“You don’t understand English”, Lakshmi is looking at me. She was trying to explain something, which clearly was not right. I tried to explain why she had got it wrong. She didn’t want to accept that she was wrong. Instead this was her conclusion. She finishes her sentences with “and I know for a fact”. The day has arrived, when a four year old tells me where I went wrong.
The girls are here. Their laughter fill every nook and cranny. In between the arguments start. Lakshmi is upset. Her sister is not listening. “She is your sister, make her listen”, I try to stay away from their arguments. “Ask her nicely, she will respond”, and she does, most of the time. Sometimes it doesn’t resolve that easily. The arguments escalate and I need to intervene and determine who is in the wrong. If the offender is Lavinia, Lakshmi and I look around for a naughty step where Lavinia can sit and contemplate her behaviour. Lavinia usually takes this as a personal affront. “You are not my best friend anymore”, she declares, the worst insult she can muster from her young vocabulary. She then sits silently with her head lowered and lips downturned upset with the world, disappointed at herself till we tell her that the punishment is over. At which point her face lights up and all is forgotten and forgiven.
Lavinia is the inquisitive one. Nothing is safe from her. She wants to open everything, squeeze every bottle, try on every cream, poke every plug hole, switch on every light, ring every number on the phone and scream as loudly as she can. She is also the happy child who wakes up with a cheeky smile in the mornings. “Ammamma”, she calls out. First as a whisper and then louder with each call till I don’t have an option but to take her out of her cot. Her mum’s advice is to ignore her and she will go back to sleep. It never works. She is the quiet one, who sometimes struggles to get a word in when Lakshmi starts her incessant conversations. She is the loving child, who gives you the warmest hugs and pats on the back. The one who will run and find your slippers when you don’t know where you’ve left them last. She is also the independent child who likes to do everything herself if she can and will only ask for help if she fails in her attempts. Her excuse then being “I’m too little”. The one who is happy for you to turn off the lights, leave her in her cot in total darkness and close the door behind you at the end of the day.
I play Jim Reeves’ ‘Welcome to my world’. Lavinia turns to me and asks “what does it mean?”. Really?”, I ask myself. A two year wants to know what the lyrics mean. “Is she serious”? I try to find words to explain. I never took much interest in lyrics and meanings of songs unless they were glaring me in the face and now I am explaining songs to a two year old.
Lakshmi on the other hand dresses up in her mum’s old dresses or Disney costumes and role plays. She casts Lavinia as her sidekick and accords her suitable roles to play out. She is the performer who bursts into songs or mimics whoever she is imitating. She is the happiest when her imagination is on fire. The girl with the Kate Middleton locks and sweetest smiles. Smiles which can turn sour easily as she is also the sensitive one, the timid one, the insecure and accident prone one. The one who is afraid of the dark and will only sleep with the lights on and door ajar, with you in earshot distance. There have been nights when I’ve fallen asleep downstairs and woken up to her cries calling out for me. Sometimes I don’t know how long she had been crying.
My role in all this is just to be present, enjoy the company, laugh at the quips, bask in the love they compete to shower upon me, practice being patient and to remember to enjoy the moments, the moments which will in the not too distant future become precious memories and irreplaceable treasures.