The one where the Brat had a problem

Dear Brat,

I thought long before I wrote this post. Would it bother you later? Would you come back to hate me? Then I figured, kids will find something to hold against us anyway, so let’s make it easy for them!

About 9 months ago, after you went to big school, we realised that your personality was suffering. You’d slowly gone into a shell, stopped speaking or begun to speak only gibberish, had given up holding a pencil, had spells of violence and then of absolute silence – and the worst? You cringed if I put out a hand to push a lock of hair off your face or wipe chocolate off your face and that spoke volumes. There were plenty of other problems that I shall not blog about, that we needed to take up with the administration, but the main thing was to get you out of there.

So we moved you back to your old nursery school from the terrible, terrible school we’d put you in. About 20 days later, I was called to meet your teachers.  It gave me the heebie jeebies – what could be wrong? The teachers gently broke it to me that you might have a learning disability. And communication problems too. And they said the scary words – Special Ed teacher.

Every mother thinks her child is special. A genius. Brilliant. And every grandparent thinks their grandchild is twice the genius their child ever was. Which is why your Nani-G’pa were understandably in denial. I on the other hand, was willing to listen to the teachers and take remedial steps if that is what it took. We had a meeting with the principal where I reminded her that you were one of the brightest kids in the class the year before that – in your Montessori class. She remembered – she also called in last year’s teacher to speak to her. I mentioned that the school we’d moved you to, had affected you deeply. Your father and I were really worried about your behaviour at home and to hear that you were having trouble at school, was even worse.

I was willing to pay for the Special Ed teacher if you needed one, but I wanted them to keep in mind that you had been through a shock. That you’d regressed for a reason and up until then had no problem learning. That the school we’d pulled you out of, was way behind your nursery school in terms of curriculum. They were still teaching you to draw standing and sleeping lines while this school was teaching you the capital and small letters at the same time. As for the social problems, well, considering you’d regressed to barely talking and had joined the new class 4 months after the other children had formed their little groups, I could see why. I just didn’t want them to label you – but I didn’t want to live in denial either.

Anyhow, the decision taken was that you wouldn’t be given special ed, we’d all just work harder with you. And that’s how it began. Now I am not a teacher. I am your mother. And a very impatient mother at that. It’s also why I get very irritated that the teaching in this country often lies in the hands of those who couldn’t figure out what else to do. Those with husbands in transferable jobs. Those who want to go home early to their kids and need a job that ends at 2 pm. I fully appreciate the enormity of the task and I don’t at any point imagine its an easy job to do, which is why, I took on the task of helping you catch up, with great trepidation. We’d already made a mess and I knew I didn’t want to screw things up further.

I think this might be a good time to confess that I am ashamed of losing patience at times. Mostly because you’re such a good child. You’re stubborn, but as a mother it’s my job to understand that and work around it. There were days I had deadlines to meet, while you and sister danced around the house like little dervishes. There was the alternative therapy doctor to take you and your sister to. There was housework to be done. And I snapped often enough. And wept myself to sleep with the guilt.

But you were patient with me. Patient with your father. Patient with your little sister who hopped from one excited foot to the other, blithely and ignorantly encouraging you when you were doing something wrong. I don’t know how we managed, with a guest room that permanently had guests in and out of it, people sprawled across our bedroom carpet or on bean bags, the constant bustle around the house – but I guess that is where the natural resilience of children makes its presence felt. You learnt. You learnt from all of us. And each of us taught you in our own way.

I wondered if we were confusing you, or hampering your progress. You know, so  many people rushing in and out of your life, so many different ideas. But it worked. It worked in its own way. We did a review with your teacher two months later and she was beyond pleased with your progress. You were up to the  class’ level inspite of having not just started four months later, but having had a lot of other problems.

I often criticise your father and your Tambi maama for their terrible handwriting. But as I sat with you day after day and watched your little hands grasp a pencil and painfully shape an alphabet, I was in awe. In awe of the human mind and the effort it takes to draw even something as simple as a straight line. It made me doff my hat to adult literacy programmes. Schooling your hand, learning to put the right amount of pressure, getting your brain to tell your hand which direction to take and then actually taking it… So much that we just take for granted, once we’ve picked up the skill.

I wish I could tell you how your father and I held our breath each time we asked you for an alphabet and you concentrated, a frown appearing on your little forehead (you get that from me) and then produced it on paper promptly. I wish I could tell you how we went from sleepless nights to falling asleep with a smile on our faces as we recalled you bouncing into the room excitedly and saying, “Mamma, I want to study!”

And it wasn’t just that. We slowly saw the old Brat reappear. You had begun to shy away from guests but soon my little boy was peeking in at the drawing-room door saying  “Good evening maashi” and giving them a quick glimpse of his sunshiny smile.

Another day I had on some music as usual when you came into the room and said, “Mamma, look at me.” And then you had a fit. Shaking and squirming until it hit me – you were trying to dance!! Proud mother though I am, let me safely assure you, erm, Fred Astaire is turning in his grave. So is good old MJ, God rest his soul.

Anyway, I digress. Slowly, you came back to us. In so many ways. You began to talk again. Your eyes lighting up with your wild plans. Your voice rising and falling with your tales. You took to pen and paper with a vengeance.

A few weeks ago, you drew me a lion. A blue lion. “A blue  lion?” I asked you. Yes, you said. “Why not? A black and white giraffe can have a blue and pink baby… because a brown mamma pig has pink piglets.” Sound logic, that.

And I backed off. If it was blue lions you envisioned, well then, blue lions they would be. It bothers your father, at times. He’s a little more conventional. For instance we have these lovely books where you have to pick the odd one out and I’ve completely bypassed the pages where you have to pick the odd one out – a purple penguin, a hen with tusks… Because knowing you, my little Brat with no limits in your head, you’d wonder why they’re considered the odd ones.

Another day I asked you to draw something you like, and it’s not hard to guess what you drew. Something, that you called, err.. the Bean. With long hair and earrings and five fingers neatly attached to each arm, from armpit to wrist. Picasso, you are (NOT!). I laughed after you’d gone, till the tears rolled down my cheeks (yeah, I’m mean like that) – and cousin K walked in, and did the infuriated maama job on me. “How can you laugh at his work? It’s so sweet. He’s drawn his sister with such effort and he’s only four years old!” And he walked off in a rage, his eyes brimming with love for you.

A call from your teacher three days after you went back to school confirmed it. “Ma’am, I just wanted to tell you that your son has come back from the holidays a different person. Over the last 6 months he’s not just made up what he lost in the last school, but caught up with the class and has finally regained his personality. I think you’re doing a great job with him at home, so keep doing whatever it is you’re doing.”

I hung up and called your father and cried. He listened to me… the silence over the phone line saying more than words could. I know he’s worked hard too. Coming back after work and playing word games in between wrestling. Playing number plate games in the car. Taking you places, helping you write, his big hand eclipsing your little one, protecting it. I often say that it takes more than half a teaspoon of sperm to make a father and your father has.. well, he’s done more than I ever imagined a father could.

As for me, its been a packed six months. Six months that have taught me so much about you, about parenting, about love, about literacy and about the joy of watching something bloom before your eyes. Now as you write your name with ease, spell out little words, and shock me with your photographic memory, I release the breath I was holding  from the day they told us you might have a learning disability. I’m glad we got that shock. It gave me some time to think about what I would do if you did have one. Well, as your mother, I’d just deal with it. Simple.

But more than your father and me, you worked. You worked with us. You gave us your time, your energy, your enthusiasm, (sometimes your malingering!), your little spongelike baby brain soaking it all up and greedily wanting more, Olive Twist-like.

You are already fantastic at simple addition and subtraction, something you’ve picked up on your own (although I think you inherit that math brain from your father!). Your school has not begun that section yet, but you blithely add and subtract toffees and birds. You’ve picked up the language brilliantly and now you do funny things like singing Feliz Navidad – but replacing the ‘dad’ part with your father’s name. A friend whose nick is A-something is now called B-something, C-something and so on. Something only a mind like yours, open to all possibilities, could have come up with.

You dance sometimes, your face coming alive, even though your limbs all seem to have their own agenda, not a single one complementary to the other!! You love to paint and you do beautifully with water colours, staying well within the lines. You draw fantastical creatures with strange body parts and entertain me with their exploits. You tell me stories, you make up rhymes and more than that you laugh, you tease, you cry, you live, you breathe, you smile, you love, you are whole, you are healthy and I am grateful for all of those every single day. You make me proud my son.

I love you,

Mamma

Rules are meant to be broken

Dear OA,

When we were expecting the Brat I told you I’d kill you if you ever laid a hand on my kids. You looked at me in disbelief. Was there ever a child brought up without getting the odd whack? Well, I was. Hmm.. you said, that explains it. Of course the Brat arrived and the first hand to land heavy on his backside was mine. I’ve never seen a father look happier at his child getting a spanking. And then rush in to save him as an afterthought.

Way before all of this happened, when we were still dating you mentioned that you hated food on the bed. No chips, no meals, nothing. I shrugged, it didn’t matter to me anyway, because I eat all my meals at the table. And yet, who is it who gets the midnight munchies and gets into bed with chocolates, chips, murukkus and such like? Perhaps the last straw was a plate of Hyderabadi Biryani you got into bed with, at 2 am. Too tired to get out of bed to heat it, but wanting to do something, I fed you – with my own lily white mocha brown hand. And you blushed. Cute. Ten years and I can still get you to blush! I’m counting on this post to get me one more. And yes, I’m going to keep spoiling you silly, so sit tight and enjoy the ride.

I guess that is what marriage is all about. Laying down laws that you will never keep!

Love

MM

You are special to me

Dear babies,

This children’s day I just want you to know, that even though I’m too achy and breaky to take you for piggy back rides like your father does, even though I can’t spoil you like your nani and g’pa do, even though I can’t be with you all day much as I want to, even though I can’t give you all the time and money on earth that I want to – you are mine and nothing could make me happier or more proud. I love you and you’re special to me – more special than special if that is possible. Be happy, be free, be everything you want to be.

Your mad mother

04112009 077

On handling the samdhis

After the last computer crash I gave up all hope of having any pictures of the kids pre-2009 February.  Until I realised today that my gmail account was full and I needed to start deleting. As I went through old mail I found a lot of pictures that I’d been clicking and foisting on to unsuspecting relatives. The first among friends and family to have a baby I had no idea how annoying it could be and to their credit nobody replied telling me to shove it up. So here’s a shout out to those who know me in the real world and might have old pictures that I mailed them ( unless you printed them out for dart practice and deleted the mail)  – pliss to be mailing me any old pictures you have of me and my beloved rats. I will be eternally grateful.

Anyhow… while scrambling around in the inner recesses of the inbox I came upon a gem my father sent to me and my brother and the OA. This was around the time my brother got serious about his now wife. Apparently I had a conversation with my father that left him rather shaken. Whereupon he woke up next morning and mailed us this piece, that begged a larger audience. My brother is happily married and on most days my mother has a better relationship with his wife than with me. God bless them. So I guess its safe to air this gem now!

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One of the signs that you are ageing is when you start getting frequent advice from your children, particularly if they are daughters. Now take last night for instance – I get a call from my daughter that since the other child, her beloved brother “may be thinking” of getting married to a girl he is presently friendly with, we better take some advice from her about handling the situation. The “maybe thinking” is delicately put as one has to be careful in forming an opinion in these situations where the kids are concerned.  Handling the situation could mean anything from “don’t annoy him” to “don’t be too nosey about the girl”, but here it was specifically meant on how to handle the in-laws or “Samdhi’s as they are called in this part of the country.

I was frankly taken aback and was scanning my brain to check if I had said anything rude or behaved badly with her in-laws when she got married a few years ago. But before check disc had even started she shocked me with her next sentence, saying that the wife and I were “too nice” “easy pickings” “push overs” etc etc. Her explanation was that if you are nice to the prospective in-laws they will think that you are dying to get your daughter or son married to their progeny and imagine that their son /daughter was too good for your son or daughter or worse still, something is genetically wrong with your kids. I began to defend our attitude with a “who cares what they think anyway” when she jolted me with an accusation that the other side probably takes your friendliness as weakness and gives them latitude to be nasty to your kids. This philosophy was as clear as mud to me, but then who’s to argue with the daughter, huh?

So the wife and I have started to practice being nasty. Fortunately it’s a little easier for her, but poor me is going to find it difficult to drop my 50 odd years of gentlemanly upbringing and get down to street level. Added to that is my deep aversion to religion and caste, to colour and cash – particularly the first two. Hey, as long as the girl or guy they want to marry is a genuine person and has a good heart, nothing else matters. As long as they love each other and he or she is going to make our son/daughter happy, we are prepared to be nice to the devil himself. That’s the way the wife and I think – but then do we dare ignore the daughter’s advice? So the friendly old pushovers are now busy planning our nasty strategy - I mean getting real mean.

1. For starters we are going to ignore the other side – they don’t exist.

2. When we finally condescend to acknowledge their existence we shall “consider” if we should actually meet them or not.

3. If we do get past that stage, we would then agree to meet them for a cuppa. We shall then dilly-dally over the venue. Definitely not their place – good heavens, no -we can’t risk being seen in that part of town. The club would be out of the question- can’t let the rest of the members snigger behind our backs. Maybe at a discreet restaurant on the outskirts of town.

4. Once at the restaurant we would not discuss “the matter” at all.  We would talk mainly about how terrible the tea is and how soggy the sandwiches are and leave, apologizing and saying that we had to get back quickly as our pet stray dog would be getting lonely by now.

5. After agreeing – very reluctantly- to a second meeting (definitely not at that teerrribble restaurant) we would then invite them home for dinner. After making sure the expensive carpets were rolled away we would then put out a seven course dinner and then embarrass the hell out of them with the long line of cutlery.

6. Now when we have them grovelling at our feet,  we will start on all the reasons why we find the connection unsuitable. They belong to the wrong religion, are of an inferior caste and are probably after my money (which I have very little of anyway) etc…..

If after all this they still want to marry each other then the best of British luck to them. My wife and I shall definitely not be gracing the wedding – probably be a bloody shoddy affair anyway. Now that should sure make their married life a whole lot better and earn us a whole lot of respect. So bring on the Samdhi’s – this time around we are ready.

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Needless to say – the letter is a joke and my parents were extremely nice to the samdhis. But we did get a good laugh out of the letter!