Friday, July 22, 2011

What kind of mother are you?

It's been a few months since I quit my job to experience the stay-at-home bliss at my new home. A lot of women in my new complex have decided to quit their jobs to take care of their kids and I am living in a kind of suburban bubble. It has also, for the first time, given me an opportunity to talk to and mix with a lot of women from my complex and from my old circle of friends, many of whom I had lost touch with.

While the world, very broadly, generalises mothers as working and non-working, I have begun to see so many sub classes in between. Just a light-hearted look at a few kinds off the top of my head:

*The perfectionist: Hers are the kids who always go to school with sparkling white canvas shoes. Their lunches are always packed with nutritious food and their homeworks are always done. If they have to get a project finished, she starts working on it from day one and makes sure they get it right! She inspires other moms and also scares them a little bit.

*The fun mommy: She is the mommy every child wants. Always full of life and exciting things to do, she is every child's hero. She makes even work fun and interesting and is not averse to a late week night every now and then. She is also the kind who, very spontaneously, will take the kids out to the zoo or the park on weekends.

*The strict officer: Her kids, quite literally, piss out of fear in her presence. She rules the household and the kids with an iron hand and kids and husband scamper away in fear at her slightest sign of displeasure.

*The lost soul: These moms are bored out of their skulls in their avatar and are constantly wishing they were someplace else. Motherhood really does not come naturally to them and they look lost and scared most of the time, looking to someone else for guidance and deliverance.

*The scatterbrain : This is the woman who runs down the stairs in her nightie chasing after her child with her homework. Or the one who is creating a ruckus in the mall after losing a kid. Or is up half the night designing a dress for the school play the next day and then forgets to send it.

So, what kind of mommy do you think you are?

Sunday, July 17, 2011

The reading habit

Anyone who has known me since childhood will have one enduring image in their mind - a dishevelled little girl with hair falling over her eyes and most often seen in a white petticoat, always, always holding a book under her nose. In fact, my earliest childhood memories are not from my life but from the images of a book I read as a little girl. I was a precocious kid, an only child often left to my own devices. Not being the athletic kind, books were my only method of passing time and my parents ensured that an endless supply of books was kept up. Sometimes, I wonder if I have read more than I have lived. To quote those beautiful, beutiful words of Meg Ryan from the movie 'You've got mail', 'So much of my life reminds me of a book I once read, when, in fact, should'nt it be the other way around?'. Such beautiful words that I go into raptures just thinking about that movie. Anyway, I digress.

The point I am trying to make is, I inhale books. Quite literally. Magazines, newspapers, pop fiction, romance, chick flick, classics. Just about every genre that there is to read. And in my world, I cannot relate to people who do not read. I may still like them and be friends with them but a crucial, very enjoyable part of my relationship with a lot of people is to talk about what I have read and that part will definitely be missed.

Thankfully, the husband also reads and during our pre-kuttan days, many a happy afternoon were spent companionably reading. Once kuttan was born, hyper mother that I am, I went on an overdrive. I started collecting books for him from the time he was 3 months old. And started reading to him just as soon. And, a year later, I was reading Dr.Seuss books and colour books and shape books. And was getting increasingly frustrated when my happy baby boy showed not the LEAST bit of inclination or interest or preference to books.

Many nights would be spent with me shoving a book under his nose and him trying to wriggle away from me. As he passed the age of 4, things still hadnt improved and I lost interest. 2008 was a busy year in our household with the arrival of little princess and kuttan starting LKG. Somehow, I did not pay as much attention to him that year as I should have so I failed to notice that while other kids were slowly trying to read, my son was'nt even going beyond recognising the alphabet. All my pushing and prodding had put him off reading and he was digging his heels in mentally. I did not know any of this till I was called by his teacher last year who explained to me that kuttan was falling behind in the reading department. While other kids were able to read simple three letter words, my baby was refusing to even try. All my bullying had backfired badly. I came back sobbing and had a sleepless night were I envisioned a son who would not read books.

The next day, I went to work on him. Kuttan is a bit of a techno freak and I decided to give him his bitter pill with a sugar coating. The first site I introduced him to was The first few days were met with fierce resistance of having to apply his mind to putting the letters together. But I persisted and he slowly, painstakingly learnt to read 2 and 3 letter words at the age of 5. I also invested in some reading books. The Disney series 'Let's read and understand' was wonderful because it combined easy exercises and and games with flash cards and sight words. Slowly, I saw an increase in interest in his eyes. For the first time, he would try to read the billboards from the car. When we went to shops, he would try to read the names of the labels and it was like a new world had opened for him for the first time. Amar chithra kathas are being devoured with regularity along with Magic pots.

There was no looking back after that and my son proved to be quick and insatiable learner. Mornings during IPL season were spent with kuttan and the husband poring over the newspaper and kuttan reading off the sports page. Cricket and readinf. I was'nt complaining at all! But I truly, truly didnt realise how far he had come till last week. I had had a busy day with a lot of errands to run outside the house and returned late in the evening to a surprisingly quiet house. 'Where is kuttan', I asked amma. 'Must be playing in the room', she replied. As I tiptoed into his room, I found my 6 year old son nonchalantly sitting with my copy of R.K.Narayan's 'Swami and friends'. 'What are you doing kutta?', I asked. He looked up with a smile and said, 'This book is really cool amma...Rajam and Mani and Swami have so much fun!!!'

Welcome to my world, son. Enjoy the beautiful journey. I am so happy you discovered the beauty and endless of magic and wonder of reading.

Thursday, July 14, 2011

The little princess- a few glimpses

The little princess turned 2 last month. The transformation has been nothing short of amazing. At the age of 2, kuttan was still struggling to say 'amma' and 'appa'. LP on the other hand has already started speaking sentences, quite effortlessly at that. A few moments to be stored for posterity:

1. The LP is quite a mamma's girl, unlike kuttan who prefers to stick to the husband like glue, so much so, that she follows me even to the bathroom - the place I go to hide myself for a few minutes to get some respite from the madness that is my life. Really, she is that chipkoo.

2. The princess and I provide entertainment galore to the people in the new apartment complex every evening. They see a little minx, nimble footed and slender, running so quick it seems her feet dont touch the ground, her laughter floating in the air, followed by a heavily overweight woman moving in a strangle mixture between a run and a waddle screaming her name, threatening to fall into an ignominous heap any minute.

3. Did I tell you one of the main reasons I wanted a girl was so that I could dress her up? Yes, that's how shallow I am. Now, however, having got one, it turns out she has a mind of her own and prefers to be dressed in her brother's hand-me-down pants and t-shirts rather than any of the fluffy frocks and frilly dresses I have painstakingly collected for her. We have major stand-offs whenever clips, hair bands or any embellishments of hair are to be worn and the entire household is involved in keeping her distracted while I pin those contraptions on her, which of course, are pulled off summarily the minute she figures out are there.

4. The kuttan is constantly embarrassed by his sister's antics and the poor guy is dreading the day when she will join him in school next year. When she monkeys around the playground and other children laugh at her, he comes and furiously whispers to me, 'Take her away!'. When that doesnt work, he goes and tries to draw the other children's attention away from her. It always, always ends up with him furiously stomping off homeward, muttering to himself, near tears.

5. The princess is turning to be as much of a fussy eater as that brother of hers - I am destined to struggle over meal plates with both my children I guess. The only difference is that she LOOOVEES sweets and can have any number of sweets at any time of the day. On days when nothing else works, I let her.

And so, that, in brief, is little princess at 2. Affectionate, naughty, impish, spirited, joyful, our own little minx. Our sunshine girl.

Wednesday, July 13, 2011

5 things that motherhood taught me...

Aparna tagged me aeons ago to write about 5 things motherhood taught me. Sloth that I am, it took me this long to actually sit down and type it out though I have been mentally making a post of it for weeks. Anyways, here goes. It is none of the usual things you would expect but at least its honest.

1. It made me a more patient person.

One trait that I am constantly in short supply of. Dealing with existential questions such as 'Where is God?' when you are stuck in the middle of the MOTHER of all traffic jams. NEVER being able to finish a phone-call. Having your baby daughter follow you to the bathroom...all these vignettes of motherhood need an inexhaustible supply of patience.

2. It made me a more socially aware person.

When I read about the little kid that was electrocuted by a live-wire in the playground, the playground for chrissakes, you feel the pain more when you have children of your own. Everytime you hear news of school-shootouts or any tragedy that involves young children, you heart actually squeezes in pain. Before motherhood, I was able to read it all with a degree of distance. Now, I feel it.

3. It made me realise that there is life beyond a career.

I never thought I would be a full-time stay at home mom. And yet, that is exactly the choice I made when it came right down to it. I realised that nothing, NOTHING in the world can compensate for the joy in your child's face when he walks into the house after school. Not even the joy of making CEO. Not that there was any danger of that happening with me anyway.

4. It has made less judgemental of other women's choices.

Before kids, I was quick to judge and slow to understand. When I saw a toddler screaming in a restaurant, I would give the parents quelling looks. When I heard of a woman who gave up a great career to stay home with her kids, I would make scathing remarks. After motherhood, I have realised that life is a very long, very beautiful journey with inexplicable twists and turns. Now it is MY daughter who is rolling on the floor throwing a tantrum. It is I who has given up a career to be with my kids. And when someone gives me an uncomprehending look, I just smile quietly.

5. It has made me realise my parents worth.

Every time I grit my teeth in anger at something my kids do, I realise how much my parents went through and how nuch harder it was for them. And yet, I always grew up believing I was the center of their existence, the only reason for their happiness. If I can give my children half the sense of security that my parents gave me, I think my job is well done.

And then there are myriad other ones such as eyeing the dresses in the mall with one eye and your extremely flighty two year old with the other, eating in a fancy restaurant in 5 minutes flat and getting OUT of there. But that's fodder for another post.

I was tagged so long ago, its almost embarrassing. But JLT and Abha. Would love to hear what you have to say.

Wednesday, March 16, 2011

The Gentleman and The Banshee

He is suave and cultured. She is hot and fiery. He quietly charms friends and foes alike with an easy smile and practiced grace. She spits fire at anyone trying to get too close. He is a hot favorite among anyone who knows him. She...well, let's just say diplomatically that....she inspires mixed feelings.

No, I am not talking about the lead pair in some fanciful Mills&Boon novel but about my own two children. It never ceases to amaze me that two human beings, both spawned by me and both brought up in near similar conditions can be so completely different. I have seen it with other people. The husband himself, born the youngest of three, is completely different from the other two. And yet, this phenomenon among my own kids, so young at that, always fascinates me.

Kuttan was a much easier child. To take care of, to manage, to take out on vacations, to put to sleep, to love. The princess on the other hand, has taken it upon herself to make this parenting gig as difficult for me as possible. She screams at any alleged opposition and, quite literally, spits on people's faces. The other small kids in the apartment have taken to hiding from her as she unleashes her fury dispassionately on all. Disciplining by stern words, a teeeeny bit of spanking or ignoring have, so far, only seemed to aggravate the problem. The husband swears she needs to go to school pronto and have some discipline beaten into her. I, on the other hand, hesitate, loath to snuff out that glorious spirit of hers.

And yet, it seems as though nature has given me its own version on Yin and Yang- a perfect harmony in my two kids. When I am being too harsh with kuttan during study time, as his gentle eyes cloud with tears, his own Banshee comes screaming at me waving her chubby little arms and speaking furious gibberish. It saves me from my uncontrollable rage and makes kuttan smile again. When she misbehaves in the playground, beats up too many kids and is being cornered by older kids, still standing defiantly, with UTTER disregard to her size, very close to being beaten up, I see kuttan walking up to her and gently leading her by the arm off the scene. Nobody else, not even the husband or I, can calm the princess in situations such as these. And so the days pass, with me being a spectator witnessing the shaping of two adults. I hope their love for each other grows and stands strong all through their lives. Love you me babies!! You make my life so much richer!

Saturday, December 11, 2010

The age of innocence

Kuttan and a friend A are playing outside in the balcony of our apartment on the 2nd floor. Scooter, a car and cycle are strewn around. A is riding the cycle and kuttan goes up to him after a while and says, 'let's change'. A refuses. An argument breaks out and A sulkily says, 'I won't be your friend.' 'Dont be..whats my problem', says kuttan. 'I am going to go and bring my cycle', says A...'let's see you do it', challenges kuttan, while I silently witness the drama unfolding without wanting to get in.

'See him amma, as though he can carry his cycle all the way. Let me see him do it.', kuttan says to me furiously while A storms off and I wisely bury my head back into the laptop. 5 minutes of silence. I look out to see kuttan missing. 'Kutta', I call out, 'where are you?'. 'I am here', floats a voice from the ground floor. 'Helping A carry his cycle to the 2nd floor'!!!!??!!

Monday, December 6, 2010

The age old debate...

...has been brough to focus again by this post. And I agree with all of Ro's observations - the smugness, the superiority, the feigned pity at the plight of the poor hapless kids who have the misfortune of being born to these power-crazy, money-crazy women. But, having been quite equally present on both sides of the fence, I have seen the other side of it too....the working women who give subtle pitying looks, the condescension, the raised eyebrows and the inevitable question 'Oh, but what do you do at home all day?'.

And it's not only the women. It's the society on the whole. The husbands, the other men in the family, men who think women who work in the world outside know what they are talking about and the ones at home have it easy....The truth is, the world may love pulling down the 'working moms' (I hate all tags but this one definitely takes the cake!) but secretly many, many people envy them and are threatened by them and, most importantly, respect them. For the SAHM on the other hand, to be considered as a person with half a brain is entirely another challenge in itself. I work from home full-time and am seen around the house feeding the kids, playing with them and so on. And then someone comes along and says, 'hey cute you are a SAHM?'. And I say, 'well, I work from home and I work with #%$%^'. And I visibly see the new light entering their eyes. I have seen it happen so many times, when, in fact, it should'nt matter at all, should it?

I wonder why women on both sides of the fence have it so tough. If this feels wrong and that feels wrong as well, what is right? I think there are no right answers and each one just follows his or her own compulsions, taking into consideration family, money and other factors. But I also wonder if all the judging and bitterness comes from people who are not entirely secure with the choices they have made themselves and just dont have the guts to admit it or do anything about it. The ones who are happy and confident about their place in the shade will surely understand other people's needs and compulsions and, if not supportive, will at least be peacably accepting about it.

At the end of the day, it all boils down to this. Is there a single working woman who, deep down, has not ONCE felt, 'I wish I could have an easier life!' when she has to drag herself to work leaving behind a sick child, or miss a recital or play in school or has to steel herself against those soft eyes and small hands tugging at her hand and heart saying, 'mamma, dont go!'? Is there ONE exhausted SAHM who has never wistfully looked at her friends and colleagues from an earlier life whose lives suddenly look super glamorous now and thought for one fleeting second, 'what if?'? With so many unspoken desires and pressing needs, should'nt we be sympathetic with each other and go the extra mile to understand and support? Will it happen? What do you think?