The Partner of Her Dreams: A 4-Year-Old Contemplates Marriage

wedding cake topperIn her four years of life, my daughter has already had four choices of marriage partners. Actually, the subject of marriage came up only after we moved here to the U.S. last year, when she started to really get vocal about her ‘feelings’.

Her various choices of partners elicited such diverse reactions from me and my husband that I can’t wait to see what the next month holds.

Last year, a couple of months after we had moved here, DD wanted to get married to her girlfriend in her preschool. Her reasoning was that Papa and Mamma are married, Thata and Paati and Dada and Dadi (maternal and paternal grandparents) are married, why should she be the only one not to be married? She really likes this girl — she was cute and pretty and played so many games with our daughter — she was the right person for her, DD was sure. And DD was anxious that she wasn’t actually old enough to get married. She said she wanted to be 30 soon so she could marry away.

My reaction then was, Wow, she knows about mates. And, I am so glad she wants to marry only at 30! I hope she has a baby as late as biologically possible.

My husband’s reaction was more like, “What? Where is she learning about all this? Did we make a mistake coming here? How will I tell my parents about my daughter’s choice, and at this age?”

That phase soon passed, and then she liked another boy, an American who was outdoorsy like her. He was good at gymnastics, could do cartwheels — what more could she ask for? But this declaration came very subtly. We were not the least bit prepared.

We had just finished watching an Indian movie, and DD had some questions.

DD: “Mamma, why was the father so upset when the girl got married?”

Me: “Because she did not tell the father about the boy she was going to get married to. And the father had not said yes.”

I also used this question to share my stance with her. “It’s ok to choose a person you’d want to marry — but you do need to let your parents know and convince them that this is the right person for you. Because your parents only want what is best for you.”

DH: “Yes. It is very important that papa likes the person you marry.” He had to butt in — this question was making him very uneasy. And as I nudged him, she went on:

“And Mamma. It is very important that Papa and Mamma like this person.”

After a brief pause: “Papa, do you like Mike*?”

That was a bolt from somewhere unknown.

My reaction: I excused myself, went down the basement and burst out laughing — my daughter was quite the schemer.

His reaction: “Why? Why does she think about marriage so much? Are we doing something wrong? Are we not focusing on her so much that she needs to find company elsewhere?”

But the two of us did stop to pause and admire her timing.

And then there was this phase where she really liked to try various cuisines. She had tried Ethiopian, Italian, Mexican, Chinese, Greek and took a special liking to Ethiopian food.

So one day, while we were dining out:

DD: “Mamma, I think I want to get married to Fassil*.”

DH: “What? You changed your mind again?”

Me: “Why? Because you like Ethiopian?”

DD: “Yes. And because he can cook for me.

My reaction: She’s thinking strategically. She won’t have to cook much if Fassil knows how to cook. But I’m glad she likes this food. She’s getting a lot of grains in. I need to learn how to make injera. It looks like dosa, I wonder if I can ask the cook.

His reaction: Her changed choice in Fassil actually relieved DH because it meant she was no longer going to go through with Mike. Mike was a strong contender — especially because the kids met almost every day at the park.

Then a few months later, considering how American our kid was getting and how she won’t reply to any of our questions in Hindi or Tamil, we focused on exposing her to a lot of Indian history, to create curiosity and awareness about her motherland.

We spoke about the struggle for independence, about the kings and queens, stories from our mythology, about scientific advances — Kalpana Chawla, CV Raman and so many more personalities. We wanted her to be proud of her heritage and her country.

It worked. She learned about Gandhi and was curious to learn more about the brave women of India too. She seemed to genuinely like learning about India.

And then yesterday:

DD: “Mamma, I think I want to get married to Rahul*.”

Me: “How did you suddenly remember him? He’s in India”

Rahul was a neighbor and a good friend of DD. His parents are good friends of ours, and we always make it a point to visit them on our trip back home. It’s been more than five months since our trip to India and she was suddenly talking about him.

DD: “Because he is an Indian. And I love Indians.”

DH, who was now used to her changing partner preferences, indulged her this time. “Why? Why do you like him?”

DD: “Because he’s like you. He is good at heart like you and is Indian, like you.”

Me: “Good at heart? What does that even mean?”

I am sure she heard somebody say this and was just repeating it to keep us quiet.

DH: “Yes. You should marry someone who is good at heart.” By this point DH was way above ground level, floating with the clouds, much to my chagrin. The narcissist.

Me: “But what do you mean by ‘good at heart’?”

DD: “Mamma, I don’t like it when you ask me all these questions. Papa has agreed. He will explain to you and you will also agree.”

And it was now DH’s turn to excuse himself and give in to the hysterics. He couldn’t have been more hysterical than if a can of nitrous oxide had just been released …

My reaction: Wow, she sure does know how to get what she wants and knows her dad’s buttons. Let her ask me another ‘why’ and I’ll hand it back to her. Don’t ask questions, my backside!

His reaction: My daughter thinks so highly of me. She wants to marry someone just like me. I must be doing something right.

So, that’s four down. With Valentine’s Day around the corner, I would be surprised if the friend who’s favorite ‘food’ is also candy doesn’t make No. 5.

Hopefully when she is 30 (she said it), she’ll have made up her mind or we’ll have arranged her marriage for her, but till then — bring it on girl (but just lay it down on us gently).

*names changed to avoid uncomfortable questions and conversations from the parents of these kids.

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