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

 

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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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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.

Starlit in Karachi.

“Aristotle taught that stars are made of a different matter than the four earthly elements— a quintessence— that also happens to be what the human psyche is made of. Which is why man’s spirit corresponds to the stars. Perhaps that’s not a very scientific view, but I do like the idea that there’s a little starlight in each of us.”
― Lisa KleypasLove in the Afternoon

Recap: Suddenly Seven

I used to do these recaps fairly often back in the early days of parenthood, excitedly logging in gurgles and sounds and quirks and likes and oddball bits of information with much love and clearly more time. Reading back it makes me glad I did because the memory is an odd thing, and while some things come into sharp focus as the years go by, so many little fun things melt into a warm blurry mess. And since Nadi’s seventh birthday just passed, what better time to put down for posterity some of those things that I want to one day embarrass him with?

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Dear Nadooni,

Watching you with your friends is unreal. The relationships, the conversations, the self assured way you suddenly fall into a leader role, the nuttiness and especially the happy vibe you exude that draws your friends to you are all things I watch with fascination, especially since you were a shy little person not too long ago.

I love that you ask questions I have never even thought of, about things I haven’t noticed in detail.

We have had our battles, you and I, but we both know we are each other’s best champion, even in the middle of what you right now call a “daanto”. Isn’t that cool?

I know you love me but how you are with your dad is unreal. It’s like a force field of love and I can see it emanating from your eyes as you follow his every move to try and emulate his existence. From what he wears to a repeat of his phrases and his interests and habits. It is borderline creepy. Some days I get jealous. I have to admit. But mostly I am just mushy.

Everyday as soon as you come back from school, even before changing out of that filthy uniform, you must grab a paper from the printing tray, reach out for whatever pen is handy and start drawing. It is almost like the school day isn’t complete till your hands have sketched out something- expelled that leftover energy brought in from the playground. Once done is when you finally focus and get going on the usual routine.

You are quite impressed with the fact that post workouts my arms have become”tighter” and that I also sweat (like Abba, you said in starry eyed wonder) but then you grab my arm from underneath and tell me I need to work harder since it is still “quite squishy”.

When Lily says a longer, fancier word or sentence than what we are used to hearing, you will cock your eyebrow at me above her head with that barely contained grin you have and we will both share a moment of pride and excitement at how grown up and amazing she is.

You are a complete push over when it comes to her. From packing up her endless lines of animals to going to the other end of the house to fetch her Elsa’s shoes, you will grumble and huff but comply. You love annoying her as well. And when you think I am not looking, you will do something to bug her, which when I call you out upon, you will cheekily answer to with “But that’s what brothers are for!” I don’t quite know where you picked up that line but it makes me laugh.

You are a creature of habit where food is concerned. Just like me and your Nanna. You can have the same thing day and day out for years. Happily.

Your obsession with characters of a villainous nature is going strong. You find them interesting, studying their mannerisms and intentions to a point of exhaustion. Your villains of the hour right now are Hans who has reached delightful new lows in your eyes because he pretended to be good and Megamind whose dialogue “Remember, bad guys always lose” you have repeated ad nauseam to the point when both Lily and Leens are quoting is as a mantra.

One only needs to say the word “poop” for you to start giggling crazily. I don’t get it. I thought it was a boy thing till Lily and Leens also followed suit. Now I just think its mad.

I love watching you with Aanoo. It’s like your face physically morphs into this mushy looking, soft eyed pulp. You talk to her in this weird baby-like tone (which we all agree is quite scary but in a terribly endearing way) and she completely responds by always trying to touch your face. It’s oddly reminiscent of you with Lily when she was a baby. You are exactly the kind of big brother these 3 girls will use to their hearts content to get away with god-knows-what.

These days you (and Lily) love hearing stories of when me, Maii and Bia were small. You want details on what we did, where we lived and what our fights were about. I am really enjoying this as well, because it is jogging my memory on details I thought I had forgotten.

You can do all those daily little things on your own now. Eat your food. Take a bath. Style your hair. Tie your laces. Make your chocolate milk. Choose your clothes. And yet you still want me to be next to you every night just as you fall asleep. Thank God for that. It’s true what they say, that the days are so long but the years are so short. I love you so so very much my baby boy. Always be as you as you can be.

Love, Mama

 

 

arrested at home.

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I had wrapped up my work commitments early and I was supposed to take the kids to Gymkhana with plans to meet up with friends for coffee later. K was going to his workout and we had planned to have fish for dinner while we caught up on 24. But then suddenly at 2pm Altaf Hussain was arrested in London, and everything in Karachi was uncertain.

Hundreds of whatsapp dings and a couple of hours later, after mad traffic, fuel crises and some shortcuts later, everyone whose back home routes I had been mapping was home.

A friend ranted on Facebook about how because of him being arrested in London, we were house arrested in Karachi.
How depressing it felt, how awful it was and yes for the most part I agreed with her, that to be told you cannot step out of your house, that you have to be forced to stay in is not a good feeling. But yesterday when the outside seems even more angsty, because of the thugs roaming around wanting to create an environment of tension, I was having a wonderful time being home. Amongst my people, in the middle of my things.  I tootled around the house looking to undertake some kind of improvement project immediately, to organize and control something, as an analogical attempt in life to get the power back. So yesterday, while my Karachi teetered on the brink of what is going to happen next, my kitchen cupboards got a thorough summer clean.

 

 

In the somewhat quiet of the night

Sometimes (like right now) I like to wake up in the dead of the night and do things that ordinarily in the day get sidelined by the pace we have going.

It’s not really quiet at all. The birds are creating a muted ruckus outside – I am not sure why they are up- it’s pre-fajr but no sunlight due for a while yet. And while on birds, do koels who herald my summer so beautifully every year, stay awake 24/7?

So I am walking around the house and room, shiffling things. I needed to send a mail which I do. I have a quick midnight Whatsapp from a friend visiting Barcelona and heading to Munich telling me which cities we one day simply HAVE to do together. I smile, add in my suggestions and reply to her, our time difference ensuring I will hear from her at some ungodly point tomorrow. (I love waking up to random one liner messages and conversations, have I mentioned that?)

I realize today/yesterday was June 1st and Hussy and I had committed to a month long daily blog challenge to get ourselves back into the groove of writing, documentaing and sharing so here I am at 4 am, getting my writer mojo on rather ramblingly.