How I Mastered Parenthood, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Damn

Modern Family

How I Mastered Parenthood, the Subtle Art of Not Giving a Damn

Illustration: Akshita Monga

Iread once somewhere that becoming a parent is like getting a tattoo on your face. You got to be really sure you want it. I don’t know the wise lady who said the above words, but I wholeheartedly agree. For those who don’t know it, parenting is like a job you have always wanted, but when you get it, you spend each day experiencing an unholy mix of frustration and desperation. Because you realise that this is a job you can never leave.

See, before a baby came out of me, life was good. Not just good, it was awesome. I now see that life unfolding on the timelines of my non-child- bearing friends. Exciting lives. No deadlines to get back home. All weekends pre-booked with party plans or shopping trips. The major worries in my life before I became a mother were missing a road trip that was on my must-do list or not finding that one dress in my size for the “it party” that weekend. Today, even if I can make it for a party in my pyjamas, I am elated. At least, I made it to a social gathering that didn’t involve Lego blocks and Minions.

That old life of mine didn’t have any room for children. They were these tiny, dirty human beings with runny noses that I would encounter only on flights. I would do everything in my power to switch seats, if I had a kid next to me, and if he as much as tried to smile at me, I would glare back at him until he shrank toward his mother in petrified silence. And I would always judge these parents. God, how I would judge them for not doing their jobs. It would piss me off that the mothers didn’t seem to care. They sat with a serene expression on their face, as if nothing was out of place.

When I popped a baby, I was determined to never be like them. For the general well-being of the flying population, I always tried to choose my flights carefully, so they coincided with my son’s naptime, and I only fed him just before boarding, so lethargy kicked in soon enough. I’d carry colouring books, surprise eggs, and if nothing worked then I’d leave him with an iPad.

Over time, I began to board flights with my hyper AF toddler with a sense of crushing anxiety and palpable fear.

But all this worked for about 20 minutes. The flight would eventually descend to a jumble of small little knees and elbows trying to jump over me toward the window. Over time, I began to board flights with my hyper AF toddler with a sense of crushing anxiety and palpable fear. I prayed to God for my sanity and looked toward my co-passengers and silently prayed for their sanity too. From the moment I would board to the moment I deplaned, I would spend each moment on the flight just hoping to never be “one of those” moms that you want to shake hard for not being able to manage her child.

I would encounter the same glances that I would once so generously throw at other parents.  There was no escaping the “please can you control the child” look to “my god what kind of parents are these” stare. I would also get the occasional “what a cute boy” look from some elderly woman until my son spilled water right on her crisp, white kurta. By the end of every flight, my husband and I looked like junior cast member rejects from The Walking Dead, who probably got kicked out because we looked too dead to even be able to walk. Justice had indeed been served in spades.

But then, as the early years passed, a magical thing began to happen. I began to not give a fuck. Gradually, I started to realise why the hell should a kid not be himself while locked in a flying metal bird for two hours? What about this experience should he understand and why exactly should I expect him to behave like an adult? Being restrained for hours on end, with an aching ear, tired body, and low levels of oxygen is enough to drive an adult insane, so why blame the child? The adults can shove it if they don’t like it.

If your child talks loudly in a bookshop, farts in an elevator, it’s not the end of the world. He’s simply being a child. Yeah sure, I stop him from being an asshole and pulling some passenger’s hair, but otherwise, he can do whatever he needs to, to calm his nerves and distract himself from the horror of flying.

Once I realised this, I understood in a flash why all those moms from my single days would be sitting serenely, as their toddlers created havoc. They’d reached the same place as me and had made similar conclusions: That parenthood is all about the subtle (actually very overt) art of not giving a fuck.