Conversations with a three-year old: Part 4

Oct 9: 7.30 am

Mamma, yesterday there was thundering and lightning.
And the rain was pouring and pouring.
And then mamma’s car is getting wet, and her t-shirt is getting wet and her pajamas also getting wet and her shoes are getting wet and her hair is getting wet.
Oh no.
And the moon was not there.
Oh, then did the moon come back?

No it will come tomorrow. But I have a surprise for you!
What surprise?
The sun is come back!!!! *draws open curtain* See? See?
So I wore a short dress after ages and am busy checking out my legs in the mirror.
Re: Mamma, why you are being nangu? Wear your pajama!
The bath saga continues:Me: Have a bath!
Re: Mamma, then I am not going to be proud of you.
Me: Is that a yes or a no? Are you going to have a bath or should I make you?
Re: Then I am going to call dadda!
Me: Are you threatening me? For the last time, are you going to have a bath or no?
Re: Then I am not going to be your friend and I am NOT COMING TO YOUR BIRTHDAY PARTY!
Re is back from school. “Mamma, the lion boke my gween pajama.””But you didn’t wear a green pajama.
The lion boke it. The lion also bit Shaurya and he didn’t come today.”
Oh no, why did he bite him?
Because the dadda lion was not listening to the mamma lion. He was not paying-a-tention to the mamma lion also and he was not listening to my friend also. I am going to beat him with my tie! I am going to shoo him away!”So saying, the tie is flung on the floor, and the uniform shirt is popped open like hanuman’s chest.Okay, lion, be afraid. Be very afraid now.
Re just back from school.
Mamma, there was two continents.
(*Continents? already? wtf??!!*)Then?
Then there was boys and girls.
Then the boys went to the market and the girls went to the dance party.

Then they had so much fun.
Then their mammas was so proud of them.And another eventful afternoon unfolds!
Early morning conversation:Why is Chhota Bheem nangu?
Because he has to cross a river to meet his friend, so he doesn’t want to get his t-shirt wet.
Why is Alex and Marty nangu? (we are referring to the friends from Madagascar)
They are not nangu. They are wearing skin-fit clothes, so you cannot see them.
Why Nadia is nangu? (points to the resident feline goddess)
Re, animals don’t haffto wear clothes. Only boys and girls haffto wear clothes.
But Nadia is a girl no?

A question of answers

The strange thing about your child growing up is that however much you are ready and waiting, it has this ability to creep up on you in the most insidious way, catching you totally off-guard. Like when Re asked me the other day: “Mamma, what is a husband?”

I knew where this was coming from. We had been watching Shrek 2 on loop and Fiona and Shrek made a fetching couple, replete with PDA. Re likes that, the PDA bit. “Oh, that didi is so happy with her dadda,” he said, almost pleased with himself on account of their on-screen camaraderie.

“It’s not her dadda, it’s her husband.”

Hence the question.

Now, this was quite an opening. In my earlier avatar, I would have said one of many things: that a husband is someone you marry and then feel weird whenever you are introducing him as “the husband”. Or someone you haffto be friends with on Facebook. Or someone you produce at family functions so that nosy geriatrics stop asking you about “good news”. Or someone you have to hear whine every day and be polite about it, even pretend it’s cute. Or someone you wake up with one day, and realise that unless you work really hard at making him run away, he will be lying next to you, somnambulistic, impervious to light and sound, every single day, for the rest of your life.

But then I realise he is a three-year-old, and I am his mother, so I obviously can’t colour his perception of things. I also realise that to him, answers are everything. Answers are the doors to more questions.

And so I say, somewhat reluctantly, “It’s what a mamma calls a dadda. Or Mrs Shrek calls Mr Shrek.”

I don’t know whether he is convinced by my answer. I have no means of finding out. But he is quiet again, so maybe that went well.

A few scenes later, Shrek is being attacked by Puss in Boots. Re is enraged. Shrek has obviously found a special place in his heart by now and anyone or anything that hurts him is the enemy. He screams at the screen, “Stop it, Puss in Boots! Don’t do that to my husband!”

“It’s not your husband, Re, it’s Mrs Shrek’s husband.”

I obviously haven’t factored in same-sex marriages here, but the whole thing is so darned complicated already, I am thinking.

Re is not convinced. He is already comfortable equating husband to father figure and peeved at this enforced limitation.

That’s the trouble with the growing-up virus. You are never really prepared for it, even if sometimes it might be the most eagerly awaited thing in your life. I thought all I had to do was be vigilant about gender stereotypes and teach him to respect women. But now I know what they meant in those boardrooms when they said, “Explain it to me like I am a four-year old.”

I will never really master that, I think, no matter how many books I read. But one thing I had decided early on was that I would never tell him, “You are a baby, you won’t understand.” There would always be answers. Even if they are answers he doesn’t want to hear.

Time passes. We move on to other movies, but inevitably return to Shrek one day.

“Why is Shrek angwy with Mrs Shrek?,” Re asks, seeing a visibly upset Shrek post a visit to the in-laws.

“Because they just have different expectations from each other. And each cannot understand what the other is saying,” I muster the courage to tell him. I didn’t want to say he was pissed off with his in-laws and their snootiness and attachment for all things material.

“No mamma, they are not having expotatoes!”

Okay then. That was not very bright of me. But here’s the tricky part with children. Sometimes, the only way to say it is to say it like it is. And sometimes, it is to say it like they want to hear it. It’s just that it is a hit or miss and you keep trying.

I could have said, “Shrek likes to live in the jungle and he was not comfortable with the castle and table manners and all of that.” But would it have worked? I don’t know. I can try next time.

The thing is, he has already decided that Shrek is the good guy. So, until he figures out a new hero, I will have to tread very carefully in Shrek-zone.

By next year, givaffe will be giraffe, cocodiling will be crocodile and hippopotis will be hippopotamus and Shrek will be replaced by someone else. But the questions will continue. For a long, long time. I better work on the answers from now on.

(This post first appeared as my column in the Indian Express Sunday Eye on 30th September, 2012)



Age three: Of mindfucks and other games

Somewhere around age three, children gather enough vocabulary and spunk to get back at you in a way they know best. Which normally involves twisting something you said or taking it out of context to say something that will solely be of benefit to them. It also is largely intended to imply that they are not babies anymore and you can just fool them with words, as they have all the armour to decode it. They also learn the art of the subtext around this age, that is they say things without saying them, which is a bit of the mind-fuck as you are just not ready for this level of verbal politics.

So here is a ready reckoner from my life to decode what they mean from what they say:

What they say and what they mean:

Re: Lion was not wearing a tie today!
(What he means: Why the fuck did you put a tie on me? I felt ridiculous!)

Re: Ritushi didn’t come today. And Shaurya didn’t come. And Mahek didn’t come. And Kwishna didn’t come. And Adlai didn’t come!
(What he means: Why the fuck was I sent to school when others bunked?)

Re: Chhotabeeem and Raju are being nangu.
(What he means: Why do I have to wear clothes?)

Re: I want dadda!

(What he means: I have had enough of the controlling you and I would rather be around someone who is okay with me not bathing or brushing or going to school)