I watch Laddu toddle onto the driveway. The breeze lifts the hair off her neck. The exhilaration on her face is a treat to watch. Her sisters run around her feeling the wind and enjoying the sun. I feel irrationally happy.
We stand, the four of us in the afternoon sun, minutes before we would go on our usual grocery shopping rounds, feeling the warmth and taking in the first spring-ish day in a while. I look towards the grassy oval in front of our house and a memory from Friday flashes. I call out to Ammu and Pattu and they run to me.
“On Friday morning, the kids were playing with something in the morning before the bus, what was it?” I ask. They think for a moment before comprehension dawns.
“Oh! It was some trash. Stinky trash,” says Pattu wrinkling her nose before walking away.
I remember the sight clearly. A bunch of kids, mostly boys standing in the early morning cold grabbing something off the ground, throwing it with a look on their faces that read gross from even a distance. I only remember because I had been watching my kids wondering if they would be part of the circle.
I was curious. The yelling and the boisterous laughter had drawn me out. I had stood at my stoop, eyes squinting in the direct sunlight trying to find the cause for the ruckus. I had been struck by the fact it was mostly boys. There was just one girl in the group. Pattu had run in, lingered along the edges and walked back. I experienced relief. I also experienced disappointment.
I had stood there watching until the bus rumbled in and the children ran to take their places in the line. I watched at the bus disappeared from view and the chill in the air permeated my clothes.
It had stayed in my head, that sight and my reaction.
“Is being squeamish a girl thing?”
“Am I raising my children with gender biases?”
“Are they learning it at school?”
“Why was I relieved?”
“Why was I disappointed?”
I have mused on stereotypes on the blog and in real life with friends before. I like to think I am not actively creating these biases at home. Yet, the sight of my daughter walking away because she thought something was gross struck home.
“Why did you walk away?” I ask her.
“I did not want my boots to get muddy amma” she says and walks away, her eyes on the mailbox where her twin is reaching for something that is in a box.
Laddu launches all 25 odd pounds of her being on my legs and I struggle to retain balance. I scoop her up and head for the car knowing the only thing I can do is to be a conscious parent and hope that will be enough.