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Why I failed to produce the perfect child

  • Published at 05:22 pm November 30th, 2017
Why I failed to produce the perfect child

Attempt 1: fail!

I was less than 30 years old, so some consolation there, biological clock was far from ticking. Second pregnancy, same glowing assurances, and in between my older one did become fairer. Phew! Second delivery (but not without complications), second daughter, born very forsha. And I was told very firmly that I ought to have gone abroad to deliver my child, then there would not have been so many “problems”.

Attempt 2: fail again!

I can only deduce from my personal experiences that the perfect child is male, fair and healthy, and that had I chosen to deliver my children in a foreign country, I would have succeeded. I knew I ought to have paid more attention to biology in school, or is it geography? Never mind. As my classmates will vouch, I was never ever good at any of the sciences. Is it because I was not the model student when I ought to have been, that I was being chastened at childbirth? I accepted my failings with grace. Truth be told, my husband and I were rather delighted with our two daughters, it is what we wished for (I could not see myself as a soccer mum). But how we really felt was of no consequence. It was decided that we were masking our disappointment well. A few years later at one of our farewell parties before we left to live in the UK, a kindly soul very understandingly told me not to worry, that with all the facilities available in London, in no time at all I would be sending them the “good news.” It took me a few seconds to comprehend what s(he) meant. By the time her/his meaning dawned upon me, I had received several (more) understanding conspiratorial smiles and could only respond with smiles myself. More than a decade has passed since then, and no, no "good news." No attempt was made to manufacture “good news,” and according to a few well-wishers, somewhere along the line I must have realised there was always the next best aspiration: the perfect female child, and I had two chances to succeed. I did not succeed, and transposing the words of Lady Bracknell, to have one imperfect daughter may be regarded as a misfortune, but to have two, certainly looks like carelessness. Having been a hugely imperfect child myself, it is a monumental effort for me to even grasp the concept of perfection, and my thoughts on the matter are rather tenuous. As far as my memory served me, the perfect female child was one who passed exams with flying colours, never disobeyed murrubbis, and received the requisite number of proposals from the most eligible young men. Or was that a bhalo lokhhi meye? I am confused, I cannot remember.

Before globalisation and social media and all this connectivity and competitiveness, was the word “perfect” even used as often as it is now?

I cannot recall parents extolling the perfections of their offspring with such hyperventilation as I see now, in appearance, brilliance, education, behaviour, manners, cultural values, extra-curricular activities, culinary skills, artistic expression, work experience, religious practice, potential marriage, et cetera et cetera. And all this achievement without any stress, teenage angst, or mental health issues whatsoever. Oh … and let us not forget that the acquisition of designer clothes and trimmings and very expensive technological accessories help a child tremendously on the path to perfection too. A perfect child never faces problems and never creates problems.

Pray then, how does such a child develop problem solving and critical thinking skills?

I am trying to remember too if children, especially girls, and their mothers, faced such penetrative criticism in the days of yore to be perfect in every facet of life?

Wasn’t the benchmark just to be healthy and wealthy?

I must admit though, that when I joined the Facebook community I was desperate to score on the perfect child charts. I would interrogate my girls after school everyday to see what they did on that day that could be framed as a “great accomplishment” and published on Facebook. And I experienced such triumphant delight when the “likes” started coming in. And when someone else’s child did the same or better and got more “likes”… The perfect score was not continuously possible. In the game called the Perfect Child, there were only two teams: denial and projection. I had no wish to join either.