A proud mommy moment (or a mean mommy moment, it is a matter of perspective, really)

The day started awfully! For once I had planned to do something with the kids, on their day off from school. I was going to surprise them with a movie and a lunch out. This, you have to understand, is a big deal for my deprived children. I never make plans to go to museums, aquariums etc on their off days. They play, read, write, lounge around or work. I only oblige when they request a trip to the library. So today was going to be special. I was happy to imagine their surprised faces. But…..the day started off badly with bickering, a lot of bickering. I tried to mediate by saying, ‘Make good choices, we are going to watch a movie and go out for lunch! Bad behavior will take the privilege away!’ ‘Really?? Awesome!!! All of a sudden, peace prevailed….for a while!

Half an hour before we were about to leave, a huge fight, complete with pushing, shoving, kicking, screaming, broke out. Instead of refereeing  a ‘he kicked me’,  ‘she tackled me to the ground’ sort of verbal boxing match, I calmly said, ‘I am so sorry guys, the movie is off!’ Complete silence and disbelief! Sahana has trouble saying sorry, her defiant comment was ‘Fine!’ Ryan gulped down the tears quickly and said, ‘I am sorry, we can go now, I am calm!’ We didn’t go, it was disappointing for all three of us since I was looking forward to the movie as well. But we had a wonderful conversation followed by a group hug! They listened to my reason  for taking away the movie privilege – if we make bad choices, there are consequences. I asked them to tell me honestly what they did wrong that morning, without blaming each other. They did. Ryan apologized to Sahana for initiating the fight, Sahana said sorry for losing her temper and pinning him down. I said I was very sorry for taking away a fun morning but I hoped they understood my reason for doing so.  They both agreed I had made the right choice! Phew! Close save from being termed the ‘mean mom’ (they probably thought that in their minds, didn’t verbalize it for fear of getting into trouble)!

We had a group hug and promised to try the fun outing on a next school holiday! It was a proud moment for me as a mother for several reasons. I didn’t lose my temper, I was so tempted NOT to follow through with the consequence (darn, I really wanted to watch the movie) but stuck with it (it was hard) but most importantly, the children accepted the punishment as a result of their action. They didn’t sulk or get angry, they said they messed up, next time, they will make a better choice! That’s the whole point, isn’t it? I have to say, their crestfallen faces made me feel like a scrooge. I hate to disappoint them, giving in is so easy! I also think this post is not going to make me very popular with my family and friends, is it?


You are having a boy!

Five year old Sahana was sitting at the ultra sound technician’s office with eyes tightly shut! We were about to find out the gender of the baby in my tummy, and Sahana wanted none of it. She wanted a baby sister and she wanted it to be a surprise! The nice technician said she was not going to say it out loud, but write it for us. When we found out, we told her she could open her eyes. She immediately demanded to know the sex of the baby! So much for keeping her eyes shut. Her face fell when she found out. A boy??? Eewwwwww!

Five years old in a beautiful, magical world.

I didn’t feel quite the same way, yet, I have to admit, the word boy sounded ominous for a second. Being an only child, and having parented a girl, I was ready for another one. But what did I know about boys? How would I ever relate? Sean kept reassuring me, boys are easier, and I tried to feel calm about parenting a rowdy boy! Poor Ryan never had a chance, I had already labeled him, before he was born.

Ryan turned out to be a laid back, sweet baby with the exuberance of a puppy. He loved rolling around in the grass, sliding on smooth surfaces scaring his mother that he will have no knees left by the time he is ten, romped around making loud scary sounds but also spent hours in his world of imagination with action figures and toy cars.

A smiley boy, most of the times.

Parenting a boy and a girl has had its unique joys and challenges, for sure. The girl is verbal, shares stories…..unasked. I can easily put my arms around her in a crowded mall. She puts her arm around my waist and gives me a squeeze back. She has no problem being affectionate in public, but not the boy. If I put my arm around him in public I can feel his little body stiffen. His face goes red if I kiss him in front of his friends. Yet in the privacy of our home, he sits on my lap, we cuddle as he either reads a book or tells me stories of his life…. when asked. I live for those moments.

Sahana, as a little girl, lived in the world of ‘what if’s. Life was a beautiful, magical journey and she was full of joy and wonder of it all.  Mostly I marveled at her imagination, sometimes I did say, “One more what if, then we will talk about something else!” Ryan is philosophical and pragmatic. He likes to think of profound thoughts like is God real even though He doesn’t have a mom and dad. Or what were the bad guys thinking when they flew two planes in the twin towers in New York! I mean what is the point in killing themselves and thousands and thousands of people. They made a very, very bad choice, indeed. He went a step further and called them ‘stupid’ with my permission.

Sahana’s school stories mainly were of academics, grades, school projects, girl dramas and crushes as she got older. And she is… let’s just say she can make a career as a thespian if things don’t work out as an anthropologist. Ryan’s stories of school generally revolve around two main ideas – recess and lunch. Last year, if asked what  he liked most about school, he answered….. you guessed it, recess and lunch. This year physical education has found a place in his heart. I eagerly wait for math and reading to be included there somewhere…hasn’t happened yet! He seems blissfully unaware of any slights against him. “So and so told me not to sit next him today because I talk too much and he wanted to have a quiet bus ride!” “Did that make you feel bad?” I asked anxiously, ready to wrap him in my arms and wipe some tears. His surprised response was ‘Why?’ Ohhhh! Because…….

Ryan  gave a reason for not talking to girls much, lately. He loves, or rather loved, playing with girls. He defended them when other boys said “Girls are disgusting.” His line was “Girls are not disgusting, your mom is a girl, do you think she is disgusting?” He came up with that on his own. So when I saw my champion defender of little girls not talking about them any more, I was curious. “Don’t you play with girls?” I asked. I loved that he stood up for his girl friends. He mostly ignored my question for as long as he could , finally he couldn’t withstand my interrogation (not many people can) and ‘fessed up, “I get cool stuff from the boys, they talk about real things. Girls talk too much about ‘what if’s!” He summed it up for me, the difference between parenting a boy and a girl. They balance my world, both the ‘what if’ and the ‘real’!

Joy to the world.....somewhat fleeting.

The Japanese song.

Music obviously moves her.

I need to write a little bit of the background before I launch into the story. I am ashamed to admit my children do not have great taste in music. They have atrocious taste. I didn’t listen to classical music when I was pregnant with them, like all the good pregnancy books said I should. I listened to Hindi pop songs instead and now I am paying the price. After the candid confession, just one piece of advice to would-be moms, turn on that Beethoven, pronto, if you don’t want to be listening to Katy Perry and Eminem for a greater chunk of your life. Not that there is anything wrong with those singers, it’s just not my kind of music. Since these songs(noise) are ingrained in my brain, I hum them occasionally as I go about my chores till a gleeful, gloating voice calls out ‘Huh, you are singing Britney Spears mom! That’s our music! Haha!” Oh yes, there is certainly an imaginary line drawn between their music and our music. And sometimes when I cross the line  it is like crossing over to the Dark Side,  like I would be summoning the Death Eaters, momentarily! Tracy Chapman, however, is our neutral zone, along with a handful of others. On long car rides, we all can agree to sing ‘TALKIN’ ‘BOUT A REVOLUTION SOUNDS…..like a whisper…’! Thank goodness for small mercies!

For a while, it was country music. A lot of tractors, guns, trucks, finding ticks on girlfriend’s body (not kidding, there is a song of that nature by Brad Paisly, look it up) till Ryan started talking with a distinct Southern drawl. After the country music phase, Sahana and Ryan got obsessed with Rihanna’s S&M song. The refrain goes something like this…(in case you are not a Rihanna fan)

’cause I may be bad, But I’m perfectly good at it
Sex in the air, I don’t care, I like the smell of it
Sticks and stones may break my bones
But chains and whips excite me.

Now, I don’t pay much attention to the songs that kids listen to. Yes, I admit, that is negligent parenting at its best. When they ask me to turn on the radio in the car, I turn it on to their station, heave a sigh of relief that I won’t have to hear ‘she looked at me the wrong way’ or ‘he is reaching out and touching me’ . One day, I heard my kids singing along with this particular song and I almost hit the brakes!!! Sahana, having had the talk on ‘birds and bees’ was either humming the ‘sex’ part or using the word ‘muffin’ instead of ‘sex’! Young Ryan didn’t care, he was screaming ‘Sex in the air…….excite me!’ I felt like a complete failure as a mother. I failed to instill good taste for music in my children! They are grooving to the beat of ‘chains and whips excite me’! They will not grow up as cultured music aficionados. Oh, the sorrow! I quickly changed the station to sports and was accosted by a combined shriek of “Mom….that was like our favorite song! Can you please turn it back???” “No, sorry! My turn to listen to the Orioles update!” I don’t even like the Orioles anymore. They lose almost every single game.

...and moves him.

These days they listen to a band called Mindless Behavior. Don’t you love the name? Now that I think about it, I believe they relate to the name of the band ‘Mindless Behavior’ more than their songs, but what do I know? Anyway, this band, Mindless Behavior is made up of four sweet, thirteen year old boys who have extremely fun dance moves. The song that my kids love is ‘Where is Mrs Right? I want to meet her, travel all across the world just to see her….!’ The music video shows a Geography class, the geography teacher pulls down a map to teach the kids about different countries. All of a sudden, our four, young friends feel the need to go to Switzerland, Japan etc to look for Mrs. Right…..at age thirteen!!! My kids have been singing this song non-stop. They sing four lines, and then start from the beginning and sing those four lines again, and again and again and….till I scream “STOP THAT, NOW!!!”. When she sees poor Mom has reached her limit for tolerance, Sahana quickly puts on Yo Yo Ma to calm my nerves. It works.

But my husband doesn’t get to hear the various renditions of this song since he is mostly at work or traveling. So the other day, we were coming back from some sporting activity, the kids started singing the dreaded song of finding Mrs. Right! It would be tough for me to really write down how they sang the song but I will try.

Where is Mrs.Riii I gotta see haaaaa(her)
Travel all acos (across) the wol (world) jus (just) to mee’ (meet) haaa (her)
Get me on a fliii (flight) I gotta see haaaa
Travel all acos the worl’ jus’ to mee haaa.
Travel to LA and maybe to the Bay,
Come to Chi-Town, she mi’ (might) be out the states,
Book a fliii to London, book a fliii to France,
Cawe (Can we) go to Switzerland, cawe (can we) hit Japan?

After hearing mee haaa, see haaa, and the word Japan a few times, Sean, his chest puffed up with fatherly pride, asked me with sweet innocence, ‘Wow, they are singing a Japanese song? Where did they learn that?’ Amidst the cacophony that they themselves were creating, this comment was heard by the singers. Indignation, disbelief! Is daddy for real? A torrent of words like this followed, ‘Dad, what do you mean Japanese? It is a hit song from Mindless behavior, you don’t know anything about modern music…..’ and it went on and on. I sat back, relaxed and let the spouse take the beating! Oh, honey! You need a crash course in modern pop music that your children listen to. Can you please drive them around to their activities….. at least for a week?

Best of both the worlds.

I have made a resolution that I will see the glass half full from now on.  No more of the Eeyore attitude for me. I haven’t complained about the winter this year, not once. The fact that this was the mildest winter ever, is beside the point. So when I threaten Ryan that he won’t be taken to his basketball game till he writes one page of his journal and threaten Sahana to confiscate the Complete Works of Jane Austen if she doesn’t go outside the house for an hour, I tell myself I get to experience the best of both the worlds. The fact that Ryan writes three lines and fills the page with illustration and that Sahana goes outside and blows dandelion seeds all over the yard instead of running and getting some exercise is also beside the point.

Sahana is a natural athlete who doesn’t care for activities that take her away from her books. Her punishment for bad behavior is taking away her reading privilege for an evening. She got in trouble for reading in class while the teacher was teaching. She got in trouble with her parents on numerous ocassions for not responding when called or for ignoring her chores because she was lost in a book. Her friends tell me Sahana walks the halls of school with her nose in a book. Her media
teacher, upon hearing I was Sahana’s mother said, ‘Oh, Sahana!!! She doesn’t just read, she devours books!’

Ryan eats, sleeps and dreams sports. He is worried what his decision is going to be when BOTH pro football and pro baseball teams come to recruit him. He took pity on his anti football mother and said he will ultimately choose baseball, that is after winning gold medals in swimming in the Olympics. He rushes through his homework so he gets ten minutes to throw the ball around before he goes for swim practice. He gets one of his sporting activities taken away if he doesn’t read a book or doesn’t write a few sentences. I sigh when I think I had once complained about Sahana’s reading habits. But, since I am done being an Eeyore, I tell myself these two show me the world from both sides of the spectrum. I am actually lucky!

I often hear from people that both my kids are really good, polite, respectful. While I thank them profusely for their kind words, I wonder in my mind why do I not see what the outside world sees, what am I missing? I know, in my heart, they are good kids but they bring out the worst in each other. I worry how their relationship will be when they grow up. Being an only child, I don’t feel I fully understand the sibling relationship. But again, since I am done being Eeyore I focus on the moments when Ryan uses up all his good behavior stamps in school to ‘buy’ two gifts for his sister and one gift for himself, and Sahana saves the last slice of pizza so Ryan can have the leftover the next day. I recently read a book called ‘Get out of my life but could you drive Cheryl and me to the mall first?’ by Anthony Wolfe where he says chances are your child is going to grow up to be the kind of adult that the world percieves him/her now. If that is true, my children will be all right. I am taking that argument and running with it. As I said, I am an Eeyore no more.

The risk takers.

Ryan recently wrote his first blog about sports and ended it with a sentence “After all, what is life without risk?” One of my dear friends, after reading his blog wanted to know what risks he had taken in his life thus far. Like a good publicist, I forwarded the question to the almost seven year old author, and smiled at him patronizingly expecting him to shrug and say ‘I don’t know!’ I thought he had written that line because it sounded good as a conclusion to his blog. He was quiet for a while and then came up with this “When Mrs._ asks us the spelling of a word I don’t know, I hear the sounds and try to guess the spelling. I raise my hand to give it a try, I take a risk then! My teacher always praises us for taking risks. When I balance on a log to go across a stream, I get scared I may fall, but I still try. And when I can do it, I feel very good about myself. That is taking risk. I didn’t know if I could swim a mile in the swim team practice, but I volunteered to do it anyway. I took a risk. Are these good examples?” I was amazed. These are not just good examples, they are great examples.

Taking risks begin when they let go of our fingers for the first time and enter the gates of preschool. What a huge risk that is, to leave the comfort of mom, home and everything familiar for the first time to go to a structured environment of work and play. Taking risks doesn’t
stop there, every new thing they try in their young lives is taking a chance, be it answering a question they are not sure about, in front of a room full of peers, diving off the block in the deep end of the pool, walking the halls of dreaded middle school at age eleven or navigating through the rocky roads of adolescence. But they do it, fearfully at first, and then with confidence, taking chances and growing a little bigger with each success.

I was happy he didn’t turn around and ask me “What risk are you taking in your life, Mom?” I wouldn’t have an answer for him. What chances am I taking these days? My partner in crime is trying to make a difference in the world, I tell myself I am keeping his world together so he can do his job well. That is my contribution to the world, vicariously, but that doesn’t seem convincing enough in my own mind any more.

I am considering bungee jumping on my next birthday. And just so you know, I am afraid of heights.

..and then the war began.

In our family, a major war begins with a simple nudge, an innocent poke or a certain look. The parents planned a family walk through the woods on a nice winter morning. It started off pleasantly, with good cheer but didn’t last. I documented the fight instead of mediating.

Starting the walk, with grumpy faces.
Getting along.
Sibling love. Parents heaving a sigh of relief. The walk was a good idea, after all.
Oh, the smiles.
All in fun...still.
Do I detect a frown?
Ryan is not too sure...
Target Daddy but cracks forming in the wall of solidarity.
Getting serious.
Prior to being pushed into a pricker bush - unintentional.
Being pushed into the above said pricker bush.
Grumpy face 1.
Grumpy face 2 who wouldn't let me take a closer shot.

Choose civility.

Most people who know me will agree that I am an easy person to get along with. Well, I hope they will agree and not call me delusional. I am polite, I hold the door for people, I always make eye contact and smile at people I know, and sometimes I think I know! I obey traffic rules, make a complete stop at stop signs, blink my lights at the other car to let it go first. You get the picture.

I just have trouble with two kinds of people, though. Sneaky drivers who try to steal my parking spot and power outlet hogs. I take my kids swimming at our local Y, and since people are very gung-ho about their new year’s resolution these days, they arrive in droves to the gym at our YMCA. Good for them, I say. Go people, I want you all to be healthy and happy. But don’t take up all the parking in the facility!  Carpool, for crying out loud. When poor, harried, often late mothers like me are rushing to get their children to swim practice, there is no parking to be had!!! So I become a stalker. I zero in on an unsuspecting soul and follow him/her around the parking lot. As soon as people come out of the gym, they flip out their smart phones while walking to their cars and start telling their facebook friends which machines they did that day and how many calories they burnt. Hey, I am not judging anybody, I probably would have done the same….. if I had a smart phone. What I am saying is, I actually have had people lift up their heads from this important task of maintaining virtual connection with friends via phones to give my minivan dirty looks. You have to admit, that’s something. Some sweet souls, however, sometimes signal me where they are parked and I bless them from the bottom of my heart. Since I always have that “Oh I am so late” expression on my face, I think other moms feel my pain. I have got that sad, frustrated look down pat! On one particular day, I got lucky. A woman, going to her car, signaled to me that she was leaving and I could have her spot. I, with a gleeful wave to her, followed immediately and put my blinkers on, waiting for her to pull out. Putting the blinkers on in these cases, is very important. It gives out the important message to other parking spot predators that you have made your kill, nobody should even think about invading your territory. As the nice woman pulled out, I saw another harried mom like me trying to sneak in to MY parking spot. Oh no, you don’t! I thought angrily! I had been circling the parking lot for at least six and a half  minutes, my kids were bickering in the car with each other and taking turns  to whine that they were late for practice, can I please hurry up and park!! Moreover, Ryan has this terrible habit of shrieking “There is one!” startling me and giving me false hope. I had already yelled at them twice. I was angry, frazzled and LATE!!! So before she could make her move I pressed  my accelerator to give it an extra oomph, charged in to claim what I considered mine. I had my blinkers on, for Pete’s sake! Once I got my spot, I immediately felt bad for her. She probably had some bickering, whiny kids in her car giving her a hard time for not finding a parking where there was none to be found! I thought I should find her and give her my advice to stalk innocent gym rats, but didn’t. She wasn’t probably too happy with me right then.

The other kind of people who bug me are power outlet hogs in airports, hospitals or other public places. There is definitely a dearth of  outlets in these places to begin with. If I find one, I almost shout ‘Eureka’ out loud. Some folks miraculously find them and go on to claim two of the elusive outlets, one for their phones and one for their laptops or tablets. While I go around from one end of the facility to another desperately looking for one so my precious kids can play Angry Birds or read e-books. In cases like these, I often feel like standing in front of one of these unthinking folks and tapping my feet in annoyance. But  I don’t. I remember the ‘Choose Civility’ car sticker I picked up from our local library and proudly displayed on my car! Instead, I run around some more!