Mom, please behave so daddy doesn’t divorce you!!!


Ryan’s first grade class seems to be a hotbed for romance lately! Wonder what it is? Spring? Anyway, we are getting loads of information at dinner table on crushes, love, couples and singles. And I plan to enlighten you on all those topics. So here goes.

Crushes are ‘when you are in love with somebody but that person doesn’t know about it.

Love is when both parties know that they love each other.

Mommy and daddy are a couple whereas Sahana and Ryan are still single, but when they grow up they will find someone and become couples.

And lately, we have been talking about divorces….a lot. One of Ryan’s friend’s parents got divorced recently, and the friend has to move out-of-state with one of the parents. This incident has hit my boy….. hard. He has started asking me, often, if his dad and I plan to divorce in the near future. If so, what will happen to him and Sahana!

I share a wonderful relationship with my spouse, we hardly have disagreements except when we are rooting for our football teams. At that point, all bets are off. Its war! But, other than that, I never disagree with him provided he always agrees with me:)! Fortunately, we seem to share a lot of similar ideas on different issues that are important to us and there is hardly a discord that doesn’t get solved with a little bit of ‘talking it out!’ Hence, I was baffled by Ryan’s insecurity. Interestingly enough, he always asks ME not to disagree with dad, so dad doesn’t leave us.

A couple of nights ago, I decided to take them for a treat at a frozen yogurt place. Sean was not too much in favor of the adventure since it was late and they had whined a bit. But I had promised them earlier, so I decided to take them anyway. Ryan was stressed the entire car ride. I could tell he wasn’t enjoying himself. Finally, he asked me, “Mom,
do you think Dad will divorce you now, that you took us out when he didn’t want you to?” If I wasn’t driving, I would have wrapped him in my arms and kissed his fears away.

So I did the next best thing, we talked about it. I told him sometimes grown ups don’t get along, they decide to go their separate ways, but they always love their children. That never goes away. And it is never the children’s fault that parents divorce. The grown ups sometimes feel they need to live separately to be happy. But his daddy and I get along just fine and we will not get divorced.

Just out of curiosity, I wanted to know why he always thought daddy will go away since sometimes moms make that decision too. He pondered upon it for a while and said “You are nice!” I knew he couldn’t express his feelings since Sean, for him, is definitely the preferred parent. Sahana summed it up for him. She said, “I think daddy travels a lot, we don’t get to see him much, but you are always with us, you do everything for us, so we can’t see you just leaving us and going away. But since daddy is away a lot, it is easier for us to think dad can leave!”

When we stopped at the yogurt place, Ryan got out of the car, still somber and thoughtful and said, “If you guys do get divorced, I will go with whoever will take me!” My heart just about broke. I got a glimpse into the mind of a child who may be in the middle of a divorce or a custody battle. What torment that young mind goes through – the insecurity, fear, guilt, incomprehension of the grown up world.

I try my best not to trivialize their fears or mortifications. Although they sometimes seem meaningless in our adult world, they are very real in their world! I try to address the fears and try to find an answer (operative word here being TRY)! We do the usual catching the nightmares in a box and emptying it outside, opening closet doors and checking under beds to make sure no errant monster is lurking. When all fails, we sing praises of the monsters and talk about how adorable they are. Who doesn’t love Elmo and Grover? So I dealt with this fear the usual way – talked, reassured! Unfortunately, the fear of monsters are slowly but steadily giving way to fears of more tangible things in life, like poverty, divorces, animal cruelty, abuse, and finally, the huge mystery of death. Ryan is slowly becoming cognizant of the fact that there is a lot of sadness juxtaposed with the happiness in this world. In life, there are a lot of uncertainties, lot of insecurities. He is looking around him and he is not seeing a bed of roses. This loss of innocence is inevitable, I know. I cannot save him from this, probably shouldn’t try to either. But what I can and will do is assure him that his dad and I will try our best to be anchors in his life, TRY our best to keep the real sadness at bay for him. We will do everything in our power to give him a rose garden, but still there will be those occasional thorns in his path. We will hold his hand and help him bypass those, on his way to the grown up world, till he himself is ready to let go of our fingers.

‘You are such a mountain goat!’ My husband’s idea of romance!


Sean has been talking about taking the family hiking on the Old Rag mountains for a few months now, and I, of course, have been stalling. It’s not that I don’t like hiking, I love it, but on the plain surface, by a beautiful river or through the woods. Not any more labor intensive than that! But spring break came around and this guy went berserk on me. Things got so bad that he would dream of Old Rag and scream ‘Old Rag Mountain, here we come’ in his dreams. No, that didn’t happen, I am exaggerating a bit!

Anyway, he started talking more and more about it, he got the kids riled up, it was 3 against one. I gave in. The enthusiasm was slightly scary. I asked him if he planned to take me up and push me off a cliff to collect the insurance. He denied, he said he had no such plans. I was safe…for the moment. He played his trump card, ‘Think of all the pictures you will get from up top!’ I was sold.

I showed my utter indifference to the whole process by not making sandwiches or packing any snack. That was not just laziness, I was making a point. He didn’t mind or take heed, he made everything himself. He just dragged me off the bed at 4:00 am and we were off!

Once we arrived and saw the sun rising, I grudgingly admitted it was a good idea, after all. But I was still very concerned about my physical ability to make the climb – 3291 feet elevation, of which, one mile was pure boulder hopping.

I did just fine and enjoyed myself immensely. In his excitement, that his plan was successful and the wife was actually having a good time, Sean gushed, “Kids, who knew your mom was such a mountain goat, huh?” I was panting hard the first time so I let the comment slide. But after a particularly difficult phase of rock climbing, he said it again, “My mountain goat of a wife!” Then I let him have it! I told him, in no uncertain terms, that I didn’t think calling his wife a ‘mountain goat’ will earn him any brownie points. In fact, that is not romantic at all, he could call me nimble-footed, fit, athletic…something along that line. But mountain goat is the limit. Can’t take it! I will dream of myself sprouting four legs, two cute horns, a beard and jumping around mountains. Ughh! Shudder! He back tracked quickly and said things like, “You always under-estimate your ability. See, this was a piece of cake for you. You are in awesome shape!” etc etc. That mollified me a bit. We walked a total of 8 miles round trip. And labeled my two children as the toughest cookies ever.

Sunrise through the woods.
Moving on.
A view mid way.
Rolling hills.

Looks like we made it!

Changing the world….


While walking the streets of Kolkata with my American boyfriend I mentioned once, ‘When you live with a problem it ceases to be one. I have seen people sleeping on the sidewalks since I was born, I don’t notice them anymore!’ On retrospect, it was such an insensitive comment to make. Sean stopped walking and turned around to face me. ‘I don’t ever want you to get used to people sleeping on the sidewalk. If you get used to it, how will you strive to change it and make it better?’ I knew then, this is the man I want to spend my life with.

I have not done anything to change the world in a major scale. I support my husband’s endeavor to make a difference in the world. I like to think, I am helping by keeping his world together while he does his job. But I also like to think I am doing my part by TRYING to raise two little humans to be worthy citizens of the world. I hope to instill compassion, acceptance, love and respect for others in them so when they grow up and create little ones of their own they pass along these values in a chain reaction. Hopefully one day we WILL achieve social justice for all, we WILL see an end to rape, abuse, hate killings, violence. The cynical you will call me naive, I call myself a dreamer!

“You, you may say

I’m a dreamer, but I’m not the only one

I hope some day you’ll join us

And the world will be as one.”

Simply couldn’t resist it, you know me!

Of course, the task isn’t easy. I get discouraged when I see meanness in them towards each other. They are rude sometimes, ill-mannered, whiny and oh, so mean. Those are the moments I truly panic. I wonder what I am doing wrong, is it nature or nurture? I plan what to say to them so they change. I search the library for meaningful books, I read parenting books to deal with situations, I lecture too much and they tune me out. Yet, my heart soars when one writes he is going to teach children in poor countries when he grows up and will buy food for them with whatever money he has and the other easily gives ALL her toys to an AIDS hospice in India at five years of age when we move from Delhi to USA. When my father takes my daughter out to buy a special dress for her birthday, she insists a new dress be bought for her little friend, whose mother cooks for my parents. In Kolkata, when a little child begs for money, both of them take her to a nearby sweet shop and have me buy the sweet of her choice. Then the older one laments they gave her unhealthy food instead of something healthy like fruit. They listen to stories of people in vulnerable conditions after the earthquake in Haiti from their dad and give all their money from their lemonade stand to be used for children in need.

I worry that my children, living their insulated, suburban life will not realize there is a whole big world out there where many children, just like them, are going to bed hungry. When I say we won’t buy any video games but read books and play outside, my then six-year-old son says, “That’s OK, I have so many toys, many children don’t!” When middle schoolers use the word ‘gay’ derogatorily, my then sixth grader stands up to say, “Don’t say that, being gay is not bad or good, it is just a way of life!” And then they fight over something trivial like a piece of candy, or torment each other till I am ready to bang my head against the wall.

Our trips to India keep them grounded to reality. They see the glittering malls, the gated communities then they see people sleeping on side walks with their families. ‘Why don’t they have a house? We want to help when we grow up! How can we help?’ I hope they grow up to feel people’s pain and as Sean said to me all those years ago, hope they never get used to the sleeping families on the side walks. Well, that is the HOPE. I am building a cathedral, so time will tell!

My favorite drink is Bud Lite, what else?


‘What is your favorite drink, Mom?’ Ryan asked me as our car passed by a liquor store. ‘I love mango Lassi, what’s yours Ryan?’ I asked politely since I knew he was bursting at the seams to tell me.

‘I love Bud Lite, yup, my absolute favorite!’ answered my seven year old son.

My husband and I exchanged glances. Both our children are very anti – alcohol, so far! Two teetotaler’s son loves Bud Lite the best, that too at age seven!!!

Last night, Ryan watched college football with his father, the games were sponsored by Bud Lite. The dudes drinking Bud Lite were portrayed as the best humans who ever graced the face of this earth. They were good looking, intelligent, good friends, popular. Of course, Bud Lite would be the drink of choice, if Ry could become as cool as those hunks. The power of advertising.

Sahana burst his bubble, ‘Ryan, Bud Lite is an alcoholic drink. You want to drink alcohol? Yuck!’

‘It is ALCOHOL???’ His face fell, ‘I thought it was a type of lemonade! Then I don’t want it!’

I didn’t say a word but I was giving silent high fives to Sahana. She can be a very positive influence on her brother. Once, I heard Ryan singing this song in his loud clear voice

I don’t know where you are going,
Just get your ASS back home!

Very concerned at his song choice, I asked him if he knew what ‘ass
back home’ meant. Without missing a beat, he said, ‘Yes, Sahana already explained to me. It is get your S back home. S stands for self, so they are saying ‘get your SELF back home!’ Oh, the joy! Mama made a mental note to give the girl an extra hug for her presence of mind.

Anyway, when he heard Bud Lite was an alcohol, Ryan was seriously depressed. He had a very unpleasant encounter with alcohol and since that incident he has vowed never to touch alcohol again in his entire life. Hallelujah! I am thinking of recording that declaration and playing it when he comes home after downing a few in his teenage!

Last Christmas, his uncle was raving about the fruity flavor of a certain expensive wine, the name of which I do not recall. Sean and I refused to try a sip despite the accolade but Ryan insisted he wanted to try it. His uncle let him. Ryan took a big gulp expecting something delicious since the grown ups were praising it so. His face turned bright red, his mouth puckered up and he spit the wine out into his sister’s bowl of pasta with a look of utter disgust and horror at the foul-tasting drink. Then he started to cry. He had never tasted anything so distasteful in his life!

That incident hopefully has scarred him for life – against alcohol. And his dad and I always tell him how he could be that special person who his friends will always love and cherish – their designated driver. He is buying  it …..so far!

There is police ahead….


I almost get teary eyed any time a car flashes its light at me to warn me of a predator police car lurking ahead to catch the speedsters. First when I see the lights flashing, my fingers automatically go to see if my highbeams are on. Nope! Then I do a mental check on all the things I am doing, am I too close to the lane line, are my headlights not on etc. Finally when I am satisfied that I am doing nothing wrong, I get angry at the car for flashing its light at me for no reason! Man, how rude! And then I spot the snout of the police car. Oh, all mushy gushy and emotional at the good Samaritan! A little guilty too, for my misdirected anger! I am not a speedster, mind you! I am such a rule follower, I do not sleep well at night if I go 45 at a 35 miles per hour zone, so I am generally not worried when I see a police car. But I am overwhelmed with good thoughts like the innate goodness in humans, the kindness people have, the world is still a beautiful place to live, no matter what people say and such like for the warning the fellow driver gave me. Sean tells me ‘My dear, that’s an etiquette, that’s just what people do!’ That doesn’t stop me from feeling all warm and fuzzy about mankind! To pay it forward, I flash my lights at the traffic coming from the other way. Who knows I start the same chain reaction…Checking high beams, doing mental check, then anger and finally gratitude!

I go all warm and fuzzy again when somebody raises a hand in thanks when I signal them to go by. I inevitably say, ‘Awwww, how nice! The lady thanked me!’ If somebody waves me on, I raise my hand way high to show how much that gesture meant to me. I would have raised both hands, if I could, but that would be dangerous and I have precious cargo, so I don’t. My children, specially the older one, has started giving me strange looks but she is a tween, all the looks she gives me are strange, so that doesn’t count!

Oh, one more thing, when I am stopped at a red light, and I see through my rear view mirror that the lady behind me is putting mascara on while rolling to a stop, I have this uncanny feeling that I will be rear ended. If the children are to be believed, I, supposedly, say out loud “What the heck, she is going to hit me! Pay attention, don’t hit me girl, don’t hit me!” “Mom, you are talking to yourself again!” an exasperated voice reminds me. Do any of you ever do that?

Do I get mad sometimes? Of course! And I curse. The other night, Ryan, the tell-tale, was complaining to Sean that ‘Mommy used a bad word while driving!’ Sean gave me a look which meant ‘Do I dare ask what you said?’ Well, it turned out he didn’t need to ask! Ryan was in a mood to tell on mom! ‘Dad, mommy said ‘what an idiot’ to a boy who ran across the road in front of the car!’ Phew! I show my frustration at an erratic driver by saying ‘Come on! Really?’ I do believe I roll my eyes too! But when I get really, truly mad! Watch out! I say a ‘bad word’, I say ‘What an IDIOT!’ For that, I get told on!

Please watch his eye and the curt nod of his head….please?


My mode of transportation in Kolkata, India was an auto rickshaw. It is a motorized, 3 wheeler scooter which was built to accommodate 3 to 4 people but in reality, it carried 6. I hailed one with a flick of my hand, jumped in, glared at my fellow passenger if he was trying to get closer than necessary and promptly immersed in my own thoughts, whatever was important at that time – classes, exams, job interviews, crushes. Never noticed the weaving of the auto, never paid attention to the distance of my auto, or the lack of it, from the vehicle in front.

Last year, I went back and discovered that I have turned into a complete wuss! What happened to that intrepid girl who stopped on coming traffic by boldly stepping off the curb to cross the street, who just looked at the cars, raised her hand and the traffic either stopped or weaved around her to let her cross, the girl who could non chalantly get on and off a running bus! I clutched my children’s hand, stepped off the curb and stepped back up quickly as the cars came without reducing speed with the hope they would run the red light without getting caught. It was a hilarious two-step dance. I finally yelled at the traffic police to stop the traffic so we could cross the street. The traffic police completely ignored me and continued to listen to cricket scores. Within a week, however, the old me came back to do exactly what I did fifteen years ago, stopped the traffic with a look, crossed the street while weaving around moving cars.

I go to India primarily to eat. Oh, and visit family and friends, of course. What? Did I say something different??? Since I eat a substantial amount I feel the need to join a gym, mainly for my peace of mind. Every morning, while going to the gym in auto rickshaws, I made two important observations. One was that the decorum of sitting amongst men and women in those vehicles had changed. In my days, when a woman stopped an auto, the male passengers, if seated at the back of the vehicle, got out and went to the front to let the woman passenger take the safer seat, as a show of courtesy. This time I noticed men didn’t bother to get out, they just opened their newspapers wider and continued reading or glanced at the women passenger and continued talking on their cellphones. The sweet act of chivalry had disappeared. Since I believe in women being treated equally everywhere, this didn’t bother me….too much. I protested against this when I was young, but when I saw the absence of this kind gesture I admit I felt the loss of something good and beautiful!

I also discovered the unspoken code of conduct among the Kolkata drivers. There is that special look, when one comes to an intersection, that slightest nod of the head which determines who has the right of way. Most veteran drivers knew the code and followed it. Some new ones waited too long and was awarded with a yell and a choice expletive, ‘Arreh, jaabi to saala, dariye aache dekho song er moto!’ The literal translation, ‘Yo, will you go, beep, or stand there like a clown.’ Few polite ones said ‘Arreh jaa na!’ (just go) without the expletive, but that was rare! At the beginning, I sat at the edge of the seat holding on to the guard rail white knuckled. Then I noticed this silent communication between my auto drivers and the other drivers on the street. There is a reason to this madness after all. After that, I sat back, relaxed, enjoyed conversation with the drivers. Life was good….till I met one who certainly possessed a death wish and weaved around big buses like someone…..possessed. I did croak once in a while, “Bhai (little brother) drive carefully!” My brother would reassure me with a bright smile, “Didi (big sister), don’t you worry! You are in good hands!”

I always hugged my children a little tighter when I made it home safe on those particular days and thanked the universe immensely for keeping me alive to see another sunrise…er, let’s make that ‘another sunset’ as my supportive spouse just pointed out I am fast asleep when the sun actually rises, so I shouldn’t lie in my blog!!!

The green and yellow - a very familiar sight in Kolkata.

Visiting my university with the children.


On our trips back to India, I believe both my kids rediscover their mother, or at least they look at me with a new eye. They get to hear stories of their mother when she was their age! ‘Mom!!!! Our age???’ Here, at home, mom is an entity, looking after them, scolding them, constantly reminding them to pick up their book bags, behave well in school, clean their rooms, taking them to practices and play dates, kissing their hurts away, holding them close in a sudden bear hug. I don’t think they regard me as a separate individual, I am more of an extension of them. I am taken for granted, except, maybe on Mother’s Day! But when we go back, they actually pause a bit to look at me, as a separate person with a life where they didn’t belong for a while. That thought is a little unreal for them. They see my baby pictures, my school certificates, my college photos, several memories of the girl – me, the young me that my parents have saved like cherished treasures. Just like I save my children’s baby teeth, their little hand prints, their pre school artwork, with the hope that I will hold on to their babyhood, at least in my memories and relive these days when they are grown and gone! My parents even saved my kindergarten artwork, much to my children’s amusement!

It was a very hot summer morning in Kolkata. Sahana couldn’t wait to get going. We were going to visit my university. She wanted to see my university and I needed to get my transcripts so I decided to take her. The trip started inauspiciously, as we witnessed a relatively harmless auto accident. I could tell she was shaken up a bit. It was a short bus ride to the college yet the girl was drenched in sweat and red in the face. We got off and entered the gate! I was immediately transported back twenty years. It was almost surreal that I was there  at my alma mater  not as an eighteen year old but as a mother! I could almost see the twenty year old me with dangling earrings, long hair tied in a plait, maroon t-shirt, blue jeans sitting on the steps with  friends contemplating whether it was alright to cut the next class and go to the canteen instead! The young people going around us in groups talking, laughing, teasing each other was us, about twenty years ago!

To be honest, I was so lost in my memories, didn’t pay attention to the fact that Sahana was very quiet. I started showing her where I hung out with friends, our building, the grounds, the bridges, the canteens, the pond the library, the auditorium. I was oblivious that she didn’t utter a single word still but just walked next to me and kept up. Finally, I asked her what she thought. She stayed silent for a few more seconds and said, ‘It’s…..nice, mom!’ My sweet, polite girl! I then looked around and saw my school through her eyes. She had seen the campuses of Harvard and Tufts University, her father being from Tufts and aunt from Harvard. My campus, I don’t think, quite measured up.

I could tell the heat was getting to her. We sat under a tree in the shade and looked at the huge field, where some stray dogs were gambolling around in the shimmering heat. Men and women walked by us, so young and full of hope and promise. There, I told her stories. Stories of when I first crossed the threshold of the huge campus, my nervous heart beating fast, leaving behind my sheltered life at an all girl’s school, my dreams and aspirations as an eighteen year old, stories of the laughter I shared, my fears that I faced, the mistakes I made, the thoughts that I learnt to think, the books that I read, the friends that I found and kept for life. I showed her the building where her grandfather, my father, came to study Engineering, as a young man. He walked the same paths as I did, frequented the same canteens as I, made friends, laughed a bit, gave his heart, got his heart-broken, just like I did. My ten-year old listened quietly. There was no impatience, no eye rolls, no exasperated sighs. It was a beautiful moment of bonding between us. I think the place became meaningful to her as her  eyes swept through the moldy yet grand buildings, the greenish brown fields with burnt grass, the mangy stray dogs and the trash littered across.

I finished my work at the office and we took an auto home, but not before she took my camera and shot pictures of me in front of places which she heard were meaningful to me in the stories I told her.

Best of all, last year when we went back, she asked her six-year-old brother to come along to see mommy’s school. The brother was excited. He, too, like his sister, was melting in the heat on our way. He walked along with us, playing with the toy soldier he had in his hand. Never paid any attention to anything I said, or any building I pointed out. He only looked up with interest at some boys playing soccer on a field and showed some enthusiasm when I pointed out where his grand father played cricket. I think he was trying to visualize his heavy-set grand father, as an athletic young man, playing a sport. The circle of life.

I didn’t think the experience could be complete without riding a rickety public bus back home. Sahana feared that every time the bus rattled the floor would give away. Ryan noticed, with obvious glee, that he could see the road underneath through the floor of the bus. They were fantastic and uncomplaining about the heat, the dust, the walk, the bus. We treated ourselves to ice cream before going home!

Campus
Sculpture in front of the library.
A rickshaw in the campus.
Melting in the heat on a public bus.
The reward.

No honor to be had around here…


I was browsing through the work of the first graders pinned on the wall, while waiting to meet Ryan’s teacher for a conference. One project caught my attention, the children had written who they ‘honored’ and why. They were all very entertaining reads. I read all the writings and colorful illustrations with a smile while searching for the one written by my son. I was curious to find out who he had honored.

There was only one which had no name on it, and I knew that was Ryan’s by the curl of the tail of lower case ‘g’! That is his idea of writing in cursive, by curling the tail of g artistically. He had honored Zach! I admit, I was slightly crestfallen. There was a secret hope/desire that I would find him honoring his mother for feeding him (that has to come first, he loves his food), taking him to sports and practices( he loves sports next). I would get all misty eyed, go ‘awwww’ and make that my Facebook status update. But there it was, ‘I honor Zach because he is a great basketball player and he tries very hard.’ First I couldn’t even remember who Zach was, after racking my brain for a while and fearing that I was slowly losing my mind, I remembered Zach. He was a fellow teammate at Ryan’s basketball clinic whom Ryan had met only six weeks ago. He, indeed, was a good player, but Ryan and Zach were certainly not tight. They probably high-fived each other after a basket, but the camaraderie ended there.

Well, maybe their bond goes deeper than I thought. Still puzzled, I attended the conference, came home and forgot all about it. Today, at lunch I remembered my slight at not being honored. Who was this Zach who usurped my place in my boy’s heart, and wanted to get at the bottom of it. I laughingly asked Ryan why did he honor Zach, his other friends had written they honored their moms, dads, friends, army, military, firemen, astronauts etc, etc and he honored Zach, who he hardly knew??? He heard my spiel with a slight smile and said ‘Did you see the alphabet at the corner of the paper?’ I did see an alphabet, yes. He said, ‘I got to think of someone who I honored whose name began with the letter Z. At first, all I could think of was zebra, so I wrote I honored zebra because they are fast. But that didn’t sound good to me. So I thought some more and remembered Zach! His name begins with a Z and so I honored him. I wanted to honor you but I didn’t get the letter M!’

Seriously? Honor someone whose name begins with one of the most difficult alphabets in English language? Who would I have thought of? Emile Zola? Zachary Taylor? Of course, Mark Zuckerberg? Oh wait, we are talking of first grade, here!

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?