Your child is watching how you behave as a couple, and learning how to be. Are you being the best role model for her? An insightful short story.
Shruti was an independent woman, or so she thought. Aayan was her colleague at work. That is how they met. Their relationship soon metamorphosed to different levels. Friend, boy-friend, fiancé and then Husband.
In Shruti’s experience, this was much akin to the four stages of a butterfly’s life cycle. It brought out a totally different person in him. Should we say more similar to a moth than a butterfly? As the metamorphosis yielded something not really as beautiful as a butterfly! Something subtle, a bit less likable yet functionally the same.
Shruti was not sure if someone would take her bias against moths otherwise. She did not really detest Moths, but they were often colourless and forlorn.
Aayan was suddenly the dominating alpha male in the house. The lover boy, the patient suitor had all disappeared. Aayan was now in-charge of the home and all decisions had to be taken only with his permission. What to cook, what to wear, who to meet, who not to meet, what movies to watch, what places to visit, how long to work – usually this last one was a point of tri-party tussle between her boss, Aayan and herself. All three saw this subject from a different angle.
That was too much for Shruti. So when she had her little girl Anaya, she called it quits. Sent all three devils at work to rest and became a full time mom and a part time wife for a short while.
Things were now completely in Aayan’s hands. He was happy with the change of events. He started getting more merciless towards Shruti in their arguments. He would treat her worse and worse. He did not care to consult Shruti at all, now that she had no need to apply for leave at work. Decisions were just taken; Shruti was expected to comply.
Little Anaya was watching all this as she was learning to burp, to walk, to eat, to talk, to tie shoe laces, to read, to form opinions. And at eight Anaya, in many ways a remix of her dad than just the name, realised she was destined to be more like her mother than her dad, when she grew up.
She was startled at the discovery. She knew Mom to be the docile victim, with no opinion of her own. But Dad, he was so smart, and that is how she’d rather be. But it was not going to be! In natural progression, she was condemned to become a woman, a wife and a mother. She would have to learn to be like Mom, more than like Dad.
Anaya for the first time in her life discovered depression. She felt listless and unhappy. Soon, there was a marked change in her. She would begin to cry, almost howl, whenever her parents were having one of their arguments. This would confuse both Aayan and Shruti.
Finally one day Anaya asked Shruti, “Mom, when I grow up, will my husband also treat me like Papa treats you?”
Shruti was speechless, tears streaming down her eyes. She felt helpless, caged and defeated at that question. And now she was wondering – why did she not stand up for herself anymore? Why was she allowing her bitter relationship to take over her life, even though she was a strong independent woman? She thought she was doing it for Anaya, she needs the love of both parents. But at what cost? At the cost of stifling her daughter? Making her believe that this is just the lot of all women? It was not making sense to her. She had it all wrong then. She promised herself to be assertive from that moment. If Anaya had to learn about a woman’s real character, she had to learn it first from her mother!
She had an idea at that instant! She asked Anaya, “Do you think all women are treated like I am?” Anaya looked thoughtful. Not making it very tough for her, Shruti offered, “Anaya, I will answer all your questions, but will you ask Papa the same question that you asked me?”
Anaya questioned, “Can I Mamma?”
“Anaya, he is your dad, and he loves you, I don’t think you are afraid of him either. He cares for you. And if he does, he will have an answer to your question.”
And sure, Anaya asked Aayan the same question that was brewing in her heart. For the first time Aayan, the alpha male of the house, was speechless. Yes, he realised, he was setting an example for his daughter. He was unknowingly chopping off her little wings, even before they were ready to take flight.
And so he promised, just like Shruti had done earlier, that he will give an answer to all her questions, but he needed some time. Anaya looked only a little upset, but it was her playtime. “I will give you the answer after you come back from your play.”
When Anaya left, Aayan and Shruti spoke. Both of them equally wanted their kid to grow up a strong independent woman. So then the house rules had to change and the alpha male had to make way for equity in the house. Shruti needed to be more assertive. And he needed to be more sensitive.
It all shaped up very well in this household. But there are many Aayans and Shrutis, an also Anayas who grow-up seeing inequity between man and woman in their homes. They do the same when they grow up. Someone needs to put an end to this vicious cycle.
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