Frickin’ Fourteen

Being a mother to a fourteen year old is one of the most difficult phases of my life, well, so far. I know other moms going through these struggles will agree with me. Like my friend said, “adolescence tantrums”. What are they cribbing about? The boys, I mean. They don’t have to choose bras, sanitary napkins, go through the obnoxious pain of periods, then what the hell are they so icky about? It was so much easier when they rolled around in their diapers or just tagged along holding our hands, wasn’t it? Their mood swings to top it all, my goodness, is that even allowed?

How many times have you heard, ‘you don’t understand’ or the more polished lingua ‘you don’t get it’! I get it boy, I really do. I went through your age, I was not born as a 40 year old. I went through this without a frickin’ cellphone and internet!! Every time I rant the same gyaan over and over again, I must admit, I get bored! I see the listening switch going off on his face so clearly. I must admit, I am one of those mothers who doesn’t want to be traditional too much, yet want to be a buddy to my kids. I hate it when I nag, but do they even give us a choice?

Text in capital letters, anyone? Oh yeah, I get it. The happy face, kiss, hug emoticons come only, yeah ONLY, when I increase screen time. How did I solve it? You will not get a response if you text me in capital letters. Seriously? We are solving texting issues? How many times have I wanted to throw the cell phone from the tallest building around!

My husband introduced and implemented and monitored (yes, more credit to him, I do that on rare occasions), no-screen-on-weekdays! Yup, for many years now, the boys get to do any screen (expect educational material) only on Fridays, Saturdays and Sundays. It is so effective that Friday evening when they get home from school, they won’t even notice if I am not home. Oh and screen does not start until a certain time in the morning and ends at a certain time even on weekends. Amreekan bouy says to village-born Indian mother, ‘Who does that Amma (he still calls me that), all my friends get screen everyday!!! (note the exclamations, its unending in his head, I know)

To add to my woes, iOS12 introduced “Screen Time” and I set that up on my fourteen year old’s phone. Everyday, believe me, e-v-e-r-y-d-a-y  ‘my friends don’t have this’, ‘why should I have it?’, ‘I need more time’, ‘my friend’s get to do screen everyday’, with that what-did-i-get-into look on his face. Probably worse, why-did-you-put-me-in-this-family-God? I too have said it, once upon a time. He plays on his phone in the bus, on the way to school, back from school, thats the trend you see. If you don’t do that, you are from the Indus Valley civilization, is what I am told…

Screen-time-activist – I showed my friend that I have screen time and he asked me, don’t your parents trust you?

Ouch!! That went right in…

Village-born mother – its not about trust, its to regulate the time you spend in front of that, playing games.

To top it all, my hero has braces. I have revised my counting to ten thousand (haven’t done that since junior school), by telling him to brush and put his bands on. The money I pay to the orthodontist dances like that devil in the sky, while I continue my rant of ‘put-your-bands’. I feel like I should just record these repetitive statement and just play it in the house, placards maybe?!?

His best or worst attitude is, no attitude. Something didn’t happen, it didn’t happen. Something didn’t work out, it didn’t work out. Missed out on something, so what. The chap is as calm as a cucumber. No hurry to get anywhere, except to his phone and FIFA on PS4 or to the dining table. Do they sell accelerators for people anywhere?

It’s not all a dance of the devil, there are blessings as well. As you see the tiny thing you created grow up next to you, such that you look up (literally) to him. As you revel at his handsomeness, his kind demeanor with people and you think, I must have done something right. I give it to him, for very smoothly handling a riot like his younger brother. Although sometimes he asks, ‘from where did you get this guy?’..

Should I wait for fifteen? Guess its pretty much the same or even worse. Every parent thinks, maybe the next phase is better till you realize the previous one was way better.

Wonder when the girlfriend will make her grand entry… Ooooh myyy God! (Janice style, remember F.R.I.E.N.D.S?)

It’s all frickin’ teens!!

For the record… I love being a mother, it’s my absolute favorite role!

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Perspective..

As I inch towards the closure of another decade I skim through the past decade to see what I have achieved in the past ten years. One thought led to the other and if you look at a life span you can divide it into 6 or 7 parts. Yes, very much like the seven ages of man, as written by William Shakespeare.

That is all it is, at a 360 degree view, 6 or 7 or 8 parts. You can condense an entire lifetime if you hold up enough fingers on your hand. And what intrigues me is how much have I progressed in each part? What does one achieve in each part? Not materialistic achievements, naaaaah! How does one grow as an individual, harnessing this gift called life?

The first part is where you are constantly learning. So pretty much ignore it. You just do what your told to either by parents or teachers. You are not even allowed to reject the food on the table, so you simply acquire basic skills, one of the greatest ones being getting to the toilet each time you need to go…

The second part is where you explore a bit. Your parents let the harness loose, just a tad bit. You can reject the food on the table and go through the consequences of that act. Wings are beginning to flutter. You want to try and fly. You learn that you have wings. So yes, that’s an achievement.

The third part is where you make all the mistakes. Some mistakes you can walk out of, some change the course of your life. You have the money, so you want to go out there and achieve something. Some are pushed into getting things done, some take flight and have their first experience of crash landing. This is the part where your parents take a step back, because you think you know everything and have seen the world enough compared to their stage of fourth or fifth part.

The fourth part is where you are done making mistakes. This is the true part where you grow into the person you were meant to be. Everything before this was prep work. By the end of this part you have set base, your foundation is strong and you are now truly flying on your own. You can recognize the mistakes you made in the earlier one or two parts and have learnt from them. This is when you achieve personal progress.

The fifth part is where you try the dives. You try to soar. You want to take yourself to the next level. This is where you want to push yourself and seek answers to your true potential. For some though, this is where you relax after four parts of hard work. You sit back on the couch of life, sip in your success and feel good about yourself. For me personally, this is where you limit your possibilities. This is where you can make the choice to optimize or give up.

The sixth part, well… If you surpassed your expectations in the previous part, maybe continue to soar or take a break. Sit down, put your feet up for a while and enjoy the cocktail of life. Take all those vacations you wanted to take, while you are healthy enough. This is the part where you truly enjoy life. You have no idea how many more parts you are left with.

The seventh part is about reflections. You reflect upon everything you have done in the previous parts and filling the gaps, to just do it. If you want to walk on the beach, do it. You want to eat that dessert, eat it..

Everyone is gifted with this beautifully crafted round cake, with icing and sprinkles. You take once slice at a time, with no inkling of how many slices are there. Savor each bite and fill your senses with the joy of knowing that your are blessed. There will be hurdles, there will be ditches, always believe in the moment and live it to the fullest!! Enjoy every bite…!

The little blue brush

When I was pregnant with my first kid, I got a little blue brush and comb as a gift at my baby shower. The bristles of the hair brush were so soft, they reminded me of Barbie’s hair. When my little one was born, I used that brush to gently part his hair after his bath. He was clean, hair neatly parted, a smile on his face and the world was perfect. I was perfect as a new mother.

Fast forward thirteen years. In a life of seventy or eighty, thirteen is a small number, but you ask the parent of a teenager and they will tell you, its a lifetime. Some days, that same baby of mine, forgets to comb his hair when he gets out of the shower. His hair is ruffled and he says, ‘I’m ready to go to school’. My “mother” in me, looks at the clock and determined in the snap of a second, if I should rush to get the comb and part his hair, or if I should sound a “mellow” yell, “you need to comb your hair and look neat”…

So yesterday, the split second decision was to grab a comb and make his hair look neat. As I raised the brush (a big blue spiral one, now), I had to raise my hand above my eye level. For a tiny miniscule of a second, (that is all we have to think, in the morning rush), I thought, ‘Wow!’. That tiny little thing that fit so snugly in my arms, was an inch above me.

Where the hell did the years go??

From diapers, to immunization shots, to feeding, to potty training, to daycare, to school, to books, to homework, to aches and pains, to summer camps and boom before you know it, its done. When we embark on this journey of motherhood, we feel this a life changing decision and is going to last a lifetime. As my kiddo turns fourteen, I am stressed that soon it will be time to let go. Yes, it is the bond of a lifetime, but its not that you can hold on to for a lifetime, you HAVE TO LET GO. You have to let them flap their wings and fly.

Nobody prepares you for this. All the relatives, parents who encourage you to have children, don’t explain enough. It’s definitely not about that one moment of inception. It’s not about family portraits that you can send out at Christmas or decorate your Facebook wall with. It’s not about the grades or the career, definitely, no. It is a challenging emotional journey of a lifetime. It is like you are living another person, you feel what the child feels, you are constantly in battle with yourself to do the right thing. Once they grow up, it doesn’t stop, because, technically, when do they grow up? I still need my father and I am still growing up. Marriage is more accommodating than having a child. You can talk, argue, reason, demand ‘adjustability’ from your spouse. With your child, you HAVE TO BE the bigger person. When you are not, instantly you will know.

I wonder how my parents let me go, in a world of no internet or cell phones. Today, I appreciate how brave they were to let me flap my wings and fly.

All said and done, is it fun? Oh hell, it is. It is a beautiful relationship, magical and however science explains it, it is a MIRACLE. To create a human being, nurture him/her, help him/her learn essential skills like eating, talking, walking, sleeping, watch him/her grow into an individual and build his/her own ideologies, perceptions is a whole discovery in itself.

As I watch my miracle grow, I tell myself, soon it will be time to let go. The little blue brush will be a memory I will hold on to for a lifetime. As for him, all he will remember is how his mother nagged him before he left to school!!

 

Is that what it is?

As a mother me like many of my friends are in a constant battle in our mind about what is right for our children. Sometimes spouses help make a decision and sometimes leave it to us to decide. It’s the leaving to us to decide that scares me.

The logic is simple.. “will I be blamed for this later?”, by anyone, is the question we are finding an answer for, day in and day out. It could be the child who says, you did it this way or you didn’t do it this way. It could be the spouse or it could be a friend or family member. We gnaw on our brains constantly to find the right balance, right answer, right thing to do without being blamed.

So that is what it is? Finding the path of no blame? I know my mom went through this when she was struggling to get an admission for my brother at Bishop Cottons. She said she didn’t want him to blame her later on that she sent me to Bishop Cottons and him to a lesser standard school. So she did go through this phase.

Maybe these thoughts led to my character, Shalini in my second book. She is a mother of four who constantly tries to avoid being blamed by everyone. Mother instincts I guess.

I always believe identifying the problem is half the job done. I guess it’s time to adopt Nike’s caption.. Just do it! Or maybe not.. what if……..?

He

His arms carried me as a baby

His arms bore the weight of my education

His heart celebrated my every success

His heart cried at my loss

His legs walked for miles for me to stand straight

His legs stopped for me to catch up

His eyes saw the now and fretted tomorrow

His eyes dreamt of my tomorrow

His words cautioned me of the world

His words strung a thousand stories for me

He is

My hero.

Buddies

This is one of my favourite stories. I was standing at the intersection of Gandhari Amman Kovil Rd and MG Road in Trivandrum. A tall girl stood there with her father. We had just attended a training class together. She wore a brown striped salwar, handbag on her shoulder and books in her hand. Her grizzly hair was tied back and she looked at me with suspicion. Her father asked me if I was looking for a roommate. I said yes. He suggested we look for a place to stay, together. I looked at her and thought, why not? I had no idea who this girl was.

Either the same day or the next, another girl from the training class asked us, if she could join us. She was a short, round faced girl. She wore a salwar with a dupatta neatly folded on one shoulder. She wore glasses and pretty much looked like a mirror image of me. She had the widest smile on her face and spoke faster than either of us.

We said yes. Again, we didn’t know her, except her name.

We found an agent, a short, stout guy who rode a TVS moped of the early 2000. I don’t remember how we found him. He wore a hat, probably to hide his baldness and glasses which he kept pushing up on his nose. He spoke like he was going to take us to the moon. We tagged along with him to find accomodation in the then unknown city of Trivandrum. The tall girl I met had an Ericsson mobile that looked like a modern day big remote. This mobile was to become our communication channel with our parents in the near future, for which she even charged us a fee. So coming back to the stout man with the hat, we set up appointments with him after the training session for the day, and hopped into an autorickshaw to see the place he had found for us. The short girl knew the in and out of Trivandrum, so it was relatively easier than I thought.

During these trips, we learnt a little more about each other. The tall girl had graduated from MES College Kuttipuram and the short one from Jain Engineering College in Chennai. We made many trips with the stout guy with the hat, to various nooks and corners of Trivandrum until one day, he took us to Pattoor. This was the first floor of a beautiful house which the owner was willing to rent. A one bedroom accomodation with a kitchen and bath. It was a luxurious setting. There was a PCO booth nearby to make STD (Standard Trunk Dialling, in case you thought something else) calls. The landlady was nice and liked us instantly. We paid the stout guy with the hat his commission and sent him away. The next day we moved our belongings to the Pattoor house and embarked on a beautiful journey of friendship, laughter and a million memories.

It has been eighteen years since we moved in together – three girls who didn’t even know the other existed till then, one from Bangalore, one from Kozhikode and one from Chennai. I cannot help but think, that this is destiny. Our paths were meant to cross and our lives meant to mingle with each other. We grew from naive (this is the short girl’s favourite word) twenty two year old young girls’ to mothers of children ranging from five to fourteen. It feels like a lifetime, and yet like yesterday when we were huddled in the autorickshaw following the stout guy with the hat, on his TVS, to the nooks and corners of Trivandrum.

May our conversations never be silent!! Love you girls, always and forever!!

xoxoxo