Starting all over again…

The nineteen inch, nine pound bundle that sat cozily wrapped up in my arms many years ago, today stands next to me, towering over me, looking down to look into my eyes, grinning from ear to ear at his towering achievement. I stand there in my five foot yardstick looking up thinking, well, blank actually.

My teenager turns fifteen tomorrow and I can’t help but pen down the emotions being a teenager’s mom. When I became a mom, now what seems like in another lifetime, I thought been there done that. But that ‘becoming mom’ is just for the first phase when you help the teeny tiny thing in your arms learn basic skills. You feed the baby, rejoice when he starts crawling and then walking, go ooh and aah at his first words, play with him, give him hugs and make him feel loved. Fast forward about fourteen years and you will find yourself doing all of this all over again. Yes, everyone of this, in different ways.

Your teenager will now put into his mouth anything he likes, just like as a baby he picked anything from the floor. When he was a baby you took care to buy organic, or home prep baby food and what not. Now he dunks down soda and burgers and hot dogs what you can group as J-U-N-K. You are not feeding him now, but still have to silently watch what goes down his gut. You cannot say no (not too much coz then it becomes an issue about his freedom), but start learning to explain to him the harmful effects of too much chemicals in his body.

He can run now. He will sit in his friends cars and go to Whataburger or McDonalds and where not. Its your job to know where he is, just to be sure he is safe. As a toddler if he ran into the hallways, you pick him up and bring him right inside. Now, you can ask nicely, ‘where will you be buddy?’, ‘in whose car are you riding?’… You have to magically become smart enough to not cross into his ‘friends’ territory.

He can talk, never ending, he can go on and on and on. You don’t have to teach him the words, but now you have to ensure he is using the right words. Remember at the end of this, you want to give yourself that invisible trophy titled ‘best parent of the year’ award. You dont want him to evolve into a saint, but be able to maneuver his way in the world. He will learn cuss words, and use it. Making him aware of minding his language in appropriate situations is what you should talk to him about.

As a baby you protected him from practically everything. As a teenager, it is time to allow him to expand his territory and test the waters while you are around. Let him make a mistake, let him fall, so you are there to give him a hand while he will take it and you are there. From this whole re-learning to be a parent, my biggest learning has been to keep the communication channel open, both ways. If you want to keep it real, it is important to open up some of your emotions to them so they get an on the job exposure to adult world feelings. He is not a friend from your age group, so use your judgement at what you let him into. The biggest win at this stage is that he wants to talk to you. Encourage conversations and give him some space. In your mind, he is a baby and will always be. My 70+ father thinks of me 40+ as a kid who needs to watch out while chopping vegetables. But giving this space and having those conversations are so important for their emotional growth. Few pointers –

  • What really stands out to me is if you are disagreeing with something they say, be open to hear their perspective. The time when you talk and they listen blindly is over, because now their minds think too and at that age they think ‘they know’.
  • When you ask them to do a chore, don’t order them to do it, work with them. They have a schedule and plans. On one hand when you are encouraging them to make a plan, help them stick to it.
  • Encourage them to plan on their own, not just school work but non-school work.
  • Give them chores at home – loading the dishwasher, unloading, doing their laundry, putting it away, cleaning the toilets, putting the trash out, dusting, mopping, cooking. These are basic skills that every person should learn.
  • Give them real life experiences based on their age – how to board a flight, how to shop for grocery, how to fill gas, how to work your way at the bank, how to get an uber, how to use public transport… etc, the list is endless. These are essential skills that no school teaches.

I have not listed values on purpose. To me values cannot be taught, they should be portrayed. Based on what parents portray, children will imbibe the values.

There is no fool-proof method and everyone parent learns in the class of parenting at their own speed. It cannot be taught and only comes through experience and your unique situation. It has been the best learning school, where sometimes I fail and sometimes I pass. Every small win feels like a leap in faith that you are doing something right. Every fall doesn’t put me down but encourages me and teaches me to do better the next time.

So here’s wishing my first guru in parenthood a very happy fifteenth year of teaching ! I love you, forever and forever…

The light of candles

My earliest memory of a birthday goes back to maybe age 10, I am not quite sure. Even today I am as excited as I was as a kid. I honestly don’t know why. 

The “traditions” we followed, too heavy a word, I know, started few weeks before “the” day. My parents took my brother and I to Chellaram’s to buy a birthday dress. Chellaram’s was okay. It was the same kind of frocks, not a glamorous place. Nevertheless, the new dress was excitement enough. 

Then magic happened. 

I distinctly remember the opening of KidsKemp. When we passed by KidsKemp, there was always a Santa with white beard and red attire waving at the passersby. It was so colorful. For one of my birthdays, after much pestering (my poor parents), took us to KidsKemp. It was like the mall of today. Beautiful frocks. My jaws dropped at the sight of the colors or let’s call it glamour and glitter of the place. It is my most luxurious shopping experience memory from childhood. 

KidsKemp was a one time affair. The prices were so inflated that we had to go back to Chellaram’s the following year. 

I still manage to get or save a new dress for my birthday, every year 😊.

Each year on Jan 1st I would circle the date on the Deccan Herald and/or Malayala Manorama and/or Prajavani calendar. Big red mark, so that nobody forgot, just in case. Well, I don’t mark any calendars today, Google does that. But I kind of start reminding my family to remember to wish me. I told you at the beginning, that I was kind of.. well.. obsessed. 

Then we bought chocolates the day before to distribute at school. Oh what a privilege that was. The first period, class teacher walks in, spots you in a pretty dress, not the bottle green uniform, tells the class, “so, we have a birthday girl today.. come on class, let’s all sing for her.” As a child that was an i-am-on-top-of-the-world moment.

That morning, my mother woke me up with a very happy smile on her face saying “happy birthday Indu”.. those words echo in my mind. She did this consistently for every year I was with her on October 1st. The smile, the affection, or the love, never faded once. I long for that love today. 

Then came evening. My neighbor’s kids and us bought some crepe paper and balloons, decorated the living room and waited for my father to come. He brought the cake and candles, every year. The number of candles matched my age. The light of those candles reflected the brightness on my face or maybe it was the other way around, I don’t know. I see the same brightness in my son’s face when the candles are lit and I love seeing that delight on his face. 

I get them even now, a cake, candles and the light of the candles.

I don’t get a wish from my mother. The first ten minutes after I wake up are empty and quiet. But in some form I get her blessing and wish. I may be construing this completely in my mind, but the coincidences are too much to ignore. So I did receive special blessings today. 

As I went to college, the family traditions of cake, decorations faded. It was a treat for friends at Nilgiris Bakery, Basavanagudi for starters, ending up with MotiMahal at Mangalore during engineering days. At work too, it was a treat for friends, I still got a new dress and cake. Gifts for birthday were never a major thing. Sometimes I got, sometimes I didn’t. What I valued were the people I got to celebrate my birthday with. All of them special people, very dear to the heart.

After marriage, my husband pampered me with gifts. May not be every year, but the year’s he buys me something, they are out of this world. The best, always. These are gifts I never imagined I would get in my lifetime. 

Today was special. Friends spent an entire day preparing for the evening party. It was a double celebration, my son and I got a “happy birthday mommy and me” cake 😊.. pampered again with gifts, happiness and laughter. 

The best part was the cards my kids gave me, thanking me for the wonderful mother I am and wishing me happiness with other personal notes. The thoughts that were put in those cards, made my many many everydays’ perfect. My older one just wrote on an index card while my younger one picked out a pink flowers card, with lot of mushy words.

Grateful! This is the only feeling at the end of the day.. for family.. for friends.. for all the love.. affection.. care.. it’s a lot to be blessed with. From the childhood days of buying clothes at Chellaram’s to the extreme luxury of driving a BMW at Bentonville, life has changed seasons many times; one thing that remains unchanged are the loving people I am surrounded by year after year.. truly blessed !!

Twelve years..

I was ecstatic when I found out I was pregnant. It was something I was looking forward to. I was 26. I know it’s a lot young, but back then I wanted to get married and have kids, family, house, a secure life. Other interests of exploring my life are knocking on my door now. 

So, I got pregnant and absolutely fell in love with my growing belly and the person inside. My husband pampered me and I pampered myself! When I was seven months pregnant, my husband and I got an onsite opportunity. Honestly, I have no idea what I was thinking back then when I said yes. I didn’t realize it much when I took that Singapore Airlines flight from Trivandrum to Los Angeles. It’s only after I landed that it hit me, I definitely didn’t imagine that America would be that far and it would take that long to get there. Oh my! 

I walk into West Hills Hospital on September 26th at 5am and voila my little one pops out on September 27th. The labor classes, baby care classes that I took was my Bible in taking care of the little one. 

His goo goos and gaa gaas filled my days. He nestled on the shoulder in the night to a lullaby that I have sang umpteen times. We sang rhymes, danced and before I knew it, we were celebrating his first birthday. His first birthday cake was from coldstone with a Winnie the pooh theme. It had Tigers, Winnie and Piglet. We invited everyone we knew and made it a grand event. He was sort of the first kid in our circle. 

Then it was time to go to daycare, something I had been putting off by bringing my mother from India to help me. A few years into daycare and we got him his best present ever, his brother, Kevin. 

Kevin is his baby. He pampers him to no end and I love the bond they have between them. At times I feel Kevin matters more than me. And I love that thought. They have their share of fights, tantrums, touchy issues, nevertheless, they are glued to each other. 

He started school at Indianapolis. As he was getting used to it, we pulled him out and took him to India. He did his best at Chempaka, but most importantly he learnt how to make friends. He had so many of them and probably that has been the best part of his life so far. Those three years spent at Trivandrum, strengthened the foundation of the people person he is, so much so that I was known as Nitin’s mother as opposed to my name. 

School starts, the daily rigor, Christmas break, exams and more exams, and before you know it, it’s over. One year of school is done. Yeah! But when it’s his birthday I realize that he has grown by one year. 

At age 10 we moved back to Bentonville. And before I knew it he was in junior high and it’s his 12th birthday. The little one who kicked inside my belly stands tall next to me, fighting his little age related issues. 

Twelve years, summed up here in a few paragraphs, but in reality it’s been a lifetime of memories, with more to come. I long for the years gone by where he was little with no worries about assignments, how his friend treat him, exercising, soccer goals etc. Where I just had to feed him, change his diapers and he would jump around happily, unaware of the world around him. 

I thought I was done with school when I got my bachelor’s degree. Now, I know that was cakewalk. This is more difficult, learning how to be a parent. And these twelve years I have been in college, again. There are many more years till I graduate from here, and I am full of doubts, but it’s been amazing. 

Thank you sweetheart for coming into our life and making it beautiful.. happy birthday !