I have always loved our national anthem;the music never fails to give me goosebumps. Recently we discovered that Rumi loves it too! The hardest part is to stop her from singing it, she sings it all day long at the top of her voice! And when the words “Bhaarat Bhagya Vidhaata” come for the second time, she takes it as a cue to sing from the top again!Lol! Here’s the video (complete with Nanu making her shout “Bhaarat Mata Ki Jai” at the end!)
The title obviously suggests that I think the answer should be ‘No’. For the record, I adore Kareena Kapoor. Right from her silliness in films like Kabhie Khushi Kabhi Gham and Mujhse Dosti Karoge to her characters in films like Yuva and the more recent Udta Punjab, I think there is definitely something about her. That oomph, that elusive star quality, that amazingly sexy self-love and confidence.
For the last one year, the media has been ODing on her. From speculations about whether she was expecting a child and the confirmation ‘announcement’ to her maternity wardrobe and the fact that she kept working throughout her pregnancy and treated it as completely normal and natural (millions of unacknowledged women continue their work till the last day and quietly give birth in the fields and carry on matter-of-factly with their chores) , fans lapped up every article and photo and could not get enough of her. Parenting portals were rife with her videos and articles speaking ‘for’ a girl child or flaunting her bump proudly. Her diet and wardrobe were widely discussed, compared to Kim Kardashian, and Twitter had a field day with the name of her baby boy Taimur.
I understand that it is Kareena’s job to look fabulous and set trends and that she gets paid for her brand and image, and she did a wonderful job of marketing herself with her bump. But what I sorely missed in every story that was written about her and every picture clicked during pregnancy, is any REAL pregnancy story or anecdote. And I am the last person to say real must mean negative or ugly because I always object to ‘reality’ cinema by saying “Why do they always equate reality with horrible, ghastly, dark images of society?”
What I mean is any story at all of morning sickness, of swollen ankles, of painful stitches; the list is really endless. Any pregnancy story that talks of how OK and normal it is to experience discomfort, to not look like a million bucks when your tummy is stretched like a drum skin, to take all the time you need to recover after giving birth. Whenever we talk of celebrities at home, Mum always says very definitively “Tyancha veglach asta. They have 50 people around to help with everything”. Yes, help. But didn’t this woman just give birth? Irrespective of whether she has the best staff around her or not, she would definitely have had achy breasts post-delivery, no? And I don’t think any ghee and chawal in the world is going to immediately erase out your dark circles or make you ‘glow’. (Why are we highlighting the pregnancy ‘glow’ so much anyway? What if you break out during pregnancy?)
Again, we come back to talking about looks. How things appear. When will we stop giving others (especially women!) this message? Why can’t we be told that it is OK to have uncombed hair and to look completely exhausted during and after your delivery? Why won’t Kareena Kapoor Khan for once, look tired, talk about feeling overwhelmed or about how it is sometimes an effort? Obviously because she has invested so much in appearing ‘effortless’. But thousands of women will cite her workout sessions as ‘inspirational’ and then feel horrible about themselves when they do not shed all those kilos as quickly.
Sometimes, there is nothing like a fellow woman’s success story to make you feel like shit. Because if she can do it, why can’t I? This is the question that all of us ask ourselves in our insecure, sleepless moments. And the answer to it is simply that you do it at your own pace, in your own rhythm and beat. If you know inside (and you ALWAYS do!) that you are doing the best that you can, that is really more than enough already! God knows birthing and raising a child is hard enough, without the added pressure to ‘appear’ a certain way. By juggling that job and all your household chores, by walking the tightrope between what your parents think best and what your in-laws think, you are already amazing, beautiful and glowing. You don’t need to spend any more on that fantastic maternity wardrobe, trust me.
Something that we have been observing abut Rumi in the past few months is that she does not like to share her toys. She enjoys having her friends over and even waits eagerly for them, but once they are here, she grabs every single thing they touch and loads her arms with her balls and dolls and blocks shrieking “It’s MINE!” We bought her some nice books on sharing. But all she seems to have taken from Anne Dewdney’s lovely ‘Llama, llama, time to share’ is how Llama frowns when Nelly Gnu plays with his toys. That’s exactly what Rumi does. She folds her arms and starts to frown whenever she has to share anything with another child.
We go through the usual cycle of embarrassment at our child’s behavior and hushed admonishing. I end up apologizing profusely for her and then explain to her later how much fun it is if everyone plays together and all that. She listens half-heartedly and behaves even worse the next time. Sometimes I frown and make my big, scolding eyes at her. Very often, in spite of actually knowing better, I end up saying “bad girl”. (It seems to me in such times that all the good, theoretical stuff I actually know about parenting gets locked up in an inaccessible box of my brain with the key lost).
In my worry and over-anxiety, I easily attribute this to yet another thing that ‘we must be doing wrong’. My Mum asserts yet again “She needs to start going to school”, where just the other day the husband and I had spoken of keeping her home for another year (She’s only three so what’s the hurry?). Being a parent, I’ve come to realize, means constant and never-ending anxiety that you are not doing enough or not doing the ‘right thing’ enough. Not paying enough attention, paying too-much attention, not leaving her alone at all, leaving her neglected for too long; it is such a tightrope to walk! No matter what we do, we cannot seem to fill up that well of inadequacy, of feeling that there must be something more that we can do.
But maybe, just maybe, the best thing we can do right now is to leave her alone? It would be a huge herculean effort on my part to not intervene and not correct her, but maybe I could try to say “It’s ok if you don’t want to share”? I can immediately hear voices tell me what a bad Mom I am, how children should ‘learn to share’. Whose voices are these? In my mind I can see imaginary Mums exchanging meaningful glances with each other when my child throws a tantrum and refuses to let go of her toys. But the voice is actually mine. It belongs to my inner Demoness that breathes fire every time my inner Goddess tells me to feel proud of all the things I’m doing right. My inner Goddess is very gentle and quiet and meek. Not my inner Demoness who is always poised and ready to defend all my weaknesses and guilts and shames and misgivings.
So what if I listen to the meek and gentle voice this time? The one that says let her grow at her own pace? She’s not ready to share. That’s alright. This does not say she is not kind or empathetic or generous. Embrace her imperfections. Love her and accept her for it. This is easier said than done, because I need to embrace my own imperfections first. My own temper. My lack of composure if Rumi throws a tantrum in public. I have not yet learnt to love myself completely and fully.
But I want to try and do that for Rumi. I want to create an inner voice that tells her how loved she is, always. Sharing will come, I am sure of it. But I do not want to leave her with that unpleasant memory of a cold voice and harsh look saying “Give her that block NOW!” and make her do something only for our approval. I see myself doing that sometimes when I ask her to go and sorry. She does it to please me and then looks at my face, begging me to smile and feel happy again. Although I mostly remain stern and unrelenting, these moments break my heart later, and I resolve to not do it again, but that lasts only till the next time.
Sigh. I wish and hope to master that self-control this year. And self-loving and self-acceptance, so that I may give Rumi the same gifts. Meanwhile, some useful links for parents, who are concerned that their kids do not share: