Growing up in India, I did not know that turning sixteen was a big deal. The only thing I remember about my sixteenth birthday is that it was my first birthday without my loving dad who passed away when I was fifteen. Last December, when my daughter turned sixteen, my first thought was, “Thank you, God, she has a stable, loving and caring dad to celebrate her birthday with and her special day will be much happier than mine”
Sweet sixteen birthday parties for girls are an extravagant affair in America. It is a coming of age party celebrated with pomp and splendor. Ballrooms are booked, DJs are called, and the birthday girl gets a car and a tiara and what not. Thankfully, my daughter is the sweetest and the most sensible sixteen year old I know and she did not want us over spending on a party. My friends had been asking me to have a big affair as everyone was excited for us and they also needed an opportunity to dress up and party! Sadly, I had to tell them that I may not do that as Mansi does not like crowded parties.
All she wanted was to hang out with her close friends and a Wii U to play video games. We gave her what she wanted, she has an eclectic mix of friends who got her thoughtful gifts and they chatted, sang, danced and played board games. I got her favorite cake and they all had a good time painting her face with the icing before eating the cake.
My husband always tells me that I let our kids spend too much time on electronics and yet every time Mansi’s birthday comes up , he buys her some or the other electronic device whether she has asked for it or not. So far, he has got her a smartphone, a kindle, an iPad, a Nintendo 3ds, a smart watch which syncs with her phone, and then this year he did not disappoint with the Wii U, and then, I get blamed for spoiling our kids!
Mansi is our first born and we were blessed with her five years after we got married. She was supposed to be born on Dec 31 1999, a Y2K baby and yet she came 4 weeks early on Dec 2, 1999. The nurses called her peanut because she was so tiny and they admired her long eyelashes and head full of beautiful black hair. The day before I went into labor, we had a dinner party at home for some of my husband’s single friends and I had made biryani and other entrees and desserts. Those poor guys were shaken up when they heard that the baby was born so early and they were calling my husband and telling him that he should have taken them out to eat instead of letting me get tired from all the cooking!
Mansi was the most beautiful chubby little baby and I enjoyed every minute with her. I stayed home the first couple of years and I was always carrying her around, I loved cuddling with her, dressing her, talking to her, just always holding her close to my heart. I wish I could use the rewind button and relive those days again. The day she started preschool was traumatic for me as she held on to my leg, would not part, and the teacher had to physically pull away a crying baby from an equally emotional mom. I cried all the way home and then finally pulled myself together when the teacher called and said that my daughter had stopped crying.
I am proud to say that today she is an independent girl who goes on band trips with friends and chaperones and can manage by herself. However, if she does not respond to my text immediately, I start hyperventilating till I hear back from her. I am always amazed that even though Mansi is my daughter, she is so different from me. At her age, I was so foolish, I had crushes, I would tell everyone whatever was going on in my mind, I did not know what profession to choose when I grew up and I was not focused. My daughter is very private, she thinks most boys her age are dumb and she does not scream and cry tears of excitement at a boy band like One Direction or anything similar. She knows what she wants to study, who she wants to be friends with and she is very selective and focused.
The quality I admire most about my daughter is that she is her own person and she is not a follower. I always wanted her to fit in but she has no trouble standing out. I remember, when she was in the fifth grade, the teacher said that on one day the girls could either dress as cowgirls or Native Americans. All the girls decided to be cowgirls and Mansi dressed up alone as a Native American and was not worried about that at all. To this day, if I am going to a party, I will call my friends and ask them what they are wearing so that I am not the only one in Western clothes if everyone is wearing Indian or vice versa. The whole high school could be wearing skinny jeans and boots but my daughter will wear comfortable athletic pants and tennis shoes and does not care one bit about what others think and I really admire that about her.
She is a voracious reader who taught herself the periodic table in fourth grade from library books on Chemistry. Physics has been her favorite subject and she wrote a paper on anti-matter in fifth grade. I could never understand Physics. In high school I made the mistake of taking science subjects under parental pressure but quickly realized I am terrible at it and do not understand the basic concepts at all. I am very expressive and I can write pages and pages but Mansi takes a long time to write an English language Arts paper. I send her lines and lines of texts on her phone about what’s going on with me and how much I love her and she responds with one word – ok! I worry about the fact that she is an introvert and does not open up quickly but I have learnt to let go of that and love her for who she is.
My daughter has a great sense of humor. Since she is very quiet, if she ever opens up and has a conversation with somebody, I get all excited and say, “Good job Mansi, that was so awesome, you talked so well, yay, you can do it.” My son will quip ,“What is the good job for, all she did was talk, what’s the big fuss about?” and Mansi will laugh her sweet laugh and say “ You don’t know Arjun, when I talk it’s a magical event, violins play in mom’s head and angels sing!”
My daughter never disrespects us or rolls her eyes. She always tells me I am beautiful. She is my strongest supporter. I always second guess myself and she always fills me with her quiet strength and confidence. Incidentally, last summer, I was walking on the dam with the kids and a man with three rolls of fat and without a t-shirt was running towards us, Arjun kidded: “Mom look perfect flabs” and I said “I wish I had his confidence ,he is inspiring me to wear a bikini but if I do that dad might die of embarrassment” to which Mansi replied “no mom, if you wear a bikini, dad will die of your hotness!” Age is just a number, so often our roles get reversed. Just last week I went for my twenty fifth high school reunion and turned into a giggly sixteen year old full of excitement, nerves and exuberating at the prospect of meeting old friends. My daughter told me to go have fun, enjoy and not get into trouble!
Daughters are the best. She is the only girl among seven boys between me and my two sisters. We joke with her that she will have to look after her mom ,dad and mausis and mausas when we get old since we do not have much hope from the boys! She is so sweet that she tells us that we are all welcome to live with her. Good luck to her future husband with that, he will have to deal with seven brothers and six live in in-laws! On a serious note, I love my sixteen year old with all my heart and soul and I wish her nothing but a long, happy and healthy life. I know that if something happened to me , I can count on her to be quietly strong for her dad and brothers and she will be there for them. We are so blessed to have her.