“…Sheila .. Sheila ki Jawaani! I’m too saaxyyyyy for you…” my 5-year-old daughter soulfully screamed at the cars stopped at the traffic signal. It was a particularly long red light. She also took my shushing her as direct encouragement and sang with more gleeful enthusiasm. She made full use of her 317 seconds of fame.
The window mechanism of one of the rear doors was broken, hence the public concert. The moment that traffic light went green, I pressed on the accelerator so hard that our car jerked ahead, making a speedy exit from that uncomfortable spot.
My husband remarked sagely, “Relax !! It’s just a song. Nobody really pays attention to the lyrics. You are overthinking. It’s not like she’s dropping the F-bomb.”
I mentally cringed and cursed myself for playing that song the previous day. I played it a total of ONCE, and yet, she picked up the whole objectionable lyrics and had been singing them away to glory.
I prayed to God for my husband to be right and her obsession with the song to die a natural death soon. We were heading to her friend’s birthday party. This song there would be just downright mortifying.
I think kids have a radar that immediately picks up habits, words, a misspoken curse word, and anything else that may be bad for them. This goes head-on against the innate instinct in parents to have their little ones remain innocent little kids. At least for as long as possible.
So imagine my trauma (and not only because I spilled steaming hot coffee all over me) when my sage husband’s joke of a prophecy came true at the family breakfast table.
My same angelic 5-year-old opened the conversation with, “Mummy, what is F*ck?”
“WHAT THE _____ ??”, I said internally, and I think I deserve a mommy-moment Oscar for keeping my face straight.
Smooth response with aplomb- “Oh? I don’t think there is such a word.” Followed up with a casual add-on question- “Umm..Why do you ask, beta?”
An equally nonchalant shrug and cryptic response. “Nothing! Just like that!”
I knew from experience that branding any word as a ‘bad’ word was like slathering glitter all over it and ensuring it registers permanently into her daily vocabulary. We learned that the last time when we told her not to say ‘fart’ in public. She just giggled and thereafter randomly went on to scream “FART” in front of guests, in malls, in movies for weeks! She taught all her friends to do the same.
I had no intention of ‘f*ck’ following suit.
Very very carefully, I exited the landmine that I had inadvertently landed on too early in the morning, but not without getting a meaningful look from my mother-in-law, who had witnessed the whole disastrous exchange.
“Where do you think the kids learn this from?” My mother-in-law said to me soon after. “They just imitate what they hear”.
The bullet had hit its target.
While my rational mind was telling me that this was also a phase, I could not help but get into an anxious spiral of “OMG! How are we supposed to handle this”. As an obvious solution, my husband and I decided on a strict verbal moratorium where all PG13 topics, songs, and words were banned.
This was now going to be a totally sanskari household.
I was getting my car fixed at a local garage, more to avoid future spontaneous concerts than any other reason, when I got a call from my mother-in-law.
“Can you please hurry home?”
I hate these phone calls! They leave you to think of the worst.
“Is everything okay?”
“Aai? What’s happening? Is she okay? Are you okay?”
More silence. Then- “I am fine. She is also fine. But no, everything is not okay. You need to come home soon.”
I really really hate these types of phone calls.
Reminding myself that my mom-in-law just said they were fine, I tried not to panic. Abandoning the rest of the errands, I hurried home.
Anxious trepidation up my spine made me pause for a moment before I rang the bell, just as I heard my daughter’s voice,
“*itch! *itch *itch *itch! I AM GOING TO BE A *itch… Aaahahaa ha ha ha!!”
My mother-in-law looked thoroughly scandalized as she looked at me and said, “This has been going on for the last 30 mins.”
She withdrew herself to her favorite armchair in the corner as if to say, “This is your problem now.”
And it was.
I didn’t understand. The verbal moratorium had been quite effective!
I was still caught in my thoughts of how did this even happen, when my daughter finally noticed me standing there.
“MUMMY!” She ran up to me. “Mummy!! I’m going to be a *itch for Halloween this year”, she said sounding mighty excited.
As I geared up to launch, she went on to say, “And I want a long pointy hat and a broom to go with it.”
Momentarily confused, I asked, “What are you saying, beta?”
“Aaji read me ‘Room in the Broom’ when you were gone! I also want to be a *itch with a long pointy hat and broom”.
“You want to be a witch?”
“Yes! Yes! Yes!” She chanted.
As realization dawned upon me, I looked at my mother-in-law. When I saw the same happening there, we both broke into peals of laughter.
Maybe the kids are okay. Perhaps they don’t need hyper, overthinking parents to panic every other minute. I reminded myself that there are more serious issues in the world that I will still need to teach my daughter about, albeit a bit later in life.
For now, though, I’ll just have to get used to these small heart attacks.