We emerged from exile today – both of us, mother and daughter ( though I guess the daughter had some parole style excursions into the mainstream world over the last two days). Where were we, you might ask? Well, we were both away from communication interface options with the rest of world – aka as the internet!
She was having her board exams for the tenth standard. A child who is very easily distracted, we decided to keep her focused on her studies by regulating the opportunities for wandering attention. No, she was not in solitary confinement. Telephones are ok so long it was the land line ( helped keep those fingers off from texting messages), television was regulated ( extra doses of Lok Sabha/ Doordarshan to improve her Hindi) and certainly no internet. Of course, as parents, we decided to give up our addictions to the same. The poor husband was reduced to watching movies after 10PM with the sound off with only the subtitles to let him know what the story was all about !!
Was it necessary ask some of our friends. After all, it is the child who is writing the exams not the parents. But I think it was essential in creating an atmosphere of focus and seriousness. “ When are you coming to our house?” she asked my sister. “When the minotaur(me) relaxes her vigil” said her dear aunt. But despite being the fun person in the teen’s life, her aunt also kept up her side of the deal by practicing restrained indulgence!
I remember about twenty nine years ago when I took the same exams. I do not remember any special efforts being taken at home along these lines. But then, the distractions those days were very limited! There was no TV at home ( it was bought after my tenth exams) and neither was there internet or a cell phone. Yes, there was a land line which we used –supposedly for discussing doubts but ofcourse, the doubts formed only about 20% of the conversations. Exam days were like ordinary days except that they had longer hours.
“ You were a nerd and you probably had no life” she tells me when I shared these snippets with her! But I don’t think I was in any way different from others in my peer group in school or our neighborhood. Infact, one sure way to wake me up in the morning for studies was to tell me that our neighbor was already up and at his desk (we could see the light switched on in the opposite window ). This boy was not in my school but it still made me feel guilty that may be I was not making the effort that was required. But if I were to tell my daughter the same thing, she would laugh and say that she did not want to be like “ Gas lights” ( that is her nickname for this boy with the huge eyes who stays next door ) and go back to sleep! The best way to put her off something is to compare her to someone else!
We live in a different world today. A world where it is not just the children who are different but the parents too. It is a world where twenty one days of absence on social networking sites makes friends send text messages and call asking when I was planning to “break the silence of the lambs”! A world where twenty one days of living life like my mother with a limited range of interactions made me claustrobhic.
But we tried to make life within this narrow radius as interesting as was possible within those three weeks. The three Sundays saw some exotic high calorie breakfasts being prepared by the husband while I racked my brains for culinary innovations on other days. The activities of our neighbors suddenly became very entertaining! When the poor old man next door tried to repair a broken tap and had the water gushing all over him with his wife giving him a tongue lashing, the daughter was most amused! While coming back home after the exams, we began to notice small things like the resourcefulness of a smart canine who was taking the foot over bridge across the busy road instead of trying to run across it!
Not that all was hunky dory! Both of us –mother and daughter were ready to eat each other’s heads off by the last weekend. The husband chose the easy way of out by burying his face in the “White Mogul” !
Today after the exams, when we went out to a mall, I stared at the crowds and the shop windows fascinated! My husband tells me that the last time he saw me behaving like that was at my birth day dinner the year our daughter was born. Our birthdays ( mine and my daughter’s ) are three weeks apart! Those three weeks taught me the first lesson on mothering- how to adapt my life around the needs of the infant. My entire life revolved around her needs restricting my movements outside home and in a way pushing me into an exile pretty much like what I have just come out of! That birthday in 1998 was my first day out after returning from the hospital with the baby just like the outing today was.
Parenting is a funny thing- you do these things at different stages in your child’s life which seem different but are essentially similar! We become so used to doing these things that I am afraid one day when they become adults and leave us to live their own lives we will not know how to live for ourselves.