The Nursery is Dark

Thanks to Gentle Whisperer’s suggestion I went through my posts from 2008 and have dug up the first ‘The Nursery is Dark’ post.

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The Nursery is Dark

… said a friend driving by our home and looking up. Where are the kids?

The kids have gone with my parents. To spend a week or so with them in our hometown. My parents have been asking for a while to take them. And I’ve been tired, bogged down with work and trying to spend time with them and a dozen other problems. So in a moment of weakness I said yes. The OA is only too happy to get rid of them and spend some alone time and also some happy-couple-time.

But me? I know it’s only a matter of time before I go and do what I did the last time the Brat went to visit my parents and the time before that – go bury my head in his cupboard, smell the baby-bratty smell in his little washed and ironed teeshirts and cry.

But this time they’ve taken away my Bean. My baby Bean. I don’t know if I want to cry or not. It feels quite foolish considering I have sent them willingly. Well willingly only because the parents want them and the OA thinks that between work and home I don’t get a break and because the Bean cries through nights, the Brat has been sick and we haven’t had a good night’s sleep since Noah’s Ark set sail. I know the OA wants some time off to do his own thing  – adult things without worrying about it being baby-friendly or not. And the biggest reason – because the babies get what we can’t give them here – space and pets and freedom. They come back happier and healthier.

How lucky you are, say friends with little kids – you can leave your kids and go for a holiday. Well yes, we’re lucky to have my young parents with a huge house and lots of help and family around. But we are forced to leave the kids simply because we don’t get a break through the rest of the year. We take the kids everywhere with us, we aren’t in the habit of dragging an ayah per kid along to every place. They’re usually strapped on to us or in a stroller or their car seats. We have no near and dear ones in Delhi who we can safely leave the kids with and go to work or for a movie. Our phones are switched on to silent mode even during important meetings so that if the kids wake up or cry, the maid calls and we rush back. And since that is such a hassle, we usually ensure that one of us is home if the other is out. There are no really good daycares where we can leave them and know that they are safe. So yes, more than anyone else, we need to take this break from the kids, the responsibility and the stress and exhaustion.

The original idea had been to go away for a few days, but we’ve changed our minds. We’ll just be hanging around at home and catching up on much needed sleep. Maybe hitting a pub or a disco if I can fit my fat butt into anything slinky. Let’s see.

But I was cranky all of yesterday. I didn’t realise it. I was yelling at the OA and snapping at people and giving the Brat time-outs in the crib like it’s going out of fashion. It was when I was out on the balcony collecting the dry clothes that my brother turned up and put an arm around me. He didn’t need to even ask what happened. There’s something about having your childhood mate, the one person who has always been around, look at you with kindness. I fell into his arms and blubbered like a baby – I don’t want to give my babies to Mamma.

There. It was out. And he soothed me and asked why I had agreed in the first place. ‘Because I know they love taking the kids back, I know the kids enjoy it and I know the OA craves the break… but I? I don’t even like to leave them to go back to a fulltime job. So crazy about my two little pests am I…’

Mad Sibling goes back into the house.

Ten minutes later I walk in with the folded laundry and my mother demands – You don’t want to send the kids with us? Then why didn’t you say so?

MM looks around in confusion. Light dawns. She hunts for the Mad Sibling, realises he is in the toilet and is just about held back from breaking the door down and killing him.

I explain to the parents that it’s not about them. It’s me. I am just unable to let the children go so far away, without us. One is a year old and the other is not even three. I know they will be well taken care of, but I still hate the thought of not being available to them. And I know that the OA wants a holiday and some rest. I need it too. But I am willing to forego everything, just to have those two little baby faces look up at me with big smiles.

The Bean got really attached to my mother over the last few days and I hadn’t had any trouble putting them into the train and leaving. She’d been a little clingy earlier in the day but that is just her reaction to me. When I am not around, she is fine. Which is the case with both my kids. They love having us around, but they’re confident, happy little kids who go off with everyone now.

I got off the train and pressed my nose to the darkened glass, trying to catch a glimpse. They didn’t notice me. They were jumping around on the berths and laughing, my parents already the centre of their universe. I stared at the Bean. Willing her to look at me. I don’t know why. I should have been happy that she had settled in without a backward glance.

I stood out there – just watching the tableau. The two grandparents playing with the babies. All four happy faces. I knew they’d all be okay. I don’t know how long I stared, but I suddenly noticed my brother and the OA reflected in the glass. Standing patiently behind me. We left the station and drove home. The city sights flashing by the window as I stared out blindly.

The first time we left the Brat with my parents was to go to Goa. He was just short of a year old and I dropped him off and came back. He was fine and when they brought him back, he looked at me as though I was a stranger. It broke my heart. But atleast I knew he had been happy. By the second time I knew he would be fine and I didn’t want to send him, but I was desperately sick and had no help. With a working mother who had no time to come and help me with him, I just had to send him there. The third time he was a pro. He’s already been away 5 times for about a week each time and he’s not even three yet. He is quite a happy little chap, extending a hand of friendship, trusting and confident… and always ready for new experiences.

But the Bean? The Bean is all mine. The one I have cared for from the first day. The one no one else helped with. The one I single-handedly cared for with no parents or anyone around, straight out of hospital and surgery. The one I held close to myself, night after night, sure that I wouldn’t share her for a minute with anyone else. The Bean who I desperately wanted to be non-clingy yet now can’t believe that she actually has changed and become so easy going.

I just spoke home. They reached an hour or two ago. The kids are playing in the dirt with the four dogs. I can see the picture in my mind’s eye. The huge 100 year old mango trees under which my grandmom played. Where my mum played hide and seek. Where the brother and I built a treehouse and got up early in the morning to watch birds. And now the fourth generation sits in the shade of those very same trees. Who knows, maybe my greatgrandmother still watches over the home and is happy to see my two little ones mucking around.

The Bean is screaming ‘bow bow’ in delight and licking the dogs back as they frolic with her. I can hear her in the background as I talk to my mother. I can imagine her chasing the squirrels as they scamper up trees. I can see the Brat leading her grandly by the hand to the two ponds to see the fishies. I can imagine them getting into the fireplaces and playing peekaboo. The old house must have come alive with the baby sounds after almost 20 years.

The Bean has apparently already walked into my uncle and aunt’s little nursery school and plonked herself on the benches to attend class, sitting in between children who are three times her age and twice her height. I ache to see that with my own eyes. Instead I sit here listening to maudlin music, the tears pouring down my cheeks, the ache growing as I miss them. Knowing fully well that for them I am out of sight and out of mind. Getting a taste of what life will be like after they go to college. I have a pile of work to do and a meeting in another hour. I should stop now and get going but somehow I won’t cut such an impressive figure with my tear stained cheeks.

You know how they tell you to get a job and not let your children fill up your life because you won’t be able to fill the void once they leave for college? Well I had planned for this trip of theirs and taken on extra meetings and interviews and stories in anticipation of the long days ahead. So my time is accounted for. I don’t have a spare minute. And yet, yet, nothing on earth can fill the void in my life. Don’t believe them when they tell you that having a job fills the empty nest. It’s not true. Babies leave a baby-shaped hole in your heart that no job or man or hobby on earth can fill.

I absently think that I must get up and go draw the curtains in the nursery because it is 10 am and the sun shines in on the kids making the room hot and unbearable. And then I realise that I don’t need to. I didn’t throw open the curtains and let the sunshine in this morning. The nursery is still dark.

~~~~~~~~~~~~

Edited to add: To add to it – my brother too left this morning and I hugged him at the top of the stairs and cried. And when he left, I sat down on the stairs – too unhappy to walk back into the emptiness of the home I love so much. And cried like an abandoned orphan. I’d resigned myself to seeing him only at Xmas this year, after he visited India last October for his wedding. This visit was a surprise and it’s completely destroyed the composure and left me miserable. I watched him and the SIL play with my children and I know I want to see his children grow up with mine. I want to see them not once a year but every week. Every month, if not everyday. Of what use is family if you meet like strangers once a year?

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18 thoughts on “The Nursery is Dark

  1. I totally understand.. the bane of living abroad .. each time i go to india everyone is so happy and shouting hugging and all but a day before i have to return all i can see is every crying the moment they see me … my youngest massi just cries and my cousins .. I feel so bad. and the whole journey back is ruined.. now this post has reminded me of all that .. 😦

    kids away you know my dad did not allow my sis to go anywhere , I was the odd one out it did not matter to anyone if i was there or not 🙂 /.. but my sis was the loved one 🙂

    so when are the kids back.. I guess it is good you have some Me time tooo ..
    just take care and go out and do something that you were unable to do .. earlier now is the time and this will also help pass the time ..

    Take care

  2. You know we had a family wedding. We had one last celebration this evening and tomorrow, one by one, my cousins go back. All day today I’ve been sad and mopey and cranky and it’s only this evening I realised why – I hate this idea of family visiting like strangers, once a year.
    Reading about the baby Bean – I am imagining her with her eyes-that-fill-her-face and her baby hair and that cheeky, cheeky grin. Sigh. My favorite little baby girl. 😀

  3. My sister has 2 babies.. a 8.5 yr old boy and a girl who’ll turn 5 this July. I left India in Dec 2006 rite after my baby boy’s 1st B’day and since then on every trip to India, I worry if they would have forgotten our faces and won’t come to us and will treat us like strangers. N honestly have never experienced that. They have always been excited about seeing us, reluctant to go to school the day we land, worried about when we will return . AS they have grown older, we have had to face difficult Qs like why we are not in India to celebrate B’days and Diwali with them. So I know they care and like us though they have lesser patience for phone calls. WE are NOT strangers and that makes me happy, very happy. Last year her li’l girl call very consciously refused to talk to me for 3 months, the entire duration that my parents were here visiting me… she was upset and angry with me for taking away her nana-nani, even though my sister took a break from work for the duration. She wasn’t happy and isn’t ready to accept any trade-off when it comes to having people she loves as close to her has possible.

    I think by default children are born as loving and caring beings.. It’s what happens to them after that, that changes/ molds them in a different manner.

    BTW..has it become easier over the years to send them away on a break and enjoy one yourself?

    • Not really. The breaks really help when they’re infants/toddlers and you just NEED.SOME.SLEEP!
      But any later and everyday is a missed opportunity to chat with them, be with them, enjoy their company….

  4. Dear MM,I have been reading your blog since long time now.Commenting for the first time today.:)
    You write beautifully..I had tears in my eyes while reading this post, I can totally relate to it.I live and work in singapore .I have a 3 year old daughter and I have been sending her to Nani’s house every year for a month since she was born (she has never complaint though…shes totally comfortable and happy there)…because of various reasons ( can not trust maids and hate child care)..and this year again that time was coming ..I am sending her again to the care of her nani nana maasi mama..:( and was feeling soo guily for doing that…but after reding your post felt a bit relieved…that theres some one else too who did the same this past..:)

  5. Since the Noah’s Ark set sail.. Hehe I love just how subtly you slip in a joke.. Just like that, in an otherwise moving tale. I am not a parent yet (not married either) but I could totally relate to every word of your post. This reminded me of a little tale of my own (God knows how I love just sharing my own little anecdotes with you every time you post something). May be because the way you share – it seems like a leaflet from my own story.
    So this dates backs to the time when Father was still serving in the Indian Airforce – I was all of three and his base was in Agra. And it was summertime.. And if you have been anywhere around Agra, you’d know how god awful Agra heat can be.. So like any doting Father, papa decided to send me to nana nani in Shimla,, who were more than thrilled to have me.
    Mumma never said anything.. She was totally fine.. and holding her own..Until the day – She received a hand written letter from me in broken alphabet, which makes no sense to me, but was enough for her to send my poor papa packing, that very night to Shimla and get me ASAP. Dear mumma, is all I can decipher in that letter – but it is like Shiva’s trilogy to her.
    As I grew up and started accusing her of favoring my brother over me, and loving him more. That letter was enough for her to show me – just exactly what I meant to her.
    Wishing you and your family lifetime of happiness MM.. Every time I read anything from you.. It just makes me smile for a long long time.

    • aww.. that is such a lovely story. And this is precisely why I blog. To hear your stories too. I love the engagement with absolute strangers. So many different stories…

  6. I’ve never been away from my 3-year old boy for more than 3 hours tops. That too when he went to pre-school for 3 months. All I do is envy you. And yet, I know I would not be able to send him away to Nani-Nanu’s, much as they’ve been begging me to, and much as I dream of all the things I would do if I did pack him off. Motherhood is contrary.

    • I know. It takes a certain mindset to be able to do it. For instance I’ve never been able to send my kids to daycare. I just can’t. I’m okay with them being with my parents because they are family, invested in them. More than that, I cannot bear just yet.

  7. Thank God for FaceTime. It does not bring the touch and presence, but it does make you feel like you are chatting with each other sitting in one room. The kids love their FaceTime sessions with family, especially grandparents, back home. I’ve never left my children with anyone yet, even for a night (they are almost 4 and almost 2 :)), so I can relate to the void you describe here.

  8. Hey MM

    Haven’t see any activity on the blog for a couple of days now. Hope all is well and you are only having a blast with the babies and parents 🙂

    Happy July !

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