Wednesday, August 19, 2009
A Childs Play
There is a phrase in English - A childs play. That is supposed to mean that something is so simple that it can be done even by a child. But the phrase can be turned around to mean how a child can make you play on his terms! How a child can create a “play” out of a confident, swaggering adult in minutes.
My daughter Nidhi is a “strong willed” child, a euphemism to save us parents from the shame and helplessness of admitting that we don’t have a clue on what to do with her. Nidhi is mere 8 year old, but she can put most 80 year old geriatrics to shame with her bull headedness. She knows what she wants, and she is out to get it. Never mind refusals, scores of rules, censuring eyes and multitude of time-outs.
Lets take today. That too just the morning. I woke up earlier because of my gym routine, and came back rushing to ensure that I was in time to get her to school. I had put her in bed earlier the previous day so that she could have had a sufficient shut-eye. I was hoping she would co-operate and wake up with a sweet smile. As soon as I opened the door, I yelled – Hi Honey! Wakie Wakie, Time to wake up!” and flashed a warm encouraging smile. I saw her peep from the coverlet, pretending to be asleep. No other response. All quiet. I walked to her bed, and gave her a wake-up hug, ‘C’mon, Darling. Time to go to school”. Not a flicker. The hug turned into a squeeze, ‘C’mon, girl, time to get up”. Still no movement. I picked up a water bottle and made it hover on her head. The threat of sprinkling water was unmistakably clear. Nidhi likes her threats to not only be verbalized, but acted out. She stayed put, still snug in her coverlet. I sprinkled a drop of water on the bit of the forehead showing out from the coverlet. Swissshhh….the forehead vanished under the coverlet, much like a snail withdrawing in its shell.
Shucks, it is getting late. I do my time-out routine “Nidhi, if you are not out of the bed in another two minutes, I am going to sprinkle water of your head”. My firm voice and tone got a feigned stretch-and-yawn from the coverlet, and she took her head out and said sulkily – “Don’t throw cold water on me. I am getting up”. Right, now she is listening! I wait. And wait. And wait. And wait. The threat is forgotten. The time for the time-out is nearing. I declare the just-two-seconds-to-time-out bugle cry, “ I am beginning to count, Nidhi, One Two……”. Roll, roll, thud and a quick slither – Nidhi has rolled out the bed, and before I can swoop down on her, she has crawled under it, coverlet firmly stretched over her head!
I am furious now. Furious with her because she is getting late and furious with myself because despite my firm resolve to not lose my cool in the morning, Nidhi has made me come to a boil. I yelled – “Nidhi Sunil Mandawat, How dare you take the coverlet under the bed? Don’t you know it has cobwebs and is dirty? Come out, right this minute! And don’t think you won’t go to school if you are late! If you don’t get out from under the bed, I will take you school in your pyjamas.”. I hear a snigger – Nidhi knows that when she hears her full name, Nidhi Sunil Mandawat, she is in trouble, big trouble. But she is determined to dig in her heels and fight it out. I try getting under the bed, but get stuck because the bed is smaller than my girth. I glare at Nidhi, who is smiling wickedly – she knows Mamma can not come under the bed! I give up. I decide, I really would make her go in her pyjamas. That should teach her.
I walk into the kitchen to warm her milk and cereal, and decide to wait it out. She is bound to come out in some time, the underbelly of the bed is not comfortable, I know. She crawls out – eventually, the coverlet still under the bed, and the clock very close to the danger mark. I mentally make a note to send the coverlet to the cleaners tomorrow, and ask her to at least get it out from under the bed. She feigns deafness, and walks on groggily to the kitchen table, and plonks herself there.
“Get cracking, girl!”, I thunder, “Just look at the clock!”. She puts her head down on the table, and I can hear her deep breathing again. Looks like she is going to sleep again. I turn to fill a bowl with water, and stride across to her, where she is sleeping. She will now get a bowl-drench from me, and this would wake her up NOW, I resolve with gritted teeth. I turn towards the table to do the bowl-drench, and here she is, wide awake, grinning fiendishly with glee!
“I have been awake for a long time, Mamma!” she is chortling with delight. “You asked God to give you strength, did you not, Mamma, so that you would not yell at me? I heard you! I wanted to see if God gave it to you! And He did not! He Did not!”
I don’t quite know what to say. Once again, she has managed to make an blubbering idiot out of me, over a routine thing like a wake up call in the morning. All my adult resolves, my prayers to God, my reading of books on parenting, dissolve into zero when I face this willful child of mine. But God, how I love her! I hug her, smiling, “Okay, baby, you are right! God did not give me the strength to stand your tantrums. But God gave you to me!”. I scoop her up in my arms, and kiss her, and she kisses me back, her eyes still full of mirth.
“Nidhi Sunil Mandawat, get down from my lap this minute and get ready to school”, I whisper in her hair. She smells heavenly in the morning, she always does. She trots off, and I feel a lump in my throat. She makes me play to her tunes, but how I love playing!