You Don’t Know How It Feels!

“Mumma you don’t know how it feels!” sobbed my girl. The bus ride back home from school had been the ‘worstest’ ever in her 6 years of travelling to and fro from her school. She had had a tiff with her two best friends. In her own words, “We always talk after a fight. But this time they did not even wave bye to me when I got down. What if they never talk to me ever again!?”

How do I tell her that I know how it feels? How do I tell her that this is one feeling that all of us know. Every single one of us. Chances are her two best friends – very sweet girls by the way – have also felt this way at one time or the other and they will all most probably feel like this in the future too. The feeling of being left out, being alone.

Is this the worst feeling on Earth? I guess not. But when one is experiencing a situation like this everything else pales in comparison. The cause of the tiff itself was silly, as it almost always is – it involved some silly dance moves, secrets and the deadly cold shoulder. Cliques I guess are not unique to girls, but young girls sure indulge more in this kind of relationship games than boys. Most young boys I know don’t care if the other boy fits in as long as he is willing to join in their fun and games and doesn’t sneak. They are also quick to forgive and forget. However girls are a different ball game altogether. They may forgive but they never really forget and they will let you know that they have not forgotten.

I shouldn’t be surprised. I still remember the way Jessi and Bindu made me feel left out. No seriously! I do! I was around 10 or 11 myself and it had a huge impact on me and coloured the way I approached friendships for the next 20 odd years. Maybe I took it too much to heart… strike that… looking back, I did take it too much to heart. However it did strengthen me in a different way. I learned to be everybody’s friend and I made a deep, abiding friendship with books and my journal. A relationship that is still going strong. So no complaints. And in my late 20s and 30s I learnt to believe in the concept of best friends again. I have the wonderful blessing and opportunity to be really good friends (best friends, if you will) with not one or two but nearly 4 women. How cool is that? I have also learnt to be a good friend to them. But most importantly, I have learnt to be my own best friend.

The sense of being left out and being alone, when suffered on a continuous basis can cause a lot of damage. It affects one emotionally and physically and affects our professional lives too. It is one of the biggest, if not the biggest, reasons for people committing suicide. Psychologists and psychiatrists have written tomes on this topic. Luckily for us it does not make its presence felt with such intense force in all our lives. In fact for most of us feeling alone and left out of the group is a feeling that will slip in to our life in the most mundane of situations, and manner. Much as we hate it and never want to experience it, it also provides us with the opportunity to grow, evolve and become stronger than before.

However, none of this would or could have made sense to my daughter today. She wanted me to speak to their mothers to sort it out but I suggested that it would be even better if she tried to sort it out herself. Maybe she could call them and speak to them? She mulled over it and then decided to sort it out in person… in the bus.

I am glad. I have faith in her strength and heart. She will sort it out and soon, as a young woman, she will learn to have deep abiding friendships, not just with other women, but also with her own self.

P.S: I wrote the above piece yesterday. As the saying goes, time is a great healer… in my daughter’s case the whole issue was sorted out the next day with embarrassed ‘sorrys’ and chicken nuggets!

As I write about these small incidents and read the response from you, I have realised that these uniquely personal experiences are extremely universal, so please do share your thoughts and experiences too.

 

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Learning… In my 40s

My daughter is having her first term exams. She is in Grade 5, and she is studying in a school that follows the ICSE system (a crazy tough Indian system). This basically means that she has a lot to study. [Translation: This means I have a lot to study before I can pretend to be all-knowing and help her study.]

My strong point is English and even with regards to English I have my limitations – there is just this much grammar that I truly understand. I can write a sentence correctly, but if you were to ask me about the predicate, I would be in a predicament. That is until the recent English 2 paper which is devoted to all things grammatical. Now I can wax eloquent about subjects and predicates… and nouns that go beyond the simple proper nouns. I know a thing or two about abstract and concrete nouns too now. In fact I have strong feelings for those little fellas.

The wonderful thing about teaching my girl these things is that I am able to revisit these old acquaintances and actually develop a deeper friendship with them. All of this could be because as an adult I have the unfair advantage of a fully developed brain… but in my defense I have recently started forgetting names of actors (If you know me, you will know that this is serious), so my brain is obviously not in tip-top shape.

Once my kid and I were done with some Indian history and English grammar, we moved on to what is the bane of our educational lives – Math. DNA is all powerful. The things about math that flummox me manage to perplex her too. But her math teacher this year is a sweetheart and my daughter has begun to enjoy math a lot more. However, like I said, you can’t fight your genes beyond a point. And in our life that point is HCF and LCM.

Her teacher kindly pointed out in her notebook that my daughter has not understood the concept fully. That is nice. Now what do I do? I am in my 40s and I have still not understood the concept. So like a true blue procrastinator that I am, I decided to deal with this problem later.

Life however plods on and before you could say HCF the exams were on our heads. So there we were – a 9 year old girl and I – on a weekend, wondering why anyone wants to know the highest common factor and lowest common multiple of any number. What do you do once you find out the answer? What do you do with that bit of information?

Anyways, I got down to business – told her to do some word problems based on addition, subtraction, multiplication and division, while I studied her textbook. And guess what! Yup! This time round I understood the concept. I got it! All these years spent in fear of the goddamn highest common factor and lowest common multiple! And now it was all crystal clear. Of course I still don’t know how it is useful in one’s daily life… but… I am willing to let that slide.

Then I sat down with my girl and explained it to her. The way that lovely book explained it to me. Step-by-step… slowly. And double yippee! She got it too!

Of course none of this is of earth-shattering importance. However, I cannot begin to explain to you how on-top-of-the-world I felt after I managed to understand something that had defeated me as a child.

We all know that learning is a life-long process, but I am beginning to believe that it is a process that we truly enjoy only as we grow older and, when we are not shackled by exams or competition, but are learning things for the sheer challenge and pleasure of it.

Tomorrow I am going to study about plant life cycle and germination. Those seeds better watch out.