Saturday, 21 February 2015

Let them live! (Part III)

I didn't think there would be a part III either, I'm just as surprised as you are. It happens rarely, and most unexpectedly. People surprise you, become twice the person you take them to be, twice the person you will ever be.

Something else unexpected happened while we weren't paying attention. Turns out, our daughter is 9 going on 19. Her mind is developing faster than we or her body can keep up with. Trading in all her baby pinks for the darkest blacks. She's sensitive and gentle one moment and breathing fire, striking down all that moves the other. In equal parts infuriating and bewitching. Arrogant and surly as often as she's crushed by insecurity. Just when we think we're raising mean, self focused little people, she goes and surprises you with empathy - even for a cake of soap.
She took suspiciously long in the bathroom one evening while the rest of us were haggling her to hurry, in a rush to get to someplace, running late as ever before. While we waited impatiently, she was busy flooding the soap tray in the bathroom, taking her time doing it. Hours later when we got back and some poor soul (that would be me) reached for the soap to wash my hands, I pick up a gooey slimy mass well into disintegration. As is expected of a mature adult I first went off on a rant before I finally asked the sensible 'WHY???'.
'I imagined the Soap was alive Mummy, and it would die outside water. I was saving it'.
Great! Now I had killed it, fished out and flushed down that struggling-for-life-soap that had only just been saved. This might be the most adorable explanation for soaking soap, while I end up being the cold hearted ogre. As it goes, and as is just, I was indicted and she was the angel. Tossing her halo for fury, as though a fresh coat of confidence had just been applied to her, she retorts 'You don't care about my feelings, all you care about is keeping order!'

And so it is on the the roller coaster of an adolescent girls emotions. Everything you've heard is true and not true. With all the vitality and authenticity that adolescence is fuelled with, she's sharp and quick as a cricket to hop on the thicket of hypocrisies that is parenting. Holding us to task, questioning every contradiction. We're poorly prepared with neither rhetoric or strategy. Nature has sprung this upon us, and I scramble for literature on 'The purpose of the Teenage brain' - there is a book for everything. Unfortunately there are also opportunities that pass while one gets caught up in the distraction that books provide.

Now in the meantime our pet crickets, a whole swarm of them to be sure, are systematically being treated like lesser beings so as to buffer the guilt when we finally decide it's time to discard of them. As this process advances - in ways of forgetting feeds, neglecting to change their dried up water sponges, leaving the blinds down thereby cutting off their only source of sunlight - a few of them perish, successfully reducing them to the nothing that they rightfully are. At the same time, there is amongst us a parallel crusade. An equally determined one-girl soap-saving faction, as passionate about the crickets as we are indifferent. Protesting our definitions of right and wrong, she demands with the same soul searching depth 'What is to become of my crickets daddy?' It takes a special kind of person to have the integrity to do what is right, not what is easy. To apply that philosophy to the lives of pet crickets takes an extraordinarily special kind of person. 'I don't know honey' he spares her the proverbial smarmy insincerity. Satisfied only when a trace of shame slid into his voice, she asked as many times as it took to pull it out of him.

We throw a spoke in the hamster wheel frequently and run away from it all. Our destination of choice to beat a bit of winter was Dubai this time - which turned out to be more like running towards than away from it all. Anyway, with holiday plans looming, resolving the cricket business was becoming more and more pressing. There was a curious transition in the father-daughter cricket conflict. Frequently disarming her with the deferential manner in which he addressed her concerns, slowly resurrecting trust. With that came the responsibility of keeping it. The true strength of a man can be measured in the most unusual of ways.

When we were all packed and ready to go, father and daughter duly emptied the cricket boxes. Cricket baby, after cricket baby had to be sifted out by the dozen from between the white grains of sand. As did the doubts in our little girls mind. The swarm of crickets were smuggled in a small plastic box puckered with holes for air, in the cabin luggage of this inter-continental flight. We hoped they wouldn't reach chirping maturity whilst in flight. All the security scans let the timorous swarm pass through undetected, much to the relief of the Father-daughter taut pack of nerves!
Dubai, you might know is a city on a stage. It's artificial perfection brings together Ski-slopes beside groves of marigolds and petunias in bloom, right past a 160ft giant aquarium in the middle of the desert. All within the cultivated, air-conditioned confines of shopping Malls. Everything seems to be in some way or the other either the 'largest, biggest' something in the world, or in competition to get there. Built by the hands of voiceless exploited labour from developing countries. Transported everyday to the city in small white non-air-conditioned busses from their sardine-packed bunkers in obscure parts of the dessert, conveniently far from everyone's conscience . Their sweltry busses and lives are the only semblance of natural existence. In many ways, Dubai is a show-case of our transgressions towards each other and the planet.
It is to this world, that we transported the crickets. From their constrained modest plastic home in Munich, to the shores of Arabia. Trimmed with imported Australian beach quality sand followed by acres of lush green palm dotted lawns of a posh 5 Star accommodation. My little girl and her daddy took out the box with the jet lagged crickets to a well sprinkled spot of luscious green, under the protective shade of a dense palm frond. I can't read cricket minds, but if mirror neurons really work to experience grief and joy of others, I'd say going by the release of sheer happiness on our little girl's face that the crickets must feel some of that joy too. It is here that they will frolic and multiply to their little cricket heart's content. Daddy has brought the lesson of attachment to a responsible end and Dubai fauna has been enriched. Daddy is a hero.

There might be a few corrupt contradictions here, she might see through them one day. For now her crickets will live, and she's back in sync with us. For now she's 9 again.

No comments:

Post a comment