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.

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.

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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)

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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)

when the cat stays at home

Six months ago yesterday, on November 30, after a series of some unfortunate events and people, K left his last job under not the most ideal of circumstances and not the way he would have liked.

It was literally on his birthday that the decision was expedited (yes timing was sucky), semi unexpected (you can always sense doom can’t you?) and then in equal parts both thrilling, a massive relief and scary. Thrilling because December was coming up, friends and family returning for the inter holidays and it meant he would be around (unless he got a new job immediately of course, but somehow at that point I wasn’t factoring that in). It was a massive relief because toxic environments are never any good, no matter how good you are at what you do. And scary because, well, three kids and only a part time working me and allll this upcoming time at home.

Now we aren’t the kind of couple who need their space too much and we are quite happy o toddle along with the kids doing our stuff together, and yes here I am talking about those brainless mall jaunts as well as the annoying grocery runs. He is fairly laid back and I am not so laid back but somehow we manage to make it all relatively painless for each other. Mostly. I hope. But here we were facing  yawning chasm of time- completely unplanned and also with no timeframe to the togetherness. It could be weeks or God forbid, years. What would we do with each other?

I could jazz it all up angsty wife style and talk in aggravated detail of the few days where we were literally on each other’s faces. Like wherever I turned he was there, and while when I am handing over the baby, it’s a great thing, when I want some alone time to work or spring clean (yes I spontaneously do that) or just lie and stare at the ceiling like a zombie, HE WAS THERE. Not really wanting anything, mind you but just around, standing or sitting or breathing. BEING THERE. Even being HELPFUL, sometimes. Most annoying and even more unrestful.

But mostly the last six months were quite fantastic and I wish it was part of adult and working life that you had to raise a baby together for the first year because it makes allll the difference to one’s sanity to have four hands. It isn’t only about the help (even though thats a huge part of it) it’s also about the time to have conversations when kids are in school, it’s about having him be a full time person in our lives, part of the muck of baths and lunch and lego emergencies and doll play and the chaos of that 4pm cabin fever, not one that is stuck at work and hearing about everything in past tense and coming home to clean and sleepy children.

I will not say that K didn’t worry. I think he would be inhuman to not, given we are all by products of a rather conventional culture where work is WORK. And mind you we got a lot of well meaning but mostly really daft advice on how he should take up ANYTHING that came his way. Even if it was a step down and even if it wasn’t anything he wanted to do. But I stood my ground. We were not going to settle. He would find and take up only what felt right. We were lucky. We had savings and freelance projects to see us through this “difficult” time. I use these beloved inverted commas here mainly because I feel like I am cheating when I focus on the apparent stress and tension being jobless has attached to it. Oh I admit very freely that panic can easily skirt at the edges of existence every day because if you let yourself go down the very steep path of what if, you can imagine alll sorts of scenarios. But I think I am a bit different that way. I know that things open up that we cannot even imagine if we are patient and right and kind and basically awesome. And I pretty much rail-roaded K into my way of thinking also. I believe and not just to say because I sound cool or calm, that what is our right, what we deserve is created by the kind of people we are, the kind of actions we perform on a daily basis.

Many things did come our way, some potential filled, others complete busts but on their own they would either fizzle out or fall through. We heard chatter on how he was over qualified, on how there are just no jobs for his position right now and all sorts of practical blah blah that people feel helps justify why something isn’t happening. My take was always it’s not happening because it isn’t meant to, yet. When it is, trust me, and I said this to him often enough to be labelled annoying, the opportunity will literally be created out of thin air and everything happen without us even trying. This has been the pattern I have most detected – to have faith in powers we cannot even begin to understand, and not give into the human induced panic that flutters into being when there is something we cannot control.

I really couldn’t bring myself to panic, given we were having a great time. The kids were thrilled after the initial shock of oh you’re still here and found it so easy to switch half their incessant need for chatter to him (oh yay). He was able to be a part of their lives in ways he had only heard of in fairytales before. I didn’t have a hard time thinking of it as a holiday sabbatical and yes, I know, it doesn’t happen to everyone.

So yes, it all played out at incredible speed in the last 10 days and he is back at work today, hopefully in a job he will love and thrive in, of course, but can we please have a moment of silence for all the times I was able to switch off in the last six months without worrying and another moment of silence for the extra 20 minutes of nap time I got very often. I will miss having them around. Err him, I mean of course.

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Behind the scenes of a party.

Occupational hazard aside, I do love a well designed, thoughtfully detailed great vibey party. I love quirks and connections and I particularly get thrilled when things fall together randomly and seamlessly. My design is like that too. It comes in spurts from the gut but the end result makes me feel like it clicked. I have learnt to rely on that as well as despair of that, because the process has a life of its own. So while May 7 was the date decided more than a month in advance because of  important jet set VIPs and their travel plans, what I wanted was something that even I couldn’t envision in one go.

I wanted marquis letters and the round paper lamps that are such a trademark of the parties we throw, lots of streamers and yes, also colour (oh but wait, not too much). I wanted sparkle and movement and space and also fairy lights. I wanted a retro look mixed with all the stuff that makes Z, Z.

I picked up this book Baby loves to Rock by W. Kirwan at the first Sunday Book Collective for him and he was instantly hooked. We read it about 15 times a day. I loved the concept and I told A who was helping me plan the party that I wanted that to inspire the theme.

My weekend trip to Isloo a week before to spend A’s 40th birthday with her and attend her rooftop party had the 80s song list buzzing in my head and it was clear to me that Z’s party would also have music that would have us, the parents bopping. Way too many birthday parties are all about the kids now- this one, was going to be alll about us. So many people commented on the music later and how fun it was, not knowing that for a giveaway I had also burned CDs of the same playlist. Mixed tapes, remember those?

I had seen this idea on Pinterest of creating a collage wall of photographs from the baby’s first year which I gave my own spin to by hanging up pictures of Z with everyone who was invited to the party. I dug through the last year of iphone pics and whatsapp messages but was happy to know that everyone we invited had one with him!

Guest lists are such tricky things. I always want to do justice so it means that I put in a lot of thought. I want everyone to get along- near impossibility- and I also want to be able to have this moment of connect with everyone – another near impossibility. I can see why K thinks I overthink these occasions, but wouldn’t you?

The cake details, oh yes. Ordered just a week prior, it was a rainbow cake from Pane and Amore (introduced to me by the real part jam, M) made more apt by a fact that I learnt this week that a baby born after a loss is called a Rainbow baby. I didn’t know that. Z is actually my double rainbow❤. It had a little version of him, dressed up in his party shirt, holding his favourite bottle and book, wearing his signature Batman chappals. Created by the amazing M at Studio Cupcakes, who is my go to with all my last minute planning and mad ideas.

For once the food was not home made so I could enjoy the party music and friends and family. Gazebo, a personal favourite for all street food desi but hygienic, is where we got our live stands from, fresh bun kebabs, dossas and chaat. Perhaps it was off tangent from the Rock and Music zone we were in, but I promise you the taste more than made up for any thematic dissension.

Thankfully littlest jam made me a video of the event which totally does justice to the way I want to remember it. Dancey happy feely. Zak melted in shyness at the Happy birthday chorus and candle routine, just like we anticipated. We did it thrice just to enjoy it each time. I cannot tell you enough what that feeling is of being surrounded by all the people you have collected in the making of your life especially at a happy occasion.. People who love you and live around you and are part of your life. You can think and overthink the wisdom of big parties and expenses ( believe me I did) but the truth is THIS is what we invest in, this is what we live for- the getting together, the having occasions which are so wholesome, beautiful, perfect and real that they make everything else dim in comparison. So, to much more rocking in life. Happy birthday Z. You make the world so much brighter.

 

 

 

 

Do I feel my feelings?

#week5 #oprahblogchallenge

One of the questions that was part of this challenge was “Do I feel my feelings?” and my mind said what a stupid question and filed it away it for some unforeseeable future post. But then a friend’s husband had a heart attack (thank God he’s fine) and life moved into epiphanic state that Hussy and I had identified as “tragic clarity” some point during our college years, and this question poked its head around the corner and said hey you.

Feelings have to be felt, of course, in some measure pretty much all the time. But there is this sharp, startling, blindingly clear view you get of your life only post something-bad. It is as if all the cotton wool padding we tend to collect around us as we go from day to day suddenly foops away and you are left, shivering slightly, gasping gently for breath, as you see the vicious beauty of your truth.

Though I do not like the circumstances that may bring about these moments, these moments are quite stunning in how easy they make life, for at least a little bit afterwards. Choices can be made in seconds, priorities assembled in a blink and all things superficial unnecessary and toxic  shunned with effortless ease. You see, deep down we all know.
We all know the truth of what makes us, what breaks us, what we want and need and all that stuff we simply do do do, just because. And when life throws its curveball, you suddenly come to the decision that that which is not gold, not something that makes you happy or content, or slightly breathless and giddy, at least a majority of the time, is just not worth the beef.

A friend visiting from abroad recently would clutch her heart at the beggar kids who were cheerfully flinging fruit at each other and talk about the injustices of the world and how cold the people here have become. I laughed at how much fun they were having and she called me unfeeling. I live in Karachi in 2016 which means that feeling your feelings has to be managed well, otherwise you can end up in let’s say, not a good place. OF COURSE I feel for them and in my own way, I am revving for education of street children, contributing money/time/my skill set to create places where efforts are being made and opportunities created for more kids to study (may I plug in here that if anything, it is education that will change anything) but but BUT I cannot weep or hold my heart or go home and lie under a blanket FEELING all this every single day because well you know, my kids want food. Husband wants to know where his clean socks are and I, well I want to watch an episode of Greys in peace without feeling that iron load of guilt that all the feeling my feelings bring about.

Epiphanic moments of “tragic clarity” were put into life for a reason and they are brilliant, and someone like me needs them to be grateful, honest and better, but thank God they fade away, because really, life is too short to be spent in near shock of all that there is to feel for also. So yes, in words of the Queen, twisted for the sake of my art, keep calm but feel on.