Finding your Village

It’s quiet. 
You see I’m a mother of an 8 month and a 6 year old, so this silence comes at a price. The last 10 months or so, I’ve had my village with me. My parents and my Inlaws helped me find my bearings after I had my second child.
When you live in a different country, you sign up to the good and bad that comes with it. It’s different when you’re single, or when you’re married. It’s having kids that make you crave for belonging. A steady state. An extended family. Being equipped to handle their needs and be everyone they can’t have with them.
So much pressure. You know how you feel when you have a nagging headache? That times thousand multiplied by two is how I feel on a daily basis. 
Don’t get me wrong, I love these tiny humans. Love that consumes you fully, that kind of love. Love that walks around you as your heart is now beating in those little beings. 


A few days ago the extended family had to leave. I didn’t realize the gravity of how dependent I was on them and how much help I had. I felt like my fort starting crumbling all at once.
Kids were both sick, and it was snot filled chests and noses times two. I was running on an average of two hours of sleep a night (where’s my fucking award already?) and was ready to give up. To make things worse the older one has a massive meltdown stating boldly ” I don’t need you anymore. Go away” with snot and tears and a hoarse voice. 

I suddenly remember the innumerable times I’ve said the same thing to my own mother. It’s all coming back to me at the speed of light. I’m really sorry, mom. I know how it feels now. 
I’m trying my best. We all are. Some days we scrape through and on the other days, we don’t. And I’m here to tell you that’s ok.

If you’re failing, let them see it. There’s a certain lesson they can learn in it– their mother is human too. It’s taken me six parenting years (equivalent to 500 human years, heh) to learn this.
I wanted to be the perfect parent ( bhahhaha, I know right?). If there is such a thing. I shut all my fears, worries, my inadequacies in the back of my head. I refused to give up. I tried and tried and oh my god it was so exhausting. I was exhausting. 
Slowly, I learnt it was ok to shove a mouthful of candy and drown it with a glass of something strong and I was going to be ok. I learnt that it was ok to cry, when I couldn’t take it anymore. I learnt to gloriously bask in my failures because (wtf) raising a human is hard. 
The cleaning, cooking and all the million things we mothers do on a daily basis would get done, if not I could prioritize and choose the top 3 things I could do in my list of 150 things. (For example: Today I showered, cooked, showed up at work and kept the kids nourished and alive. Win!!)
I am now at a stage where I don’t have a list. I let inadequacies visit me once in a while. I beat myself up, but also learn to take responsibility. I now know that I’m human and I’m taking baby steps everyday. 
Two kids is so so hard. Don’t know how you parents with more kids do it. Mad props to you guys. Recently when I was talking to my girlfriend Nicole (she has 3 kids, God bless her)– I told her “I wanted to jump off a cliff and kill myself but I think I’ll be ok”. She laughed saying that describes parenting perfectly. I think so too.


Parenting is never going to be a set of directions you can follow. There is no gps to wing this thang. You hold on to a paper map like you hold on to dear life, get lost many many times before you are on the right track, and that’s ok. Never mind the muck, and bites you got along the way. 

When your village leaves (it’s ok to panic) but realize that you become that village. Outsource as much as you can (except love of course), and cut yourself some slack. I’ve read about the CTFD (Calm the fuck down) approach and let me tell you, it works like a charm. 
I’m writing all this down because I would need to read this. Everyday. Every week. This is a letter to myself and to every other mom out there who is trying to do her best every day. 

 

Hang in there you guys. It’s going to be ok, if not, you will figure it out eventually. Breathe. 


Letter to Stuti’s Teacher

Dear Ms. P,

Thank you for giving us the opportunity to introduce our child Stuti to you. We are so excited she is a Kindergartner at your school.

Sanjay and I have been in America roughly for over twelve years. We hail from Bangalore, India. Over the last decade or so Bangalore is better known as the Technology hub of South Asia. We currently both work in the IT sector and support our companies in various capacities.

I had the opportunity to take a break from my career when Stuti was born. I’ve seen her transform into an amazing child from a tiny baby. Most of her learning started at home, with us. Since our family is back In India, Sanjay and I have given her the best of both worlds and culture. We speak Kannada at home, and Stuti is bilingual. Over time she has shied away from conversing in Kannada, but we continue encouraging her to speak the language at home.

Stuti’s strongest trait is the ease at which she is able to strike a conversation with people. She will walk into a group, introduce herself, and make friends immediately. I think it’s so wonderful that kids have that ability. She is a visual learner, and enjoys learning by association and conversation. She has great social skills and a lot of empathy.

As her parents, we have encouraged Stuti to be kind, loving, gentle, and a positive person. She has her days where she is vocal about how she feels, and some days where she prefers remaining quiet. We talk about everything at home, and encourage her to approach us if she needs anything.  We celebrate her success, and her failures in equal measures, as they are both very important for her to grow.

We had another addition to our family recently. Our baby boy Sachit is 5 months old. The initial days were hard on her; however, I am so proud of how she has come around . It’s a joy to watch her ease in to playing a role of an Older sister with such aplomb.

She consoles him when he is upset, talks to him, entertains him, reads to him, and in general is a goofball. Needless to say, she is the twinkle in her brother’s eyes. He loves her a lot!

It’s amazing how much hope, dreams, love, and wonder this child holds. I never want her to grow up, and become the boring, predictable adults we are. I love her spontaneity, her energy and always wonder where she gets it from.

We read to her every day (sometimes every hour!), and she has started reading books from memory. She can also spell words, and is currently reading Dr. Seuss books with ease. She has a LOT of books, and we never say no when she wants to buy books.

From a learning perspective, I want Stuti to continue being kind, having empathy, and being a good listener. I want her to develop her social skills further, and get confident. I would also like to see her actively participating in class/school activities.

img_7243

Stuti is not good with pacing herself. Eating is the last thing she wants to do. She is very slow, and often comes back with most of her items in her lunch box as-is. I would like you to work with her to build awareness around food. I am sure this will flow into building awareness around time management as well.

I still remember my Kindergarten teachers and how they molded me to being the person I am today. We are really excited to have you as her teacher, and guide throughout this year. Please feel free to reach out to us if anything needs our attention (good or bad). We will continue to work with her at home, and emphasize on what is being taught at school. Teamwork is so important, and I’m sure you agree.

It is so hard being a parent, providing firm roots to the child, while knowing that someday they will fly. However, it’s great to have a teacher, who would work with us to provide the skills the child requires in order to achieve their full potential.

Thanks so much for everything you do, and we look forward to learning more about you through this year.

Regards,

Shruthi Malur

 

 

 


Being mommy (again!)

As I write this post, I’m secretly hoping the newborn won’t wake up for at least another fifteen minutes. I have to decide if I want to eat, pee or sleep for an extra ten minutes. This is how precious time feels when you have a tiny human who has taken over your life. 
I’m nursing myself back to health, and a 5 day old has made me feel like I’m 50. 

It’s been 5 years but the kind of comments or opinions about being a mother that I’ve received from everyone has not changed. Why do we do this?

Here’s a quick refresher on what NOT to ask/ tell a new mother. Honestly we’re up to our ears with stuff and we don’t need more of this.

1. You’re still FAT.

Oh, this one is a classic. A great conversation ender because you won’t know what hit you after asking a mom that question. 

We’ve provided a harbor for a life to sustain, grow and bring it into this beautiful world. Please look beyond my size. 

2. Normal or C-section? 

The baby is born. Isn’t that enough? Why do you care if it was born naturally, or when I was up to my eyeballs in Drugs? I did what was right for me at the given time and situation.

Learn to respect my privacy and marvel at the newborn.

3. Breastfeeding Vs Formula (Is the baby drinking well?)

No, I’m starving the baby, because that’s what mothers do. Duh.

Honestly, the baby is getting milk, and nutrition. That’s all I care about. If you care about something else, that’s your call but do not intrude asking me questions about how I’m providing for my baby. 

It’s my responsibility to nourish and raise the child in a healthy manner, and I’ll do everything as humanely possible to make sure I do a fabulous job at it.

4. Calling/ Messaging/ Asking for pictures/ requesting a visit

It’s a blessing to have friends and family that care for you. I’m sure everyone means well. However calling incessantly or scheduling a visit early on might be a task on the parents. 

The first 6 weeks of newborn care is utmost important. Give the parents some time and privacy to recuperate and they would gladly host your visit and love for you to meet their little wonder 

5. Will you go back to work?

If not, will you pay my bills? Then it’s none of your business. It’s a personal decision and it’s the choice of the mom to make. Don’t weigh in on my personal matters, and I won’t do the same. 

6. Try this method for ( eating, sleeping, milk supply) because it worked for me.

Sorry, I don’t care if you wore a garland of  fresh garlic and did the hula dance to increase your milk supply. Glad it worked for you.CIO method may have worked wonders. Please don’t force your methods on me. It’s between the baby and I to figure out what works best for us and take that route. 

7. The baby looks just like the dad.

Really? This is what the mothers get for doing all they do. It may be the truth but it would be nice to hear about features that resemble, like he/she has your eyes. 

As someone rightfully said ” the baby is just born it looks like a potato”.   :). Don’t get ahead in comparison and be gentle on the mom when you make such comparisons. 

Child birthing is hard as it is. Along with it comes all the physical and mental stress. New parents are mostly exhausted and extremely busy. Giving them space and time is  probably the best thing you can do instead of being severely opinionated. 


Moving On..

We’ve all been in situations which we’ve wanted to run from, but we chose to stay instead. 

Remember the first time you were aware of a power cut, and then came the thunder? wasn’t that scary? My feet felt like jelly. I wanted to run, but I couldn’t move.
Also, that time when a cow or a stray dog chased you? ( happened a lot back home!). Don’t you wish you could fly in such cases?
After a certain while, adulthood creeps in and sitting tight becomes the norm. Whether it’s getting out of a crappy friendship, a situation, or a relationship.
It’s always about “a little longer wouldn’t hurt”, “maybe things will change this time”, or “benefit of doubt, ftw”. 
When do we stop loving ourselves that we let everything else take over? When do we start taking a backseat in our own lives? Why do we do it? Is it because we’re too afraid to be happy? Or is it because we think this is it, this is as happy as I’ll ever be?
I’ve been there, camped there, and never left. Most of the time it was about “what will others think?”, “I can’t do this, I don’t have it in me”. At one point I let myself be surrounded by people who said this was it, I wasn’t going anywhere. 
They were right. Jelly in my legs again.
Most of us wouldn’t dare to get up, take charge. It’s just easier to complain, beat ourselves up, talk about everything that’s wrong in our lives, and keep running around in circles.
I was in a terrible job earlier this year. I was probably terrible for the job, I don’t know. I kept telling myself that it was me. I complained, worried, stressed out, and lost a lot of sleep over what others might think. In fact the last couple of years I’ve felt that way. I couldn’t find the strength to keep it together. I let it affect my time with my family.
Over a chat I was telling my almost 5 year old about how I’m unhappy with my bad job. She just turned around and said ” amma, so just find a good job okay?”. 
Simple enough, right? I was laughing with her, at her, saying child what do you know about life and such. But then, it just hit me. Why not? We adults have this habit of making everything so complex. Kids keep it simple, unadulterated.
In a couple of weeks I resigned and walked out. It felt powerful.
With that move, I’ve realized that putting myself first isn’t a bad thing. Complaining is cathartic but getting up and actually doing something about it is life changing. I’ve started working at a new place and I feel very positive about it.
Next time your (inner) child is saying something, listen. Who knows it might just change your life. 


The White Canvas shoe

Often we tend to buy things that we feel would define us.  A pair of jeans of this brand, a shirt of this color, or a lip gloss of a particular shade.  We are often told things like “oh that dress fits you beautifully”, or “Red is definitely your color”. Our personality is associated with all the “attributes” that are responsible for defining us.

We tend to get comfortable thinking that way, or giving in to buying “things” because it’s so “us”. Once we start letting such “things” define us, what happens to us? I, for one who loves to buy clothes, accessories, books or anything pretty should know. I am asking these questions out loud, because I am still trying to figure this out.

When I became a parent, I had to be a little more careful about what is “wanted” Vs “needed”. It was a great time to introspect, and look back at the experiences I had. There are so many incidents but I remember this one in particular.

When I was in middle school, it was compulsory to wear white on Saturdays for physical training. That included a white uniform, white ribbons, and white shoes and socks.  Why they made us wear white was beyond me because the dresses and the shoes got very muddy and dirty. I washed my canvas shoes diligently, and with rigor to make it as white as it could be, so that I could wear it the following week to school. I guess over time they wore out, and I was due for a new pair. There were new ones in the market then (the sleek ones, with thicker soles, to last longer). They were so pretty, and also expensive. I brought this to my dad’s attention that I needed new shoes, and having the newer design might be helpful.

Times were hard then, we had to wait to get everything we needed.

White Canvas Shoe

The idea of the new white canvas shoe was happiness. I thought it would look perfect with my uniform, and it would make me look prettier. The anticipation became an obsession, and I started having dreams about wearing it, and being the best looking person in class (on earth!).

A few weeks passed by and I didn’t hear back from my parents on why they weren’t buying me these shoes yet. The obsession continued with my eyes glimmering every time we passed by a store that had these shoes. I could almost feel the soft soles on my feet and practiced on perfecting my walk. The shoes became the only thing I could think or care about.

The school had a few holidays during October and as always we visited our relatives. When I went to my cousin’s, I was so excited about indulging her with my latest obsession. She heard it, and then showed me a pair that she recently bought.  My face fell, and I was visibly sad. The next day when she went outside, I slowly tried them on. (they were slightly bigger, but who cares!). Determined, I walked around in the yard, and used a different entrance to the house so that no one would see me wearing these shoes. As luck would have it, I stepped on some dirt (cow dung perhaps) and the shoes got dirty. Hurriedly, I took it to the bathroom and tried to clean it, but, the stain wouldn’t go.

I had to tell my cousin, that I had worn her new shoes, and got them dirty. It was very hard, and what was even harder was facing my parents. I didn’t know what to say, I knew by the look on my mother’s face that I was in a lot of trouble.

I then looked at my father. He was disappointed, but he gently asked me to go sit next to him.

He told me “Shru, I know it’s been a couple of weeks since you asked me to buy you a pair of new shoes. I am sorry I haven’t been able to buy them yet, because we have had other expenses that came by.  I never had any shoes to wear until I was in college. My first pair was a hand me down, which needed a lot of stitching. I never let that stop me from being happy, or let that define me.  You will understand this someday. I will do my best to buy this for you at the earliest”.

I must have cried a lot that day, resented my parents, my behavior, my cousin for having those shoes before me, but I learnt a very important lesson that day, which I will carry with me for the rest of my life.

Never let something apart from “you”, define you. Love people for who they are, not for what they have, or what they might be able to give you. I constantly struggle with this, but I am learning to see people for who they are.

I hope I can be half as good as my parents, and teach my child her importance before everything else that could or would define her. Someday, perhaps, I will teach her the importance of everything money cannot buy.  For now, I have to go back to look at the puzzle she just put together.


Turning 4

4. This is what it feels like.

I’ve been one of those lucky moms who got a chance to spend every moment with you the last few years. It has been challenging, but also humbling in every way.

This year I had to go back to work. Even though I work from home mostly, we made a trip to India on work. I had the most grueling schedule, which directly affected you. I wasn’t around you much, physically for months.

There were many tears shed by both you, and me. There was not a single day when you went to bed before I got back home, however late it was. You were with your grandparents, who cared for you the same way I would.

And one day, you just said ” Amma needs to go to work”, instead of the usual ” Amma, please don’t go to work”. I must’ve cried the hardest that day. Was I losing you? Was I doing this okay? I felt like the world’s worst mom, but yet you were always smiling, always welcoming, and so so loving. I still have so much to learn from you.

S3-59 S3 edit-5

You talk complete coherent sentences now. “Amma, I’m upset”, or ”  I’m hungry, I need to eat”, ” look, I farted”, “Will you come and play with us ?”. (I’m thinking us are all the imaginary friends you have.) You make sure you’re heard, and always speak your mind. I can’t say the same about many adults I know.

I might complain sometimes about how tough it gets, or about how many times you’ve watched ‘frozen’ the movie. You remain blissfully unaware, and love me to the maximum. I’m yet to learn to just love, keeping everything else aside.

In mom years, I turned four too. I’m still juggling, learning as I go. While some things have become simpler, other things keep turning complex. You remind me that it’s okay, and everything will be just fine. You’ve taught me to try the hardest and never give up. You try learning new things every day, and don’t realize what failing means. For you, Failure is just a means of taking another route, and doesn’t mean the end of the road. It seems so simple, it must be.

Enough with the sappy mom, you might say, soon enough. Right now you’re busy sleeping and I’m laying next to you and marveling at you. Gosh, something must’ve gone into my eye.

Happy 4th Stuti.

S3-60


Goodbye, Ajji

“She passed away, I am on my way there now”.
“How old was she?”.
97.
“She led a full life”.
“Was she your paternal grandmother, or maternal?”.
“Are you taking a trip, to say goodbye?”.
“There were lots of people Akka, everyone came”.
“I wanted to send you a picture of the body, but the elders denied”.
“This relative was wailing, while Amma was sobbing hysterically. No one can contain that kind of grief”.
“She was the oldest, and the wisest”.
“Did xyz make it? Were there that many people, really?”.
“They are probably going to finish the last rites close to home”.
“She donated her eyes, Akka, she still lives”.
“I don’t care what the elders say, we are her blood, and you deserve to see her go. Say goodbye”.
“No selfies with the dead body, please”.
“I feel for your pain, you live so far away”.
” It’s probably the price we pay to stay this far”.

Yes. She passed. While I try to come to grip with something that I like to elude, she’s gone. Actually, truly, no more. Her ashes are probably floating in a river and might have settled down. That is how quickly it happens.

I cannot believe she has gone. I cannot believe that the next time I visit India, I won’t see that toothless grin. A being so full of life, and wisecracks, is no more.

A century of wisdom bites the dust. A powerful woman, who influenced us in many many ways, is gone.

They say what we love so dearly never leaves us. I know she has left a little bit of her behind in all of us. And we will pass it along to our future generations.

The love that we give, and how true we stayed to ourselves are the only things that matter in the end. You are an embodiment of love. I didn’t wait to tell you that. I’m glad I didn’t.

While parents love you unconditionally, grandparents take it up a notch.

She saw her grand kids grow up, she had the energy to play with her great grand kids. Does that fact make it hurt a little less?. No.

I had the good fortune of making wonderful memories with her. I know it’s a little selfish of me to ask for more. Maybe she could’ve waited until my own child got a chance to know and get fascinated by this magical woman.

We humans, are so full of hope. Always thinking of the impossible.

Look at you Ajji, look at your legacy.
Every line on your face says a story. Every smile has a wonderful memory attached to it. Every incident indicates the storyteller you are. Every sign of my weakness was crushed when you reminded me of your powerful urge to fight back. You have touched so many lives, and I for one am so glad to be your grandchild.

It’s funny how it takes a death to bring a family together.

Rest in power. My beautiful Sundari Ajji.

IMG_5532.JPG


%d bloggers like this: