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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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……..?

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…

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!!