I am listening to his favourite song. I am him. I’ve got inside his little head- or big head depending on which HE i am. Observing his thoughts flying…or his stillness. Am i really or is it my imagination? At this very moment i am the mother, then the child, then the mother, then the child. How do you get under an adolescent’s skin and become this growing person? I often lose to myself, because of my own inability to just be him…when i am with him. This is my 16 year old son, whose ephemeral, stand-offish, oft capricious moods can get under my dermis for sure. I do not deny that the pain of being utterly incapable of fathoming an adolescent’s persona- the mind- the imaginations – the energies of this particular ado is all mine to live, or outlive, as the case may turn out to be. Being, or more precisely, having remained an adolescent myself, ado for short, i would have imagined it a lot easier. But every ado is a creation on the wheel- the potter’s wheel – with every move, there’s a new crease, new furrows, exciting ridges happening.
Yesterday, my ado says to me, “why don’t you and appa just live with me and Ambi when you are old!” Already there, are we! My response, alas, was anything but interesting,”nope, no way, we need to be independent and get together for short stints, not long ones when you would await our departure….” Always about me, it has to be. He seemed disappointed, and almost pained. His yearning to see us happy, settled and looked-after was quashed there and then. I could have made up something sweet and touching. I am just not a making up kind of person, and then, nor is he. Oftentimes i feel he’s much like i was at his age- rebellious, wanting to push back constantly, hiding what i really wanted for fear of being judged and all that he seems to be. My upbringing was unconventional. His? I don’t really know. He is beyond conventions already…he is not bound by the regularities of a set of parents that seem to get on, a regular school which doles out homework, conducts regular tests and exams at regular intervals. Everything around him is begging him to conform. And he, anything but conformist. That would be pretty clear already to anyone who meets him but once.
Yet, we require Chaithanya to belong, as we say, for his own sake. But why? Does he need to belong when he won’t? Does he belong to us? Are we his keepers, till he flies the coop? Does he need caretakers? These questions haunt me….should i let him be, should i not- should we remind him that there’s a world out there waiting with its arms open to embrace him, when it may or may not embrace him at all? Musn’t he find a calling that will nourish his body, while he gets to nourish his soul through his relationships and his family? Must we not be concerned at all as parents who brought him willy nilly into this world of woes? It’s also a happy world i remind him constantly while pulling a long face at his refusal to comply. How is he to believe me? He has called me a hypocrite, a meanie, a sadist (drink your milk or else….- complete your project NOW, or else…., you can’t just walk out of the house without informing us….or at least letting us know when you’ll be back, you just can’t spend over 2 hours on Skype, that’s NOT OK Chaith!, you can’t go on eating chips when you feel like, it’s bad for you, your teeth, your …., can you not have eaten Maggie before i returned from work, of course you would, you don’t like my cooking now, and it goes on and on and on….)
On the other hand, to fight my case his list of his non-compliances is long, however i will dwell upon one which is his current obsession: growing his hair to his waist. He believes (as we do quietly) that the school only allows girls to grow their hair which is a sexist attitude and we must fight to help him fight this unfair rule. He found a list of wonderful things that can expedite and push forth hair growth so that he can then show off his tresses. We have had umpteen arguments to fight the school’s case against his. He is deeply disappointed in us. At least therein lies the fact staring us in the face, that he had once had high hopes of his parents as being principled and fighters at that! How does one win this one?
We are told, adolescents face such ‘weird’ issues and get over it. Our ado was born an ado. Physically he may have attained 16 plus years of age, but as far back as my memory goes- he was always one for picking out losing battles against society. He remains consistently disappointed with the lot of the human race, which clearly includes us, his parents.
Sometimes i am able to feel his pain- it is hard. There is a boulder sitting upon my heart- feeling him throb inside me, my little baby, wondering why he was pushed to belong to a place that seems so alien, so unwilling to listen, so bereft of knowledge that is his alone. However, i reckon, he is no hermit. His willingness to communicate with us…to spit out his angst, to cry and to hug are all in the right place, at the right time. Yet, he seems to find reasons enough to want something else- what is isn’t what he wants. He knows not then what he wants, except that it has got to be something else, somewhere else and sometime else! As a mother, i hold some cards, but not all. I cannot work against the cosmos, nor can his dad. We listen, we listen hard- we exchange glances, we sigh, we reason, we fight…and it never ends. To be fair, there are days when he is reasonable, as rare as they are.
There was a time when we thought he would be a baker….he baked in the middle of the night, sometimes thru’ the night. He baked and he baked and he shared with his school friends what he baked. I tried being him then…wondering what obsession had overcome him toward chocolate and baking..but i failed cause am no baker. Then it passed. There was the time when he wrote and he wrote, and he shared his writing. We imagined with delight that this was it- he had found his calling. After all both his parents enjoy literature, writing and poetry. That too passed. Music? Yes, he would play and compose for hours on end…that phase was wonderful, his best, our best. We enjoyed his joy, we revelled in his musical pleasures. The guitar was heard, as was the piano. Then there was that wonderful boy voice- it broke. My heart broke with it. The singer disappeared, but not his melody. He still strums, however that wonderful musical phase, it passed all too soon.
I am still struggling with my heartstrings that are closely entwined with his. Sometimes i am open and bound. I feel what he feels. I become what he becomes, or is at that moment. Sometimes, i am egoistic, removed, cold and cruel. I want a kid who abides, who listens, who obeys and who shines out there. I want it all. Kids are not tailor-made, and thank god for that. That i have come to terms with. Thank God for that!
He has asked me in a weak moment- our weak moment, if i regretted birthing him. I was jolted. Did I? Never i screamed from within. You are precious my love, and i don’t want you any other way (altho i may have wished it so on more than one occasion, when i could bear no more the pain in his eyes- the agony burning thru’ from his very soul). His sensitivity and intelligence have blown me over. His quick-wit and repartees are mind boggling for a lad his age- yet they don’t come when i need them most. His inner turmoil out shadows so many days. Then, very gradually, unbeknownst, my helplessness succeeded in making me live the moment- the now. I learnt to not carry over. I learnt to take each day in my stride thanks to my child. I am much the happier , both for him and for us.
The adolescent in me rescued me, plucking out the searing ache from my heart…holding his hand i realise that it is best to hop along in step with his, and not settle down in one place and then watch him tread on alone. He has turned away, wanting to fight alone, but has always returned home to roost. “You won’t understand, you are too old school.” or “What do you know of my pain.” “you just want to judge me, not understand me. ” OUCH, that hurt. I pride myself on being non-judgemental, but truth from the mouth of babes. If i were that, which i desperately wished i was, he would reach out at that moment. I did not know, and i do not claim to know…..but being his friend, his mother, his confidant and his sibling – whichsoever, whensoever asked of me, is half the battle won. Hopefully, the rest of this ado battle will find its own way out…and it will tide over within the next two years left of adolescence. Unless he is truly like me, and never outgrows the adolescent years! Now that would be telling….the life of two adolescents!