I must have seemed like the cruelest mom in the mall...
My 3-year-old little girl slipped smack down on the shiny marble floors wailing, while I waited on the side lines for Act 2. As a standard routine, she'd lift her nose off the floor, look up, realize mommy and daddy weren't going to come to her aid, pick herself up and start scampering again. But this time, the script took a slight detour. New actors stepped in. Helpful strangers who didn't know better, tried to help her up. On cue, I roared from the sidelines, "Leave her alone! She'll get up on her own. Thank you!"
Rearing A Little Warrior
It's not easy bringing up a little girl these days - in the times we live in, even the tiniest of them are not spared. My husband and I decided to bring up a little warrior. So, little tiny scratches are to be dismissed and the bigger wounds are medals to be worn proudly; a fight in the garden with her best buddy has to be sorted out between the two gladiators; a nip by the family pooch usually means you've either been teasing her or not reading the signals she's giving out.
For the longest time, the only toys she had were hand-me-down Legos or stuffed toys, they were her best playmates - Georgie the giraffe, Leo the lion, and Ballu the black bear. Until Barbie came along. That twitty, airhead Barbie with blonde hair, a tiny nonexistent waistline, and no personality to speak of. And it was hard. We'd avoid the Disney section of Hamley's just in case we bumped into Barbie, but she was there to stay. My little warrior wanted a Barbie doll for her fourth birthday. We refused. She protested. We stood firm. A kindly 'aunty' came laden with gifts on B-day, and what do you know, there was Barbie in all her pink shining glory! I shuddered and looked at my friend accusingly. "I knew you'd never buy it for her, so I got one" said the traitor. "Every little girl must have a Barbie." This was, I realized, going to be one long fight.
The Little Mountain Goat
We're a family that lives, eats, and breathes adventure. It's our work and our passion and when the little warrior was turning five, we decided it was time for her first trek in the mountains. She was a month short of five years and my mom thought we were crazy. "How can you expect a kid to walk long hours! Take a doctor's advice; it's not good for their bones; are you sure she's ready?" "Well", I said, "we'll soon find out won't we?" We chose a trekking circuit in Kashmir that was just a four-day trek and less than two hours away from Srinagar and emergency medical attention if required. We really shouldn't have worried. The little warrior charged up the mountain side and across the meadows like a mountain goat and while the 10 KM uphill hike on the second day left all the adults breathless, she reached before everyone else, slipped into her shorts, jumped into the icy cold fresh water stream flowing past our campsite and decided she was going to spend the rest of the evening with the ponies who'd come to cool off there. The husband beamed with pride. I just sighed with relief. The fear that we may have to carry a 15 kg package on our backs up the mountains was totally unfounded.
Let The Creativity Unfold
I came home the other day to find the whole drawing room overturned. The cushions were missing, as were the chairs. Curious, I entered the bedroom to find all the missing furniture pieces lined up in a row and the pillows and cushions all neatly lined up on top. Saira was in the tunnel below with the glazen-eyed Barbie alongside her. "What are you doing" I asked. "Making a spaceship" was the prompt reply. "Really?" I asked, "and who's the pilot?" My little warrior looked up at me like most little ones do, with that gosh-what-a-dumb-question roll of the eyeballs and corrected me, "Astronaut. Me!" "And Barbie?" I asked, "what is she doing in your spaceship?" "Nothing. She does nothing. She just sits there. So I'm going to leave her on Mars and come back." I may have lost the Barbie battle, but I certainly won the Barbie war!
The Day I'm Better Than Daddy
Her best buddy Z has got a new addition to the family - the cutest, fluffiest kitten ever. Of course, my warrior princess wants one too. So there’s a bet on between her and the dad. If she gets better than him in skiing and roller-blading, she can get a kitten home. Even before the “deal” could be cemented with a handshake, she donned her roller blades and helmet and turned around to look at the beleaguered father: “Come on then, teach me!”
She’s been skiing since she was three-and-a-half, taking the family tradition a generation further. She’s good but nowhere close to being as good as the dad, but that doesn’t stop her from dreaming about that kitten cuddling up to her at night. “You did say that if you threw a message out into the universe, the universe would give you what you want, right mama?” Umm…yes, I did, in a totally different context of course, but I did. And I’m guessing it will not be long before we have another 4-legged fur child gamboling around the house.
She's a girly girl all the way. She wants long hair "all the way up to my knees" and throws a fit even if you so much as mention a trim. Elsa was her favorite Disney character until she was five and now it is DC Comic’s Wonder Woman. The pink flowery frocks have given way to shorts and jumpsuits. She still wants "pretend makeup" (whatever that is) for her 8th birthday, but the little warrior in her rises to the fore at the best (and worst) of times. The churlish little boy who tries to push his way down the slide is roundly told off to "stand in line and wait." The little kid with the tube wrapped around her waist at the pool gets unwanted advice: "how will you learn to swim with that? Do fishes use tubes?" Until recently she was the only little girl in her Kung fu class and is always made to spar with boys two inches taller and three years older. Often, she beats them off the mat and thinks that's perfectly natural. No conflict in her head at all.
A Warrior, Not A Fighter Be
How do you teach your little girl not to turn the other cheek anymore and yet not encourage violence? How do I get her not to trust strangers and yet be friendly with everyone she meets? How do we teach her to stand up for herself, not take everything and everyone at face value and yet "respect your elders?" For any parent, it's a complex world now. What we learnt from our parents no longer holds good - what we impart to our daughters is often in conflict with how we were raised. But our little girls seem totally comfortable with the dichotomy of it all. They're fine being both - a warrior and a lady. Perhaps that's our cue. Perhaps it's time for us to unlearn what we were taught when we were little girls and turn to them for guidance on how to bring them up!
Dilshad is an inspirational speaker and is invited by corporates and institutions to speaks on topics closest to her heart. Being a cancer survivor, her talks focus on doing what you always thought was "impossible" and turning that into "I'm possible" (with due credit to the great Audrey Hepburn!)