Couple of years back about this time I was raving and ranting about M leaving. It was all I could talk about or think about or ‘anything’ about. Two years hence I am ‘quieter’ ‘saner’ and infinitely ‘wiser’.
Which is to say…
My eyes don’t tear up each time I run into one of M’s old friends in the market.
I no longer feel guilty eating an ice cream or ordering Chinese because she is not there to share it with me.
I no longer wake up in the middle of the night convinced that something is seriously wrong with her and I just must know what it is right then and there!
I no longer drive around the boundary wall around her school (The boarding school she goes to is two kilometers from my home) hoping to somehow catch a glimpse of her over the fifteen feet tall stone wall .
Or go to someone’s place for the first time and burst into tears because their daughter is exactly M’s size!!
Ya, I know, I was stupid! And I am not proud about it, but whatever…
Here is what I still do
I still write her long long letters about everything that goes on in our lives.I send her copies of essays and debates I have written (even if the subjects are way beyond her 11 year old brains can possibly comprehend).
When she comes home I try to set aside everything and just be with her. Even if that means, sitting together on a couch and reading our respective books. I find the physical proximity not merely comforting but somehow ‘healing’.
I ‘tell’ her much lesser, we ‘ talk’ more.
She speaks lesser, but I listen more.
I find that now because my time with her is no longer consumed by the everyday nitty-gritty’s of homework to be done and disciplining to be achieved the conversations we do have, have more depth. Like the last time she was home she asked me, what I thought was a good age to be on Facebook/ Instagram.
I bit back an instant reply and asked her what her thoughts on the matter were. She recounted all the reasons she thought social media was not meant for kids her age.
I realized she didn’t need my ‘advice’. All she was looking for was a platform to practice airing her newly formed opinions. We talked about all the stuff that could go wrong on social media and had a good laugh at the expense of some youngsters we know who put up a dozen nerdy pictures of themselves for ‘public ‘ consumption everyday.
Somehow not living under the same roof has made us more ‘equal’. I am forced to look at her as an individuals and not merely an extension of me. An individual who has her own life, that she manages autonomously with almost no help or directions from my side
It is not to say that I no longer advice her. I do! But it is given like advice between two ‘equals’ … ‘friends’ perhaps! It doesn’t come with baggage of “have to listen” because I know that the minute she enters ‘her domain” i.e. her school, she will have to make her own judgments. My advice, no matter how sound may or may not seem appropriate and is thus trash-able completely (No questions asked!)
This is very different from the advice I gave her when she went to a day school. Back then, if the teacher hadn’t added the marks properly or a classmate had ‘borrowed’ a favorite book and not returned it. She was questioned the moment she reached home. “Did you speak to M’am so and so? What did she say?”
And though there were many times she wouldn’t have done what she had been ‘advised ‘ to do. And because I have never believed in ‘punishments’ there would be no obvious reprimands. Yet there was always an implicit understanding that she had ‘botched up’. Leaving her – More than a little guilty and me – a little peeved.
Now I feel more like what I imagine a mother of a married daughter may feel. I still offer advice. But it’s offered with a kind of respect. An acknowledgement that I may not completely understand her realities and thus while this is what I think may work she is the only one who can decide whether it will or will not.
It seems like a very subtle difference in theory but in practice it’s a huge leap.
It is a leap from
“Mom knows everything” to “ This is what mom thinks”
It is also a leap from
“You are too young to understand this” to “You understand this best”
It is a shift from
“Just do it, okay?” to “It’s your decision finally”
With these huge leaps in the last two years our relationship has transitioned.
I definitely miss the little girl who hero – worshiped me and looked up to my every word as if it was a sermon from God. But I must say I kind of admire this self confident little lady I got instead. She holds her own in crowds, has her own well thought out likes, dislikes, beliefs and ideas. And no matter how frustrating it is when she refuses to wear that “absolutely gorgeous” dress I bought her for her aunt’s wedding. It is kind of satisfying to hear her say
“Mom it is not so bad but I don’t feel comfortable wearing something so flashy.”
My daughter has a mind of her own. And what’s more she has developed the right vocabulary to express it. She no longer throws a tantrum or remains quiet when things don’t go her way. She takes a firm stand and explains it, usually with sound logic and great conviction.
I for one love it!
The dress can be ‘Garbaged’!
After all, It is just a dress!!!