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.

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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.

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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9 months later

Largely ignored in the wake of the third child, I have often thought of this blog as something I will get back to when I have time. I am not entirely sure that I am going to have time for luxurious amounts of back spacing and deleting kind of writings but I do want to continue putting down something- so I have something to look back to. Of course great swathes of life have already passed us by. But Zak is here and really, this little one deserves one post all to himself.

Every single time I see you after being away from you- whether its for 15 minutes of several hours, I am madly excited. I get swept away with how completely gorgeous that twinkle of happiness in your eye is. And it hits me like a force of wall, how completely lucky I am, and how utterly grateful I need to continue being.

You have favourites already. Your BFF is the bottle. Of any kind shape or size. you do not discriminate. You want it in your hands and you want it now. First thing we do when we wake up is scramble to hide out night time water bottles before you start leaping across the bed to grab at it. Your favourite book is Baby Loves to Rock and while we all know parts of it and can say it out at random moments to make you giggle, my favourite is when Lily sings it to you. You love peas, and avocado. And can have toast makkhan any time, just like your sister and mama. You are definitely a morning person and even the hint of an outing can make you start flapping your legs like a rider gearing up his horse.

While I have not had much experience in the tantrum department – both your siblings had minor episodes thankfully and outgrew them as fast, I sense you have it in you. I have sen you throw your head back dramatically on a number of occasions. Dramatic like you sister and stubborn like your brother. A treat, really. Can you hear me rolling me eyes here Zak?

Having you has been the best thing. You were born at the perfect time really. A week before school closed. There was this over riding sense of celebration in the air and it hasn’t dissipated. The summer that followed, having BV and Nanna all to ourselves for a few weeks for the best kind of bonding, snuggling to sleep with Bia, you have truly had the best of starts. Hope that kind of uncomplicated love and happiness follow you all your life.

Perhaps the biggest joy I get is when I see Nadi and Lily with you. Can a combination feel more right? In all my ruminations and dreams, this is not what I had imagined. Clearly His plans outshine all ours and I think what you being in our lives has done for the four of us, is something we will only realize long after the years have passed.

I love you.  Happy 9 months, my Zakookie with the beautiful head.

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ode to those afternoons

Our weekday afternoons are usually such a flurry of activity. There is homework to be done and household tasks to be managed. My work happens in spurts in the middle as I take a call or send off an email. There is a kind of beat to that routine too. The action spurs us, makes us energetic. There is no scheduled napping during the week- there are lego projects and games, there is is going to the park or visiting Nanna or some sudden plan or errand run.

But today the blinds and curtains are drawn, plunging the room into a shady mellowness, the AC is whirring- a soft comforting sound- the kids are on that brink of being asleep and I am sitting in bed with them on my laptop,my book open next to me, the room a perfect chilled temperature to offset the shimmering heat outside, no longer a springy April but a starkly summery one. It is a hushed Friday afternoon post namaz. No jarring sounds. No sudden movements. Words like harmony and happiness come to mind. Reminds me of my childhood summertime-  the room on the far end at 35/S, Filza Apa’s room in Raziq mama’s house and Nanna’s room at Ayesha-Fatimas’s.

Growing up, this afternoon shaded hush was such a daily staple in our lives. I remember us all being asked to come into our respective rooms to play quietly while the grown ups napped or lay down before the “shaam ki chai” wthe point at which everyone emerged refreshed for the evening ahead. I don’t remember frenetic activity or other agendas. I don’t recall homework even or projects or anything other than plain simple effortless fun living. Maybe that is the magic of  being able to filter through and remember the feeling invoked as opposed to nitty gritty surrounding it. The magic of being young and surrounded by grown ups who believed in that magic too.

Midnight Feasts of the Grown up kind.

It was the days of 35/S. I remember waking up once in the middle of the night and following a trail of laughter and conversation to the kitchen with the round rotating top table, only to find all the adults of the house indulging in what seemed like a midnight pagan ritual of eating without the little people. It seemed wrong and oh so secret and simultaneously so completely exciting. I recall vaguely sharing with cousins and siblings the next day that indignation of our parents looking so happy and chatty in the wee morning hours and that too, without us. If I squint hard enough, I see khajla pheini on the table, and anda paratha and I can smell the tea. The one that is made in saucepans not in kettles.

Perhaps because I am that parent zone right now, a lot of my own childhood memories seem to be sliding back into consciousness. I am remembering details and regurgitating instances that I had even forgotten I was aware of, much less that they had imprinted in my mind. Sehris at my mother’s house  have always been a time of conversation, laughter (and fights too) and time spent together. Having hailed from a family of mostly morning people, we would be at our best most hysterical at this point, truly turning it into a fun if exhausting get together. Though my own family now  is smaller and younger right now,  and K is definitely less of a lets-socialize-at sehri person, today, Lily scuffled into the kitchen at 3:30am while we ate and chatted, and then as she stood there, staring at us with a mixture of quizzical fascination and bewilderment,  I was suddenly transported back to that night when I walked in and discovered the grown ups having fun without us.