Mothers can help their daughters look deep within themselves. And let them discover the talents hidden within the layers of uncertainty

Sharada is alarmed and confused. She has just come out of a long and loud altercation with her teenaged daughter. What happened to the sweet child who lighted up every minute of her life? Why is it that her daughter is now responding to every suggestion or comment of hers with a sarcastic or dismissive statement? Sharada finds herself at the end of her tether. She sometimes wonders if she had caused her own mother so much distress! Seventeen years ago, her life changed with the suddenness of a summer storm. She gave birth to the most amiable baby ever. Her daughter grew and in the blooming of this young child, love lodged in her heart and her throat. She mooned over her daughter as she watched her smile light up the universe. Fear stalked her every breath as she thought of the unspeakable terror of losing her child. Truly, you learn the meaning of fear when you first let the love of your child permeate your being.

The teenage years

And then came the teenage years. Adolescence has been described as the period when children are certain they will never be as stupid as their parents! Adolescence is a terrible phase - a cosmic joke played on both the child and the parents. It pitches the child against the parents in a psychic upheaval of seismic proportions which leaves everyone feeling off-balance and unsettled with vertiginous emotions. Maybe it is needed just so that we can truly enjoy and embrace the peace that follows. The only consolation is that it happens to everybody, but, like being in the middle of an accident, we are unable to see it whole and in perspective. Unfortunately, in our system of education, the extraordinary pressures of board examinations collide with the maelstrom of adolescent angst. In addition to having to cope with the complex changes churning them up inside, our children are harried to perform well in their examinations which are projected as the most life altering events in their lives. Sharada's daughter is at the precarious age where she vacillates between complete faith in herself and mind-numbing loss of self-confidence. What is tilting Sharada off balance is this periodic loss of her daughter's self-worth, this miasma which is bogging the child down. It is important to remember that this too shall pass.

What you can do

Help your daughter look deep within herself. Let her discover the talents hidden deep within the layers of uncertainty. Tell her that the only way to cope is to bring mental discipline into play. Help her remember that `it does not matter whether you win or lose but how you play the game.' And yet, encourage her to play the game with gusto. Being mediocre is the path easily taken but rising above the average requires focus and passion. Persuade her to keep in mind that no individual is ordinary and help her to not submit to or accept mediocrity. Promote her sense of self and boost her esteem. Successful people will tell you that their mothers had complete faith in them and this in turn heightened their self-esteem. A teenager, who is already floundering in a quagmire of uncertainty, does not need you to pull her down at every turn. Learn to come to terms with her own perception of self and try not to impose your ambitions and desires on her. In this era where the world is opening up with fresh, hitherto unthought of opportunities at every turn, allow her to choose the path less trodden, if that is what she desires.

Finding the balance

The secret of life is in finding equilibrium. A mother naturally wants her child to succeed and at the same time wants her to be happy. Success and happiness necessarily require perseverance and an inexorable pursuit of a goal. Where is the balance? Your daughter will find it with time and the answering of her desires, just like sleep comes easily only after a hard day's work. Be thankful for all the precious moments you have shared and will share. Every mother wishes that she could promise her daughter only joy and happiness for the rest of her life. But since you cannot, wish her the strength to withstand all that life gives her and to live fully within each moment. Wish her the ability to grab every minute of exhilaration and squeeze every drop of joy out of it. Wish her simple pleasures and deep, heart-wrenching minutes of joy. And more than anything, wish her the capacity to recognise happiness and contentment. GITA ARJUN

(The author is a Chennai-based obstetrician and gynaecologist with a special interest in women's health issues)