6th April, 2015 : 0910 hours
My son Meer started school today. Well, it's actually a playschool and he goes there for just an hour and a half daily. However, the whole uniform, school bag, water bottle and lunch pack ensemble makes it feel like a far more formal and serious business than a playschool.
After having dropped him off some time ago, I stepped into a coffee shop to spend the next hour and half. It was difficult to imagine how mother and son would cope with this separation considering I spent every waking moment for the past 30 months tending to him. This ‘away’ period every day, however brief if might be, is a new and challenging experience for us. My husband often pulled my leg saying that the first day of my son's school would be harder on me than on Meer. And he was absolutely right and pretty smug too, that morning, about getting his prediction bang on target.
The moment we reached the school, Meer freed his hand from mine (almost too eagerly), waved a happy 'goodbye' and trotted off inside, while I stood out there trying to hide my red, teary eyes under my glasses. I was relieved, no doubt, because at that moment we stood amidst a sea of wailing toddlers, unwilling to let go of their mothers’ hands and enter the school gates. However, that parental pride that my son didn't behave that way didn't last too long. The very next moment, I felt like I could have used some clinginess this morning. Though I know it has never been Meer's thing but just a smidgen of it, perhaps? Maybe just a hug that lingered a little longer than usual? Before this dichotomous feeling could turn the trickle of my tears in to a full blown deluge (and more importantly, before other mommies standing there could read my heartbreak on my face and judge me for it), I walked away.
So as I sit in the cafe, sipping a not-so-good brew (or does it just feel that crappy to me, given my state of mind!) and wondering what was it about this morning that got to me?
Meer's euphoric comportment that morning was a well-plotted and well-trained for affair. He had been pretty excited about going to school since his admissions interview over a month back. And my husband and I used every opportunity since then to build up this day and its excitement in his mind. We discussed it as frequently as we could and mentally prepared Meer for a tearless adieu that morning. And clearly, it worked.
Then, what's my present dissonance all about?
Is this the typical case of us parents telling our children one thing and then subconsciously (or sometimes even consciously) behaving in a manner that insinuates something entirely different? Like telling our kids to ardently follow their passion, but making them discontinue their guitar lessons as they enter grades 10 or 12? Telling them how they must always be honest and speak their hearts out to us, but judging and reprimanding them when they confide in us about one of their inadvertent mistakes? Telling them that success or failure is a fugacious concept and what truly matters is the sincerity of one's efforts, but then not buying them the bike they want until they score a 95 per cent. Telling them that contentment of one's mind and soul is where absolute happiness lies and hence it should be the only pursuit of our lives, but then always slyly working it into our conversations how their cousin has a better car or a bigger apartment. (Okay, I must stop this. All these thoughts are making my coffee taste even worse!)
If there is anything I have learnt in the past two years since I became a mother, is that perhaps for the first time in my life I am in a job where I am truly, in every sense of the word, way in over my head. The only reason I am unabashedly sharing this confession here, is because a couple of parenting books I read, told me that to feel completely overwhelmed like this is the hallmark of a good, conscientious parent. I don't know if they are right, but it seems to work for me. Anyway, the books go on to guide that we must keep this process alive; of constantly reviewing our parenting skills and striving to do better.
I must say, on most nights I go to sleep hating myself for the kind of mother I have been that day. A zillion questions buzz through my head. Did I yell too much? Did I discipline him too often? Did he not finish his dinner because I didn't cook well? Should I have hugged him more? Should I have continued to dance with him some more instead of rushing off to the kitchen to get lunch ready? Should I have kissed him more often during the day? All these apprehensions goad my guilt and intensify the overwhelming feeling of being completely under-qualified; which really stings because ironically this is one job I really want to keep. But here's the thing. This is also the only job I have held, where my boss (my son, of course) is so very patient and forgiving. Every day he gives me another chance at trying to be better. And that helps me wake up every morning resolving to be a better mother than I was the day before.
In the same spirit, I pledge (at least try my very best) to not be the kind of parent who says one thing to their kid and mean another. Like, telling my son that there is no need to cry when he goes to school and then stand there myself, at the school gates, sobbing like a three year old whose candy got snatched away.
Wish me luck!!