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Abhay was flabbergasted. He took a deep breath and countered that if Dhairya was a boy being a boy, Amruta was a girl being a girl and she would continue to act the same way Dhairya did.
Abhay sat down on the couch, utterly exhausted. His partner wasn’t answering his calls, his daughter wanted something but he couldn’t figure out what, and the cook had left early today. He was drained, frustrated, angry, and had a whole lot of emotions going through his head. He could ask for some help if only Mira picked up the phone!
Abhay and Mira had, what some would call, a “non-traditional” arrangement. The list of non-traditional quirks about their relationship featured their age gap at the bottom. On the top was his choice to be a stay at home father/writer/ freelancer.
Everyone had an opinion on this, from Abhay’s parents to Mira’s siblings to their neighbors. Thankfully, they didn’t rent the house they lived in but owned it. Imagine a landlord with his overly patriarchal views, trying to patronize Mira and Abhay on a daily basis. He would be subjected to a lecture from both of them, together.
Today was one of those days where nothing had gone right. Abhay and Mira had gotten into an argument right before she left for a business trip. Abhay wanted to cut down on Amruta’s extracurricular activities. She was only two for crying out loud. Mira said their daughter could handle it! She could, but Abhay also wanted her to enjoy her childhood and allow her to play and explore on her own, without the constant presence of an instructor or parent. He was of the free play school of thought. Mira disagreed.
“She can handle it Abhay. She has 50% of my genes after all!”
“I’m not saying she can’t Mira, but she literally just turned two. No need to teach her swimming and art and set up playdates every day. You know she likes to play on her own. “
“I just want her to be prepared for the world Abhay!”
“She doesn’t have to go to a million classes for that. Allowing her to play on her own is the key to letting her develop her interests.”
“We’ll talk about this later. I have to go.”
The difference in their parenting styles was always a cause for concern to both of them. They had one child, a girl. And while both of them had the ultimate end goal, to make her fierce, independent and strong, their methods were oceans apart. That day, Amruta had a play date with a family friend’s son. Abhay didn’t like the boy, he was too aggressive and while he didn’t want Amruta to take the bullying, he didn’t want to teach her to answer in kind. Playdates with this kid always ended up in a sullen Amruta and an upset Abhay. Today was going to be different.
Before leaving for the playdate, Abhay talked to Amruta.
“Listen kiddo. Is Dhairya still mean to you?”
Amruta nodded wordlessly.
“Well,” he said, “what do you do when he is mean?”
“I play with another toy,” she said.
“What do you want to do when he’s mean?” he asks.
She shrugged and looked out of the window.
Abhay let her be. Before dropping her off, he gave her some advice
“Amruta, be yourself. Don’t let anyone be mean to you. You are my strong girl.”
Amruta smiled at him, gave him a hug, and went for her playdate.
Amruta was a gentle child and he loved that she was so independent. But even the boldest of children can be taken aback by the meanness shown by others.
Abhay had resolved to talk to Mit and Manisha, Dhairya’s parents, if Amruta came home with any type of bruise or scratch. Parents can be blind to the faults of their children and there is nothing wrong in someone else pointing it out to them. Or so he thought.
Amruta came back with a long face and a scratch on her arm. Abhay picked up the phone and called Mit. Mit passed the phone to Manisha, saying he was at work all day so really, it was Manisha he needed to talk to.
“Hi Manisha,” Abhay started, “Do you know how Amruta got the scratch on her arm?”
“The kids must have been playing rough in the garden,” Manisha said.
“Well,” he delicately tried to broach the subject, “Maybe they shouldn’t be playing rough. They are too young for such games.”
“You know how boys are Abhay. I can’t control Dhairya. Boys will be boys. Maybe you should talk to Amruta to not be rough with him and then Dhairya might stop? Let the kids work it out!” Manisha answered.
“Maybe we should stop the playdates for a while.”
Manisha gave him a curt ok and cut the call.
Amruta didn’t need someone giving her a lesson on how to play like a girl! She was just fine the way she was.
A day later, Mit called him up, chewing him out for speaking to Manisha that way.
“What do you mean?” Abhay asked, “All I said was to stop Dhairya from being a bully to Amruta! Whenever she has a play date at your house, she comes back with some sort of a bruise.”
“Well it’s not Dhairya’s fault! Amruta should stick to playing with the dolls or coloring. Dhairya doesn’t like to share his toys with anyone, You know how boys are Abhay. Stop making a big deal out of it. And by the way, Amruta is no saint. Do you know she pushed Dhairya today when he was trying to get on the swing?”
Mit’s response was surprising, but was it really? Abhay thought to himself. He felt a twinge of pride because he knew Amruta would not have pushed Dhairya without reason. At least she wasn’t taking any shit from anyone.
“Men love beautiful women. But when it’s beauty and brains, they don’t know how to handle it. Because we have no role models to emulate? Even our parents call such women ‘too forward’. When actually it’s the men who are backward. Women are racing ahead, having kids and careers, leaving men holding their dicks in their hands. You know, at one time, girls were sent to finishing schools to increase their market value? Well, guess what? It’s time for men’s finishing schools!”
When his own parents had this mindset, who was he to get angry at people like Mit and Manisha? This logic of girls sticking to dolls, coloring, kitchen, cooking and what not started before children could understand gender roles and expectations.
He went to Amruta’s room and told her how proud he was of her for not letting Dhairya push her off the swing.
“You can do what you want in life Amruta. Don’t let people like Dhairya push you around. My baby girl, you are too young to understand what I am saying now but never ever allow anyone to tell you what to do.”
Amruta grinned and continued playing with her toys.
Abhay knew Amruta didn’t really understand his words, but he would continue pushing this lesson whenever needed.
Now, he had the hard task of explaining this whole story to Mira. Although she would be a little pissed off at first for alienating two longtime friends, she was going to agree with him wholeheartedly, just not with his methods.
They didn’t have a child to let other people tell them to make her play with dolls. They had a child to raise a smart, strong, sensitive human being who would do good things in this world.
Image source: ddimitrova on pixabay
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