Growing up together

A gentle breeze ruffles my hair as I sit on a small cement platform in the grounds of my apartment complex. I watch N jogging, headphones in place her ponytail swinging from side to side.

It’s 10pm and we’re the only two people around. It’s quiet, apart from a few sounds that drift down from the flats above and the rhythmic tap tap tap of N’s feet.

I glance at her as she goes up and down the short track and I’m conscious of a feeling of impatience. I want her to finish her jog and go back, back to her books.

She had been in the middle of studies when she’d given a yawn, stretched herself and asked,
‘Can we go down for a bit?’
‘Have you finished the chapter?’ I had asked in answer.
‘No,’ she’d said a trifle defiantly, knowing what I was going to say and I do say it, ‘Well then, finish it and we’ll go down.’
‘I can’t concentrate at all,’ she’d said, ‘there’s no point sitting with the book.’

With that, the decision had been made.

We’d both put on our sneakers and taken the elevator down. As I watch her now I find impatience building up in me again. That half-done chapter sits in my head, a niggling thought, refusing to go away.

The thing is, I am a finisher. I like to complete tasks. A book, a chapter, even a specific part of a chapter – whatever I plan – I like to finish before I move on. I find it inconceivable to stop in the middle, leave things half-way. Undone.

N, on the other hand, is capable of doing exactly that. On her table I find half-done artwork, half-written pieces, craft projects abandoned midway. I find half-cleaned cupboards, with clothes jammed into the other half. Sometimes she comes back to complete them, other times she just doesn’t.

That upsets me, leaves me with a feeling of incompleteness.

I look up to see her pausing in her run and bending to pick up a frangipani flower. She comes to me her nose buried in the cream and yellow bloom, ‘It smells so good,’ she says holding it out.

I inhale the gentle fragrance and, for the first time since I came down, I find my mind quietening. I feel the breeze and I relax. N sits down by me and launches into a long winded chat about an impending virtual assembly she’s putting up with other students of her class. It does feel good — sitting here with her. That incomplete chapter fades into the night and I reach out and give her a hug.

I realise then, that sometimes, when you’re threatened by overwhelm, it’s okay to leave things midway; to stop and take a breather; to feel the breeze and smell the flowers. Just as I bring discipline to my teen’s life, she brings freedom to mine, a sense of ease, of letting go.

I repeat to myself, for the millionth time, this most important parenting lesson — our children aren’t us, we learn from them as they learn from us.

Photo by Amanda Martins from Pexels.

16 Replies to “Growing up together”

  1. Is it an age thing?My daughter does exactly this and I almost always have the nagging thought that things are incomplete. Surely, a conscious effort has to be made by me to breathe and take it easy. But I suck at it. True my teen does give me that push to take it easy, I need to pay heed more often 🙂

    1. I am sure age has something to do with it, though even when I was young I was more of a finisher than my daughter is. I think discipline sets in with age. Also we worry more for the consequences of unfinished work than the young ones. So you do have a point.

  2. Moms and daughters! My Mom was like you and I like N. We often clashed. What made it worse was that both of us were stubborn and opinionated! It’s great when you embrace the differences and make peace with them as you have.

    1. I try to Corinne. I’m not always successful. Like I said as a Mom it’s ones job to teach the kids to focus on the job at hand while their mind wanders in a hundred directions. But I’ve come to realise that pushing too hard never works.

  3. The last line is what I read and re read. With my daughter who is barely 6, I find the need to make her do things my way very often and perhaps rightly so as she is too young. But I know as she grows I have to let go and let her shape her life in her own way, her own habits, quirks and way of looking at things. I am a meticulous person , who does things as planned and cant rest till I execute as I need to, your daughter’s approach no doubt has a lesson for people like you and me 🙂

    1. That’s true Akshata. Even the youngest of children can teach us a thing or two about letting go. Your daughter is such a darling. In the formative years – at least through the preteens – one can hold on and try to steer the kids in a particular direction but after that one has to definitely let go slowly.

  4. I love the way you bring things full circle in this piece, highlighting a fundamental difference between your daughter and yourself as well as how this recognition brings balance (and appreciation) to you both. Lovely.

  5. Oh I can so relate, Tulika. I am a finisher too. And my son definitely is NOT. And it’s been something I’ve struggled with. Which is funny. Because of-course he isn’t meant to be me. He is his own person, even though it’s difficult to remember that when they are little. But I know I definitely need to have ‘more chill’ as they say these days. 😀
    Shantala recently put up this amazing post…A chatty catch up after ages (a.k.a. I’m back!)My Profile

    1. Seriously, sometimes I think all moms were made from one single mould and all children from another! But like I said some amount of focus to finish tasks is essential as long as we remember to let go occasionally. Also, if there’s one word I could ban from the children’s vocabulary it would be ‘Chill’.

  6. I too love the smell of frangipani. It was the flower that may me stop and want to read. I too used to be like that a finisher, still am but a much mellowed down version. Nothing in the world is as important as enjoying the moment at hand, even if a few tasks remain incomplete. The time you spent with N is far more precious than the incomplete chapter for it will definitely be completed soon. Glad you shared, it was a good read and made me happy to see you bond with your daughter.

    1. Aw thanks Shruti. I think as adults we are all driven by results, and that’s not really a bad thing but then occasionally, a reminder to let go works well. As for most things, a balance is what we should strive for.

  7. A critical lesson for us parents — this kind of poignant observation:

    “Just as I bring discipline to my teen’s life, she brings freedom to mine, a sense of ease, of letting go.”


  8. Beautiful post OM 🙂 Love how your words evoke the imagery …
    Could picture you both going through it all and then your insight into the whole thing.. so so beautiful. Though, in my imagination she is still a very lil girl 🙂
    And, this is truly relatable due to the simialr contrasts between Ammu’s nature and mine.

    Also, thanks for this reminder OM “our children aren’t us, we learn from them as they learn from us.” I’m thinking i’ll make a poster of this quote and hang it where I can see it everyday 🙂
    Priya recently put up this amazing post…Love and light!My Profile

    1. Hey Priya I need to constantly remind myself too. Both my children are different from me and even more different from each other. N is actually a lot like me so it becomes easy to assume we’re completely alike. But she keeps giving me a reality check often enough :-).

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