‘Why don’t you come for a parenting class?’ a friend – let’s call her ‘R’ – asked me.
‘Parenting class? But why?’, I asked her, shocked.
In the last fourteen years that I’ve been a mum, nobody has suggested I go to a parenting class. Until the day R – a friend, who also happens to be the mum of my daughter’s best-friend – kindly asked me to one.
Naturally, I was quite taken aback; for there I was, thinking I was doing an ok job as a mum; why did someone then decide to invite me to a room full of parents riddled with self-doubts and/or have difficult children.
‘R invited me to a parenting class’, I told the husband.
‘Ohh, when is it? Book me a place too,’ he said.
It wasn’t quite the response I expected; so I cornered the daughter.
‘Why does your best friend’s mum, R, think I need lessons on parenting? What did you go and tell her?’ I asked.
‘Mummy, what’s there to say? You send me bread-butter-jam for lunch every day. R sends her daughter soft phulkas, panneer butter masala and a fruit raita for lunch. The boxes speak up, mummy; no wonder she wants you to take lessons on being a good mum’, she said cuttingly.
But there’s more to parenting than lunch-boxes, I argued.
I had a chat with my mum (who plainly had no such issues in her time as mum, as lunch boxes were not competitive, nor were parenting lessons so common). Do you think I need help being a mum, I asked her. She gave me a look I recognise instantly; it’s the one she used to give me since I was a child, just before she would scold me lengthily. ‘When you were a teenager, you used to come home, have a wash, change, and start doing your home-work. Look at your daughter! She locks herself up in her room, hangs around in her school uniform until dinner-time, and never finishes any meal. I think it’s not a bad idea for you to learn how to be a parent today’.
I grew very sad, very hurt. I decided to call up R and speak to her. ‘Hi, you know, you mentioned those parenting lessons… what is it all about?’ I asked her, hesitantly.
‘Oh, they’re beautiful Aparna, simply beautiful. This lady – she handles different sessions for different age groups – tells you how to talk to teenagers, how to get them to see things from your point of view, and how to see the world through theirs. It’s not at all preachy, and she does not make you feel like a loser’. ‘
Ah’, I said, mollified. ‘So two places when the next session happens? For me and the husband?’
‘Yes, I’ll keep you posted. I really look forward to them’.
‘Oh and one last thing, how do you manage to whip up such an elaborate lunch for your daughter every single day?’ I asked her, a touch accusingly.
‘We have this cook, he used to work as a sous-chef in a fancy pants hotel, and he rustles up the nicest lunches for the kids’, she told me.
I didn’t ask her how much she paid him. I was quite sure it would be more than what the husband and I earned, put together. With a smile on my face – and a sharpish retort on my lips – I knocked on my daughter’s bedroom door. She opened the door, still in her school uniform, books strewn on the bed. I sighed a long-suffering-mum sigh, and gave her the look my mum used to give me before scolding me…
(From a day in the life of a mum. Who’s been there, done that for fourteen years, but is still learning. The hard way.)