Saturday afternoon, I decided to do groceries with the boys. We headed to the nearby mall to buy some fresh veggies. The sons enthusiastically accompanied me. When I was picking fresh peas, how delightful they are in this season, the younger son wanted to help. So I showed him how to choose the plump bright green pods. With loads of concentration, he gingerly picked out the pods weighing them against what I had just told him. He held a few in his hands to show me before tipping them in a bag where I was putting some, we continued. Just then a young lady joined me and started picking peas. She observed how the younger son was hard at work and smiled encouragingly.
We started a conversation. She was quite amused to see a child so interested in vegetables. And we began our chatter around children. I told her how my sons loved food. She smiled. Just then the elder son walked to me with a bag full of onions. Yes, he was bagging onions. I held the bag and ball parked that it must be still less than the weight I wanted. He went back to get more. She commented, “Oh, two sons?” I smiled and said yes. She chipped in that she had a boy too – a toddler who loved running around in the aisles. “Of course,” I smiled. Toddlers just love that! We exchanged some more tales of boys while working hard at picking the right peas. In between, we exchanged some recipes with peas as well.
Just then her husband came by; he was holding a cute, chubby boy who immediately wanted to go to his mother. They spoke something in a language I did not understand. Oriya perhaps? Then he drifted away and we resumed our conversation. We spoke about the work we did and how her maternity leave had stretched to almost 1.5 years and she was looking to get back to her professional work. Ah, the dilemmas that confront a working mother. The thought of leaving her still young child in day care is so unnerving yet necessary for those of us who live in nuclear families. Some more minutes of chatter and she said bye and went away.
There is something energizing about discussing mundane matters with strangers especially those who share your wavelength and chatter without any judgment or annoying questions. I can’t tell you how many strangers when they heard that I have two sons have not commented whether I didn’t want to ‘try’ for a daughter. Or that it must be tough having sons? Or that my family was incomplete? while wrinkling their noses.
It makes me wonder what makes people say such things even if they may actually feel it. How does having two sons make my family incomplete? Or why is having sons any tougher than having two daughters or a single child? Perhaps some research figures may help me fathom this hypothesis. Sometimes, I brace myself for such obscene comments but like this conversation, I didn’t have to.
It was a fun, neutral conversation where we goodnaturedly cribbed a bit about kids in general and how they were so mischievous at home but perfectly behaved outside. Yes, I know, a lot of people think that given how the society tends to the patriarchal in India, men do grow up feeling entitled to certain privileges or being waited upon or not helping out at home etc.
But, I think if they are brought up in the right manner, they will be just as helpful and equitable in their thinking as say a girl. In my opinion, I am initiating them to all the household chores including cleaning and cooking just as I would a girl, if I had one.
As a matter of fact, the younger son has just started cooking. He can make a perfect half-fried egg. He actually insists that he make you one almost threatening you to have one. And did I tell you that he makes me toasted bread with butter every evening. Last evening, I was resting, so he left this at the kitchen table. Such a heartwarming plate to see, don’t you agree?
So coming back to the thought. I enjoy being a mother of sons. It is exasperating at times and so very rewarding at others but entertaining at all times just like I am sure it must be parenting girls. And yes, I don’t care for statements like, “Wait till they have a girlfriend!” or “That a daughter always belongs to her parents while a son moves on.” Pretty insulting stuff and idiotic too.
I am sure sons and daughters are as true to the parents as the parents are true to them.
Our responsibility lies in raising them right without expectations and certainly without pesky stereotypes.
Have you been party to these kinds of conversations with mothers of sons?
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