Take it over, kid.


Once upon a time I was a super human. I kept all important dates of school, practice schedules, concert schedules, swim meet schedules in my head – for both kids. Before Google calendar, I wrote all the dates down on our wall calendar in our kitchen for easy access for all. However, easy access for my family meant asking mom/wife.

“When is Ryan’s baseball practice and Sahana’s softball game?” Sean would ask. And crazily enough, I would know the dates.

My kids never went to the same school. When Ryan entered kindergarten, Sahana started middle school. So I got bombarded with emails from 2 schools. And I read each one of them meticulously. I knew the dates of PTA meetings and string concerts, and first grade author’s tea. While I did not attend PTA meetings, I did my share of classroom volunteering when needed. Anyway, bottom line is that once upon a time I was my family’s walking Google calendar. I knew it all in my head.

As Sahana got older, she started taking more responsibilities for her own schedule. Gradually, all her schedule information started sliding off from my brain as she started keeping track. She arranged for her own rides to school concerts, and when she started driving, drove herself to places where she needed to be. My brain then focused on Ryan’s schedule and I did him a disservice by constantly supplying him with dates of his events. Even when he went to high school he depended on me to know the important school dates and swim meet dates. And the control freak that I am, I continued to keep all those in my head. Till I realized I don’t need to anymore. I can clear that space in my memory by giving him the reins of his own activities. So when he asked about dates of his meets, I calmly told him to look it up by logging on to the website.

“Just tell me, it is easier!”

“I have to look it up too. So you do it since it is your meet.” That was a white lie, but it worked. Ryan started looking up on his own. Slowly and I mean, very slowly, he started getting responsible for his own activities.

The husband, on the other hand, was more difficult to train.

“When is…?”

“I am not sure, I forwarded you the email. Look it up” – became my standard response.

I still get the emails from Ryan’s school, which I still read but I do not keep the dates in my head for the most part. I jot down important parent’s meetings in our Google calendar but the rest I simply forward to Ryan. Recently, I saw a text exchange between father and son, which happened while I was still sleeping.

Ryan: “When is my SAT prep class?”

Sean: “I am not sure. I don’t remember getting that email. Mom will know. Let her wake up.”

Me, after waking up: “I forwarded both of you that email. Check your mail.”

They did. The information was there. It was so fun to simply write “check your email”. It is such a relief to not be as responsible anymore. From a super human, I have become just a human with memory space cleared for what I want to store in it.

I love being a parent. And I love seeing the slow transformation of my children taking over the control of their lives. There is a slight pang in my heart, I will not deny, at the fact that they are grown up. However, the dominant feeling is satisfaction and yes, relief.

Having an Indian mom


I found my daughter laughing hysterically before she left for work one morning. I looked up from my computer to find out the cause of this mirth. “Oh mom, I am sending you something on Messenger. Check it out! This encapsulates how I prefaced my less than A grades to you.” Mind you, she was sitting right across from me.

She sent me this tweet.

“This!! This is my entire childhood. This is how I justified to you my B grades. You just sat there staring at me as I explained although I got a B, most of my class got worse grades than I did. Only one or two people got a better grade than me.” she said laughing. When she used to tell me that although she got a B, her friend who is as smart as her also got a B. My response to that was, “Am I your friend’s mom? No. So I will let her mom deal with how she is doing in school. I am your mom. I will only look at your grades. So tell me, what went wrong?” And the excuses poured in. 🙂

I continue to hold my kids at high standards. The way I was raised is ingrained in me. Good grades, ranking in class is expected, anything less is failure. As a student, good grades were important to me of course, yet thinking back, I believe I worked hard so as not to disappoint my mother. My grades gave her bragging rights to friends and extended family. As I raised my daughter through her elementary, middle and high school in a very competitive county, I realized the flaw in my way of thinking. I started wondering if my children are getting the grades so I can brag or are they taking responsibility for their academics? Are they truly enjoying learning? I remembered memorizing my lessons more out of fear and obligation than real interest in knowing.

At my ripe old age, I have realized students need to love learning. Only through love and positive experience can one truly learn. My class teacher in high school, one day, during our Bengali class told us to promise her that when we had our children, we will not push them for grades. If society berated us that our children were not performing well in the standard that society holds, we should lock ourselves in a room and throw away the key. Nurture their love of learning instead, she said.

I thought I was doing a much better job of raising my second child with an enlightened view of what learning should be all about. I tried to drill in him the lesson that he is working for himself, not for me. I asked him if he was enjoying his lessons, did he learn from his mistakes? What can he do better next time. At work, I feel superior to all those moms who come with their teens in tow and try to do their school work for them. I think in my head, “let your child be”, “let him or her learn”. And then I pat myself on my back for being that ‘level headed’ mom who has seen the light, who has found the perfect balance of expecting good results but instilling in the child a joy of learning.

All my lofty ideals of good, sensible parenting regarding my child’s education went out of the window this morning. I walked in to Ryan’s room when he was about to start the day’s session of Summer Chemistry. Yes, he is that weird teen who chose to take Chemistry over the summer to ‘get ahead’. He was checking his grades for the first exam. It is a B. Before I could utter a word, he started, “Mom, my friend ______, who is smart like me got a C+. And I know you are not his mom and you do not care about his grades. But I am just saying that this was the first test in the course and she gave some questions which we did not know….!”

The ‘Indian mom’ in me did not, much to my chagrin, relinquish her hold. I could not say, “It is ok. That grade is fine.” Instead, I said, “You are taking one class! B is not an acceptable grade. I want you to study harder. You need to get an A!”

Am I allowed to use emoji in a blog post? I am not sure but I am going to use an emoji anyway.

This one! 🤦‍♀️🤦‍♀️

Donate so mama can think.

Beginning


The sunlight reflected in her brown eyes and highlighted the gold in her brown hair as she focused intently on the high school coursebook that she held in her hand. She perused the book in front of her, chewing her lip, brows creased in concentration, thinking of her four year course plan. As I glanced at the utter focus on the young face, on the threshold of yet another phase in her young life, my heart constricted with an overwhelming feeling of love for this young person who was just a little bundle in my arms some years ago. I made a mistake as I held her, I blinked! And here we are, at this juncture in life. She is on her way to high school,  deciding upon the courses she wishes to take.

Sahana is going on to high school this year and I am not ready. Just like I wasn’t ready when my fantastic radiologist took a look at the ultrasound report and said, “This baby isn’t growing in the womb, she is not thriving. We need to take her out now. Call your obstetrician. Get admitted tomorrow!” I remember sitting down in the nearby chair, looking up at Sean and saying, “I am not ready!”

Ready or not, she came. Grayish blue eyes, snub nose, pink skin, coconut head, rosebud mouth. She looked up at me with a stern expression as she tried to focus her eyes on this face looming large on her. “Here I am, mother. I am yours for a while. Yours to love, yours to nurture, yours to cherish, yours to discipline, yours to mold, yours to encourage and support. I am yours to help me to be the best I can possibly be!  Are you up to the task, mother? You better be, because I am not going back!”

She, of course, said none of these. She just kept looking at me, or somewhat in my direction with all the loveliness, all the cuteness, all the sweetness that is possible in this entire universe. And I thought of nothing of the responsibility that I held in my hands either. I was happy! No, wait, that doesn’t quite say it. I was ecstatic. I was ecstatic that she was born, I was ecstatic that she was healthy, I was ecstatic that I still lived to watch her grow, I was ecstatic my husband held my hand and helped me breathe through the contractions. When the neonatal unit took Sahana away to administer the necessities, the other doctors took it upon them to sew up my torn body. While they worked on me I thanked everyone who happened to be within my eyesight. Sean reminds me that I supposedly thanked every single person in the delivery room with enthusiasm till I passed out from exhaustion.

There were many firsts, of course. The teething, the first step, the first words, the feel of little soft hand in mine as we both entered her preschool. I don’t remember who had the most trouble letting go of the other’s hand, it probably was me. I sat outside the preschool with other anxious mothers, and tensed every time I heard children cry, convinced that it was mine. I was later told she didn’t cry at all but watched everybody with interest.

We moved to US after her preschool years. She started kindergarten in a new school, in a new country, far away from her familiar world full of friends, neighbors, family. I felt an emptiness in my stomach as the big black and yellow bus swallowed my curly haired little girl to her first day of kindergarten. I was waiting, anxiously, at the bus stop for her when she got off the bus. “How was your first day of school?” I asked, nervous. “It was great! School is the best thing ever! And I think I met an angel!” she replied. She had made friends with another little girl who had blue hair and beautiful blonde hair. Her angel.

At the end of fifth grade, I started panicking again. Two dreaded words – middle school. I had grown up from age 5 to age 18 in one school with the same set of friends. My daughter was going to leave all her friends to go to a different middle school. And I heard stories of the horrors of middle school from friends in this country. Meanness, popularity, need for acceptance, dejection – all these become major factors as children navigate through the confusing corridors of middle school. I read books, I talked about the non importance of popularity, I talked about being herself, focusing on her schoolwork. She was nervous, but I was petrified. Again I watched nervously as she boarded the bus first day to middle school. The reply to ‘how was school’ wasn’t as exuberant as in kindergarten but it was still good. Middle school was a blur. She did well, she seemed happy bar a few occasions. Just recently, on a walk, she confided how difficult the first year in middle school was. How lonely she was. And friendless. Media center was her solace, she escaped there whenever she could and hid behind a book till she started finding like minded children. As the months went by, she became happier. Now middle school was something she was sad to leave behind. She didn’t tell me because I couldn’t help her and she thought she could handle it on her own, in her own terms. I was saddened and heartened to hear this. Sad to realize what she had gone through, happy to hear she learnt to be happy.

A new beginning yet again, another transition –  high school, preparation of adulthood. Although, I am not ready, I do not have a choice. Everyday as my daughter stands a little taller and I stoop just a little tiny bit, as her face glistens with the freshness that only youth can boast and a new tiny wrinkle appears on my face, I see life slowly coming to a full circle. Many people don’t understand this, but I truly revel at every new stage in my life. Middle age is no exception. I have lived my youth, Sahana is starting to live hers. What an exciting time for her and what a simply amazing time for me to watch her bloom.

It is a new beginning for me as well, as a parent. With my first born, every stage of her life has been a new beginning for me. I have often been flustered and confused. Sometimes, the journey hasn’t been fun. I have had embarrassing moments galore but I have also learnt as I went along. I have identified my strengths and weakness. I have focused on my personal growth as a human and as a parent.

As I said, I am not ready yet to let go. I will never be ready to let my beautiful child go. But I have taken the first step. I will learn – to let go of her hands when she is ready. And will watch, yes anxiously, and learn with her as she steps into a new beginning, yet again.

I will give you four pennies if you give me ten dollars.


I often ‘borrow’ money from my children. I am always out of change for lunch money or snack money. So I tell them ‘Just take it out of your money jar, I will pay you back!’ I keep a mental count on how much I owe them and pay them back with a little interest…..most of the times. Sahana has smartened up lately, she puts all her money in a bank account and keeps nothing at home. Young Ryan loves his money jar and he can be seen, often times, sitting in a corner, counting his pennies and nickels. I look at him and think ‘Shylock’ in my head!

Recently, I took three dollars from the above mentioned, precious money jar and asked Sean to pay him back. Since we vowed to take care of each other at our marriage, we fulfil our promise. I take care of his nourishment, his laundry, our children, he takes care of me in tricky situations, like when I have to repay my debt!

The following conversation is a result of my eavesdropping. And I am recording this because I want Ryan to read this write-up when he is doing his Major in Math at Harvard!

Before Ryan’s bedtime, Sean went to return the three dollars and decided to make it a teaching moment as well.

‘Ryan, how much is 10 minus 7?’

‘3! Easy, peasy, lemon squeezy, all the way to Japaneze!’

‘Right, big guy! So I am giving you $10 and taking $7!’

A moment of silence, then a cry of desperation,

‘WHY ARE YOU TAKING $7 FROM MY MONEY JAR???’

‘But I am giving you $10 and taking $7! So you get back your $3! Remember you said 10 minus 7 is 3! So 7 plus 3 is 10! You had 7, now I am giving you 10 but taking away your 7! So you see, you have the $3 back that mommy took from you.’

At this point, I believe Sean proceeded to take his $7 back.

Wailing.

‘NO! NO! DON’T TAKE MY $7! I will give you four pennies if you give me that $10!’

More math. More teaching, a few moments of silence and then desperate pleading.

‘Take four pennies dad, for that $10! Not $7…..!’ Sniffles added at this point!

Sean said they will talk about it the next day and left it at that!

The next morning, when Ryan woke up for school, he rubbed his eyes, sat right up on the bed and said in a groggy, morning voice, ‘Can I have my $10 dollars, dad?’

We will talk about it tonight!’ I think Sean was scared to broach the subject…. understandably. He decided to break the ten at a store and give the boy 3 one dollar bills. He also thought of using poker chips or something of lesser value than $10 to teach this complex math fact!

Once, when Ryan was about four, I was trying to teach him subtraction. I made the mistake of saying, ‘Ry, if you have 5 candies and you give 3 candies to Sahana, how many candies will you have left?’ Without missing a beat, he said, ‘I don’t want to give ANY candies to Sahana!’ I debated which lesson to teach him at that moment! The lesson of sharing or subtraction! Decided to go with math, just had Sahana give her candies to Ryan. Things went smoothly from then on!

Tonight, before going to bed, I found Ryan standing quietly in front of Sean’s bedside table.

‘What are you doing here, buddy?’ I asked.

‘Trying to see where daddy put MY $10 dollars!’

Sean and I both looked at each other and then the letter proudly stuck on our refrigerator, saying, ‘Your child, Ryan Callahan has been invited to a first grade Math instructional seminar in school….’ It is an early form of Gifted and Talented program in Math!

Doing math?