After a year of doing this..

Setting: Breakfast table on a Friday morning.

Characters: A mom, a dad and a 16 year old son who has decided sullenness is the way to keep nagging mother away from him. His plan has failed.

Action: Mom and dad are discussing the very limited office space area in their very tiny house. The teen is chomping on his breakfast, a peanut butter sandwich, with half closed eyes before starting virtual school. The mother and father are unaware that he is paying any attention to the conversation around him.

The adults are almost at the point of reaching a deal in their office space negotiation. Father has to record a video for work, mother has to conduct a class for the library and they are working out the time when one will have access to office space which is in the basement and who will work upstairs in the living room. They both are very accommodating and mindful of other’s needs so it is mostly an amicable process. Although the mother has figured out if she gives the father a hapless look about a decision unfavorable to her needs, the father will acquiesce. Not very often, but she does use that look to get her way sometimes. Anyway, on this day all is going well. The adults have figured out their work space and timing. Both the parents can conduct their businesses successfully at the allotted time. They are about to leave the kitchen table to get ready for their respective jobs when the grumpy teen speaks up in a mumble, “I have….mumble, mumble, mumble..”

“You, what? Speak up.” The adults turn around.

The parents have found that they constantly ask ‘what’ after any sound that comes out from their son’s mouth these days. Either the sentence is spoken very fast or the sentence is said in a mumble – which comes off as completely incoherent. In order to understand the young man, a follow up (or may be more than one follow up) ‘what did you say?’ is necessary.

Anyway, today’s mumble was translated as “I have orchestra in the 2nd period.” The young man plays cello and the cello resides in the dining room which is right off the living room. During orchestra class, he comes out of his room and plays the cello in the dining room. The second period when the musical soiree is about to happen is in the middle of the mother’s class and father’s video recording. Neither of those events could incorporate cello notes during their occurrence. Time for the hapless look, mom decided and perfectly executed. The dad did some quick thinking and juggled his to-do list so he could finish his video recording before the mother had to start her Zoom class. He is truly a saint.

The mother went to the basement to facilitate her class with one ear out for cello music which she never heard. After her class she came up and enquired why there was no music in the house, what happened to orchestra class. The teen, while munching on his lunch and one ear out of his head phones said they had to listen to some music today which he did in his room. They did not have to play music.

So all the readjustments and renegotiations along with ‘hapless look’ were really for nothing. Such is life. Such is working from home when your home is still not perfect work place after working from home for over a year. What are you gonna do? Just laugh!

If you want to read about our office space situation, here is the blog that I wrote about it.

Lower the bar

The trick is to keep expectations at a minimum from your husband and children. And maintain the bar low. I was smart, I did just that. I had the kids make their own lunches for school as soon as they started third grade. I kept a loose eye on what they packed. Since I bought the groceries for our house I knew the extent of junk food that was available to them. They got money once a week to buy food from cafeteria but Sahana disliked the cafeteria food so she ended up packing her own lunch all 5 days. The deal was, I would pack their lunches on the last day of school each year. That one day, when mom packed their lunch was a day of jubilation. They were excited, happy and most importantly, grateful.

Similarly, both of them started doing their own laundry since they were 11 years old. Once in a while, when they were very busy I did their laundry for them, for which, I got many words of gratitude.

I like to cook so I primarily cooked for the family yet I made sure my husband simply did not expect me to cook ALL THE TIME. Till date, he remembers to thank me for the meals I cook. During pandemic, I became more of a purist – using natural oil for moisturizer and hair care, squeezing oranges for fresh orange juice, making rotis and recently making homemade paneer from scratch. Sean was extremely grateful and told his family in video calls that his wife was making homemade paneer, his favorite. I got kudos from my in-laws for taking such good care of their son/brother.

I was feeling pretty special about my domesticity till last night when I met 2 other friends who happened to be Bengali. As many of you may be aware, when Bengalis meet two topics take precedence over others – food and politics. We were discussing food. I told them I have recently started making paneer at home and I use lemon to curdle the milk. Both of them nonchalantly mentioned they have always made paneer at home and they never buy it. Store bought paneer is never good and did I try vinegar to curdle milk instead of lemon juice? I was slightly crushed.

The question here is, did I mention to my family that homemade paneer is the norm and not the exception in Indian homes out there? Nope, nope, nope. Why would I? I want to see the glimmer of gratitude in Sean’s eyes at the cooking prowess of his queen wife who makes things from scratch just for him for the love that she carries in her heart for her husband.