Althea Kaushal is a part-time screenplay writer with Happy New Year being her last film, amateur editor (she is the brains behind this operation), full-time mum and doglover. She lives in Jumeirah with her husband and two daughters.
Follow her journey at www.altheakaushal.blogspot.com
I hear this phrase, as indeed do most of my neighbors, on an almost weekly basis from my 11 year old. She genuinely believes that the entire reason for my existence is to wreck hers. If I had to stand back and take a good look at that accusation, I’d have to say that she’s not far off the mark. I do find myself being much harder on her than on my 7 year old… for that matter, I’m much harder on her now than when she was 7.
So, big question here: Did I ask for it?
Has the very fact that I was easy with her at 7 led her to believe that that’s pretty much how it’s going to play out for the rest of her life? Case in point: Tarini dropping her milk at 7 is not even a blimp on my radar. Tarini doing it at 11 somehow, makes me come out all monster mom and go off ad nauseam on how clumsy she is. I don’t stop there either. I segue with ease into irresponsibility, tardiness, and hygiene…. You get the general idea.
Flashback 30-odd years: I find myself giving myself a lockjaw with the anger I was exhibiting toward my mum who had committed that cardinal crime of telling my girlfriends that I couldn’t go to the movie with them as I was grounded for bad behavior. In that one fell swoop she
|wrecked my cool quotient. The shame of it! I remember sitting there, glaring at her as she went about her day,humming quietly [humming! really!?] to herself and threw myself a good ol’ selfpity party, complete with ‘No one loves me’ – ‘No one would care if I died right now’ – ‘I wish I was dead’ and all the rest of them. Three hours later, spent and dehydrated [since the lachrymal glands had exhausted themselves] I went in to dinner. I sat down and watched my parents chat about their day, including me in the conversation if the topic required it, but making no real effort to get me out of my funk. I was not pleased. I sulked and said that I felt I couldn’t eat. My dad [thus far clueless of the debacle of three hours ago] concernedly questioned me about my lack of appetite.
I opened my mouth to let fly all the horrors of the day, when my mother, calmly cutting me off mid-breath, as she ladled soup into his plate said ‘She’s been difficult today – and It hasn’t’ gone down quite well with me. Would you like some pepper with your soup?’ I gawked, unlocked my jaw and screamed ‘I HATE you!!!’ as I pushed my chair back and stomped off. Blinded by unshed tears I heard my mother carry on a conversation with my dad without kipping a beat.
I spent the next 6-7 years being at war with my mother. The only word that seemed to come out of her mouth was ‘no’; sometimes emphatic, sometimes loud, sometimes quite, sometimes loaded – but always just that single syllable ‘NO’.
Flash back to the present, and I find that if I’m in conversation with Tarini, I open my mouth and out pops my mum!
| opposition from Tarini quickly nosedives into me screaming ‘Because I said so!’ My mum clearly had a massive lead on me. She knew to say No like she meant it, not like my No, which looks like the opening of a debate. Clearly in the battle of wits with my 11-year old, I was not shining. Time to knock on higher doors.
I called my mum to complain about how very hard I was finding it to deal with Tarini and as she calmly listened to me rave and rant, she had no real suggestion to give me. I finally ended by asking her “Have you nothing to say!?” She took a beat and said “We all get what we deserve, darling” Damning words, if I ever heard one. And, I have a sneaky suspicion that she was sniggering to herself.
So, how does this really play out then?
My advice to all parents who are reading this [and this is just my opinion] is to pick the battles. Ask yourself the big questions; if it all ended tonight, would this matter?’ You’ll know. It’s didactic and quite fantastic at the same time. I figured out what matters to me and what does not. It matters to me if you’ve been immoral, illegal or unkind. It matters to me if you lack a generous soul. It matters to me if you won’t pick kindness above all else. It matters to me if you finish your race at the strongest, even when you know that you’ve already lost.
It matters to me that you remember to say your prayers at night and wish your parents in the morning. It matters to me that you make place for your old dog to snuggle up next to you, even though she’s hogging most of the bed sheet. And that’s about all that matters to me. The rest of it? Well, we’ll both live through it, battle-scarred and broken. But alive and hopefully on talking terms.