In our times. I barely utter these words and all hell breaks loose at home. These are the three most derided words in my children’s dictionary. To them, these words recall the horrors of unnecessary chatter about an unfamiliar era that neither interests, appeals or inspires them.
They dread the irksome monologue (from my end, of course!) that follows these three words, and it has, understandably, begun to spell misery (to them) when strung together.
This is the only time when sibling hostility gives way to the instant blossoming of besties. High-strung emotions and histrionics ensue. They moan and groan in unison about what is to follow, and they nod their heads sideways in utter disbelief as though their mobile phones have been confiscated for an unlimited period.
To beat it all, the elder one rolls up her eyeballs and perches it just below her brows in complete disdain of what lies in store for her.
I am confident that if they ever participated in any silent protests, they would be a complete disgrace. Protests, they believe, must be verbally raised, opinions strongly asserted as rights attained through any other means are too watered-down and shamefully lame. Over the years I have wised up to recognise the ill effects of speeches and I have tried, with much forbearance, to keep away from it.
A household with two vociferous teenagers
Now that you might be able to visualise what I am talking about, you could help me out.
Do you think, at the end of a school day, it is OK to ask a sixteen-year-old what she did at school and how her day was, or would you suggest that I appear disinterested in her and chat about how my day had been, so far? Which, according to you, would be a safer, and a more amicable approach, while conversing with a teenager on the ride back home?
To tell you the truth I have attempted both on separate occasions and in both instances, I failed miserably to strike the correct chord. The responses varied from lukewarm to hyper agitated.
The response to the former option has always been blunt and barbed — “how can you ask the same question every day? What do you think happens in school?” The barrage of questions (what I assume to be harmless, genuine concerns), reluctantly evoke a laconic response, “Nothing much.”
On days that I rely on silence as a shield from any verbal attack, the ammunition spewed is far more lethal. Surprisingly, my stoic demeanour gets them worked up.
“What did we do wrong? Why are you not talking to us? Tell us what happened?” If I am fortunate, then the younger teen might further inquire, “how was your day?” It is amusing how silence can evoke such powerful emotions while concerned questioning gets them agitated and defensive.
An endearing journey
Without a doubt, parenting is an endearing journey. However, the adventure comes with its own pitfalls, and it can sometimes be excruciatingly enduring when matters go awry. As the terrain gets rocky, the ride can be tumultuous and sometimes the haziness of a brazen sandstorm weakens the senses and clarity of the path ahead.
However, in such situations, neither party — parents nor children — are blameworthy. While teenagers nervously juggle academic deadlines, peer pressure and raging hormones, it is understandable that their eruptions might escalate to volcanic proportions. It is equally unfair to point fingers towards parents as they too are learning to cope with the trials of adolescence that has mesmerised their children, into sometimes unrecognisable beings.
Recently, I discovered a secret ingredient (I must admit I am a slow learner) that serves as a miracle drug. The potency of a warm sense of humour eases the most severe of trials. Like in most situations, it does help soothe jagged nerves, lighten the mood and moment, and allow the other party, in hindsight, to reflect upon the triviality of their outburst.
Ultimately, the smoothness of the ride relies heavily on a resilient and tactical approach. Heartaches, trials, and tribulations are an integral part of parenting as it is of life. Eventually we learn to embrace it with all our heart.
Seema Nambiar is a freelance writer