The big green umbrella

Dear Brat and Bean,

You keel me (to quote Achmed the dead terrorist). It was raining cats and dogs this morning and you, my little Bean, were dying to get out and go to school simply because you wanted to wear your raincoat. I’d forgotten how simple the joys of childhood are.

And you, Brat, simply sat and looked at her with all the calm of an adult. And then just as I was packing you off with your Donald Duck umbrella you looked up at me with those gorgeous brown eyes of yours, looking like a beautiful puppy and asked me with all your soul in your voice, “Mamma, please can I take the big green umbrella?”

I handed you the plain green adult sized umbrella in shock. Your wants are so simple. I go to pick you up from school and listen to the other kids demand treats, Ben 10 and all sorts of paraphernalia, while all you want is the pleasure of carrying a plain big green umbrella.

You guys really do keel me.

Mamma

The lessons I learnt from money

..or what I learnt about money the day we broke the Brat and Bean’s gullak (desi piggy bank made of clay!)

1. Money can turn father and child against each other. The OA and I were counting the coins and stacking them up and the Brat and Bean were steadily knocking over the stacks of coins the OA put up. The OA kept yelling in vain – I could almost swear I saw a tear ;). Miraculously  – neither of them touched my stacks of coins!!

2. Money can make you cry. Again – it made the OA cry – because the kids then helpfully tried to put up the stacks again and mixed up the coins of various denominations in his towers!

3. Money educates. Well in this case the Bean heard us counting the coins and this morning she told the OA that she has One thousand eight hundred rupees! Yes, my two year old heard it somewhere, understood that 1800 was a figure used in the context of money, retained it and spouted it at the most appropriate time!

4. Money brings much joy. It does. The gullak was broken open with much fanfare and the kids screamed with laughter when they saw the coins come rushing out.

5. Money makes people flatter you. The Brat kissed me in exchange for the privilege of being allowed to be the one who dropped and broke it!

6. Money can make your daughter throw you out of your own house. The Bean for instance wanted to run away with the shiniest coin and when we foolishly tried to just count what she had in her little palm she turned around with a  – ‘Shoo away, shoo… go away.’ Yes, just like that. As though we were flies.

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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.

No need for words

The Brat is on the bed and I jump on him and smell the still baby smell of Johnson’s powder.

Mmm…. I breathe it in.

Mock offended at this invasion of personal space he turns around, places two pink lips on my cheek and blows a rude raspberry… ‘pprrrfffft’

The Bean sees action that cannot be missed and jumps on to the bed (wagon), rubs a soft little cheek against my back and in her favourite animal of the month mood goes ‘miaow’.

I turn around and scare the kitten away with a sharp bark… ‘woof’

The Brat to the rescue of baby kitten sister frames his face with his hands and roars like a lion…

I fall back, terrified and sobbing.

The two little animals are repentant and immediately clamber all over me in a huddle, the Brat holding my chin, the Bean stroking my hair. We cuddle into the pillows, a satisfied grunt here, a sigh of contentment there…

And so we’ve had mama and baby communication in words found in no dictionary. In a language that is just ours. What is that old one? Oh yes, love needs no words.

To be a child

It’s a past ten on a Saturday night.

I peek in to check on them. She’s asleep but I see two bright eyes shining in his bed. I put my arms out in the darkness and he throws himself into them gratefully.

I sneak him out of the nursery and as a rare treat he sits in our bed watching some random movie that the OA is watching. I decide to go the whole hog and get him some untimely Cadbury’s gems. Three for him and three for me.

His eyes light up and I imagine that I must be a terror if simple things like a late night in our bed and a couple of gems seem like such a treat to him.

‘One at a time… ‘ I start to say, but he’s already popped all three into his mouth.

Oh what the hell, I say, lets take a walk on the wild side. And I pop my three into my mouth equally greedily.

I’d forgotten the joy of stuffing my face with gems…