Friday, September 26, 2008

Application to our Sometimes Resident Father Hen

When I wrote about cell phones and maa ka dil, just over a year ago, I had neglected to mention that sometimes there exists something far more powerful than a mother's heart. That is a father's concern for his children. When married to such a man, the maa-ka-dil is often totally redundant.
Once his children grow up, such a man is referred to, mostly in sheer exasperation, as Father Hen.
As in, 'Stop being such a Father Hen, Pops'.
I'm sure you can tell that we are not a particularly reverent family.

We were staying with our oldest kid some years ago. She went out for the evening with her husband. The next day Father Hen asked her why they had come home so late. I nearly died of embarrassment. The daughter looked at him in shock and awe, and said 'Excuse me!' with an underlying intonation that said, 'Are you for real'?

Let me confess- when we moved to Noida, and our older son came home to stay with us, after three years of living in a hostel, it was not easy. For either of us. Though he did not possess a cell phone then, I did expect to be told whether or not he would be home for dinner, and if he planned to be out late, I expected to know about it. Somehow, in the strangeness of having a young adult in residence, I'd forgotten my sanity-maintaining principle of no news being good news. I did get worked up if he stayed out without informing us. Mostly though, he would let me know. Although I never sat up late for him and he had his own house key, I'd ask him to just come to my door and tell me that he was home- I'm a light sleeper and that was enough for me to sink into a sound, relaxed sleep.
I think the SRE and I take turns in being paranoid parents. He was somehow never overly concerned if the older son was out late without prior information. Perhaps because the older son is six feet tall and well built. To me, that isn't important- you can be in danger even if you are the size of the Incredible Hulk. And given that life is a risky business, a little paranoia is normal.

Cell phones have increased the SRE's paranoia. He assumes that his kids will be accessible on their phones at all times. As I had written earlier, there are many possible reasons for not being able to reach your child on his/her phone. Besides the indisputable fact that however much your teenager loves you, he may not always feel like talking to you. Well, our younger son (and youngest kid) has been having his first semester exams. And he stays in the college hostel, and is usually home on weekends. He's been a little anxious about these exams, so we were most relieved when we learned that he was quite happy after the first one. I called him before the second exam to wish him, and he didn't seem very confident. Anyway. It so happened that neither parent could get him on the phone for the rest of the day- we were getting a 'switched off' message. By evening the SRE was getting rather agitated, and since he wasn't in town he kept insisting that I go to the college the next morning and 'FIND OUT WHAT'S UP'. Now, I was quite sure that any such measure would mean our son taking a transfer to another town, far away from his paranoid parents, so I refused outright. I also spoke to my eldest daughter, who'd taken care of him while he was in the school hostel at Noida. She also strongly advised us to lay off before the poor son ran away from Kolkata.

My mind was more concerned with technology failure-either the cell phone had not been charged and the kid was asleep after burning much midnight oil, or his phone had just conked out entirely. Since my own old brain only remembers exactly four cellphone numbers (my own, my driver's, the SRE's and our elder daughter's), I wondered if this guy would be able to call us if his phone died, taking all our numbers with it. The SRE was probably contemplating far more dire scenarios.

After several fruitless attempts at calling him I went to sleep. In the morning I was delighted to hear the son's phone ringing. He'd obviously woken up enough to charge his phone. His not answering it wasn't worrisome at all, since he is a nocturnal creature, as well as a latter day avatar of Kumbhakaran. (If you've seen the movie Omkara, and remember the scene where Rajju tries to wake up Langda Tyagi, that's my son for you. His sleeping and waking habits deserve a post of their own.)

I left an SMS on his phone, asking him to call me. In the meanwhile, the husband called and said that he had spoken to the son. The son called me, and I told him about Father Hen's distress. The poor son was most horror stuck! He also rattled off all our phone numbers, and said that he would definitely inform us if his phone died on him. He had gone to sleep after two nights of staying awake studying, and had charged his phone when he finally woke up, in the middle of the night.

Dear dear Father Hen. I know you love our children and are always concerned about them. But please rest assured that we have good and sensible kids who can take care of themselves. And they know where we live, and they know that we are always there for them. They also know our phone numbers. Let them learn to spread their wings- they will love you even more for it. Let them call us when they wish to, not because they feel they have to. Keep the faith, and just chill!


neha vish said...

I have a father hen too. He gets miserable with worry if either of us don't call after 1)We've reached airport, 2)Messaged after boarding, 3) Messaged after landing, 4) Messaged after baggage retrieval.

But I have to confess he's way better now. Half the times hardly keeps track. My mom was never the very worry-ridden kinds. But my dad.. phew! :) Love him for that though. All said and done.

Anonymous said...

Maybe I should show this post to my father! I find his Father Hen attitude quite exasperating..after all I don't call him countless times when he's out with his friends!

Anonymous said...

LOL : he reminds me of DIL's father who tries to "father" me along with DIL and Son. The poor kids are so embarassed.

Maggie said...

Awww...poor Father Hen! And you're a brave and wonderful Ma for having the courage to let your kids go...

Banno said...

That was hilarious. I could just imagine Father Hen insisting on the kids wearing ID tags on them, like they do in school, with names, addresses and phone numbers.

But really, the kids don't know how lucky they are! Don't you ever go all 'filmi' on them, and say, 'you'll know when you have kids of your own and so on'?

rads said...

lol, good one :)

I can almost foresee the husband becoming one. If he doesn't see all of us lined up in front of him, happy cheery and not unlike the Sound of Music scenario, he's one unhappy sad sack dad!

My poor children!

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

I am married to the King Rooster of all Father Hens!

Our friends keep telling him that our boys need just one mother. Thanks to his paranoia, I have to tone it down!

SUR NOTES said...

i have a father hen too- but only until sleep hits. then he would wake up my calm and cool mom- your daughter is not home yet-or her boyfriend has not left our home as yet- and turn over and sleep!

but luckily for me it my mum would say- your father is wondering why your boyfriend has not left as yet-and go back to sleep. or if i was late- i would be told how worried my sleeping father actually is.

my sleep is precious to me and to the father of the child as well- but now there are cell phones- that complicates the picture, na?

your sometime resident father hen would be fine if he did not have to deal with switched off phones i guess.

??! said...

Heh. The SRE's not having a very good month is he?

Sukhaloka said...

Oh Lord... Baby promises to grow up into another Father Hen. Only recently have I managed to get him NOT to call every ten minutes if I'm out past 8 pm!

DotThoughts said...

Oh! dipali, this could have been a post directed at me. How do I develop an attitude like yours? how?

Gauri said...

Awww Dipali :) Oh Yes ! Talk about Father Hens !! Where kids are concerned, takes very little to get the Pa Hens concerned :), does it not ?

But I can well imagine - what with the switched off/uncharged cell phones and all that :)

Nat said...

What a special post. My dad was a father Hen and you put another square peg in a square peg by reminding me my husband is one too. Up until now I thought he was just too fussy. And my Dad too control-freaky. sigh.

Indian Home Maker said...

My kids are given cell phones only so they can let me know where they are. If they don't pick the phone when I call, they get my oldest (preserved for using as a threat on such occasions) black and white mobile, and loose their chosen mobiles...but I only call when they are late. I guess they are still young, as they grow older I will also learn...parenthood is tough!

Anonymous said...

you sound like my mother :)

And my dad is like my mom too! they hardly get paranoid about us kids being inaccessible for a while!

Neera said...

ohhh ..loved the post Dipali and yeah am forwarding this to my dad to read ;) My friends joked that he would not let me go with husband at the time of bidai :) You have such a wonderful attitude though :)

Anonymous said...

The SRE sounds exactly like my dad. And he is exactly as neha vish above says her dad is like. I love him of course, but would appreciate it if he treats his 27 year old daughter like she is 27 and not like she is 7.

Subhashree said...

Oh Dipali, remember to remind me when I grow old not to become a mother hen. I liked 'no news being good news' :)

Mamma mia! Me a mamma? said...

I selected you for a tag...please check it out!

Usha said...

seems like a typical evening chez moi. But the father hen here decides to use me as the punching boy. After 11 p.m all my attempts to sleep would be foiled by half hourly updates that the son hasn't arrived or called YET somehow implying it is all my fault.

Indian in NZ said...

I like your attitude Dipali but I am not sure if I would be able to let go and let the kids call me if they are going to be late. what am I going to do then?? I am already worried now..

@Usha: I think that's going to be my plight too !

Anamika said...

Please dont ever stop blogging. I will come back to read you at different stages of my life as a parent so that I grow up to be a super cool mom like you who has so nicely accepted her kid's adulthood. As of now, it seems like a tough task for me to achieve but you give me hope.

Anonymous said...

~sighs~ Welcome to my life !!

Having never stepped out of Kolkata during my school or collegiate years, I heaved a heavy sigh of relief when I left for my MBA to live in a hostel. You can imagine what the life of an average Gujju-lad of 25 must've been.

After 2 years of hostel life which included:

1. Staying up till 2 in the morning to play games / reading books
2. Panic-stricken attacks of studying from 2 to 4 in the morning
3. Waking up at 9:24 for a lecture which begins at 9:30
4. Spending the entire day roaming around as I wished

My job made me head back for home and the 6 months I spent here made me wonder why I need to call back home at 11pm sharp if I were out of the house. Laxman-rekha par gaya kya?? Oops!! Sorry. ~crestfallen look~

A 6 month stint at Bangalore was a God-send. I was back to staying over at friends' place at night without having to worry about informing my parents. I could always enjoy that extra mug of beer with friends, not afraid that I would have to sneak into the house, and that too after having swallowed at least 3 rings of Polo mint.

Lekin, khuda ko fir se mujh pe pyaar aa gayaa..

I'm back home to Kolkata, my deadline hour being 11, and taking care to sip only tea or lassi or else...


~stands in the doorway in a Guru Dutt pose~

"Yeh duniya agar mil bhi jaaye to kya hai....??"

[P.S. Sorry for the long comment.. Of course, have over-dramatised my experiences but people tell me it's a special talent ;)]

Indian Home Maker said...

rotfl @shekhar r's comment :))))

dipali said...

@neha: They do learn sometimes! Good progress:)
@mumbaigirl:That's a good point!
@phoenixritu:That sounds so cute! I'm sure he's a gallant soul:) And I guess we have kids only to embarrass them!
@maggie: We take turns, actually. In some situations he's far cooler and braver than I am.
@banno:No, I consciously try not to repeat my mom's dialogues to my kids:)
@rads: At least you know now
what to call him when he's being a sad sack dad!
@m4: Now that is a title- we need to get the Father Hen and the King Rooster together!
@sur notes:I have to meet your mom!Your father's anxiety combined with his sleeping habits-hilarious!
And that is my point exactly- cell phones are not foolproof.
@??!: The SRE's starring in two posts-I'd say it's a great month for him!
@suki: Train him while he's still young:)
@dottie: Early days yet for you, dear.
@gauri: I know they mean well, poor guys.
@nat: there seem to be so many father hens everywhere, no?
@indian home maker: I guess your kids are still veru young.
@chandni:So far you are in a minority! Lucky girl.
@neera: That sounds classic!
@kochab:If only they could remember the difference!
@subhashree: All mothers are meant to be mother hens! But the no news is good news policy usually works.
@m4: Will check it out.
@usha: Cardinal rule of my house- I am responsible for all sins of omission and commission by family members and electronic/electrical equipment. (As in "why isn't your geyser working? why hasn't your son called?" Oh well, mea culpa. You might as well concede too:)
@2b's mommy:Don't worry in advance-your kids aren't even teenagers yet!
@anamika: Thanks, but I pretend to be cooler than I am! As I said, we take turns in being the paranoid parent:)
@shekhar r: You know, it isn't easy to live with grown up kids once they've tasted the freedom of hostel life. I wouldn't question your parents' requirements at all. My cardinal policy of child rearing is based on a quotation from one of the Upanishads
"A child is a guest in the house, to be cherished and loved, but never possessed, because he belongs to God". I add a proviso- All guests must abide by the rules of the house.

Yes, you over-dramatise!

Rohini said...

That's pretty cute actually. I can see only myself being the hen in this family...

dipali said...

@rohini: I'm sure you kid(s!)will be pleased- one Hen parent clucking around is quite enough!

Cee Kay said...

I grew up with Father Hen and can tell you with surity what a pain and embarrassment that was. But now that I am a parent myself, I know where he was coming from :)

dipali said...

@gettingtherenow:Yes, but if you remember the embarrassment, maybe you can tone down the clucking! said...

Dipali, my son is 6 and we already have arguments ( putting it lightly) about him returning home from playing by 7.30 pm. The future certainly worries me.

dipali said... Cardinal rule of parenting: As long as they live at home and are below eighteen/are financially dependent on you, you are the boss! Of course a good boss is always reasonable:)

eppy said...

father hen, mother hen, all the same. its all about letting go. Just sometimes difficult in the times that we live.

dipali said...

@eppy: That is so very true. Times are very tough:(