Getting better…Day 3

The dawn of day 3 is a little scary since Ishaan hasn’t had a good night. He’s been restless and I can sense a cold in the offing…sigh…

We get to school in time, but today the crying starts as soon as we park and he sees other children milling around waving their goodbyes…it’s not the start I was hoping for! He’s beginning to cry and cling and pretty soon the tears flow freely. I harden my heart (I’m beginning to realize that it’s the one skill I’m going to have to master in as short a time as possible, if ever there was one!), and carry him down into the waiting arms of his teacher.

He disappears into the room, still calling out to me, arms outstretched…leaving me standing there, feeling like Monster Mom! Such are the joys of Motherhood! Today, I’m alone and as I sit on the ledge outside, my back to the school (lest he catch a glimpse of me), swinging my legs, I feel a lot like a school-kid myself – unsure, insecure, nervous and scared. If I feel like this at 41, how must he feel at 2? No…this is not helping…this is just making me feel worse then I already do. I feel like a coiled spring…watchful & tense, with no avenue of release. Positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…think positive thoughts…meanwhile the silence inside is vaguely disquieting but oddly comforting…

I look around the garden and decide to take a few pictures so I can show them to Ishaan later and because it gives me something to do (in typical hare-brained fashion have forgotten to bring a book and my camera!). I use my phone to click pictures of the two turtle statues and an earthen flower-pot shaped like a shell. I take pictures of the black-board outside, with its quote by Dr. Maria Montessori. I peer surreptitiously through the long window panes, trying to catch a glimpse of Ishaan, but he’s nowhere in sight and the silence persists. I should be happy…shouldn’t I be happy? He’s probably enjoying himself somewhere, having forgotten all about anxious Mom waiting outside. Why then do I mistrust the silence? Why is my heart not jumping with joy?  Why is everything to do with children a double-edged sword? Questions, questions…where are those positive thoughts when you need them?

The turtle!

A butterfly catches my eye…there are many and they offer welcome distraction. There are large Monarchs, others with opalescent wings, still others with white-rimmed, light-brown speckled wings and yet others with green and lemon-yellow wings that catch the sunlight and shine like green-gold! Pretty, delicate and uplifting. Then I catch sight of the centipedes crawling all over the garden…their fat chubby bodies moving smoothly, with equal ease both forwards and in reverse, on the wave-like motion of their hundred legs. Not so pretty (I’m not an insect person, except for butterflies), but still fascinating. They seem so purposeful, I envy them, sitting here swinging my legs, purposeless! The teacher appears and asks for his shoes. They’re taking him for a walk in the garden out back. Before I can ask, she assures me he’s fine. If only I were too!

The Shell!

I go back to my meandering thoughts and old school-memories come flooding back. I loved school and had a wonderful time, especially in Japan at the Stella Maris Convent, where I studied from grades 2 through 5. I think of Mrs. Rosario, my Grade 4 home room teacher, a stern-faced disciplinarian with a heart of gold. An excellent academician to boot! It’s hard to find teachers like her now. She took us girls in pairs to spend a night at her house, a great honor it was, though a little scary, and I remember walking down the lane by her home to watch the cherry blossoms in spring, while she spoke to us about seasons and nature 🙂 A practical lesson in science and a wonderful memory! Then there was Sr. Mary McDonald, the Principal, I still remember her calm countenance and smiling face. I don’t once remember her flustered or angry. And Mrs. Callan, my Grade 5 teacher, the first one to recognize my love for writing and encourage it. She had me write a letter in response to an appeal from a zoo where an elephant was sick. We collected money and sent it along with my letter and we received a letter of thanks in response. I remember feeling proud, the pride that comes from making someone you love and respect, happy! It’s a great feeling and it’s what I want for Ishaan…happy memories from school that he will treasure ever after! There are many more memories and I’m pleasantly lost…until I look down at my watch and it’s past 10 am!

The Quote!

The one hour is up and I am eager to see my boy, but it’s not to be…today they’ve decided to keep him for another half-hour (sigh), and he seems to be doing Ok. Suddenly, there he is at the window and he sees me as I’m talking to the teacher.’Oh Lord!’ I think, ‘Now he’s seen me and that’ll set him off again!” and I try to hide my bulky self as best and as quick as I can. He’s calling Mama and he’s tearful but he’s not howling. He’s told the teacher he needs to use the potty, and she leads him to me, but it’s a false alarm and he has to go back, which is when the crying begins again, which I confess (Monster Mom that I am), is oddly comforting!

But he goes back inside and quiets down and I stay outside. Hubby joins me and we wait together a while, before it’s time to leave. This time he walks out to me, holding his teacher’s hand and he’s not crying. He’s happy as a button to see hubby and runs straight into his arms 🙂

And so, another day is done…not too bad at all…rather well done methinks…I pat myself on the back before I bury my nose and inhale the sweet, sweaty fragrance of his hair 🙂

The next day…Day 2

So, here we are on Day 2 and this time I have reinforcements in the form of Mom – she of the veteran parenting class and nerves of steel…not quite (she’s now been ‘Grannified’ which means her heart’s softer than butter where her Ishaan is concerned :P), but still, her presence calms me down.

I’m not expecting miracles…I know things will probably worsen a lot more before they begin to get better…and yet still, I hope! We go down to school and again the crying begins as I hand him over to his teacher with a quick hug and kiss. Then Mom settles (barely!) into the chair and I try to find a place where I can be omnipresent but inconspicuous…channel all my Mommy stores of sixth sense & intuition! We hear him crying from the depths of the school and then suddenly everything goes quiet…instantly the silence becomes ominous and not peaceful, as I begin to imagine breath-holding spells and other medical emergencies! But I don’t let my worry show, ‘coz Mom is already worried enough for a thousand of us! She looks at me and mouths “Poor baby!He’s so small, too small! He’s barely begun to speak! We were never in a rush to send children to school in our time! They went when they were good and ready, when they were 5!” At that moment, I agree with everything she’s saying and I tell her, but to convince myself and her that I’m doing the right thing here, I tell her that times are changing and that he would probably cry just as hard if not harder, if he were 5. He would probably have had long arguments about why school was totally redundant…don’t underestimate 5-yr-olds! She nods. She knows what I know, heck she knows a whole lot more! It’s just her butter-heart acting up!

While we’re wondering what’s happening inside, the Directress of the school, visiting from Delhi, comes outside and does her bit to soothe us. She assures us that Ishaan is doing fine, and that crying is totally normal and in control. She tells us how she explains to anxious mothers that when they cried as adults (she used the word great hulks!), while leaving their Mom’s house after marriage to a man they loved and chose and wanted to live with (well most of us), then it was silly to expect that a child, who leaves home and the comfort & security of Mom’s arms, against his will, would do so without a good howl! Indeed it is! Beyond silly! I never thought of it quite like that before! Her analogy is amusing and makes us smile for a while, before drowning out in the next wave of crying.

And so we sit outside, comforting each other with all manner of platitudes, while our hearts are elsewhere, listening for the sounds of his anguish, glancing ever so often at our watches, counting seconds, minutes. I realize my Mom is suffering twice over, for Ishaan and for me too, watching me go through ‘separation anxiety’. There are periods of silence though and a teacher comes out twice, once to let us know that he enjoyed playing in the sandbox and then to tell us he’s naming animals on a chart 🙂 We make it through the hour, all three of us and although it was hard, it was just a little less harder than yesterday.

On the way home, he’s back to his chirpy self, but I imagine I can see the change…a seriousness in his eyes, subtle as it is.

He’s growing up…one tiny step at a time…

Ishaan starts Playschool!

All set for school!

He went. He saw. He cried.

I watched. I wondered. I cried too…a little. Unseen, silent tears.

That would be the short version! And yet it was one of the longest hours I’ve ever spent, as I’m sure has he!

The night before, I was pretty with it, trying to soothe my nerves doing the little things – laying out his uniform, getting the toddler bag ready, setting out his blue crocs, all the while mumbling muted prayers to the Almighty, to get us through the day without a major mishap. This whole shebang is spanking new to us both and once again I doff my hat off to mothers everywhere! You Rock!

This morning was smooth (Perhaps that should have served as warning? I’m a naive mother, with much to learn…sigh), Ishaan was up at 7 am, breakfasted on fruit and a sandwich, played cricket while hubby and I did the same. We dressed and so did he and I took the regulation picture – the one in uniform, like every kid has in their album, duly titled ‘First Day of School’. He had no idea what school was but he was happy to be driving somewhere in the morning.

How does one prepare an almost 2 and 1/2 year-old for school & separation? Especially one who has just begun stringing together three words into a sentence? How do I explain that it’s a place where he’ll meet other children and adults called teachers, who will play with him and teach him things and hopefully love him well? How do I tell him, that from now on, he’s beginning a new journey, one that will take him away from home for a while every day but will hopefully be as rewarding as it is exciting? How do I let him know that when he’s howling his lungs out inside, my heart is breaking & I’m crying too, just on the inside, so he can’t see, trying to stay strong for him on the outside? How do I assure him that after a week (Hope springs eternal in this naive mother’s heart!), he’ll forget these tears and be like all the other kids, happily playing, learning, settled? How do I convince him that all of this is for his betterment? How? How? How? I don’t know how and so I just hug him tight and kiss him and silently praying, let him go…

And he does go too, holding a teacher’s hand he disappears into the large schoolroom. I wait outside as she’s instructed ready to rush to the rescue when needed, fingers and toes firmly crossed. He’s whimpered a bit when hubby left, but now seems to be holding it together although a bit confused. He’s never been around so many children before. He wants the teacher to carry him all the time but she gently dissuades him and he seems ok, just sticks to her like glue. I exhale and think we might just make it through…Hah! The phone rings and a cousin wants details of an employment agency in Bombay. Her maid just gave notice! I’m on the phone for 5 minutes, when I hear the unmistakable sound of his crying. He’s caught a glimpse of me through the window and that’s when everything starts going downhill…

After that, although I go inside and hold him, wipe his tears and his runny nose, sit down with him and try to get him interested in an activity, there’s no stopping the boy. There are a pair of turtle statues in the garden outside and he wants to go near them, he wants to be anywhere except where he is, he wants to be held constantly, but I’m firm. Where do mother’s find the resolve to stay firm with their children? I have no clue but I’m sure glad they do! I hold his hand and walk him around the room, still crying but trying so hard to be brave, and point out the colorful artwork on the wall (I am embarrassed, and angry that I am. I confess!). He tries his best to identify some of the pictures, a tiger, a fish, a clown. A few of the children stare at us but they remain remarkably undisturbed, not particularly interested in or affected by his continuous crying! I am impressed! If this is what school does, I’m all for it! They are wise these kids, in the quiet, assured manner that children are wise (they are!). They’re probably reliving their own initial misery and I imagine most of them looking at me with an expression of knowing pity! He quiets down every time a teacher appears to soothe him and call him darling and sweetie, but he clings to me like a koala!

It’s almost 10 am and the teacher says, I can leave now. Apparently, he’s had enough exposure to the new environment for Day 1! I agree! Him and me – both! He perks up, realizing with that intuition peculiar to children that the tide is now in his favor and Dad is on the way to rescue him! Suddenly bright, he waves Ta-ta to the teachers and jumps straight from my arms into hubby’s! While we’re leaving, a senior teacher advises me to avoid talking too much to him about school, staying firm but gentle and reassures me that he is by no means the worst child to have crossed their threshold! She makes me feel better 🙂

In the car, he’s absolutely normal although a little circumspect. He knows he’s behaved badly and Mom is a little cross. He knows me too well for his own good! All the way back home, he points out cows, goats, and dogs. The phone rings again and I ignore it. When we get home, Mom and Granny are waiting at the door, having heard the car approach. Mom especially has been miserable and out of sorts since we left, sick with worry! I tell all as Ishaan leaps from hubby’s arms into Mom’s bear hug (and he’s just barely been away the one hour!). Back in familiar territory, he is once again Prince of all he surveys, but he glances at me occasionally, he knows he’s not out of the woods, not quite. Then showered and juiced, I sit him down with two bowls and some almonds and ask him to transfer them from one to the other (an activity that met with much resistance, when his teacher tried to get him to do it in school), and he happily complies, his little face screwed up in concentration, for 40 minutes flat! I realize then that through all those tears, he’s still seen stuff and absorbed it! I smile and his face lights up 🙂 Children…mysterious souls 🙂

And so tomorrow…we do it all over again!

Wish me LUCK!!

p.s. Many thanks to the wonderful staff of The Ardee School for their wonderful encouragement, gentle manner and support. You truly made this nervy Mom’s day easier 🙂

The Good Daughter!

That’s me 😉 Or at least was me on Wednesday the 11th of August, my Mom’s B’day 🙂 I was on my best behavior, determined to show her a good time and for once, I didn’t mess it up!

The day began with a sing-song recitation of Happy Birthday by my Dad and I, and the presentation of cards, four in all, for Mother, Daughter, Wife and Granny, one for every role she so faithfully fulfills 24/7. Needless to say, she was touched and over the moon! It didn’t matter that I bought every card and wrote it myself and had my Dad and Granny and son do the honors. Not to her and not to me 🙂

Then the phone calls began and with every call, the smile on her face became wider. I’ve watched my Mom’s smile disappear gradually over the years, to be replaced by a look of constant worry and the strain of nursing a sick child – Life was just too hard and happy moments, hard to come by. But thanks to my son, she is now rediscovering the lost art of the smiling 🙂 I told her of my lunch plans, keeping the Salon visit and surprise party, carefully secret! She had no clue – Mom is not suspicious by nature. She takes people at their word and believes the most far-fetched stories some have fed her 😉 always rising to their defense when they are caught out, a fact that irritates me every time, but proved invaluable in my own happy deception! Lesson learnt – Never underestimate stuff that bugs you! Store it away carefully for future use in tight situations 😛 You never know when it may come handy!

I took her to lunch at an old favorite of mine, a Chinese restaurant, Goenchin. It’s cozy setting was perfect for the intimate tête-à-tête I had in mind. Along with an excellent lunch we made small talk and had bits of serious conversation, about Dad, about the loss of my brother, about Life. I’ll be honest – I was really nervous about this whole day, particularly about spending all that time alone with my Mom! Uh huh! Silly as this may sound – I was scared and nervous about being alone with my Mom. I have good reason to be, given our history – I always screw things up in my inimitable way – saying the wrong thing, turning a discussion into an argument, being judgmental. I didn’t want to ruin this day that I had planned for her and I’m thankful and pretty proud of the fact, that I didn’t!

As lunch drew to a close and we were licking the last bit of ice-cream off our spoons, I revealed the next step of my plan – a visit to the Salon for some good old pampering of those tired fingers and toes! She was pleasantly surprised and watching her face light up – knowing that I made her feel special – that felt good, really good 🙂 So, off to the Salon we went and enjoyed ourselves thoroughly! Mom has NEVER had a manicure or pedicure! She never bothered with that kind of thing when she was young and stunningly beautiful (beauty skips generations apparently 😉 although my brother was beautiful!) and never had time for it when she was older, so this was a real treat! It felt good to watch her unwind, as her tired feet were soaked in warm water, their fatigue massaged away by expert hands. In typical Mom fashion, she was initially embarrassed of the condition her hands and feet were in, but that was soon forgotten once the friendly staff began their administrations!

Back home from a well-spent afternoon, she couldn’t stop telling my Granny (who was in on the plan, of course!), how wonderful she felt and how thrilling it was to have a day out with her daughter in all these years. I couldn’t stop smiling either 🙂 She kept worrying about dinner and planning the menu, while Granny & I nodded and encouraged her flights of fancy, stealing amused glances at each other, across the room! At seven, the first guests began to arrive and Mom was in a panic, “What are we going to do! All these people and not a morsel of food in the house! We haven’t even started dinner yet! God help us!” That’s when I decided, to let her in on the final secret – a surprise party with close family, catered to perfection by her favorite caterer! She was unbelieving! She kept saying, “But you didn’t say a word! You didn’t TELL me!” And I kept saying, “That’s why it’s called Surprise, Mom!” It was a hilarious, wonderful evening, with good food and family and happiness all around! A memorable day, in the best possible way 🙂

All through the festivities, I felt my brother’s presence. I could feel his voice in my ear, comforting, whispering, quietly encouraging, “Good Job, Sis! You’re doing Marvelously! Stay cool now!” I know my Mom felt it too – she wears his ring now, on her finger, and she showed it to me on our way home from the Salon. “See, I always have him with me,” she said, “Both my children, close to me.” I can’t tell you how that made me feel, except to say that my eyes are tearing up as I type and my heart is full…full to the brim and overflowing with love and admiration and pride for my Mom and for the woman that she is.

It was the BEST day I’ve had in a long time and certainly the BEST day my Mom and I have shared in many many years. It brought us a tiny bit closer and gave me the confidence I needed to make this a regular event – ‘A Mother-Daughter” day out, once a month where we relax and enjoy the pleasure of each other’s company!

Love You Mom!

You Rock my World!

p.s. A big Thank-you to all of you who sent your love and wishes to Mom! You added to her happiness and thanks to you, she is now a little less resentful of all the time her daughter spends glued to the laptop screen 😉

Contemplating Freedom: Part I

Freedom has been on my mind more often this last year than at any other time in my life. Probably ‘coz I feel the lack of it – acutely and painfully, ever since we moved back to live with my parents (I know!) and I became a new Mom – two hugely freedom-sucking events! There are times when I regret both, times when I accept that this is just what I need at the moment, times when I convince myself, ever so fleetingly that this is just a temporary situation. Then there are times when I’m in such sweet denial that all is well with the world; others, when I think eloping with self is the only way to stay sane, when I can’t stand the family, can’t stand myself and can’t stand myself for not being able to love and need the family like ‘normal’, ‘good’ people should. To show you that I’m not a complete people-hating ogre – there are times when I wouldn’t have it any other way!

I like large, open spaces – physically, mentally and spiritually. I cannot stand being caged in, whether by wooden fences or absurd expectations. I’ve been independent in thought and spirit for too long to allow myself to be penned in now. And yet, breaking the shackles of ties that bind and love that suffocates is proving to be the hardest thing I’ve ever had to do. Don’t think I’ll ever get it done to be honest. Assertion within family is tough to do – emotional minefields are everywhere and one mis-step can ruin a lifetime of trust and loving. I’ve trampled my fair share of hearts and egos, and the only reason I’m still loved, I gather, is because families are like that – they love and hate, but rarely like. Well, mine’s like that. I love them, deeply from a distance and painfully when near, one of the reasons, my relationship with my Mom was so much better when all we had were weekly long distance phone calls!

Now that we live together, things are different – very different. And to add color, my Granny stays with us, my Mom’s Mom, so we have a definite hierarchy going here and no prizes for guessing who’s at the bottom of this particular ladder 😉 But strangely or perhaps not so strange, my Mom and Gran think they’ve got the worst deal! It could be because I’m short-tempered and impatient and can get real loud and aggressive if I think that’ll help me get my way! It could be because, I’m the intruder into their hitherto safe haven, where they were reigning queens and have managed to upset their carefully balanced apple-cart of housework and daily routine, with my impossible & impractical (or so they say) suggestions for change and betterment. “Who does she think she is? Waltzing in here and thinking she has all the answers and can do everything better?” I can see the thoughts in their heads! Do I learn? Sigh…oh well, all’s fair in love and war 😉 When I was younger and wet behind the ears, I always wondered, why whoever coined that phrase, imagined that love and war would have anything in common. Hah! Now I know!

My Granny is 84, extremely loud and deaf, and uses her high-pitched shrieking (I take after her :P) with devastating effectiveness on my Mom, who as the only soft-spoken one in our little trio, is always at the receiving end of one of our outbursts. Poor Mom! But she’s an ‘enabler’ if ever I saw one. She’s always trying to keep the peace and make the whole world (which in her case is her family) happy, which I’ve tried to tell her is impossible. You know what they say about keeping all of the people happy at all times? Can’t be done and a waste of time to try! Does she listen? Duh! In the process we’re either walking on egg-shells around each other or impersonating screaming banshees (That’s the third time I’ve used that particular phrase to describe us! This is getting serious.). It scares me, ‘coz I’ve begun to believe, this is how it’ll always be (which of course it will, if I don’t do something about it), days of uneasy peace and politeness, followed by edgy days with a definite ‘calm before the storm’ feel, if you get what I mean.

And yet…where else can I find not one, not two but three human beings willing to sacrifice everything and anything to put a smile on my face? Do you see, why I said this was a losing battle? I struggle with wanting what’s best for them (which ideally they should get to decide) and wanting what’s best for me and sometimes it’s difficult to reconcile to the fact that the two are so different. I mean, there’s plenty of love here, maybe too much, maybe it’s getting in the way…my hubby certainly thinks so!

He keeps telling me to stop thinking for them and let them do their own thing, however silly and laborious their attempts may seem to me. I hate admitting he’s right, I do! But he is! I know! I need to learn to let go, to allow them their own space, knowing how fiercely I protect mine. I understand that perfectly in my head and on paper, just not so easily in my heart, especially when I see them cling to old time-consuming routines and energy-sapping superstition; insist on ancient ways of doing things that can now be accomplished by the click of a switch; spend every living moment in the kitchen, and think nothing’s wrong!! If only they would occasionally meet me half-way or even a couple of steps down the road, things would be a lot easier. A lot this, is me trying hard not to disappoint them, ‘coz they’re not easy to please. They would disagree, but I’ve always known my parents to egg me on to do better, without really making a big deal of my successes (which admittedly have been few and far between). I know they’re proud of me, but it doesn’t hurt to hear it once in a while. But there you are, that’s just how the family is, praise is confused with vanity and the good stuff remains unsaid. I should know, I’m no different! But with the arrival of my son, I’m trying hard to be the change I want to see. It’s tough!

I’m making a start of sorts, starting with Mom. Her birthday’s coming up and I’ve made plans for a lunch together (Just the two of us! Can you feel me tremble?!), followed by a manicure and pedicure, and a surprise party at home with a few close relatives. If we don’t strangle each other, I’m planning on making this mother-daughter thing, a regular event, one tiny step at a time 🙂 Heaven knows we both need to find a way to be free with ourselves!

It’s been a long time coming!

p. s. With 15th August fast approaching, freedom and all things freedom-related are on the menu! These are my thoughts. I thought I would start with what I know first – family. Part II on country follows shortly.

Mother & Son

I wrote this a while ago but couldn’t think of a title until recently. It came to me when I realized that I was thinking of the bond between my brother and my Mom – unique, special & unbreakable. They were so dependent on each other, their lives so entwined that it seemed sometimes like they existed in a universe all their own, unreachable to the rest of us ‘mere mortals’. They always seemed perfectly in sync with each other, something I’ve never felt with my Mom – you know how it is between mothers & daughters!

And so I guess, this is my ode to their relationship of mutual compassion, nurturing and love…

He found her waiting for him, one misty winter morn,
She sat silent beside him, in the slowly waking dawn.
He thought she felt familiar, like an old and trusted friend,
Her eyes shone kind and gentle, her presence a godsend.

“Who are you?” he ventured, “Have I seen you before?”
“Why do you seem so lonely? Tell me,” he implored.

She smiled at him and said, at once both sweet and sad,
“I have this longing in my heart, I think I always had.
My story is the same as yours, for I am but your shadow,
I feel all that your heart does, your dreams, your joys, your sorrow.”

Gazing into those wise brown eyes, twin windows to her soul,
What he witnessed, deep within, shook him to his core.
He saw in them his loneliness, his darkest thoughts and fears,
Rage and guilt and tears he saw, piercing liquid spears.

Stunned, he dropped his eyes to earth, shielded from her gaze,
He wondered how she would survive, the awful burden of his fate.

She looked at him once more, with her wry and tender smile,
“I carry all your weight,” she said, “so you may rest awhile.
So give me all your troubles, your worries and regrets,
Let me smooth away your pain & ease your tortured breath.”

In her honeyed voice, she sang to him, he gave in to her plea,
The best thing he ever did, was lay his head upon her knee,
He gave in to deep slumber, as she softly stroked his face.
And found his peace in dreamless sleep, grace in hallowed space.

Come morning, when he awoke, to a world awash in dew,
Together they rose, Mother and Son, refreshed, alive, renewed.

– Harsha