It’s a rare child who feels warmly towards his/her parents at all times. No matter what their religious leaning, children seem to be born with Psalm 109:14 engraved in the brain (“May the iniquity of his fathers be remembered before the Lord, may the sin of his mother never be blotted out”). Not that children need to be prodded to remember their parents’ transgressions: those sit at the tip of the tongue, to be aired at will. They also come without an expiry date. A distant look spotted on the mother’s face when he’s telling her about an achievement is as unforgiveable on the son’s 25th birthday as it was on his fifth. A daughter will remember the one time her father refused to chauffeur her to a friend’s house through blinding rain long after the motoring holiday to Kashmir has been forgotten.
But that’s the way of the world. Parents are there to give and children to take, and, once the giving and taking is over, it seems to be the progenitors’ lot to make mistakes and the progeny’s duty to remember each one of them. Perhaps that’s why they invented Mother’s and Father’s Day: to give children a chance to pretend that they haven’t got a register of grievances stashed away in their memories, and that they’re actually happy with the parents they’ve got. Before the kids tell us why they like having us around as parents (if indeed they do), perhaps we should put down why we like them. (People looking for mentions of nurturing and fulfilment should stop right here. This is a pragmatic parent’s list; emotion has been kept out.)
• When they’re small, kids are terrific at chores. Since they don’t differentiate between work and play, they are happy to fetch things for you from upstairs/downstairs/the fridge/verandah a zillion times a day. A lot of it comes to an end when they hit their teens and discover that ‘work’ is a four-letter word, but you can still get them to do your ‘outside’ work if you’re willing to let them drive your car.
• Kids keep you well-informed. Chat with any parent of a school-going child and you will discover an adult who is as well informed about the climatic conditions of the Tundra as the Higgs bosen. It doesn’t matter what she studied, she will be a dab hand at making Powerpoint presentations and know more about drip irrigation than an Israeli agriculturist.
• Kids keep you well dressed. It’s true. Not only do children know what’s au courant in fashion, they are fantastic at knowing what doesn’t work for you—and your advancing years. Try stepping out of your room in something too short/tight/bright/young, and you will never make it to the front door.
• Kids never let you slip up. Children pick up on the smallest detail. They notice when you lie, when you put on weight, when you short-change a shop-keeper or break a traffic rule, and they pull you up for each misstep.
• Finally, kids make you appreciate the little pleasures of life. It could be the peace in the house when they’re asleep or away at school/college/work; the small bit of ice-cream that got overlooked when they were raiding the freezer, or the chips they got free at school and got home for you to try.
So happy Mother’s Day, children. Bring on your grievances. We’ve got memories of our own to counter them.