How School Makes Moms Smart Again

Social Commentary

How School Makes Moms Smart Again

Illustration: Akshita Monga

I hate homework. I always have. I did reasonably well in school, but once I graduated from college, I was pleased that I was done with studies. Most of my working life consisted of a series of freelance and consultant jobs that involved flexible hours so I got plenty of rest. If you’re not getting the subtext of what I am saying, it’s this: I am kind of lazy.

Then kids happened and things got ugly. I received my first wake-up call when my son turned six and saw a rainbow for the first time.

Kid: Mummy, how are rainbows formed?

Me: Light splits into seven colours when it passes through water.

Kid: I know that, but how?

Me: Err… um… like… light travels in waves or straight lines or something. Actually, God made it that way. God is great. Let’s go home and thank God for the lovely rainbow. How about pizza for dinner?

How could I admit to my child that when my eighth-grade science teacher was teaching refraction of light, I was reading Agatha Christie novels on the last bench? Unfortunately, kids don’t stay dumb and cute forever. They soon figure out when you’re faking, and if you want to earn their respect you have to put in the work.

Becoming a parent tests all your faculties and skills. First it tests you physically and emotionally. Then, it begins testing your intellect and knowledge. Finally, as your kids hurtle towards adulthood, they will test your values and self-awareness. In short, having kids will take you through the entire process of Maslow’s hierarchy of needs and lead you to self-actualisation. Elton John had it wrong. It’s not the circle of life, it’s the triangle of life.

We might curse our government and the Indian education system, but we don’t give them enough credit for making lazy parents smarter and hardworking. They have designed the education system in such a way that parents who spent most of their school and college years chilling out with their friends in the canteen, suddenly start cracking open those Physics and History textbooks and start studying alongside their school-going children. There’s no other choice.

So when my daughter gets a 20-page book report project from school that researches the lifestyle and food habits of pygmies in the Congo rainforest, I become such an authority on said lifestyle and eating habits of pygmies that I was asked to present a paper on them at the University of Rwanda (parents will know that that’s one of the places where pygmies originated).

The beauty of our education system is that it doesn’t just improve academic performance; it also enhances skills in parents that they never knew they even possessed.

I now understand why schools like parents to be completely involved in their kids’ learning. It’s their sneaky attempt at adult education, especially in villages and small towns where women are not allowed to study further. The government realises that overt efforts at making women acquire knowledge can cause lot of protests and riots as it is against our Indian culture, so it was decided that education can kill two birds with one stone. Educate the parents along with the child. Because, let’s face it, how many kids do you know who are getting smarter in our education system?

The beauty of our education system is that it doesn’t just improve academic performance; it also enhances skills in parents that they never knew they even possessed. You can either accept the challenge or be a wimp. Sometimes, you have to dig deep inside of you to mine for these non-existent skills. For example, when my daughter was in the first grade, and decided to dress up as a tomato in a fancy dress competition, I rose to the challenge. I had no skill in tailoring, but by the time my daughter was through with her competition, I had enough designing and tailoring skills to create my own line for fashion week. I could have called it “The Vegetable Collection”.

All those notions about women not being able to work after having kids is not entirely true. Stay-at-home moms end up becoming creative, confident multitaskers who can take on any challenge. It’s unfortunate that no research has been done on how the knowledge level and capabilities of a typical mom keep increasing exponentially, the moment her kids graduate a class at school. By the time a kid reaches the 12th grade, most stay-at-home moms that have completely taken over teaching their kids are qualified enough to start their own home businesses like tailoring, tutoring, dance training, creative writing, sports coaching, music, etc. Some even go ahead and start their own schools.

This is the circle of education. It’s a pity Elton John didn’t write a song about this.