Whose fault is it?

Twenty second school shooting in twenty weeks of two thousand eighteen… Casualties, injured, children, teachers, law enforcement officers… I have children in high school and middle school and I am terrified like many other parents. It’s like living under a threat all the time and I feel helpless. I pray that no parent has to get that call with news of potential danger to their child. As parents we hold dreams and hopes for our children; for the baby we brought into this world. The thought of their future takes a permanent place in our minds, the day they are born. And today I feel so bad for the parents who had to forgo of their dreams and hopes. My heart cried when I heard a mother telling her daughter “run, baby and I will come get you”… What a devastating moment..!

Whose fault is it?

Is it the child? The teenager who reaches that darkest corner of his or her mind that the only way he sees out is to kill another. He goes to the extent of ruining his own life while taking the life of others. An extreme form of depression? Is the child born with depression? I don’t believe so. His circumstances lead him to take extreme steps.

So, is it the parents? When their child does this henious crime, do the parents wake up from their personal issues? Do the parents have issues or are they people like you and me? I am forced to think that the parents neglect about their child’s activities or child’s life in general isolates the young mind. I am surprised that how can a parent not know what’s happening in their child’s life. They don’t have to pry into each and everything, but don’t you always maintain that virtual umbilical cord even after it’s cut?

So is it the peril of abundance of resources? Are we paying the price of technology with innocent lives? Today we can search anything on the internet. The internet flows more easily than water. Anyone can find anything in that dark jungle. With nobody to restrict you or even tell you right from wrong, are you misled ?

So what is the school teaching you? In India we have classrooms or homerooms even in high school. There is a class teacher or homeroom teacher when you are in your teens. The teacher knows you and keeps that door open for you. You have the same set of friends. What I see different here is each child has his or her own schedule. After grade 6, you are on your own. You are given so much Independence and the importance laid on your Independence kills the, “I will watch over you” syndrome that we carried while in school. There were fifty girls in my class and I knew all of them by name. We knew each other’s parents. There was a bond. Here kids see each other maybe at clubs or in common classes. Aren’t they to young at 13 to be given this enhanced level of Independence?

So then is it the laws of gun control? Maybe it is. How is the seller going to know if the buyer is responsible enough with guns? In the first place, if you are not a law protection officer why do you need a gun? I have never understood this.

So is it everything? It is. It is the parents, the education system, the laws, the technology that empowers, enables and pushes the teenager to that dark corner where nobody should go. I believe nobody wake up one day, picks up a gun and shoots people, especially not teenagers. There is an underlying reason that has had a snowball effect over the years.

Parents, please involve yourself in your children’s life. You don’t have to poke your nose into everything, but be aware of their thoughts. Talk to them, understand them, teach them the good virtues. If you have guns, lock them up, store them safely. It could destroy your family and many others like yours.

The best thing we can give our children is our time…!

With prayers…

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Sunday musings…

Is there one person in this whole wide world who knows you inside out? Maybe not. Actually it is not maybe, it is definitely no. And the only person who knows you entirely is you. All the acquaintances we make have a piece of us. As we meet new people, they take a slice of us. It is almost never the complete picture. We become a combination of what they take from us and their presumption of us. The less they perceive, stronger will that relationship be.

In a lifetime we meet so many people, most just look at the cake and walk away. They may admire the structure (pun intended), some the color, yet a few like the icing. It is only when you and the other person have a genuine interest that you share a piece. You slice and dice yourself and give a portion to every person you hold dear to you.

We are a piecemeal of many such relationships.

If you think of it, it is impossible to give the entire cake to any one person. For one, each one is carrying their own cake and second, there are just so many relationships. In the end we are all this infinite set diagrams partially intersecting with other sets, every day. Math applies in such weird ways, one would think!

We float in this infinite space with these innumerable intersecting sets all the time. These intersections build up those blocks of expectations. Some of them are so high, that they make the intersection very heavy. You are something to someone all the time. So then when are you, YOU? When are you just that single circle, with no strings attached, floating in space, and the stars shining down on you. Very rarely, for most people. There are those stolen moments from your own life, when you can put down the weight, walk around in your circle, floating under the sky.

Our social system is so pathetically morose that it bombards us with this constant need to intersect. We are taught from when we are born about relationships, expectations, bond and all such crap. Are we ever taught to carve out our own path?

My friend brought in an interesting perspective recently. She said, why should I tell me son to do anything about working, marrying, and all that circus? Let him decide what he wants to do. If he doesn’t get married, he doesn’t. Big deal. It is his life and he has complete authority over it. Well, this is one of the reasons why, she is my best friend.

Can we really change the current norm of pressurizing our loved ones into forming intersections. Let them lead their way, let them live their life. Maybe that would increase the happiness quotient eventually. The number one killer of happiness, I believe, is expectations. These expectations stem out like mushrooms from relationships and people go crazy over it. Only if everyone lived with the feeling that, ‘I’m here for you if you need me’. Come to think of it, that is all, that’s required. There is no need of, you need to behave one way, you need to talk one way, you need to emote this way, you need to think this way… Give me a break! See where stress comes from, followed by depression and what not.

Why does any relationship “have to” be a certain way? The only true relationship (in its absolute sense) is that of a mother and child. Even in this one, when the mother thinks, “I will lead you for the first few years, then I will guide you, further on, for the most part, I’m here for you”. It is that simple.

So should you start easing out of the heavy ones? I don’t know. Maybe the trick is to make your circle strong. I don’t know…

If we keep it simple for the next generation, maybe the sets of the future will be lighter….

Day 6 : Life lessons – what our parents expect

It was around 9pm and I was pondering about what life lessons I should write about today. There were no obvious triggers during the day. As I was doing the dishes I thought about a particular family where parents and children are going through a strain in their relationship, primarily because the parents didn’t meet the child’s expectation. The parents are retired from professional life and the child is a grown up person. I am due to return a call to Uncle and Aunty and I got thinking of their not so happy days for the past few months.

As children there is no end to the expectations we have from our parents. When we are young we expect them to buy us that toy, that particular food, the specific dress, take us out and what not. As we grow up, expectations are different but they still exist in various forms. When I had my children I expected my mother to come to the US and take care of them. She did it without a second thought, six times. She made six trips across the globe with her Parkinson’s to take care of my children. At that time it was something natural, it was what all parents of children who live in the US, did. I just expected her to do it.

As parents get older the “density” of our expectation most often than not hits the roof, because now we expect them to “behave” a certain way. I am guilty of this as well, for many years. I wanted my mother to talk a certain way, I squirmed when she said some things in a gathering, which “I” thought were inappropriate. I expected her to spend money in a certain way, because by then she didn’t have her own income. I was a very bad daughter as a grown up, to her.

When she passed, in her passing, she taught me life lessons, like she always did. The biggest one being, all she expected out of me was to understand her. I didn’t have to do anything about it, but letting her know that I understood remains my biggest failure as a daughter. With my father, I expect “nothing”. He expects me to call him everyday and give him even five minutes of my time, just so he knows I am thinking of him. I give him that time and often more. When he goes on long distance trips with his friends I just listen and encourage. That is all he needs and expects, a few minutes of my time everyday and encouragement at his age. All he needs from me is to hear him out and understand him. He needs to feel that I am there for him no matter what and that he can depend on me.

I am blessed that my mother taught me this extremely important lesson as she left. But when I see soooo many men and women around me who don’t get this simple equation of life, I feel sad for the parents and for the men and women. Life can be so much simpler and happier if we as grown ups take that tiny effort to understand them. Do they really deserve a struggle during the resting years of their life, after they slogged it out for years and years to make us who we are today?

The daughter-in-law and son-in-law can easily mess up this equation, which is extremely plausible. But it’s not about how the daughter-in-law or son-in-law treats your parents, it’s always and only about how you treat your parents. Everything else is a bonus!

For the wonderful parents I have and for everything they have taught me, I am blessed, many, many times over!!

Day 1 : Life lessons – calm and polite

I was cleaning the fridge today. A yellow microfiber cloth in hand I set out for the daunting task around 3pm. There were a number of expired bottles of various shapes and sizes. There were some frozen circles of milk glued to the shelves, some masala rings, rotten vegetables and what not. I know you must be thinking yew!! What an untidy woman. Thank you!

The shelves wiped, the trays wiped, the cheese box wiped, the trays on the doors wiped, the huge vegetable tray wiped! Phew! Why can’t this be just one shelf?

I scrub away for one hour, two hours and finally open my lower freezer door. Chocolate frozen from some chocolate cookie dough glued to the bottom of the tray. I bend down, sit down and wipe away. This stubborn partition piece of rotten plastic refuses to budge from its place. I snap it out and think – I got you sucker ! After I finish wiping for another twenty minutes or so, oh how much I hate chocolate cookie dough by now.. the rotten dough comes off nicely and my trays are as white as snow ❄️.

So this sucker plastic piece needs to go back in. I try to push it in, just like it was and the sucker decides on a revenge game with me ! Me ? Me ! Just as I thought I put it right back in, the suckers heinously snaps in place with my thumb inside.. OOOOOOUUUUUUCCCHHHH!! The sucker really got even now. I yell and yell and my kids come running asking “Amma, are you ok?” The perfunctory question kids have learnt watching misleading movies. My wiggle my thumb out and let that sucker die inside the freezer to deal the rest with my husband. This is a man’s job after all!

While I clean the rest of the freezer, my fingers going numb, I crib about everything between the sky and the core of the earth. I go yada yada yada and even bring in how irresponsible the kids are about taking a bath. I really don’t know the connection, but I got choked up as well. I rattle and rattle and make so much noise. Both my kids very intelligently, stay away! Just as I lift the washed tray to go back into the fridge, I hit a glass and it shatters! Wow!! My elder son comes running and asks “What broke?”. He fetched the broom for me, silently watches me clean up. After about ten minutes he asks – what should I do? I tell him to clear the trash. He does it ever so obediently and promptly (on other occasions he needs a minimum of five reminders).

He comes back and waits another two minutes and extremely calmly asks – is there anything else I should do? I say no. And he asks so politely, “so now can I go back to doing my project?”

And I am stumped! At that precise moment I feel the growth of my baby into a mature youth who knows how to handle the situation.

Life lessons I learn everyday.

Parenting?

I have been lazy lately, to write. Some days there are thoughts that I want to note down and some days my mind draws a blank. When I really have to write it down, I put in Facebook and its done. I know that’s not a good thing. I need to write to get better at it. So let me collect some thoughts here everyday (I hope). My friends keep telling me to write, they go to the point of nagging me, which is a good thing. I while away scrolling through the colorful notes and pictures on Facebook and Instagram. Well that’s me. Have you faced situations where in your mind you want to change, but you just don’t do it. You are conscious of the fact that you are not making the change, and yet you don’t make the change.

I have been going through some parenting challenges lately. Parenting is the most difficult mental task one can undertake. You never know if you are right or wrong until many years later. My generation of parents I believe, is so hooked on doing it right and dreading the results that we miss this moment. We are constantly hounded by ‘what-ifs’. What if my child does this, or that, or turns out like this or like that. We don’t have enough faith in ourselves or in our judgement because we fret about the end result – when our children are like 20+ and need to walk on their own. The absolute moment when you leave your child’s hand and he/she walks out alone.

I always think, how did my parents do it? Anyways, with the recent challenges I learnt two things –

1. One baby step at a time – yes ‘baby’ step at a time. The key is breaking it down and taking one baby step at a time. The best analogy I have is the 5K training I attended. I got up from my couch and signed up for a 5K training. The training span was about 2 months. The task on day 1 was to run for a minute and walk for 19 minutes. Just one minute. As long as you stick to the plan, you will achieve the goal of running a 5K. Children are smart and can do many things at a time, but a behavior change has to be made one step at a time.

2. Its give and take – all the way. A parent child relationship can never be all-give or all-take. Never. It has to be give and take. Keeping that balance is the key to healthy parenting. They need to feel like a partner and not order takers. Do this, do that never works. Parents also have to mind their Ps’ and Q’s. In a recent conference call at work, someone reference to the parenting saying ‘Do as I say not as I do’. That never works. Children are naturally wired to ‘Do as I do’ rather than ‘Do as I say’. It is so important to do your part for them to do their part. I strongly believe, that the best environment for nurturing their innocence and help them grow into independent individuals is an environment of love. Where there is love, there is everything else. Love doesn’t mean agreeing with them all the time. Love means being with them, Love means listening to them, Love means taking interest in their everyday life. They go through struggles and challenges everyday. The challenges in an adult’s view are molecular but those are the child’s biggest issues. Obviously they don’t need to worry about a project deliverable or paying the bills. So the boy on the next table not sharing his toy is a big, big problem. I have read somewhere that the best thing you can give your child, is your time. I did not have this awakening as soon as my children were born. It took time.

There are many more essentials of parenting. These are what hit me in the last week. Many people have said this over and over that when babies are born, parents think maybe the next stage will be better. As we progress through the stages we realize the previous one was better. We reach the conclusion that newborn was the best. Change the diaper, feed the baby, swaddle and hold and that’s it. The rest of the issues are what you as a new parent needs to get used to.

From my parents life I know that they can never stop parenting. Even today I call my father and ask for guidance. He is parenting me to parent my children. Of all the roles I have played, the most challenging and the one I love most, is being Mom.

The year gone by…

New year is always an opportunity to reflect on the year gone by and renew the hope within you to possibilities and achieve something new. Technically January 1st is just another day, when you reset the calendar. But over the years this day has filled the human with what a system reboot does to the computer. You wash out the junk and temp files, and make the system ready for new transactions.

As I look at the year gone by, it was an eventful year. So many high points, and low ones too, and definitely some valuable lessons, retaught in life’s mysterious ways.

I ticked off a few items from my things-to-do-before-I-die bucket list, and some were direct blessings from above delivered to me through people I love.

All through my childhood years, my parents never owned a car. The lack of it didn’t have any impact on the quality of our life either. We walked, took an auto, rode the bus. The memories created during those walks, holding my parents hands, the endless chattering during those 2km walks from school or my father’s office were filled with stories from my father’s childhood or general knowledge about the world. I am so glad there were no mobile phones then, to intrude into our privacy. The paradox of today’s life is that we drive to the gym to walk!

So it was not until I got married that I owned a car. All credit goes to my husband for pushing me to learn driving. He virtually gave me a pair of wings. Fourteen years hence, we walked into the BMW showroom and bought our first BMW, a black sedan. Honestly, buying a car or even a BMW is no big deal in the US. You get auto loans at good rates, you can own any car you want. What makes it a blessing is knowing from where you came and where life has taken you. Counting your blessing and the luxuries that God has blessed you with. The icing of all of these blessings, was driving my father in the BMW, which was his first ride in a BMW! Truly blessed!

So, you have read blogs about my childhood years, the house I grew up in. My mother always complained that she never owned a house, until her final years when my brother and I together with our parents built a house in Wayanad. After listening to years and years of her grumbling for her own house, she looked so calm and at peace sitting in the front yard of the finished house. She looked like finally she was home. The memory fresh in my mind. Maybe I got this from her, but I always wanted to my own house and didn’t want to have it towards the tad end of my life. I wanted it during a time when I was healthy enough to maintain it. So thanks to my husband again, he bought us our first home. This house is many times the size of the house I grew up in. Again, what makes it special is knowing from where I came and where life has brought me. I now strive to create half as many good memories for my children in this large expanse of space, as my parents created for my brother and I. Again, blessed!

She is the first lady in my husband’s family I met. She welcomed me into the family with the warmest hug and a heart full of love. In all the fourteen years I have known her, she has only given love. Such selfless love, I have only read in books. She battled the worst illness during her final years and even in those times, she spread the warmth she had been blessed with. It was only befitting that she named our eldest son, Nitin. The nicest soul life introduced me to along the way, moved on to find her place in heaven. In that leaving, she redeemed me and blessed me for the years when she wouldn’t be around. Blessed to have been part of her loved ones!

Then my appa! The seventy year old, handsome fella who applies hair dye so carefully and wans to look young as he gets older. His bald head being the only obstacle. After years of nagging, he finally boarded the big bird and crossed the seas to come see America! He saw less of America, and just more and more of Walmart in Bentonville and rain and snow in Seattle. The six months he spent with my brother and I comes to an end this week. Yet having him with either of us is so much of a relief than when he is alone in Bangalore, where I call him everyday just to make sure he is okay. As he has got older he has developed some irritating habits like all old people do (which even I will, I am sure) but what he has done for me over all these years, is our personal story and is so important in shaping the person that I am today. So blessed to be born to him!

I always love spending time with my parents and sibling. We relive our childhood years, like everyone else. This maybe more important and dear for daughters who even partially adopt a different family strain through marriage. Being yourself with no strings attached is so endearing and happens only with your own parents and siblings. I got a week of this bliss when I went to Seattle to spend time with my brother and father. As I left Seattle there were underlying fears that I kept hitting down like whac-a-mole arcade game, yet the happiness of that one week is a treasure. Blessed to get that one week of me!

When you stay in a different country and miss your best friends often, getting even a 24 hour time period with them is a treat! 90% of the time is filled mostly with nonsense chatter, laughs, laughs and more laughs. At the end of the day the memory of that time brings a smile to your face. When life doesn’t offer you the best, this is where you huddle into, your punching bag, with no promises and explicit professing of the depth of the relationship. Its the knowing that they are which makes all the difference. The two nonsense-chatter people in my life have stayed on for sixteen years straight now. I can’t imagine my life without these two. Blessings!

Grandparents are a treasure. My children were blessed with another set of grandparents and their unlimited love throughout last year. My children are a bit more affectionate, softer, respectful because of the affection they were showered with by these grandparents. I am ever so grateful, that my children got this opportunity at love during these years of their life which will definitely play its part in the people they will become. Blessed again!

Letting go is difficult. Dipping myself in that cold water early in the morning, following the steps the priest dictated, putting rice and reciting those mantras supposedly frees my mother. It is not sadness or tears that I felt, its a frozen state accentuated by the dip. With my father beside me, its like she tied the bond a bee wit tighter. It was a low time, no doubt. But in the knowing that I was born to a fighter with a never-say-die attitude is the biggest blessing I have received. Her attitude to move on in spite of all obstacles is what she passed on to me. Blessed!

There were low times, but at the end of the day who wants to remember them. They are best let go. People whom I misjudged, people who helped you sail through during tough times, everything a blessing, a learning. There were days when there is no light at the end of the tunnel, just then the ray of hope shines in the form of a person or the inner strength or the force that helps go on. Through it all, God has been the invisible strength either directly or through people whom he placed in my life.

Yes, new year is a Ctrl+Alt+Del system reboot. Bring on the new challenges and blessings!

May 2017 be filled with blessings, again!