Tag Archives: motherhood

Of Writing and Motherhood

This was written for the Guest Blog section of the amazing Bookaholicanonymous blog.

 I have been writing for as long as I remember. I wrote my first story when I was around 5, about a fish and a turtle that were friends. This was followed by a comic-book series drawn in pencil over school summer holidays, about a pair of naughty twin boys called Tissy and Tassy. Then came the Enid Blyton-inspired stories about sassy kids who went on picnics and solved mysteries in their holidays, followed by never-completed novels of teenage angst and romance, and even a reincarnation-based story in college that I lost along with all other data when my crappy Windows 95 system crashed.

But in my 20s, following my journalism degree and my grad school years, while working in my first real job as a features reporter at The Hindu, I found myself, for lack of a better word, stuck. I ought to have been the most inspired I’d ever been. I ought to have been churning out stories. Here I was, being exposed to interesting people and stories, every single day, on the job. Here I was, attending book launches, speed reading new novels by Indian authors, and getting to interview them about the process of writing. It was a dream come true for a young wannabe novelist. And yet, I found myself paralysed. When it came time to try and work on my own writing, I couldn’t seem to make progress. I had ideas, sure; I’d sit and try working on some of them, but it would come out sounding stilted. And worse, I wasn’t inspired to keep going.

I talked about it all the time though, so much so that it came to be known as ‘The Book’ in my family, the one I would someday write. The Great Indian Novel, or something like that. Then marriage happened, then the birth of my daughter in my early 30s. I was intense about motherhood, from the start. I wanted to be hands-on, so I quit my full-time job. I was the archetypal over-involved first-time mom. I Googled everything. I worried about everything. I overthought everything. But I also thoroughly enjoyed all those firsts, all those incredible moments of babyhood and toddlerhood, the ones that become picture postcards in your mind, and then get passed on as stories to your kid as she gets older and wants to hear about “when she was a baby”. And of course, I wrote about them too, in blogs and a column.

But something else was happening at the same time, almost silently. I was working on a book, in stolen moments at night, while my baby slept, or on weekends when my husband shooed me out of the house to go take a break. Not ‘The Book’, but just a book. Not some hopelessly elevated ideal, but just a story I wanted to tell, like the ones I wrote in my childhood. Just for myself, what I’d myself want to read. This time, I didn’t talk about it much. It was like a little secret I hugged to my chest. I wasn’t even ever sure I wanted to publish it. I just wanted to write it. It wasn’t until it was complete, some three and a half years later, that I knew I wanted to try and put it out there. That story, of course, became ‘The Shrine of Death’.

I often wonder what made the difference. What broke the paralysis. And I believe it was motherhood. I believe that motherhood liberated me. I know that seems contradictory. After all, motherhood, in a lot of ways, shackles you. Your time isn’t your own, your energy isn’t your own, your mind even isn’t your own, filled as it is with thoughts and worries and fears about the little person who’s wholly dependent on you. But motherhood also gives you a brand of confidence, a belief in your ability to tough it out in the trenches. “If I’ve managed to care for this little life, then what is a mere story?” It puts everything in perspective, and it frees you from any delusions of grandeur you might possess. Suddenly, the story I’d been obsessing about and building up in my head for years was just that – a story. It didn’t have to arrive perfectly formed in my head or become The Great Indian Novel. If there’s one thing motherhood teaches you, it’s that everything in this life, including yourself and your efforts, is less than perfect, but no less meaningful for it. That the most important things in life are messy and hard, and that the only thing to do is just keep going.

I’ve always been terrified of screwing up, of being less than perfect. Hence, you can probably guess, the paralysis when it came to doing anything that was really important to me. But with motherhood, not doing was not an option. I was responsible for this tiny human being, and so I had to do, terrified or not, and – amazingly! – we both survived. I made mistakes, and beat myself up about it, yes, but then I got up, dusted myself off, and moved on, because, again, there was no other option. It just had to be done, and you know what, I did okay.

Every single day as a mother, especially in the early months, holds innumerable moments of failure and triumph. It’s exhausting, but it’s also the biggest life lesson there is.

Now, I like to say I’m the mom of two – of my firstborn child, and of my firstborn book. Neither journey was easy, but I know in my heart that if it hadn’t been for the first, I may have never completed the second.

You can find the original blog post here.

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The five stages of an IKEA visit with my five-year-old

dubai3

Stage 1: Vigorous protest. The night before/the morning of the visit:

Kid: “But Amma! I don’t want to go to IKEA. I want to go to the park/beach/indoor play area with my friend! IKEA is booooring!”

Me: “No, it’s not! It’s full of interesting stuff.”

Kid (arms crossed): “Does it have clothes?”

Me: “Er… no.” (But it has toys. For once, I have enough thought-to-mouth-control not to say it out loud. We’d cross that particular bridge when we come to it <see Stage 4>).

“Shoes?” (My daughter, the diva.)

“No.”

“Hairbands?” (Note: We’re currently obsessed with hairbands)

Me: “No, but…”

Kid (throwing up arms in exasperation): “See? It’s boooring!”

*

Stage 2: Enter Festival City Mall, where IKEA is located in Dubai. “Amma amma amma! I want to go on the toy train! I want the Sophia the Princess balloon! I want to go to that play area…” Curse you, Festival City. Why do you need to have so, so many distractions for the pint-sized brigade just outside the entrance of IKEA?? Do you not realise we parents need to reserve every ounce of our strength for the ordeal of the next 3 to 4 hours, as we stagger zombie-style through the winding maze with whining little person(s) in tow, laden with a shopping cart full of junk we don’t need, and unwieldy boxes and shelving units to store it all in?? We can’t be wasting energy battling past helium balloon and tooting red-and-yellow engines!

*

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Stage 3: Enter IKEA. Cue amazement. “I LOVE IKEA!” This is the best portion of the trip, so one must make the best of it. The daughter has shelved the diva-ness and demands for balloons, and is totally charmed by the pretty, pretty bedrooms and kitchens and dining rooms on display. She pretend cooks at the kitchen, has a tea-party at the little kiddie table on display, lies on the beds (while I pretend not to notice), and generally makes like she’s living in a life-size doll house. “I don’t ever want to go home! Can we live here forever, amma?”

*

Stage 4: BOOM!  By that, I am referring, of course, to the wretchedly attractive and colourful toy section of IKEA, strategically located at the halfway point of the maze, right about when your kid is getting bored of amusing herself with pots and pans and pillows, and is starting to get tired. What happens when a bored and tired little person who’s been looking at shelving units and kitchens is confronted with an oasis of toys? Exactly. BOOM!

Now, there are two options here for the also-starting-to-get-tired-and-cranky parents — a blanket ban on any more toys, and damn the consequences (you brave souls you), or multiple rounds of negotiations before you settle upon a mutually agreeable, not-too-outrageous toy purchase. We bought a stuffed cat, who has been christened Mia (don’t judge me… virtually every kid walking out of IKEA was carrying a stuffed animal of some species or the other.) Of course, sometimes the peace talks fail and you end up with a toddler lying on one of IKEA’s pristine aisles throwing an epic tantrum. Let’s have a moment of silence to express solidarity for every parent whose ever been in that position (there but for the grace of Mia go I.)

*

Stage 5: Exhaustion. This stage has both its advantages and disadvantages. On one hand, your kid is too exhausted to wander off or break things or demand to buy new stuff, and is likely to sit in the shopping cart quietly for the first time in the entire expedition. On the other hand, she’s more likely to whine (“I’m huuuungry! Are we done yet??”) and make irrational demands like “Carry me!” and “I want to lie down!”. I settled this by placing a random cat-motif pillow I’d picked up (in keeping with the general feline theme of the day, and the compulsion one feels to buy random stuff at IKEA) on the handle of the cart and having her put her head on it. I no longer had a handle to push the cart with, but hey, the whining was down, so I’ll take it.

*

We eventually did finish and make it back to the car, stopping only 10 or 15 times to pick up Mia and/or the cat pillow along the way. Our annual visit was done; there were no tempers lost or tantrums thrown (only the husband’s blood and sweat  lost over setting up the shelves later), and at least 50 per cent of what we bought was actually useful. As IKEA trips go, I’d give this one a Grade A – (half a grade point reduced for unnecessary purchase of cat pillow, which has already since been abandoned.)

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Mia says meeoww

 

 

 

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Look whose mug is in an ad for Parentcircle.com!

That’s right, mine! 😀 –> January 2016

Also, check out more of my clipbooks up on the site:

Toddler’s Day Out

Job Description: Mom

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Farewell to ‘Toddler Talk’

A little over a year ago, when I started doing this column, my daughter was two and a half, and in the throes of full-blown Terrible Twos.

It’s been an eventful year since, a year in which she has transitioned (amidst a whole lot of hand-wringing and soul-searching on my part) from preschool to LKG at her ‘big-girl’ school. Along the way, she got potty-trained (hang in there moms-of-young-toddlers, it does happen… eventually), learned to go to school without amma for a few hours (I think amma was more stressed about it than she was, on the whole) and outgrew a whole bunch of clothes I’d spent way too much on. The toughest part was the constant illnesses (since germs are pretty much all they pick up in preschool). But it was all worth it to watch as she left babyhood behind step by step, and turned, somewhere along the way, into this little chatterbox who talks/asks questions 24/7 and has her own, very colourful take on the world around her.

Some things, of course, haven’t changed. We still negotiate (toddler style) on everything from bath time to the clothes to be worn after bath time, the food she (barely) eats to the number of cartoons she’s allowed to watch (far too many, but clearly she doesn’t think so), all day long. Barney and Dora have been phased out, but Peppa Pig still reigns supreme. The tantrums and melt-downs are fewer, but no less spectacularly dramatic when they do occur. We’re still co-sleeping, and I still wake up in the mornings to find a toddler elbow or knee wedged into the region of my right kidney (so much for her much celebrated transition from crib to ‘big-girl bed’). And, of course, my life is still filled to the brim with too many toys, and too many loud and badly-sung nursery rhymes (‘Finger Family’ in bhangra style, anyone?), courtesy Youtube.

Through it all, I’ve remained the epitome of the over-anxious first time mom, reading too many parenting articles online and generally making myself crazy over every parenting decision, from vaccines to hair-cuts to schools. Writing this column was the best possible therapy I could have asked for. It helped me laugh about that things that might have had me in tears otherwise, and more importantly, it gave me a way to reach out and talk about the general craziness involved in raising this generation of toddlers with others who’re in the same boat. Thanks to ‘Toddler Talk’, I’ve spoken to and heard from so many moms and dads, grandparents, aunts and uncles who have similar stories to share regarding the toddlers in their lives. It’s been a wonderfully cathartic experience – nothing is better than realising you’re not alone in your imperfections, especially as a stay-at-home-mom who spends too much time over-thinking everything child-related.

Now as my daughter gets ready to outgrow toddlerhood, it’s time for me to bid goodbye to ‘Toddler Talk’. It’s been a fun ride sharing my parenting experiences with you all in the past year. To those of you still battling on in the toddler-parenting trenches, dealing with the terrible twos or threenager battles of will, hang in there. It does get better (or so I’ve heard). And then we get a breather of a whole decade until the teenage years.

In between the battles, don’t forget to enjoy your little munchkin. Because as much as we complain, the truth is that life would be very boring indeed without these frustrating yet adorable little people in it, with their big personalities and bigger hearts, their endless enthusiasms and energy.

And to toddlers at large – I know you sometimes got a bad rap in this column. But I hope we can let bygones be bygones. You know I love you guys!

This article originally appeared in The Hindu MetroPlus.

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Toddler Talk: I’m the parent of a pint-sized drama queen

That moment when you realise you’re living with a threenager…

A friend recently introduced me to the term ‘threenager’. It was a bit of an ‘Aha!’ moment for me. You see, no one had prepared me for the sheer drama that enters the household once your toddler turns three. Terrible twos and tantrums, sure. But this was a whole other ballgame. My kid, more often than not, was acting like she was three going on thirteen. What was going on? Well, now I had my answer: I was living with a threenager.

My first inkling of the fact came one night when the two of us had a showdown over something relatively minor (I wanted her to drink her milk. She didn’t want to.) What began as a typical toddler “Nononono!” type argument mutated and I was suddenly faced with a pouting threenager who informed me that she “didn’t like it here” and that she was going to “go away” all by herself to her grandma’s house. She even set off determinedly, clutching her dolly, and was only deterred by the fact that she couldn’t reach or unlock the front door by herself. Nevertheless, she folded her arms, averted her face and refused to talk to me for the rest of the night.

Since then, there have been declarations of, “I don’t like you, amma!”, and outbursts of “Everyone’s cheating me!” in over-the-top mega serial style (I don’t even watch that stuff… where’s she picking it up from?). We’ve even had that teenage staple cry of “It’s not FAIR!” with me shooting something back like, “Life’s not fair, kid, deal with it,” before remembering that I’m talking to a three-year-old. A three-year-old. I didn’t think I’d be hearing this stuff or dealing with it for another decade or so.But then I started thinking about it, and I realised that three-year-olds and thirteen-year-olds actually have a lot in common. One’s on the cusp of childhood, outgrowing babyhood rapidly. The other’s on the cusp of adulthood, outgrowing childhood. They want to do everything all by themselves, their way (clothes, food, you name it). Except, when they don’t. They’re dealing with this whole new world of big feelings. They feel deeply wronged against because they can’t do all the stuff adults do yet (stay up late, drink coffee, drive cars, wear make-up) and they have the vocabulary to express it. Strongly. The thing that makes teens tougher to handle, of course, are all those hormones coursing through their brains, wreaking havoc with their emotions. But I’m starting to suspect that if you studied three-year-olds closely, you’d find pip-squeak versions of those hormones swimming about in their little noggins too.

The other major difference is size and cuteness. You can physically pick up your pint-sized drama queen and prevent her from running out the front gate in a fit of pique (and I’ve had to do it too) but you can’t do that with an angry 13-year-old. Well, you could, but it would require significantly more upper-body strength. And – I mean no offence whatsoever to teenagers the world over here – I have to say that three-year-olds get away with a whole lot more just by virtue of still being cute little munchkins. A threenager throwing a hissy fit and declaring that “no one likes me!” – is kind of adorable, and more likely to get cuddled and reassured. A teenager doing the same – is more likely to get sent to her room. Unfair, but then, you 13-year- olds already knew that, right?

So, upon further consideration, I’ve come to the conclusion that the threenager phase is nature’s way of preparing parents for what lies ahead. Like giving you a tiny, toy-version of a gizmo to practise on before taking on the scarier, full-sized version in the future. And helping you to enjoy and treasure the (relatively) drama-free childhood years all the more. This way, when your kid hits the teen years, you’re not completely untried. You’ve had the trial run, a significant cooling off period, and now you’re good to go.

That’s my theory, anyway. I guess it’ll be verified in, oh, a decade or so.

‘Toddler Talk’ is a weekly column that appears in The Hindu Metroplus,

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It really bothers me that…

Oh look. The penguin needs a life jacket too. *facepalm*

Oswald the Octopus can’t swim and needs a floatie in the water. Because, hello! He’s an octopus. Granted he’s blue and wears a little black hat and sounds like Fred Savage and has a dog that’s literally a hot dog with a tail. And, yes, I get that he’s teaching little kids about water safety yada yada. But, y’know, even a three year old can grasp the concept that an octopus is different from a person, and doesn’t need help swimming in the water since that’s where octopuses live. Also, must he look both directions five times before he crosses the road, every single time? And so s-l-o-w-l-y too? Again, I get it. Teaching safety, etc. But talk about disrupting the dramatic momentum of the narrative. Yeesh.

… Max and Ruby is apparently a cartoon about two little orphaned rabbits. Seriously, where are the fricking parents? They’re not referenced once, not even in passing. At least in Charlie and Lola and Stella and Sam, the kids talk about their parents even if they never appear on screen. That’s fine. I get it. Parents are boring. These shows are all about siblings relationships. But Max and Ruby is just freaky — two small kids apparently living alone in a large, over-furnished, hideously upholstered house. No wonder Ruby’s an over-controlling, OCD mess and Max speaks in monosyllables. Not to mention that monumentally useless grandma of theirs who drops in for tea and ice-cream and then vamooses, leaving Ruby to cope all alone. And as if all her duties of feeding, bathing and cleaning up after Max weren’t enough, Ruby also takes on babysitting jobs, watching other little rabbits whose parents, ironically enough, are very much  present and accounted for. I tell you, that Ruby is heading for a nervous breakdown.

every building in the Peppa Pig universe is perched precariously on top of a ridiculously steep hill. I mean, why? What purpose could that possibly serve? Imagine the strain on the brakes on all the vehicles, since they need to park constantly on the almost vertical slopes of said hills. Not to mention the hazards of having little kids like George running down these slopes. And don’t even get me started on the stupid sloping gardens on the sides of the hills. They should just switch to terraced gardening or something.

Look ma! Flying pups and fancy mission towers!

… a ten-year-old boy in Paw Patrol apparently has endless income, access to fancy vehicles (including hovercrafts, helicopters and ATVs), and high-end electronic  systems, not to mention a ridiculously ostentatious tower with a glass-enclosed elevator and giant computer screens, used solely for discussing his ‘rescue missions’ with his pups. Why doesn’t anyone find it creepy that this kid, who apparently has no family, lives with a bunch of pups? What’s his source of income? How is it legal for him to be driving any vehicle on the roads (let alone his hi-funda All Terrain Vehical)? And why does Adventure Bay have absolutely no policemen or firemen or rescue personnel apart from the weird millionaire boy and his talking pups?

… cartoons such as The Hive  and Ben and Holly turn fleas and ladybirds into ‘dogs’, complete with the panting and barking and stick-fetching behaviours. Repeat after me, cartoon makers: fleas and ladybirds are NOT dogs. They’re bugs. As such, they behave like bugs. They don’t bark. They don’t play fetch. Not every pet needs to be canine-esque. Get over it, seriously.

Yes. I know. I need to get a life.

I’ll let you know when I do. Until then… stop using a floatie in the water, Oswald!

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Toddler Talk: Mess Management, Toddler-Style

Messy, that’s me

How having a toddler around has actually made me less messy

I have an admission to make – I’m a messy, messy person. When I’ve gotten ready to go out for the evening, all available surfaces in my room are covered in clothes and make-up, and wardrobe doors hang wide open. My living room looks like a hurricane hit it, and my dining table is used more as a storage unit than as a place for a sit down meal. Don’t get me wrong; I do keep things hygienic, but I’ve always lived a deeply cluttered existence.

Notice that I’m not blaming my toddler. In fact, having an active, inquisitive child around has actually made me better. Yes, you read that right. In the last couple of years, I’ve learnt the hard way that if you leave your stuff lying around, your toddler will take it upon herself to investigate said stuff. And all toddler investigations come with the following disclaimer: “The toddler is not responsible for any damage to your belongings. If you left it within arm’s reach, it’s fair game.”

It took me a while, but I finally figured out that laziness – which is really at the root cause of most messiness – is not an option when there’s a toddler in your life. You know something needs to be put away but you ignore it anyway and go back on Facebook… Well, your toddler is going to make you pay.

-That pretty dress/dupatta that you love? Yes, the one lying on the floor of the bedroom. You’d better pick it up, otherwise it’s going to be painted on, decorated with play-dough, or even pooped on (true story).

– That coffee cup / cereal bowl that you’ve left perched precariously by the sofa? You’d better put in the sink, or it’ll end up on the floor, in smithereens. And the remaining coffee/milk will adorn both your sofa and your toddler.

– That brand new electronic gadget you’ve left lying in the study? Yes, the beautiful Samsung tablet / iPhone / DSLR camera you spent most of the month’s salary on. You really, really should put it away, because it’ll be jab-jab-jabbed, poked and prodded until, according to your toddler, “it’s not working!” anymore.

– That bottle of juice that’s on the dining table, the one that you know you didn’t close the lid of properly? Yes, turn right back, close the lid tight, and put it away. Because you know it’ll be tipped over and you’ll be sloshing about in a river of juice before you know it. And guess who’ll be the first to slip, fall, and sob that her foot’s hurt? That’s right. The toddler who tipped it over in the first place.

– That stack of boxes/files/books in the corner? The one you’ve been planning to put away for a month? Well, put it away already! Because it looks incredibly like a a) castle b) tower c) tree or d) mountain to your toddler, and simply must be climbed. We all know how that’s going to end, don’t we?

-Those small toy parts you see scattered all over the floor? Yes, the ones you’re pretending don’t exist. They’re either going to impale your foot, or end up in your toddler’s mouth, in which case you’ll dash across the room horror to get it out, and impale your foot anyway.

– That box of earrings you left on your dressing table? Next to your expensive new lipstick and bright red nail polish? Yeah. Good luck getting the nail polish off your earrings and the lipstick off your toddler’s face, and all of it off your floor.

After a few such episodes, moms develop a sixth sense. Take it from me and don’t ignore that little voice which says, “Put away the tube of cream!” Your room will be neater for it, and more importantly, you won’t have to spend the evening scrubbing face cream off your kitchen counters …

TIPS:

  1. If it can break, it shouldn’t be anywhere within a toddler’s reach.
  2. If you care about it, keep it off the floor or couch and in the cupboard.
  3. If it can spill, keep a lid on it. If it’s hot, sharp or heavy, keep it way up high.

 

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