Let Go of Time

Sometimes you can’t help but wish that kids came with a Sleep On-Sleep Off button! It always feels like their body does just the opposite of what your mind is wishing them to do.
Every night the girls and I struggled with opposing plans…they wanted five more minutes of the day and I wanted five extra minutes … to myself. We would get into bed and despite knowing I sounded like such a boring nag, I would keep repeated.. Its late, go to sleep, close your eyes. And the more often they heard it, the more awake they seemed to get! My eyes would be glued to the clock at the far end of the room..watching seconds and minutes tick away, knowing it was eating into my precious me-time.
Unexpectedly the clock was my biggest lesson.
One day I decided I needed to break the cycle of forcing sleep, letting anger build and finally having the kids doze off with their last image of you being that of an angry disappointed Mamma.
All I had to do was forget the clock.
Once I stopped looking, time wasn’t an issue anymore. Girls and I would snuggle into bed and just chat as they winded down. we told each other stories, made funny sounds, laughed over dumb jokes and calmed each other down. Sleep came a little slowly but naturally.
So maybe it took fifteen minutes more but it certainly was a more relaxing end to the day. And I don’t think any amount of me-time can feel as good as those fifteen minutes with my best girls!

Bad Hair Day

Seems I missed the memo that notified all parents that six years of age is now the new teenage. I was pretty sure I had at least half a dozen years left before the troublesome teens hit my firstborn. Yet the oh-so-lovely phase she is going through right now, clearly is telling me to wake up and smell the tears and whines over an outfit or look gone all wrong!

Six-year-old K’s latest obsession is growing her tresses long … so long that they reach her shoulders one day, touch her back the next and by day three, voila!, there are at her hips. So she will repeatedly check the length as she passes any mirror and also keep comparing her beautiful locks with every style she sees in magazines and on television. I must consider myself lucky that till about age five I managed to keep my maintenance woes low by regularly ensuring she had a ‘cute summer cut’. So whether it was summer or winter, it was also just a quick brush and out the door.

Initially I would just quietly watch as she combed and brushed and measured. The trouble began when she decided on one occasion after another that her hair was a mess and she just couldn’t leave home with us for an outing. It would start with a simple discussion on how she wanted to tie her hair – a pigtail, two pigtails, just a hairband, etc etc.Slowly this would deteriorate into some whining from her side, yelling from my side, tears from her side and finally both sides just giving up and walking away in different directions!

Then one day I came home from work to hear that she bunked her favourite dance class and she confessed that her hair just wasnt good enough. Enough is enough, I thought. I am not ready for this. Why are all those precious years before her teens being stolen from me?! I demand that my innocent six-year-old with no sense of self-identity and self-esteem back! :-)

So I sat her down and gently explained that there will be days once in a while and more often as she grows up where her beautiful face and beautiful tresses will just be at loggerheads with each other. And each time we can’t run away from what we really want to do. So… we just need to declare it a ‘Bad Hair Day’ and move on. Tell people you are having a bad hair day, I suggested. They will understand. She stared at me grimly as tough my peace offering was sounding way too easy. Almost sounded as though Momma hadn’t put any effort into this one. But she politely nodded in agreement.

Couple of days later, as I walking in through the door, she came running to me.

“Momma, today ALSO I had a bad hair day! It just wouldn’t listen to me so I let it be.”

Atta girl! Give it back to that teen inside trying to fast forward life.

Tigers dont purr softly

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I was born in the Year of the Dragon. That’s all I know. And now I also know that I am not a Tiger. Definitely not a Tiger Mom.

Hoping that the Goa trip would give me a few hours to catch up on some reading, I hurriedly picked up ‘Battle Hymn of the Tiger Mom’ by Amy Chua from Flipkart. Till now I had only read a few reviews and heard her hold her own with Bill Maher on his weekly podcast. I was curious. How hard can it be to be a Tiger Mom? Doesn’t it come naturally to most Indian moms too? Boy was I off the mark!

Firstly, I love her style of writing – dry humour that’s so effortlessly thrown in that you are really not sure if she’s joking or serious. Sometimes she is saying something so outrageous that you hope and pray she is joking. Mostly she is not.

Secondly, she eases you into her story so well, kinda catches you unawares and before you know it you are in this whirlwind of parenting extremes, hoping to come out alive!

Thirdly, on some level I identify with her and I feel I know her. As a kid I spent a few of my formative years studying in a public school in New York City. I know girls like Sophie and Lulu (her daughters). Playing the piano or violin was part of their identity, the skill was their strength. The rest of us secretly admired them, knowing that hours of dedication went into turning talent into music. But as a kid, I never pictured the Mom behind the curtains. And now as a parent, I find it difficult to put myself in the girls’ shoes. I can only be the Mom now.

As I cross the first few pages, I find myself grinning along, telling myself this is easy stuff and how she is bang on about how the Chinese parenting style produces winners. At this stage I am convinced that I too should practice what she preaches (and practices) – push the girls to achieve because they dont know any better, build their self-esteem from genuine achievement and not empty praise. Walk the Talk, I am telling myself and nodding at Amy.

Then slowly she starts to reveal her true methods. I flinch. She gets tougher, more driven, less mercy. I try to look away. But I am hooked now. Is this mother for real? And these girls are still sticking the course? How is her American husband even tolerating this?

They say it takes 10,000 hours of practice to master a skill. That’s so many hours borrowed from doing something else. At the slightest voice of discomfort or fatigue, I would allow K to stop what she is doing and take a break. That’s cowardice? I don’t have the inner strength to push her towards what’s good for her? In a perfect world every parent would find that perfect balance between pushing and letting go. In a perfect world. In this world, we too have to make a choice, get off the fence and lean one way.

But this is the reality. And it works. These kids do excel in their chosen field. Do they gain more than they lose? The second child rebels and her interactions with Lulu have some heart-wrenching moments, where I feel I am standing in the same room but unsure which side I am on. Choices. That’s what it all comes down to.

The only true lesson for me is that I need to invest more of my time and energy in my girls’ future. It’s my job to walk them down the chosen path. Yes, some choices will be mine but also some will be theirs. For the greater good. Because not trying at all is just not good enough.

If you are a parent, go read this book. Or don’t. The choice is always yours.

Natural Order of Things

Recently a celebrity-cricketer lost his 19-year-old son in a ghastly road accident. Young boy, new bike, excessive speed – recipe for disaster. Yet, something you would not wish upon your worst enemy. A young mother’s tweet summed it up perfectly – ‘it’s against the natural order of things for parents to outlive their kids’. 

Everyday with a heart full of love, I go about doing some very mundane tasks. It is usually 10 pm and the kids have finally decided to let the wave of fatigue and sleep take over. The house is silent, a very comforting silence that I tiptoe through. The father is either travelling or yet to get back home and snooze in front of the blinking lights of the television on mute.

In this stillness, I go about my little jobs. Wash and rinse V’s baby bottles and let the sterilizer take over. Check the school bag for four (yes, always has to be four) sharpened pencils, current favourite eraser and a set of crayons. Scrape the mud off the school shoes and buff them up for another rough day at the office. Put away the toys that lie across the battlefield otherwise known as the living room. Iron K’s uniform and pack the sports gear for the next day. All very simple tasks. I go about it quietly, without any fanfare.

But the thing is, in my mind, only I can do all these things in a perfectly orderly fashion. I am the super-glue that keeps things sane. Who else will remember that its Wednesday and the library book has to be carried to school? Who else will carefully spread a layer of cheese spread for K’s sandwich that’s just the right thickness? Who else will surprise her with a few scoops of Glucon-C in the water bottle once a week? Who else will make sure we reach the bus in time so that she catches her favourite seat, from where she can wave to Momma till the bus turns the last bend? Who else will make sure V wakes up to her best friend -  the pigeon toy?

Am I sounding like an ordinary Mom with a super-inflated ego? I’m not one. We all have our little routines with our loved one. Am sure the father has his own little world where its only him and the kids. It’s what makes each day so simple and joyous.

All I am saying is that this is the natural order of things. I need to do this for them. I need to be there for them. My heart has two little nooks just their size. And when I come home after a long, tiring day at work – they are there for me. Four arms outstretched together to fit a Momma just my size.

Cat Without A Tiger Mom

So my darling Cat with the momma-made Hat was through to the finals! Yipee! And I just loved the look of absolute pride and joy on her face. You have already won, baby.

And that’s the boo-boo momma made. With a week to go for the finals, I thought the best thing to do was spruce up the costume and let her do her thing. She was enjoying the prospect of being on stage and I didn’t want to ruin it by making her rehearse till she was a wooden talking puppet. And it seemed to be a good idea. She was choreographing her own steps, adding to tune to the poem and having a ball.

In hindsight, momma took her eye of the ball. There are tiger moms and dads out there!

On the D-Day, K even insisted she was cool enough to go by bus in full costume. And she did a lovely job on stage. The costume really looked so real. The little white tummy patch on the black t-shirt was looking adorable. Apart from a couple of hitches with the mike (wish they had pinned it on her to allow unrestricted movement), the performance was very entertaining.

But some of the other kids/ parents had really gone all out in terms of costume and dialogue. I could see the hours of practice. It was rehearsed but it made an impression with the judges.

Anyway, K was thrilled to have taken part and I didn’t see even a hint of disappointment at not winning a prize. She knew Momma and Daddy were so proud of her. And that’s the way it should be.

But…. next time, momma will push herself a little more. I feel I let you down a wee little bit, Kiddo.

Look out for us next year!

Starting Young

So it’s time to start hunting for a good playschool for V. I have deliberated the pros and cons enough number of times and have come to the foregone conclusion that it will be good for her. More kids, more activities, some singing and dancing and all that jazz.

And after reading so many articles, blogs, etc on how to choose a good playschool, I have come to the profound conclusion that the only thing that matters most is…. (drumroll)…. gut feel!

And what I shall attribute to gut feel actually incorporates a lot of the logical checkpoints also. My heart (ok, gut) will say yes because all the basic stuff is there – bright and airy place, safe equipment, pleasant staff…. The final nod comes because something tells you that these strangers will take care of your child and treat her with love and respect. That they will make her feel wanted and not like she’s being shipped out for a few hours of quiet.

So this weekend, I shall jump in and out of new schools, waiting for my gut to say, “stop! this is the one for V.”

Are you Happy?

Are you Happy, my little one?

K & V will always be my little babies. Every child is so special and just wraps itself around your heart so tight that sometimes it’s difficult to breathe. Every moment of every day I want them to be happy and secure. But that’s not really possible is it? I’m just setting myself up for a whole lot of heartache if I let every frown of their’s squeeze my heart.

It just seems that today’s kids have so many more worries than we every did as children. They know so much more and want to know even more and experience way too much more. Peer pressure and the need to fit it and the need to shine in everything they do – it all starts way too early.

I tend to agree with Tiger Mom. Though I havent read her book yet I have read various ‘opinions’ and I thought she brought her point across very well on (of all places!) Bill Maher’s show.

Appreciation needs to be earned. And when we create kids with high self-esteem with very little achievement to back it up, we really aren’t doing them any favours. So with minimal efforts, kids hear applause. And on occasions, when effort has been poured in and there is silence, it sets the stage for huge disappointments and creates quitters.

Have I digressed? 

Anyway, getting back to where I started… all I wish for my little angels is that they are able to enjoy the journey. I will cheer them on endlessly but they will hear ‘great job done’ only when it’s a great job done.

I wonder if I can really do this without squeezing my heart to death!

Be brave

 Slightly heartbroken this morning. While I will get to what happened this morning, the reason for the heavy weight on my heart is the realisation that this is just the beginning….

K was in her usual ‘let me sleep for 2 more minutes’ mood.Understandable. Poor baby does a full day of school (till 5pm!) and then plays in the park and then at home and then…. you get the picture, the day never ends. So mornings aren’t very easy! But she’s a sweetheart. It takes just a quick promise of a new story and she’s up and about, all set to take a bath.

This morning was different. The reluctance was persistent. The stubbornness was forceful. And the decision was final. She did not want to go to school.

For me, it was a morning nightmare. Not because it takes great patience and effort to convince her once she firms up her mind (the trick is to change tracks before she does) but also because it sets internal alarm bells ringing.

“what’s troubling her? is someone misbehaving at school? is she afraid of something or someone?”

And answers werent forthcoming…

Despite her whining and resisting, I managed to get her dressed and out the door. At every opportunity she tried to run back. Totally out of character. More panic inside me.

The few reasons she offered didn’t sound convincing and not stuff she would feel so strongly about – too much writing work, don’t like the food, etc.

We got close to the bus stop and she just turned around and ran back home. Momma gave up. Something was wrong.

So we sat down on the steps. Two friends just sharing the moment and trying to get the monster out in the open.

It slowly came tumbling out. the class bully. she stole her pencils. she stole her erasers. she refused to be her basketball partner. she made her fight about everything.

my poor baby…. so small and so many anxieties. and momma wanted to make it all go away in a flash.

this too shall pass. this too shall be tackled.

but the heart is broken. she’s on the road to growing up and momma can only hold her hand for so far… class bullies, peer pressure, the need to fit in ….. Some battles she will need to fight on her own. some battles will be lost.

She’ll be brave. She’ll have a fighting spirit. She’ll stand up for what she thinks is right. She’ll let it be known what she thinks is wrong.

Sometimes she will stand alone.

Be brave little girl. The real world awaits you.

It’s easier to hold her hand

I am learning this the hard way. K is suddenly a big girl. And each new day at school teaches her that it’s not that difficult to do something on your own. Especially if you have to.

I thought she was fully ready for her new ‘big’ school – mentally tough, no fear of new people and places, and a veteran of ‘big’ school, having done two years of KG at a big school. But i suddenly started realising that I hadn’t thought of training her on some of the more basic skills that she would actually need. She may be the youngest in her class but in 1st std she was expected to wear her shoes, tie her laces, wash herself and change in and out of her swimming costume herself. No more Didis hovering around in school to help.

But Momma hadn’t taught her! Momma loved being beside her to lend a helping hand. So now Momma was full of guilt (what’s new?!).

But as always, K rose to the occasion – quietly and calmly.

“Daddy – teach me how to tie my laces like you do everyday”

“Daddy – let us practise this clip on my skirt so i can do it myself in the bathroom”

“Momma – keep an extra bag for my wet clothes. I can put on my suit myself. I’ll manage”

“Momma – i just use the hand hose pipe to wash myself. its little difficult but its ok”

“Momma – can you write my name in my shoe so that i can find it easily after yoga class”

Momma used her ingenuity and applied a bit of red nail polish on the lace tips and back of the shoe. So K can find her shoe very easily :-)

There’s comfort in always being there. Yes, its nice to feel wanted.

And now I know there is greater comfort in knowing she has the confidence to try it herself and the humility to ask for help.

Spread your wings, little one!

(meanwhile let me go and help V for a few years before she also realises the joy of flying solo)

On a wing and a prayer

So it has started. The mommy paranoia. As I took K to the bus stop today and watched her merrily climb into the bus, the thought flashed across my mind. How will I know she has reached her school and then classroom safely? And then the sirens went off in my head. Red, blazing and loud. I will know …only when she gets off the bus at 5 in the evening.

I’m generally not a pessimist or lover of worst case scenarios. But I like to be prepared for all contingencies. And in this case, its my little kiddo. How can i not even try to plug this gap in the process? And there are so many solutions possible . If only the school and the parents are willing to spend some time and energy thinking it through. We are ready to spend so much on fancy toys and the fancy school.

All that comes to nought if in today’s world we parents aren’t super paranoid about their safety. I don’t know if it was a safer world 10-20 years back. It definitely was a quieter world. You didn’t get to hear about the bad stuff in such an instantaneous in-your-face manner like we do today.

Yes, I trust the driver. Why? he seems like a nice guy. (lame)

Yes, I trust the senior kids on the bus. Why? They are good kids from good families. Surely they will watch out for the little ones when they lift their heads out of their books and mobiles

But one fine day when something goes wrong…. Yes, I would have said my little prayer in the morning but…. I didn’t even try to find a solution? Not good enough.

So here I come… frantically googling about GPS devices and preparing my safety spiel for the school and other parents. I can’t leave this on a wing and a prayer.