Don’t drop the baton, ok?

“Mama did you see the relay race today at our sports day practice? She dropped the baton AGAIN!!!” Nadi burst out as soon as he saw me out of school. “And of course we lost time. She always holds it from the edge. You should hold it from the middle.”

Tween angst is a thing, did you know and as the 9-12 year old phase hits, there is just so much happening and not enough words to do justice to it all. Life is unfair several times a day and of course being his mother, I just don’t understand. I try to kee my tone and stance neutral and conversational when these anecdotes of injustice are presented, more often than not making light of the situation so he keeps perspective. At almost ten, everything can be so terribly personal. 

My first reaction was to say, “Well, you know relay is a team effort and all sorts make up a team. Win some lose some. As long as you’re having fun.” But lately I have noticed that to live and let live is perhaps not enough. Perhaps we too should look to expect more, fix more, be ther more by giving a bit more. So I said instead, “Why don’t you talk to her then? Explain that how she’s holding it makes her drop it- and show her how to hold it. Maybe she doesn’t know and gets nervous?” Almost in slow mo, Nadi did a full head turn locked eyes with me and said, in his usual terribly eloquent manner, “Oh.”

See the thing is you know your kids and this mere oh was, to me, telling of the fact that I made him think of the entire situation differently. Atleast for a second. I don’t know if he will go to her tomorrow or manage to have this conversation but here is hoping that something shifted. I wish it was this easy to make kids kinder or more empathetic. I mean even as grown ups, we struggle with trying to imagine what the person Infront is holding up until they crumble to rubble right Infront of us. And even then, we react more often with righteousness and distance than understanding and support. 

We all drop that metaphorical baton sometimes. We completely lose our shit because it all got too much. We rant and rail and hurt, both ourselves and others. And all the while, we glance around, hoping that nearby, around us somewhere, is someone who can see us struggle, come over and help us hold onto it the right way as we start to run again. 

Kafka-esque with coffee today

So weary
Mind wiry
Too much Heart
And then, suddenly,
Too much
Head. Alone.

Up high, be low
Like Best friends
with cycles
In tandem rhythms.

Hide, Heart
so you have no face
Out head,
so much
put in Place.

In out Deep
Puffs of strife
up up away.

 

Magic mornings 

When Nadi was born, there was this buzzy energy to my being. I couldn’t wait to get back into life post baby bubble, the busy, fulfilled, demanding one I was familiar with, but this time with my nearest accessory in tow.

A decade can teach you a lot. For instance, every morning after we have sent everyone off to job and school, till about 10am, Zak and I are in our pyjamas lazing in bed reading books in trucks and buses. I am in no hurry to answer my emails, and whatever work I have lined up is now time managed according to what I can manage while keeping one foot firmly wedged in my fading baby bubble. I am in no hurry to be famous or important, or change the world. I’ll get around to it one day sure (maybe) but for now I need to enjoy my coffee and hug my not so baby who is suddenly making these splendidly hilarious three word sentences on this day as he turns 21 months.

First baby was a lot about proving to myself that I was more than just this attachment growing out of my left side. I look at thirty year old me and I want to giggle a bit at how important everything seemed to her in so many ways. She was so brimmy with the all-ness of it all. Today, she tires me and I want to tell her, do as you do and be as you are. Anything else, bluckh. Simply not worth it.

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.

 

 

 

shh.

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.

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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.

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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.