The Insolent Child

by Anita Menon

My daughter turned 1 and a half, a few days ago. Since I am at my mum’s right now, she had made sadya ( Kerala style feast) to celebrate her 18th month birthday and her homecoming. My daughter slurped on the payasam ( rice pudding) and splashed some everywhere she sat. Later that day, I was speaking with a friend over the phone who wished my daughter a happy 18th month birthday. She jokingly remarked, “Now you have only a little time before she hits the terrible twos“.  At this, I most innocently asked what that meant. She explained patiently that children become insolent as they are in the process of developing  minds of their own. They do not take heed to what their parents tell them and no amount admonishment would make any difference to their demeanour.

After her phone call, I noticed Mimi sprawled on the tiled floored, make a face and demanding something from her grandfather, My dad, being the doting grandfather that he is, obliged her. It was then that it occurred to me that this has become a norm with Mimi. She seemed to resort to such blackmailing tactics – sprawling on the floor, crying and kicking, pushing me away, when I try to comfort her, sometimes even biting and scratching. It seemed that my daughter had prematurely already entered the terrible twos phase. Where did that affectionate, ever abiding baby go? The one that giggled and laughed when I told her to stay away from something perilous and came running to me in my outstretched arms. That baby has grown up, taken things in her stride and operated in a calculated way. She has figured and singled out significant ones who would do all that she wanted at that very instant. Her current favourite is my dad – her grandfather.

Always the one to plan ahead ( I bid the spontaneous side of me  good-bye, as soon as I become a mother), I started to think of various tantrum-interventions. How was I going to tackle her misbehaviour if she planned to do a public show-down. Would I resort to talking to her, try to explain things to her and simply hug her till her angry surges were distracted. Or would I resort to more disciplinarian resorts such as spanking and scolding? Such questions nagged till I tried to buried them with other thoughts about the happenings in Bahrain. If you have read my older post you would know that we had to flee Bahrain because of the civil unrest. But now things have pretty much settled down but emotions continue to simmer, I hear.

On an impulse, I imagined the the King of Bahrain as the parent and all the angry protestors as his wards. As a patriarch, he did what he could do best to control the situation which threatened his legacy. But questions such as what means did he apply to protect his interests and whether it was right on his part to completely squash his unarmed opposition with might of burrowed arms continue to haunt. I totally understand, it is a way more complex than I am intending to potray here. There were other external influences that made him take certain decisions that would curtail the economic and other damage already done. Should he have adopted another way via opening all channels of communication? Would that have helped if his untrusting wards refused obstinately to respond to his dialogue? What was he to do under these circumstances? If he had let his control slip, it would have meant he was weak and unable to hold his own. So many questions would have plagued him, I am sure. Like a parent, he would have had sleepless nights, thinking of all possible solutions to the problem at hand.

This also took me back to the conversation I had with mum when she confessed that according to her, my teenage years were the most difficult for her. She shudders to recall the number of times, I would have said, I hated her for reasons unknown. My guess is the protestors were behaving like a bunch of teenagers ( from the King’s perspective) who think they have been harmed, denied and ignored for a long time. These demands may be real or perceived, but the reality is the people of Bahrain feel so, hence not all was right.  This juxtaposition is again an exaggeration from my side, but well, just for the sake of a debate, we can assume it to be fair.

Drawing parallels like this can only mean the amount of thought I am giving to a situation that concerns me. It may be real or perceived, much like I suggested before.

So what would I do when my daughter behaves irrationally ( mm, she is expected to behave like that because she is a toddler) ? Like the King, should I tie her down, suppress her and punish her insolence, so that she doesn’t speak up or act funny again? What are my choices? Well, according to me, choices are aplenty. How I exercise them would make a world of a difference to how Mimi would grow up and respond to various situations. It would define the relationship that I am going to have with her. I feel I should let her act the way she does and try to understand why she is doing that. Be more open and receptive to her extreme emotions and enjoy the learning curve. But in my case, the ratio is very simple ;1:1 while for the King is 1: many ++++. So his problem is complicated manifold. Still the least he could do is be a responsible parent and try to listen to his people. Know what ails them and do the necessary to assuage the hurt.

Most of the times, I have realized Mimi throws a tantrum only because I wouldn’t let her be a part of what I was doing at that moment. It could be baking a cake or watching tv or even surfing the internet. She feels ignored and kicks her feet to draw my attention. All I have to do is to listen to what she has to say ( all gibberish but full of emotion) and take her in my arms. She then does some cookie dough testing for me, helps me dust the flour off my dress and peek through the oven glass from time to time to see the cake rising.

The King has a similar choice too – To open his heart and let his people in.

All thoughts in this post are mere ramblings and such parallels may deem illogical to a rational mind. But every now and then my thoughts turn to the casualities that have occured in Bahrain and I feel a deep sense of remorse. Yes remorse, though I have done nothing wrong. But remorse and sadness are emotions that one feels when it is realized that one is helpless in this situation. In the 10 months that I lived in Bahrain, a new found attachment  envolopes me and I miss Bahrain from the bottom of my heart. I don’t understand politics and have zero opinions about the whole thing but all I am concerned is about the families affected by this clash. I feel that their memories will forever carry the scars if the means adopted to restore security and peace don’t change.

I also dread to go back because I hear the Pearl Roundabout doesn’t stand there anymore. That iconic landmark has been replaced by an insignificant traffic light.

All of this rambling finally brings me to this conclusion, Parenting is very tough and the only way harmony would prevail, is by taking the middle path.

Are you listening, King of Bahrain?