It is with trepidation that I approach my son's ‘school'. I have been summoned by his teacher and the principal to discuss some development issues and his ‘fine-motor skills'. I know he's not quite Einstein yet, but he has a fantastic vocabulary for his age and he can sing a few songs.
Although not quite destructive — well, not yet anyway — he opens the wardrobe, pulls out drawers, pushes some furniture around, and tidies up the toys strewn about on the floor. Owing to our technology-driven modern lifestyle, he can also put the DVD player on, stick a DVD in and press the play button.
As there's no scale to measure mothering skills, I'm not sure how exactly I will be rated, but my family assures me I'm doing a near-perfect job. So this request for a ‘meeting' is giving me anxious moments.
"So nice of you to come," says the principal with a wide smile. "This can't be good," I think, feeling a sinking sensation in the pit of my stomach.
"Actually, he's doing quite well but his pincer grip needs to be enhanced. Basically, we are trying to prepare him as best as we can for his life journey. Our main focus is to help him overcome …" My mind wanders off. I'm thinking I need to look up pincer grip on the internet. Is it hereditary?
Referring to her expansive notes, the teacher says, "In the playground, he likes to remain stationary and just observe other kids. If he's on the scooter, he refuses to move it forward or backward. Also, he won't kick a football."
I am puzzled why he does that as he's always running around at home. "Have you considered the fact that he could be shy?" I ask them. "Well," says the teacher, "in that case you might want to send him to some personality-development classes. That's what I did with my son!"
At this point, I am bewildered. I obviously forgot to read the mothering manual. The trouble with parenting is that there are no ready-made solutions for any obstacles that you face in raising your children. You have got to make the rules as you go along.
"What kind of activities does he engage in at home?" enquires the principal.
I am embarrassed to say that he enjoys rolling out chappatis with me, or that he loves to put the detergent and fabric softner into the washing machine before I switch it on, or that he runs around the house brandishing the broom and mop, or that we have pretend-sword fights with the wooden spatulas in the kitchen. We sometimes dance to Hindi film music. "Er, he has some building blocks [which he won't bother with], there are his colouring books [about once a week] and yes, he likes to look at pictures in his books."
They both nod. These constructive activities meet with their approval.
"Last week, he refused to hand over a toy to another child," says his teacher sternly.
"He held on to it for at least 45 minutes." There is a dramatic pause in the room. Perhaps I am expected to express deep remorse for my son's failure to share, an indication of his inability to integrate into society and be a productive member of the human race.
"Hmm," I start hesitantly, "he's such a submissive child usually. I am sorry he didn't share, but I'm also proud that he stood his ground."
They are not happy with my answer but I am pleased with my parting shot. I leave them promising to work on his ‘pincer grip' and teach him to share. And oh! Did I mention? He's two years old.