My daughter yells at me….”you never believe us”…..as she tries to storm out of my room. I yell at her. I warn her not to walk out. She persists. I grab hold of her hand and she kicks me. I am infuriated now. I say that if she does not stop kicking me, she will get a whack. She shouts at the top of her voice. Screaming -“you always talk about child abuse….. Now you are abusing me! I reach the peak of my patience. I slap her and say “now you can drama and say I abused you”. She says – “I am leaving and storms out of the house. My husband, her step father follows her until she reaches the door steps of my parents home, a 15 minute walk away.
It all began when my mum called me one afternoon whilst I was at work. My mum started yelling at me. She was not happy that my eldest daughter at age 14 invited guy friends over. You see- my mum is rather the conservative sort. My mum did not believe in boys and girls being friends. My mum always feared the unthinkable. What if the girl gets pregnant? What if people say things? How can we trust any boy? And so, growing up, I never revealed my guy friends to my parents.
It was only when I turned 21 did I introduce my parents to a boy. I later ended up marrying this boy despite all attempts by my mum to keep me away from him. Arranged marriage was the only option to my mum…..something I was determined never to succumb to.
My daughter had told me days earlier that she was inviting friends over. To watch movies in the home theatre room, she said. Little did I realise that these friends consisted of 2 boys and a girl. They did watch movies but lying on a bed from a laptop.
So there I was in a dilemma. On one hand was my mother appalled by what was going on and on the other hand was my daughter who did not understand what was so wrong about having guy friends. And in the midst of it all was me. What should I do? I had plenty of guy friends most of whom are platonic. Some of whom are good friends. I enjoyed hanging out with my guy friends. At the same time, I was mindful of my mother’s fears. The need to protect my daughter and shield her from “naughty hormonal” boys was at the back of my mind. What if I allow her some liberalism and it back fires on me? But how could I be so archaic to disallow her to have guy friends.
I decide to interrogate my younger daughter before dealing with the situation. “They were not on the bed”, she said. They were not doing anything. But as I probed her, all hell broke loose.
My older daughter simply said , ” grandma is ancient. And you are my mother. I do not care what she thinks. ” She was right. I was her mother at the end of the day. I had to decide how I wanted my daughter to think and behave. I realised that to her a boy was just as much a friend as a girl. To her, they are part and parcel of life.
I ponder on it. I remembered how I never understood my mother’s ways. I recalled how I too felt my mum should have more trust in me. I resented the fact that I always had secrets from my mum for fear that she will judge me and get upset about any of my male friends. I recoil at the pains I went through simply for wanting to marry a man of my choice.
In a way my daughter was right. It was abuse to forbid her to have male friends. It was cruel to make her shun boys. It was in the name of honour, my mum used to say. But it simply made me feel like I was inferior to have to be kept away from boys.
The reality is that my daughters will meet boys in her daily life. She will grow up and marry one some day. But as a mother it was my duty to teach her values and morals and to watch over her the best I can and yet allow her the freedom to interact with her friends male or female.
As J.D. Salinger said- “Mothers are all slightly insane.”