How I met my boys

BY SAILAKSHMI DEEPAK

As a new mother 10 years ago, I had so many different experiences, some good, some bad, but all memorable. But the one memory that stands out is my obsession about how my child looked like me. His little fingers had a bend just like mine, his chin stuck out like mine, he smiled like me, he had a long face like mine, he walked like me, and he nodded/shook his head like I did….. Three years later the second baby came along, only to see my obsession getting worse. His eyes were just like mine, they had that naughty spark I had, his smile was like mine, his teeth were like mine……

And through all this, I was comparing my childhood with theirs. I recognized that I learnt a lot from the way their father was brought up and how he has turned out to be. So, I wanted them to have all our good traits, yet worried about them picking up our bad ones.

But sometime in the last few years, I have changed – and definitely for the better. Parenting books, parenting blogs, watching other mothers do their job, my own experiences – none of these helped. My kids taught me what was probably staring at me all along. They were just themselves….. both different from us and more importantly different from each other. Yes, their father and I made them, the proof is in their looks, and partly in their mannerisms, but it stops there!

It is better late than never. I have no regrets, just feeling grateful and proud to be able to learn from my babies. Yes, I actually did stop to listen so my kids will talk. I am now noticing so much more about them. I wish I had more time and better memory to soak in all that they are giving me.

My 10 year old wants to be treated like an adult but is still a baby inside. He is always talking about when his upper-lip will sprout hair, when he can go for an outing alone with his friends, when he can carry his own mobile, when he can have a room all to himself, when he can play his guitar like Bryan Adams…… Yet, he is the one who spends hours at the wash-basin making bubbles, begs us to give him a bath, plays with his food, does baby-talk, and worries when I leave him alone even for a few minutes. He does not like wet mess, so painting, cooking, baking, gardening are all no-nos. He chooses his clothes and steps out looking cool, hair spiked, carries a red and white Man-U bag, reads teenage fantasy fiction filled with beasts and battles, and wants to prove he has his testosterone levels building crazy high.

My 6 year old wants to be treated like a baby, but is the closest girlfriend I have. He is always talking about wanting to sleep in our bed, wanting to sit next to us at the table so he can be spoon fed, wanting to be read a bedtime story every night, wanting to be carried upstairs after dinner. Yet, he is the one who spends hours in front of the mirror with his very Bollywood style heroine dance moves, looks at frocks and jewelry when we go shopping, wants to sing songs in his artificial squeaky voice, wants to watch every move of mine when I am using make up, wants to give his two bits when I shop for clothes, or choose what to wear when I go out. He loves messy hands, so painting, cooking, baking, gardening are a big yes-yes. He doesn’t care about what he is wearing as long as it is bright and colorful, hates any hairdo that screams macho, carries a bag big enough to take his books. He reads his Rainbow Magic and goes through his fairy obsession.

They spend time together creating / directing / acting out plays for us, building Lego structures and cities, writing and illustrating books, running a pretend restaurant, pretend library, pretend supermarket, giving us a musical performance – guitar, keyboard, squeaky voice and all, building a zoo, a car showroom, quizzing each other, playing word games, but play to each of their interests and strengths. The outcome of that combination is outstanding. Yet there are times when the older one is kicking his football alone in the garden, while the younger one is cutting out paper dresses for his Barbie. The older one is out riding his cycle, when the younger one is playing in the sandpit. The older one is in the pool, swimming and showing his confidence in the deep side, while the younger one is filling water in his sand toys and swim cap and pretend kitchen in the pool.

I now celebrate their differences, and look at them with pride when they complement each other so well, and enjoy the balance they offer me when I play mom. But more than anything else, I am so glad they are unlike both of us.

 

About the author:

Sailakshmi lives in Dubai with her three boys: 6, 9 and 39. She loves to eat, bake, sing, dance and watch SRK on screen. She loves her job in the library, yet yearns for one in the big, bad corporate world. She hates parenting, but does it because the boys need it.

 

 

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Letters I write to my son

BY ADITI SHUKLA FOZDAR

 

“LBM, mama, please?”

“Please, Ro, I’ve work to do. Please, not today.”

“Okay, will you run your fingers through my hair?”

I get off my bed, with little grace about the fact that my 9-year-old wants to Lie down Beside Me (LBM) as he goes to sleep. I’m muttering audibly, even though I have been told that he will, very soon, run from my touch. I don’t care for the future: right now, I’ve deadlines to finish and I wish he was asleep already.

As soon as I sit down next to him, on his bed of two mattresses stacked up on the floor, he flips on to his belly and puts one hand across my knees, almost as if he knows I can’t wait to get up and go.

I kiss him and inhale the non-existent baby smell that I can still recreate from memory. Today he smells of body lotion and shampoo, but his skin still feels as soft as that chubby dumpling who first made me a mother.

I run my fingers through his hair, frustrated at how long it still takes him to fall asleep, worried about him not getting enough sleep before school, his rough hair invoking the working-mother’s-guilt of how I always forget to oil his hair regularly. In a few minutes, the movements of my fingers have calmed me down and I do what I’m meant to do in that moment: I look down on the sleeping face of my baby, marvel at how big he has grown, grateful about how much he wants me even on days when I push him away, hard.

He has deep, sunken eyes, like mine, so I wonder if he will obsess over dark circles the way I did when I was a teenager. Don’t worry about it, Ro, I want to tell him. There will be times when how you look will seem like the cornerstone of your existence. That phase will come more often than anyone will admit: at all ages. But it doesn’t matter. Truly. I wish I could rub that into his consciousness, make it a muscle memory so his confidence is never battered over this particular issue. If only I could. The lips part slightly and I know he’s slipped into sleep, his hand lighter on my knees, easier to remove if I want to get up. But now, I want to sit and watch him, a little while longer.

This is where I have imaginary conversations in my head with him, when I tell him things that the rational part of my mommy-brain won’t let me, when he’s awake. I want to tell him that it’s okay if he finds the world confusing, and that there will be many days when he will wish he could unlearn the things that make him who is he. That there is no right way of doing things; that sometimes not breaking the rules takes as much courage as breaking them.

That he will suffer because he has inherited both my sentimentality and his father’s inability to express. That the storms will rage and build in him, without the outlet of words that I have, or the armour of the I-get-knocked-down-but-I-get-up-again soul that my husband has. And that it may not get better, but it always gets easier.

The hair on his upper-lip has begun to grow darker: two days ago, he looked up from his homework with a question, his face awash with that soft afternoon light that makes everything seem ethereal. In that instant, his future-moustache caught my eye and stopped my heart. So soon? It can’t be.

How do I tell him that I write him letters in my head? Letters to the 10 year old. The 14 year old. The 20 year old. The 33 year old. The boy who falls in love and/or gets his heart broken. The boy who will wonder which path to choose: the one that instructs him that he is the master of his own destiny, or the one that tells him control is just a mirage, both ending A or B, already dictated by his choices. That I want to leave him clues about life just as much as I want him to solve the puzzles on his own.

His nose has a low slant nearly all the way down, but just before the tip, it rises in a fleshy mound, almost as if it decided it wasn’t going to continue growing that way. Since the time he was born, his grandmothers took turns to claim the nose, to tag it to their sides of the genes. But it isn’t quite any side’s. Maybe my son’s soul is like his nose. That he will take what he has inherited without his choice and while walking that path, not surrender to it. That he will, right where it matters, rise to be his own person, aware of his roots, but never defined by them.

 About the author:

Aditi Shukla Fozdar moonlights as a writer, when she’s actually just a curious cat. Most days she can be found under the badam tree in her garden, sprawled alongside her 9-year-old and 2-year-old.

(Want to write a guest post for mommygolightly? Mail me at mommygolightly@gmail.com)

On becoming our parents

In between our mothers and fathers lies us.

We set out to be our own people. And then there comes a moment – maybe quickly, maybe in our middle age, maybe later – when we turn around and think, “I have become my parents.” However much we may try to insulate ourselves, it is true that we are turning into our parents in strange and insidious ways. In our ways of looking at the world. Ourselves. In our ways of being happy, sad and everything in between. In our ways of living and loving. That’s the treachery of inheritance. Research says that 32 is the age when it usually happens. I am way past that, so I am sure I am a huge blob of dichotomy by now. Albeit a happy one.

When we were kids, Sunday mornings were about dosas. Actually, every other day was about dosas, but Sundays was when we could have them leisurely, all crisp and brown, ghee-roasted and paper- thin. My mother would be in the kitchen, doling them out one after the other, keeping up with the collective appetites of three kids. As we crunched on the ghee-roasted crispiness, we would bellow requests to the kitchen. “Make the next one light brown, not dark brown” Or “Don’t fold the next one please, I want to fold it.” Sometimes, our neighbours would smell the dosas and step in uninvited. I often wondered how my mother kept pace, since I am sure we ate faster than she made them, despite having two tavas on. Very often, by the time we were done eating, the batter would be over, and my mother would be seen eating the ‘rejected’ or ‘burnt’ ones. I would ask her why she hadn’t ensured there was enough for her and she would say, “When you children eat, I feel like I have eaten.”

When I became a mother, I realised this was the biggest load of bullshit ever. That if mothers have martydom written on them, it is their own doing. Perhaps that’s why mothers are more scarred by parenthood than fathers are. They start putting themselves on the back burner and some never reemerge.

I started baking after Re was born. Whenever I made a batch of cookies, I ate the crumbs and gave him the best pieces. I felt like my mother, although she never ate what she baked. A few weeks ago, a friend came visiting and got me mawa cakes from Kayani’s. Re staked his claim to them. I was a bit despondent, because sometimes, you want your treats to yourself. When it was down to one, I asked him if we could share it. He refused and proceeded to eat it all by himself. Once he was done with the exciting brown top half, he handed it back to me saying, “Okay, you can have it.” I felt cheated. The next time mawa cakes came to the house, I kept three aside for myself and ate them all alone. It felt good.

I remember my years of singledom in my cute little apartment that I always loved coming back to, shopping for produce, planning meals, deciding what I wanted to eat.

“How can you cook for just one person?” they would ask. It was as though doing things just for the pleasure of it was an indulgence.

My father gave us a childhood full of journeys, never mind if some of them never made it to the destinations. Our means were limited, but our hearts were full and our lungs always had more oxygen than they could handle. He got off platforms and missed trains, he forgot to confirm reservations, he made us ride back from Dhanolti to Dehradun on a truck laden with peas, as we missed the only bus for the day (we ate a lot of peas on that ride). He spelt wanderlust.

At 74, my father left home to pursue his dream of becoming a farmer. When he showed up at the ration office to get himself a separate ration card, he was reprimanded for abandoning his family and leaving his wife in her old age. He waited all his life for his ‘someday’, but when he exercised his option, he was written off.

I exercised mine much earlier. And almost in the tradition of my father, I was abandoning the known for the unknown. Leaving something I could do in my sleep to doing something I had no clue how to. Like my mother, there is frugality even in my dreaming. But like my father, I take my chances and there is method in my madness. He is still the young-at-heart, living-life-to-the-fullest guy. My mother is still the one who worries for all of us. I am somewhere in between, the worrier and the liver in equal measure. I think they did good.

We all need to claim our crusts back. We need to stop eating crumbs and broken cookies and demand the whole brownie. We all need a place in the world we don’t have to share with anyone – children, parents, siblings or spouse – to find the essence of us.

My father called me a few weeks ago and asked me,”How’s life?” He was at his farm, I was on my hill. “I heard about your new adventure,” he said. “It must be so thrilling!” Yes, I said. When I am I seeing you? “Let me finish my harvest. I will hop on a bus and come there. We can share stories of our adventures,” he said.

I can’t wait to.

This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on September 15, 2014