Sunday, August 26, 2007


I just read this post by Cantaloupes.Amma about a gift she received for her daughter. Really this whole gift thing really gets me sometimes. I wish we could all go easy on the gifting and give a gift when we really want to and also give it only if we want to and can afford it etc etc. For example, we have a fabulously, incredibly rich relative - not a close relation but close because we live in the same area. When I visit them, I really don't feel like getting them anything too expensive because even something very expensive in my budget is of not much value to them. They really just have everything. It is the thought that counts yes but honestly I don't wish to waste my money on that thought. Instead I just take flowers and also cook something good because I know they really enjoy good food. Another relative, on the other hand when she went to visit them, bought something quite expensive. Because they are so wealthy (live like top movie stars) she bought them an expensive gift just while visiting them casually since she was coming from a different state. Some people tend to do that. Get expensive gifts for rich people because they only have expensive stuff at their place. It irks me - although it is not my money - because it is not appreciated much anyway, it doesn't mean too much to them might as well donate the money to someone who will appreciate you for eternity for such generosity.

My father-in-law had a good friend who's son happened to be in the same area - so we invited them for lunch to our place soon after X-mas holidays one year. We invited them because his father and my FIL were good friends. They came to our place, chatted , sang, had lunch, coffee - over all a good time. They brought us a big package in a nice gift bag. They were quite friendly and told us we should visit them sometime for lunch and that they had a good time with us. I opened the package soon after they left - I found some tasteless, garish, obvious holiday curio item in the gift bag. I just don't get this sort of thing. Why bother bringing anything. If there is no space in your garage for junk, just trash or donate it to salvation army - may be someone who likes that sort of stuff will use it for X-mas decoration. Don't download your useless holiday gift on us. When we have gone out of our way to cook and invite you over and be hospitable. Not only that - it has been over a year and half now - no sign of them ever inviting us to their place - after all that friendly talk. I bumped into them at some concert when I had gone to drop off my FIL and even then the woman was just making friendly inquiries but there was no sign of any invitation. After all that warm talk when they were at our place. And now the guy emailed me a month back out of the blue asking how we were doing and again said that they would visit us sometime to say hello and see the babies. But this time around I did not bother calling them over for lunch on a specific date or anything. I just told him they could visit us anytime after checking in with us to make sure we were home.

Now with children's party gifts. Once you have two kids the party invites for kid's birthdays start multiplying. Especially if they go to pre-school or if you happen to live in an apartment complex like my cousin does. It is quite a task to go shopping and buy good gifts for every party - and it gets to be very expensive overall. Especially if you want to give the child a good gift not some junk that is on sale. Of course they too give your child a gift at your child's birthday - but really the rigmarole gets to be tiring. Often times the gift turns out to be a waste even if good in quality. And it takes up space and adds to the clutter. Especially when it comes to clothing I feel very bad if they give something and I am unable to use it because it doesn't fit right and I give it to someone else or donate it without ever using it. I feel as if their money and effort just went waste - if they don't give a gift receipt for return. These days with close friends I just ask them what they want and if they don't tell me I gauge what the kids reads/plays with and I get a gift card from the shop that carries that. But gift cards can't be bought on sale and it feels awkward to give a gift card that is not a reasonable amount. And if it is to a rich family it seems so wasteful to give them money literally. When I asked my cousin, a mother of two toddlers how she manages to attend so many birthday parties and how she finds the time/money to shop for gifts - she said "Of course people don't always buy a gift each time. I don't open every gift my child gets. I put it away and give it to some other kid and I know other parents do the same too". This whole farce of gifting seems so unnecessary. Why can't we really have a party to just have fun. Yes children love gifts - the close friends can do the job of pleasing them by giving them something in the privacy of their home after asking the parent what the kid may enjoy. No point passing on useless gifts around. When you don't particularly care to gift either.

Edited to add based on Dotmom's comment: This is another thing I feel about kid's birthday parties. They get so used to getting so many gifts, they begin to expect a lot of gifts and often their joy lasts for two minutes when they open it and then move on the next gift. Of ten gifts, two may be a hit. 5 will be fun for a few days and remaining go waste. Especially if the giver did not put much thought into it. And they all wait for the goody bags to have those 10 seconds of joy. When I was at the cash register at "Party city" after buying a bunch of goody bag items for my valaikappu ceremony (a bunch of kids were invited), a father standing behind me said, "Oh, looks like some kids are going to be happy" and then he grinned and said "for five minutes"!
My BIL has told his daughter that for every new gift she gets she has to give away one toy she already has in her closet. It was hard on her but now she is so used to it. He strictly enforces it. I feel bad sometimes to see her have to make that choice but I think she is learning some invaluable lessons there. I may not be able to be that* strict with my children but I do hope to teach them to give away some of their toys to other children who don't get to enjoy such luxuries.

I read this post by Tharini. I find gift giving also an indulgence for myself. I love to see the happiness on a child's face when I give him/her a gift that they enjoy. Same way for adults. If I were very rich my greatest indulgence would be buying gifts generously for children and for people I am close to. But I feel guilty sometimes. When my very close friend visited me, I gave her son a gift which he already had so I returned it and gave a gift card instead. She is very close to me and I know for sure she would not have minded and in fact would have been happy had I given the same money to a needy person. But I had to get him something. Knowing fully well he doesn't need* anything I give him. Knowing that he gets enough toys and clothes from his own parents. Yet I just had to give him a gift. I am unable to put a ceiling on this desire for sure!

In all this I don't mind getting gifts that are passed on. I would rather you pass on something than waste your money on more useless curio items which may not be to my taste. But I find it only objectionable when people pass on junk like an holiday item soon after the holidays are over. Or when they give gifts without even checking to make sure there are no obvious signs (it happened to my friend - the back of the gift had the name of the original giver and receiver) that it being re-gifted. At least put in that much effort!

I honestly would like to have a gift free party for my child - but then I get into the issue of - is it my right to deny my child gifts from others? I don't believe in asking people to donate to my favorite charity - they then become bound to do something they may not want to do. For example for kutti boy's second birthday (Aug 3) I did not have a formal party - a casual, spontaneous party at 9.30pm - called two of my friends. Had one large helium balloon and a cake. There were two older kids and two babies. My son had a rollicking time with the other two kids running around chasing the balloon. The kids loved the birthday candle that played the birthday song while they sang. It was simple and delightful. I was so content and happy that night that my child enjoyed his birthday (even if he had no idea what it meant). I don't know if he would have enjoyed it as much in a large party.

Anyways. I had all these random thoughts rushing in when I read Cantaloupe.Amma's post. Instead of clogging her comment space I decided to do a post on it.

Saturday, August 25, 2007

Mail to a friend...

A close friend wrote to me after a long time and asked me how motherhood felt the second time around. I wrote this:

Howdy, good n bad. Exasperating as well blissful at times. Exasperating when Kutti boy drives me mad refusing to eat while I have to run to nurse baby girl and he delays me for ever. Blissful during moments when he does the most creative things as a child (like when he looked at the stalk of a green pepper and said hexagon because it looked like it was that shape...or like yesterday when B did something with his Lego pieces and kutti boy moved one finger up (as if a person was climbing)and said upstairs "yearu" and brought it down and said "Yerangu"...) and when he just pets baby girl, so graciously accepting her presence despite having to share my attention - never taking it out on her, always being so loving towards her - only a child can be that way I guess. B convinced me we should have a second saying kutti boy needs a sibling and in terms of the work we should push ourselves to the limit - but I seem to be pushed to the limit much more than B is because of the night time nursing also and having very little sleep...

Wednesday, August 22, 2007

The little adult fights on...

I suppose turning two heralds the beginning of a child’s first tiny step into becoming a little boy from being a little baby. And it brings with it the tussle between parent and child both trying to estimate the lengths to which each can be pushed to the limit. Neither aware of the process consciously but looking at it in retrospect each day that’s how it seems.
I don’t mean to rant on and on about the food battles that I have been having since the last three days. Even if it doesn’t make for interesting reading, I wanted to put it down for myself to organize the clutter this seems to have created in my mind. What am I doing wrong? Is it me or is it just the stage of development? Should I be working harder in figuring out alternatives? How do I spend the time it takes to keep trying many different alternatives and schedule variations when I have a little one to nurse every two hours? Does he just not like rice/dal anymore? That being our staple, how do I come up with nutritious alternatives at each meal? When he flatly says no for most things! Such questions clutter my head. At the back of my mind I know it is not just about the meal. He just turned two and he is entering a different stage of development. At 21m I felt like a switch had turned on. And once he turned two another new facet of my child emerged. He is increasingly stubborn and fights me fiercely when he wants his way. I give in and let him be his own person rather than crushing his spirit with my adult might. But when it comes to meals I can give in only so much. For if I give in, a few hours later the lingering child who still cannot fully express himself becomes cranky and wants to fill up on junk food like coco puffs. He asks me for that and for “pori” (puffed rice), for “jooch” (Gatorade) every now and then but he does not stuff himself with any of those. But when he is hungry he has the potential to fill up on those. Or so I fear since I have never let it go that far. I am trying now to make changes in his diet – reduce the amount of milk he has (he loves his soy milk – so far) and thus try to increase his solids consumption and also make the process less difficult on me during meal times. Problem is, as of now the milk consumption is going down but the solids consumption has not gone up. He is an active and healthy child but he is thin (not scrawny) and I worry he will get thinner. How does it matter if he is thin – he is the answer to America’s obesity problem – my doctor says. But it matters to me. The proof of my efforts does not stare at me starkly in the face in the form of rolls of fat. Forget the rolls just a little bit of solid flesh. I have come to accept that he will be thin but I cannot be relaxed about compromising on his nutrition. As B aptly put it with the saying, “When you want to go from the top of one mountain to the top of another mountain, the first step is to go down”. I suppose we are in the down phase now. I hope we get there slowly and steadily and start moving up the next mountain and enjoy the peak for a while. I hope the battle I had with him today to get him to eat his lunch – which he eventually did as if it was no problem in the first place – does not happen every day as a regular feature. He used to be a slow eater but these days he fights me hard. Which is why I need to collect myself and stay calm. For the next day.
There is something that is so wonderful in all this. When I see him smile and hug and exude joy when I play silly with him in the evening after having fought him so much, I wish I could be him. To be able to forget entirely what happened a couple of hours back when I had been his opponent in the tussle over his meal. We battled, he ate, we moved on. Now it was time for play and laughter. I suppose there is one reason this works between us – true unconditional love we have for each other. I feel anger and lack of any fond feelings for him the moment he makes me feel like an enemy. But when we cross the difficult road for that day, the gloom clears and the sun shines….the love I feel for him is beyond words.

Friday, August 17, 2007

It happens - 1

As the "Terrible twos" hit around 22m, kutti boy morphed from a gentle (he still is in a lot of ways), no crying, calm baby to this demanding, I stand by my opinion no matter what, scream loudly and I will get what I want child! The switch was both fascinating and exasperating for me. On the one hand I felt like standing back and witnessing my child change from a cuddly sweet baby and take that step into being his own person and express his independence and strong opinions. On the other hand, I just longed for that little child who would never yell or cry, who would/could only at best reject what I give him but not demand in absolute terms exactly what he wanted and wanted NOW!
The new little person in him brought out the impatient side of me. Especially during meal times. I found myself yelling and even getting physical with him - holding both his hands tight so he cannot push the spoon back and shove the spoonful of food into his mouth as he arches his back and faces up while sitting in the high chair.
"You have to eat your mum mum"
"Come on Kanna please don't fight me Kanna, please eat Kanna"
Stand off.
We look at each other in silence for a few moments.
"Let's read the Big book (as he calls Clifford's school house book) and we can eat then".
He sits calmly while I open the book and ask him "hey, where's the Unicorn?"
He points to the U flap and opens it.
I smartly try to now bring the spoon close to his mouth and he is no little fool - he darts away from the spoon and in a cool tone says "No!"
I look at him sternly.
Tension mounts.
"Please don't fight me have to eat now".
That's it. Flare up.
"Are you going to eat now or do you want me to give you a whack now?!".
The yelling match has begun.
I lose it. I hold his hands and now really thrust the spoonful of food in.
Crying ensues.
It's a lost cause. I ask him what he wants.
"Ok, we will have yogurt once you eat your mum mum"
I am ready to cry myself. I look at my mom who is just as annoyed and says "Rendu odhe kudu dee" (give him two!). (if I actually did that she would come and whack me).
Depending on his mood he will suddenly relent - having tasted the first spoonful of food and realizing that he is in fact hungry - will continue to eat and finish the meal without further battling me. But on some days I have to relent and give him yogurt and oatmeal and get it over with.

Last night was one of those battle nights. But it left me feeling miserable. I titled this post "It happens -1" because such incidents keep happening and will continue to happen. The ones that leave you feeling guilty and wrench your heart at night when your child is fast asleep and takes a deep breath and snuggles close to you as you run your finger through his hair.

Kutti boy has taken a fancy to drinking water directly from the Gatorade (which he loves to drink) bottle from which I often drink cold water. Yesterday he kept asking me for more and more water and I didn't keep track of exactly how many times he had me or my mother give him small amounts in that bottle. We have had guests staying with us for a week and the house had been a mad house with three little boys running around trying to expend all their energy. In the middle of this, I lost track of how much water kutti boy was drinking. I gave him his 8oz of milk in the evening and as always at dinner time I started feeding him. It was late and I didn't have the energy or the time to battle him just in case and I decided to give him the easy yogurt meal. He took a few spoonfuls of it and suddenly it turned to battle time again. I lost it. Amidst the noise in the house I just did not have the patience to plead with him. I always manage to give him his meal - something - if not dal rice, at least something that he likes. But his refusal to eat anything made me anxious. Partly also because my husband had told me he would come way past midnight from work because of a deadline. I was worried if Kutti boy went to bed hungry he may wake up and cry and that might wake up the guests as well as baby girl. In my anxiety I fought him real hard. Shoved the food down his throat. He spat it right back. He cried - not in retaliation but more in a manner of someone trapped and feeling helpless. I could not bear it and finally gave up. It is when he also didn't fully drink his night time milk which he normally finishes that I realized that he felt bloated from all that fluid intake. I imagined myself being forced to eat food when my stomach was loaded with a ton of water. I felt so sorry for my little baby who I had fought so hard trying to feed him when he absolutely did not want it. I had let the chaos in the house cloud my understanding of why he was refusing food. Later that night when he went to bed I spent all the time (until my husband got back from work) sleeping right next to his toddler bed (I usually sleep on the side of the crib where baby gir l sleeps) and said a thousand apologies to him even though he had no clue about it.
This morning he woke up and had his morning milk and as always put his little fingers on my cheek and said "Konchi" (meaning petting fondly). My independent little two year old is still a baby after all. No apologies needed Mamma!

Sunday, August 05, 2007


I had a few quiet moments to myself this evening. My mother had gone to attend an independence day program at the local temple - B had gone with Kutti boy to drop her off. Baby girl was napping in the cradle in front of me. It was a quiet moment. But not a peaceful one. Dusk, as it is brings a feeling of melancholy. I sat there thinking about my father. How he lay there cold and lifeless in the coffin. My father who could not stand feeling cold and would always dress in warm clothes even at home. Him, in an ice box. Frigid. I am unable to come to terms with it.
All the times I have spent with him now seemed like a dream. He lives in my memories, yes. But all the more that makes me long for his physical presence, his response to my thoughts and to my life now. My little girl is here and he has not seen her. Breaks my heart. He looked forward so much to spending time with my son whom he adored. How could he just leave without any goodbye. I cannot get over the fact that I had the chance to spend time with him in Dec'06 during X-mas break (he passed away mid Jan most unexpectedly) - I almost booked the ticket to go visit him at my brother's place but I did not because I had just made two trips to India back to back and I did not want to put my son through yet another change of place/schedule since he had lost a lot of weight from the long trips already. Plus I was pregnant and would have had to travel alone with kutti boy. My mother out of her concern for my son told me "We are any coming there in March (07) - don't come now". Little did I know that was my last chance to see my father. Who has done so much for me. I never got to tell him how much he meant to me. In fact I didn't realize it myself until after he died. I now fear death a lot. Not mine. But those around me. I feel like every normal day with no "incident" is good news. I feel grateful for every normal day. But I am stricken with anxiety every now and then that something may go wrong. Something might be taken away from me. Just like my dad was. Leaving my poor mother alone after so many years of marriage. Both my mother and I talk about him every single day. In some context or the other. When I put away the spoons and forks - how my dad would eat so neatly. How he had style. When my son insists on closing the doors and blinds once it is dark - just like my dad would go around checking on the doors before he went to bed. I think about the times when I was a child just a couple of years older than my son - my father would drop me at school. He would be running late because of some phone call just when we were about to leave. He would feel responsible and would request the old lady who stood guard at the school gates to let me in quickly so I could join in the morning prayer at school. And here I am now with a son at that age - all those years in between - I was his child, in his care. Even the last conversation I had with him on the phone (at the hospital) two days before he died, he asked me about my son and about my health (since I was pregnant). I am unable to come to terms with the finality of his death. If only I had gone to visit him during that X-mas break I may not have felt this terrible void - this desperate urge to see him alive and keep that fresh in my memory. At a theoretical level I am able to understand his death. Every one has to go at some point. They live in our memories. Natural cycle of life. Change is the only constant. Yes, yes. I tell myself all that. I suppose enough time has not passed for this feeling to become numb. It is better than the pain I felt seeing his body in that coffin. But not numb enough yet. I suppose in some strange way life prepared me for this just by the sheer timing of it - when I have two kids to take care of - where there are no excuses to take time off to ponder on this - their demands come first and come all the time. And in my son's musical, carefree laughter and daughter's serene face I do find happiness. And in what now seems like Maya - was my dad ever with me feeling - I want to believe that some how he is still with us and is able to see and enjoy my children like he would have immensely had he been with us now physically.