A little give and take

Took the Bean for a haircut today and the lady at the parlour asked me if I’d like to get something done. I didn’t want the Bean to sit there getting bored while I got my stuff done so I said that I’d come back another day. I also didn’t want her sitting there absorbing in that way children do, that ladies need every bit of them polished and shined before they consider themselves socially acceptable.
Sitting all alone on a chair, hanging on to a big handbag was a girl only slightly older than the Bean, dressed very shabbily and definitely from a poorer background. She sat there nervously and quietly, giving no trouble, making no sound.
And then her mother came out of one of the facial rooms. Shabbily dressed, definitely not well off, maybe household help. But she was glowing with happiness. The little girl lit up when her mother came out and asked in Hindi – Ma, did you enjoy the facial? Was it nice? Are you feeling good?
The mother grinned girlishly – Yes, it was such a treat.
They paid up and left.
And I wondered why we are so protective of our kids and their time. Why am I so reluctant to let my child sit for an hour and wait while I get a facial? Will they ever learn to be so considerate? Do our privileged kids care about how their parents feel and would they suffer an hour of boredom, sans TVs and tablets and books, while their parents get a rare treat?
Food for thought and maybe time for some change.

Kids not allowed

I know I haven’t posted here in a while, but I have posted elsewhere. Here’s a sneak peek -

A few weeks ago, a California restaurant put up a sign saying: ‘No strollers, no high chairs, no booster chairs’. Parents seethed and frothed with outrage on the Internet. How dare their precious progeny be barred from a restaurant? Wasn’t fine dining every family’s right?

No.

Now hop on over and read the rest at Yowoto.

 

The Brat @ gmail.com

A few days after the Brat was born, I was saying his name to myself, thinking random thoughts… and suddenly I hit upon a great joke. An inside joke that involved his name and it struck me that were he older, he could have used it as his email id. And then I realised it was something that anyone else with the same name could have used already. A quick check on gmail told me that it was still unused and so without much thought I created an email id for him and blocked it. And after sharing the joke with the OA and my family, forgot about it. I also made an email did for the Bean when she was born, but that was nothing particularly fancy – I just wanted to ensure we didn’t lose the name.

The Brat’s love for animals is well known and often the family and friends send me an animal related forward telling me to make sure he sees it. For years he’s sat in my lap and looked at dolphins caught in mid leap, piglets wrapped in a tiger’s skin and so on. At times he’d have something to say about it and I’d reply to the sender with his comment.

When he turned 9 I realised his conversations with my dad, more than anyone else, were getting longer and longer. This was not just G’pa-G’son prattle, it was intelligent conversation. He’s way ahead of us in his knowledge of animals and my dad has begun to read up and research in order to keep up with him.

This is also the age by which we were all writing to our cousins and pen pals, polishing our letter writing skills. But this generation does neither.

Now everyone knows I have some firm views on the screen time that kids should be allowed and I was loathe to let him start mailing people, but of all the screen time that kids these days have the opportunity to use, this seemed the most innocuous. The other option is to make him hand write letters and then go hunting all over Gurgaon for a post box and hope that it makes it to the receiver.

Finally (actually it wasn’t as fraught a decision as it comes across as!) I decided to let him use his email id and mail his grandparents. He’s thrilled of course, but being the Brat, he expresses rapture with a gentle smile and nod.

Chhota Nana has really got into the mood of things and writes him long chatty letters in the style of our old times. Talking of the weather, what interesting things were cooked for dinner, update on his leg and how he is slowly walking more and will take the Brat out for a drive in an automatic car when he next visits, etc. He’s already got a pretty independent relationship with most of the family and being able to respond to them individually is bringing out a whole other side to him.

I opened his account on the iPad so that we can monitor it and he hasn’t even considered asking for privacy and it just lies open to view. I’ve only shared the email id with family so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed with the usual flood of information most of us deal with. I had anticipated a lot of to-do over it and I was right. The Bean threw a fit asking why she couldn’t have one and I pointed out that her brother was older and would get his privileges before she did. She needed to get to the same age to get access to hers. She griped for a day or so and then got involved in her Lego and the storm passed.

The Brat keeps his mails brief and surprisingly articulate. I had meant to teach him to thank people for writing to him, respond to a couple of statements they’d made in the mail etc, but he picked it up himself and has been corresponding beautifully. I had intended to tell him not to hand it out to friends yet but he didn’t even ask if he could and is happy to keep it restricted. Like a lot of other quiet people he pours his thoughts out in his emails and I hold back tears when I see a thought expressed in a particularly beautiful manner. It hasn’t occurred to him to demand privacy yet even though he and the Bean know that they aren’t supposed to read mail over my shoulder.

This email business also resurrected a few old issues with the in-laws who refuse to accept that I’ve retained my maiden name and that the children carry it in the hyphenated form. After much debate I had just begun to ignore the fact that the in-laws referred to me by their surname, addressed me as such in their cards and letters and so on. But when they began to do it with the children too, it bothered me hugely. The OA and I have chosen to give our kids both surnames and that needs to be respected by everyone, as our choice. Particularly since they are children and don’t need to be confused.

The OA firmly told his father that we monitor the email account and until he re-saved the email correctly, we’d not allow the Brat access to it. That was an unpleasant 24 hours but we got through and now the emails are flowing smoothly!

The Brat loves checking his mail sitting by my side and laughing over notes, sharing an image or two,  asking me if he’s worded something correctly. It’s yet another thing we’ve found to bond over and in the years to come I know he’ll want his password and is privacy. Until then… I’ll enjoy this.

The swing

I have a secret. Every night after the kids are tucked into bed, I tell the OA that I am going for a walk and I slip out into the dark. And after a few minutes of walking I hit the park and swing. I listen to music on my phone or I call up a friend who doesn’t mind being called that late, and I swing.

It’s not that the swings are off limits to adults (they’ve sturdy and take kids who are heavier than me and also parents who swing with their kids in their laps). It’s just that the swings are busy in the evenings and I am busy in the morning.

Oh what the hell… I guess I just feel foolish swinging at this age, which is why I wait until night falls. The darkness frees me from social constructs of what is age appropriate. As I fly high into the air I find myself free from everything earthly, everything that binds me. The simple motion of bending my legs, kicking, holding tight, bending backwards, moving forward… it calls for you to be conscious of your body. And maybe as adults we forget how to do that.  To put our thoughts away for a while and to be in the here and the now and in the physical body.

On the swing I am taken back to my childhood. To the tyre on the mango tree, the huge swing that seats five, the little wooden planks on chains… My childhood was spent leaping from one to the other.

A few days ago I read a piece on free play, outdoor play and unstructured time. Funny. When I was growing up, we just called it play. When did it take on so many labels? What have we done to our kids with the piano classes and the tennis lessons that makes it necessary for the qualifier – ‘free’ play?

People complain about kids these days. Hell, have we taken the time off to see what kind of parents we are? Our parents were more relaxed, less obsessed with buying a flat before thirty, less stressed about making CEO, less concerned with being the first to say it on twitter and so on.

More and more adults have taken to running, cycling, trekking and so on. We need to get away from our lives precisely because our daily lives are so awful. Our parents could afford to unwind at home because home was a relaxing place. Now with the endless screens and connectivity, and hectic social lives and long work hours it’s no longer a relaxing place.

I got off the swing last night and went for a quick walk around the complex. As I took the corner I saw another mother on the swing. Head thrown back, long hair flying in the breeze, cares thrown to the wind. She saw me coming and slipped off in one quick motion and walked away guiltily. I wanted to tell her I was in on the secret. That I shared her addiction. But the moment passed and I headed home.

No votes for me

For years ours has been the go-to house because I’ve been a work from home mum and parents feel safe sending their kids to a place where they won’t be left to maids or where they’re sure there are no unknown males. The last couple of years have been ground floor homes and I often smile over my cup of chai as I see the bunch of cycles thrown at my door, higgledy-piggledy. Kids running in randomly with an Aunty, paani, request. Pile ups at my door as they rush in from school while their mothers beg them to at least go home for a quick wash.

Increasingly though, that crowd is thinning out. Because ours is the only home where the kids don’t have a TV in their bedroom. Our TV is out in the common area and even so, kids who come over to play are encouraged to pick up one of the many games lying around. I don’t actively prevent them from watching TV, but I usually pull out a board game and start them off. Or an art session. Or suggest that they all go for a swim. Or a cycling race around our complex. If we do put on the TV its not for uncontrolled endless viewing but because we’ve planned a specific movie evening with popcorn. And once the movie is over, the TV goes off.

The Brat is almost 10 and his friends are into Playstations and the like. We don’t have one. The Bean’s friends are allowed glitter nailpolish and heels – at 7. I don’t subscribe to those either.

Friends drop in at all hours but on school nights I have a strict curfew and I don’t know how others let their kids play basketball till 9 pm because heck, my kids won’t wake up for school if they don’t get to bed on time.

Snacks at my place are fresh fruit, milk and peanut butter or tuna sandwiches. At other homes they are Maggi, Chocopies and jam biscuits with aerated drinks. I also insist that they all sit around the dining table and eat instead of taking it into the nursery and spilling crumbs all over the beds.

Clearly our place isn’t winning a popularity vote.

I know my kids would prefer that I loosen up but it seems people around me are loose enough for me to have to stay tight to maintain the tension it requires for this tent to stay upright. This is not easy. I am liberal by nature and in my politics. I hate policing the kids and this is not the way I was brought up. But I see little kids wearing glasses earlier than ever, I see overweight kids (they were so few when we were children) and I see all sorts of ailments and lifestyle diseases becoming more common than we realise. I hate being the strict aunty. I love having a houseful of kids and the sound of them playing and chattering is truly music to my ears. It doesn’t disturb me in the least.

While all kids love to get out of their own homes and go to another’s for a change, I am well aware that my kids prefer the laxity in other homes. The endless TV, the junk food, the lack of supervision by parents, the over flowing toy bins, not being embarrassed by their mother who insists that all the kids help tidy up their room before going home (just as I insist my kids do when we’re visiting someone). It’s tempting to let it slip, to go back to being the most popular aunty like I was when I spent hours reading to kids when they couldn’t read and were mostly surrounded by maids or with grandparents who couldn’t play hide and seek with them.  But it would go against what I strongly believe in and I struggle to stay on this path.

Interestingly (and of course they don’t know this yet) I think the OA and I will be among the less hysterical parents when they do begin experimenting with drugs and alcohol. I believe obesity, modified foods, sugar, refined flour, additives, food colouring and lack of proper supervision in their formative years are more likely to harm our children than the odd bottle of beer. I do believe in instilling healthy food habits and lifestyles so that when they do grow too old to listen or care, they’ll have healthy habits and hopefully healthy bodies. I believe if they have some amount of discipline and health on their side it will be easier to fight or even experiment in some sort of controlled moderate manner. I’m proof if anything, of someone exposed to sex, drugs and rock and roll, only to turn out a complete teetotaller who is nonetheless entirely tolerant of people who make those choices. Of course there are no perfect solutions or easy answers. And so I bumble on and hope for the best.

All I know is that right now the cries of children in Palestine is making it hard for me to think straight. Signing off on a fairly bleak week. Try and stay safe and have a good one, you.

Here’s a mother who punished her daughter by selling off her Katy Perry concert tickets on a closed Facebook page. What do you think of that sort of disciplining? I’ve often been strict and taken away privileges etc (which is why my kids think I’m a mum from hell) but I don’t know if I’d have publicly shamed the kids, specially in their teens. That said, if I had to pick an extreme I’d pick discipline over nothing.

 

Conversations from the mad house

And because you’re missing the Brat and the Bean, I offer you some of the FB statuses I put up in the last year.

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I was travelling and the OA was getting the kids dressed for school. A disapproving Brat looked at the OA’s ratty night shorts and said ‘Dada, you can’t go out dressed like that to drop us to the bus stop.’

The Bean piped up – ‘Yeah, they will say, Pitaji ki patloon, ek bilang chhoti ho gayi.’

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Me, teaching the Brat multiplication and trying to put it in a context he’ll enjoy: Okay baby, at what speed does a cheetah run?
Brat: 105 kms an hour.
Me: Cool. So how many kms will it run in 3 hours?
Brat: It can run at that speed only for 30 minutes!

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Bean: Dada, I love you soooo much.
Me: Oi! Only I am allowed to love both of you. No one else is allowed to love another.
Bean: Mama, we all have our own place in this world.
Yes, maate.

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Reason # 1, not to assume your husband is not on speaker phone: You start singing Pritam mat pardes padharo the moment he answers your call, and entertain a car full of his colleagues.

#FacePalm

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An oversmart Bean leaves her lunch, comes stumbling towards me holding her belly and says, “I think I’m having a heart attack. I can’t eat any more.”

A scornful Brat responds, “You’re not having a heart attack. Only people who watch too much TV get heart attacks. We barely get to watch TV at all. We’ll never get heart attacks!”

Great. I didn’t need to step in.

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Bean, while watching the Lenskart advt on TV – If that girl doesn’t want to go and have coffee with him, why doesn’t he leave her alone? If someone says no, you should let them be.

Me: Right. And if they don’t listen, what do you do?

Bean: I tell my mother and she will give them a jhaanp.

Err.. Well, she’s getting there. At least she has the basics clear!

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Bean, listening to her father have an endlessly long and loud phonecall, working from home: Mama, I think Dada should go to office so that we can have some peace and quiet around here.
I agree.

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When your mother is a feminist, you say -

“Why do people say ‘Early man did blah blah’. They should say early man AND woman, or early people.” – Brat.

Excellent. My work here is done.

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The OA is on the phone talking to endless credit card companies and what-nots. I’m listening to him and thinking – Ours might be the last generation where the secret question by default is,’What was your mother’s maiden name?’

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Bean to another little girl in the park: If I do that, my mother will scream, and jhaanp me up and put me in the corner and give me no food for a full day.

Me (shocked): When have I ever done that, baby?

Bean (annoyed at being overheard): Well, you said no screen time yesterday, didn’t you?

Yes. And that is entirely the same thing.

(Later it was explained to me, that unless she claims dire consequences, she cannot wriggle out of peer pressure issues. I see. )

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Sorting out my cupboard and making piles of clothes to give to orphanage, some to repurpose and some for my cousin and mother. Bean looks at the growing pile and says – Oh, so the ones you feel hot in and are all rubbish you’re giving to Nana?

*gulp* I swear that’s not true, Ma!

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Brat busy entertaining a bunch of young adults in the park, by reciting animal facts like a machine. I go up to rescue the adults and relieve them of my son, but they say they’re enjoying his company. So I introduce myself. And one of them says his name is Brahm.
To which Bean says, Rum? Oh, of course, we know Rum. We have lots of that at home!
Youngsters fall over laughing and look at me as though I’m one of those lushed up aunties. Sigh.

#SwallowMeNowEarth moment right there.

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We’re so quick to criticise and so slow to praise. The Haryanvi man is possibly the most abused in the country. And we all know *everything* about those rude drivers and guards who have sold crores of farmland in Gurgaon and now only work to pass time. Here’s my contribution to the good.Guard in the new complex who has seen me obsess over my garden, folded his hands today and asked me if he could please bring me some pudina to plant in my garden, and wheat and bajra for our personal consumption. Only because ‘Didi, aapse pyaar ho gaya, aap log sab izzat se baat karte hain.’ After getting over the shock of being told he is in love with us, I also folded my hands and thanked him and said I’d take some pudina, how much would he charge? He looked injured and said he’d never have offered it for money, only out of love. And then we both folded hands and nodded at each other for five minutes, grinning like idiots.

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Bean- Yes, I’ll have a fried egg for lunch.
Me: Eh? Who asked you if you wanted one?
Bean: You just asked me ten minutes ago.
Me (to self): I must be losing my mind.
Bean: Yes, yes, you are! So stay with your mind lost and let me have an egg.

Bean: 1, Me: 0

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But then I have the proper little gentleman to make it up to me.
Me: Brat, did you get any homework today?
Brat: I did, indeed.

Indeed? Err. Okay.

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Brat: Mama, today is Thank you- vaar.
Me: ???
Brat: Friday, Ma, Shukra-vaar. Thank you- vaar.

Ugh. Nerd.

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A little boy knocks on the kitchen screen door – Aunty, do you have a son? My big brother and some other boys said a very nice boy lives here, so I’ve come to play with him.

Six years of being a victim of bullying and the tide has turned over the last two years. We’ve moved thrice in three years and within a week of each move he has friends trooping in and out of the house. Who’d have thought this quiet, dreamy, vague little boy would be popular in spite of, or maybe even because of those characteristics?

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You know you live in a condo in India when you get this sort of an email.

“You are right,the langoor was on the regular pay roll of RWA earlier,but his services were discontinued because employing a langoor to scare away monkeys became forbidden under the Animal protection Act,the same act for stray dogs.”

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Things that must go on social media even if we can never show our faces in public again #751 -

The Brat walks in on the OA crouched above a prone me, massaging my back and shoulders to ‘break the fever’ as suggested by many people. Frowns, looks interested and poses an academic question – ‘Are you mating with mama like a male leopard mates with a female leopard?’

He has no idea why the two of us fell over in a pile and laughed till the tears flowed.

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Calling the kids back from play as we go to run errands, the OA explains to them “… blah blah and the didi will be alone and a thief might comr blah blah…”
Brat – …and if a thief DOES get in, you expect US to take care of it?
Good point.

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It’s amazing to hear kids express their love. The Brat got back from a visit with his grandparents while we moved house, crawled into my lap as I dripped sweat and unpacked cartons – I missed you so much, mama. Your sweat also feels good.
And Bean said- I missed you like, like, like I’ve never had a mama EVER!!

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Me: What flavour ice cream do you want? Chocolate? blackberry?
Bean: Blackberry? That’s not an ice cream, that’s a phone!

Sigh. She was right of course. ——————-

On context and keeping it simple.
Bean: Mama, I have to lose loads and loads and loads of weight.
Me, dumbstruck, mentally preparing a speech on body image issues and individuality.
Brat: Why?
Bean: So that I’m as light as this butterfly I found, and I can fly with it.
Brat: Don’t be silly. You’d need hollow bones for that.Me: Oh good, I’m not needed here. I can get back to wasting time online.

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Bean, playing with my phone and examining sections, reaches Favorites: Oh, so Dada is your favorite husband?

Umm yes. Only until Farhan accepts what destiny has in store for us.

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Burned some rubber on the highway with the Scorpio aka Uddham Singh, while the OA took a nap. Took the kids through mental maths games while at it without screaming SHUT UP OR WE’LL ALL DIE!! Kids encouragingly said, ‘Good job Mama – you’re not jerking us or saying any bad words.’

Oh – well that is progress!

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Reason # 36 to have a son.
Me, dressed for party: Brat, am I looking nice?
Brat, earnestly: you always look nice. In fact you only ever look nice. And sometimes you look better than nice.
Me: Bean?
Bean: Your nail polish doesn’t match.

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The Bean has just asked for some ‘watermelanin’ to eat. Let me treasure the last bit of baby talk.

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Took the monsters to see Iron Man 3. One went in a mask. Lost interest after 15 minutes. That’s not the bad part. The truly horrible part is that the father put the mask on and walked about the mall as I tried to pick up some essentials, freaking out adults and kids alike. Never mind that he was accompanied by two brats and one salwar kameez clad amma. No, shopkeepers stopped serving me and stared at him, kids hid behind their parents, adults watched open mouthed and teenagers were thrilled. Me? I’m not going out with him anywhere, ever again.

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The MM and OA have both, woken up with eye infections. The husband lovingly, tenderly, solicitously and liberally dosed my eyes with ear drops. If he is trying to get rid of me there have got to be more efficient and humane ways. :(

See you on the other side of this darkness, folks.

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What Dr Spock didn’t tell you about getting your kids to eat – Put on some good old bhangra and dance with the other parent, do the balle balle and have them giggling through dinner (Choking alert here) – if the two of you can contrive to fall backwards over the sofa arm as the grand finale, you have a winner. Works like a charm. Everytime.

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You know your kids are dying of boredom and pushing every rule about not disturbing you while you work when they come up on either side and say, ‘Let’s whisper through her ears and see if we can hear on the other side.’

Then one blows a word into your ear and the other presses up their ear against yours, waiting for the word to come through.

Technically, THEY ARE NOT TALKING TO YOU OR FIGHTING WITH EACH OTHER, so you can’t say anything to them.

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The Brat looks up from the stack of animal books he got on his birthday to ask me: What is the most dangerous predator in the sea?

I sit up, I’m on high alert. I know this. He’s already told me what each shark weighs, the length of each whale and how starfish and jellyfish and what not protect themselves. I MUST remember what the most dangerous predator is…

He doesn’t wait for a response. Disappointment drips from his voice, ‘It’s the human.’

I’m sorry, son. I’m sorry I was responsible for bringing you in to a world that constantly disappoints you.

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Me: Bean, eat your lunch.
Bean: I don’t feel like it. I might eat one bite.
Me: I might give you one slap.
Bean: hmm.. okay, I might choose the slap. It depends on whether it’s a tight slap or a loose slap.

For the record, she saw murder in my eyes and ate many bites, without the slap.

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Never a dull moment around here. A bee flew into the Brat’s ear and he came in shrieking and screaming. I got scared and screamed even louder – WHAT IS WRONG?!!

Finally figured that something had flown into his ear, began making him stamp and shake his ear, him howling, me terrified, the Bean getting underfoot, patting him and saying, think nice thoughts.

The cook suggested he hold his nose and blow. Lo and behold, it worked, the bee flew out. SO, parents, please keep this trick in mind, should this, God forbid, happen to your child.

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“You are not my choice of mama. Cheerio” says she.

I was too impressed by her choice of words to be worried about her choice of mama.

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Dear OA, Your son is turning into YOU.
He walked out of home without his school bag. I turned into a banshee and started screeching at him to come back and take it.

He turned around, walked back slowly, his little face the picture of calm, walked up to me, pulled me down, kissed me on the forehead gently and walked away. Again, without his bag. MEN!

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Bean: Mama, is my punishment over?
Me: I didn’t punish you.
Bean: Okay then, is the consequence of my action over?

I give up.

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You know they’ve grown up when the 7.5 year old takes the 6 year old to the bathroom when she starts coughing, holds her over the pot, rubs her back and encouragingly checks the puke out and says, ‘That’s a good one, keep going.’

And when you enter the bathroom in concern and say, We’re fine, we’ll manage, you go back to work.

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The joys of being on an RWA mailing list.

You think I can make this stuff up?

Yes what I say that “I am at your disposal” I mean it and elloberate that i am at the disposal for help to the residents to the best of my capabilities and worst within limitations imposed by circumstances and heirarcial proceedures.The meaning which you have derived from my statement is purely your wishful imagination.I do not want to further elloberate on this.

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Dear early morning ill-mannered lout,
The correct response when a child wishes you ‘Good morning Uncle,’ is a smile and a Good morning. Not a roll of eyes and ‘Yeh kya sab karvate ho bachchon se?’ He’s learning manners, not a performing monkey. And in return I’ll refrain from pointing out that you’d do well to teach your child the rudimentary and perfunctory Hi, if nothing more.
sincerely,
a very ruffled mother hen

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I bumped into a familiar looking lady in Fabindia last year, beginning of the school year. I thought she might be mother to one of the new kids. She also looked at me and we both went – “Seen you someplace.”Finally she blinks and says, ‘I know! You’ve seen me in school. I’m the Bean’s mum.’And I’m like, ‘Err, noooo, I am the Bean’s mum.’So she blinks again and says, ‘Oh. Then I’m her teacher.’

As you can imagine, it’s been an entertaining year with her.

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In other news, the Universe continues to torture me by making sure I receive one of these emails everyday. This one to our community egroup.

” a cricket coach who is tipped to be our cricket coach for coaching of cricketing children “

You don’t say.

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Met a woman today who introduced herself saying, ‘I’m married and I live in Gurgaon and I run an xyz store with my husband P.’

She didn’t even think of telling me her name.

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Has spent the evening cooking (the most awesome juicy burgers with bacon, cheese and onion jam blah blah) and then giving her husband a massage (don’t let your imagination run away with you – he’s had a terrible stitch in the side for the last 24 hours and its not going away)…. and then feeding kids and putting them to bed.

Can someone please call up MM of end Feb 1996 and tell her not to freak out over the upcoming board exams? She’s not going to need any of that stuff or the degrees, specially since any old crap will get published these days.

Thanks.

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Mother and son walking in the sun. Son holding mother’s hand.
Mother looks at son fondly and says, ‘Even though you’re such a big boy you like holding mama’s hand?’
Brat: Yes.
Then his innate honesty that cannot be repressed, bursts forth – ‘And also if I let go, you’ll start poking in my ear.’

Err.. okay. Sorry I asked.

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Reason # 827 to have a baby:

So that your son can go and heat his face on the heater at the far end of the room and then come back and hold his soft, heat-reddened cheek against yours so that ‘your root canal doesn’t hurt while you’re working’.

Apparently at the grand old age of 7 you need excuses to lay your cheek against your mother’s. Not that we’re complaining.

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Bean deliberately lying with her foot in a sick Brat’s face. He pulls off her socks in annoyance. She whines. I tell her to move. She responds, Salman Khan style (ugh!) – Once I lie down and make myself comfortable, I don’t like to move.

I respond telling her that my foot will make itself comfortable on her backside if I get anymore cheek from her. She shifts grudgingly and tells him in a stage whisper: I don’t know why you’re getting special treatment. You’re only sick, not dead.

Brat responds sensibly: If I were dead, I wouldn’t be pulling your socks and you wouldn’t be so whiny. You’d be missing me.

Dear God, how much longer before they leave for college?

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A frustrated, irate Brat trying to make himself feel better, and convince others that this too shall pass, “She’s just an optical illusion. The Bean isn’t real.”

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If you have imagination it won’t matter that you’re growing up in the middle of a concrete jungle. The Brat looks dreamy-eyed at steel and chrome towers in Gurgaon and says, The Convergys building is The Black Pearl and the DLF one is The Flying Dutchman.

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The day kicks off with drama. The Brat has a pink eye and the OA is chasing him with eyedrops. He is captured and screams, “you’re putting poison in my eyes!” And the Bean decides to give the background score singing “You’re poison…poison running through my veins”, loud enough to drown out the screams.

Apparently you’re never too young to be an Alice Cooper fan.

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Bean: Brat, your tongue is green! Either you ate something weird, or (looks closer and frowns) you’re turning into a mutant.

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Proud of my man who was recently interviewed and said – I am a Gurgaon based husband to a freelance journalist (who is also a pretty famous mommy blogger), father of two delightful children and a worker ant in the financial services sector.
Don’t think I know many others who introduce themselves as Husband to….

The changes are a coming. Slow and steady.

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Beanism of the day – I drank so much water in school, so much, so much… that I was drunk.

Sigh. Soon there will come a day when she *will* be drunk and I will not be putting it up on FB so happily.

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‘Be the bigger person.’ ‘Take the high road’, I’m begging. Such a waste of honourable words when the disagreement has degenerated to the level of ‘Smell my stinky socks’, ‘I’m going to fart in your face’.

Parenting is not for those with refined sensibilities.

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Cousin K after an exhausting couple of hours with the kids, “Yaar, your kids are like kattas (country pistols). Never know whether they’ll hit the target or explode in your hand.”

Sigh. It’s so good to be sick in bed and have someone else man the show.

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Lady at decoration store: Woh jo Krishnaji ka rath hota hai na? Arjun ke liye chalate hain? Woh ha? Arre haan, yeh wala.
Picks a snow covered sled out of the midst of X’mas decorations at the store, pays and walks off.
Oh well, what matters is that the customer was satisfied!

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The Bean patting the blanket covered lump next to me in bed gingerly: Daddy, is that you?

Me? I’m hoping if it’s not Daddy it turns out to be Farhan Akhtar.

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Me: Bean, why don’t you just finish your lunch and make my life a little easier?
Bean shakes her head and says ruefully: But life is never easy, Mama.
#OneTightSlap

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Me: Brat, WHY must you start a new book at bed time.
He gives it some thought and seriously replies: I think I just like to be contrary.

You think?!!

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An irate Brat looking at his lunch plate piled with winter veggies: When I grow up I’m going to create a veg-free zone. Only meat will be allowed, and we’ll have a vegetable embargo.

Sigh. It’s a good thing we’re in positions of power for a few years more.

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OA watching TV and cracking up. Bean asks him why he’s laughing. He can’t explain and says – Long story. After two minutes he cracks up again and she asks him what is so funny. He responds again, ‘Long story’.
Bean: You say that only to shut me up.

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How do you know you’ve lived in Delhi a long, long time? When your daughter gets thoroughly confused and says, Do I have to wear my Pajeros to bed?

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Cousin K is playing fetch with my daughter. He throws a pen, she barks, holds up her paws, pants, wags her ‘tail’, and goes on all fours to pick it up in her mouth. I just want to record this so that someday I can treat his kids like puppies. Vengeance will be mine.

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Jab Tak Hai Jaan might have been a better experience if the OA hadn’t spent the entire four hours sighing and groaning theatrically and punctuating all that with sudden shouts of ‘ab marega saala’.

Because JTHJ wasn’t bad enough, I’m torturing myself further with Rowdy Rathore. To top off the experience I’m going to walk on broken glass and chew on bolts and poke my eyes out.

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So it finally happened.

She shows up with a Barbie wearing an outfit that leaves nothing to the imagination and says – Mama, can you make me a dress like this?
Before I can respond the brother scornfully says, “You want to get dengue? You need to be covered a little more than that if you want to be safe from mosquitoes. That’s a very silly dress.”
Thanks Brat!

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The Bean lying in bed and waving legs in air and screaming out a song tunelessly about hard days and snot and puppies. Finishes the raucous performance and asks, “Was that annoying?”
Err…
No, she says? Then I’ll try again.

Argh!

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You know the tables have turned when you stare at two mugs hard, and then pick one for your daughter and pour her water and she responds with – ‘Good job. You really read my mind there.’

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Reason # 169 why kids should not watch superhero stuff indiscriminately.
Brat.. and blah blah, Green Lantern blah blah, goes to sleep with his girlfriend.
Bean: How can you sleep next to a girlfriend? She doesn’t live in your house.
Brat: Uffo! they must be having a playdate and a sleepover, na! That must be why.

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Reason # 361 why I’m glad to have a daughter – I come out after a bath and she grabs my towel, sits on the floor and gently dries my feet. I could get used to this

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“Suraj ki galti nahi, chanda ki galti nahi, acche time ki galti nahi, burey time ki galti nahi…” the Bean is singing.
Did you make that poem up, I ask her?
“No, I’m singing a Michael Jackson song in Hindi..” she says.
Which of you have figured out what she is singing?

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Proof that my son is well-trained- he tells his father,”husbands must do what their wives tell them to.”
I think I can ask for dowry for this one. :D

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Dear Jabong,
Bellies are not shoes. A belly is the lower portion of your trunk, your abdomen. Now if you mean ballet pumps or court shoes, we can talk. Please, I beg of you, remove that advertisement banner from HHC.
A well wisher

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So your husband has made it a habit of inviting people over for dinner and informing you at 7.45pm. You scramble around organising a dinner, and then as you’re laying out the hors d’oeuvres your pestilential daughter shows up and grabs a seaweed cracker ruining the pattern you’ve laid them out in. You turn around, ready to bite and she grins cheekily at you and squeaks, “Polly wants a cracker.”
Yes, of course I let her off easy.

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The Brat is writing a poem in Hindi as part of his school homework.
One line goes, Ma ek, kitabein anek.
If all he associates with books is his mother, I can die happy.

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The OA doesn’t know any Megadeth songs and Cousin K has only heard INXS with the Fortune guy. And I have to live with people of this sort. :-/

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You know you should change the way you speak to your kids when you hear an almighty crash in the nursery and your daughter yells out, ‘It’s okay, nobody died.’

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Brat explains to Bean: Boys must only kiss girls if they want to be kissed. You can’t force someone to kiss you back.

Chalo OA, at least we’ve taught them something.

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Insanely cute new physiotherapist tells me he’ll have me running the marathon next year if I keep working on my knee regularly. Adding, ‘Wahi toh jeena hota hai. Nahi to sirf EMI bhar rahe ho.” Word.

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A much-Onam-influenced Brat stuffs his face with a layered paratha and asks, “Can I have another Mahaballi paratha?”

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Bean: Amen means Goodbye. You know, you finish a prayer and then say Bye to God.

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Bean: And blah blah

Me: No, it’s not like that, it’s actually yaada yaada.
Bean: Oh, oops, that was silly of me.
Me: That’s okay… it’s not silly at all.
Bean: Yeah, but I came pretty close to being silly!

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Bean to me after I’d stuck back the nth broken something: Mama, you’re the bestest fixer in the world.
Best compliment a mother can receive if she’s not a sportsperson.

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The OA  looks happiest when he is holding hands with both the kids, walking towards a restaurant.

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The Brat catching sight of a music channel while I surf, “what is the name of that person?”

Me: Which one?

Brat: That one under the actresses’ bum?”

*groan!*

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Should I be seeking help for my daughter if I find her sitting in a corner, yelling into a conch shell “Helloooo? Is there anybody home?”

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Me to cousin K – Oye, go get some biscuits to have with our tea.
Brat: Don’t order him around. You’re treating him like the Britishers treated the Indians.

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Father and son disagree. It’s amusing to see two identical faces, separated by 30 years, bound by blood and the same stubborn nature, lock horns. Someone get me some popcorn.

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Brat: Mama, why don’t you iron your hair and take the fur off your arms and legs before a party like the ladies on TV?
Ah the joys of being a male brought up by a wash and wear mother.
Me: Because I’m doing some girl a favor by not nurturing those unrealistic standards and pointless expectations, darling.

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Me: Stop muttering you two, I can’t understand a word. Can you speak any louder?
Bean: No. Gentlemen and ladies don’t talk loudly. It’s bad manners.
Me: *gulp* Whatever, go play outside. Such lovely weather.
Bean: If it is so pleasant, why aren’t you coming out with us?

Damn. Hoist by my own petard. See you later, FB. I’m out to get some sun.

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Kids’ bathroom reeking of Savlon. They decided to pour it in their bathwater. When I walk in and say “But why?” they give me back my own words mock penitently -
Bean: This is ENTIRELY our own fault. We take the blame.
Brat: Everyone make mistakes, we’re only human.
Dear God, so glad I’m leaving them with the grandparents tonight. Yayyy!!!

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Me to a filthy Bean: You’re going to drive me to an early grave.
Bean, helpfully: Okay, but you’re going to have to wait. Dada said I can only drive after I turn 18.

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TMM is having a midnight feast of ghee-rice, chicken momos and hot chocolate with two mischievous little gigglers, while He Who Must Not Be Disturbed snores on. This is the life.

Endless summer afternoons

It’s 48 degrees in the shade and Delhi is not baking but burning to a crisp, like bacon. The proof is the oil dripping off my face. I do my best to not fight it, to embrace the heat. I try and remind myself that there are people across the world who yearn for a bit of the bone warming sun. And I do my best to make the home comfortable, with thick drapes, chilled aam panna, cool creamy lassi and the good old desert cooler that fills our home with the lovely fresh scent of khus. But it’s an undeniable fact that the North Indian summer is deadly and kids on a school break feel trapped inside the home.

For years I’ve flip flopped between summer camp or not. Last year a friend ran a special summer camp at a very special school and suggested I send the kids with her. It suited me because the kids travelled both ways with her and I didn’t have to organise the logistics. Her kids and mine are friends and it worked out well for everyone. I’d even sent them in the earlier years in Delhi because we were locked into our third floor house and the kids couldn’t get out of the house until 6 pm. It just seemed cruel.

This year, now that we’ve moved into our lovely little house with a garden, I decided I’d keep them home. The entire point of a summer break is to give them a break from routine. To let them lounge like lizards and come up with something of their own to do. To let them whine, ‘I’m bored, mama’. And then tell them what my grandmother often told me – ‘Only boring people get bored; interesting people have a whole world of fun going on inside their heads.’ My brother and I hated it when she said that. And yet it taught us so much. We learnt to entertain ourselves. And we learnt to be still.

They say an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but I disagree.  Left to themselves kids can be amazingly creative and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of the things they’ve come up with. It’s not easy, particularly since I work from home and that means the kids bang on my door ever so often with a ‘What shall we do?’ or a quarrel to settle. But I soldier on without succumbing entirely to the tempting air conditioning of malls. Remember this post on keeping kids out of malls?

What is lovely about the new locality is that there are so many parents who parent just like I do. We may have nothing to say to each other (but funnily we do!) but we agree almost blindly on matters of parenting. So each morning the kids go off to have lunch with someone and every 3rd or 4th day I have about 4 kids at mine. They play hide and seek around the house, they paint, they create entire farms of playdough, they lose their tempers and throw the ludo board at each other with accusations of CHEATING!, they drag bedsheets over chairs and create castles and pirate ships and put on feather boas and masks and create stories. On a Saturday the OA plays math games with all the kids while another mother runs them through their Hindi workbook for a quick revision. I do a storytelling activity followed by a quick art and craft session. In case you don’t know how to come up with stories, you can take a little help from this game the kids were gifted (thanks Aneela!) that I thought I’d share with you. It is called Shape Your Story and is very handy to keep the kids entertained. There is a set of cards, a dice and a marker. All you need to do is add to the shape and create something. And that is the starting point for your story. Much fun and much inspiration for the wildest of stories.

What is nice about this system is that each house has it’s own set of games and at another home located at a dead end, they play cricket and football. A third home is  bang opposite the park so they run out and play in the shade. The kids learn to eat pure vegetarian at one home while the vegetarian kids learn that meat will be put on my table even though I will ensure that they don’t touch it. But every single one of these homes offers only healthy homecooked food and fresh fruit. And very limited TV viewing. I couldn’t ask for more or better.

In another two weeks the kids are off to spend 3 weeks with my parents while the OA and I take a much deserved trip to Istanbul and the US. Before we know it, these long lazy summer vacations will be over. Real life will begin and they will never know more than a 20 day break in the year. Until that happens, I want them to know what it feels like for a day to seem endless, a night to be cool and restful, a break to be never ending and a week to be full of possibilities.

I leave you with some pictures of what they’ve been up to.

Breaking a lump of clay to discover Dino fossils. Some of the toys you get these days are amazing. Just right for my geeky son.

The Brat creates an octopus from a couple of sticky straw thingies.

The Bean draws the Taj Mahal from memory on the chalkboard I’ve painted in a corner of their nursery.

The Brat’s latest obsession – big cats. I think he was trying to copy a Serval or something here.

A friend joins them on the mess mat for an afternoon of finger painting.

The Bean’s ladybird on canvas

Planting veggies for the summer