The boy turned 13

Last week, I completed 13 years as a mother in this world. Such a long span of time that went by in a whirl.

The son/kiddo/brat has turned into a fine young man, though he spends too much time in front of the screen. The bane for all parents in this age.

Having met his few teenage friends, I see how distant they are from their parents, with some hardly talking or spending very little time with them. I’m glad my son still hugs me every morning right after he wakes up. It is a very quiet hug, I am not supposed to say anything, rock him or sing or such. Lasts about a minute. I think of it as a recharge hug for both our souls. Early in the morning, before the screen sucks him in, we steal a minute to reassure ourselves of each other’s presence, to comfort ourselves with our mutual love for one another.

I get the occasional barbed response but overall he is a loving and kind soul. Sometimes a very witty, sarcastic and wise one. One night, a few years ago, I was tucking him in for bed. We talked some and somehow ended up on the subject of death. He turns to me and says, ‘Everyone has to die someday. Life is but a waiting game, a wait to die.’

Last week, he had snuggled up to me as we watched TV. Suddenly he says to me, ‘Every teenager is living 4 lives. One is their home life, second is their school life, third – life with their friends and fourth – a fantasy life – online gaming life.’

I didn’t know he had such crystal clear thoughts and could compartmentalize his life. In contrast, I was such a wreck as a teenager, riddled with anxiety, anger, fear and confusion with life.

Where I disappeared

It was one of those days….

When you finish sweeping the floors, you find more dirt hiding securely behind the door. Sigh..

Doing the laundry is a mammoth task, the more clothes you iron, the more they ooze out from the laundry box. It’s like those never-ending pieces of cloth that come out of the magician’s sleeve.

No matter how much you try to tidy up the house, it never appears clean; there are still more toys to pick up, another window pane to wipe down, another table to swipe!

Then there is grocery shopping where you have to drag your kid along with you. When you come out of the mart, it looks like you could feed off it for a month. Sadly it only last a week. Almost.

And all this work when done on a weekend seems like the rage of Gods or, wait, the signs of a well rested wife! Or a wife who, though physically present in the house looks blankly at you and is surprised at seeing all the mess that is around her. That’s me! I would rather describe myself as someone who can transport her mind to a faraway land (through her laptop) and is highly active and functional there (wherever that is) – the enchanted and mystical world that rests within the world wide web where my intellectual (!) insanity wanders everyday.

It started officially in January but I was hooked onto it since November last year. I think I already wrote a post on it but here it goes again. I signed up for a Massive Open Online Course (MOOC) which started in January and ended in March. Since then I joined six other moocs, left three of them and currently seriously doing three: The Modern and the Post ModernEnglish Composition I: Achieving Expertise and A Beginner’s Guide to Irrational Behaviour. And I have signed up for many more, one of them includes  Exploring Beethoven’s Piano Sonatas! Who would have thought I had such yearning for learning!

Thank god, her husband can cook! And clean. And do the laundry and did I mention grocery shopping?

So, how have you all been? 🙂

An experience in compassion

Yesterday husband, kiddo and I went out with my parents. It’s their last couple of days here and we just wanted to go around the city. We first went to the farmer’s market near the castle. After visiting the stalls and buying a few things here and there, we settled down to chit-chat with a cup of coffee.

A few minutes later, a young girl came up with her accordion box and started playing. On the inside of her box it was written, “Playing back student loan”. She played for some time smiling and nodding at the tourists and people passing by. No one played much attention to her though some people smiled back.

Girl playing accordion to pay back student loan

Then came a woman with her little daughter. She stopped in front of this girl. For a couple of minutes she explained something to her daughter in soft words often pointing at the girl with the accordion. She then took out a few quid and asked her daughter to put them into the box.

I was so much arrested with this scene. That moment epitomised for me the very essence of compassion and empathy. I am sure after that conversation the little girl will be able to experience and feel for others who are having a hard time. She will be able to imagine what it would be like to be in that person’s shoes.

I know my son is too small to have understood what all this was about and I am sure there are others ways in which I could teach him compassion. This incident was another lesson in compassion and I was thrilled to experience it especially after just having read Zephyr’s post about it.

Of parents and parenting

It started with the son going to playgroup – my regular interaction with toddlers and their parents who came to the same playgroup. In my 2 year stay here, I have come across people who have only appreciated the kiddo and have always had a kind word to say about him, ‘oh, how lovely, oh how sweet’ ‘oh he’s such a big boy’ ‘oh how well does he sing’ and so on. I was always stunned and somewhat humbled by their genuineness. It never seemed that they were deliberately appreciating my boy. Why would they? What’s in it for them? And they were all foreigners, I mean UK citizens. In the playgroup however, I came across some Indian kids and their mums. It was almost 2 weeks before my son happily settled in the playgroup and until that then I had to be with him during the entire time.

During those days, I always got support and encouragement from these other mothers telling me not to worry about it and that their kids were the same and it is very common for them to cry when they stay away from their mothers for the first time. There was never any criticism or cross word. Then, when my son had settled in, many new kids came along and I found myself telling these new ladies that it would be alright and not to worry. It was then that I came across this Indian lady whose husband incidentally worked at the same office as my husband’s. Her son took about a week to settle in and she used to stay there the entire time as I used to.

Initially we talked a lot about the general stuff, how long have you been here, life in Edinburgh, weather and our kid’s. Then one day when I went to collect my son, she makes this statement in a condescending manner, ‘Your son doesn’t have any snacks during their break.’ My first reaction was, ‘What does it have to do with you?’ but instead I replied, ‘It’s all right, he has a heavy breakfast.’ A couple of days later, she tells me, ‘Your son is still playing with the bike (even though it is time to tidy up and sit down for story time)’. Again I replied, ‘It’s all right!’ Then one day I was late for dropping off my son at the playgroup and this lady meets me halfway and smiles snidely and says, ‘You are late today!’ I mean WTF?

I mean who the hell is she to patronize me in this manner? Why can’t she mind her own business? She is not the playgroup leader or an administrator to criticise or discuss my son’s habits or behaviour. I was so angry that I was about to blast her then and there to mind her own business. Instead, I had a long talk with my husband to blow off the steam. The calm being superior to me in terms of patience and wisdom told me calmly that most probably I won’t be seeing this lady in a couple of months’ time when the son starts going to nursery school and I would probably never see her again. What does it matter what a stranger says? I agreed and calmed down but it was still lingering in the back of my mind and every time I saw her. I wondered whether I should make some nasty comments about her son just to give her a taste of her own medicine but her son is sweet and am not the kind of person who does such low things.

It got me thinking however, why do parents criticize other children or other parents to prove their own superiority? Do they think so lowly of their own children? Were they themselves treated in such manner when they were kids? Is this the only way in which they can prove their child’s calibre? Why do they always have to compare their own kids with others? Do they realise how this affects their child’s self-esteem?  What is their benchmark for such comparison? I have often seen extremes of these comparisons, some parents feel their munchkins are so adorable that they find all other kids beneath their own kids and wouldn’t mind stating so in public. The other extreme is to complain about your own kids to anyone and everyone who would listen. But I digress.

There is a concept in psychology – performance goals and mastery. Performance goals seek to demonstrate ability to others. Mastery goals on the other hand, seek to improve and learn. Mastery learning (ML) means students should master each learning unit before proceeding to a more advanced learning task. In ML, teachers evaluate students with criterion-reference tests rather than norm-reference tests.

Rather than getting into the technicalities of it, this site provides a fantastic example of mastery and performance goals.

‘Paris Hilton and Meryl Streep – they’re both famous actors, but they seem to have extremely different approaches to acting.  While Paris Hilton’s goals seem to be concerned with obtaining attention and fame, Meryl Streep’s goals seem to be about mastering her craft.’

Hilton Students vs. Streep Students

Many students approach education like Paris Hilton approaches acting: caring more about how others react to their actions and demonstrating their abilities to others than they care about learning. More people need to approach education like Meryl Streep approaches acting: caring more about learning and mastering than whether they look awkward or how they compare to those around them.

What made me go into all this learning psychology?  I know it is a farfetched comparison but I think this learning attitude is very similar to our attitude in life. We are content when we think we are doing comparatively better than our peers/neighbours/friends. People are more focused on winning, looking good and doing better than others. There is nothing wrong in wanting to do better and achieve in the world. But when this is achieved by disapproving and censuring others it is not victory in the just sense. Instead of finding faults in others it is important to focus on your own goals and achievements.

Rainbow at my window after a thunderous weekend and comfort books

The rains stayed well into the weekend with lightning, thunder and heavy showers but ended with a rainbow. This was the scene outside our drawing-room window when it finally ended.

Rainbow at my window
Every time see I rainbow, and believe me, I have spotted it a lot of time, I fall in love with this city all over again. I mean, back in Mumbai, how many times do you get a chance to relax and look out of your window at home, spot a rainbow and smile? I love this escape from my hectic life in Mumbai. I absolutely love watching rainbows with my son and I know this is one thing I will always remember about this city – the relaxed life and spotting rainbows with sonny. It is so very comforting.
Although I didn’t eat pakoras, this weather had me wrapped under a blanket with my favourite book – Pride and Prejudice. Almost all of us have our comfort reads..books that are on our shelf for keeps. Books that we go back to when we need a guaranteed entertainment.  

Pride and Prejudice
Image by elycefeliz via Flickr

Books that fulfill this function for me are any of Agatha Christie‘s and Pride and Prejudice. And sometimes we wish to watch a movie instead of reading a book. For me that would again be, P&P, the Colin Firth mini-series, Father of the Bride – both parts, Devil Wears Prada. Surely, you all must also have such lists. Tell me, which are your comfort books and movies?

The things on my mind…

It’s been seven months now in Edinburgh and to say that I have enjoyed my stay here is to put it very mildly. The place, the seasons, the sheer thought of living in such a picturesque country elevates my thoughts and puts me in a wonderful mood.

Even though winter is still on with winds and cold, the days are getting longer and there’s just something bright in the air; I can’t quite put a name to it, but everyday I wake up it feels like spring will be here soon. And I can hardly wait to experience it!!

In this short span of time, I have experienced many a things that will go down in memory lane as “kodak moments”, autumn, the first snowfall, visits in Cambridge, Norwich, Bury St. Edmunds (which reminds me that I still have to put up that post about our trip on christmas and new year). These small towns are so beautiful and have so much character. I could have spent days there just walking around all over the town, sipping coffee in the small stylish cafes. It just felt completely like home.

Another most important reason perhaps why I am enjoying it this much is because am spending time with my family, specially with my son. In this short span of time he has achieved so many milestones of his own and that in itself is some feat; but being there the very first moment is heaven – the first walk, the first words, the first run. What pure magic it is to see your own child grow in front of your eyes rather than have someone else tell you at the end of the day when you return half dead, tired from office. These moments would never have been the same.

I know I won’t be with him throughout the day once I go back to India, but am here now during his very early formative years and that would help him immensely. He has not yet started throwing tantrums and is quite easy-going and calm but is quite assertive in many situations. I think it’s a good sign though it’s too early to judge. He does lack peer engagement but his school will start soon and am quite eager to observe him behave in that environment.

Making him independent is my main goal with him. He already helps me a lot in my household activities and seems very pleased with himself when he does so, unloading the dishwasher is a favourite and so is tidying up his toys after play. He is too small to allow him to cook but am sure when he is old enough he will be quite a lot of help in the kitchen. He also loves carrying things for me. He will  take out the dry laundry from the dryer, pick up my cell phone if it’s ringing and will give it to me. He can’t actually put out the clothes to dry but today he put a wet hanky on the chair and was grinning afterward to show what a great achievement it was. He loves to do different things everyday and quite often is successful in his effort. He knows his mind so far, haven’t seen him cranky or confused except when he was ill. Though he hasn’t started speaking a lot, he understands almost everything that we say. Commendable for a twenty month old, eh?

This post has turned into a mamma post which was quite unintentional but you got to say whats on your mind and that’s just the tip of where am coming from!

A long day

She woke up with a start. 7:30 a.m. God, she was late again. The alarm clock had failed her.. again. She had an important meeting with client at 9. Would she reach office in time? There would be traffic! She rushed to the bathroom. She thought about what she should wear for her meeting today. A saree? no, the new trousers she had purchased over the weekend. That would be it. After getting dressed she rushed to the kitchen. It was already past 8. She packed a sandwich, she could have it on her way. She grabbed her car keys, mobile, laptop and was out of the house.

Just when she was about to open her car door, the alarm went off. She woke up with a start. It was only 5 a.m. She had to wake her kids up for school. She had to prepare food for their tiffin. Then she had to make breakfast and pack her husband’s lunch. Then she remember her maid was on leave. Oh god, all the washing and cleaning… It was a long day ahead…

Happy Birthday

She shut her eyes against the strong winds. There was a chill in the air. The snow all around had almost blinded her. The freezing air had made it difficult for her to breathe. The blizzard cut through her skin which now started bleeding. She wondered whether she could survive this.

She took one deep breath and opened her eyes…

…lush dark green blankets of grass and beds of flowers filled her vision…tender sunshine caressed her skin and warmth filled her heart…she breathed in the scented roses and the wildflowers…and smiled..


Back to work

I am back to work after five months. Not much has changed including the fact that I don’t have any work. I am into a project but my role isn’t defined. Even the client has no idea what I am supposed to do or what they want from me. This project is different from my field and if I do get to work in it, then it won’t be my usual tasks and activities. I do not really want this but then I don’t have an option.

Sitting idle all day is getting very difficult since I haven’t done it in a long time and now with the baby along, I am used to having my hands full. It’s a big bore and a mental and physical drain since I miss my baby all day as is obvious. I cannot stay back home and wait till my work starts, I need to be present in the office in front of my machine incase anyone contacts me.

The only motivation to come to the office is the canteen. I never thought I would be saying this but I keep looking forward for lunch break and snacks break since I arrive in the morning.

My MIL assures me that my son is doing well without me and that he doesn’t trouble much and eats and sleeps well. He is doing well, but not me. Missing him is terrible and the real delight is to experience the toothless smile and the flapping of hands when he sees me on returning home. I wonder whether a five month old is capable of missing his mother and feeling sad, whether that emotion is developed in him. Still, am satisfied to see him smiling when he sees me.

In the past couple of weeks, I have seen a tremendous growth in him. He has started rolling over like a spring. The moment I put him on his back, the next moment I find him on his stomach with his head held high like that of a snake. He also claps his hands and if given rattles, he bangs them together to create a clatter.Just yesterday, when he couldnt find the rattles, he held both his feet in his hands and slammed them together but unfortunately that didn’t make any noise and he soon lost interest in it.

He needs his space and takes his own sweet time to mix with people. He is social only with select people he knows. However he will make an exception and will come to you if you are to carry him around and show him new things specially the greenery. As I said, he is a nature lover. Trees are his favourite. He howls and cries in his sleep which puts me on a high alert and am up and awake to rock him and put him back to sleep only to find him fast asleep. Gargling and purring are his signs when he has had enough food. He will gargle and eventually spit out when he is full and that’s his way of telling you to stop. But he will not stop crying and bringing down the house when he’s hungry and won’t stop till mommy puts the feeding appendage into his mouth. He is such a sweet kid, that he doesn’t much like th tonics that I give him; the displeasure is clearly written on his face, however he gulps it down and never throws up. His antics are very pleasing and funny at the same time specially when he tries to crawl ahead by putting his head down and pushing forward. He doesn’t have much patience for he starts yelling after a few failed attempts at his task.

I never imagined myself to be a working mother for I myself hated it when my mother used to go to office when I was a kid. I always imagined to be a at-home mom available for my child who almost wouldn’t do without me. But then God smirked and Destiny happened. Finding a work-home balance is a tough task and I am realising that by each passing, I would rather opt to see my son growing than to work for people whose faces I haven’t seen. Thirty forty years from now, I won’t recall how I grabbed a project with a successful client call or on which day I received an appreciation mail from the client, I would most definitely remember the first time my son smiled at me, the first time he rolled over, his first words. The time spent idly with loved ones builds better relationships and makes for best memories.

Weird Dreams

As you all know (well, all those who read my blog!), I haven’t been doing much lately. Nothing at all, really. Just sitting around idly twiddling my fingers and swatting flies, no, no, I don’t swat flies, cause there aren’t any here. My mind has become lazy but then only during the day. It goes into a hyper active mode though sub-consciously during the night. Yes, I have been getting these weird dreams lately. I have been dreaming a lot. Or maybe I always used to dream a lot and now I can remember them all. Sometimes it’s the same dream repeating frame by frame and I know what’s coming. And other times, it’s something very weird, not totally out of this world but very uncharacteristic. My dreams are vivid, colourful and very weird. Here are a few of them:

  • I am riding with my father on his scooter on a road near our house and at a turn the scooter slips and I fall on my back and hurt my head. It’s one of the dreams that I have been getting since I was a small kid. I don’t know what that means. Maybe it means that my life is controlled by him and that hurts me somehow!
  • I am living in this huge hotel with doors and rooms close to each other and there is someone out there who wants to kill me. I never see that person upfront just lurking around the corner somewhere and I run scared around the hotel everytime I see him. I am constantly in fear while staying at this hotel. This dream is probably inspired by one of those Agatha Christie books that I have read a lot. I don’t know its significance. I don’t get this one frequently, it just stayed with me somehow.
  • I am travelling on this huge ship which is just too huge. Maybe like the Titanic. This ship is cruising in deep vast sea which has huge, giant waves. This sea somehow has huge sharp-end rocks and every time the ship dips into the huge waves, I fear it will get hit on some rock and I will die. This ship is sailing at breakneck pace taking in huge amounts of water. Everyone else on the ship seems to be oblivious to this fact and are enjoying and I am standing somewhere on the top from where I can see the giant waves and the rocks. I have been getting this dream a lot recently. I think it’s inspired from Titanic and The Perfect Storm.
  • This one is the icing on the cake. It starts with a party at my house. I am having a large number guests at home. In the middle of the party, the police arrive with an arrest warrant. And guess who is it for. It’s for my sweet old little grandmother. She is sitting at corner having her ice cream. The warrant says that my grandmother is charged for assisting the terrorists in all those bomb blasts. That she supplied them with the bombs. We all get baffled by this, but my grandmother is just sitting in a corner quietly. We ask the police to give us some time to confront with her and they agree. We question her and she breaks down. She says that she didn’t want to do all this illegal thing but she was forced to do so. We wonder what is it that would force her to do something like this. We then get a call by some terrorist (?) saying that my grandmother is used to taking drugs (???) such as cocaine and is addicted to it. And that they blackmailed her saying they would inform her family about this unless she helped them. That’s it. This is where it ends.

I fail to understand how my mind could cook up stuff like this. But am sure it would make a very interesting storyline if I extend on each of these dreams, especially the last one.