A bundle of ‘No’es

When my granddaughter was here recently, we noticed that she used the word ‘no’ quite liberally. The daughter commented that it was quite natural given that the adults around her were using that word almost all the time. A very pertinent observation that. Have you ever given a thought to it? Well, it took me back in time, for sure….

When they were kids my boys had a lot of trouble reconciling with my personality and temperament. Over the years I have been admired as much as I had been found a monster in disguise when they were younger. I must confess that many a time I have been guilty of being equally confused. Oh, how many times have I desperately tried making sense of what I was telling them!

It had started early – the confusion, I mean. And the confrontations that had ensued.

The older one had been all of three when he saw a photograph of me as a child. We were looking at the old family album together and he was asking, ‘Who is this?’ looking at every picture.

‘Who is this?’ he now demanded putting his pudgy little finger on the photo.

‘That is amma, when she was a little girl,’ I replied. He gave one look at the photo and then at me and began crying. ‘No, it is not amma. It is a girl!’

I had to suppress a smile. How could the little one connect the grown woman before him to the little girl in the picture? How could his mother be a girl, ever? The confusion got worse as he grew older. His feelings veered crazily between eulogizing his mother to his friends and finding her sadly lacking!

For instance, he could not reconcile with the woman who hugged him one moment for doing something and bawled him out the next for doing something else – both similar actions, to his childish mind. My fault entirely, for failing to make him understand that putting away his school shoes in the rack and shoving his sweaty school shirt in the cupboard were not the same thing to get the same response from me.

One day he came running with stars in his eyes. He had a friend, older by four years who was celebrating his birthday that evening at his grandparents’. He had invited his little friend to come along. Now the grandparents’ house was far and the party would have ended well past his  bedtime. Besides, the other invitees were all much older and parents were not invited. So I told him that he could not go, sorry. He begged, pleaded and screamed some. I didn’t budge.

He gave me one look with all the anger his four-year-old eyes could muster and sputtered, ‘In this whole world you are ……’ I could see him searching for the most indicting word to describe his heartless mother; ‘….the baddest mother!’ and burst out crying. I had to hug and comfort him saying that his own birthday was soon coming up and he could have the best party ever where his friend could be the main guest!

The poor kid had just got used to this unpredictable mother of his when he had a baby brother. Now the confusion started all over again.

I would absent-mindedly tick him off for being a big boy and how he should behave like one and not bawl for little things and in the same breath – well in the next breath — announce that he was too small for something else.

This went on for some time till one day he confronted me squarely. ‘Will you please tell me if I am little boy or a big boy!’ his eyes dared me to put him off.

As he grew older, he had even more complaints. One of them was that I bought clothes that were too big for him even to ‘grow into’. He claimed to have set the trend of baggy shorts and shirts when the fashion had not even started! ‘If this shirt were a little longer, I could make it into a jumpsuit with some alteration!’ he told me accusingly one day. ‘And please can I get shoes of my size? I have to chase after them when I walk. They keep coming off and going many steps ahead of me!’

The younger one’s experiences were no different. I remember teaching them that when we had child visitors, they should share their toys with them, ‘since they have come to our house.’ They happily did that and all was well. Till the day we visited a friend’s house and their child would not share his toys with the younger one. I looked helplessly at the parents who were indulgently informing us that their child was very possessive of his things. So I pulled my little angel (calling him a brat at that particular moment would have been an injustice) and told him that he should not fight for the toy because we were ‘guests in their house’.

It took some amount of digesting for his little stomach, but he kept quiet. The next time this happened he stood with his hands on his hips and demanded, ‘If I have to give my toys when someone comes home and not ask for them when I go someone else’s house, don’t I ever get to play with the toys if there is someone else?’

Folks, this one really stumped me. I had to bow to his logic and lamely tell him that ‘good boys don’t fight.’ He gave me an uncertain look trying to figure that one out.

The boys were well-behaved. One reason for it could have been that as kids they believed that their mother had a ‘hundred eyes’, and could find out what mischief they had been up to behind her back. Most of the times it would be sheer guesswork or some tell-tale mark. I never let on about my being just two-eyed though!

When the younger one had been nine we had got a computer at home. But I wouldn’t allow them to play games on it except for maybe half an hour or a maximum of one hour. An exasperated younger one, after begging me to let him continue declared, ‘ALL the mothers in the world allow their children to play games as long as they want!’ I cringed – being the world’s worst dictator in addition to being the ‘baddest’ mother was sure depressing but I didn’t budge much to his disgust.

They used to worry about being ‘skinned alive’ and ‘beaten to a pulp’ but soon realized that they were safe. The older in a devilish mood would even dare me to!

The pre-teens brought on more contradictions in the form of their mother. I once heard the older one tell his friend, ‘My mother is a bundle of ‘NO’ es. The younger one used to start his sentences with, ‘I know you will say no, but listen to me anyway.’

With a pang I realized that saying ‘no’ had become a reflex action for me. But I was a darned sight better than my friend who had three sons – each naughtier than the other. Her children complained that their mother only told them two things – ‘Eat!’ And ‘Study!’ So bad was it that it was as if all the verbs had been erased from her vocabulary.

Sigh! Those were the good old days. Too soon they had grown up and become TEENS. The rest as they say,  is history.

(Image courtesy: Cartoonstock.com)

45 comments

  1. hahahaha! thats an awesome post…I guess I dont have to worry too much…if my kid turns out anything like your brats…life is nice 🙂

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    1. You don’t have to worry AT ALL! R is a lovely child and her parents are well grounded 🙂

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  2. That’ the place I am in, right now. I relate to all of the above. (I’m your kinda mom, I can see 😉 ) You totally know what I am going through. Thank you for coming by my blog and leaving this link for me.Thank you so much for letting me know that things will be fine and that one day, I’ll look back and not feel bad for what I’m doing now.

    Hugs, Zephyr.

    I need to be regular here. You have a new subscriber. 🙂

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    1. Hugs right back, DN. I am glad you could relate to it. The archives of the L&M and the Brats is full of such stuff. Do browse when you have the time. 🙂 And thanks for becoming a subscriber. And yes things will not only become better but will become wonderful. Read the Brat’s tribute to his dad and you will know. Though he has mentioned his father, it applies to the mother too, yes, the same one who ‘no’ed’ them for everything 😀

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  3. Such a nice post! I see so much of myself in what you are doing and how my 9-year-old son reacts. I am called dictator, strict because I give him rationed time at the computer. I don’t give him all the gadgets in the world with the sole exception being on his birthday when all the money he gets from relatives gets pooled. I realize that many time I say “no” to him, but most times I sit and explain why something for someone else’s child might be okay and not for him. I would love to know what my sons think when they are older. One thing is for sure, he will say his mom can justify anything on earth :). It is great to connect with you. Let me tell you that there are very few in your age group who can look beyond their position, traditions, importance to actually laugh at their own selves.

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    1. It is nice to connect with younger people like yo too for those like me who want to be part of this generation’s life 🙂 Children actually like to be given limits because they then know how far they can go safely. It is when they are given disproportionate freedom that they tend to make mistakes or go to extremes. It is good that you take time to explain to your children why you are not allowing them certain things. My daughter-in-law does that too. I appreciate this generation of intelligent mothers who have had a good grounding as kids themselves. And as for laughing at oneself, it is the best way to bring yourself down to earth in double quick time 😀

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  4. I was sure, Siddharth would comment ‘hey its my story’.
    No further comments. I shall reserve my thoughts for my blog.
    If & when, I start my blog, it will be dedicated to you, for inspiring me each time, I read yours.

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    1. Oh Pratibha, that is the best anniversary gift I could have got from any one. Thanks for the thought. 🙂 No, Siddharth has no time to comment regularly these days, but I know he reads the posts and his comment on this blogpost was good enough for me 😀

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  5. Such a sweet post ! Loved it !
    Haven’t we all as parents(specially us mothers) used the ‘NO’ and ‘DON’T’ words liberally while bringing up our kids ?!
    I remember my first born complaining about being told that he’s a ‘BIG boy’ and not ‘OLD enough’ in the same breathe by me ! I think the first borns suffer this feeling more as we keep reminding them they are now ‘BIG’ as soon as they have a younger sibling…..on hindsight I wish I’d been more sensitive to his genuine confusion !

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    1. Aww thanks Chits. That’s something I never gave a thought to. Else I could have added it to the post — how the older one always kept complaining that the younger one had it better all round. don’t be too hard on yourself. With the first ones, we are in the learning process too. 😀

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  6. How i love you for writing this. As parents of a 3 year old, both me and my wife so often look at each other with a we-dont-know-what-to-do look. Sometimes the NOs become so regular that we have to tell him to do – what we dont want him to do. Ohh Gawd.. we both can be so confused and lost. 🙂

    I loved ‘Will you please tell me if I am little boy or a big boy!’ his eyes dared me to put him off.” .. very very endearing. I can only imagine what all i will hear in months and years ahead. Thanks for sharing. Loved it.

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    1. Thanks Mayank. My pleasure entirely for being able to share my valuable ‘experiences’ and if it strikes a chord, I am thrilled. Actually parenting rules, joys and heartaches transcend time and space. You have a long way to go; three-year-old, did you say? All the best 😀

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  7. Nice Zephyr,But I guess good parenting is about “No”..My Amma had only one word which would make one an unquestioning slave,”ADI?” (beating?)

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    1. LOL I wonder if that would have had the effect it warranted — fear. for I can vouch for the fact that my threats of ‘skinning them alive’ had none whatsoever. But yes, Kids need to know their limits without which they can make mistakes and big ones at that.

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  8. hahah! Yeah, we always blamed for not letting us do anything fun. The universal rule of how fun something is, and how good it is for you as well all know is inversely proportional! But cheers to good parenting, we have learnt to take ‘no’ for an answer and say Yes for doing things are worth doing! 🙂

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    1. That’s not true either! You did have a lot of fun with my blessings, our blessings. But the fact remains that ‘no’ was the most oft repeated verb in my vocabulary and I can remember even the expressions on your faces when I uttered it 🙂

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      1. And don’t forget, when in front of people you could never say no you came and pinched the day lights of us! Explain yourself, Mommy! I feel so evil right now! heheheheh

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  9. Awesome post Z and further convinces me that being a mother is so so difficult!

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    1. that’s not fair! You should read between the lines to see and feel the joy and fun of parenting too. It is the world’s most important job, but an unpaid one when it is going on. The rewards come later, much later 😀 So don’t let my post put you off, ok?

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  10. you are so right ! -my kids are in that age right now and I have to bite my tongue so many times to change that “no” to maybe later;there are two choices; and all other euphemisms.And they throw back the no’s at me-so much so that one of them has a pet name-nanukar.

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    1. LOL Nanukar! That’s a good response, I mean saying ‘maybe later,’ except that it is just postponing the inevitable since the little ones have extraordinary memory and keep coming back to see if you the ‘later’ is now.

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  11. The best description of lady heart-a mother and grandmother and her feel.This “no”actually the bond that stays forever with child as well as with parents.

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    1. Yes, the bond stays forever. Only now as adults, they would be saying ‘no’ to their kids 😀 and because they have finally understood that saying no is sometimes the only response that shows love….

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  12. That was a fascinating trip down the memory lane. I found quite a few emotions of mine reflected there. An endearing post.

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    1. Just came back from your blog and read the reply to my comment. Thanks for the visit and the comment here 🙂 I appreciate it.

      As for the identification with the post, that’s what I try to do in my posts — give something for every reader to either identify with or as nostalgia.

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  13. I am going thru a similar stage; everything faces a No.
    NAd yes I am a brute while Dad is a friend.
    I recently mentioned that as he will be soon going to the Big school, mamam too will start going to work. He said NO. Dad will go to work, he will go to school and I am supposed to stay at home. 🙂

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    1. Given a choice, no kid wants its mother away at work. And if you give another choice — of dad staying home and mom working, they will still choose the mother. That’s why it irritates me no end when the strident feminist lobby demands that men should be the nurturers. They should certainly learn and do everything from changing diapers to making a bottle in the night or staying up with a cranky sick child, it is the mother who should keep her nurturer role. Men are good for giving you support, a break and spell you during sickness. That’s all. but these little despots begin adoring you when you start working, believe me. (Wait for another post on this 😀 )

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  14. I am in your boat, facing an empty nest and reminiscing with moist eyes.

    It sure was a maternal minefield that we crossed. I find my 3 yr old niece saying Nooooo with a nasal twang even before her mother opens her mouth.
    Yes, all we said was eat and study…
    Each word touched a chord.

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    1. You are kidding me, right? You don’t look old enough to be going through the mid-life empty nest syndrome. So I guess your children must be studying in residential schools, maybe? 🙂

      the arrival of my granddaughter a couple of years ago means that I can live the childhoods of the boys again in leisure. Only there is very little time before they leave or I leave after a visit. 😦

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  15. […] This post was mentioned on Twitter by sharmistha mukherjee, Vineet Rajan. Vineet Rajan said: A bundle of ‘No’es http://goo.gl/fb/zwFpz […]

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  16. My parents are still bundle of No’s! lol

    Yeah parents are right most of the times but sometimes even at a very young age, when parents show confidence in the child’s decision its encouraging for the child! Nonetheless, to each his own, children always have complaints against parents and viceversa, but the bond is still most special of all! 🙂

    Awesome post!

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    1. Most parents of my generation and the present one do have confidence in their children’s decisions, but we have to take care to give the age appropriate decision making powers or else things will get out of hand. And yes, the kids always complain about their parents and vice versa, though the latter are a little more understanding compared to the former 😛

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  17. We are able to know many of children behavioural pattern late. It is not so now as several books,articles, films, TV shows, debate, discussions have taken place for the younger parents to know which were not available to older parents.’Pear pressure’, depression etc were unheard of but now they have become a part of child development.
    Any how, enjoy this beautiful song on childhood at the following link-

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    1. Thanks for the link. Listened to the songs. I am in the process of transferring more than 200 cassttes of old old 40s, 50s and 60’s songs into digital form. Some of them so priceless. Once I learn how to upload audio files, i will share them with my friends.

      You are right. We raised our kids by pure instinct and trial and error. But that is the best way, not reading up and following someone’s rules of raising children.

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  18. You are missing your boys aren’t you. And if I can feel so much affection for you – a stranger who knows you through your blogs, I can only imagine what the boys feel for you.

    You are the bestest.

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    1. Aww, that is so sweet of you. I feel so cherished 🙂 Oh yes, I remember the days when they were kids and things come back to me. and when I see the little one. I am transported back…

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  19. Flashback coils rolled back in my mind. Not only my mom, my dad was also a bundle of No’es those days. But today I realise that they were (mostly) right :). As a kid its really difficult to understand things, we try to compare our parents with the neighborhood kids’ and this makes mom look like Hitler’s sister sigh!

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    1. Welcome to Cybernag, Anto! Nice to know you were transported back to childhood. In our house the ‘no’ was usually by consensus and only of us would voice the negative 🙂

      Btw., have you ever told your parents what you have written here, viz. they were mostly right? 😉

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  20. When a woman becomes a mother I think she gets this universal power of saying ‘No’…. Zephyr the post reminded me of my childhood, I will make my mum read this 🙂

    Today when she agrees easily for something I propose, I double check with her… in fact now when she is easy with me on a few things (only) like sleeping till late or roaming in my night suit till noon, I tell her, I want my old mommy back, I am not used to this good and improved version…

    Looks like God heard my prayers twenty years too late 😉

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    1. Just as the kids begin appreciating the dread rules laid out for them, the parents begin relaxing the rules and letting go of their growing kids. take my word for it, you will not want the mom of old — not when you have begun enjoying the freedom of adulthood.

      P.S. Looks like you have not read The Outsiders yet 🙂

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  21. Parenting is such an exciting contradiction .. you have captured it so well. I am sure, one day it would help your sons through some tough moments of parenting ..

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    1. Welcome here Aativas. When one is actually doing the parenting, it is more nerve wracking than exciting. But in hindsight one feels justified. What is more gratifying is that the kids grow up to appreciate some of the draconian laws they had to follow 🙂

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  22. wonderful post! bringing up of children is a cherished experience indeed!

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    1. It is very difficult for children to understand why they are always being told ‘no this’ and ‘no that’ but what they can’t understand is that the parents themselves are flummoxed most of the time 🙂

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