Can one liken frogs and snails and puppy dog tails to the highly destructive payload of a nuclear warhead? In my defense I should say that there is at least one similarity. As far back as I can remember the boy in question seemed to be on perpetual search and destroy mission!
Bringing up my son turned out to be far more complicated than rocket science; my missile program started malfunctioning pretty early on, with the missile in question careening dangerously out of its trajectory with amazing regularity, threatening to explode anytime!
As glazed as my 6/6 vision was with motherly love, I could not ignore very obvious signs of something being a little amiss. ADD, Dyslexia, ADHD—characteristics that we so far scientifically and objectively discussed now became something that we had to deal with personally but in an objective manner. The tests were all negative, though our son did exhibit amazing memory recall abilities, highly developed spatial skills and an extraordinary ability to visualize all types of animate objects in 3D and translate them onto paper or a solid three dimensional material. Potter’s clay, so sticky and unwieldy in many an adult hand, would be transformed into crude but structurally perfect models of various zoological specimens. Tiny pieces from intricate model sets, which left other kids baffled, would be effortlessly put together in the blink of an eye, leaving many of his educators in complete awe. Cold comfort, as the malfunction list grew in quantum leaps, with entry after entry by a large majority of educators (and I use this word in a very broad sense). He seemed to increasingly inhabit a bipolar world where there were people who were close to giving up on him and another lot who could see past his “faults and shortcomings” to his many talents and his innocence, those who could discern the fine line between what the rest saw as a very destructive streak and what they understood to be just natural curiosity.
I tried to navigate him in this bipolar world, struggling to keep him on the right side of that fine line, not always very successfully, and my own feelings have thus oscillated wildly between elation and despair. I attempted various means of navigation and re-programmed my approach with a genius that would have made a techie sit up and applaud. “Nonsense,” my ever-sensible army officer husband would thunder, “discipline is all that boy needs!” Yes, he sounded just like Colonel Hathi addressing his troops. “Well dear Colonel,” I would reply indignantly, “I’ve watched Jungle Book too!”
If only life were an animated movie in which every crisis is resolved neatly at the end. I have to admit, though, that there has never been a dull moment in my life. Every day has been an adventure, delightful and harrowing at the same time. I have shrieked with joy and screamed with fright on these roller coaster thirteen years, as any given week in our lives has exhibited highs and lows that could rival the most volatile of stock markets.
Along the way, I have learnt that we are all bundles of contradictions and it is futile to label anyone any particular type. And that even your negative qualities can be your assets if you learn to use them wisely. My child’s extremely casual attitude towards everything has worked for him. He can handle disappointments with such ease, and he is more or less always happy. Isn’t this the one thing which we all seek so desperately? What remains so elusive to many of us comes so easily to him. His high level of curiosity makes him always eager to try out new things. Being someone who does not always thinks before he acts, makes it possible for him to talk to people with candor, spontaneity, and wit, and his audiences range from 2 to 92, as long as they are willing to listen with not just their ears but their hearts and minds as well!
I have learnt how important it is to have our inner world full of fantasy and to keep enrichening it, for therein lies the springwell of our creativity. It is a place for us to seek refuge, albeit for a short while, when storms outside rage and threaten. Many of his educators have told me that my child has an incredibly rich inner world, even if he tends to live in it most of the time and finds it difficult to come out of it. He may daydream a bit too often, but his dreams are so rich and beautiful and varied that anyone would love to spend a lifetime in them!
I will mention only one incident from the boy’s childhood, and one can read as much or as little into it. Our son spoke a little late and his words were garbled for a while. This boy, the missile, had just turned two and one evening I had made him a simple sandwich. After he took just one bite from it, he stopped dramatically, held the remaining part of the sandwich high up and said one word very audibly and with surprising clarity. “ENJOY.” It took us a while to make the connection. The remaining piece of the sandwich, after he had taken out one bite, looked exactly like the M of the MTV logo, which in the mid 90s was “MTV ENJOY! “ Perhaps little boys are like sandwiches, with such an enormous variety of fillings and breads, toasted, plain, or grilled. In the process of raising them let us not forget to ENJOY!
Jyoti Kalapa is a freelance German translator and lives in Bangalore.