Full house

I was counting my blessings today and I realised that I feel sorry for myself too often. What with being far away from home and bringing up the kids in a nuclear family. A month or two ago I called up my brother in the US and heard baby squeals and much fun. What was this?  A baby? There was a baby in their house?!

It turned out that they were babysitting for some friends. A couple who were working parents and who had sadly ended up with travel plans that intersected so that they were both away for one night. As a result their year old son was going to be alone and had to be picked up from daycare after his mother left and kept for the night until his father got back. And there they were, bathtub full, screaming and laughing having a blast. I hung up feeling a little blue.

My brother and his wife are fantastic with babies (probably because they’re not stuck with them permanently ;)) and when they’re in town my kids worship them. And yet, here they were, giving their love to other babies while my kids will grow up thinking of them as someone who visits once a year and brings lots of gifts like Santa Claus. I hate that waste of a full day as they slowly warm up to their maama. I hate that each time he visits they’ve grown so much that he needs to be reacquainted with them. I hate that they need to recite nursery rhymes over the phone to a disembodied voice, that the Bean puts a finger in her mouth and pretends to whistle at the phone rather vaguely because she can’t figure out who is at the other end. I badly want them to have their family in their lives… not just connected by the phone and email. Yes, I am greedy like that. I never get enough of the people I love.

But the truth is that our guest room is never empty and  we always have guests in the nursery and even on the living room floor.  And in the last couple of years my kids have had maamas and maashis visiting them, wrestling with them, watching The Wizard of Oz and Mary Poppins and roaring with laughter, reading them bed time stories and curling up with them for afternoon naps, babysitting so that the OA and I can go get a late night movie, sitting on the cool floor through hot summer afternoons and teaching them to paint, giving me an extra half hour of shut eye by getting up early and taking them out on the balcony to feed the birds, then later patiently following them around the house with half eaten jam sandwiches instead of locking them into the highchair, drawing endless cows and elephants, building elaborate structures for Hot Wheels cars to race through, replacing dozens of batteries and tolerating the noisy toys, feeding them sneaky bars of  chocolate and washing sticky fingers before mamma spies them … I could go on.  

What made me really happy? The warm fuzzy feeling of physical space being invaded. Yes, you read that right. We grew up sharing rooms with siblings. Visiting family was welcomed no matter how small the house and kids all slept on mattresses on the floor, packed like sardines in a can and nobody whined about wanting their own room or personal space and privacy. One of the joys of growing up in this crazy, warm, chaotic country of ours.

The kids are learning to lie down just about anywhere without a word and falling asleep, exhausted after a day of something new and fun. They manage fine without a schedule and I shudder to imagine how disappointed they will be school reopens! They’re learning that family is not a rigid structure of just those who share your blood. They’re learning that mamma and dada are the core, but there are many more fun people filling up their lives and making up for any lack on mamma and dada’s part. They are learning how to deal with different people and what is okay to do or not around other adults. They’re learning that mamma won’t always be around to be the buffer between them and strangers. They are learning to welcome as well as bid farewell without having a meltdown. They’re learning that goodbye is not forever.

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Here’s a picture of the babies piled on to the bed with Cousin K. Head to toe to head to toe to head to toe. All fast asleep in my cool, dark bedroom while I work.

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29 thoughts on “Full house

  1. MM
    You put it sooo well (especially the 3rd para ) …I live in the USA and have a 4.5 month old baby boy and I hate it that I live sooo far away from my sister and parents…that I have to put them on the speaker phone so that my baby can listen to his Grandma’s/Grandpa’s/sister’s voice……

  2. Such a nice post. I too miss having family around…am in US and spending my last and 7th year here. I miss people but also fear am becoming addicted to the personal space and freedom. Unfortunately that comes at a high price…not worth it at all.

  3. You have painted such a beautiful picture MM 🙂

    I smiled reading all the lines …sighed too ..because when loved ones are in some far away land and are missing out on so many precious moments of little darlings who are probably the closest to them then nothing can make those moments come back na?

    I sighed also because I have never known this…..never known this living in an almost joint family where loved ones came visiting often..

    most of the time we were the ones who visited and that too in a hurry coz of dad’s job…

    but yes, I take to all the chaos and sleeping on mattresses like a duck takes to water 😉

    finally after the ramble ((((hugs))) for Brat and Bean 🙂

  4. Aah. left me fuzzy all over:-) Speaking of which, can families be identical twins? I am beginning to suspect that;-) Check this out:

    http://awingandaprayer.wordpress.com/2009/03/27/the-genetics-of-hospitality/

    We went away for a long weekend with extended Norsk family lately and one of the things I was shocked about was how much the older kids whined about not having a room. A frickin’ whole room for a nine year old? I’m also used the rolled mattresses on the floor and packed sardine sleeping arrangements..Man! had they been mine, they would have gotten a tongue lashing like no other!

  5. My most wonderful childhood memories are a full house at grandma’s, with all of us cousins sleeping in the living room on a bunch of mattresses pushed next to each other.

    I am so glad that brat and bean are getting to experience this. Where I live now, personal space is taken a little too literally…I would love K’s nieces and nephews to come over and stay a night. Still working on it 🙂

  6. MM darling..
    like i always say.,. how i wish you were my amma.. or even my akka….
    If i come to delhi.. I am coming to your house for sure..

    Me: 🙂 you’re on

  7. Does this mean you are moving to the US with a driver and a cook 🙂

    I can relate to what you are saying. Neither of us have family here 😦

    Thats why we went and had 4..na so that they wouldnt be alone 🙂

  8. Yes, an open house is something I have tried to give to my children, and they have been kind enough to share many of their friends with me:)
    Visiting your home always suffuses my entire being with warmth and lots and lots of love.
    It’s been a while now:(

    Me: I know ditto isnt the most eloquent way to articulate how I feel – but its the best 🙂

  9. Even as I read this I could visualize all the masti my extended family did this summer. There is a certain charm to all the adjustments and squeezing the most out of a middle-class Indian household. My friends were shocked that I spent my graduation vacation like that but I wouldn’t have traded it for anything.

  10. Your kids are really lucky MM, that they have a mother who realizes how important is is for kids to grow up around relations of all kinds, and age groups. One day they will realize and be so grateful to you for this.

    Me: I wish i could take credit for it being well thought out Priya 🙂 but the truth is that it just fell into that way of being and I was merely remarking on it..but thanks for the compliment!

  11. Loved this post MM! I grew up that way…now my mother is with me for two months and sometimes we talk about old times…and I realize that innumerable people have stayed at our house – some for four months, some for a few years etc etc…job training, interviews, college this that…my mama sent his wife’s sister to our place – insisted she go stay at our place when she was on training – and all this he could do without even asking my mother once if it was OK – and even today my mom never even thinks to complain about it – they were all welcome completely. You won’t believe it, as I was walking in to the computer room to log in to check mail etc, I was thinking how much my kids have gotten used to having guests around – this long weekend we didn’t have any guests and it feels so odd. Although I have to say I cannot cope with the no of visitors my mother had – just physically impossible here since B is away for long hours at work and I cannot possibly host people unannounced for days on end etc like my mother did…or may be I can – just haven’t tried it. I wish I had never gotten unused to that kind of life (the way I grew up) – despite having guests so often I feel like my need for being mentally prepared for guests is so much more than what I would have liked…I like announced visits and I too feel embarrassed if the house is not clean…Anyways – I loved this post…

    Me: 🙂 thank you. and you know, its unfair to compare the life you had to the life they had. its so much harder for you guys to have endless guests. mostly since those who come from india dont realise how hard it is for you guys and dont even help out with meals etc.

  12. its so much like how we grew up..but am not being able to give even one percent of that to R…i feel so sad for her…she gets all these only when she goes to my mum’s place….my in laws are very nuclear types- having spent most of their lives outside kolkata- not so attached to relatives like we are….

    Me: well on the flip side, she is growing up with a permanent set of two extra adults around, which is also great! surely you can have guests over annie. i remember you being quite the hostess!

  13. 🙂 sweet! I have a truckful of cousins and some more….

    when i was a kid almost every second sunday was a visit to the beach with the cousins and going to my aunts place and all 9 of us wud crash on a single bed… dont ask how we fit.. it didn’t matter… it’s one of my best childhood memory!

  14. That sounds like the home I grew up in. I would love for that to happen here too, if it wasn’t too difficult to cook ! But hey even though we don’t have a lot of stay over guests all the time, we do have friends dropping in and my kids friends are always welcome too.

  15. Lovely,lovely post…brought back lots of memories..we lived in an “open house”in Madras and would wake up to find cousins parked next to us on the huge beds…here,my kids used to be upset for days whenever our guests,who are few and far between in this place,leave…

  16. 🙂

    sounds like our home alright! as kids and now! we used to have guests all the time and it was so much fun. we even had ground rules like no TV when someone comes visting in the evening etc!

    and so many people who would come to stay over! we (my folks) live in a chawl in Mumbai in one room kitchen house and that means that one room is everything including bedroom! and yet that never stopped people from coming or us from welcoming them!

    i remember when my mausi would visit from australia, their huge bags would fill up our home so at night they would all be shifted to the kitchen so that we could make space to sleep! 🙂

    just recently i was whining about how for past 3 months we (as in M, me and Cubby) havent spent a single weekend by ourselves with friends from even 10 years ago dropping in to stay with us!

    when i told coupla of friends i am not meeting anyone oevr next two weekends they just scoffed at laughed at me! 😀

    may your home be always filled with people you love nd who love you! 🙂

    cheers!

  17. Awwwwwww.. So sweet that was MM.. on a very selfish tangent, P and I and Chinni might move to Gurgaon sometime next year. ( you see what am hinting at, right?) There’s a position P’s applied for which requires us to live sometime in Hong Kong and then eventually settle down in Gurgaon. Fingers and toes crossed really tight. 🙂

  18. Awww yeah I love being part of big families and I’m lucky I got that since both my parents belong to big huge loud opinionated food-loving mithai-crazy mutton-crazy Bong family 🙂

    Hubby’s family is smaller and I am so used to having cousins come and stay the night or family/frnds coming over and stayin back to have dal-bhaat or dropping y for a cup of tea or having a ‘5-minute’ chat standing in the respetcive balconies for 2 hours 😛

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