As soon as she got down from the bus, she came running.
‘Ma.. Ms. H gave me a note.’ Such sentences elicit paranoia in me. Why would she give a note? ‘Did you do something bad at school today?’ ‘No, ma. I was okay.. I think!’ The ‘I think’ came as an after thought. Or I thought it came as an afterthought.
I opened her bag on the way home. What could she have done? The envelope said ‘To A’s parents’. Right. I opened it and read it in a hurry.
It was from the parents of child D. They had introduced themselves and given their phone number to talk regarding ‘an incident’ involving their daughter and mine. The word ‘incident’ sent a shiver down my spine.
I had known that Ammu had some problems with D. She would come home everyday alternating between feeling ‘sad and mad’ with this D. ‘D is writing something bad about me in her cookbook and sharing with all others in table. And then they all laugh at me.’ ‘D is whispering behind my back. I think it’s about my hair. Does it smell, Amma? Can we wash it one more time?’ ‘I think D thinks I am not good at reading. I know I am not. But I am trying.’ Everyday there was one thing or the other.
I kept telling her to ignore this D. ‘It doesn’t matter what others think about you; what matters is what you think about yourself.’ Such wisdom doesn’t really bode well with a seven year old, does it? (That it doesn’t bode well with even adults is another story!) She didn’t want to tell the teacher and make this a bigger deal. ‘Then, all you can do is ignore’.
A month ago, during the parent teacher conference, a fleeting reference to this incident was made by me. I was careful enough not to mention the name of the other child. But the teacher was shrewd enough to guess who it must be. ‘I’ve changed tables now. And A is not the newest student in the class anymore. She seems happy with the new table mates. Ask her to tell me if something bothers her.’ And that was that.
Over the last month, she wasn’t really coming home with complaints everyday and so I thought the matter was settled. And that’s why when this note came in yesterday, I tensed.
Ammu took her time in assuring me that nothing new has happened. ‘In fact, D apologized to me on Friday’, she concluded.
The note had asked me to call them post 6.30PM. And I held my breath till 6.30.
‘This is A’s mom. I got a note from Ms.H’, I began. But the rest of the talking was done by D’s dad. He said how much he was sorry for his daughter’s behavior to A. His wife apparently came to know about it only last week from the school and they were shocked to know she’d been so mean. They were a group of five and that’s probably led them to this, he said.
Honestly, I didn’t know how to respond. Saying it was okay sounded hollow and patronizing. But that’s all I could do. I mumbled something to the effect of ‘kids will be kids’ and ‘she’ll be fine’ and hung up.
But from then, I’ve been thinking about D’s parents. Particularly, her mom. The moment the call came from the Principal to her telling her daughter was at fault. How she’d have felt. Her anger. Her fear. Her sadness. Her guilt. I could feel all of it.
‘I hope D doesn’t repeat this’, is all what I heard her say yesterday on the phone. And, I could feel the emotion in her voice. The emotion which spoke about how much as a parent we want our kids to turn out to be good adults. The reluctance to accept the fact that our child could make a mistake. The fear that they should behave better as adults.
I still wish I could give her a hug which could just convey to her that it’s okay; that I understand.
Tomorrow, this incident might seem small and petty and forgotten in the din of other bigger things. (Which it should rightly be.) But these small moments of guilt and sadness and fear that moms go through.. these will keep recurring and haunting us, won’t they? And yes, we’ll get through them with all the hope in the world. After all, hope is all we have!