I remember it was an effort to get my elder kid to eat anything. As far as the junk food was concerned, he being the first born was kept in dark about its existence. No cookies, chocolates, cola or ice-cream for him. Still one could not dissuade some over indulgent well-wishers from bringing in toffees or chocolates and therefore I found a novel way out of i.e. told him that these fancy looking things are supposed to be aimed at the dustbin:-) and so it was. Till he went to a Birthday party one day, of course unaccompanied by me and came back an enlightened soul. He tells me-' you know Mom, you can use these things in another way- just unwrap them and put them in your mouth. You should try one -they taste sweet! I tried novel ways of getting him to open his mouth when I wasn't force-feeding him. Like tickling or narrating stories. Popeye was a big help in getting him to eat his greens. The first time I saw my elder one standing with the Refrigerator open, arms askew on his waist, I asked him what the matter was. ‘I am thinking what to eat', he said. I wanted to cry with relief! I knew my days of fretting and toiling over food were over.
Alas, little did I know. The two of them grew up to be teenagers and were always hungry and had discovered all types of food. I had to hide laddoos and mathris and namkeens and gajar ka halwa lest my labour of love of three hours ends in their tummies in 30 minutes. By the time I was winding up the lunch, it was time for snacks. ‘Do we have anything to eat?'
Believe me food wasn’t the only hurdle I crossed while bringing up the kids. There was the constant noise of squabbling between the two of them, which I gradually learnt to welcome. The kids are like mosquitoes- constantly buzzing. You should start worrying when they are quiet. The noise would lull me into peace and which was only broken when everything went quiet. Then there would be war cries in the bathroom and then a thud and somebody begging for mercy and the moment I banged on the door, it was, ‘Go away, we are okay’. A long drive with two of them in the back seats was a test of patience. The verbal tussle ultimately developed into a brawl and on retrospection nobody remembered what started it all. And to think that the books had advised me that an age gap of less than 18 months or more than 3 years reduced sibling rivalry!
Bringing up kids was a daunting task for many of my generation. We have been what I call ‘the sandwich generation’. The development from landline to cell phones and Doordarshen to Netflix happened at such a breath-taking pace that it was like we skipped three generations at the blink of an eye. We grew up shadowed by our parents and are archaic for our kids. We had to evolve at the speed of light to keep pace with the knowledge explosion. We had 19th century upbringing, the skills of 20th century and were getting the kids ready for the 21st century. And I was always assailed with qualms if what I was doing was right for them. The concept of ‘parenting’ was still in its nascent stage. Most of the times, when I was in doubt, I would visualise what my parents/ teachers would have done in a similar situation and I would go ahead and do just the opposite. Of only one thing I was certain that I was not bringing up obedient and docile kids.
I would have wanted to leave this place better than what I found it to be but sadly as a generation, we have not been very responsible people. We are leaving behind a legacy of polluted air and rivers, dwindling resources, polarised society and shrinking flora and fauna. While the world is coming closer, narrow vested interests are taking over. It is as if the wheel is coming back full circle. The ‘perestroika’ and liberalisation of the eighties has been reversed.
I wonder what the world would be like once I am long gone and what I would be remembered for most. The world and life are uncertain. My kids may not become the doctors or engineers but they certainly would be good human beings- compassionate and upright. I have imbibed in them the moral courage to question injustice and a solid ground of values which will keep them in a strong stead. Both of them will have their own ways of doing it. While the younger one will be dealing it with his subtle charming ways, the elder one would be highly vocal and would debate and shout at the rooftop. And I will stand behind them- supporting their each endeavour.