Friday, December 21, 2007

The - one or two - dilemma

I read this post by Bangaloremom on “reasons to get married”. She delurked and commented on my previous post and mentioned that one of my posts about “stopping with one child or going for the second” started a raging war at her home. And as you may have read in my previous post – having two children and taking care of both – especially the first few years - can really push you to the limits of your patience. So in the context of all this, I was thinking to myself – What would be some reasons to go for a second? Would I still do it if I had a choice?

It is tempting to think of a life in general where the work is less than more, where worries stop with just one child rather than two etc…but in reality I think we all love to be pushed to the limit. If not with a child, we find other ways to push ourselves.

That said – why a second child? Let me first say – this is just my own personal opinion. I am not asking you in particular to have a second child (not that you would for that reason anyway!). I am again gathering my thoughts regarding this issue. If my close friend were to discuss this issue with me, I would feel at liberty to strongly advocate going for a second child rather than stopping with one child. Aside from the fact that misery loves company and I would make sure to drag such a close friend into the net with me – why would I be telling her to go for a second?

This used to be my thought process while talking to my husband before we decided to go for a second:
Goodness, I have to go through pregnancy all over again?!
What happens to my career – I can feel my brain rusting and chipping off and falling out of my head as it is – now I have to wait another two years? (Day care was not an option for me for at least one year minimum – for several reasons – let me not go into that). And the cost of raising two kids?
The tension of waiting till a healthy child is delivered?
Do you know what it was like to feed KB this afternoon – to have to do this for two kids?!
I just went back to being able to wear my old pair of jeans – you want me to go back to maternity size and start from there all over again?
It’s not like you and your sister keep talking to each other all the time – so why is it so important for KB to have a sibling?
Well, you* are not the one who will be pushed to the limit – it is ME who will probably be on the verge of collapsing every night!
Those and variations of those dialogues featured during our discussions about this. Add to this my two brothers – one on each camp – telling me the benefits of having one or having two children. And mom who would not even hear of it if I said one is enough. “Nee edukku appdi solre? Rendu porakum’nu irundha poraka dhan pordhu. Neeya onnum solla vendam.” (Why do you have to say anything? If you are meant to have two, you will, you don’t have to say anything.) Hmm…are you saying contraception is not fool proof? I used to flippantly think when she said such things.

I have to say though the one person who was key (besides for obvious reasons of course) to this decision was B. He did not have any doubt that left to himself, the choice would clearly be two. I felt I could rely on him in all that this meant for both of us. His conviction made his reasoning also sound strong. He left it up to me to decide though since he did see that I had to give up more than he had to at that point.

I was personally very content with one child. But as with most people the over driving force in my decision was not because B wanted to have two but that I wanted KB to have a sibling and the other child to have KB. That and only that was my main reason. It was strong enough to convince myself that I simply have to do it for the sake of him and the second child. And now when I see them interacting even at this tender age – he is 27m old and she is 6m old – I have no doubt in my mind that we did the right thing. There are fleeting thoughts during moments of mental and physical fatigue if I did the right thing – not so much with respect to the child itself – but in over estimating my own energy levels – in going for a second child. But the next day dawns, I feel more rested and as soon as KB wakes up he wants to see “kutti baby”. And she gives this huge toothless grin at the sight of him. It is quite unbelievable actually – they act like buddies already. He simply dotes on his sister. I am sure he will be annoyed with her at times and there will probably be sibling rivalry and what not – but at the bottom of it all I can see that there will be friendship. It is already there – the natural bonding – we just have to nurture it and preserve it until it takes a form that will not be broken by anything. In his joy when he sees her first thing in the morning, I can visualize him celebrating her every victory – even if not in the young and restless teen years but later when he is mature. When she smiles back at him, I can see her relying on him as a friend, a confidante and someone she can count on always. May be the dreams of a parent – but I have invested a lot into these dreams – and I would like to believe it will become reality some day.

When I decided to get married (oh yes, I have to do that post on the post decision celebration in my family) finally, I called every one in my family one by one. One of my sisters (the only one who knew I had visited B) was teaching her daughter Math when I called her. She came to the phone and told me she could only talk for two minutes since she had to go help my niece.
“I said Yes”, I told her calmly.
She could not even believe what she heard.
I repeated myself.
“Please don’t joke about this, Noon”.
“No, am not joking, really”.
Pause. Silence on the other side.
A weak and trembling voice said, “Yeah am here”. She was crying. She could not contain her joy – she was crying so much. My niece walked into the room and said “ You are crying?”. A second later, I heard her say, “You are laughing?”. She then told my niece, “Chithi said Yes…she is going to be married soon”.
And that’s it – her math homework was forgotten for another half an hour. She had to know the fine details of how it happened, what made me decide…
You can go through all this joy with a close friend or a cousin as well. And I did too. But with my sister – she knew everything that I had gone through and how my mom and dad felt before this and how they would feel now – the feeling of that shared history - of knowing what this means to every member of the family – it cannot be put in words.

When my father passed away suddenly, the grief was unbearable – his body lying there cold and frigid in a casket. My father who would wear his winter hat at the slightest hint of cold weather. The sight of his body in ice cold condition was one of the worst moments I can think of. I felt like my heart would break and fall apart. At that point I was held together not by my grief stricken mother but by my siblings. They too were falling but the feeling that our loss, our grief was common – different from that of my mother’s. All of us knew how it felt to have lost a father at that point. All of us talked so much about what little things he did for us, the very things we miss so much now. How much he used to annoy us with little things – he would insist that I write the “from address” if I mail a letter to my friend, he would keep telling me not to have coffee at night before bed time etc etc…each of us had a different story. My sister was telling us about how he would come into the room when she was studying way past bedtime when she was in medical college and he would sit with her near the table and after a while insist she get some sleep at least before she went to college the next morning. She used to think he had no idea how much she had to study – now when she worries about her own children getting enough sleep, she knows how he felt. I am digressing here I know. But the point is that during such moments of extreme pain, the kind of support you get from your sibling/s is just enormous. I felt grateful to my parents then for giving me siblings. I imagined how it would have been for KB if we were both not alive and if he did not even have a sibling – well you can always imagine the extreme – but somehow at that point – I felt better thinking he will have a little sister who will be his own family. Who shares his history. Who has been raised under the same roof. Who I will do my best to make sure will love him dearly (and vice versa).

When we used to discuss this issue of going for the second child, B used to tell me “See how much fun it is when we go to visit your sister or my sister – how excited they are to see KB – don’t you want KB’s kids to have that – an aunt who will be excited to see his children? Even if he has cousin brothers and sisters – unless they live close to each other – it won’t be the same – they won’t feel as compelled to visit – but with siblings they will make it a point to meet – because they are siblings”. And I could imagine that scenario as well.

Both B and I knew that there is no one right answer to this. If say, I could not have a second child for medical reasons, the whole discussion would have not come up. We would have been happy to have at least one and move on with life. Either way, the kids will grow up, they will find a way to be happy. It is finally a choice that we make – in the way we envision their life and our lives around them. Now it feels good, it feels complete. I feel exhausted, I feel isolated – but at the end of the day – I still know deep down this was the right decision. You will be pushed to the limit, you will hate it all at times and want to run away. But I cannot imagine that if you had a second and you saw the two children together that you would even remotely regret your decision. You just won’t. The pain of raising them and worrying about their well being will be for ever but somehow that complete feeling you get when you walk into the room at night and see your two children sleeping peacefully – it will make up for all the down swings you go through during the course of the day. If someone decided that one child is what’s best for them, I would not even suggest to them that they should go for a second child. If you are someone who feels you would like to have two children, but are not able to make that leap – this post is for you. I was that way and this is how I feel now. It is your own personal decision – especially for the woman. If all else is manageable - in terms of medical condition, finance – and it is just a matter of not being sure – well, this is how I feel. Just wanted to share it with you!

Tuesday, December 18, 2007

May be these are our masters?

In the course of our every day routine, we come across so many different things. Often mundane routine things that you don’t even notice. There are some news items every now and then that make an impression in your mind for that period of one week or so when it is in the news. And there are always books, articles and blog posts that you read – you think about some of them for that moment and then move on. And there are some others that somehow make a deeper impression in your mind. What creates an impression depends on what your own state of mind is at that point. If you are deeply worried about your son not having his meals, some post about another suffering the same misery will resonate with you and you hold on to it, feel less alone, find the strength to cope with what seems arduous and you move on to the next day. When you are feeling down and you go for a walk, a stranger who gives you a warm smile and compliments your child or engages him/her in conversation simply cheers you up for that moment. Little strings of hope and strength come your way in such intangible ways and you find joy, strength, direction and hope to ride the tide of life.

After my mother left, I have been alone with both the kids during the day. What seemed like an impossible situation is something I have gotten through for nearly two months now. When she was around I never thought I could survive it (not the work, but the logistics of how one can practically take care of two crying children at the same time) without her or a nanny to help me out. The first day I had actually asked some paid help to come help me out during KB’s meal time – but she did not show up. And I found that I could actually do it. On my own with only the help of my two little children – they did step up and come to my rescue and coped with the change along with me. My mother often tells me not to worry about things that are too distant in the future (quite rich coming from her I would say!). She tells me that her dad never worried and would advice her, “ When the time comes you will find a way, things will sort out on its own in unexpected ways”.

Two tangible examples from the recent past in my case: I was worried sick as to how KB would cope when I was away in the hospital for my delivery considering he had never been away from me for more than two or three hours that too only if B was with him. Never when both of us were out. But he did cope. Miraculously well. He woke up from his nap that afternoon to find only my mother at home with him. He not only did not cry his guts out, he actually let her feed him lunch. It did not happen before or after I came back from the hospital, but it did when I was away and had no choice. The other thing I worried about was how I would manage without my mother around and that too somehow is working out to some manageable extent.

Staying home alone with two children whose needs have to be met on time without any choice about it brings forth two qualities in you – patience and discipline. I never knew I had so much patience in me. Rather I am able to garner the patience it takes to cope with their relentless (both reasonable and unreasonable) demands. Joy as it is to be with your children, it is a tremendous amount of work especially without any help all day. And it takes mental discipline – you have no choice but to put away that interesting article you are reading and run to your child if he/she wakes up. You have no choice but to hang up on a juicy conversation with your friend if your child calls out for you for something as silly as a crayon getting lost in the couch. You set aside your desires and give yourself wholly even if unwillingly at that moment – you have to be present and attend to them.

The process is fulfilling in its own way. But there are times when you feel your life is drifting away from you. You wonder who you* are and when your life ended and morphed into a life for the sake of others and only that. Not that that is the truth. But it feels that way during the moments of isolation and loneliness. This is a feeling only a SAHM mom will truly understand. Or may understand if she too experiences this feeling. It brings forth a feeling of restlessness about life. That in all the order that you create for yourself planning the hour by hour schedule for managing the kids, your own life is drifting into uncertainty. How will I be received when I step out of this world to the outside world? Will I have the same drive I had before all this? Will I feel the same way about my own career when I see that it means making compromises in the time I spend with my children? This is not a judgment question but a personal one – that it will definitely be a different me emerging out of all this and how will I feel then?

This sort of restlessness makes you want to find some guide that will show you the way. Not in the literal sense. But you know what I mean. I often think about this. And that’s why this post from dotmom made an impression on me.
Especially these lines:
“But through out this ordeal she has remained so calm that I have to admit I have questioned if she realized the seriousness of it all.“We don’t have masters (guru) in real life. I wish we did but we don’t. " She was telling me. Maybe these are our Masters, she said meaning the book’s author Brian Wiess.”

I have often thought about this on many days after I read this post. Not sit and ponder about it endlessly but as a drifting thought. And I realize that in the deeper sense, the answers are everywhere. The master who can guide you may not be in front of you with a name but may be in you and how receptive you are to the message in front of you. It is to my benefit if I remove the grain from the chaff and get what I want from it – in things I see, read, hear. To make myself feel at peace. To make myself a better human being.

The other day B was reading a non fiction book and had left it on the coffee table. I randomly opened a page and read it while having my tea. I later told him that I found the author to be full of himself and rather convoluted in what he was trying to say. But B casually said, “Yeah, but if you sort of set that aside and read it, he does have some good points”. Indeed – that’s worth doing at all times. Find wisdom where you can and be receptive to it. When I hit the low notes, I need to have faith. And gather all the strength, hope and wisdom in every day life rather than look for one guru to guide me through.

Sunday, December 16, 2007

Holiday cards...

Every year as the X-mas season comes closer, I think about sending holiday greetings to friends and family. I keep alternating between feeling enthusiastic about it or feeling quite bored of the whole thing. There is some intertia when it comes to collecting the addresses and making sure that is the current one for each person. And of course I have to first make a list of people to send it to - lest someone get missed and finds out that I have sent a card to some other close family member and feels offended or left out.

Last year, we did not send holiday cards to anyone - neither me nor B were in a mood to think about this considering the events of that year. The year before last we sent a photo greeting with KB in the picture. I enjoy receiving photo cards from my friends/family members who have children. I usually put it up on the refrigerator with magnets. This year too, we managed to get a picture worthy of a photo card with both KB and baby girl sitting next to each other. It was beyond frustrating to get them to pose for it though. KB was too excited when he came into the room and saw that it had been set up for this portrait picture and dad was waiting with the camera on a tripod. He was much too excited with the mechanics of all this than to sit and give a pose. In the meanwhile, baby girl was moving around all over the place. KB kept running towards the camera saying "Light on, light on". He asked that the flash light be turned on. He wanted to move the swivel arm on the tripod. He wanted to see the photo on the view finder before B could even shoot a picture.
In that tiny fraction of a second when I begged, yelled, pleaded with KB to just sit still and he granted me my wish, B frantically shot a few pictures. It was not a home run - KB did not give his sweet smile - only a tiny hint of a smile. Baby girl however gave a good smile. And again, I am sure will get all the attention from every one! The chubby baby smiling and the little brat looking ready to run away from the spot!

I sometimes wonder how many people really pause and appreciate the effort one takes to send a holiday card. Some people take the time to acknowledge the fact that you remembered them and bothered to send them a holiday card. Some people, not in any arrogant way, but just from being busy or taking it as the done thing during the season, look at it and don't acknowledge it unless you happen to talk to them or meet them months later. I feel disappointed if there is no acknowledgement, so I tend to think "Ahn, forget about sending holiday card". But I tell myself that it still is a nice feeling to have made that effort to reach out and let them know they are being thought of and wished well. Somewhere, somehow the connection is kept alive in such small ways. There is a feeling of collective warmth in such little tokens being exchanged during the holiday season and makes you feel good while you begin a new year. Be it through holiday cards or phone calls or personal emails. (I don't feel compelled to acknowledge emails sent to me as part of some mass mailing with no names mentioned - from or to - other than in the header!) Forget about hand written letters, it has unfortunately become a relic! For now, I have drawn up a list of people to send holiday cards to. When I feel lazy to gather all the addresses, writing a note and mailing them out, I will read what I have written here and get going again!

Friday, December 14, 2007

Give your child roots and wings!

I had written earlier about some of my thoughts on parenting. The thought process will go on forever because once a parent, you are always a parent. When you are in the process of raising children, at least in the formative years, you let your instinct guide you. But in an every changing world, it helps to make adjustments and compromises and know when to let go and which battles to pick.

I read this article recently and I wonder what the world is coming to. How competitive can parents get? How base can one be in order to make his/her child win? And as you read this article, you think of “these” people, the nut jobs who cannot control themselves. Yet it is a reminder that the years to come brings forth a completely new set of challenges that will be more challenging than one may imagine them to be.

I am reminded of the conversation with my Ob/Gyn (I have said this before in some comment) when I told her “I can’t wait for both the kids to be two plus years of age, then it will be OK”. In her wisdom, she told me “Be careful what you wish for, it might be a goal you chase every two years”. Each year as they grow up, a new set of challenges start emerging.

I see it happening with KB. I used to think meal and naptime battles were hard. He was an angel child otherwise. He would be content playing on his own with what ever toys or Tupper ware containers he managed to get his hands on. He would hardly cry, even during his meal times. He was a slow eater and a restless sleeper. But in every other way he was good. And then it hit – those “Terrible two’s”! I could write a separate post on this new child but I am sure each of you who has crossed this point know what I am talking about. When did this happen? This gentle child now is more adamant than I can imagine. He fights me in his own special way enough for me to budge and yield to him when I swore to him “NO”! And what do I do when he insists he WILL not allow me to bathe baby girl, instead will do it himself and grabs the mug of water from me? I can physically over power him but there he is bawling his guts out in the most pitiful manner like I am torturing him. By the time I finish feeding him, baby girl, have my own lunch, change their diapers, make them nap and come and sit for a few minutes, it feels like I have fought a mini battle to earn this quiet time. And this is only supposed to get worse – with more challenges? More mental challenges? Yes, I am told. Wait and see, those with older kids say.

My friend told me the other day that his colleague at work has a son who is a freshman at one of the nation’s top universities. He has a roommate who has bipolar disorder. Apparently her son’s name features in his “hate list” on his face book entry. When the mother complained to the dean of her concerns, he told her that she could ask her son to change rooms if he so wished. But her son does not want to consider this option for fear that his friends would think he is a “wuss”! Now what should a mother do? In the wake of horrible killings one sees in the news, is she supposed to just sit back and let her son deal with it? What if something bad really happened? Can she live with the guilt of letting her son deal with it on her own? Or should she force a decision upon him?

Such situations crop up even at the toddler stage. Minor as it is, as a mother you do feel for your child. Especially when he/she is truly that – a child. When and how much do you interfere? KB for example does not grab toys from other children. He is willing to share his toys provided he is not using one of them at that moment. If some kid grabs it from him, he protests. He still does not know how to go and grab it back. He starts saying “Give it to me, give it to me”. And if he doesn’t get it back, he starts crying. When this happened at my friend’s place, she was not happy when I interfered and told KB that he should stop crying and that he could play with some other toy. She told me “Let them figure it out”. For one, baby girl was napping right there, I didn’t want him to wake her up. Two, how long do I let him cry? He was at my friend’s place and the toy KB had in his hand then was not his toy but the other kid’s toy. I felt I had to interfere. She was feeling bad for her son because he is not able to verbalize his feelings like KB and said that children who can do that and can cry it out get all the attention. Where as children who cannot do so and hence grab etc get the flak. It is hard in these situations to get into the nitty gritty of what happened. It feels too petty to do that. But if you don’t, you come back with some nagging feeling that something was left unsettled. There are no right answers.

The question that comes out of such situations is how much do you interfere? When I read such articles like the one I mentioned here, I think to myself, “God please, I hope I don’t ever become such an interfering micro managing parent”. You hope that along with your child, you will grow and find the wisdom to handle the pain that your child goes through in some social situations. You want to give them the feeling of security and love in their own home just so they can withstand things outside of it. It breaks your heart to see your child in even the mildest pain. I can imagine how some parents just break and take it upon themselves to wipe out the pain in their children’s lives. I see now that being a parent is also about being able to allow your child to experience both the joy and pain of growing up. Shielding them from pain and protecting them only prevents them from growing up into a capable adult. I read in some comment recently: “The best thing you can give your child are roots and wings”. Aptly said. Something to remember in the coming years.

Tuesday, December 11, 2007

Chrisim light!

'Tis that time of the year! To set up a X-mas tree (I use X-mas because my niece here was asking "why do people say X-mas for Christmas"?) and decorate it with ornaments and glittering little lights...

We had a small Christmas tree set up the year KB was born. We had a musical toy with a remote that would play different instruments and KB would roll over and look at those each time it was turned on. My MIL was with us then and she too enjoyed turning on the music and looking at the little moving figures. Last year we did not set up a Christmas tree since my MIL had just passed away and somehow we were not in a mood for anything.

This year, when I was at my sister's place she set up their Christmas tree on the Thanksgiving weekend just so KB could see it. Since he is more grown up now, he is really excited by this concept of a tree in the house that is lit up at night. And all of a sudden houses in the neighborhood have plenty of lights and figures of Santa and Reindeer set up in the yard. So when we got back I somehow managed to go and buy a small (two feet) tree and set it up with small ornaments and lights.

KB calls it "Chrisim light" and "Chrisim tree". He loves to point out the different colors of "Onnament" we have on the tree. And the different little figures. Every evening when he comes downstairs from his nap, it is beginning to get dark outside. It is a source of great excitement for us (KB and me) to see if our neighbor (across the road) has turned the Chrisim light on or not.

"Uncle Chrisim light ON pannitar" KB will tell me, his eyes all wide with excitement.
We (KB and me) refer to the one man we saw in that house as "Uncle".
And then he says " Aunty innum ON pannle". (Aunty in the other house across from this one has not turned it on yet).
And when she turns it on, it is yet another round of excitement and I have to lift him up so he gets a good view of it.
I have to keep the lights on in our little tree when he is around. Little boss that he is, he will come downstairs and see that the lights are off and turn to me and bluntly say "Chrism light ON"! And I have to obey his majesty and turn it on.

Next year he will begin to understand the concept of Santa and gifts a little more I think. And then will begin the whole "What gift do I get for Christmas?"...But for now it is pure delight at the simple joys of the holiday season!

P.S - from Wikipedia:
The word "Christmas" originated as a contraction of "Christ's mass." It is derived from the Middle English Christemasse and Old English Cristes mæsse, a phrase first recorded in 1038.[1] In early Greek versions of the New Testament, the letter Χ (chi), is the first letter of Christ (Χριστός). Since the mid-sixteenth century Χ, or the similar Roman letter X, was used as an abbreviation for Christ.[2] Hence, "Xmas" is often used as an abbreviation for Christmas.

Monday, December 10, 2007

The little director!

KB is very disapproving of any affectionate gestures between his Mamma and Daddy. On occasion he would just smile like we were being so weird in even standing close to each other and look at us like "Why would you even do that?!".
On most occasions, if it got beyond tolerable distance (close) in his opinion, he would just scream "Ahhn Ahnn...." and gesture us to split apart. We of course did this deliberately to incite this reaction from him and would enjoy getting him all riled up about it.

The other day I had just finished nursing baby girl and had put her down on the pillow in front of me. As always KB came running and was playing around with her. B was home and joined in and sat next to me - both of us were on the edge of the bed and so huddled close to each other and watching the two kids. The little cop KB looked at us and we realized this was yet another opportunity to see his reaction. B came closer and put his hand around me. Neither of us budged when KB just turned and said "no no...vendam". Suddenly in frustration he just exclaimed "CUT"! :)

Guess that makes sense! :) He got the message across. We were in splits and split much to his relief!

Sunday, December 09, 2007

Back home - final!

Well, I left my cousin’s place a couple of days earlier than scheduled because I wanted to give her the space to just be without having to be cheerful around me and my children. She really wanted us to stay on and yet I knew it was hard on her to put up a front when she was so preoccupied and physically exhausted with her health. Her daughter was deeply upset that me and my kids were leaving two days earlier than planned – but I figured that was a fair compromise – we stayed long enough for her sake but not too long as to become difficult on my cousin. I called my friends P&L (the happily married couple who have just a tiny bit more time on la-di-da land before they decide to take the plunge and join in the glory of changing diapers!) and told them I could come to spend the last two days of my trip with them.

There are some people who you meet quite casually without any expectations of any friendship later. And there are some you talk to or meet thinking you will become good friends. In many cases, quite the opposite happens. P’s roommate was a good friend of mine when I was a student. The three of us happened to meet when we got off the subway (all of us lived in the same neighborhood), we got introduced and the three of us were casually talking. Oh, the good ol’ days when we got off the subway and would suddenly decide to enter the coffee shop and have coffee and talk and laugh over nothing and go home when we felt like it! It turned out I had a bottle of “urga” (pickle) that I knew I would not use much. Somehow it happened that P (who I had just met) agreed to take it – when the three of us were talking in front of my house before they went their way. And that’s how we met…and now not only are we good friends; his wife is my good friend too. Not just that – even her parents keep in touch with me and even flew from Chennai to Bangalore to attend my son’s first birthday even though they had never met me physically before that.

P and L complement each other so well as a couple. It is wonderful to see really. It’s not often that you get along as well with the spouse too as you do with your friend. Some people just casually walk into your lives and touch it in ways you never expected.

My entire trip went smoothly because of P and L – since they are the ones who are relatively flexible in terms of their time since they don’t have kids yet – they were able to give me rides when I wanted them to, buy diapers (since I only use one particular kind since baby girl has Eczema) for baby girl and bring it to me when I needed it etc. I felt so touched by their generosity in terms of their time and their warmth and hospitality when I stayed with them. I tell B that they enjoy our children as much as any of our family members. KB just loves them both and is all smiles when we spend time with them. I feel fortunate that I have them in my life. I really hope this doesn’t change ever for any reason! Knock on wood!

And that’s how my trip ended – time spent in the company of my two wonderful friends. B came on Friday late night just to accompany us on the flight back the next afternoon. We managed to have a relatively smooth time on the flight back - except when I made the mistake of getting into the plane before B (since he was folding the stroller to check in at the entrance) during the pre-boarding. KB thought B was again going to disappear like he did when we left home. So he refused to move forward until Daddy came along. And there was a huge line behind me and I had baby girl in hand too. The flight attendant rescued me and held baby girl and I carried KB to his seat. He calmed down only when he saw Daddy join him in the flight! Phew! When we got home that night, KB was delighted to see his toys – his little yellow car…the choo choo train and what not…I guess even if you are just two years old, home is just home! Nothing to beat that!

Thursday, December 06, 2007

Back home - III

Good health – my first wish for every one!

From a rather light-hearted tone in the previous two posts about my trip, this one is going to sound a bit more serious.

I went to my cousin’s place after spending time with my two sisters during the Thanksgiving week. My cousin and I have been very close friends since we were children. We used to have sleepovers in each other’s houses and spend a great deal of time laughing over nothing. We share many childhood memories, especially of Navratri days when we were young kids. My aunt (the one I wrote about earlier) used to dress us up as Krishna and Radha and we used to go to all the neighboring houses for “Golu” and sing songs and collect “Sundal”. We have played together sitting in the red tiled porch outside their house and talked about our school friends. She got married soon after college and came to the US. I was already here but I was a student. She would talk to me at length that I really should take that leap of faith and get married. She shared her own story of how nervous she was especially since it was an arranged marriage and how things do work out. We laugh so much when we talk on the phone imitating “complaining Tambram Mami’s”. We love watching Rajnikanth movies and laughing at his antics. I was there for her “Valaikappu” (7th month of pregnancy) and have always managed to see her daughter every year (she just turned 8). Her daughter D is also very close to me. So in essence we are extremely close as cousins as are our two families.

A few years back my cousin R was diagnosed with cancer of the thyroid. Now for most people (I know 4 people who had this – two of them my classmates), this is cured by removal of the thyroid gland after which they just do check ups once a year and lead a normal life. But for my cousin, she is in the smaller percentage of people for whom the carcinoma is a recurring type. There is lymph node involvement for which she has had four surgeries already. After the last one, it seemed like all was well and she continued to be the strong and cheerful person she is. When you have an eight-year-old daughter who needs constant care, even a migraine can strain every day life for all the family members. In this case, it is fraught with the anxiety that comes with the C word, what if it spreads – horrible fear, and this feeling of the unknown lurking in the corner. It is hard to put up a cheerful face when every year and half you have to go through treatments, surgery and be quarantined during that time – all without telling the child what is going on – just so she doesn’t have to suffer needless fear along side.

Her daughter D is a perceptive, intelligent and extremely bubbly girl. She loves people like nothing else. She is mad about my two children. She badly wanted to have a sibling – so much so my cousin waited for many months before telling her that I was pregnant with baby girl. D is very upset that her mother won’t give her a sibling. She can’t as of now. She cannot risk being pregnant just in case there is a recurrence and she has to go through treatments again. And that is precisely what is happening. Yet again. This time around, R (my cousin) does not have any energy left in her to put up a cheerful front for herself or her family. She feels sapped of emotional energy to combat this. She does gain perspective each time she comes across people who go through much worse, yet the reality when you have to go through something is your own reality. You cannot compare it to some one else and deny what you feel at that moment. Now she has to go through a fifth surgery. The doctors were in fact not even sure if they could do it for there is too much scar tissue. In which case they would have had to give stronger radiation treatments. On top of it now, R is finding it difficult to swallow or talk. She talks in whispers and not too much. Her daughter D gave her a note when I was there as to how much she misses talking with her mother. D suddenly came to me and cried “ I don’t feel myself because Amma cannot talk”. It was painful for me to see both my cousin and her child go through this. Doctors have still not given her a clear picture of what the problem is with respect to the swallowing difficulty. At least the good news is that they are reasonably sure it has not spread to the other regions in her throat.

I put myself in my cousin’s shoes and wonder how she feels. Especially after becoming a mother I often tell B that neither of us can afford to be anything but totally fit. Until we have made our children fairly independent. We just cannot rely on anyone else in this world. At least for B or me, neither of our surviving parent is young or independent enough now to be able to take on our responsibilities. We only have ourselves to rely on to raise our children. And no one in my opinion can take the place of the mother or father in caring for the children. Unless it is an adopted child they wanted on their own, any one who assumes the responsibility with a sense of duty cannot do it with the same enthusiasm or patience it takes to raise a child. May be I am making wrong assumptions here. But that is my opinion. Only the mother and father can feel bubbling pride at the child’s every little achievement. They are the ones who will feel the pain and be willing to give their time, sacrifice their work, sleep and toil with single-minded dedication until the child feels better when he/she is sick. Someone else may also do this, but the feeling will be different. If I were told that I had some disease that is going to take a toll on me but will not be life threatening – I will be grateful but I cannot escape the fear that this message would come with. What if....

I think of my cousin and wonder how she feels. I don’t talk about this too much to her especially considering she is now in the thick of things. But this was the first time I saw fear in her eyes. This was the first time we did not laugh at all. This was the first time I saw her after she had cried to her husband. I keep praying that the doctors should soon figure out what exactly the problem is and treat it on time. I am praying for her that there should be no recurrences. Unlikely as it is for her type of cancer, it is not ruled out. She can apparently lead a normal life except that she has to be on the watch always. I am so fervently praying for her good health for her sake and her dear sweet daughter’s sake. If there is any merit to collective prayer, I request you to do so too. And for the coming new year my top wish for every one reading this is good health for you and your family. Health is wealth. Priceless. Precious wealth indeed. We take it for granted until something comes and rocks the boat. You can only take care of it so much. There are things beyond your control too when it comes to health. And this is where I pray that our children especially should be in good health (for I can’t think of worse pain than seeing you child suffer in anyway) and that all of us should be in good health. Even if old age will later bring its share of health issues, as long as they are manageable issues, I will be thankful. For now, I am sitting here praying for my cousin – that things should only get better from this point on.

Tuesday, December 04, 2007

Back home - II

Continuing on about my trip…

When we got off the plane, both kids were sleepy and tired but the moment KB saw my friend L he was very happy. He gave a shy silly smile and started doing silly faces turning his head way up to the side etc. His pants were wet (he refused to let me change his diaper in the plane, how I would have done it with baby girl in hand is a different question!) so I quickly changed his diaper and clothes and then nursed baby girl and changed her diaper – all while my friend and his wife (V and L) were gathering my bags from baggage claim. They laughed at the assembly line feed/diaper changes that were happening for the two kids. I told them I would have my turn to laugh when my kids are more grown up and they are the ones changing diapers and looking like zombies from the non-stop work!
The contrast was all the more because they were returning from a wedding lunch and L was looking very pretty in her silk sari and new hair style, wearing stylish new pair of glasses. I was only glad to get through the day and get home to my friend’s place with little thought to how I looked (probably like a bag lady!) at that point!

First stop was at my friend T’s place. P was dropping me off at her place. She is an old college friend and a very close one at that. Yet this visit was a little different for me. I was seeing her in her new environment – her husband had made it really big in his company and reaped huge gains in stocks – so they are now fabulously wealthy. A gorgeous house in prime zip code and money for probably a few generations. Money can change friendships and I often wonder if our friendship is any different now because of her new moneyed status. I still can’t say for sure (just because we had so little time to really talk – between her two kids and my two kids, there was very little free time) – but on the face of it, nothing has changed. She still chides me jokingly (as I often complain to her that she does so) and was as eager as ever to have us stay at her place. I truly felt happy for her and for her husband - his success at his work and for being able to live a worry free life as far as money is concerned.
There is a strange feeling to see your friend who shared similar background to now not be in a position to relate to, or more so go through similar issues. A lot of every day issues are for example not something she has to deal with now. I can’t now tell her about not having enough time to maintain the house as cleanly as I would like to – because it is not an issue for her – cleaners come to her place quite often. I can’t talk too much about how flight expenses are piling up for us this year because that is absolutely not an issue for them. She will understand because she has been there but I just feel silly talking about it to someone who does not have to go through similar things in the same time frame. But she certainly does not wear her wealth on her sleeves - well you don’t have to in that zip code – but you know what I mean. She does not brag about her material acquisitions nor does she behave differently. Her parents – especially her mother who I am very close to, very fond of and is my role model – have not changed one bit. They don’t so much as hint in their conversations about her new status – which I have seen many parents do when their children either become wealthy on their own or marry into a wealthy family. It just feels good when you see such people – who can keep their head on their shoulders and keep their balance both during tough times (which they have really gone through) and good times.
Does money change friendships? There was this article in the NYT a while back – interesting one, incase you would like to read it.

Sorry for that digression!

Next stop was at each of my sister’s places during the Thanksgiving weekend. It was absolutely great spending time with them and their children (who are quite grown up now). KB and baby girl (I need to find good blog names for them!) had a great time basking in all that love and affection. My super smart nephew played the guitar (he formally learnt to play piano but can play the guitar and drums just as well on his own) sitting on his exercise ball while KB jumped on to the piano table and pressed the keys like he was a pro! It was quite a sight! He really looked like a junior musician – so intent and involved in what he was doing. He fell in love with the guitar and kept telling me “Daddy’ya unakku Guitar vangi kudukka sollalama?” (Meaning – Shall we ask Daddy to buy you a guitar?). My sister and I went shopping for an hour when baby girl fell asleep in the evening. It was great going out with my sister after a long long time. My sister was of course unhappy when it was time for us to leave. She had to go on call and I was going over to my cousin’s place.

I think I will post the next bit about my trip as a separate post. You will see why when I do that post. Will write when I find the next time slot!

Sunday, December 02, 2007

Back home...

Two weeks away from home! With two kids. Without B! My god - did I really manage to do that?! It's not the work I am talking about as much as the fact that I was away from our home environment, without B and actually got through it - which means the kids enjoyed it and cooperated with me.

The start was not so easy though! Boy! The four of us went to the airport. Baby girl was all happy and kutti boy was as always gently poking her cheeks and making shrill noises sitting next to her in the double stroller when we entered the airport. This is a relatively small airport and I went in assuming that things would be more relaxed because it is a small airport. I just did not anticipate that they would not allow B to get a temporary pass and accompany me to the gate! The agent at the check in counter was a middle aged guy with a stern look and he quite firmly told me that their airport was too small and they just did not have the man power to screen people who are not ticket holders! He assured me I would have an airport aid helping me!
I was glad to accept help from this person but my children were certainly not!

We waved bye bye to "Daddy" and I pushed the double stroller to the security gate. I was asked to remove my jacket and shoes and had to do the same for the kids! Goodness! I asked this tall, very young woman (the airport aid) with long black hair and a friendly smile if she could hold baby girl while I got kutti boy out of the stroller. I had to remove KB's shoes and put it in the X-ray bin - the moment I removed his shoes, he started whining loudly "Shoes, Shoes"! I told him I would give it to him in a minute.
"Shoeeeeeees", he cried.
In the meanwhile, baby girl started crying because this woman really did not know how to carry her snugly. I managed to take my shoes and jacket off and put my hand bag into the bin.
"Mammma handbag!" cried KB.
Oh god, he saw his shoes, my shoes, mamma's handbag all going into random bins and disappearing.
He was in tears now.
In this mood, I came for his jacket!
" pottukanumaa" he said. Meaning "I want to wear my jacket".
"I will give it to you in a minute".
"Jackkkkkkkkkkkkkett"....Loud crying ensued.
Baby girl crying in the background. I managed to fold the double stroller and dump it on the X-ray path.
I held KB who was now really crying and walked through the gate and out.
I opened the stroller out and strapped both kids after putting their jackets back on and somehow managed to calm them down and walked along with the agent to the gate.
I had to check in the stroller at the gate - so I picked up baby girl and I handed her to the aid and tried to unbuckle KB. Suddenly he resisted and said "Daddddy....Dadddyyyyy" and cried very loudly with tears streaming down. I felt very bad that he was missing his dad and didn't know why dad suddenly disappeared and was not coming with him. We had prepped KB for this and yet he was taken aback by the new person who was holding baby girl and was trying to get him out of his stroller.
Amidst loud wails I got him out and handed the stroller to the agent.
We were the first to board the flight. We had to walk in a zig zag ramp in open air and enter the plane. KB who had calmed down by then was happily walking along saying "zigzag" and looking out at the other planes while a long line of people started coming behind us. I was holding baby girl in one hand and dragging kutti boy with the other. As he was about to enter the plane, our little dreamer put his little foot in the tiny space between the plane and the ramp. He slipped and I tried to get him up but couldn't with one hand. The flight attendant finally stepped forward and tried to hold KB. He screamed as if some monster was grabbing him. But she got him into the plane and we started walking in. Prompted by this foreign invasion into his world, he again started asking for Daddy.
"Daddy is not coming with us Kanna. We are going to see P and L", I told him.
He calmed down a little at that thought and we managed to sit in our seats.
PHEW!!! Now I was praying that the plane should take off on time.
As it neared take off time, the flight attendant came to check if every one had their seat belts on. This was the first time KB had a seat for himself (since he turned two). He was excited to look out the window or stand on his seat and look at the back of the plane. But at that moment, he decided to climb down and sit between the seats.
"Kutti, please come and sit in your seat. You have to wear your seat belt, illati Aunty kochipaa (that lady will get angry with you)".
"Aunty kochipaa" he says with a mischievous smile looking at the flight attendant.
"Kanna, it's not funny. You have to wear your seat belt, come back up. Right now".
"Right now" he says smiling at me!
I put on a strong and stern voice and said "COME!!!".
I had baby girl in my hand who was leaning on me and had almost fallen asleep. I could not move too much. Next to me was an older Chinese guy who was in his own world with head phones and listening to music. No help there!
Finally I had no choice but to hand over baby girl to the attendant and use brute force to get KB into his seat and buckled. Baby girl was now rudely woken from her nap and not only that she was held in the most awkward position - her entire body facing up! So she started wailing, looking very annoyed at being disturbed from her cozy position and being exposed to the cold.
After what seemed like eternity, KB was in his seat, baby girl fell asleep in my arms and the plane took off.
In the couple of minutes I had before take off, I called B and told him to book tickets in the same flight for my return journey. I did not want to go through this again on the return flight, more so, I did not want to put the kids through this if I could help it.

OK, I will stop here! For those who were curious about how my flight went - I wrote this. Turned out to be a long and vivid description. I have to begin the week - without mom or B during the day. I am glad to be home and I hope the kids fall back into routine and enjoy the feeling of home. Will continue about my trip in the next post.