P.G. Bhaskar :
With parenting being a much debated subject (involving everyone from Dr Benjamin Spock to Ms Angelina Jolie), I thought I would share some thoughts on the subject. My wife and I have over 16 years of experience and I can write a whole book on it, but let me restrict myself to just two instances.
My earliest memory of ‘parenthood’ was this fuzzy patch of white on an x-ray plate. “There! That’s your baby!” the doctor said confidently. “Can you see?”
I cocked a diffident head first to one side, then the other. I shut one eye, then the other. I exerted the grey cells on both sides of my brain. But neither the logical, analytical left side, nor the creative, imaginative right side could make out anything even remotely resembling a baby. But with my wife nodding her head excitedly, I didn’t want to appear like a bad parent. So I played along. “Yes, I can!” I said, trying to keep traces of concern out of my voice. “There!” I pointed to the impression of the baby on the plate, just to show the doctor how clever I was.
“Not that!” the doctor said, looking annoyed. “This!”
My jaw fell sharply. “This” looked even less like a baby than “that”. “Oh my God!” I exclaimed. “But I say! I mean … is it okay? Is the baby all right? Is it healthy?”
“It’s perfect!” the doctor replied, making no attempt to hide her irritation. “Can’t you see?” she added, “look, here is the baby’s head and its heart and legs …. She pointed as she spoke. I remained silent. I had never been a star biology student but my understanding of a baby’s head and heart and legs were very different from what was being shown to me. I nodded dumbly.
As we walked out, my wife asked me, her eyes shining, ‘Well, what do you think?”
“I … er … I think you should really have some more multivitamins and iron and stuff … just in case. I mean … the baby seemed very, er … well, sort of hazy in that picture. Maybe it needs more nutrition.”
‘Don’t be silly’ she said. ‘It’s just an x-ray. And the baby’s just a few weeks old now. It’s still a foetus. It will take time to develop.’
But I remained unconvinced and fidgety. Those days, I was the nervous one. My wife was relatively relaxed. Fast forwarding 16 years, the position has reversed. I’ve calmed down but my wife has turned jittery.
Two weeks back, it was the first day of our son’s exams. My wife – not normally one who can be associated with the phrase ‘leapt out of bed’ – did precisely that. Hurriedly, she woke our son up, a mammoth, thankless task usually assigned to me.
Then she rushed him, went around in circles, threw his uniform at me for ironing, laid out a hot drink for him, changed her mind, added cold milk, reversed her decision and heated it up again.
Our son strolled out of his room wearing his uniform and a slightly different hair-style; exam special, perhaps. A gel had created a sort of stiff, gleaming savannah patch right down the middle of his head. It will give you some indication of my wife’s frame of mind when I tell you she did not even notice this. She ran to him. “Don’t get stressed!” she told him with a sense of urgency. “Don’t get stressed, okay?! Take it easy! Everything will be okay. Just relax, okay?”
“I’m fine, ma,” the son growled in his newly acquired, adolescent voice. “Just chill.”
“I’m okay,” my wife replied, fluttering around, appearing everywhere simultaneously. “I don’t want you to get stressed. Have you eaten your almonds? Make sure you take everything. Say your prayers. How many pens have you taken? Don’t forget to take your grandparents’ blessings. Oh my God! Your watch! We forgot to get a new battery for your watch. It’s okay, it’s okay! Whatever happens, stay calm! Don’t get stressed.”
How and when exactly our roles got reversed, I don’t know. But it has. Some Freudian twist, perhaps. But all his life, our son has had to contend with one paranoid parent. For better or for worse.
(P.G. Bhaskar is the author of Corporate Carnival . He is based in Dubai)