A few weeks ago, in the process of trying to distract Nino from shoving his boiled egg below the high chair, I embarked upon telling him a story. Not just any story, but one from the Hindu mythology, about my favourite pot-bellied God, Ganesh/Ganpati. The story was originally about how Ganpati got his elephant-head, but as I relived the tale, I realised it was ghastly and gory - Two and a half year old Nino could not have expected to understand why Ganpati's dad (Lord Shiva) was so angry with him, that he cut his head off... so I just twisted the tale around to Ganpati standing guard as Goddess Parvati bathed and the happy reunion between the three of them, and Lord Shiva playfully pulling up Ganpati and asking him to be respectful to his father, and all elders. phew. I doubt if back then, in our childhood, grannies or mums worried about how violently we would veiw these stories. Even though I admire the Hindu philosophy for its ability to pull up and question everything and everyone, a lot of its moral tales revolve around skirmishes and violence. Not something I want my mixed heritage son to view as the overall image of my culture.
I was reminded of Ganpati's tale a few days back in an absolutely unexpected way. I rushed home, one hour early, gleefully like children playing traunt at school. Surprised Nino with a big hoop and then told him I'm taking him to the local snake park. Just that minute (isn't it always) I had to pee - and I just said, without thinking, baby, mama's gotta pee, don't let anyone enter the room. (we have a lot of workers at home currently, and I'd left the room door unlocked) - as I plonked down on the pot. 'I'm right here, mama,' he said. 'Standing guard, with my stick. I won't let anyone come in.' And right then I knew, he meant it. Even his dad would not have been able to get into the room.
I've always wondered, and so have multitudes of women before me, what exactly it is with men and their mothers. One of my boyfriends hated his mother so much - his choices in women were the antithesis of what she was. So many girlfriends bemoan how their mother-in-laws plot and connive to get the son's attention, to prove the metaphorical umbilical cord is still strong. The sons who always compare the wives cooking to their mothers. The mothers who still dote upon their sons, pushing their faults under layers of affection, each behaving like an emotional ostritch - if you can't see it, it did not happen. and I wondered about this even more becuase I come from a family of daughters - we have one cousin brother among nearly ten sisters. I remember asking my mother-in-law this, as her dearly-loved daughters ribbed her about loving her son the most. And she said, simply, 'You'll know when you have a son.'
Now that I have a son, do I know 'it'? I don' t know. I know that he loves me to bits, that he runs to me when he's happy/sad/hurt/hungry/sleepy/curious. I know it's not because I'm there all the time - my husband and I both work pretty much the same number of hours, so we get to see him each evening around the same time. But I do know that I've never had a bigger fan - or someone who adores me so much. And as he pets me, compliments me, hugs me and cries for me in his sleep, I can see how this need of his, can be a heady shot, brining a joy that can turn into a need by itself. I now understand how this need-begets-need can grow and take root, and refuse to let you grow and change - like all those mums who still find it difficult to realign their love for the kid with the man who is their son.
Sometimes, Nino's Dad feels a bit leftout from the showering of love that Nino gives me. As he playfully sulks, I rib him, 'You'll know when you have a daughter.'
Any thoughts? Mothers of sons, wives of sons - and fathers, even?
3 hours ago