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What happens when a mother gets free!

New Delhi, Aug.3 (ANI): It was my son’s last day in school. I woke up at 6.30 a.m., as I have been doing for the last fourteen years, knocked on his door, and said: “Wake up, it’s time for school.”  But this was the last day I would be doing it. He was going for his shirt signing ceremony and bid farewell to his teachers.

The nightmare of the 12th board exams was just a month away, but that wasn’t on his mind or mine. We both grinned at each other: he, because he was looking forward to this special day, and I, because I was trying to hide my confusion. The fifteen-minute drive to Sanskriti School was over all too soon. I wanted to hug him but you don’t hug a seventeen-year old boy near the school gate.

The next few months dragged on with the board exams sapping us of physical and mental energy. Long hours of tuitions, tantrums, tears and tension. Somehow he and the rest of the family survived the ghastly month long exams and the stress over the results. That too has come and gone by. For the first time in many years, the summer vacation was one without any holiday homework. No charts to be made, no lessons to be learned, no reading lists, no mugging up of theorems and poems.

I am happy that I don’t have to be a slave to the alarm clock anymore. Those cold winter mornings when I want to snuggle deeper into the duvet, instead of waking up a groggy kid, cajoling and bullying him to go to school are a thing of the past. No more sports days, parent- teacher meetings, annual days, charts to be made, costumes to be altered, poems to be learned, homework to be checked, recitation contests, debates, tears over competitions lost, high fives over races won, report cards, uniforms, pick up and drop times, bruises, friends, stay-backs and sleepovers. Did I really want this to end?

I have waited to be free to do girly lunches, to not stress over teenage angst, to step into the gym without wondering if the chart on freedom-fighters of India had to be submitted the next day, to wonder what next to pack for a school lunch, to darn the uniform, to leave on outstation assignments without feeling guilty of missing his football match, without having to beg out of umpteen reunions, weddings and birthday parties because there were unit tests, exams and tummy aches.

Now, I am free, and, have no idea what to do with that freedom. I meet with mothers who sob about leaving toddlers with strangers in pre-school and look back at my days then. I wept profusely and had to be literally dragged from the gates of the school. I hid in the bushes and watched as my little one hesitatingly walked to his classroom holding the finger of his teacher. Been there, done that. Still hurts.

I remember his first swimming lesson at St. Columbas. I pleaded with the instructor to watch out for my son. Just two instructors handling fifty-three boys in a pool, all five-year-olds! How in heaven’s name could this be safe? I was gently told that it had been safe for forty years and would be safe for the next hundred and forty.

Tennis and piano lessons, holidays when he was sick to the stomach and I was sick with worry, are a thing of the past. He flits in and out of the house without seeking permission, fixes his breakfast, the hugs are fewer, but so are the complaints. Do I miss them?  Yes, of course. But like a homing pigeon, he occasionally wrestles with me or teases me over a collapsed cake or a funny article. The sibling fights are fewer. I am not called in for arbitration. There is no need to be the Tiger mom anymore.

Both of them are out of school and I am free from the tyranny of timetables and structured days and nights. The rules are fewer and the flexibility has increased. I just have to learn to enjoy that ‘me-time’ that has suddenly come upon me. Sometimes freedom is difficult to handle. A part of me wants to go back to being tied. As the poet Robert Browning said, “So free we seem, so fettered fast we are!”

About Smita Prakash: Smita is the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), India’s leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.

In a journalistic career spanning almost two decades, she has reported for NPR News America, NHK Japan and many other foreign broadcasters on news stories from the field in India. Besides developments from India, be it elections, calamities, political developments, international events or other breaking news stories, this involved covering many of the world’s most dangerous conflicts and devastating events during this period.

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I am the Editor News, at Asian News International (ANI), Indiaís leading Multimedia News Agency and the India Correspondent for Channel News Asia, a Singapore based broadcaster.
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