To tell you the truth, I’m nothing but five feet six inches worth of self-doubts – except maybe in eighth grade classrooms while teaching Subject and Verb Agreement. Subjects and Verbs agree with me – they are my good friends. At every other waking moment, I subject myself to pointless analyses and inquisitions, almost to the point of paranoia. From what I ask for in my prayers to what I cook for dinner, I wonder at the rightness or otherwise of the things I do, the words I speak – even the thoughts I think. But my insecurities run the deepest when they reach the point of analyzing my abilities as a mother. As I had mentioned earlier, I have nothing at all to fall back on in this respect, nor anybody close enough or interested enough to seek guidance from.
Come to think of it, the closest I have had as a feedback are a couple of instances that stand out in my memory. The first one was many years ago when some well-intentioned relatives went to great lengths to inform me about my short-comings as a confused mother to an even more confused eight-year-old, and not a particularly the-life-and-soul-of-the-party one at that. It had sounded like a confirmation of everything I had feared about my own inadequacies, so all I could do at that point was to cling to my eight-year-old and my one-year-old and try my hardest not to break into tears – a lost cause, of course.
Well, as I said, that was years back – and I’ve come a long way. Many lessons have been learned, and many habits unlearned. I’ve learned acceptance, and unlearned – well, I can’t recall what I’ve unlearned, but you know what I mean. I’ve even come to terms with the fact that I am and will always be a tormented soul, and absolutely nothing can be done about that. The second feedback that I got on my parenting skills was more recent, once again from my relatives. This time, I was told that they were impressed with the way my son has grown up. I was pleased, but the pleasure certainly was not comparable in magnitude to the pain the old remark had given – senses get dulled as one grows older, you see.
So, coming back to my point, all those insecurities and self-doubts still remain; maybe the sharp edges have worn down, but they are still there, as hard and unrelenting as ever. Now that I’m going through the adolescence of my second son – and that too, the one that’s as volatile as I was (am?) – with a set of needs and demands that are different from the first, I am, once again, a tangled mass, feeding on myself. I worry constantly about the short and long term impact of my words and deeds on his sensitive self, and as a result, peace is a distant dream.
But then, I have my moments. When my eleven-year-old tells me that ‘there’s a possibility of me getting good marks this time’, I’m secretly proud of his polysyllabic vocabulary. When I watch him pick up the paintbrush and with bold, seemingly effortless strokes tackle the canvas, I’m stunned. When he hugs me tight and tells me he loves me ‘even more than you love me, Amma’, I shake my head wryly, but I’m thrilled.
And when my first-born tells me over the Skype about the amazing day he spent in a school run by an NGO for underprivileged children, and how he’s planning on volunteering there, I feel reassured – that somehow, something has worked out right; that somewhere, sometime, there’s a possibility of peace.