My older daughter and I have been fighting a lot lately. The squabbles spill over to the younger one as well. So often enough you have the three women of the house flouncing in three different directions, heads in the air, not on talking terms with each other! No wonder my poor husband, who is painfully out-numbered, runs away each evening to his Chambers.
That said, I must admit it’s not only raging teenage hormones. Often, it is me. Goading them to study, change out of the school uniform (after all they came home from school four hours ago!!), finish the damn milk, clear the study table, clean up the mess they made in the kitchen (I tell you ever since Maggi has come back to the shelves, you won’t believe the amount that has been cooked and consumed by the girls!!!) etcetera, etcetera, etcetera.
You see, one child is sitting for her ICSE next February. That’s about 2 months away. Let’s face it. The child in question does not have a brilliant track record. She loathes Science and Maths. But as we all are aware, ICSE has Maths and Science and you need to pass the subjects to clear the ICSE. And only then can you move on to subjects that are more appealing. I’ve said this softly. I’ve said it loudly. I’ve said it lovingly. And I’ve said it angrily. Somehow the penny does not seem to drop. She gazes at me unflinchingly and asserts that she is studying.
You know, I’d love to believe her. And I do believe she thinks she is studying. But do the kids know HOW to study? Are they retaining anything? Do they write things down, do they make notes, do they jot down the important points? More importantly, do they teach these things in school? I don’t know. All I know is that I wander into their room where the girls are purportedly studying and find them both sitting with their legs on the chair, books open in front of them. (I must be a terrible mom: I haven’t even managed to teach them how to sit on a chair! My daughters assure me that even in school everyone sits like that, as if it is some consolation!) Anyway, the table is a mess with books, papers, story books, files and an assortment of pens (obviously without their caps) lying about. Often a glass or mug or bowl of some half-eaten snack is balanced precariously on all that. As they say, if you looked you could find an elephant in there! How can one study in that kind of an environment? I could ignore all that if I thought they were actually studying. One is cleaning her fingernails with the studiousness of a Buddhist monk. The other has one eye on her new phone (she got her first phone on her 15th birthday about a fortnight ago) and the other on some card she is making for some friend at school!!! I growl. I confiscate the phone. I take the other one too, for good measure. The girls sit up, yes, yes, they are studying they assure me.
This routine with minor variations is pretty common. Amid all that, often, they are fighting. In our household sibling rivalry has been perfected to a fine art. And the rules are simple. If I can hear them, they are in trouble. I do not care who started it or what she said or did. If I have to get up and go to the room, they are in trouble. So nowadays when they fight it’s like one boom and then silence. There are sounds of frantic whispering and a thud. Sometimes a shriek and “I’m telling!” Then silence. I call out from the next room, “what’s happening?” “Nothing,” comes the prompt reply, in chorus! Often these outbursts end with one child moving to the dining table to study while the other sulks or vice versa... I try not to involve myself. As they say, don’t trouble trouble till trouble troubles you!
Anyway getting back to where I was. Studying. I generally do not panic but as the ICSE looms ahead I find myself worrying. What is good enough? One mother is busy collecting question papers. Another calls to ask what text book is taught in the other school. I run about collecting notes. It looks like only the mothers worry. The little darlings are busy dancing to the fiddler in their own heads to music only they can hear.
And whenever I see my daughter I swear it’s like she has ICSE written in bold neon letters on her forehead. All I seem to say is “go study,” “have you studied?” “are you studying?” or words to that effect. She growls back at me, that’s all she has been doing apparently! She storms off, she doesn’t want to talk to me or so she says! The younger one suffers along with her sister. How can you have one child studying and the other loafing about and watching TV? She has been told to sit at the desk and do something useful. Write an essay or whatever! She sulks. She wants her phone back. I give it, but refuse to turn on the wi-fi. She doesn’t say it but I can see she doesn’t want to talk to me either!
Truth is, sometimes I tell them to go study and regret it immediately. I think it isn’t fair. I wish I could let them do what they want. I wish I could tell them that ultimately these exams will not matter. In the long run what they do with their lives will not depend solely on their school results or Board Exams. I wish I could tell them that despite that I will keep goading them because I want them to have lives of “choice” and not “chance”. I wish I could tell them that happiness has nothing to do with the grades they get or the subjects they study. Ah no, I can never tell them that. I must be the evil mother, the relentless bullying harridan in their lives. For I know I may not be there to hold their hands forever. And I only wish to ensure that they have the strongest wings so that they can be straight and true when it is their turn to fly.