Tuesday, November 26, 2013

The Naughty and the Nice

“Mom, is this one of my Christmas presents?” an excited voice sounded like it came from the wrong room. I rushed and covered the clearly visible large box as best as I could, cursing myself for buying early. But then, who told her to go snooping around in MY closet? BTW, the use of ‘my’ twice in quick succession doesn't read very well and I apologize, realizing as soon as I type that I added one more of it! A proletarian writer should atleast know what not to inscribe. Well…

Ordinarily you would expect 3 year olds to be nosy and inquisitive of things hidden beneath scattered handbags and crumpled sweaters, the ones who still believe in the existence of Mr. Santa and his goodies. But ever since my second baby was born, the first one decided to learn things all over again. So now we have the 3 year old watching Scooby Dooby Doo and the 7 year old sticking alphabets on the magnetic easel.

Now that we all know who was not minding her own business and meddling with stuff in Mommy’s closet, I can go ahead and make my point.

Since she already had seen it, I went ahead and confirmed with a strict ‘not to tell your baby sister’. She agreed and sat down to make a list to leave under the Christmas tree with her sister, the hidden presents probably reminded her she still hadn't made any demands for the year.

It touched my heart when I went through the list. She had listed the game I already got as the first thing she wanted this year. Now, I know it wasn't her choice, she never asked for it and  it wasn't something that would have come to her mind anyways, but because I got it for her, she accepted it (she could have not had this one on her list, I would have given it to her anyways) and was nice enough to portray that she would have wanted the very thing for Christmas, amongst other presents, of course.

And so I thanked God, that it was this one who discovered one of her gifts accidentally and not my other daughter. Because, things work a little different with her. She would have voiced her preferences louder, made a fuss about wanting all her sister’s presents too and ultimately would have taken this one too but without one bit of appreciation. Yea, she’s one girl who knows what she wants and gets it too.

Does it look like I prefer the personality of one over the other? Because honestly, I don’t! And I' ll tell you why. I adore my first born for being kind and grateful but am equally nuts about the baby for being so demanding.

You see every mother has an easy kid and a child that’s hard to please: a nice one and a troublemaker (if she has two at all).  She loves them both but knows them too. 

Monday, November 4, 2013


Don’t we always look down upon this emotion? And although it resides in each and every one of us, we frown upon it when visible in others.

And that is why, being content tops my list of desirable qualities to possess, but the longing to acquire what other people have continues…

I want to be that traveler
Who can sleep on a plane! Not a fear in their mind admist unknown skies, not a hovering uncertainty of reaching their destination alive.

Let’s just say, an airplane comes last on my list of preferred mode of transport. I read somewhere that fear of flying is an actual psychological disorder, and if that is true, then I suffer from one.

I want to be that aquanaut
Who can swim like a fish! An ordinary mortal when seen on land; an expert swimmer under the sea.

I can manage to keep afloat, but struggle with breath after a couple of strokes. I do not fear the water but do not know it well enough to venture without a thought.

I want to be that buddy
Who never has to leave her childhood friends!

I make friends wherever I go, but the void left behind when you have to leave your best friends behind, never seems to go.

I want to be that person
Who can ‘not-express’ their opinions even in the most heated of debates or those brave ones who can fiercely voice their mind without regrets.

I have an opinion on almost everything and at times I regret making a point. I sometimes retrospect on things I should definitely have said and the other times I curse myself for not just shutting up.

I want to be that MOM
Who can keep her kids under control without raising her voice or resorting to bribe or blackmail.


I am imperfect. I raise my voice, I threaten to cancel a play-date and when most needed I even trade a candy for the peace of my mind. 

Monday, October 14, 2013

We often travel a long way without knowing where we are going….

These days my primary duty in the household is that of being a chaperone.  School drop off and pick up, play group and library, gymnastics and swimming (Thank God, Ballet is off the list!), play dates and birthday parties and these are just the marked trips on my calendar. The unmarked ones are dealt with appropriately as and when they spring up.

The social chaperoning I don’t mind as much as the activity supervision. Trust me, only MOMS who do this are aware what a race against time it is, both; first to get your child in a class  in a facility YOU prefer, in the time slot YOU want, WITH the coach of YOUR choice and then to find a parking space when you actually land there on time!

Often, we sign up for this kind of stress without actually acknowledging that it is a stress!

My daughter took a break from her swim lessons all summer this year. The idea was to spend more time in the community pool having fun versus a structured swim time. When the fall session started and we arrived for her swim class, I didn’t expect much to change. If anything, I thought she would have gotten better in the water because of all those afternoons in the community swimming pool.

The first thing I noticed or rather heard as I took my place in the stands to observe, was the coach’s loud voice instructing the students to line up for an assessment. Usually, from where I sit, I can see what’s going on, but can rarely hear what the coach has to say except for if he or she is calling for a student from the other end of the pool. This class immediately felt different because of the coach’s insistent personality.  One look at my daughter’s face and I knew she was feeling intimidated and nervous.

One after the other, the students swam a lap with the coach standing right in the middle, evaluating their skills. My daughter who has been doing a couple of laps easily, stopped twice before finishing one single lap. I got a sick feeling in my stomach. I could see she wasn't feeling confident and his way of dealing was a little unsettling for her. Next, he made everybody do back strokes and it didn't come as a surprise to me that she didn't go backwards in a straight line as is expected, thankfully, she didn't stop mid-way.  In my mind, I was already blaming the coach for her bad performance today.  I was chewing my nails in apprehension and I knew the next half an hour wasn't going to be easy for her because once you slip, you don’t recover easily. Half way through their lesson, the coach had made them sit on the edge of the pool on the other side and was talking to them intently. The ‘talk’ went on for quite some time before they were finally back in the water and the drill continued.

After the class, the coach had a message for us. He asked me if she had been recently promoted to this level of swimming and I said no, but she was on a break for a couple of months in between. He straight away told me that in that case he would have to do a re-evaluation in the next class and then decide if she was fit to be in the current level or had to go back one level down because kids tend to get a little out of practice with the swim techniques if there is a long break. I mentioned that she was a little nervous today and maybe that is what affected her performance. Well, he said that was very much possible and that’s why he always scheduled it for the next class.

I drove back feeling really upset and guilty about the whole thing. Guilty, because it was my idea that we take a break with the lessons for a while so that she would enjoy being in the pool with her friends this summer and not worry about learning it. Rationally speaking, it was very much possible that a break may have interfered with her learning flow and she could step back a level and practice those techniques again. But, I wasn’t ready to accept it yet. And even worse, I knew she would really take it to heart if she had to go back one level. I remembered how proud she was when she made it to level 4.

And it was entirely my fault! And because, it was my fault, I would set it right, I decided, determined to argue it out with the coach next time.

As we drove back, my swim student looked really sad. I told her to cheer up and assured her I would talk to the coach. She said, “No Mom, I am sad because I know I didn't do well today. The coach is right, I made mistakes and stopped in between a couple of times, a student at level 4 isn't supposed to do that. I got nervous because I went to the class after a long time”. Unlike me, she was neither in denial nor a bit afraid of facing her own limitations.

Age brings it with a lot of worldly wisdom and perhaps the manipulative abilities required to survive and co-exist amidst diversity and adversity but it may not necessarily bring with it soulful insight. Complex situations are handled with expertise and simple basic lessons of life are either forgotten or ignored in the zest to race ahead.

It is when people way younger spring that simple truth in your face, realization strikes - we often travel a long way without knowing where we are going.

And when that happens, it may be too late to retrace and re-embark, but I remind myself that is never too late to learn a lesson or two and pick up some real knowledge on the way. 

p.s. The re-evaluation went rather well and by the end of that session; she was almost ready to move on to the next! The ‘talk’ as I later on heard about, is worth a mention here. “Mom, he told us that if you have the necessary skills you don’t have to worry what level you are in!”

Without naming the coach, I will say that I am going to be thankful to him always, for re-enforcing the belief in my 7 year old that learning is more important than moving ahead. As a parent, it is easier for me lose sight of what the ‘real’ focus should be on, once in a while.

Monday, August 26, 2013

Dreaming Big - Interesting Conversations

“Mom, I will need a big car when I grow up because I am going to be a farmer and that’s it! And, I am not going to change my mind on this one, NEVER!! “

I suppressed a giggle at this last word uttered with such acute resolve. If it were a teenager saying this, I would have either taken her dead seriously or laughed out loud, but 7 can be a very sensitive age. It is when easy offence and heavy sentences like “you hurt my feelings” come easily.

“Ok”, I said, “that sounds good; maybe you can send me some fresh vegetables to cook”. She pondered over my request for a couple of seconds and said, “Only if you promise to cook something for me too”! Wow, I thought, already bargaining!

“Because I will be living close by in my own house and I will be having a farm dog too, to take care of my plants (=crops). Me and my sister will work in the farm and she will have her own kitty too”. First a dog, followed by the cat.  Hmm…so that’s what this was about!

My girls have been wanting a pet since a couple of years now. One of them wants a dog and the other one wants a cat. They have yet to reach a consensus, not that it will matter. I am not ready to take on the responsibility of any more dependents in the house!

And in my vehement denial of their request to have a pet, I may have used a couple of strong statements like ‘no pets in this house’ which probably led to this whole idea of living on a farm close by with her sister and a dog and a cat. Well, atleast she thought of taking her sister with her, if not us!

But the giggle wasn’t for the cat or the dog or the farm, it was for the “I am not changing my mind, never!”

Not so long ago, she wanted to be a nurse, yes, not a doctor but a nurse. When I asked her why not a doctor, she said “it’s because the nurse who does everything, the doctor just comes and chats for a few minutes. So the nurse is more important than the doctor.”

Applying the same logic she had proclaimed (before she switched occupations) that waiters were more important than the owners in a restaurant because they were the one who took care of the customers, took their orders and brought them their favorite things to eat. And so why would she want to be the owner and just sit in a chair doing nothing, nope she would rather be a server and make people happy!

But again, the need to choose a profession to follow didn’t start with a restaurant. It began with the mail. Guess what we wanted to be when we were four and a half years old? A mail-lady! “Mommy I want to drive this cute little van when I grow up and give people their letters.” Mommy didn’t know whether to encourage her for believing in dignity of labor or reprimand her for not being ambitious.

For all the career alternatives she has explored in the last couple of years, the one that is close to my heart is the first choice she made. She was in preschool when I asked her what she would like to be when she grew up. ‘A butterfly’ she had happily said without hesitation. And I could only marvel at her innocence for dreaming so big.

Now that she goes to second grade next month, I know it isn’t for long that I will be a privy to such conversations. Practical opinions will be formed and in a couple of years she will really start forming an idea about what she would like to do when she is a grown up. At the moment though, I am happy to take her back if she doesn’t like it at the farm!

Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Essential or Indulgence - what would you pick?

Someone not –so-wise once said– indulgence is sometimes a necessity and strangers often provide perspective.

And that same person went on to say– Utility is good but not at the cost of one’s vanity.

I have forgotten to pamper myself. Thinking practically and acting prudently has turned my world into an organized, safe BUT predictable heaven. Small pleasures like a movie in the afternoon without the kids or an uninterrupted hour on the phone with a friend are exceptionally rare and give uncontained joys and thrill when they come to me.

More than the outings or the me-time, it is how I treat myself that makes me wonder if I was ever important at all? No one asks me to or tells me to but it is as if the function of the Mommy brain differs a little bit from the rest of the world.  Convenience presides over protocol and comfort over fashion.

Here’s a small example to help my case.

When kids learn to eat adult food, it takes time for them to develop a taste for it and so every time a new flavor is introduced, they try a couple of tablespoons and then clearly indicate their unwillingness to gulp it all. Ever wondered what happens to the rest of the oatmeal, the half bitten grilled cheese sandwich or the dried out rice and beans? They don’t go directly to the trash can, not before the mother has tried to finish off as much as she can!

The point here being, and I say this for myself, I have gotten used to treating myself to leftovers, food being the most unimportant thing on the list. I get my husband’s full attention only when the kids are not around (which is like never!), goes without saying I wait for the residue of my own time from time to time! Anywhere I go is not without the thought “what about the kids?” and anything I buy for myself  is always accompanied by a reasoning which has negated my first choice and that reasoning is “how much am I really going to use this with the kids still being so small?” Out of the shopping cart goes the clutch, in comes a ‘utility’ handbag which shall have to serve million other purposes of storing a snack, a diaper, paper napkins, wipes, band aids, a small toys, a pair of baby clothes apart from the wallet and my phone for which the bag was originally intended to be bought.

Picking up something I liked without a second thought does not happen often. Making a wise choice has become a habit and at times it comes with the cost of regret. There is this huge bucket list titled ‘once the kids grow up’ and nothing gets ticked off it these days. Not until recently.

Last weekend we set out to stock on summer clothes and footwear for the upcoming holidays and trips. First of all, going shopping with the kids is never a wholly pleasant trip; parts of it go in staging walkouts from the store and finding them hidden between racks of clothes. Secondly, it is always them versus us. If I concentrate on finding the right things for the kids, there is no time left to shop for myself and vice versa. This time around though, hubby insisted we shop for me first and so we settled on the first floor of this huge departmental store starting with the shoes. I immediately liked a color and style so we asked for the shop assistant to get the correct size.

While waiting for the pair to arrive my eyes fell on a gorgeous pair of aqua heels. Before I could take my eyes off them, hubby brought them closer for me try them on. “Are you kidding me? I couldn’t possibly walk even a step in them!” was my response and he goes “Atleast try them on.” Highly unsure, I slipped my feet into them and stood a few inches taller, feeling beautiful. Trotting before the mirror I wondered how long had it passed since I wore such high heels, was it 8 years or even more? The pregnancies, subsequent backaches and clinging kids who refused to settle any place other than my hip, when in the world was there an occasion to prance around in heels?

Before I could dwell too much on it, the sneakers arrived and I reluctantly slipped out of the heels. The sneakers fit well and I walked a couple of steps to check out the comfort but my heart was already lost to those pretty sandals. Flat and robust, taupe colored sneakers felt dull on my feet in comparison to their previous counterpart which were delicate and fashionable.  “Why don’t you buy both?” hubby interrupted on my thoughts gently, perhaps I had a look on my face similar to that of a child who can’t have a forbidden candy. “No, no” I quickly said, “I don’t need the heels, I will hardly even wear them and we have come to buy walking shoes because that’s what I require for the summer.” I blurted out, maybe too much, too fast.

And while I was saying this, I had taken the taupe shoes off and slipped on the high heels one more time, to revel in the feeling of being “non-motherly” for a moment. “I can’t decide, I am confused.” I begged hubby for help.  There was actually no confusion; the decision was simple enough to be made. Flat was what was going to work for me most days of the year, the heels would be worn once or twice if I got lucky, the rest of the year they would lie in the closet giving me the pleasure of having bought something I set my heart on.

Now comes the stranger and the perspective part. And mind you, her opinion proved to be very vital, similar to that guest appearance in a movie that plays a small but an important role. A well dressed lady sitting in a corner, probably waiting for her shopping companions, was watching me go to and fro between choices. At one point our eyes met and she said out loud “Buy those Aqua sandals, they look good on you.”

“I am probably gonna use the sneakers more, I hardly wear heels these days” here I was, confiding in total strangers.

“Doesn’t matter. Don’t think about which one you are going to use more, buy what you love, just go for the heels, they are awesome!” she said it so decisively and clearly, it was as if she knew I needed that small push to indulge myself. And I will always be thankful to her for giving me a perspective that went out of sight long time ago.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

School Holidays – fun and frustration with the Siblings!

A normal day at home is never whole of this or whole of that; it is a combination of fun and frustration with the balance tilting in either direction on different days. Our day together isn’t perfect because it is all fun; it is perfect because we make it so!

So the morning bell has stopped ringing and it’s time to stay up late and sleep in till late, only that at our house, the invisible bell still rings and the kids are up by 8 a.m. if not earlier!

Just as I sit to write this one, I am thinking should I amuse the readers with the fun part or vent my frustration right away? Ok, let us save the best for the last!

The morning, yea, let us go back to the time when it all begins! For me, the mornings can swing either ways. If I get lucky, the girls are up and giggling in their bed, being best buddies and reading each other stories by the time I wake up and go to check on them OR my ears wake up to blood boiling screams and a thud or any kind of noise which clearly implies that things (or people) have been pushed or dropped. And before I can make a guess on what it could be, running steps come and encroach my bed one after the either, parking themselves on either side of me, making me a prisoner in the middle of their war. Of course, they want me to be the judge, but that early in the morning and without my cup of tea, all I am in the mood for is some verbal bashing and threats on what they will be missing out on during the day (T.V. time, scheduled play date or visit to the park) if they don’t make peace and get off my hair this very minute. Some parenting experts may argue that blackmail is probably not the best way to deal in situations like these, but I have little patience for anything else at that time so I guess I would have to accept a ‘B’ grade as far as the mornings go.  

Rest of the day, I assure you, I am much better and contained and somewhat patient. Mornings are the worst you see of me, I am a much more pleasant person to meet other parts of the day.

If the day starts bad, it takes a while for it to get nicer. Then, the younger one doesn’t want to brush her teeth and the elder one wants to finish reading her book without having milk. The bickering, fighting and crying emerge at regular intervals throughout the day.  The temporary pauses are when I let the older one watch T.V. and hand over the Kindle to the 3 year old.

Once we painfully get through the morning, lunch time is another struggle. First they are not hungry, then they don’t want to eat what I have cooked and as a final recourse they happen to have a ‘tummy ache’ at the same time (with sisters anything is possible!). Once again the three “B”s are deployed. Beg, Bribe or blackmail, whatever works.

Earlier when I was a novice in this field of parenting ‘two’, I would buckle them up and take them out for an ice cream or to the library or any store hoping that the change of scenario would calm their tantrums and my nerves down. But alas, what works with one child totally backfires when there are two of them. The shift in place only shifts the fight to someplace else and believe me you would rather have it inside, than outside!

The evenings tend to pass slightly better, maybe because they are tired of picking on each other or they forget all about what they have been combating about. Of course one last showdown before bed time is expected and warranted on a day that starts with one.

On a day like this, I pray for it to end soon as it leaves me irritated and angry and drained. I even question my love, loyalty and parenting abilities and wonder what I did wrong or what I should have handled differently or if I should have had two kids at all! More than the kids being wrong I worry if I was the right mother for them (as if they had a choice!).  And while I am having these random thoughts I also realize that frustration leads to depression and depression makes you think insane things. The emotional outburst is as momentary as the girls’ squabble, comes in a second, disappears the next.

BUT like I said before, if I got lucky; the morning would start with wet kisses and snuggly cuddles and precious smiles saying ‘good morning’ from underneath the princess blanket where they are huddled together, siblings and best friends (well, maybe just for that day!).  There’s something intriguing and magical about sisters whispering secrets and holding each others’ hands. Hell, they even make me feel like an outsider at times. It is still a struggle to get them going for milk and breakfast, but it is a playful kind of an effort because they are in unison and tempers aren’t flying high. If they are in an exceptionally sisterly mode, they will even wear the same clothes and pretend they are twins.

And if they are nice to each other, they are even nicer to hang around with. It’s a breeze to get them to do anything, even chores. Laughter fills the house and I wish for the day never to end.

When a perfect day like this one ends, I am happy and I am sad. Happy that they had such a wonderful time with each other and that I stay at home to be a part of it; sad that they will grow up and leave and the house will be empty. Happy that they need me to be around; Sad that they won’t shout for ‘Mommy’ every minute and for everything they do, very soon.

Whatever kind it has been, I wish and pray for the same thing every day. I pray for their bond to stay as strong forever and for them to watch out for the other. Doesn’t matter if the day has been exhausting or exhilarating, it ends with the satisfaction that even when they don’t have me, they will always have each other. 

Tuesday, May 28, 2013

Going Home

The transition from staying in a joint family to living in a nuclear family is often not as simple and joyous for children, as it is for adults. I have tried to put on paper an incident from my life (as much as I could recollect) when I didn’t return home from school one day, much to the panic and dismay of my mother. 

“Mali-kaka, take me to the old home, mom said so.” I lied through my teeth, just when he was about to take a left turn and change directions. He must have been tired or gullible or careless, probably a bit of each to give in to my demand without a counter question. Or maybe he loved me enough to sense the desperation.

‘Mali’ is a hindi word for gardener and ‘kaka’ is uncle. Till date, I do not know his real name; we called him ‘Mali-kaka’ as longed as he lived. And by profession, he was a gardener indeed! Paddling kids to and fro from school was his overtime, a hard way of earning those extra bucks, considering that he was built thinner than one his 6th grade rider.

He hailed from a remote village in Bengal and like many others, came looking for work to the city as a young adult. Ours was a government colony consisting of bungalows for senior officials. His polite demeanor and hard working attitude soon earned him the up keeping of lush green gardens of all the bungalows and he could be seen all day in the community, going from one yard to another always carrying a tool or a plant.

Few years later, one of the residents offered him some money to drop and pick up their son from the neighboring school and since then, he could be spotted on his bicycle at 8 a.m. and 3 p.m. with a couple of kids taking a ride as he paddled away furiously, making a couple of rounds. Parents trusted him and kids like me saw him in and out of the house long before they started going to school.

Up until last month, he used to drop me in front of the red brick bungalow along with the other 2 kids of the adjoining houses. Grandma would be standing at the door, waiting for me. I would jump off the small seat fitted on the center rod of the bicycle and rush into her arms.  Many years later, when I mentioned it, Mom said it wasn’t only grandma, she also stood at the door a little behind grandma, but I never saw her. It was as if I was content to be in grandma’s arms and had no need to look any further.

When we moved and left the extended family behind, a lot of things other than just my address changed. They say, children are highly adaptable and that they have superior abilities to welcome change. I guess, I just wasn’t one of those blessed children.

From a huge bungalow and a big joint family of grandparents, uncles, aunts and cousins, we moved half a mile away into a modest but an adequate accommodation for our family of three, Mom, Dad and me. For the adults in question, it is perhaps a very natural phenomenon that happens in the course of time; staying in the joint family and slowly moving out to reside in their own space just like the birds who fly out of the nests to find their place in the sky. When I was a kid, for some adults, it never happened, and for those who got the opportunity, it was probably after a decade or two of communal living. For them, the changeover to being a nuclear family brought freedom, privacy and perhaps more happiness. But if you asked the kids, they would beg to differ, I would.

The change in homes hit me hard. The very first day, it felt strange going to school from a different route. When Mali-kaka came to pick me up last, I felt singled out. The other kids rode the bicycle from the same old place and by the time he tinkled the small bell of his bicycle in front of our new home, my favorite seat was already occupied. More than the going part, it was the coming back part I dreaded. The familiarity and comfort of going back home via the same road and ending the ride with all the kids were missing now. I would be the first one to be dropped off and the others would keep on with their chatter and giggles, assured that Mali-kaka had nowhere to go once he dropped them. He would go to his small room constructed at the farthest end of one of the bungalows, take rest and resume with his gardening duties by the time the kids came out to play in the evening.

And more than anything, I missed my grandma at the door. Every late afternoon when I returned from school, the ladies in the house had their tea, sitting around the kitchen in a circle. I would sit next to grandma and she would keep a separate saucer for me besides her tea cup. She would then pour tea from the cup into two saucers, raise one of them to my lips for me to drink the tea and once I was done, she would drink hers from the other saucer. I was allowed two saucers of tea, while she had three.  It was only after this tea routine that I changed out of my school uniform and did anything else like having a snack or sit at the desk to finish the homework for that day.

The first few days in the new home, I felt miserable but kept it to myself. I thought, if I felt so lonely, the grownups who had stayed together with each other longer than me, would conclusively figure out this wasn’t working out. But when neither of them showed any signs of reconsideration or gloom, I voiced my misery by whining.  But of course, nobody took me seriously. They acknowledged it, even talked about it with neighbors and visitors, “Yes, it is hard on the kids; she misses her old home and her cousins.” But that’s about it. It wasn’t an issue that needed to be addressed or taken care of. It was an expected emotion, a child’s reaction of feeling separated, a memory that would fade away with time, they assumed. 

When nobody came to my rescue, I decided to help myself. “Mali-kaka, take me to the old home, mom said so.” I lied through my teeth, on the way back from school this Monday. And as my heart stopped a beat in anticipation, he turned the bicycle in the desired direction. Thank god, it was the 80s’ and so written permission notes or emails or submission of prior-pick up plans from school weren’t a norm.

Grandma was surprised to see me at the door and happily so, I could see. She had questions for me, but she put them on hold, I think. Now, grandma or ‘Jiji’ as I called her really wasn’t my grandma. She was my aunt, my dad’s oldest brother’s wife. But since my uncle and she had raised my Dad since he was 10 years old, they had been automatically bestowed the status of being my grandparents. Not that it mattered to either of us, they had a special place for me in their hearts and I adored them.

I sat down in the kitchen and got ready for a sip from the saucer like the afternoons before we moved out. My other aunt who still lived there, was  quick to ask if my mother knew about this adventure. I refused to raise my eyes and kept drinking away from the saucer making a sound that may have sounded like a yes or no, depending on what you wanted the other person to hear. The subsequent portion of tea was already in the saucer and on its way to reach me when the bell rang a couple of times, loud and impatient.

Somebody opened the door and even today, the rest of that afternoon is a blur except for this one sequence of events. My mother stormed inside the kitchen, put the saucer down, slapped me directly across the face on my right cheek and dragged me out of the house, into the waiting Auto Rickshaw. She was shaking with rage and fear (which I NOW know, after being a mother). At that moment, she looked like the meanest mom in this world to me and I even told her so in between sobs.

Strict instructions were given to Mali-kaka, that day on and so none of my future attempts to return to where I thought I belonged were successful.

Today, my daughter is the same age as when I ran away to ‘home’ from school. And when I reflect on that particular incident etched in my memory forever, I see it in newer light. I smile at the sweet innocence of childhood when I thought going back the same road from school would take me to the same place and time forever again. I feel the warmth of grandma’s arms around me and the joyous surprise in her eyes on seeing me at the door, even today, thousands of miles away. I shudder at the mere thought of my daughter not arriving back home from school at the scheduled time. I wince at the horror of what could have been had Mali-kaka not been as trustworthy and I feel guilty about putting Mom through so much panic and stress that day. I wish I could take back my words for calling her the meanest Mom in the world and thankful that she doesn’t remember it today, I don’t know if I could myself be as forgiving as a mother. And I hope my daughter never attempts to do what I did back then, because she is definitely going to get into more trouble than just one tight slap.

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Tuesday, March 12, 2013

The Crafty Fox

We are born with a few skills, it has been said, the rest can be acquired (I say)!

My first grader brought home projects from school this last month and someone did get better at craft because of them. That ‘someone’ was none other than the mother.

My problem is I take the note from her teacher very seriously and literally. When it reads “Please help and guide your child towards successful completion of this project”, I tend to take over the complete responsibility of its completion, assuming that being the adult of the two; it is expected out of me.  The student of course has a say, but only in cosmetic matters like what colors to use and which stickers to glue (but when I look proudly at our completed piece of ‘art work’ I accept that it is the cosmetic contributions that have made all the difference!).

She also gets to run up and down the stairs as many times as needed for the collection of materials. So while she excitedly runs around passing on scissors, glue stick and dabbing some glitter here and there, I attack and lose myself in the craft like my life depends on it.

V Day Box

A shoebox lying idle in our garage got a makeover and behold, out came a swanky, shiny box that returned home with tons of candy and valentines We dressed up the cardboard in leftover Christmas wrapping paper and adorned it with jewels and heart shaped stickers at hand. This fancy project took up about half an hour of our Monday evening and gave us plenty of fun along the way!

The family Clover

This green clover arrived in the school back pack with a deadline of 3 days before submission, 2 of which went in arguing who would help the school girl with it. The last evening before it was due, I concluded if the ‘lucky to be family’ project was to be submitted on time, somebody better sit on it right now.  And I did, not because hubby is the BOSS around here, but because I could probably get it done in half the time!

Princess Tea Party

Unfortunately, I have no decent pictures of the craft we did at this party.  But I have a couple of the delicacies and the tea set it was served in and those are sure to win me some comments.

Me and my princess attended a mother-daughter Tea Party event organized at a local Estate, one Saturday afternoon. Set in a charming old fashioned bungalow surrounded by lush green lawns and tall pine trees, the surroundings and the table settings were gorgeous. We were treated like absolute royalty. Dressed up in fineries, we learned some tea etiquettes, did some craft together and sat down for tea and refreshments in an elegantly set up table, fit for princesses.

Towards the end of the party, the girls got their magic wands and did a sparkle parade for the moms who clicked away furiously!

All in all: me and my first born got to spend some alone time together over these couple of projects and parties (a rarity indeed since she had her sibling). I could see she was very happy to be the sole recipient of my attention, even if it was only for a while!

Monday, February 25, 2013

The things we do!

It was a funny sunny day! The sun obviously made it sunny and the situation that I got myself into turned it into a funny day as well.

As parents we often do things that may seem impossible, incomprehensible despicable or even laughable to others. But we do them; nevertheless, maybe because there was no choice or maybe the alternate was unpleasant.

Like this sunny day, one of the rare ones in this month of the year for us, I must add.

On a normal rainy day, we are mostly indoors or at a grocery store. That is my way of shrugging the gloom away. People here often complain how there are so many things they cannot do because of the rain. I say, if the outdoors is not a possibility, make the most of what the indoors has to offer!

But this wasn't a normal day so we ended up spending the whole afternoon outside. My toddler has relinquished her afternoon nap since she turned two (too early for my convenience, because now I have lost even that little bit of quiet time in the afternoons). Once in a while though (like today), her morning takes an early start with mine and if coupled by a whirlwind day out in the sun, those pretty lashes start getting heavy, sleep comes riding on the breeze and drifts her in.

As I turn left and arrive on our street, the neighborhood is noisy and alive, very much unlike its daily somber self. Pets and kids and moms are seen chasing each other (in that order). There is still half an hour to go before its time to pick up the older one from school. As I bring the car to a halt in front of the house, my mind is already racing on what needs to be done before leaving the house again.

A soft snoring sound is heard when the engine turns quiet. I am all set to come out of the driver’s seat and go around the car to the other side to pull her out of the car seat, but one look at her and it is obvious she is blissfully in deep sleep. The kind that comes to a child when she is content and tired, at the same time. For a minute I contemplate on going ahead and carrying her inside, like has been done on countless occasions.

Somehow, I change my mind and slide back in my seat. There is no sight more beautiful in this world, than that of a sleeping child – till now I simply read those words, but at that moment, I actually felt the truth of it inside my heart. So much that it stopped me from carrying her out of the car seat and taking her inside the house.

With 30 minutes to kill and a sleeping baby inside the car, there was pretty much nothing else to do but admire the view! And that is exactly what I did. Parked right outside my own house, I sat patiently and soundlessly, observing people as they walked past in bright spirits (it is on this day that I observed, when the sun shines, it also changes the way people walk on the road) and glanced at my own house too from time to time, trying to see how it might appear to an outsider, but most of all I kept looking in the backseat, almost wanting to touch her and protect her even as she slept.

When we talk about kids, don’t we always wonder how time flies. Well, that day, time passed very slowly and it seemed to take hours before I had to wake up my sleeping beauty and walk her to her sister’s school. But it was still precious. With nothing else on my mind (the errands and unfinished jobs  all forgotten the minute I decided to stay put in the car), I looked at her as she slept, attempting to gauge the change in her features from the day she was born and silently shed a tear or two on how big she had grown. Soon she will be off to school as well and the occasional solitude that I desperately seek now may very well come to haunt me. But right now, she is all mine, I tell myself, holding on to her little hand as we walked side by side.

Monday, February 11, 2013

Breaking Rules

When your child breaks a rule, you dish out a punishment or have a word of reprimand or both. What happens when you break the rules? Well, here’s the good news, you still get to blame the child!

We had a set of new rules put in place for the new home to remain ‘new’ and un-spoilt for a while. One of them being the ‘no food or drink upstairs rule’ and it applied to kids and adults alike. I guess I need to tell you what “upstairs” really means. The upstairs of our home, along with bedrooms, also consists of a media-room which has been combined with the kids’ toy room to use the space to its full potential. So it is actually the whole family’s paradise, we have our T.V. and they have their toys (well they have a lot for them in the T.V. too). When I say that our family of four occupies this room most of their waking hours (school and office hours obviously do not count), believe me, I am not exaggerating. It is a truthful statement accounting for an urban life. Phone conversations, internet surfing, playing games, reading books and even finishing homework, all happens in this room and in front of the Television. 

Just a couple of months back, even dinnertime was not a sacred affair. Quite frankly, it was easier to get the kids eat their veggies with this one bribe always at hand.

With the shift in residence, somehow, the parenting expert in me awakened and I decided enough was enough. It was time we figured out how it was to eat our meals in front of each other for a change.  

To my surprise, there was no opposition at all (that should have actually given me an idea of how non-seriously they took it). The reason they didn’t raise their voices, especially my better half is because they might have taken this as one of my random and fleeting ‘live better’ whims. Like the time I had decided to take a walk for 20 minutes every evening, no matter what the weather. A decision, which took a dive with the temperatures on the 6th freezing day. Or like when I declared that the only kind of rice to be cooked in this household would be brown rice. This one didn’t make it through even half the week; the craving for white rice got the better of me after a couple of meals.  

So well, when I said “no food upstairs”, the hubby and my kids, all nodded in (supposedly) sincere agreement.

It all started with a cup of tea, then a small bowl of chips and soon the whole dinner tray followed. On weekends we even started carrying mid-night snacks upstairs to munch while watching latest Hindi movies.  I protested a little but gave in easily, old habits die hard, they say and I agree.  We happily settled back into the old routine of eating in front of the television with an added effort of carrying dinner upstairs until last Friday, when a spill and a scream left me with a heavy heart.

I had my dinner last. The start to a weekend leaves me in a good mood and I felt like indulging myself, so cooked up Maggie, boiled some hot tea and carried the tray to the media room. The younger one was already asleep and my 1st grader was making valentine cards for us. After relishing every noodle to the fullest, I set my plate and cup of tea on the carpet right next to where I was seated. Here I must mention what parents reading this must already know, kids have a knack for toppling things.

Twice, she already, nearly turned the cup over and with a strict warning I told her not to come anywhere near the leftover tea. Me and hubby argued for exactly 5 minutes on who should go down and put the plate in the sink (because the probability of the carpet being stained was directly proportional to every minute my 6 year old remained awake). None of us were in the mood to move and the plate and the cup remained. “Go sweetie brush your teeth and go to bed” the minute I finished saying that, a scream came out from me. ‘Sweetie’ had come around to where I was sitting, knocking the cup down, spilling some tea on our brand new carpet.

I was furious, he was even more furious. Together, we pounced on her verbally, pointing out how careless she had been inspite of our repeated warnings, before rushing to clean the carpet. She burst into tears and soon fled to her room. Rubbing the cleaner furiously over the carpet, I was still fuming mad. The ‘told you so’ from hubby annoyed me even more.

Ten minutes later, anger evaporated and guilt settled in. I mean I was still angry but it had been redirected. It was all my fault and I blamed my sweet lil girl just because she is still at an age when she ‘has’ to listen to what mommy has to say.  She hadn’t even protested, just sat there listening to our angry words, huge tears dropping down those baby cheeks.

Why don’t parents think twice before blaming the children for their own mistakes? Is it because they really think it was the kid’s fault or is it because making a mistake in front of their children hurts their ego? I think it is a bit of both.

I don’t know how long I sat on the couch crying, but slowly, I wiped the water running down my eyes and went to her room. “It’s Friday and you always sleep in our room, remember?’ I brushed her hair aside. “I don’t want to, not today, not EVER.” She angrily shot back, half in sleep, half still in tears. “Mommy is sorry, and she will be very sad if you don’t sleep next to her tonight”, I apologized, kissing her forehead. She stayed quiet, taking this to be a yes; I lifted her up and carried my baby to our room. She hold on to me tight and I snuggled closer to her, grateful for the innocence and her forgiveness.

There are some lessons in life that you learn the hard way, but once you do, you never forget them. For me, this was one of them. We teach our children to accept responsibility for their actions, but do WE?