Precious!

I was a green file that grew up and became a blue file. My gynec’s office used colour-coded files to distinguish her patients. After a year of struggling with infertility and a green file (I wonder if she noticed the irony in this), I had finally achieved what every patient dreams of – a blue file. Like the two blue lines on the home pregnancy test. Onward march to Motherhood! But blue was not a simple march either. The blue file was a ‘precious pregnancy’. Ofcourse it’s precious, I first thought, this is MY baby! Then I learnt that it was a medical term (one which is conceived after a long time or there are previous miscarriages or abortions).

Slowly we told close friends and relatives. The congratulatory messages started pouring in as did loads and loads of advice. Advice by the truckloads on food, sleep, work, exercise… oh the list was endless. But the one theme I picked up was pretty simple – Listen to your Mom and Listen to your Body.

So I did just that. I became a happy little child once again. The initial morning sickness was pretty mild compared to horror stories I have heard but my body demanded one thing – Mom’s cooking. Anything she made I loved. 🙂 So a real win-win for both of us. My mom really knew how to take care of me – her little girl. Your days are numbered my husband would say. Soon her grandchild will be her world! I decided to enjoy it while it lasts!

And this liberated me. My entire pregnancy I was effortlessly able to maintain something I felt was very important – a positive mind frame. If my body said take a day off and rest, I would. If my body craved some ice-cream (which it did just around the time I knew my husband would be driving back home, crossing my favourite ice-cream shop!), then that’s what I ate. If Mom said eat sprouts, they are good protein then sprouts it was. If Mom said walk to the temple and back atleast thrice a week, then her little girl did just that.

With the combined wisdom of my Mom (which really is the combined wisdom of her mom and hence so many generations of wonderful women who made lovely babies) and my Body, it was quite a breeze. I enjoyed my nine months – listening to Shiva chants, eating healthy home food, chatting and laughing with my family, resting and storing sleep for crazy nights up ahead.

And then one rainy night in September, I went into labour and by seven in the morning little K was in my arms. She was so Precious!

** This blog post is an entry to the Women’s Web ‘Passport to a Healthy Pregnancy’ contest **

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!

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)