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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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

 

 

But why.

“It’s come at last”, she thought, “the time when you can no longer stand between your children and heartache.” Betty Smith, A Tree Grows in Brooklyn

Trying to explain to a 4 year old the intricacies in simple language of what makes a relationship can be the most dizzying most repetitive ride in the world. Our first year in Big School was been a resounding success. Nadi did things that took my breath away mainly because I was still looking at him with preschooler mom eyes. The fact is the summer between preschool and nursery, magic happens and suddenly there is a proper little boy in place of your baby. Fully armed with my insider knowledge that Nadi “takes a while to adjust” we walked him to his classroom, looking perfect in his new uniform. I looked at him apprehensively. He shoved both hands in his shorts’ pockets half turned, smiled, said “Bye Mama” and sauntered casually into class in an almost debonair manner, pausing for a second to check out some puzzles on the shelf. I remember coming home in shock at my candid dismissal.

Cue month 4 or 5 into classes and regular school life, I start hearing of one girl’s name appear more frequently in conversation. It’s a new name and I’m intrigued. Nadi takes his time with people generally and for someone to have clicked for him in this spontaneous manner is interesting to me. “She won’t play with me” Nadi explained, a bit lost and sad. “Why doesn’t she play with me?” Despite my promises to let playground issues resolve themsleves, my radar goes up and i spend a few weeks observing and assessing the situation from a distance. “Nadi,” I try explaining to him, “she likes playing with different things. And you can’t make someone play what you want them to play” “But why, Mama?” he asks simply. “My game is fun too- it’s called running.” “I know Nadi, but she likes the sandpit” “But that’s boring” he claims.

Watching your child bewildered at someone not liking them or not wanting to play with them is an odd helpless feeling. Especially when you know your kid likes them enough to be hurt by it. Part of me wanted to go upto the little person and say “Hey. What’s wrong with you? My kid’s awesome! Play with him” and the other part of me, the newer side I was a bit taken aback to discover, said, out loud to Nadi, “You have other friends who love playing your game, why not focus on them.?” “Doesn’t she like me, Mama?” The million dollar question. The thing is, I, from my vast playground experience, by now had figured out that she likes him and even wants to play with him but she has stuff going on that makes her want to do different things. But this isn’t a sitcom and they aren’t teenagers yet. Thankfully the wisdom in learning to let things be pays off and somehow Nadi has made some kind of peace with the fact that this girl, no matter how much he wants to be friends with her, will exhibit mixed feelings with him.

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Last week, as we talk about going back to school and on being even more “big” now, he suddenly asks, “Do you think she has grown up now and is not so silly anymore?” So carefully masking any giggles or concern, I ask casually, “Silly? Why would you say she was silly?” “Because Mama, one day she would say I am your friend and the next day she would say no you’re not. Isn’t that silly?” “Umm yes, well that’s not very grown up. Maybe because she isn’t 5 yet?” Being 5 is everything to us right now. He nods wisely and says, “Yes, you are right, she is not 5 yet. But I am. We had my party na?” Playground relationships are messy, be warned.

Yes, this broke my heart a little, because I imagine it broke Nadi’s heart a little to not be friends with someone when in his life he thought all it took to be friends was to want to be friends. I wish I could stop this tide from starting- this ebb and flow of friends, heartbreak, love, disappointment that is going to come into his life. I pray all he finds himself surrounded with all is life are people who want to be around him. But secretly I am perversely relieved too, that my serious, sensitive, nutty, sparkly eyed little boy who has the capacity to be emotionally over-involved into his own processes of figuring things out, has managed to cross this tiny little starters hurdle  on his own. I am happy, if heavy-hearted that this makes him a tinier bit more equipped for the stuff up ahead which will hurt and ache and pain as much as it will be exciting and growing and fun, but more than anything else, I feel useless because all I will ever really be able to do, is be there.

Lessons from Tom and Jerry.

It is funny that we can’t see the funny in funny too clearly anymore because of the times we live in. I know I have been, if not proactive then deeply conscious of what I expose Nadi to in terms of evils and realities of the world. Especially on TV. K and I don’t watch the news infront of him and we attempt keeping words like bomb and gun and kill and shoot out of conversation around the little people. Even the cartoons and animated features he has seen have been whetted by us for any confusing messages. The idea of Good vs Bad is a universal one and watching pretty much anything, even if U rated touches upon that and that kind of black and white existence has worked in terms of pushing some important lessons forward. Sharing is good, but fighting is bad. Good people help and eventually are happy, bad people are selfish and never win. You remember, the good old fashioned lessons of life. Etcetera and all that. But we live in Karachi so of course he absorbs and processes a certain number of the abstract negative concepts almost automatically as well and though I can see some connections start to get made in his head in regards to the complication that can be life, mostly so far I think he hasn’t strayed too far into the blur and is happy to accept the basic explanations.

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So, on our holiday this time, once he got ready every morning, Nadi would switch on Boomerang TV for a daily fix of cartoon time and it was at 10am on one June morning, that the world of slapstick hit and run and smack and whack humour suddenly unveiled itself to his 5 year old brain. Having always been avid supporters of the no-violence formula in life, we have always no-no-ed the idea of hitting and smacking and deemed people who do it “silly” or “childish”. Of course in light of this, the relationship between Tom and Jerry completely fascinated him. As I watched it with him, secretly a bit horrified at how much more, for lack of a better word, gleefully violent they seemed, I could actually see him trying to get his head around the fact that they seemed to be a team and yet the wham thud pow went on. Interesting thing is although we have watched several full length animated feature films together and the concept of bad is much talked about and handled but I could tell that he could tell that this was different. This wasn’t about good vs bad, this was about nature accepting both sides. Tom wasn’t only bad and Jerry wasn’t only good. A whole new grey has been born.

drawing by Nadi of course.

the signs are everywhere

Nadi: Mama, what does that sign mean?

Me: It means that you shouldn’t blow your horn loudly because there is a hospital nearby.

Nadi (after a bit): And what does that sign mean?

Me: That sign means that no trucks are allowed here.

Nadi: And that one?

Me: That you should not turn this side.

Nadi: So all these signs tells us what are bad things to do?

Me: Not bad but yes not right. Things that are not allowed.

Nadi: So why are there no “No lying” or “No pushing” signs put up all here there, everywhere?