The Bhablet has reached the stage when he gives careful consideration to the sight of his parents hugging. Earlier he used to just bound up for his share, but now he looks, considers and then wriggles in between us. We scoop him up willingly, so that he knows that we both welcome him, that there are also hugs and kisses for him. It still gives me pause to think though. He babbles away all day -- a regular Babblet -- and may soon be speaking in a tongue that others can follow. So how much affection is ok in front of him? Are we sure that we are only doing stuff in front of him that we don't mind him talking about in front of his grandparents or our friends?
There is another related concern. A lot of my great-aunts refer to him as their boyfriend and it's all very cute. So does Giga and that's cute too. But I wasn't quite happy with her 'discovering' that he was 'jealous' of her husband. My uncle does not stay in Cal and visits as often as he can, which is at best once a month. So The Bhablet did tend to see him as a visitor in Giga's house. And he objected to having my uncle [pretend to] drink from his bottle of juice. But by and large The Bhablet is a generous soul and had till then never shown the slightest form of jealousy. Maybe a touch of possessiveness these days when his father or I pick up another kid, but I'm talking of four, five months ago. And it upset me to have my father and his siblings (Giga included) speak of my uncle's little rival. It was bad enough hearing them joke about it among themselves and I would have accepted it if it had stopped there. But when it came to Giga saying, "Look Bhablet, there comes that bad man again, and he will try to take over your portion of the bed," I did mind. Why put a negative thought into a mind that doesn't have one? I understand it's all sweet and innocent now, but what about two years later when it's far from cute? He's not to know that what was ok earlier is not now.
Come to think of it, I try to incorporate that basic philosophy into my parenting. Perhaps that makes me a more severe parent. Hell, I'm sure it does. But I'd rather teach him from day 1 that something is not acceptable than confuse him by allowing it now and telling him it's wrong later. For instance -- late nights. He has a fixed bed-time, but it's broached pretty regularly. I know the time will come when he has to wake up at a fixed hour every morning but that time is not now. Yet mealtimes I do not play with. I insist that he sits in one place and has an entire meal at a time. This is not negotiable, now or ever. When he is ill or has had a snack just before (not encouraged) then I do make an exception, but he knows it is only an exception. But I digress.
The Giga problem took some time solving but when she understood that I really did not like what was going on, she readily stopped it. (This is why she is the only babysitter I trust him with.)
But the problems in my own head remain. Should I think about letting him have a room of his own? Not possible. Our new flat-to-be has only one bedroom. (Oh yes, we have found a place at last.) Should I consider putting up a screen and giving him and ourselves some privacy at nights? I think that would only scare him. He is used to seeing us when he wakes up and I know it reassures him to know that we are right there. Should we not kiss each other in front of him? But I don't want him to think that affection is only shown in private or behind closed doors. When we are not fighting, V likes to sneak up and hug me. And I sit on his lap or cuddle him if I'm in the mood. I can understand an older Rahul being uncomfortable with such PDA but surely it's ok now? Then again, what if he brings it out in front of his grandparents? Ah, who am I kidding... our parents have seen us in plenty of embarrassing positions way before we even got married.
I don't know, really. I don't want him to be jealous of his father ever. I did go through a particularly bratty phase when I delighted in showing my mother how I carried more influence over my father than she did. Which I did. I'm ashamed of the stuff I did then but I also wish my father had nipped it in the bud. My mother put a brave face on it and got on with her life. I don't want The Bhablet trying any such tricks. Nor do I want him to think he has no place in our cuddling. To me it makes sense to pick him when he comes in on us hugging, because we both enjoy attacking him from both sides. The Bhablet squirms and squeals with laughter and finally just protests when he thinks he's had enough. It's awfully cute. But are we traumatising him for life?
Some friends and I were discussing childhood memories and a girl said that she could remember stuff from when she was two years old. Now, I wouldn't want to have The Bhablet wake up while we have sex and then be scarred by it and turn into a homicidal maniac twenty years later because of the resultant trauma. Damn.
It reminds me of what Ma used to say. Still says, I think.
I got the feeling I'm making a mountain out of a molehill here. Perhaps some of you feel that too. But sexuality is a tricky concept to get across to your child. That and physical affection. How do I teach him that it's ok to hug a friend and yet not cross a boundary so that the friend doesn't feel uncomfortable? How do I teach him that he should accept an aunt's kiss with grace and also that nobody should kiss him against his will? Come to think of it, he hates being kissed, always has, so maybe that's a non-issue.
I grew up in a household where there was very little physical affection. My father must have cuddled me and kissed me but since I don't have any very clear memories of that, it must have stopped early on. We didn't hug. I never felt deprived about this until I saw my friend S hugging his mother. He was in his late teens and I was fathoms deep in love, so everything he did was perfect. So I thought to myself, since his mother enjoyed it so much, maybe i should give my mum one some time. And I did, and it was a great feeling. Since then I tried to be more physical in my affection. But it still felt odd when my first boyfriend kissed and cuddled me. And since the sense of doing something forbidden was strong, it felt very natural to let that develop into a physical relationship. I have no regrets about it, even though I was only 17 when I lost my virginity. (Eeeek!) But when I think back, perhaps, if the cuddling had come more naturally then I wouldn't have felt that I had already crossed barriers and gone further. Because, let's face it, 17 is rather young. And it's not an age at which I want any daughter of mine having a physical relationship.
It's all retrospective, of course, but that's how I feel now. I treasure those early memories, but they would have been equally precious had they happened a year later.
So I have grown into the kind of woman who would rather her son goes "Gah, you guys are so disgusting," when faced with his parents getting physical than him thinking that sex is only about internet porn and furtive fumblings. (Ok, give me a second to snigger at other memories here... done.) I think the day may come when the condoms will be placed at an accessible place so that if he needs one he can have it. I can't stop him from experimenting but I can teach him how to go about it safely. And while a child of V's may not want to experiment at all until he meets the girl of his dreams, a son of mine may not be so steadfast. Either way, I want him to protect both himself and the girl he sleeps with. Or the boy, because I don't really mind him being gay. I'd worry about the security issues, but so long as there are grandchildren and a loving partner, I'd be ok with it. I think what I would mind is him staying alone all his life.
I know, I know, the poor boy's not even fifteen months old. But I happen to believe you can't decide how you feel about these things too early in your parenthood. Also, I believe in planning ahead!
Achchha, before you go, tell me, has it every struck you as weird that condoms are sold in family packs when they are supposed to be preventing that very same family from happening?