Sunday, October 26, 2008

When all you have are memories...

It was Saturday evening. We drove the kids to Lowe's to get new energy saver bulbs for our living room - we had bought the wrong size and finally got down to returning those and buying the right ones. This sort of thing is cause for high excitement for KB. He talks incessantly of the "burst" bulbs and how we need to go to Home D or Lowes to buy new ones. The two kids run around the mammoth store in utter delight and I shamelessly go around screaming like an uncouth villager, "KB, KB, NO NO, not so fast...stop!". And then lose track of him for a second and scream even louder with some threats added in. "Come now or I will leave you and go back home". And the little brat says with complete satisfaction, "Here Amma" and shows his face. Agonizing as it is at times to not be able to shop for a simple thing in peace, I still always take both kids to these places esp late evening when there aren't too many people, because I know how much they enjoy these kind of large stores. Especially when they are in the garden center there, they look so happy amongst all the plants and the little water fall structures.

While driving back home, we stopped at a red light. I turned to see an older man (an Indian) wearing white sneakers and neatly ironed pants and white full sleeved shirt. He had grey hair and was partly bald. It was around 7.30 pm, nearly dark then. That point in the day as it is makes me somewhat melancholic. Somehow the sight of this man reminded me of my father. He would go for long walks dressed the same way. Looking neat in ironed clothes. Many times, I would drop him at a shopping center a little distance away from my place, because it was too long to walk both ways. He would then walk around the open mall area and then walk back home. And sometimes make friends with fellow Indians or with some non-Indians who are either giving out pamphlets for their organization or have some kind of sales pitch. He would listen to them intently and even have questions for them. He would come back home and tell me the details of who said what or which "gentleman" he spoke to at the mall. I saw this man standing at the traffic light and I could bring back the picture of my father too doing the same. Waiting at the light and people watching in the meanwhile. I am still not able to get it out of my mind. It made me feel incredibly sad that all I had now was this very blurry image in my head of my father - you wish you could adjust the lens and get a clear glimpse of him in flesh and blood - that feeling when you see the image clearly and all feels right for the moment. I wish he had come with us to Lowes which he was sure to have if he had been alive. I imagine KB and KG constantly playing with him, wanting him to sit next to them and doting on him all the time.

I wish I could cry now but the tears don't come. The pain now is not raw but one that comes in flashes and leaves me feeling sad and nostalgic. He is not there to see my children now. It will be two years this coming January since he passed away. I was going to write a post about my MIL yesterday because it was her second year "Shraddh" ceremony. But seeing this man somehow made me write this post instead. I see so much of my father in KB - almost as if he is there in front of me - when KB does certain things. It is hard to explain but it is the kind of stuff that only the children know about their parents. The mannerisms, the slight lift of the feet while standing by the kitchen counter chatting, the playful smile while telling a joke when the punch line is about to hit you when you least expect it...things like that. Even at this tender age of three, one can see similarities. I am thankful for those moments when I see my father in KB. But I can't help but wish he was there with us...for my children especially. They just don't know what an amazing grand father he would have been for them. I just hope somehow somewhere they will know in just the way they turn out to be as adults.

Friday, October 24, 2008

When the cruel mother over works the little boy!

I sometimes dish out dramatic dialogues to KB just for the fun of it - partly meaning what I say and partly just to get him going into his "deep thought" mode. One day, B came home late and was exhausted. After a long day of taking care of both kids, especially when both kids had somehow been quite demanding, I had just sat down in the couch after dinner to just catch my breath. B had finished his meal and was loading the remaining dishes in the dishwasher. KB saw a bowl of cheerios that I had kept for KG and just on a whim turned it upside down and spilled it all over that area. Both of us got mighty annoyed at KB for his baby type mischeif and chided him. B grabbed a broom and gathered the spilled stuff and trashed it. As he was doing this I told KB, "Pavam Daddy, ivvlo tired'aa irukarche, you are making him do so much work. Pavam illaya Daddy...edukkaga nee indha maari panre? (Poor Daddy, when he is so tired, you are making him do so much work...why do you do this?).

Two days back:

Soon after the kids had their lunch (after KB returned from his preschool program), I took KG upstairs to change her diaper and take her to her crib for her afternoon nap. Just as I was changing her diaper, I asked KB to get me a facial tissue (which is use to dab a little bit of oil that I sometimes put on her skin) from the drawer.

KB says to me "Pavam KB, tired'aa irukache, he has to go get tissue for you!".

Kids these days!

Sunday, October 19, 2008

New art on our wall!

Our foyer area now has this new painting by an artist that B and I just adore. Yes, of course, it is obvious - it is KB's art. It is special to us for couple of reasons. He is so particular about certain things, especially when it comes to getting his hands dirty, that if he touched paint while painting with a brush, he would ask me to wipe it off right away. It would really bother him.
So it is really amazing for me that he managed to actually dip his hands into paint and create some art with it.

This piece is special also because he did this in the new drop off program for preschoolers - when I was not with him in the classroom. This is the fourth time he has gone to this class. The first time I stayed in the classroom. But KG was distracting the other kids, so they told me I had to stay outside the classroom. It is a large classroom with bay windows that opens into a huge lawn of green in the park outside which has really nice play structures. This program runs on T,W,Th,F from 9 to 11.00 a.m. The second time I took KB there, I had no choice but to leave him in the classroom and wait outside in the park area where he could not see me. He cried a couple of times but because that day's activity included playing outside in the park, he calmed down after some time. He saw me in the park and went back into the classroom and stayed there the rest of the time without crying. The third class itself, he went in looking like he was about to cry but stopped crying and had a nice time. On last Friday, the teacher told me that he participated fully and had a really nice time answering their questions and dancing along during the "song and dance" time. They have a craft time every class - he made a jelly fish the first class, a rainbow fish with sparkles (using a paper plate) the next class and this painting the last class.

At this drop off program, they do pretty much all the activities that the school he was in does on a regular day. Story time, snack time, play time, song time and in fact they have a dedicated craft time where they have a particular activity planned for the day. The difference is that this is not called a preschool only because it is a drop off program for which you can pay for each day. So it may not be the same set of kids each day. I am now actually considering sticking to this program for the rest of the year rather than going back to his old school. I really liked his old school but I guess there is that fear that he may cry again there and partly a mild resentment towards them for not having tried hard enough (to give KB the chance to get used to the school rather ask me to take a break for a month and then bring him back).

At some level I feel the point of going to a preschool at age three is to get exposed to other kids, socialize a little and be away from the secure feeling of a home environment for sometime. This program provides all of that. The only thing it doesn't provide is a steady set of school friends - kids who come every day to this class. KB anyway meets a few of his friends couple of times a week. And he has KG at home to play with, fight with and learn survival skills with too! (On a side note, he nearly gave us a heart attack when all of a sudden he just pushed KG's rocket rider to the muddy area in our yard and she fell and hit her head on the wooden fence. Thank heavens she didn't hit the edge too hard or she would have been in the hospital now bleeding away! Surely they are both learning some serious playground survival skills here!).

I have not decided fully on staying on in this program but this is what I am inclined to do. He is having a great time here. The teachers are all recent college graduates working for the city who conduct this program. They are young and energetic and all of them are licensed and have some early childhood education. I feel a little nervous when I talk to hyper-super moms who will only send their kids to Montessori where they could potentially learn a lot more academic stuff. I don't know if KB will lag behind in that respect when he turns four but for now this seems more than enough to me. And bottom line to me, he looked really happy at this place the last two classes. The teachers address him by his first name and give him high-fives and seat him on their lap and what not. I wanted a place that will nurture him and make him happy. If it continues this way and he looks happy, I am inclined to forgo my (hard won) admission into the other school and stick with this for age three.

And that is the story of the new art work adorning our foyer wall!

Thursday, October 09, 2008

Laughing game, story time...

KB loves to be silly and loves to laugh. He gets into laugh mode and just cannot stop sometimes. Much like how I used to be as a child. One day when I was giving him his cereal, just when we were close to being done, I suddenly broke into laughter (fake) - buahhh....ahhh....ahhh...and pretended like it was uncontrollable laughter and then I stopped. He was so taken aback by this sudden outburst but he clearly loved it because he just started laughing loudly - but his laughter was real. KG saw us both laughing (when he really laughed, I found it funny was laughing too) and even though she had no clue what this was about - she came to the high chair and started chortling and laughing herself. It was overall so much fun. KB of course got addicted to this laughing game. When I took KG upstairs and changed her diaper and then put her on the bed to just run around, KB said to me, "Mamma, buaahh pannu" (laugh like that). And all over again we went through it and we were all laughing like looney bins! :)
Story time:

B used to either whistle tunes or just sing children's songs for KB when he pats him to sleep for the night. We dont' read to them during bed time. All reading happens downstairs before he gets into bed. One day I suggested to B that he should tell KB stories for bedtime. KB used to enjoy stories I told him at random times during the day. So for a few days B used to look up children's stories on the internet and then tell KB modified versions of these stories. It usually revolved around some animal stories. Tortoise and the hare type stories. One day, I asked KB what story he wanted B to tell him that night. And KB suggested some random title like "The crab and the whale" or some such title. And that night B just made up a story about the crab and the whale. It so happened that the next day I came up with a title for the story for that night. Since then it has become a routine for us. KB and I take turns in suggesting a story for B to tell him at night. And each time we come up with a title KB says "I don't know Daddy if can handle it (he puts the "If" after daddy)". And I have to say, "I don't know !". And then KB says, "Daddy can handle it"! KB enjoys these random little stories we make up (mostly B, some days it is me) during his bed time. Every morning, he tells me the story. He cuts out all the frills and just gets to the meat of the story. Some days, he gets into it and tells me the story with his own frills attached.

One night it was my turn (KB never forgets whose turn it is to suggest the story) to come up with a story title. I suggested "Bubbles and the dog" randomly. I thought B would be getting KB into bed but it turned out he had some work so I had to do it. This is the gist of the story.

"There was a little boy named John. He was going to turn three years old. His dad asked him "What do you want for your birthday, little John?". John told him that he wanted bubbles to blow and a water table in the yard. His dad said, "Sure, we will get you bubbles and a water table for your birthday".

John liked to go to Grove park. It had a ladder that he could climb without any help from his dad. (based on the park that KB likes to go to where he climbs a curved ladder).

One day at the park, when he came down the slide he saw two little puppy dogs. John and his little sister loved playing with those puppies. John was sad to leave the puppies behind when he had to leave the park. The lady said that she could not take care of both puppies and would be happy if John wanted one. But his dad told John they had to leave the park.

On the day before his birthday, John's dad asked him why he looked sad. John said to him, "Dad, I don't want bubble or water table, I want that puppy. Please Please Please dad".

"But John, you said you wanted them. You love bubbles and you loved playing with the water table at Adam's house. Are you sure you don't want them?"

John exclaimed, "Daddy, i only want that puppy, I don't want anything else".

On the day of his birthday, after John cut the cake and the kids sang him a birthday song, John's dad said to him ,"John, come to the yard, I have a surprise for you".

John went to the yard and saw the little puppy sitting by the big plant. "Arf, Arf" the puppy said and ran to John. John petted the puppy and said, "Wooooooww, Daddy! I love this puppy".
(At this point KB's eyes open wide with excitement as well).

"Thank you Daddy", John says.

Daddy asks John, "What would you like to name the puppy?".

John jumps up and down in joy and then turns to his daddy and says, " I want to call the dog "Bubbles", daddy.

John and his little sister and "Bubbles" played in the yard for a long time that day.

That's it , the end!
KB loves hearing this story over and over and he just loves the feeling of surprise and celebration. He liked this story so much that he asks me to say it to him even during the day sometimes. In all both myself and KB enjoy this new routine (about two months now) of coming up with random titles and having B tell him those stories and then hearing about it the next morning.

Last night it was "The Lamp and the car". (B made up this story where the little boy goes and meddles in his mom's closet and happens to find an old lamp. He rubs it by mistake and a robot comes out of it. And the robot tells him he can give him three things. And the little boy says he wants a car. And the robot says, "Yes, Master" and so on. KB imitates B and changes his voice to sound robotic and says "Yes, master!". I just look forward to KB's rendition of these stories each morning. Tomorrow morning, I will get to hear the story of "The dog and the ball".

What the eyes don't tell you...

I often wonder when I hear about suicide cases if really no one close to that person could have sensed a break point about to happen. The point where a person cannot cope. A point when he can justify taking his own life and under even more horrifying circumstances also that of others. I hear of murder/suicide cases or read about it in newspapers every now and then and just think about this in passing and move on with every day routine. But when I read this, it just felt so close to home.

Just the name - an Indian name. A south Indian who speaks the same language. Somehow I always thought only complete whackos who grow up in strained families end up doing really horrible acts of violence. To think that someone who grew up in a regular Indian family and had a loving wife and otherwise normal life could do this?! It turned out that this guy was my sister's close friend's cousin. The said friend used to talk to him very often. And she had no idea something so violent was brewing in him. All for the sake of money? Or the perception that one needs a lot of money to even make it worth living?

I happened to read this post earlier today. At that time I didn't think too much about the exercise. But it seems like a good one for kids to go through. And adults too. To clear up the junk in our own heads as to what is really important in life and what is not. What is a need and what is a want. And what needs and wants merit worrying about either having it or not having it.

There is loss of life every second in this world. So in that sense, amongst many many horrible acts of violence you hear about, this is yet another one. But somehow talking about it with my sister who actually knows these people and has talked to the wife of this person many times brings this so close to home. And it makes me wonder how one can look at a person and just never really know what is going on in their head. On the surface this guy's life was going quite well. He was not even bankrupt at that time he decided to end his life. He had had a pretty good life, a wonderful wife and three perfectly healthy happy children. And yet he could not see clearly how privileged he was and could only focus on that point in his life and decided it was not worth continuing on. It is so sad and tragic that I almost wish we could go back in time and save him and his family.

Long ago, I had posted a story of a young newly married woman who committed suicide because she could not cope with the loss of her husband in the Sep 11 crash. Sad and tragic as it is, somehow I am personally even able to understand that. But I just don't get how Karthik Rajaram could do this to himself and to his family all because he lost some money. He was a brilliant person and could have gotten a job with time. And then I realize it has to be a cumulative effect - years of prioritizing winning over playing the game and doing the best. Years of chasing the next goal without pausing to smell the roses. It is not just him, it is the society we live in and the people we associate with too. It is hard to tell another successful Indian neighbor, that you, the success story you are perceived as, has lost a job. They will be sorry for you but you feel right at the end of that sentence, there is pity, the kind of pity you loathe. (I have known people who went through this a few years back. Some of them who took it in stride are now back on track and much more successful than those who did hold on to their jobs then). The kind of look that says,well, I am in a good position myself, but I do feel sorry for you. It is when I hear such stories that I feel disgusted by how we spend so much time inviting people to each other's houses for Navratri or Diwali and exchange gifts and such but how much do we really know people? How much do we really care for each other? Are we really there for each other? Beyond pithy statements and pats on the back. Just my random thoughts in my moment of sadness over this story. When I think of the little seven year old, my heart just bleeds. To have died such a violent death. I hope he killed the mother first so at least she did not have to endure the worst kind of suffering I can imagine - to see her children being killed by their own father.

It scares me to think that being brilliant or being an over achiever or having all the perceived notions of a successful life also doesn't mean that the person is a self assured person. And then I tell myself that I need to remind myself of this when I raise my children. When I feel the peer pressure to put them in more and more classes so they keep up with the next door kids. I need to raise the child as a whole and not a facet of the child that will bring him/her degrees and money. And this is not to say any of this is his parent's fault (from what I heard he lost his mother when he was a little child). It is yet another reminder of how grateful we ought to be for the many blessings we have thus far and a prayer that our children, who in their adult life are likely to bear the burden of a lot of the economic crisis we are in now, will have it in them to face life with grace and courage. Well, a prayer for myself too that I am able to face life's ups and downs with courage.

Monday, October 06, 2008

The little girl in a Lengha...

Living in the US without a real home base in India, I don't often get to buy the latest styles in clothes - for myself or for my kids. A cotton Lengha with beautiful work done on it in just the perfect colors for my daughter - I could have only asked my sister to shop for something like that had one of them resided in India. My mom or my cousins/friends send the south Indian pavadais for KG. But a cotton Lengha for her sensitive skin, that is just right for KG - never thought I would have the pleasure of dressing her up in one of those. This Navratri season, when I went to visit a friend and I put this on her, it was sheer pleasure for me for a couple of reasons. One of course as a mother, I just couldn't help but admire KG in this beautiful outfit. Two, when I see her in those clothes, I think of the generous and sweet friend that sent this and feel that intangible connection in our blog lives. The thoughtfulness with which such a lovely gift was sent to a child she has only known through my blog posts makes it so special. It is strange how human bonds can be formed and a certain kinship established even without trying hard. Just from reading about each others children. In knowing how similar we are in many ways and also knowing how different we are as people in other ways. And yet being connected as just friends. If only the world were as simple.

Thursday, October 02, 2008

Apple syndrome...

I used to joke to B when my MIL was alive about the "Apple syndrome". More like "My son is the apple of my eye, center of my life, center of the universe syndrome". And to be fair to her, she only suffered the mildest version of it from all the other stories I have heard of other MIL's. It showed up mainly during meal preparation. Oh, B likes this, let's make it for him. B likes it in a particular way, so let's make it that way. She was gracious enough to also make things I like if I told her I liked it. But you could see that glint in her eyes when she made things her son liked. No matter who else did or didn't. Fair enough - she loved him to bits - she was welcome to indulge him. Just as long as I was not ignored. I can't remember the details of it, but I did get very upset one evening when both my MIL and FIL were staying with us (pre-baby days) and B's preferances were over indulged. I was not angry at her but was angry with B independent of it and so it really made me more sensitive to it. I didn't want to yell at B in front of them, so I just went out for a walk in the complex just before dinner time. B's mom asked B to go look for me and was worried as to why I went for a walk before dinner time. I recollect some of these incidents randomly now as I think about KB's preschool drama and how I have mixed feelings about the school.

I realize it is most easy to aquire the "Apple syndrome". You just have to give birth! The only difference is in how we let it manifest. You can either choose to make your child's happiness your prority because he/she is the apple of your eyes or you can ruin their happiness by hurting any one who doesn't treat your child the way you expect him/her to be treated. I feel annoyed with the preschool director for not accepting or even mentioning that part of the problem is that they do not have the bandwidth to deal with a child who cries louldy in the initial stages of adjustment. Instead she just says, "he is not ready for school". If it were left up to me, I would have just said, so be it, I will look for another school. But what matters to me is which school KB wants to go to. And each time we tour another school, he has fun but still says he wants to go to school W with Ms.T. And that's all matters. He seems happy to be there, so it is the school I will have to deal with even if I don't agree with what they say. I will mutter to myself my disagreement, but I will not jeopardize his happiness in that school by antagonizing the teacher or the preschool director there. At least unless it really gets to a point where I have to defend him for any other reason. I want to go with the faith that they do have his interest in mind and that it is best for him to deal with the separation issue at home if they are not able to handle it there.

There was another time a local friend of ours did something that I couldn't quite understand why. It was some trivial thing - inviting a bunch of kids to a little party she hosted but telling me about it soon after it was over - and mentioning all the other kids and their moms who had been invited and how it was all planned at the last minute - as if to say that is why she could not invite KB. It is one of those things that people do that hurts and you just cannot understand but you cannot also dig deep into for it will always leave an open strain on the relationship. At least pushed under the rug, it has hopes of getting forgotten. That was another instance when I told myself that I should not show to her that I was upset because if my relationship with her were to get strained then my kids would loose out on the friendship with her kids and vice versa. That was not worth it. I decided to just let it pass at that time even though I knew that she realized how it hurt me that she did that.

As a mother, no matter how young or old the child is, you want your child to be happy even if it means swallowing a bit of your pride or hurt feelings. I wonder how often or lasting this feeling will be. But I sure hope I am able to take these baby steps in my own growth toward a time when I will have to and will let go of KB and let him have his life...and know when to step in and when to stay away and grit and bear even if it hurts me just so he is happy.

I think back to how my MIL might have felt when I went for a walk because I was angry with B. Someone angry at her dear son who in her eyes did nothing wrong at that moment. Yet she asked B to go look for me in the complex and tell me to come and eat dinner...I suppose in caring for me, she was caring for the one she loved so dearly, her son. Once a mother, always a mother!