This was originally written as a Mother’s Day special for the Times of India, May 9th 2010. Here is the original story, which I honestly prefer but if you are a die- hard TOI reader, you can find it online here.
Offering sympathy for dealing with my near-thirteen-year-old is akin to offering sympathy for the devil.
It’s a phase, everybody says, she’ll get through her teenage years.
Yes, but the question I ask on daily basis is will I get through it? On some level, Ilya has been going through “a phase” all her life!
Per the basic laws of the universe, my daughter feels exactly the same way about me. In her worldview, the devil is channelized through Mom’s eternal nagging, with its accomplices strategically placed in the guise of others who encourage her to nag in the first place: the orthodontist, her school teacher, swim coach…..
But yet she thinks through the issues. Look on the bright side, she says, by having me early, you successfully managed to avoid a situation where two women in the household are going through puberty and menopause at the same time.
I am not sure how to define the cutoff between wise and wise-ass.
Hormones were never the issue in our relationship. Rather, deeply ingrained drama queen genetics that are culprit. On a weekly average, I acquiesce to my classic wounded child syndrome as I beg my daughter for acceptance.
Why are you picking on me? I ask sorrowfully.
Why are you so neurotic? She responds confidently.
Why are you answering a question with a question?
Why don’t you try to set an example?
And it goes on. And on and on.
My husband stays out-volved as a matter of principle. As far as he is concerned, Ilya, and I are but mutations of the same feminine conundrum evenly distributed into two physical beings. So when we both leap at him to arbitrate our mother-daughter cat-fights, his predictable response is sorry, I didn’t sign up to parent two teenage girls at the same time. Following suit, my eight-year-old son will head straight for the neighbors’ because he cannot deal with two psychotic women in the house at the same time.
A shrink could make millions from tending to the nuances of my nuclear family.
Ilya is convinced that Lois, the dysfunctional mom on Family Guy, is an animated rendition of …er… yours truly. In return, I cannot understand how the famous horror film, The Exorcist, was released 25 years before her birth, anyone could see it was clearly based upon her!
Leave me be Mom, she says. At least I let things out of my system. I’m not sulky and sullen like other girls at school.
She’s right. Apparently, that’s what I have to look forward to next year. That and a new line item in the household budget for exorcism pundits.
But I have to confess that as I sit back and look at my precious piece of progeny, I am delighted by a familiar joi de vivre that is evolving from some latent DNA. In my youth, joi de vivre meant donning a ponytail that swished in step with jubilance at the thought of a free weekend. For Ilya, it’s about living life completely unfettered so she can master photoshop skills or French to have the choice to be a poor starving artiste-en-Paris or the DKNY of her generation. Atta girl, Ilya..she’s the kid I always wanted to be.
So upon closer examination of her bedroom decor, it makes perfect sense how poster boy, Zac Efron, is a carbon copy of the guy I was madly in love with all through college.
I have decided to turn a deaf ear to tantrums unleashed each morning as I relentlessly nag Ilya to comb out her would-be hooligan hair from the frizz that makes a perfect fit with my own state of mind. If she can actually manage not to miss the school bus then I think she’s demonstrating that she is well on her way to Paris.
And apparently I need to be well on my way to Punjab. Ilya insists that my lack of parenting skills result from the fact that I have strayed from my northern Indian roots.
No offense Mom but a true Punjabi mother would have me stay inside on a Sunday with poori-aloo and an Akshay Khanna flick, because it’s too cold outside to exert myself, she says.
I grunt at the all familiar description of my own mother.
But you would insist that I can’t sit at home while injustice is rampant out there in the world. Go for a hike up the hill Ilya, you would say, and consider it a metaphor for where you are headed in life. And by the way, wear a coat while you are at it.
Now did I mention that I was a laid back Mom?