Letter to my firstborn

You are the one who first gave me the title of ‘Mommy’. You introduced me to fears I did not know existed within me, the strength I never thought I had. For you, I could do things I would never imagine doing for anyone else (and I’m not just talking about changing smelly diapers here). You were the be all and end all of my life. So much so that when I found out that you were going to have a sibling, I was afraid I would never be able to love anyone as much as I love you. You were you after all, no one else could come close.

Until it happened one day, when the baby came into our lives. We all adored the tiny hands and feet. We loved playfully competing for his attention, trying to make him smile as he grew everyday. Our little world was changed forever. Your little world was changed more than anyone else’s. Your face, your hands, your feet suddenly seemed bigger. You grew up in a matter of hours. Or so it seemed at the time. What we expected from you changed too. Suddenly it felt like you should know better. You were the big boy after all.

My patience started to grow thin. After all, my life had also been shaken from its comfortable, mundane ritual of living each day exactly the same as the previous one. Caring for a newborn took precedence over a five-year old’s requests to play hide and seek. I don’t think I can ever forget the look on your face that day when I was at the end of my rope and yelled at you to stop bothering me and go find something to play. A few months ago, you would have stomped your feet and cried buckets of tears. That day, you just hung your head down and left the room. It was like you had given up on me. I can never think of that look on your face without my heart breaking into a million little pieces.

Every day I woke up with a fresh resolve – to be a better mother to you, to spend more time with you, to just listen to what you had to say without any rush. Some days were good, some not so. It has been an emotional roller-coaster ride, the last few months. Sometimes I feel like you have handled it better than I have. So far, you have not shown an iota of jealousy towards your little brother. You love him, he loves you, it shows in the way you both interact with each other.

The question in my mind is – do you still trust me like you did before? Or do you now look at me as a fault-finding, badgering, no-fun-to-be-around parent? People say kids are much more resilient than we give them credit for. Maybe it is true. Maybe I am beating myself too much for not being who I used to be with you anymore. Maybe a few months down the road, you will not even remember the pain in the neck I used to be. Or maybe in my sleep-deprived, confused state of mind driven by strange hormones, I have changed the dynamics of our relationship forever (hopefully not).

There is one thing that I am sure of though. You are and will be my best little buddy forever. In your own special way. Just like your little brother is too (like you say – “it doesn’t always have to be a race”). I just hope you will forgive me for not sticking up for you, for not being the best listener always, for not giving you as much time as I used to and for being the tantrum-throwing adult sometimes. Thank you for being patient with me and still loving me at times when I don’t even like myself. Slowly but surely, we will find a new normal again.

I’m proud of you because…

Haven’t all parents said this to their children at some point? Maybe not in the same words, but the underlying meaning is the same. I’m proud of you because you were good. I’m proud of you because you got such good grades. I’m proud of you because you played well. You get the idea.

I say that to Vivaan too sometimes. He has been learning karate since last 3 months now and is doing much better than when he started. ‘Better’ is of course a relative term. In this case it means he listens to the sensei 90% of the time, does not stop in the middle of the class to stare at what other kids are doing, play with his belt or worse, with the much more interesting stuff inside his nose (it did happen once)!

Since he is doing better now, I try to encourage him by telling him after class that I’m proud of him for doing such and such. But every time I do that, a small voice inside me tells me not to. After all, isn’t a parent’s love (and pride in the child) supposed to be unconditional? Regardless of his ‘performance’ in various arenas, regardless of what the society’s standards of being ‘good’ are, should I not always be proud of him? Then why do I subconsciously  tell him that I will only be proud of him when he meets those standards – which may not even be the same as my own.

It is commonly said that a parent’s, especially a mother’s love for a child is unconditional. From what I perceive, the reality couldn’t be further from the truth. From the minute they are born, we start expecting from them – that they will return our love, do well in school and sports, be nice to others, and in general, grow up to be ‘successful’ adults. If there is so much expectation, the love cannot be unconditional, can it? We may say that we want all this for their own good, but the truth is that we want them to fit in and meet all the benchmarks our society has created for them. So that we can be proud of being parents of achieving, successful children.

So next time, I will keep all of this in mind when I tell my son that I am proud of him. Instead of feeling a little let-down when he is always last in the little warm-up race they have before karate, I will be proud that he is the only kid who runs carefully so that he doesn’t step on other children’s toes. And I will tell him that and mean it too. Because it doesn’t matter if he turns out to be just an average or below-average achiever by society’s standards, I will always be crazy proud of him for being who he is.

As long as he doesn’t send me to an old people’s home…