Bringing up a child is certainly an uphill task. But, as we attain the highest peak of that hill and then turn around to look backwards, the whole arduous route; filled with moments of pride and pleasure, problems and perils; is so worthwhile and satisfying. Each little nook and cranny of this hill springs up memories galore – some that are funny, some that belch out the innocence of a child and some that, perhaps, teach us parents a lesson or two.
Today, as my little baby stands at the threshold of a new life, a new beginning, innumerable snapshots of her childhood flash through my mind, gladdening my heart and filling it with a rare kind of contentment, joy and happiness that ONLY comes with motherhood. The first time she said ” MUMMY” in that sing-song, mellifluous voice of hers, I almost jumped out of our 4th floor balcony with joy and excitement. No lyrics, no music, no song could’ve sounded better than that one word-MUMMY- coming out from her with the sweetest face and those round, cute eyes twinkling and glittering as she felt my happiness each time she repeated that word. Her first day at school was as nightmarish for her as it was for me. Her down-cast face, her fear filled eyes in the new environment, her suppressed sobs as her eyes searched for me in that crowd of anxious mothers, haunt me even today. By and by she settled down into this new environment and , in her heart, gave my position to her teacher for the 4 hours that she spent there. The introduction of a new language, new concepts, new words filled up her mind and before she even realized it, the year had slipped by and now dawned upon her another first…..EXAMS, PASSING & FAILING. These oft-repeated words, towards the end of the academic year, made her curious to know…more than its meaning…….its significance. So, putting it in the simplest possible way, I told her that PASSING AN EXAM signified going to a bigger class, getting new books, new friends AND A NEW TEACHER. Expecting her to be excited and happy, I watched her face intently and was shocked to see the clouds of doubt being replaced by tension, anxiety and sadness. Then out came a loud wail of protest…..I WANT TO FAIL IN THE EXAM MOMMY…..I was so flabbergasted at this response that I almost spanked her, but in the nick of time, she explained herself to me….BECAUSE I WANT MRS.PAUL ( her current teacher ) ONLY AS MY TEACHER, I DONT WANT A NEW TEACHER!!!!! Awwwww…..my poor baby, I then realized how deep an impact teachers have on a child’s mind.
The first battle we had, too, was for a similar reason. Every sunday, after our weekly grocery shopping, I’d name out every fruit and vegetable to her, asking her to put it away in the fridge. Distractedly, I told her to put away the COO-CUMBER in the fridge. But she stopped short and ticked me off, pompously telling me it was CUE-CUMBERRRRRRRR……rolling the “R” at the end perfectly with her tongue because that’s how Mrs.Paul had taught her. What came as an eye-opener was the tremendous sense of honesty and truthfulness that we, as parents, had succeeded in imbibing into her. That one innocent incident has left an indelible impression in my heart. She was writing her class 2 final history exam paper and as she had had high (exam ) fever the previous night, I anxiously kept looking at the clock waiting for her to return. No sooner did i hear the doorbell, I ran to open it and was filled with trepidation and anxiety when she fell at my feet – crying inconsolably, begging for forgiveness and full of remorse and guilt. Slowly, as i calmed her down and pacified her, she revealed that she knew every single answer in the paper except for one FILL IN THE BLANK asking for Mahatma Gandhi’s birthdate. And, just like any other child, the urge to score full marks and make her parents proud of her prompted her to copy that answer from one of her classmates. Later, as she was returning home from school, the gravity of her action must have eaten into her conscience and hence the outburst at the door-step. But that wasnt the end of the matter….on the day of the results, this otherwise timid child, took her marks card from me, marched determinedly upto her teacher, confessed what she had done and pleaded with the teacher to deduct that one mark so that she would be able to absolve herself from guilt. Words cannot express how PROUD a mother I was that day….the tears that poured down my cheeks were of pride, happiness and gratefulness that I was gifted with such a noble child.
I have to confess that i was a bit sceptical about this streak of honesty continuing into her teens and adultlife. I thought, mistakenly though, that this would by and by be replaced by diplomacy and tactful lying. But she has proved contrary to this. I’ve watched her as she has given up so many friendships on grounds of differing principles and values, I’ve seen her fight tooth and nail for things she has believed in and I’ve observed her blooming into a true, honest and law-abiding citizen. Of course, we’ve had our share of fights and differences of opinions but these seem like the tiny pebbles that slip away into obscurity when you set foot on them. What remains etched forever are those solid rocks of love, trust, camaraderie and affection which bind her and me together as mother and daughter.