2014 for mommygolightly: Thank you for flying with me

The WordPress.com stats helper monkeys prepared a 2014 annual report for my blog.

Here’s an excerpt:

The Louvre Museum has 8.5 million visitors per year. This blog was viewed about 140,000 times in 2014. If it were an exhibit at the Louvre Museum, it would take about 6 days for that many people to see it.

Click here to see the complete report.

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‘I miss you’ and other things that tie me down

Call me hard-hearted, unromantic, detached, breezy, whatever, but I have never been able to say the words “I miss you” and really mean it from the bottom of my heart. No, it hasn’t changed even after motherhood, which is essentially supposed to be a hormonal fix that renders you into a permanent state of mellow and mush. No such luck.

I am a fairly involved parent, but when the child is out of sight, it is usually out of mind, and my mind is usually yearning to get on to other things. I am quite unashamed to say that I love being alone and I can always find enough things to do by myself (and do). Aloneness is however a luxury when you are practically a single parent and I don’t want to spoil it all by saying something like, “I miss you.” It just seems counter-productive.  For me as well as the child.

Re occasionally gets into fits of not going to school (even now), and as I drop him and we exchange our mandatory five hugs and kisses, he sometimes holds on to my sari or whatever I’m wearing and says, “Don’t go. I’ll miss you.”

These words make me feel like I’m back to the drawing board. I try to explain to him that people need to go away so they can come back, and although it seems too adult a concept, he is slowly getting it. Or at least I hope so. But I have seen enough parents who feel empowered every time their child tells them this, or their partner or someone they think they have a hold over.

Re’s a sentimental Cancerian, unlike the breezy Gemini that is me. I know I am getting into Linda Goodman sun-signey zone, but there is something to be said about when we are born and the things we say.

Unlike most people who can say the fateful three words with a great degree of nonchalance (I am sure some of them mean it too) to their loved ones when they are away from them, I can’t. I think the whole purpose of being away is lost when you are constantly missing someone. It just means you never left. Am I making sense?

“I miss you” does not make me feel more loved. If anything, it makes me feel chained, bound, un-free. It makes me bound to miss the missee (person who misses=missee?) back, and when I don’t, I feel a bit weird (although not always)

I don’t miss people. Or places. I remember all the times I have been away, and there have been plenty of those, and the calls back home (whether to the mother or the husband) have always been more of an obligation than a need. I am in the here and now, so flashbacks seem like a waste of time. May be my homeopath was right. May be I do have too much testosterone. Or may be that I am truly in the moment.

I am too socially awkward to say, “I miss you too”, so I just smile and wish the moment would pass really quickly. Thankfully, my non-PDA family never says the fateful three words. They demonstrate love and caring by doing things for each other. I guess that works perfectly for me.

To miss people means to love them, to be partial to them, to be incomplete without them, it’s like you are missing the other part of what makes you whole.

Saying “I miss you” or something similar to that effect is also one of the easiest ways to mess with somebody’s head. It’s like you want to keep a foothold in their life without staking yourself to something you might be called on later to deliver on. It’s vague and it’s an expression of sadness and regret, but it’s not really saying anything. It’s like when someone says “sorry” without really knowing what they’re sorry about or having no real regret.

May be I need to find new words to explain this to Re. May be I need to tell him that when I’m not with him, I’m with me. And that me is important. May be I need to tell him that I love him enough to not miss him. May be he will get it. Someday.

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 22nd December, 2014)

Talk. It’s not a four-letter word.

The kids at school have returned from their holidays and the winter term has begun with much fervor. On day one, I asked them, unsure of what their answer will be, “What do you miss the most after coming back to school?” I figured going home must have been a big deal for these boarding school kids, and perhaps the weeks gone by would have been times for intense bonding.

I realized I was terribly old-fashioned when they echoed in unison, “Internet!”.

Now that was disturbing in more ways than one. I was expecting them to miss their old buddies, conversations with family and friends, parents, grandparents, siblings, their home, their animals or some such. But internet? I sighed. So much for the illusion of separation. I guess you cannot separate what isn’t together and that seems to be the landscape of family I mostly see all around.

One thing that has changed hugely in my life this year is that I am having more conversations with children. And their parents. Most of the time, they are saying to me what they don’t say to each other and I wonder why. There seems to be a sudden bankruptcy of words between parents and children, and being a teacher, I often realize that I have to be a conduit between them. Unfortunately, I cannot deliver emotions from one to the other. Sometimes it is rewarding, but mostly it is exhausting and emotionally depleting.

It’s not about the distance. I have often seen people living in the same house not talking to each other. For days. Weeks. Years. That is because family is defined by flimsy things like a few people sharing a house. Or a car. It never comes with a “must talk to each other” clause. Sometimes, there is a comfort in understanding each other’s silences, but more often, it is about wanting to tune off each other’s words.

I see more and more children around me having mostly transactional relationships with their parents. Parents have turned into people one gives wish-lists to, hoping most items get ticked off. But parents are transactional too. Some don’t write to their children unless the kids write to them.

Most of my kids at school often seem more burdened by their weekly emailing hour and monthly call-chits (the slots they have to engage with their parents). The parents often complain that the kids don’t write enough. Or that they write just two lines and mostly ask for what they need or want. A few children do write long, rambling emails to their parents and I can already tell them from the rest of the class. I am sure Re will keep raising the bar for me on being a better parent, and perhaps I will do the same to him too.  But there is one thing I can say for sure. There will always be conversations.

A few months ago, I asked my students to write an essay on their parents’ childhood. They could choose to write on one or both parents. Most of them stared blankly at me, and hadn’t got anything down on paper, so I asked them why. They said they didn’t know much about their parents’ childhood and would have to email them to ask. This disturbed me a little. After a few weeks, they came back with their essays, but by then, the magic was lost.

I find that the more people can buy, the less time they seem to spend with each other and the same applies for their children too. It’s as though the things we buy have replaced the people we can be with. Every human being has been replaced by a screen or app.

A friend of mine recently remarked that she was not the type who ‘called her mother back’. It was said in jest, but then I began to wonder. What is so cool about being disconnected from your parents?

Through my columns and my blog, I often receive letters, emails from parents that make me feel like agony aunt. Most of them are still grappling with parenting, which makes me feel like I’m not alone in not knowing what is the right thing to do at any given point.  But most of our conflicts with our children are our conflicts with ourselves.

The thing about being a parent is that it is one job in your life where you can spend an entire lifetime not showing up, and still qualify on paper as a parent. Yes, children look good on our resume. May be we just have to earn a place in theirs.

(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 8th December, 2014)

The story of a Bourbon biscuit

It’s a weekday evening. Re and I are driving back home.  I have made an exception today and given him an entire pack (small of course) of Bourbon biscuits. As he devours them, one by one, I stare lustily. I am not big on chocolate or biscuits, but somehow the “I want to have what he is having” thought crosses my mind.

“Can I have one?,” I ask.

He hands me one, in  a rather grand gesture and says, “Take!”

I wolf it down greedily. Greed now takes the better of me.

“How about one more?” I ask, rather meekly.

“You cannot have one more becoz you are big. I am small no, so I can have one more. Then ony I can be stronger and bigger.”

“Then I want to become small also. Can I become small?” Now I want it real bad.

He ponders. “But you can only become big small. You cannot be small small like me.”

I rest my case.

 

 

 

Conversations that became Facebook updates for no particular reason

Yesterday, boy and I counted autorickshaws while waiting for the bus.
Today, we counted cars.
Sooomany are there, he said.
Right.

**

The firecrackers have started.
Boy is concerned.

“Mamma, they are dooving firefighters. I am getting scared. The window is getting scared. The building is getting scared. Bravo and Nadia are also getting scared.”
He goes to the window and shouts at no one in particular, “Children. Children. Stop this I say. Otherwise I am going to be very angwy.”
Turns to cat. “Bravo, don’t worry, I will beat them!”

Diwali is a week away. Now I am worried too.

**

Boy spills water on the sofa.
I bellow. “Look what you did to my sofa!!”
“Wait..wait.. I’ll get you a new sofa,” he says.
“But do you have money?” I ask.
He runs and gets his coin box, opens it and thrusts it into my face. “See, so many moneys I have. Come, let’s buy a new sofa.”

**

Breakfast negotiations:

Boy: Can I watch Max and Ruby?
Me: It’s morning time and morning time is not for TV.
Boy: But I am asking nicely no? See? NICELY!
Me: Okay, but only for ten minutes, and only after you finish your ragi and milk.
Boy: (mouths down two scoops too big for his mouth): See, I finished my ragi.
Me: What about the milk?
Boy: Do you want the remote? Should I give you the remote?
Me: I said you have to finish your ragi and milk and wash your mouth and then we can watch it.

Boy (slurps the milk down, gets a nice milk moustache, and licks it clean with his lips ): See mamma, I can wash the ragi with the milk and it will go away.Ugh! Boys!
**
I meet boy’s teacher today. She tells me he doesn’t listen to her. That he often ignores her. Later at home I ask boy why. He says, “But she is not listening to me also.”
**
I tell boy it’s naani’s birthday today.
We call naani.
Boy sings… “Happy birday choo you.. happy birday to naani.. and happy mess too!”
He pauses. “Naani, you are thwee years old today.” *claps* “One, two, thwee!”
Naani is overwhelmed. “No Rehu, I am 69 years old!”
Boy too lazy to clap anymore. Says, “That’s sooomany, Naani!”
**
Sibling rivalry unfolds
Re: Mamma, Nadia has no hands (points to the resident feline)
Me: But she has four legs and you have only two.
Re: But she can’t dwink chocolate milkshake with a stwaw! (looks very pleased there is no competition)
Me: But she can climb on top of the cupboard. Can you?
Re: I don’t want to climb on the cupboard!