So the first thing, of course, is not to make babies. Seriously. Just do the shagging and forget about procreation. Remember, nothing that comes out of the Original Sin can ever bode well for humankind. Making a baby in today’s world is like making your own homemade paapad. Yes, of course, they used to do it in the olden days. But no one with sense and sensibility spends three days and a few summer months making paapad anymore. No, you go to the store and buy Ambika or Lijjat as your taste maybe and leave it at that. Babies are the same. As far as possible, pick one (if you must) that is preferably house-broken. And remember, you are not giving the baby a life. No, you are getting a life.
But, you had a baby. Remember that most babies are not cute. It’s like baby rats. I can like baby rats or leave them alone. I have the choice. So don’t thrust your young one at me on Facebook, gushing how cute it is. It may or may not be. By all means, put it up on Facebook and let there be a public poll. Give people the choice to do as they think best. Do the cool thing and act surprised and happy if they like your mutt. Some people even like baby rats, you know? It takes all kinds to make the world.
If you are a girl and if it’s a boy, do not listen to the old relatives in the house who will tell you that your life has now been fulfilled. Remember how you always labelled these same people as old-fashioned and senile in your head? It’s true. They still are. More so now. A boy, if anything, must be brought up with more discipline and awareness. How many times did you rue men, say, ‘All men are bastards’ before you found the man who gave you the boy? Yes? So never ever condone anything your baby boy does with the ‘Boys will be boys’ line. No. We don’t want boys who will be boys. We want boys who will grow up and not be men who are childish, whiny, ill-mannered, disrespectful of women, rapists, and the like. And yes, it is your burden. It is your responsibility.
We all know we live in a country where there is no concept of babysitters. Not all of us have live-in doting grandparents, aunts, uncles, assorted relatives, or kind neighbours who can take care of our young one. So yes, we know you must drag that thing with you when you go to a restaurant. And we know, sometimes, with all the bringing up you do, you want a break, you want to eat in a restaurant. We, single people, are very understanding. We will urge you to go to one. But if you do, please choose one that has a play pen for kids. If it’s expensive, remember bringing up kids is all about sacrifice. Do not penny-pinch. And do not for God’s sake run around behind the child feeding it daal chaawal in a crowded Andhra restaurant like Nagarjuna saying loudly, “Beta, khao, Aunty ko gande haath se touch mat karo. Idhar aao.”
While on the topic of the great outdoors, please understand that airports, malls, supermarkets, shops, and such public places are not parks. Read that sentence twice. Yes, surprisingly, not all public places are parks. Read that sentence twice. Now memorise it. Good. So tell your children very strictly that they cannot play on the luggage conveyor belts in airports; escalators are not like the tora-tora in amusement parks; and just because it has wheels, luggage trolleys do not become mini cars for your children. Yes, kids will find a way to make a game of everything, that’s what is so enviable and admirable about them. But you, as the bloody parent, have a responsibility to the rest of us folk who have had tiring, dull days filled with migraines and irritating people and what not, who just want to finish whatever chore we are doing in that public space, and run back home to the noiseless shelter of our singledom. We cannot be subjected to the ‘kitna cuteness’ of your little one. I’m sorry, but there is a limit to what one can endure.
Say anything you want about Victorians, but they came up with this brilliant line. Children must be seen and not heard. Throughout childhood, my mother drilled it into my head. I was taught to look pleasing and clean, smile in a friendly fashion at guests, and speak only when spoken to. She was very strict about it. If I spoke out of turn as I was wont to do because I am like that, she followed the other Victorianism of not sparing the rod and spoiling the child. After a few episodes of that, thick-skinned though I was in those days, I got the message. Everyone, as a result of which, had a pleasant evening, self included. My parents never played the low, nasty trick of saying, “Sing My Bonnie Lies Over the Ocean for Uncle, Bhumi.” No. There were Uncles and Aunts though who when high on beer and pork would say, “Bhumi, do the jakka madina (a song and dance from Mangalore) or sing something for us.” And then, I would indulge the guests after my dad nodded his approval. Again, a good time was had by all. So please, don’t embarrass your guests and your child. Don’t ask your children to perform. Remember, they are not performing monkeys. And there is a reason some of us never go to a circus.
Also, if I want to know how often your child burps, or how your two-year old son knows just how to hit that particular spot of the potty with his wee-wee, I will ask you. I promise. If you insist on feeding me these charming details of your life with child, and you find me gone for good from your life, then know that I did it only with your best interests at heart. A child needs her parents.
You are responsible for your child’s actions. Not the child. Not your host. So teach your child about what is acceptable and what is not before you go visiting other people’s homes. Here is a hint. Breaking things, acting like George of the Jungle and swinging from one curtain to another, kleptomania, spitting on people, scratching old women and children, stepping on the pet’s tail, spilling food and water while playing Hansel and Gretel (not that kids these days know Hansel and Gretel, thanks to you, dear parent), insisting on watching Chota Bheem loudly on someone else’s TV are not acceptable social behaviour. Oh and news flash: None of this is ever cute.
And in conclusion, it’s not that I hate kids. Increasingly these days, I am finding fewer reasons to like them. That, I think, is largely because of the way most parents are bringing them up. My friends have dogs that are more well-behaved and disciplined than some of the kids I have seen recently. When your dog tugs the remote, you have no problem teaching it that it’s not a good habit. Ditto with kids. Some things are just not acceptable whether kids or grown-ups or pets. Being a parent means saying ‘No’ firmly and sternly. Being a parent means giving up your life, time, and a fair amount of resources to ensure you have a decent human being at the end of the day. Someone, other people point out to proudly and admiringly and say, “Oh this is so-and-so’s child. What a good child, I tell you.” Always remember, a little heartache for the child today can make for a decent, responsible human being tomorrow.
Also, remember, by not following advice 1, you signed up for this. So you jolly well do a good job of raising your own. There is only this much I can tell you.
End of lecture.