worth fighting?

Things have deteriorated so badly between a very close friend and her teenage daughter that my friend was forced to send her daughter to a boarding school in another state.

When I met my friend yesterday, she told me “how lucky you are”

Those words kept ringing in my ear all last night.


After being told that I would never be able to carry a baby and when I eventually had Yaya, I promised myself that I will be a good mother. It was only fair !

Before I did anything, I remembered how I was when I was a teenager and decided to fight battles that are worth fighting.

Yaya has an iq of 159. ( higher than mine). with her brain and near perfect eidetic memory, she can be the best in anything. She hates maths and science and still every ICAS test, she gets high distinction for both. And every time she has maths or science test, all hell will break loose here. She will not let me explain anything to her and then complain bitterly what a bad mother I am ! She insists that she will not be doing anything in science or maths at Uni.

She wears ‘outrageous’ outfits to school. This morning, she wore shocking purple jeans, fluro green
T-shirt, tie and dye scarf, purple shoes and my stetson. Yet, she never ever wears something inappropriate and has never been send to the office for wearing something inappropriate. Yaya’s school doesn’t have a Uniform, but has strict dress code and she follows the rules to a tee,
I was told by a friend ( indian) who saw Yaya in her colourful outfits very sarcastically that yaya dresses like a clown ! The same friend also told me that I indulge Yaya a lot and that I must ‘control’ Yaya. For me, so long as my child follows the school rules, I will not tell her what to wear. She is living her life and will not be in my shadows. Making her wear clothes according to Indian set of mind was not a battle I was willing to fight.

Yaya also talks to me freely about boys. I grew up in Kerala. My mother went through my school bag/books every day, She even went through all the letters I got,all in the hope of ‘protecting me’. Her efforts only made me a rebel and I found ways and means to beat her in her own game. I wasn’t going to do the same with my children. I trust them and taught them to make the right choices and decisions that affects their life. It doesn’t mean that they are flying free.. they are still my little kites, I still have the string in my hand and tug the string if I find them flying in the wrong direction ! But not covertly. I talk to them all the time. ( I follow talk don’t tell philosophy) A friend told me that she rather knows where her daughter is ( ie safe in her house with her boyfriend) than not know where her child is ! It rings true to me because I know my mother had no idea what I was up to all those teenage years and still think that she did a fantastic job raising me! if only she knew !
I haven’t yet had to face that part yet, but I do know that it is inevitable.

But in all these, there are things that doesn’t work.
First in the list is their identity. None of my children identify themselves as Indians. Even watching the Olympics is a bit tricky. Which country would they cheer for? India, Malaysia, Canada or Australia? I worry about their lack of roots all the time. I think there will be a time in the next few years when Yaya would start to find herself.. as who she is and what makes her tick..It would have been easier if she had some sort of base to stand on when she is searching for herself and I guess that is where Cultural roots come in. I failed in that.
K J Jesudas is coming to brisbane for a concert and I asked my children if they would like to go. They didn’t.  It hurts knowing that things I held dear means nothing to my children. The same with Malayalam movies. Every now and then the mallu association sends invite for the latest Malayalam movie show in a local theater. My children don’t want to spend 3 hours watching a movie that makes no sense to them.
Second is the constant battle of when to push them and when not to.
I love science and for me science make much more sense than any other subject. I know that if Yaya lets me explain things to her, she will like science, after all science is nothing but facts. She has a very high IQ and it wouldn’t take too much of an effort on her part if she was willing to give it a chance. And I see my friends and relatives pushing their children to study and almost all of them end up doing medicine/engineering etc.  I worry if I am failing my children when I don’t push them. Should I have arranged coaching or private tuition for Yaya to help her? I don’t know the answer.

Third is the messiness !!! Seriously. What I remember the most about Yaya in her younger days was how tidy she was. She wouldn’t even go to school if her pig tails weren’t equal distance from each ear ! She was a perfectionist, just like her mother. I find it extremely difficult to cope with the fact that Yaya doesn’t keep her room tidy any more. I  refuse to clean her room because she is 14 and is capable of cleaning after herself! And yes every time I have Indian visitors they are shocked to see Yaya’s room and I know they think of me as a total failure. The same doesn’t apply when I have non Indian visitors for it is the same in all their homes. Only Indians run around cleaning their house when they have visitors and pretend that their house is spic and span all the time!

And so back to the question, Am I lucky?
Depends on how you look at it.
If you are looking at three super intelligent, super smart kids who are on their way to conquer the academic world and be the pride and joy to their mother..not likely
or three socially adjusted children with a sense of humor?..most likely
Sign outside my son’s room

4 thoughts on “worth fighting?

  1. Ahh Sarah…I'm struggling at the moment with my 16 (soon to be 17 yo) brother. He's in Yr 11 and is a bright kid, but it doesn't reflect in his marks. From what I've read as both my sister and I (we're about 11-12 years older than him) have tried everything – is that he is a classic dependent underachiever. If we sit with him, he studies and gets good marks. When he is left to himself, he's not self motivated enough to study. And then there is the issue of his friends influencing him into inappropriate online conversations which we find deplorable because it's not respectful to girls/women. Sigh. At my wits end – I think it's because he is the baby of the family and we have treated him as such for too long. And now he doesn't know how to be independent.

    So – I say your kids ARE lucky – to have you to guide and give them independence to make mistakes and own their own choices. I worry for my brother. I really do – esp with Yr 12 next year.

  2. Sig: Imagine being the youngest with two over achieving sisters who are always busy telling the brother what to do. Your brother has big shoes to grow in to and is so used to you telling him what to do and is taking a step back because he feels that is the safest option. He is allowing you to be captain of his ship.
    Remember, grade 12 is not the end of the world. I believe every child is born with a special skill. Your brother will get there eventually..he will be fine..

  3. Yaya is the lucky one. As they say, it sounds like you’re allowing her to grow wings to fly.

    In my field, we talk about Third Culture Kids. We adopted my daughter from India, my husband is Tamilian (30 years here in the U.S.). Maya is going through a difficult time in middle school. There are so many factors at play: a minority among a lily white majority, adoption, puberty, an Indian father who has high expectations. I always worry that I’m pushing too much, as well, but try to provide a balance.

    For you to be raising her in a culture other than your home culture, giving her opportunities to experience that culture, but also not forcing her to do things because of Indian friends’ pressures–you are exhibiting tons of restraint and love. Keep up the great work. It’s something I aspire to.

    All the best

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