A few years ago I was on a road trip with friends when the bus we were travelling in stopped at a rickety roadside joint for what was ostensibly a comfort break. As we clambered off the bus, the lady seated in front of us turned to her daughter and asked in a voice loud enough for the entire parking lot to hear “Susu karna hai beta?”
Now this would have been fine if the daughter in question had been a little girl or a toddler fresh out of diapers. Except that she was a grown woman, probably in her mid twenties. As she turned a scintillating shade of red, the rest of us could almost feel her mortification!
A cousin recently narrated a similar experience when she visited family friends with her parents. Now a manager in a leading MNC, heading a team of 20 odd people, to her parents she’s still their little girl. During their visit, her mother first asked her on reaching their host’s house if she needed to use the bathroom. Then her father asked her to join the host’s young children, rather than conversing with the adults.
“It was humiliating!” my cousin recounted “There I was, telling people about the work I do and suddenly my parents make me feel like a 5 year old again!”
Many of us have probably been in similar situations, when our parents refuse to treat us like adults even when we have graying hair and children in high school. Parents don’t mean it, of course. It can be difficult to accept that the dependent little bundle you doted on is a grown, confident adult with a mind and life of his or her own, and needs to be treated as such. It’s not so much fun for the now grown up kids though, when their parents insist on treating them like the children they once were.
Considering that the thought of my daughter going unsupervised for parties and sleepovers in future is capable of giving me panic attacks now, I see a clear and present danger that I will eventually metamorphose into one of those parents who refuse to let their kids grow up. So I thought I’d set out some guidelines for myself, for when my daughter grows older:
1. In deference to the unfortunate recipients of the comfort break query mentioned above, I promise never to ask you if you need to ‘do susu’, once you’ve crossed the age of 4 and are in full control of your bowel movements. I might whisper it occasionally till you’re 10 though. But never in full public hearing, and definitely not when we have company. I may know for a fact that you haven’t taken a pee break in hours, but no matter how strong the urge (pun unintended); I resolve to not pop the question.
2. I will not call you every evening and ask you what you ate for breakfast, lunch and dinner accompanied by a detailed lecture on the nutritive value, or lack thereof, of the same. Not unless you are grossly obese and these are the doctor’s express orders or you’re training for the Olympics and need help with diet planning. After all, if I still need to obsess over every morsel that goes into your mouth thirty years from now, one of us will definitely need therapy.
3. I promise not to bring up embarrassing incidents from your childhood with others, especially in large public gatherings. I’ve been the recipient of one too many ‘remember the time she had a sip of whisky when she was five and went berserk, bwahahaha!’ to do that. No embarrassing videos or photos on open display either. (I hope you’re reading this, Dad. Yes, you can put away those cheesy videos of me at 11 years reeling off travelogue in a sing song voice.)
4. I will not tell you what to do. Once of course, you reach an age where you realize that switching off my laptop when I’m working on it is nobody’s idea of fun and mud baths are okay for the spa and not the park. I mean this within reasonable limits so don’t think I’ll stand by without saying a word if you decide to flush your life down the drain. And I may make an exception if it’s one of those rare situations where you are desperate for direction, or when you can clearly benefit from my experience or….Sigh. Right. I will not tell you what to do.
5. I will refrain from criticizing your appearance and telling you what to wear. If ripped jeans and faded tees are your idea of high fashion, so be it. I’m sure your grandmother will say this is poetic justice, given that I had taken to donning the grunge look for weddings in my teens. Given your current affinity for wearing matching-matching clothes, replete with accessories and moisturizing your hands with pink cream every few minutes, I may just end up taking some pointers from you in this area.
6. I will not try and influence or criticize your choice of friends. With your father turning a delicate shade of green even now, every time you get too friendly with a member of the opposite sex, I’m sure I can leave the worrying to him for once. On a serious note, as an independent young adult nothing can be more important to you than having the freedom to choose the individuals whose company you’d like to keep. The last thing you’d want is an interfering parent telling you she doesn’t approve of so-and-so. This means I may have to give up my plans of stalking you on dates when you’re older though. Ah well.
7. When you have kids of your own, I will restrain myself from giving you unending advice about ‘how we did things in our time’. There can be nothing more irritating than being treated like a 3 year old in front of your own 3 year old, so you’ll get none of that from me.
8. I will treat you like the grown up that you are and not lapse into sepia tinged nostalgia from when you were a mere suckling. I will also try and avoid getting overtly sentimental about your babyhood even though I can give no guarantees on this given that I was nearly in tears when you came on stage during your annual concert, causing the lady next to me to move away a few seats. Oh, and I will also not haunt you on social networking websites.
9. I will trust you to take adequate care of your dental health and will stop eating your chocolates because they are terrible for your teeth and will make you emotionally dependent on cocoa. Yes, I ate the chocolate you were gifted at school today but it’s only because I care about your teeth. And, I may be slightly emotionally dependent on cocoa myself. But none of that once you are older; your chocolates will be safe with me. Although I’m sure you won’t mind sharing, will you? Maybe just the occasional nibble, then.
Originally written for 'The Punekar'