I grew up in Lucknow in the 90s. I was the oldest of two siblings and I had a little brother, four years younger than me. I saw how much my parents, and especially my mother, doted on my younger brother. For anonymity’s sake (I don’t want to embarrass my brother publicly), let’s call my brother Ajju. Ajju was the perfect kid growing up. He loved playing cricket after school. He studied hard and got good grades. My mother always supported everything he did. She would take him to his tutoring sessions on time, every time. She made sure Ajju had training wheels for as long as 2 years after he had started learning to ride the bicycle. She would even argue with my father to get Ajju the cricket bat he wanted. My mother never missed a beat when it came to feeding Ajju. She would wake up earlier than even my father to cook and make meals for the family. She would make sure Ajju always got his favorite sheermal naan at least 3 times a week (I exaggerate, but he got his sheermal like all the time).
Being a girl, my mother certainly didn’t treat me the way she treated my brother. She never treated me poorly, but she didn’t cater and tend to my every need like she did with my brother. Over time I became accustomed to the normality of my mother’s neglect. My father babied me but after I turned twelve or thirteen he constantly told me to study hard and learn dutiful wife duties, so I could eventually get married in my late teens or early twenties. My father was always a little rough around the edges and Ajju got the brunt of his anger when he came back hurt from a cricket match or a schoolyard scrap. But Ajju, being the amazing and hardworking son that he was, always won over my father. It’s safe to say that like many South Asian parents, my parents were no different. They loved their son a lot. So much so that their daughter really felt less favored. All parents have favorites, but in India, it tends to skew the son’s way.
Now, being a mother to my own son, I feel I have to love my son as hard as my parents loved Ajju, if not more. I buy him the latest toys, the coolest gadgets. I bought him an Xbox One last year for his birthday. He loved it so much that he leaped for joy as soon as he scratched away the wrapping paper. I take him for walks in the park and buy him ice cream. He loves the choco bars, those are his favorite. I leave little chocolates under his pillow on special occasions. He now knows to expect those during Diwali, Holi, and even Christmas. These are the things I love doing for him in addition to the duties a mother has to do for their children such as but not limited to cooking, cleaning his room, and taking him to school. etc.
Loving my son so much does have its drawbacks. My son throws unbelievable tantrums when he doesn’t get what he wants. As a toddler, he found his way to whatever he wanted by causing a scene. In malls, in gas stations, and at theme parks, if he didn’t get the ice cream he wanted, he would pout, he would cry, he would start jumping up and down. His father, my husband, tried to discipline him, first with a firm tone, and then in a sweet tone, and after that, he gave up and bought him his ice cream.
My son hates going to school every day. Waking him up from his bed is a daily challenge I became sick of by the time he was three. We’ve managed to get him to go to school by threatening to send him to boarding school if he doesn’t. That’s hardly the solution I was hoping for.
My son is now in eleventh grade and he hasn’t done any physical activity in since middle school. We tried to get him to play soccer with his school mates but he gave up on the first day. No amount of yelling or sweet-talking could get him to do it again.
My son loves to eat donuts (Krispy Kreme, the unhealthiest of them all) and play video games on the family couch. The only real socialization he has is with his Minecraft and Call of Duty friends online. He told me that he wants to be a professional gamer or a professional Youtuber who makes videos about games. I know that as a modern mother I should support him in whatever he wants to do, but I can’t help but see his ambitions as an excuse to continue his lazy lifestyle. When I tell him otherwise, he throws another tantrum.
I can’t help but compare my son to my brother Ajju. My brother Ajju, is now an engineer working for Apple. My son doesn’t look like he is going anywhere in life. Still, it is early to judge. However, I can’t help but think about all the love I gave my son, all those times that I spoiled him silly because he was such a cute precious doll that I couldn’t bring myself to discipline. I can’t help but feel that my Indian upbringing contributed to me loving my son the way I did and giving my life to his wholesome well-being. Did I do the right thing by loving him to the point of spoiling him? I don’t know, but if I didn’t I would feel like I didn’t love him properly. Was I conditioned to love him like this because of the way my parents loved my brother? Maybe.