I was newly married and was going to the market with my sister in law. We met Champa on our way. She was my sister in law’s school senior. She was married by then and mother to two hyperactive boys aged one and three. She eyed me with interest and said-
“Planning to have kids soon?”
My marriage was barely a month old and in our times we took time to open up on such topics. I did not know how to respond. I turned to my sister in law. She was unmarried then, so she conveniently looked away.
Champa continued without waiting for a reply.
“ Never ever have children. Take my advice. You are better off without them.”
Just out of politeness I ventured to ask-
“ Do you have children?”
That triggered it. She started a monologue that seemed to have no end.
“ You call them children! They are little demons both of them. I named them Happy and Joy. Grief and Sorrow would’ve been more appropriate. They can’t stay still for a minute. The older one nearly dismantled the mirror from my dressing table and the younger one made a mess of my make-up kit. Can’t leave them unattended even for a minute. It’s years since I had a good night’s rest……………”
The poor girl went on and on. I could understand her plight having seen a bunch back home. My very own younger brothers! My mother had to move to her maternal home after my father’s death when my brothers were three and five. I remember them permanently perched on a guava tree and I often felt scared that they’d fall down and break an arm or leg. They always had a group of friends over and every evening was picnic time. By the time I got married they had outgrown that phase so I told Champa not to lose hope.
A friend of mine has two sons. Her husband is a doctor. The children would fall down, get up, ring up their father, call the compounder who’d take them to the clinic and dress or stitch the wound as required. My friend says she’s lucky to have a doctor at home or else she’d spend half her salary stitching up wounds. When they were small she lived in perpetual fear of what might await her when she went home.
My own children were no saints. They knew that their father was no doctor so they stopped short of dangerously injuring each other. Instead of fistfights and wrestling matches they entered into a war of words. Each one of them outdid the other in coining names, muttering under their breath and making faces! When their temper rose high they were at their creative best! I had to settle quarrels almost each day. My husband played the 'blissfully ignorant' parent on such occasions.
If you thought fistfights and the like are domains of boys, let me tell you that you are wrong. A cousin of mine has three cute daughters. They’d ‘claw’ each other like little tigresses. I was once at their place when war was declared. Two of them started a hair pulling match while the third gave us a minute by minute report of the 'sporting' event. My cousin resigned herself to destiny saying, “They will not stop until they’ve plucked a hair or two. I only hope they do it soon.”
When I was young my favorite pass time was to compare notes with other parents and feel relieved that their fate was similar to mine. I was quite sure that the kids would turn out to be hooligans, ruffians anything but normal human beings. I’m very glad that they all proved me wrong. All of them have grown to become fine young men and women.
Happy and Joy are marketting managers now. The little tigresses are beauties, with brains as well. Two are doctors and one is a journalist. My own children are okay too and as for my brothers, they are fine, with arms and legs right in place. Many of those children are now parents and are already beginning to compare notes. “Your times were different,” they tell us.
“Not at all” I tell them. “Children will be children and have always been so. My only request is to let them be. Give them some time to do as they please.”
What about the angels that gave their parents no trouble at all. Did they become preachers or pastors or holy men? Not at all!They look and sound like my own brats and I find it difficult to say 'who's is who and which was which'.