By Naazish YarKhan

Oh Me! Oh My! Oh No! It’s summer time and the kids are home. Needless to say, everything was out of whack the first week. The kids weren’t listening to anything. I was yelling, I was swearing and I was turning blue. And they still weren’t listening. How obstinate. How argumentative. Whose children were these, or rather why on earth did they have to turn out just like their parents, I wanted to know! Then I decided. Enough was enough. Three strikes and you’re out, became the rule. Want to back talk, want to leave the dishes on the table, want to leave the room a mess? Get ready for the ruler, if those are the choices you want to make, I warned them. Now my kids have never been hit. Maybe Yousuf has been spanked a total of ten times in his entire life. They only know rewards, stars and stickers for delivering the goods. Did baba say this was okay, asked my Taskeen? She was positive her dad would never agree. It’s a deterrent, I said to the man who pays all our bills. And I will not use the ruler if I am livid and close to losing my sense of control, I reasoned with my kids. But won’t you be angry if we’re not listening? You get angry about every little thing, retorted Taskeen.

So the rules were absolutely no whining, no backtalk, no yelling, obeying promptly, finishing meals without reminders and without having to be nagged and without running around in between mouthfuls. Other rules were making the bed before they left their rooms, picking clothes off the floor and hanging them in the closet. If they goofed up thrice, out came the ruler, and across their hand once. The first time my son earned his swat, “it didn’t hurt”, he whispered to his sister. “Come, I’ll give you another one then,” I offered and he politely declined the invite.

I wasn’t the only mom in this state. So were my friends. We were all being subjected to having the kids home 24 x 7. Another friend sent her 4 year old to bed without dinner for his backtalk. I told my kids as much. “What’s happening to all the children? Why are they all getting in trouble?” my Yousuf wailed. “All the mothers use the teachers as babysitters and don’t know how to take care of us, when we are home all the time,” responded my nine year old, Taskeen. I had guessed as much, but since when did she know how to read my mind? I also imagined that our minds have been reconfigured by instant access and instant messaging and instant results, and nothing, absolutely nothing, about raising kids is instant. They don’t listen in an instant, and they certainly don’t follow instructions and do as they are bid, in an instant. Who knew summer meant putting my mind and my expectations in slow mo? But the idea of the ruler, as I saw, was one terrific one. I had control over the kids and really there’s no reason to yell anymore. If they err, they face the consequences… and now they know mom will follow through with the swat. Three strikes is all it takes, and they’re being careful.