I am a bundle of nerves this morning. I haven't slept well. I am on my second cup of tea as I write this and I have zero appetite for breakfast.
My little one, you see, has gone on a school picnic.
I understand (though somewhat reluctantly) that children need to go to school. The pressure from (supposedly well meaning) people starts fairly early, with subtle nudges followed by pointed inquiries. The final salvo of societal pressure came (as it usually does) from my mother and mother-in-law. "Aren't you going to send her to school?" they asked in unison on the kid's third birthday. When those two get together they can move mountains. What's a couple of lazy backsides?
So we sent her to school a few months ago. With a heavy heart.
Cut to today:
Its one thing to send them to school, but then to have to send them out on a picnic--that's just preposterous!
The email from school said they are going to the local park that's three kilometres from school. They'll take the school vans, they say. Are those safe? Has anyone done a safety analysis on school vans? Why not?
Will the teacher be able to take care of the rambunctious lot in the van? I did some quick math. There are seven kids in her class out of which two haven't been coming to school because of flu, so that leaves her with five. That's manageable. Right? But that's just her class. The entire school is going for this wretched picnic. There will be other kids at the picnic-older, bigger, noisier kids who demand every ounce of the teacher's attention.
"Be demanding today my love", I mumbled, sending her telepathic messages before waking her up. Then a little later as I made her pigtails, I said in a fake casual voice. "Sit next to your teacher in the van, ok?"
She didn't reply.
What if the van has a flat tyre and while they fix it the kids get off! What if my daughter, who is nuts about cars, saunters off to the middle of the road to spot her favourites!
What about the park itself? Have they cordoned off the area where this alleged "Fun in the Sun" activity is going to be organised? Parks are full of dangers. I've seen thorny bushes, stray dogs, feral cats, and anthills. I have even seen broken glass bottles in some parks. And what about strangers? Public parks are full of those!
Then there was that thing that happened this morning that I am not terribly proud of.
I flinched when I saw my girl's choice of clothes. She wanted to wear her pink T-shirt, black jeans, and polka dotted hair clips. The thing is, she looks killer cute in that stuff. My mind flashed forward to a lurking stranger in the park eying the three year old who never walks, only gallops, her curly pigtails rimmed by the mellow sunlight. A shiver ran down my spine. I shook myself back to the present and considered telling her to pick something else to wear--something drab, dull and inconspicuous.
The thought lasted only for a few seconds before I banished it with vehemence. It was not only absurd but also downright wrong. I recognised it as the pressing of my Cultural Conditioning Button. The one that tells a girl to blend into the background so that evil eyes will not make out her shape. The one that tell a woman to speak a little softer, to walk a little slower and to live a little less.
I was appalled. I thought I had hacked my way out of the maze of regressive beliefs, wielding my many degrees like machetes. It took just one moment of insecurity to undo all the hours spent in Women's Studies Circles and a lifetime with my feminist tribe.
Turns out, no matter how much one dialogues with others, or reads, or pumps air with fists, every now and then one needs to reset his or her own CCB (Cultural Conditioning Button). I know I did mine today.
This doesn't mean that I'll be able to eat breakfast or breathe for that matter, till I see that little face again. And I am not even going to touch the newspapers today. If I do, I might just throw up with nervousness.