From the archives…
Recently when I had to go out of town for a few weeks, I was worried about leaving the L&M alone to fend for himself. He is a good cook and takes care of a lot of housework like washing and cleaning perfectly well and even better than I do. He can even cook the most flavoursome dishes. But please don’t tell him that, will you!
It is human tendency to think that we hold the world on our shoulders and it would stop the moment we relaxed even a bit. So is it any wonder that I think my household would grind to a halt with the L&M and the Brats starving and looking like tramps with unwashed bodies and clothes. And don’t even get me started about the house which I am certain would look like a dump the moment I walk out of the door with my travel bags.
And then I torment myself about things that might go wrong without my having to warn the others to be careful; dread the possibility of them misusing the stuff around the house including utensils/crockery/cutlery…worry about unsorted clothes getting washed together and getting dyed in each other’s shades, ….keys getting misplaced/lost…maybe even the car remaining unlocked at night…(shudder, shudder)…You name it and I have something to work myself into a panic about.
Even as I am imagining all the catastrophe that could overtake the house and swamp the L&M, I cook several dishes and put them in the freezer/fridge which he could eat over a few days, prepare some rice mixes and stuff.
At that point the L&M comes in. ‘Why are you doing all this? I can manage for a few days, can’t I?’ he asks.
About to say, ‘No!’ I bite my tongue. Of course he can manage. I am not indispensable, am I? But instead reassuring me, it only makes me feel more jumpy. To cut a long story short, I am a nervous wreck by the time I leave early the next morning, still shouting instructions to him from the departure hall.
What spooks me out is that he hasn’t lost his temper even once; why, I swear I could see him secretly smile to himself! And that makes me feel sure that he would do all the things I don’t want him doing behind my back! ‘Did I put away the new towels behind winter old clothes, where he won’t find them? They would become rags by the time I come back,’ I think as I nervously look out of the window at the clouds.
Nothing had changed in the couple of decades since the brats were small, had it? I hark back…
I was going to visit my parents since my mother was unwell. I could not take the kids with me as the school session was on. The younger one was just seven. I had found a cook who would make roti/dal/subzi for them in the morning. But I was not sure about leaving the younger one behind. When I had had left his older brother at his age, my in-laws had been there and so it had been fine. This time, the two would be alone till the evening when their father came home.
I would be gone only for a few days and the L&M assured me they would be fine but you know how the boys/men are when there is no one to keep an eye on them, don’t you?
The little one looked crestfallen but his more experienced older brother knew the score. Come to think of it, he never ever missed me when I went away for short periods. His grandparents would be lenient and pamper him because his mother was away, his father would take him out for a bite of things that swam or walked and he got to see his favourite cartoon shows. So now, he surreptitiously nudged his younger brother, and the duo left the room. Obviously his older brother had painted a wonderful picture of life without mother since I caught the younger one doing a jig in the next room. And it really dented my self image.
‘When are you going, ma?’ I looked up quickly. It didn’t sound anything like a kid distraught at being left behind by his mother. Looking at my shocked expression, his elder brother rushed in with, ‘Thatha and Pati will feel good to see you, won’t they?’
Something warned me of things as they would be behind my back. I would have cancelled my trip then and there had it not been my overwhelming desire to see my mother.
I called them everyday and since my mother was better, I cut my visit short by a couple of days and returned home. I felt contrite and vowed to make up to them and not scold them even if the house looked like a dump and they looked like a pair of tramps…..
The house was spick and span – the beds all made up, the table free of clutter, the kitchen sparkling… The house had never been this clean even when I was around. I was pretty impressed. It all seemed too good to be true.
‘It was as clean as this, everyday,’ said the older one and broke the nice bubble I had floated into.
But where was the younger one? I thought he would have come running to hug me when I came back.
‘Why did you come today?’ he finally burst out. ‘Appa was going to take us out for lunch!’
Oho, so that’s what had upset him! And here I was, worried sick about him missing me and the L&M unable to cope with them both in addition to his work and home.
For a moment I felt hurt, unwanted and all that and my reaction would have been one of anger, but then I decided to get into his little head and see everything: here they were all excited about going out for lunch and their mother spoils their plan by coming two days early, and needs to be picked up from the station. Now they would have to eat at home. What a bore!
I came out of his head.
‘But why don’t you go for dinner? I am too tired to cook and want to sleep early. Is it ok?’ I made it sound as if they would do me a favour by going out.
At that, the atmosphere lightened considerably and the kid came running to me and gave me the biggest hug! ‘I am so happy you are back!’ he said and I knew he meant it.
Then I felt a pang again – only this time I got into the heads of my parents. Wouldn’t they have felt the same way when I chose to leave earlier than planned because I put my kids over them, the same way I felt when the kid put eating out before his mother?
But I quickly got out of others’ heads and came back into my own. Nothing changes, does it? But the best part is, barring a momentary pang, parents are totally ‘cool’ with their offspring’s choices, whether it my decision to leave my parents earlier or my kids resenting my returning early and spoiling their plans! I am a ‘cool’ parent after all, am I not?
And after all, eating out can never replace a mother, or am I kidding myself?