grades, marks and other monsters.

While dropping Nadi and his friend M to a party, they were both full of little tidbits of news and information from the very hectic and fun week they had just finished in school. Not only were the first set of tests in class 4 done, a mini concert was in the works and Science week underway. Nadir mentioned his friend got full marks in Math which she shyly acknowledged and said it was the “first time ever” and then Nadir told me he got a 40/50 and that he was very happy with it, even though he knew he made a few silly mistakes. Then they both exchanged a glance and told me about another friend of theirs who lost 2 marks but had been crying in school because of that. I made the appropriate muttering sound, which I hoped conveyed both remorse and also surprise and I hoped they would leave it at that. But lots can be said about the tenacity of the 8 to 9 year old mind, and they insisted on asking me why she would be so upset at what was obviously SUCH a good score. “Mama why am I not unhappy at my 40/50?” he asked, quite genuinely curious.

It’s really hard when kids ask difficult questions. Obviously one doesn’t want to say the wrong thing but honestly at that moment it all can sound quite wrong. I didn’t want to make it appear that their friend was overreacting because truth be told, if you are used to a certain standard of achievement, anything less is a bit of a kick in the gut. You take hits hard and even two marks can seem like you have fallen and will not get up (for that moment at least). And of course, I don’t want to give Nadi the message that he has lower standards for himself or was any less of an achiever than someone else merely because of a few marks. I am not at all the person who thinks that how you perform academically is the only indicator of how smart you are or how well you will do. What I need to know is if he is happy and learning. As he grows it has become harder to stay away from this marks race and competitive attitudes, but I figure I can do my part by telling him (repeatedly) that if he truly knows what he is learning, then eventually that is what will matter. I hope.

We all know life is easier when you are great at something. Whatever that thing may be. Not only does it give you something to run to when things are wobbly, it genuinely fosters a feeling of belonging and ownership, two things which people underrate in my opinion when growing kids. But learning what you are good at takes time. So when an 8 year olds worth gets tied to what they get in their exams, it makes me a little scared. Life comes with all sorts of tests (most of them will not get graded by the way) and how we emerge is truly what matters. We need to fail (read: do not as well as we expect) to be able to know that there is life beyond that, and mind you, a good one at that which has nothing to do with your academic knowledge but rather your how intelligent your heart and brain are.





Yesterday k got back home right after work instead of heading for his own steam blowing workout session, in no small measure thanks to a phone call in which I must have sounded at the end of my wits as I juggled a very hyper 16month old who wanted to go out to play, a 6 year old I throes of a craft phase (but we must make 10 glittery ice cream bars for my shop) and a 9 year with science and Urdu test revision in play. Might I mention here that no matter how much hired help you have, there are days when everyone just congregates to that one foot of space around you, constantly. Khair, back to my story. It was 6:30 which meant the days tolls had taken place on all of us and the monstrous avatars  we try to keep firmly chained during the day were biting at the bit.

He arrived took stock and took over one and half kids while I quickly propelled the day forward to our favourite point on such days- bedtime. (Can you hear, nay practically FEEL my sigh of bliss down to your toes?)

Once the kids were out, there was complete silence and after the cacophony of three varying agendas being demanded at once, let me tell you it sort of feel like suddenly being submerged into water, where there is an extreme sense of awareness but also a gratifying lull in the pace of time. K and I then went around the room putting stuff away, minimal words really. No chatter on how the day was, no hug, no interaction nothing. We had our dinner also in the same way, padded in the cottony silence and then finished our episode of Good Wife. There was the next day to plan, work emails to be sent and while usually chatty, talking about the day, yesterday I was depleted. All I wanted was quiet. To somehow redeem myself from the Jekyll like persona that had gripped me in that last hour, I needed to literally mute.

While the numbers were equal I never really realised the immense draw of “emotional crutching” that is required from the person who is (merely by the chance of being more available) a primary caregiver. We are the police, the doctors, the huggers, the fixers, the bad cops, the managers, chefs, waiters, the CEOs- basically several hundred worth of job titles rolled into that one mama. It’s a sensory overload of feelings and beings on some days- to the point that all you really crave is a cool dark cave, with good wifi of course.

I didn’t say anything to k last night, and while maybe it was the general vibe of heaving sighess around me that was the give away, he was smart enough to keep his distance and throw the coffee and cheesecake at me. Good man.

going for the gold.

God knows there are enough articles out there to make any parent practicing in the know that competitiveness in the extreme form is wrong. That somewhere along the next two decades of your child developing into an adult it will have some form of negative impact, either emotionally or security wise which will probably result in the said kid either breaking down or turning into an ass of an adult, one who has no empathy or compassion. Ok ok I exaggerate and on the heels of what was an exciting Olympics, filled with emotional soul raising moments, I have to admit I also have been swept away by the excellence and high that can be found in watching your human beings sport (and excel at it).

My lifeline whatsapp group and I have had this conversation a few times- about what is lacking in us that makes us pushy and aggressive as mothers wanting their kids to be just brilliant at something. We all agree that our parents didn’t really push us. That they let us choose and decide and just generally be good at what we were at. They were not hard core and perhaps as a result we are not. That is not to say, that we haven’t found our niches of excellence and sculpted good lives for ourselves, but we acknowledge and accept that the “push” was lacking. And of course the conversation then moves onto whether in the times of today, that push has become almost a necessity in order to give kids (and their eventual adult selves) a lifeline in case other things don’t go their way.

Nadi loves swimming and while it started out all water fun and recreational, he suddenly developed an edge in it. And that edge led us to the club heats yesterday. I will be lying if I don’t admit the butterflies that assaulted my heart as we walked into the Gala, flags flying, music playing, the smell of chlorine and the chatter of excited children commingled with instructions from parents. “Whatever you do, DO NOT LOOK BACK” one mom assertively told her 7 year old. “JUST FOCUS ON SPEEDING THROUGH” told another one wisely. A tiny bit awed, I turned to Nadi, and out of my mouth comes ” You sure you want to do this?” He looked at me weirdly and says, “Yes of course, why?” And in a spurt of good parenting I say, “Well I don’t want you to feel pressured in case you know, you don’t make it to the final race.” He looked at me weirdly again and said.”Yes mama but that’s what the heats are for- to decide na?”

Thing is we underestimate and over complicate things for our children so much every step of the way, out of love and protection of them. He was doing something he loved, and whatever extra that came with it was just the cherry. For my little fish, the fact that he would get to swim was kind of the point, and meeting and doing it with friends the other bonus. It wasn’t him who needed to understand that, it was me.


The races began and no matter how much you tell yourself that it’s all in the name of good healthy competition, by the time his race came around, I just wanted him to win dammit. Until the second he took that dive and hit the water. And then the joy of watching someone you love do something they love took over in an instant. There are no words. There are slightly damp eyes though.

We made it to team reserve. And though there is a high chance we won’t get to swim in the actual race today, the beaming wet face, stuffing itself with the fries and Oreo shake, the shiny happy eyes and the slightly more confident stance for having done something he loves was my gold for today.


lovely illustration by Davide Bonazzi taken from Pinterest


Monster me 

I absolutely hate yelling at the kids. Or needing to talk to them in a tone where there is no room for discussion or leeway. Ideally we would have a relationship where I would require something and if they aren’t able to fulfil that they would negotiate other reasonable terms with me. Is that too much to ask? Don’t answer that.


So of course I often find myself in that place where I have to be communicating my thoughts not only sternly but in a tone that’s several octaves higher than what makes me feel human. And sometimes in the middle of that yell-fest, I will teleport above my screamy self and watch hovering above the scene, how horrid and crazy I actually can look while trying to get something or the other across to these kids that I love with all my  all. It’s stunning the irony that these very people who I would literally jump in front of a moving bus for are the ones that manage to evoke this face contorting exasperation and fury.
One of my standing annual resolutions has always been to be a zen-ner parent. The one who will get the message across in modulated lyrical tones rather than angsty high pitched ones. For most part I think there has been tremendous improvement and then suddenly a day appears where my carefully constructed and managed Jenga tower of emotions and control will come crashing down and I am back at square one, painstakingly collecting blocks to start over.

Does it damage my kids forever? I sincerely hope not. I tend to be somehwat humourous when angry and my examples and comparisons always elicit some giggles along with the fear and sulk from them. I am hoping in the long run my crazy love otherwise for them will cancel it the negatives and they will walk on forth with just the positives. Fingers crossed. And oh yes, resolution renewed for the new academic year yet again.

15 on 15

Dear Zakky,

I have been mentally planning this post for a while now, making notes on the phone, but it is still a couple of days late. I feel like time has wings these days and am almost afraid to blink because I am scared that I will open my eyes and you will be off to school or college, even. Of course the other thing is that the physical exhaustion is so bone deep that I am scared if I shut my eyes even for a second, I may fall asleep and not get up for a few years. And that really cannot happen right now. But I digress. This rather meandering post is about you, my lovely baby. My crazy, very loud, tantrummy lovely baby, who is growing too fast for his own good.


Zak, you and I- we have a morning routine. Right after we have sent the three hard working people off to their respective job and school, we make our toast makhhan, grab the daily half banana, coffee and glass of water and head back to bed to go lay back and browse through our favourite books, one by one. Needless to say, I know them all by heart but hey, who’s complaining? Currently on your must read list are Baby Loves to Boogie/Party , in which you love the toucan that can cancan and the lemurs who hang the streamers,  Yummy Yucky which is followed by lots of yuukhs and tongue sticking out,  Love Monster with lots of face hugs for the poor monster who doesn’t have a friend and Hey Diddle Diddle and Beach baby from the new Indestructibles series (basically you can chew that book and go wild with it and nothing happens to it. Win win, I say)


Almost all toddlers are so but you in particular I feel, are a very busy person with an advanced sense of organization. (So proud I am that you inherit this from me!) You routinely do an almost daily check of all the drawers you can reach, and pull out everything with a gleeful abandon and a vicious sense of purpose. When I say put it back strictly, you give me this utterly charming dimpled smile and then actually put the clothes/dishes/glasses/whatever back. If you can sustain it even a few years, I have done a better job with you than with your siblings, who will leave 4 pairs of shoes out on any given day.


We jokingly call you Lord Wyne the Third, because, well, you are. And if there is one thing that attitude is supremely apparent in, it’s your sleep stance. While you are perfectly content to spend the night in your cot, atleast an hour or two must be on our bed, taking up more space than that of two grown adults, usually in some strange perpendicular to the world formation. You sleep with your butt in the air, like Lily did and you have a strange fascination for moving upwards so that your head bangs against the headboard atleast once every 20 minutes. I have become completely adept in the art of nighttime child management, pulling you down while half asleep to stop you from growing up flat headed. A few years ago I started this folder on my computer called the Sleep Folder, where I store all the photos of the strange and crazy positions your dad and siblings have struck over time, and I am excited to note that you will be a major contributor as well.

One of my favourite things about you is how your favorite things are so odd. You love vehicles of all sorts, thanks to a book that Nanna started reading to you this Ramzan. So these days, if the car ride gets annoying or you are tired, I just have to point and say OH LOOK! A MIGHTY DUMP TRUCK! and you are suddenly all googly eyed with wonder. IO admit it gets tiring to point out each and every vehicle with the same level of wondrous excitement each time but I am enjoying the look of sudden recognition that flashes through your eyes as you make the connect. The other day you were at the high chair reading the book when you suddenly saw the construction site down below, a real live version of all your favourite diggers. I am still regaining my hearing after those shrieks of excitement.


Speaking of excitement, did you know you have a syllable that you love? Yep. A syllable. BUH. You adore it. For you it stands for all the best things in the world. Bottles, balls, balloons, books, buses, Bhai. You wake up and move straight into sitting position saying BUHHH, as we all blearily scramble to hide all evidence of water bottles, cream or any other container that you may then feel the compulsion to drag around for the rest of the day.

Which of course brings me to your love of bottles. Or perhaps the more accurate term would be containers because you aren’t at all prejudiced about the kind of container it should be. Buckets, bottles, jars are all the same to you. In fact the other day we passed a truck filled with dispensable water containers and you yelled at us to chase it. You must have one clutched tightly in your hand as a safety blanket at all times. In fact we have back ups everywhere, of small balls and bottles, just in case you drop the one you are holding and we don’t notice.


You haven’t really started speaking yet, although the beginning of the yarble babble that Lily used to do is there. Nadi was much clearer, and enunciated his words better. Lily used to spew forth a lot of paragraphs with emotive resonance but very little meaning (to us at least) You seem to be a happy medium so far. You can say certain words with utmost clarity. Your first absolutely clear as a bell word was APA and while Lily takes full pleasure in imagining it was her, I think you use the word as a sort of an adjective, because I have heard you use it for me, for Nadi, Abba and even Aroo.So I think while you know its Lily’s title, you also use it as a term of endearment for all things you find heart-y. You beam with happiness each time we get home and declare, “Staass tei” gesturing to the fairy lit stars on the wall in the room. You clap when a tractor passes by, shouting “Taaaactuhhh”. Everything else that you like is still BUH (including Nadi). You still don’t call me Mama or anything else. I am mostly title-less. You know who I am but oddly enough, despite the fact that we are constantly together, you refuse to use it. I find it strange, a bit of a relief and a bit of an insult. Jury’s still out on what I really feel.

There are so many little things that are so familiar about you- because they have manifested before in the other two but in a whole new, loudly protesting cheekily grinning package that I am loving getting to know.


One thing I did not anticipate however is the complete and utter adoration with which you regard the other two and with the patience and excitement with which it is reciprocated. I mean we love you to bits of course but before you, there was a balance, a calm and they were the best of friends, with no third party offset. Now suddenly there is you. Larger than life, constantly demanding the fullest of attentions, crazy you. You look at them and your features literally melt, especially where Lily is concerned. You even have a special tone for her. We call it the mushpuddle face. You lean forward and literally smash your head into her and while its very heart meltingly loving, I have to yell to get her teeth out of the way because you are quite solid and she is an air sprite. With Nadi, you are cheeky and naughty and nutty. You will run towards him with no sense of caution, fully expecting him to save you from tripping. You will mad giggle with him and he will laugh maniacally at your random hilarious moves, both feeding the madness gleefully. Together you are yet another kind of mix, tumbling away while I stand covering my eyes at the imminent disaster having to do with someone’s face and someone’s foot.

Am I exhausted? Yes. I am completely and utterly depleted of any kinetic energy. There are days when I have fallen asleep during movies (this is a given), in the shower, in my food, mid sentence and in awkward let me just sit down for a minute poses on the sofa. But I have also never been this alive. It is an ongoing epiphanic moment. Having you has triple folded everything, starting from the love and ending with the laundry. And I cannot imagine it any other way.

I love you so much. Be happy and kind always.
Love, Mama


on having the courage to change

“What we call our destiny is truly our character and that character can be altered. The knowledge that we are responsible for our actions and attitudes does not need to be discouraging, because it also means that we are free to change this destiny. One is not in bondage to the past, which has shaped our feelings, to race, inheritance, background. All this can be altered if we have the courage to examine how it formed us. We can alter the chemistry provided we have the courage to dissect the elements.”
Anaïs Nin


hello august

Summer had looked daunting. I have two hands and three kids and sadly only one brain. The endless hot summer days and even more endless conversation, almost constant activity and a nearly walking toddler, along with a mostly MIA husband (new job, high demands) meant I had to really manage my time to be able to keep working for June and most nights would have me asleep mid sentence, mouth open. Yes, very graceful I admit. No wonder he loves me so madly.

But today, summer is “officially” over, its overcast outside, cool August wind blowing and it feels like the perfect time to indulge in some kid-love, even more so since one is napping and the other two have gone back to school today. I was telling k just yesterday that parenting ought to be a condition, and if it was it would be a bit like bi polarity or schizophenia because most of the time, you are feeling two (usually extreme) sets of emotions at one time. Neither make sense, both are disorienting and honestly, I don;t think there is a cure. Just a way you have to learn to manage. And manage we did.

How is it that when you look back it all seems so fast? And when you look forward it all seems to crawl? Is our sense of nostalgia somehow more potent than our sense of anticipation? I am looking back to just the summer and already it has taken on a nice creamy Instagram filter (Gingham maybe, or Crema) and I am feeling all happysad at their lives now having taken off, to some measure without me. Mind you, it was something I wished for on an almost hourly basis when they were stuck to my face for 2 months. But like Dory, I too clearly suffer from short-term memory loss.


Someone once in a sweet tone but clearly making fun of me way asked me why I am so arty crafty where my kids and writing and posting about them in concerned. “Do you always have art stuff/ paper and pen ready?” she giggled, somewhat insinuating that there are far more important things in life to do. Which of course, there may well be. Although I didn’t answer at that point (nothing too convincing anyway), after that each time I design something for the kids, take an insta pic or write about something funny L said or something creative N made, I make oddly defensive arguments in my head. Something along the lines of it’s a curse of the trade or that this is what I was trained to do. Lame, yes but best to be prepared for the next time, don’t you think?

So as we got ready to walk down the stairs to school today, I grabbed a few pieces of chalk lying around because I suddenly decided I wanted to mark their first day with “something fun”. Kids are really daft aren’t they? They find oddball things so exciting. And suddenly there was all this chatter over what to write, colours, doodles. N didn’t want a heart but L did and Z just wanted to eat the chalk. I admit it creates chaos, I also admit I love that. As someone who doesn’t really subscribe to a parenting technique as such ( I hear they have proper names now for methods to follow- quite cool) I want to be remembered as someone fun to them. Someone who made the ordinary a tad bit lighter and brighter. And if we are smart about it, we get to make that choice everyday don’t we?

I have so many things I wanted to say to them today about the new year, new beginnings, kindness, doing their best – all well worn comfortable ciches, stuff they probably wouldn’t even take in in their hoppy excitement of new bags fun times and a whole day of friends. I know I don’t remember a single thing my mom may have said to me at this point. I just remember a feeling, a celebratory feeling in the shape of smiling morning tikyas or good music on the way to school and with my chalky message, I am hoping to pass some of that onto them. To a new year ahead.

(And as always when I think of school, a small prayer for those APS kids and their parents for whom this day is forever different and all other children everywhere who don’t have this opportunity- may this year bring you better, happier times)