When our favourite children’s channel returned home after being lost in a reshuffling by the cable company, it was difficult to tell if my toddler or his mother was the happier. As my wife and I failed to be alert enough to trace its new position among the 150-odd channels, she had impatiently called up Emergency or something to determine its new place in the entertainment orbit.
Incidentally, my wife does not need to look up the time chart to know when is what on show. She knows the anthem of Go Diego Go by heart, loves the fluent-as-a-garden-hose eight-year-old presenter of the horticulture show and has watched Genie in the House so often that she thinks he looks a bit like our son (or maybe that’s the reason she is watching it this often!).
It’s ironic that we parents think we are initiating our little ones into our fold and shaping them up to be more like us, when actually it’s the other way round, at least for the most part of it. We go about trying to make them part of the Homo Sapiens club, not just in semblance to the species, but in social terms as well. That’s what society — and sociologists of course — expect of parenting. They call it socialisation. But in reality, we end up looking more like our toddlers, laughing louder than them at those fall-down-funny-side-up cartoons (it’s wicked, but children love someone falling down and making wincing faces!). Or unabashedly humming Barney songs while baking a birthday cake. Or startling them by making up our own quiz on Jess the cat or Shaun the sheep just to prove we are one-up fans of their favourite shows!
The day our son chose “car” as his first word of utterance, we decided to buy him one. Soon, all the corners and cubbyholes were turned into parking lots for cars of all sorts and sizes. Among them was an R/C miniature of my favourite racer as well, the skills of which I would generously demonstrate to my son at length — whose best response was plain bewilderment before going back to his push & go truck.
“What did you have in mind when you bought this complicated gizmo on wheels? Come on, he is hardly one-and-a-half!” What my wife really means is: “Who did I have in mind? My son or myself?” Well, you can’t blame me if I got a bit carried away. This stuff wasn’t around when I was a child. Still busy mastering parallel parking, with the garbage waiting to be taken out, I plead for time with a twinkle in my eyes. “You are just like him” is all that she’s got to say. Its irony is lost in the truth of the statement!
It doesn’t stop with television or toys. It spills over to the breakfast plate as well. When I asked my wife the other day, what did she have for breakfast, she replied: “Half a bowl of cereals, three-quarters of a sandwich, some banana puree and one-third of an apple”. While it could make for an extremely amusing or alarming bit of information when overheard, my practised ear could instantly gather that my son was having a rather fussy day and my wife, who is fussy about both wasting food and keeping leftovers for later, was making the best use of them. Mothers do it all the time and it is their universal excuse for the extra pounds that refuse to go.
In fact, I dread the day when my wife would go for her well-deserved weekend pampering at the salon, leaving me with instructions as easily digestible as steamed baby food. “Darling, I only had the time to cook for the baby, but don’t you worry, there’ll be enough left for you too.” On that day, I will be gaining yet another lesson in, what I call, reverse socialisation!
Sudeep Koshy is a creative director and writer based in Dubai.