Parenting is extremely difficult. I see that in the daily struggle my wife has when it comes to feeding my son. He is six years young (I refuse to call him six years old), but just doesn’t want to eat. On those rare weekends, when I am at home, I notice the stress my wife has to go through.
Early morning when my son wakes up my wife begins cajoling him to have milk. He just ignores her. It is a spectacle watching her move from one room to another, chasing him, cup in hand. Sometimes he will relent, but only for a few minutes, take a couple of sips and run away. On some weekends, he is bribed with the promise of a movie. On other days, he is told that unless he finishes his milk, he cannot go down to play. He is a bag of tricks and so is my wife. It is like watching two boxers spar in the ring. Each throwing a punch, ducking, weaving, running from one corner to another. Some punches land, some go in the air. At the end of the bout the mom wins on points in a very closely fought contest.
Now I know why even when the son is a 30 year adult, the mom asks, “Beta tune khana khaya ke nahin?” It gets ingrained in the DNA from birth of the child and extracting that strand becomes difficult later in the day. The daughter in law thinks that the 30 year old kid is being pampered, only to understand the emotion when she becomes a mother.
Seeing the stress that my wife undergoes, one day I told my wife, “Why are you chasing him? He does not want to eat.”
I know women can kill by their looks, but this one was of a different kind. Standing few feet away, I could feel the embers. The fire in the eyes was slowly sucked inwards into the forehead, and then gravity took over. It travelled down and before it could reach the throat, with godly powers, it was channelled into the mouth. The lips slowly widened as the mouth needed more space to hold the embers. Standing a few feet away, it looked like a smile. Instinct told me I was going to be in big trouble. There was a nanosecond between the smile and the words coming out of her mouth. Never ever has a nanosecond been longer.
“Okay so it is your job to feed him lunch today. Best of luck.”
I was not prepared for this. It was completely out of syllabus, below the belt. But then the male ego took over. I decided to take it up as a challenge.
Lunchtime arrived and I was handed the food plate. Firstly my son was very happy that for a change his father was feeding him. The first two morsels were eaten out of novelty (I prefer to think respect for the father). Then he just went to another room. The third morsel was interesting. I moved my hand towards his mouth and there came a counter punch. Literally. He lashed out at me with his right hand throwing all the food out onto the floor. Son 1- Dad 0.
“I dont want it, it is spicy.” I immediately kept the plate down, rushed to get some water. After drinking two sips, he says, I am done and moves to another room. I take the plate, try to balance the food while walking. My expertise in spilling the food from the plate to the floor throughout the house comes to the fore. I never knew I was so talented. Thirty minutes later, only four morsels down, I lose it and get angry and start spanking the kid, who now starts howling and runs to his mother. My incompetence is completely exposed.
Suddenly from the Random Access Memory of my computer the first story book that I read as a child flashes in front of me. It is about an indisciplined kid who goes to stay with Aunty Sue. The aunt calls him for breakfast, but he is sleeping. After the designated time, she takes away the breakfast and the kid goes hungry. She does not scold the kid but uses timely schedules to discipline the kid. After one day of going hungry, the kid learns the lesson.
I decide to use this technique. I shout at the kid and tell him that if wants to eat, he will eat on his own, nobody will follow him. My wife smiles, ignores my diktat, takes the plate from me and feeds the kid. For someone who is very senior at work, it is very humbling to note that his diktats have no value at home.
My stint at feeding the child ended there. That night, my wife took me out for dinner. Over a glass of wine, she started discussing my profession. I am in the Learning and Development Space.
“So Meghdoot, how many of your people ask to be trained?”
“There are a lot of people requesting for training programs”
“Do people ask for themselves to get trained, or do they ask it for their employees”
Those words had me thinking. In most cases it is the managers who request training programs for their employees. The L&D team thrusts training because it is mandatory. Hardly 1% of the people ask for training for self development.
“Don’t you specify a minimum number of training hours which every employee needs to undergo? What will happen if you don’t mandate the same?”
“They will not undertake any training. Their development will be stopped. They will stagnate.”
“Now do you understand, why your Auntie Sue theory will not work? Children are like your employees. They do not know what is good for them. If they don’t eat, they will suffer from malnutrition and their immunity will be weak. Food needs to be pushed down their throat.”
That evening, I learnt a huge lesson on Corporate Learning from a mother. I now wonder whether online learning is effective. The narrative is that it is available in small chunks, at the time the learner wants it. The question is, if you don’t feed the child, and leave the food on the table for him / her to eat whenever it wants; will it go down the throat or the drain?
Mother always knows best. Happy mothers day.