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Every time I try to talk to my teenaged daughter, we end up fighting, so here’s a letter I wrote to her in hopes of unburdening myself.
“Think before you speak,” my mother often advised me. But never before have I felt the need to adhere to her advice as I do right now as I parent a teen daughter. So I decided to write her a letter and unburden myself.
(Dearest ) Daughter (molu),
‘No endearments or pet names,’ you have warned me ‘They are embarrassing.’ So, I’ll just stick to,
I write to you with mixed feelings and trepidation. Knowing your reaction, I might just bury this letter inside my closet like all the others. You were such an adorable cheerful child – kind, generous, thoughtful and… respectful.
Nowadays either you behave like a spewing volcano or a tsunami without warning. Every morning, I pray for divine guidance and a teen mood predictor app much like the weather app you installed on my phone after the clothes put to dry outside constantly got ruined by the rain.
If I ask you whether you have taken your thyroid medication, you look at me pityingly. “I am seventeen, ma, not a five-year-old who needs her mama to force-feed her cough syrup”.
“Just out of habit and concern,” I mutter and move away.
When I ask you to fold your blankets and tidy the bed you say scornfully, “I will be sleeping again tonight and it will get dishevelled anyway. What’s the big deal?”
“Just looks neat and appealing,” I barely manage to stifle a scream.
When I ask you to take a break from the laptop screen, you switch to your phone. So I have to ask you to take a break from all screens, only to have you yell, “I am only studying, why don’t you get it?”
I can see Enola Holmes peering at me from the laptop and hear Charlie Puth on Spotify. But I don’t have the appetite for a confrontation now. I can only marvel at this generation’s ability to multitask and the brain’s ability to absorb this sensory overload.
When I ask you to savour lunch and chew food properly, I hear, “Something’s off with the paneer subzi. Wrong spices or wrong ratios or both?” Do I detect my late father in law’s derisive tone there?
It took all my self-control not to remind you of last week when you bought back sabja seeds instead of mustard seeds for the tadka. And on being told you were wrong, you coolly said “They look the same, they must taste the same”
When I ask you to have a bath, you say “After a jog.”
Remind you of the jog you look at me mournfully “Am I becoming fat? Is that why you called me erumai last week?”
I must confess erumai sounded mild among the many expletives I wanted to let fly after a, particularly contentious argument last week.
When I ask you to comb your hair, you say “The runner up at Britain’s next top model had hair like this. A cute bird’s nest you called it. See, mine doesn’t even need a stylist. I am saving you the big bucks. Just saying.”
To ask you to apply chandan on your acne scars and I hear, “Am I ugly?” while tears well up in your eyes.
I was just trying to help, but I guess you are touchy about these topics. So I cross them off my list, I will broach them very cautiously the next time.
Oh and those mock JEE tests, they test my skills too
Offer commiseration after your low scores, you emit an eardrum splitting screech and bang your door. After such repeated slamming of it, the door is badly in need of repair.
A happier you after your test will require me guessing the score. Err on the higher side and hell breaks loose. I am a mother with unfair expectations.
You ask me to help wax your arms. I ask you if you are going to wear the yellow dress you bought online. You nod absently and come out in a faded spiderman t-shirt and shorts which have seen better days.
I beg you to send your jeans for a wash in that case “Haven’t you heard of live-in jeans?” You say with a smirk.
“Heard of fungal infections?” I want to retort. Some other day, I resign myself.
I open the windows of your room to let in sunlight. An hour later, you storm downstairs howling, “There’s a crazy hornet in my room. Why do you have to douse the room in rose spray and lure these creatures?”
I have almost given up all attempts now and wish you luck in your musty room with your cockroach friends.
Last night after a long time you snuggled up to me and told me, “You know what ma I love spiders I am going to be an arachnologist. I am also learning Japanese online. Maybe I will get a research internship there.”
I made a mental note to leave the cobwebs intact in your room and enthusiastically blurted out “You know, molu, these Japanese foliage spiders are unique. They practice matriphagy. Imagine these daughters sucking out the life fluid from their mothers, then devouring them.”
As soon as the words left my mouth you gave me an accusatory glance “Are you implying I am like them? Am I a cannibal? That I cause so much trouble? How you love to hate me”
And there we go again.
Hoping to stay as unobtrusive as possible till you leave for college next year. And wishing to speak, laugh and breathe without fear of offending you.
Mom (no endearments or overt affectionate gestures, I know)
Picture credits: Still from Hindi TV series Yeh Rishta Kya Kehlata Hain
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