By Dr. Elsa Lycias Joel
One day I decided to keep aside so many things that mattered a lot to me. This was no small step for me, a free-spirited woman. Somehow I was made to believe that I’m ‘Born Free’ because it was from Joy Adamson’s that my father picked my name. A state level TT player, classical dancer, handful of extracurricular activities, NCC camps, rough and tough cousins, stint with a National daily- all these and more convinced me I was self made to rise and shine, go far and wide. Two little girls changed my course of life. Today I’m a humble stay-at-home mother, for the reason that parenthood began on a good note. I love girls, wanted girls and my wish came true.
Turning back the clock I remember…
My little girl was not into sharing, a zealous guardian of her toys and games, stuffed animals and many more which of course she never even played with. But when another child showed an interest in, say, one, tiny stuffed kangaroo, my darling snatched it away. I used to wonder if I should browbeat her into civility. Very often, I did not. Finally I sent her to a play school because I liked the name of the school ‘sun shine’. And of course Lauren loved it there for the toys and snack hour. I filled her snack box with healthy stuff she hated and forced her into giving and taking thereby mutating genes. Or a fixation of a selfless gene! Today, I’m so proud to know that she is called the kindest in her class, a just and selfless human in her play group and a rascal among bullies.
My daughters are no shrinking violets. What more can be so gratifying to a mother who kept aside everything to raise two girls to more than they could be. One evening, at the park I let my little one handle a brat for herself even though I had the urge to end anything or anybody who bothered my children. As I pretended to ignore her she just pushed him away a little harder and he fell. Then, I called out to her. Giving me her cherubic smile she poked him with her toe just to let him know what was on her mind. I shuddered. But in this world, especially in India where the powerful and crooked love to bang into people and knock their molars loose, my little one learnt her first lesson to strike back. And I didn’t intimidate her.
During story time, my daughters did all the talking. I don’t really care where from and how did the idea that men utter 7,000 words a day versus women’s 20,000 come from as long as I hear my daughters talk sense. An occasional low murmur is all they expected from me. When I tried reading children’s stories to them, often they interrupted saying,” I know this story. Animals and trees never talk. They can’t”. This certainly interested me and I thanked God for merry little souls who were natural raconteurs, always good for a couple of laughs and have grown better over the years. Making up new stories everyday was tough but today I’m an author. ‘Perfect Endings’ for children was a result of their complaints “I know this story”. However as a proud mama what I believe is this: if my daughters tell a story, they are the best storytellers. If they paint, they do receive accolades. No gallery or critic needs to sanction them. This is what I call “job satisfaction” with my job as a mother.
‘Food time’ that always seemed to be a ‘not so good’ tussle turned into fun time after Barbara appeared on the scene. So, just to make the little fussy eater eat, Lauren tuned herself to eat all that I called healthy. My daughters’ taste buds not only got used to my recipes but the fact that nothing satisfies their hunger as much as my food does make me very proud.
When both of them were in the right mood, I coerced them into believing that love can change almost anything for good. They believed that love is a boomerang and took it in their own style just right for their age. So beautiful was their transformation, from toddlers to girls and into the swag teens with ideas taking different shapes on strong foundations I laid. To them, as of now, love is peace. My girls are becoming known as the best peacemakers in their small circles.
I hate liars, especially ones who know the art better than I do. For so long I thought my girls never knew what a ‘lie’ was. If I have brought up two benevolent liars, then this world would definitely be a better place for them. Benevolent lies can also be ‘channels of peace’.
Remember, the mutation and fixation mentioned in the second paragraph. My children are still hell bent on convincing me that if we love someone they should be made happy even if our happiness is or isn’t closely tied to theirs. When they played games, they were willing to lose to benefit their friends, to avoid a quarrel or to establish peace that passeth all understanding. Trying to figure out if this attribute would help them in the future I still chew down my nails.
Much alike other kinds, my girls loved to shop. Not just for them but for their playmates too. Then, with a shallow pocket, it was really tough to fight back my urge to take up a job.
Just as my mother points out the trees I had climbed and the hedgerows where I had gathered wildflowers as a child, I remind my girls of their favorite places, people and things. When they respond appropriately, I know I’m playing the role of a mother very well, much to my surprise.
Whenever we went for a stroll, I yearned for the Venti- Boreas, Notos, Eurus and Zephyr. The winds ballooning their frocks out and whipping their hair into tangles was a wonderful sight I loved to watch with equal joy.
And as my angels make new friends, I take it on me to remind them of their first friendship and cherish old friends and memories. An indulgent mom! I’ll do it knowing that someday, somewhere my girls would learn to make time for friends, trust and rely on them and as grey haired women gather with all their friends and stockpiled memories.
As a three year old Barbara used to go around the house searching for her dad paying no heed to Lauren who tried to explain in all 3 languages she knew. The idea that papa is out to make money to feed and clothe her never was never convincing. In the process of letting her know the reason behind papa’s unavailability I learnt my valuable lesson- that for a company or a firm, I’m just a worker but to my children I’m an idol, sometimes god. I promised myself that my prime job would be to pay attention to every little detail of theirs and be available till they spread their wings and fly away. Today, as teens they talk their hearts out with nil inhibition about everything under the sun. It’s not long ago when my girls believed that my kiss helps wounds heal faster and holding my pinkie warded off bad dreams.
I’ve got something most other working women miss out as parents. If I wish to, I know I can make money. If I don’t get to visit another country in the next ten years, I hope there is always another chance. But these few precious years will swiftly go by. No titles can replace the times when my daughters hug me to say, “I love you”. No money can replace the times when they lean their head on me and fall asleep. My intuition that I’m not their best keyboard or dance teacher is always right but my children consider me their most special teacher because they enjoy learning with me than with anybody else. Their preference to choose me over their TT coach reflects not only their trust and confidence but assures me that I’ve not compromised on the factors that build trust. The various ways they flaunt me as the best mom who can cook, dance, sing, write, articulate well and is game for anything boosts my self-esteem. “Mother hen” as I’m often addressed by my mom, “Helicopter mom” as called by my friends, “cosseting grandkid” as my late grandmother admonished me, I don’t know what fits me right because different situations demand a different you. Ultimately, motherhood is an honour and a blessing.