The dictionary defines independence as ‘the ability to live your life without being helped or influenced by other people.’ I already see you as independent to a large extent for the way you have been brought up. All those years that I was a weekend mom to you, when I was away from you, working in another city has helped you in a lot many ways in becoming self-sufficient. I am glad it has moulded you into a person who can find his way around most things with little help from others. Of course, we always had an eye on you all through it. Distance did not matter. My daily phone conversations with you helped me figure out that you were on the right track. And, whenever I have sensed your need for support I have left all my work responsibilities to be with you. All the guilt I would feel for the time that I was away from you would slowly get replaced with the assurance of seeing you grow in a balanced manner into an individual who required equal measures of space and companionship.
However, the real test of your independence will be when you first step out of the house for your future education, all on your own in a new place. I gently leave you to soar high to explore the vastness of the world holding on to the confidence I have in you. You are indeed lucky to be able to be to on your own at such a young age. Travel teaches you lessons that remain with you for life. It broadens your perspective of the world in a healthy way. It also teaches you to harbor thoughts and ideologies based on your own convictions that need not necessarily conform to what other people think or believe.
Back in 2006 I had taken my first tentative steps towards independence. Unlike you, this kind of independence of living on my own in a strange new city came to me quite late in life. Who would have thought that a girl who had never stepped out of her little town on her own all her life would actually land up in a city like Mumbai after all these years? But well, some things are pure destiny. I’m glad I had the chance to taste the true meaning of independence in all these years that I was away from home. I was doing things that I had never done before. Having a protective life for all the years before that I never had to do a lot many things. I now recollect with amusement how I used to get my travel tickets to go home on weekends by regular post all the way from home to Mumbai till the time I finally learnt to book my own tickets online. 🙂 Now when I look back I realise how far I’ve come from back then. I am sure you’ll have your own set of first-times and some years down the lane you will smile at the memory of it.
While you take up your own responsibility upon your young shoulders, remember that you will now need to tread with extra caution and be alert of every move you make. This topic somehow reminds me of the time when a seven-year-old you cycled all the way to his granny’s place, a good 6 kilometers away from home without letting anybody know. While I was at work, your nanny was blissfully under the impression that you were playing with your friends outside our building. She only got know that my little hero had actually reached his nani’s place cycling through the heavy main road traffic when my mother called her to inform her about your brave adventure. We had to send the driver with our car to fetch you back home along with your cycle propped in the boot of the car. When you had returned home, after giving you a sound scolding I had asked you, ‘But, how did you manage to cycle in such heavy traffic?” You’d shrugged your tiny shoulders and replied coolly, ‘I cycled on the side of the road, Mamma,’ I must admit that while the very thought of imagining you cycle on that road where heavy vehicles ply panicked me, a part of me was proud for your confidence in doing so!’
I have observed that most men consider themselves to be independent, while all they do is go to work. But ask them to cook a decent meal for the family or do the laundry, and you get to know how many of them are really independent. A man should be considered completely independent only when he stops depending on his mother, wife, sister or housekeeper to do the most basic things for him which include cooking, cleaning and looking after all his needs. The day you are able to do all of that by yourself and fit the bill is when I will proudly certify you as truly independent.
Since quite a few months now, a harrowed mother has been rechecking with her son every time he leaves the house if he’s carrying his wallet with him. It panics her to no end when he forgets to do so. Right now he does not realise how a slip up of that kind can turn into an ordeal especially when you’re in a new city. So, my dear son, get some habits into place right away before you go through some unwanted adventures in your future days of independence. Slip that wallet into your pocket, now! And yes, before you do that check if it contains enough money to get you through the day.
While a part of me yearns to keep doing stuff for you for as long as I can, I remind myself how long it took me to get to learn to do my own things. That’s when I step back and let you do your own things now. A lot of people tell me I’m brave to let my son go to new place at such a young age and that I should wait till he at least finishes his under-graduation before I could safely let him be on his own. But I know somewhere along the way I would be restricting you if I hold you back. It would put off your independence for some more years. And well, by now I know that if a seven-year-old you had the sense to safely cycle on the side of a road and bravely do so in face of heavy traffic, I’m sure he’ll do well in most situations. In time he will also start carrying his wallet without his mother’s reminders to do so!