep independently. It scared us, including me, where she would fall off the bed in the night and hurt herself, but she managed fine.
Kids grow fast. Fast enough to get into the irritating adolescent phase where the answer to everything, including a kind request, is a ear-drum breaking ‘No!’
“Beta, sweater pehno!”
“Beta, susu karlo!”
“Jeez NO, bra!”
“It’s ‘Bruh,’ dude!”
So, I’ve officially gone from ‘Mom’ to ‘Bruh’ and ‘Dude.’ What’s next? I dread to think further.
She doesn’t need me around much anymore. At least not for the things I think are important. She needs me around for the things she thinks are important. Like watch the latest interview of Black Pink, or song by BTS, which is third-degree torture to my senses. When I pooh-pooh her request, she debates,
“But Mummy, you make me watch what you want me to watch. So, you have to watch this.”
She wins. It’s hard to argue with her nowadays and deny her random wishes.
One day, she woke up in the morning and declared she wanted to prepare her own breakfast from now on. When I told her she already warms the milk in the microwave and prepares an oatmeal or cornflakes breakfast by herself, she told me she wanted to use the stovetop. The protective mother in me protested, but she tried convincing me.
“Mumma, your work will only get lighter.”
(As if! I know that’s not her intention, but anyway!) “You don’t need to, and I’m not expecting you to.”
She stayed on in the kitchen until I handed over the lighter to her with trepidation. Long story cut short when the fire came on, and the pan was piping hot, my daughter chickened out—all this big talk of being independent—gone with the wind.
I won this round. I learned that when you reject what your preteen or teen’s whims and fancies, their demand becomes stronger. When you give in, they lose their steam. Ha-ha!
As much as I might joke and gloat about my petty victories over my child, I cannot help feeling proud of her need to wean away and establish her independence. She’s eager to discover the world and create her own experiences and stories. Be it success or failure, she wants to take ownership and make it on her terms. During this pandemic, she has taught herself many news skills—new techniques in drawing, video creation, editing, animation, gaming, and social media.
I’ve made a silent vow to be a rock-solid pillar now and witness my baby caterpillar fluttering hazily at first and then confidently into a beautiful butterfly.
But a little fun on the side hurt no one! After all, I need to play the villain with conviction in the story shaping up in my daughter, aka the heroine’s imagination.
And so, I chisel my claws into the euphemistic sounding ‘stiletto nails,’ lift my breasts and chin up high, as I strike the ‘Wonder-Woman’ pose with my hands on my hips, ready for Battle 2.0 (a battle I’d smilingly lose; just don’t tell the ‘not-so-little-one-anymore’). I sing loud my war-cry in all glory and gusto as I slam my boxing gloves and flash an evil canine- “Aa dekhen zara kisme kitna hai dum!”