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Going from Me to Mom-my

14 Oct '23
7 min read


Have you ever thought about how we all just went from celebrating our first bicycle to getting caught up in a whirlpool called the cycle of life? In the last 25 years I can truly say that my belief in the fact the earth takes 365 odd days to revolve around the sun, has considerably diminished. 

It feels like just yesterday, when I was back from school after yet another parent teacher meeting – my mom smiling at me and nodding at the teacher while she listened to her complain about the enigma that is me, very talkative in class, distracts others, yet scores very well to not warrant a scolding – “She is initially very shy Ma’m, but once she starts talking, she refuses to stop” – Amma would sigh – “Welcome to my life, except she doesn’t bother us with the shy bit, she jumps straight to being a chatterbox!” Once this ritual was complete, she would take me and my friends on our customary trip to the canteen – a little shack, far removed from the fancy airconditioned rooms with multicuisine options that we see in today’s schools. Corn puffs and fryums in so many flavours, at just 2 Rs a packet, would get stuffed into a large plastic bag that would last us almost until the next meeting. 

Life back home, was all about being given complete mental freedom to discuss and debate topics ranging from general interests, mundane activities like the need to create study timetables, to advanced ponderings over philosophy and spirituality. This especially soared around weekends when family friends of my parents would meet over dinner – eating our famous crisp dosas with a tangy tomato chutney, and a hot sambhar, as they all mulled over subjects that I may have never quite understood as a child, but I always let it soak in and contributed eagerly until I was told it was time for bed. We were back from school at 1 PM for lunch everyday and had the entire afternoon to pursue hobbies like the standard Carnatic music that every child in the family would at least take up if not follow through with. That would be followed by devouring a couple of fictional story books that we used to wait to buy at the local bookstore – calling friends over the landline and discussing which volumes were left to purchase in the series, and coordinating different titles so we could exchange them later. Homework for the day would have to be done, except for one tiny bit that would be saved to be recalled in the eleventh hour – just to provide some last-minute entertainment to my parents. What good was a childhood where you did not demand a picture chart of vehicles in ancient India, or some other such mass requirement at 10 PM when all stores were closed?! Kept everyone on our toes, we did!

Summer afternoons were spent reading good old Enid Blytons and Amar Chitra Kathas as we nibbled on little cups of ice cream – pistachio being the most exotic flavor back then. Role playing Chandrashekhar Azad, and Bhagat Singh or Rama from Ramayana was the other favorite pastime, with us reading out dialogues in our best baritone voices as we declared war upon all those who were against the path of righteousness! The one mandatory vacation to Grandma’s place sometime in between would take me to “Madras” – probably not the best choice for summer – but we were so highly excited to meet cousins and visit the beach, and get a lot of goodies from aunts, uncles, and grandmas, that weather was hardly a concern. Summer always ended with the Back-to-school phenomenon – New bags, stationery which would always include a new “pen-pencil” where we could keep replacing the tiny lead in a first-in-first-out stack, school uniforms, shiny black shoes, and bright white socks – as we dressed for day 1 in June. Of course, we would come back muddy and drenched in monsoon showers – with a million new stories on who got to sit with whom, and who would be the new class monitor.

Cut to today, as I watch my daughter grow up – Suddenly I am the mom making all the crisp dosas – just that I need to also make pasta, bread and momos and what-not! Roles have changed, alarm clocks wake me up at 5 AM as I rush to get ready even when I am not the one going to school! She has a much longer day at school than I did, which means about two additional boxes of food to last her through the day – but of course this is only in my head. On some days, the child who is perpetually hungry for a snack at home, can miraculously survive the whole day on one tiny sandwich square. But if you skimp on the quantity the next day you are most definitely going to get an “Amma, you gave me so little – I am so hungry!” Not to mention favorite foods – “Amma!! This <Idli/Semya/Pulao> is so amazing! I could eat it every day” – give it two days later and you will be greeted with a full box back in the evening – “I just ate this last week! Do I have to eat this again today?!” Phew! My mom could totally get by giving us sandwiches for break and rice for lunch on every day of the week, with not so much of a peep from us. I don’t remember there being any room given to crib in the food department :) 

The lack or abundance of nutrition despite my efforts does not really faze the child today. They continue to go about their business, attend all their classes – we carry on traditions like Carnatic music, but there is also keyboard, basketball, swimming, percussion instruments in an attempt to present multiple options that may catch their fancy. Who knows what they might latch onto? Very different from the amount of focus I put into the minimal hobbies that I invested into as a child. Is it a good thing? I don’t know – frankly I don’t get time to have a good look at myself in the mirror these days, let alone answer futuristic questions of this nature. So I pull the classic statement out - “In the end it really is up to you, you know, and what you make of your life. We can only guide you” – all the while fighting the deep urge to be a helicopter mom.

Today’s children probably have a lot more information as well as resources readily accessible, which helps them in many ways, but drastically cuts down on the lengths they go to achieve something. On the other hand, why should they take the trouble, when there are so many easier ways to get to the same thing? Another dilemma faced by our sandwich generation that I often think I am a part of – sandwiched between the parents that we always listened to, and the children that we are always having to listen to! 

There is, however, some strange comfort in things that never change. Homework is still thought of at 10 PM on the previous night, as my husband sometimes rushes around to get another printout, or a roll of tape or a pre-filled ink cartridge – you name it! School politics has not changed in the smallest bit. Children still say the cutest and most hurtful things at the same time and get away with both. Life’s fears are still the same – and the joy at winning a prize is unparalleled. 

I, personally don’t quite get the role switch yet – Sometimes I feel it was not so long ago that I was the baby of the house, until reality hits. I guess we all go through this phase of growing up as life happens – and there is a sweet spot where you can be a very responsible adult and caregiver for your family – but somewhere in your head, you are still that little child who is excited by a new pineapple shaped eraser – which may not work on erasing anything – but smells delicious!

Category : Personal Experience


Written by Jaya Santhosh