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.

 

 

 

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

 

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