Stupid Suggestion - Befitting Retort

Today while dropping off Driti at school her teacher quickly caught me 'to have a word'.
That's never a good sign. 

"Did you tell your mother about nap time?" he asked. 
"No" Driti replied. But ofcourse. 
"She won't sleep?" I offered. Like eating and potty, sleeping is a waste of time too for the princess. But the teachers were aware of this too and had worked around it, instructing her only to be quiet. So if he was still talking to me about this, the issue must be bigger. 

"I made a little noise, but after sometime, I was quiet" Driti confessed. 
"I won't make noise again" she turned to her teacher and promised. 
"No, honey. You were not noisy at all at nap time."
"Then?" I asked confused.
"It's just that I am concerned" the teacher said. 
My heart started racing. Why was he so concerned? What on Earth was my daughter doing at nap time? 

Her teacher turned towards her : "What happens at nap time, honey?"
"Everybody is quiet and they sleep"
"And what do you do, honey?" 
"I don't sleep" 
Nothing new there. So get on with the suspense already!
"And?" he urged.
"I do headstands on my bed"
I muffled my laugh. I did not expect that response.

Now, I know she's a gymnast. She can never stand or sit in one place. She will always be on her hands or on her head, but I thought that was a show specially created for parental pleasure. It also served as an excellent exercise for us as we keep running behind her and diving like Neo. Only  we do not dodge bullets, but grab all fragile and breakable things out of her way. 
So turns out, we were not that special after all. 

"Driti" I started. "At home it's mostly carpeted, so you're safer. But here it's all wood. You shouldn't be doing all this. Especially when there are so many hard beds around"
"Then what can I do at nap time?"
I should've just said "Nap" and risked the series of questions. But I said something else.

"Maybe you can try and do potty at the time?" Yeah, I know. Even the teacher gave me confused looks. It does sound lame. But I was not going to leave any opportunity to get my constipated daughter to sit on the toilet. 

"But I don't get potty Mamma, it doesn't work"
"What doesn't work, baby?"
"My tusshy doesn't work on the toilet Mamma. It works only when I do somersaults."
Well yeah - you make a silly suggestion you get an answer that shuts you up.

A South Indian Thanksgiving

Last Thanksgiving, our first in the US was a huge let down.  A friend of ours had invited us and a couple more friends to join her family at her parents’ house for the feast.  We were pretty excited at the prospect of experiencing one of the most hyped celebrations of the West. Our host and hostess were very kind and welcoming. The food was great and much to my delight there three vegetarian options – that’s two more than on the menu of the local restaurant! Oh, and there was also the quintessential Turkey – the bird, all the stuffing, some dressing and a whole lot of legging (women out numbered the men.) But somehow, it just didn’t feel like Thanksgiving! And you’re wondering how I would know how Thanksgiving feels, if I claim this to be my first one? Good observation! 

The Thanksgiving I know, is from Hollywood movies and sit-coms. And in almost all those movies, there’s a lot of fuss over turkey, the hostess serves a lot of fattening food, relatives turn up with liquor or more food and inevitably there is some huge drama, a big fight, bones are picked – literally and figuratively and by the end of it all, people are on the couch, wearing stretch pants and watching the ‘big game’, if they haven’t already stomped and left the venue in a fit.

I chose the corner seats for our family – just in case there was a fight and we had to leave. But there was no fight, nothing broke, nobody needed digestive aids and nobody saw the ‘big game’. People were very polite and civil with each other, a lot of food was passed around the table and we finished off with dessert and coffee. That’s it! That was all there was!

It was a huge let-down because there was no drama. This just felt like a get-together of friends and family. Dinners like these happen all the time in India. Just add in some loud and raucous laughter and a handful of noisy kids that break stuff and you have a regular Indian fare.

Granted we have gazillion festivals and ample reasons to celebrate but we’re not necessarily known to wait for these special occasions for meeting with friends and family. Any life event is special and warrants a get-together. Pregnant? Let’s celebrate. Birth? Celebration time! The child’s christened? Yahoo! Tonsure? What’s on the menu? Solid food for the child? Time for a party! Admission in a good school? Bring out the bottles! Puberty? Job? Promotion? – All perfectly valid reasons to celebrate. And there’s always a lot of food.
So I didn’t quite ‘get’ Thanksgiving.

Anyway, this Thanksgiving, we’re just going to keep it low-key. My sister and brother-in-law and a few friends are coming over for the holidays. We’ll eat some idlis and dosas, dance to some Bollywood numbers, play charades, some board games, a few rounds of chess, and have a movie marathon through the night. We’ll try and keep it down. 

Inside Out

This Halloween was special. We could really convince DD to be Jhansi Lakshmi Bai for Halloween – the Indian warrior princess who fought against the British for our country’s freedom.  And she was excited about being the princess and shared the story with everyone. She was not just another Disney princess. And we were glad - even if she chose the light saber with her costume. She still knows that Lakshmi Bai fought the British even as she was nursing her infant child.

It’s not that we hate Disney’s portrayal of princesses – maybe at a subconscious level, we do. But, our concern is more with what our child takes away from it. The color coordinated attire, the perfect bun on the princess’s head, the shining tiara and the sparkling castle. She hasn’t yet realized who a ‘Prince in Shining Armor’ is – because she’s obsessing over the dresses the princesses wear. Maybe she’ll notice the guy in a few years. But now, she’s just about the glitter and the shiny things. It’d be a parental achievement if we could help her be self- sufficient, independent and courageous to take care of herself, and not wait for some ridiculous knight to save her.

So when Ady decided to have the talk with her, I agreed. There’s never a perfect time. We need to start it somewhere and sometime. And if she could understand that a princess, like Lakshmi Bai, who did not wear long flowing gowns, was respected for her courage and bravery, not just beauty, maybe she was ready for the discussion.
Parenting is all trial and error. So if this is too soon, we’ll know. And it’ll also help us in our strategy, in bringing up topics for her.

We shared stories about the Ugly Duckling, some Indian stories where a kind hearted king or a strong-willed queen made the biggest contributions to their kingdoms.

We shared stories of Gandhi and his rebellion against the clothes from the British.
Ady and I did a lot of research. We searched out movies and books that could help us. In all fairness, our intention was not to force her to stop talking about princesses and fairies and be thoroughly fascinated by them. Not at all; she’s a child, she deserves exposure to a fantasy land and it’s a part of her childhood here in the US. Our attempt was just to introduce her to real life heroes and help her look beyond the obvious.  And in the process, she was also learning about our culture and heritage.

She was fascinated by the stories of Gods and Goddesses, of Queens and Kings and normal denizens who did extraordinary things.
And then we thought it was time for the “What’s on the inside talk”.

I started, “You know honey, Rapunzel and Snow White look great on the outside. But do you know how they are on the inside?”
DD: “You mean, when they’re naked?”

Oh God!
Me: “No. In their heart. How kind they are, how friendly they are?”

DD: “ No”
DH: “Do you think everybody will love them if they’re rude and selfish?”

DD: “What is selfish?”
DH: “Selfish is when you think only about yourself and not of others”

DD: “You should care about others because that makes them happy that you love them and it makes you happy that your friends are happy”
Me: “Correct. And when you care about somebody, and when you are brave and friendly, you’re beautiful inside. Your clothes, your tiara don’t say that. A person needs to get to know you better, to know all that about you – that which is inside you in your heart.”

DD: “I think SnowWhite and Rapunzel are beautiful inside too”

Me: “I’m sure they are. But what we’re saying, is you should like a person more because of how they are on the inside”
DD: “Yes. They’re friendly and nice”
Me: “So that’s being beautiful on the inside”

DD: “Hey, wait a minute. I have something beautiful on the inside”
And she runs away to get something. DH and I exchange looks. What inside is outside?
She returns with her glittering pink shoes. “Look Mamma, Papa. Look inside”

And we follow her directions. “Look, there’s a picture of Snow White and Cinderella inside my sparkling shoes. I like these not just because they are beautiful outside, but because they’re beautiful inside too!”
Well, so much for that. At least she knows there is an ‘inside’ to beauty too.
And as she grows, so will our attempts.
Till then, stay wide-eyed and excited my darling. Stay innocent and happy.

4 and three quarters

When it comes to growing up, Driti and I are in split minds. She wants to grow fast because she wants to be able to eat ice cream which her doctor had prescribed she can eat only when she is 5, because she wants to wear beautiful big girl clothes and because she can get married and have her own baby.

She does not want to grow because I won't be able to carry her and she won't be so cute anymore. (All her, not me. She's seen a lot of adults are not fussed over I guess)

I want her to grow up because I want her to clean up after herself, I want her to have the attention span higher than a moth (this could be an unrealistic expectation, considering I... hey, look a purple car!).

I don't want her to grow up fast because, I want her to be my little cuddly bundle, I want to be able to hug and kiss her as much as I can before I become completely annoying to her and she is embarrassed of me. How dare she!

So anyway, she's keeping a track of how old she is to the closest count.  And right now, she is 4 and three quarters. She knew it when she was 4 and a half and for some strange reason, I assumed she knew what 4 and three quarters were.

And she's been telling that to everyone. When I am on the phone and somebody on the other line's asking me how old my daughter is, and if I've said 4 or 4 and a half, she'll jump up and down and scream till I correct myself and confirm on the phone that she is in fact 4 and three quarters.

So yesterday, while putting her to sleep, it occurred to Ady, that she may not even know what three quarters is. So he asked her to write her age on a piece of paper before he could explain it.

And what she wrote made us tumble down with laughter. I mean, really.  Take a look. (Ignore the scribbling on the left)

That's 4 and 3 coins signifying 3 25 cent coins. 4 and three quarters. But of course!
I rest in 'piece' while Ady's been 'cent' to explain the count!

Reasons My Daughter Won't Sleep

  1. It's boring.
  2. It's night time.
  3. Her ankle's aching just when I kiss her 'Goodnight'
  4. She needs to poop.
  5. She wants water.
  6. The story I just finished reading to her, is not the one she wanted me to read, even though she was the one who chose it in the first place.
  7. She wants to write her own story.
  8. Tomorrow takes a long time to come.
  9. The light goes off when she shuts her eyes.
  10. Her body wants her to jump on the bed.
  11. She's hungry. (This after my running behind her coaxing her to finish her food, which, when she was eating, she wasn't hungry.)
  12. If she slept because the Sun slept, she'd be copying the Sun. And she does not want to copy the Sun.
  13. She's cold but she's hot. Yeah. Go figure.
  14. There's a pea under her pillow that none of us can see. And because she's a princess, she can't sleep.
  15. She misses grandma and wants to Skype right now!
  16. She wants to see God when she's praying.
  17. If God doesn't show up, she wants to keep praying with Mamma in the room.
  18. She doesn't remember her dreams. So what's the point of going to bed to dream?
  19. Her body does not need rest.
  20. She's already growing because she eats fruits and vegetables and if sleeping also makes her grow,  she'll become a Giant.

The Art and Science of Language - At Home

Driti is very interested in the 'art of writing'. Ok, she's interested in holding the pen and writing some words, and we're thrilled that the focus is slowly moving from princesses, castles and fairies... and PINK to something, we can relate to.

Few sentences down and she realizes - under is 'UN' der and wonder is w'ON'der.  

She hates that Monday is M'ON'day not M'UN'DAY. 

"English is a funny language, Driti", we try weakly. "There are a lot of words that will confuse you"

"Are all languages like that?" she asks. 

"No, baby. Hindi's not like that" Ady says with an expanded chest. 

"Even Tamil", I add. She needs to know a thing or two about my mother tongue too!

"Hindi?" Driti asks surprised. "Hindi's also a funny language papa"

"Why do you say that?" Ady asks visibly upset. 

"Well, yesterday is called 'kal' and tomorrow is called 'kal' too"

Yeah, we didn't have a response. 

"Hindi ain't as scientific as Tamil" I chuckle at Ady later. 

"I guess you're right" Ady admits.

"You agree?" I'm shocked. Really? How did this happen? He's accepted defeat? Is age catching up with him? Is he giving up arguing with me? Have I finally won?

"Yes. I agree" and then he adds "Badmaja"  reminding me of the limited number of letters in the Tamil script and the interchangeable usage of the same letters. Ba for Pa in this case.

So much for teaching the 'science' of a language.  

Explaining Karva Chauth - An Amateurish Take

Today is Karva Chauth and in our attempt to keep  Driti aware of all things Indian, I tried explaining the meaning of the festival and why we do it. 

But, my timing was bad (I realized it was Karva Chauth today in the morning, thanks to m-i-l's phone call), so all the discussion happened in the car. 

It's basically from the fear that if I do not share the significance of our rituals and culture at the appropriate time, she'll be left with no sense of identity or connection with her home land. On the other hand, I wasn't sure I was fully prepared to have the discussion with her, because of the spate of follow up questions that would follow. If you don't do your homework, you'll always get into trouble.

So, here's what I tried with her : 

Me:  "Driti, today is Karva Chauth, it is a special festival when husbands pray for  the well being of wives and wives pray for husbands" 
D:    "What about children?"
Me:  "And children pray for their parents"
D:    "What about the children's friends?"
Me:  "The children can pray for whoever they want"
D:     "Ok, I want to pray for my friends" and as an after thought "and my parents"
Me:   "Great. So usually, the wife and the husband do not eat for the..." I bit my tongue. This is not what I want her to take away.
D:    "Then why do I have to eat? I am not going to eat" she said dropping her sandwich.
Me:   "No Driti, we eat. We just don't eat chicken"
Ady:  "Tread carefully. I don't want her to stop eating chicken"
D:     "But why only chicken?"
Me:  "Well, you can eat whatever you want, because you're like Krishna. All children are like Gods. So they can eat whatever they want. Remember the little naughty Krishna"
D:    "Then if I am God, why should I pray to God?"

Yes. I should've accepted defeat at this point. 

Me:   "You are like God, baby. And so you pray for other people, not just yourself"
D:   "Why?"

I was now free falling into a bottomless pit. Need to change the strategy - and now!

Me:  "And you know what we do in the evening, when we're praying?" I changed the topic.
D:    "What?"
Me:  "We dress up. Girls wear beautiful clothes and bangles and jewelry and pray.."
D:    "And papa?"
Me:  "Papa will wear pant shirt or salwar suit." I was able to successfully divert the topic.
D:     "Poor boys, they can only wear pant shirt or salwar suit"
Ady : "Tread carefully......" 

 I bit my tongue. I knew what was coming and I couldn't do anything about it, well not now anyway...

D:     "Then why do you make me wear pants? I am not going to wear pants anymore..."

"School Driti! School! Yay! We've reached school, wonderful school! Let's see how many steps till we reach the door" 

"Yay, Mamma!"

Time for me to read up about Karva Chauth, Gods and clothing - My homework.

Role Playing

As men and women, dads and moms we have our strengths and 'developmental opportunities'. We could as well be Supermen and Superwomen in our own imagination and our mighty self-image may not let us see the aptly named 'blind spot', but our better halves make sure we're aware of it, even if don't really want to know. 

It takes 45 mins for Ady to get Driti ready in the morning. 

A: "Driti, time to get up" 
D: "You can't just tell me, papa, you need to ask if I am ready"
A: "OK.Are you ready to get up Driti?"

A series of exchanges later, it's really late, and if we have any intentions of reaching office and her school before lunch, we need to get off now!

Enter, Wonder woman, aka yours truly. 
Me: "D, do you want to pick the clothes you want to wear for school or should I?"
D: "I want to Mamma"
Me:"If you don't get up in the next minute, you don't get to"
D is up and in the bathroom brushing her teeth.
Me to Ady: "And that's how it's done!" 

On the way back, me to Ady "You know what, I always pick her up. Today you should go"

A: "But will you be able to move the car in case there's traffic?"
Me: "What traffic? We're on the side of the road and parked"
A: "Yeah, but it's a 30 min load unload zone. And it says this is until 6. It's 5:55"
Me: "Yeah, I think I can handle 5 mins"
A: "Ok. I'll go get her"
30 secs later Ady calls me on my phone.
A: "There's a parking enforcement car that I can see, can you move the car into the parking garage?"
Me:" What? where?" and I see the car and panic. "NO, you come. Now!" I yell on the phone. Ady's just across the road.
A: "It may not be a problem actually,...."
Me: "No, you come, now!"
A: "You don't have to panic so much, we haven't..."
Me: "No, come now. I'll die of a heart attack"
Ady crosses the road and jumps into the driver's seat, and parks the car in the garage in under a minute.
A to Me: "And that's how it's done"

As I said, the spouse will always show you the blind spot!

What it means in Tamil

We were back in India, for a big, fat, joyous occasion - my sister's wedding! It was such a great time to meet family and friends - stressful, but great! Stressful because, well I had to do the running around for a lot of last minute stuff. And it was great because that gave me a reason for a 2 hour massage after the wedding. Yeah, baby!

Little sis was creating a cross of sorts. She was marrying into an Iyengar family. (Iyers wear the holy ash horizontally on their forehead and are followers of Shiva, Iyengars wear the vermilion vertically and are followers of Vishnu. So the horizontals were meeting with the verticals) 

D was especially fascinated by the flowery head piece. She felt it was Rapunzel's Indian version and was fixated by it the whole time. So, we got her one too. So while sis wore hers, the lil one wore hers too. 

Now, it was  really unfair that D and sis were hogging the limelight. The vaadyaar (priest) wanted his share of attention too. "Where's the taambaalam?" he screamed to top the sound of the naadaswaram.

I ran helter skelter, D in tow. Where on Earth was the taambalam? "Mamma, check the fridge, check the fridge" D urged.

Now, a taambalam is a large copper plate, used for religious occasions. It is huge! There's no way you'd keep it in the fridge. 

"What? No Driti. It cannot be in the fridge"

"But, you always keep it in the fridge"
"What?" I don't even have a taambalam in my house. What was she talking about?
"Taambalam, taambalam" the priest was still screaming. 
"Driti, baby, why don't you go back to Chitti? (my sister, her aunt)"  So she ran back.

Well,I finally did find the taambalam and the wedding went on fine. Phew... what a big deal over a big plate!

Back home, when we're all finally relaxing, Driti comes up to me and asks me to open her closed fist. 

"What's in it?" I ask
"Taambalam. The one you were looking for so much at Chitti's wedding"

And it fit in her fist? I was curious.

"See", she urged, as I opened her little fist. She had a small tomato in her hand. 

"Isn't that what they call tomato in Tamil?"
At the next wedding, let somebody else find the taambalam. I'm going to the fridge with Driti.

Independent, Who?

"Driti, today's our Independence Day" Ady cried excitedly. Something about living far away from homeland, makes you want to connect with everything even remotely associated with it. Why, while in India, we did not celebrate half the low profile festivals. Except for Diwali and Holi, nothing else held our interest.

But after coming here, we celebrated "padinettamberu". I have no idea what it means. But apparently, we need to cook different colored rice and celebrate the colors of life. So I did. I made yellow, brown and white rice and offered it to God. Never would I have dreamt of doing something for this festival I knew nothing about, in India. But as I said, distance does that to you. 

We were excited about Independence Day back in India too - and D did witness and participate in her first I-Day celebrations when she was 2. But moving here, we had to create all the fuss for her.

So anyway, when Ady announced to D, she was excited too. It's actually very easy to spread excitement at her height. "We'll have fireworks" she jumped. Yeah, she thought it was the 4th of July on a repeat run. Especially since she had slept through the fireworks on that day. 

So it was a teaching moment, and Ady set about talking about Gandhi and our struggle for freedom. Firstly, she did not want to accept that we had fought against the British. They have a real life princess. So how could we?

Second, she was more interested in why Gandhi did not wear clothes and how he died. Something about Death - it really fascinates her. 

So trying to get her attention to 'Independence' took a while. But at the end of it, she did understand how India got Independence. I think Ady made her watch 'Gandhi' after all.

And she was really happy, that she was 'free'. 

While I was glad that she finally understood why our Independence Day means so much to us, I hadn't signed up for what came up next. 

Early today morning, she barged into our room and started jumping on our bed. It was 5;30 AM "Driti, go back to your room. It's still night time" I murmured, still half asleep.

She had the iPod in her hand by now, and was playing some song loudly. "Driti, go to your room, or sit on that chair and use head phones" I tried, using the pillows to shield my ears. 

"You can't tell me what to do. I am 'dindeependent'" she declared. So much for 'Independence Day'

And So She Unlearns

It is with great regret that I share that my daughter is unlearning Hindi. 

She listens to what we say, but turns out, she comprehends it differently. And it's just been a year in Seattle. 

Today, she came up to me and said, "Mamma, you know, the little finger is called 'Katti' and the thumb is called 'dost'" 

I know I shouldn't have, but I was so amused with the whole thing, I asked her to show it to me. She did just that, and with the same tone, that we're used to as kids - If we're unhappy with a friend, we say 'katti' showing the little finger, and if we want to make friends, we say 'dost?'.

My mother used to play this game with her, and she recollected this incident yesterday - out of the blue. 

So yes, I clarified this to her. But....her unlearning it doesn't end there. And it doesn't end with just Hindi. 

I've taken the following incident to heart. I just can't get over it. I.. I.. 

Anyway, I'll try and keep my emotions under check while sharing the story here.

How long can you keep a South-Indian from South-Indian food? Turns out, you can keep this South-Indian away for a maximum of 1 week, before withdrawal symptoms kick in. 

So, the 2 week trip to Spain did have adverse effects on my mental make. Driti also wanted to have idlis. Her palate is completely South Indian. Good for me. So the remaining Indian had to take us for a binge. 

I ordered dosa, Driti - idli and Ady - biryani.

I don't mean to cause that drool by sharing our food choices; so please wipe that off. 

Anyway, we're eating silently (really silently, so you know all the craving did have an effect on us), and suddenly Driti declares, "Mamma, I am not going to eat the hummus, it's very spicy". "What hummus?" we're eating South Indian and we're thoroughly confused. 

"This one", she says pointing to the chutney. Could anyone get me a thimble filled with dripping water? I could easily jump into it.

My genes, my favorite food, and my only daughter. There's been a cross connection somewhere!

Fearsome Fours

Everybody talks about "Terrible Twos" to prepare the parent for what's in store. And there's no consistency on exact start of this phase. Some say, it's immediately after the first birthday. They've technically begun age 2. Others say, it's after the second birthday. And of-course parents would want to believe the wise person who said, "after the second birthday" in the blinding optimism of postponing the torture on self.

But the weird part is, nobody talks about the "terrifying threes", "fearsome fours", "feisty fives", and so on. My mom says, she's also familiar with the "twisted twenties" and "thought-less thirties". Now I don't know how she came up with that.

So turns out "terrible twos" are just over hyped.Or may-be they'd like to warn you just about the first phase of terrible. And once you've started experiencing it, you won't have the time to stop and realize that the phases are actually changing until the little one gets a spouse. Then that's a whole another phase. But since I want to believe it's too distant in future for me, I am not going to delve on that. 

So where am I? Fearsome Fours. D is so vocal and logical and so insistent it's scary. I mean, I can't get away with "do this, because I said so" anymore. It's like a subdued version of handling a teenager. She's preparing me pretty well for the years ahead. 

Just yesterday, D was up to another mischief, and I decided she was ready for the silent treatment. True enough, she couldn't stand all the silence. She's used to the sound of nagging and suddenly there's this deafening silence, except of course all the stuff she's dropping on the ground, and the chairs she's pulling across the floor. 

She didn't realize I was silent when she was applying all the face paint on her table. She realized it, after all the mess was created. "Mamma, why are you not talking to me?" she was surprised. No response. She tried a couple of times and came closer to me, lifted the hair out of my ears, and tried,"Can you hear me? I made a mess".  No response. It was only then that I realized she was not used to silence. There's always so much sound in the house, that silence is completely unnatural to her. She's not intolerant though, she's seen kids who don't talk much, and she knows the reason. So with her logical deduction, she again came up to my ears and whispered "Are you shy, Mamma?"

And it took a whole lotta will power, just to curtail the burst of laughter. Silent treatment, my @#$%!


We had a very big discussion yesterday. I'm using the word 'discussion' to tone down the entire stream of 'communication'. The conversations these days seem to be super sonic almost tearing the lungs apart for the minion.

She was completely disappointed that we were married. She was even more disappointed that she wasn't. And when she realized that we were also engaged at some point and would celebrate our 'verversary', all hell broke lose.

"When will I get to wear those clothes?" " Why don't I have an engagement?" "When will I get to wear the black chain forever?" "When will I grow up?" "Why is everyone married?" 

She already knows who she wants to get married. The names may change each month, but atleast for the month, she is confident about the person she wants to tie the knot with. 

Her biggest concern is not that she wasn't in the wedding (that we explained). Her biggest concern is that she doesn't get to celebrate her anniversary, while everybody else seems to.

No, birthdays are different and she knows it. Her mom and dad get to celebrate them too, don't they? She wants an anniversary. Now, you see, it's easy to just give her any day and call it an anniversary. But how do you keep track of it? (Yeah, she knows anniversary comes every year). 

And we would want to believe that she will forget the day next year, but when we celebrate our anniversary, we're calling for a loose canon to blow up any minute. Now, we could bank on D maturing with age and all that, but we weren't willing to risk another melt down in about half a year. Instead of waiting for the end of the world, we decided we could be proactive too ala John Cusack in that fateful movie.We'd much rather address it right now, than have a flood of tears and noise control come over at a later stage.

So, our anniversary day (any major milestone we'd like to acknowledge) is the day that we celebrate our family. It's no longer wedding anniversary or engagement day. It's 'famiversary'. That's a quick fix. 

But every wedding, raises so many questions. Why is she not the bride? Why does the bride get to be the bride?

And at the actual big bang wedding this summer - I'm just going to leave the lighted firecracker out in the open. After all, weddings are much better with fire works. 

Why Climbing Mt Everest is Easy

This would have been my third victorious return from Mt Everest. I would've packed my bags in a jiffy, done all the rigorous strength and stamina building exercises, happily kept quiet to preserve my oxygen supply and come had ice-creams to celebrate my conquering of the summit. I would've been the first woman representing the South and North India to ever climb up there – and 3 times.  29029 ft *3 times.

But instead, I utilize all my energy - physical and mental trying to win over my 3 ft  dynamite. I can still pick her up and put her to bed if I am too tired and kiss and distract her with something shiny now, but I feel the shiver down my spine every time I think about her teenage years. If this is just a glimpse into the years to come, my tenure as ‘the mother’ is going to be a long and arduous one replete with hair-pulling and high blood pumping experiences.

It’s not so much the physical endurance. I do like running, so she gives me ample reasons not to go to the gym. And nothing can beat the labor pain. So my threshold of pain has increased leaps and bounds since the last time I had a paper cut and made a big deal about it.
It’s the mental shock that she gives me with her ready replies or as they say ‘haazir jawaabi’ in Hindi that I find a little (I won’t admit defeat beyond this measure) difficult to handle.
Today for example, Ady and Driti were having a discussion on why she should eat her dal and curd. The senior was making a case for eating both of them, the junior, the South-Indian junior – just for the curd.

A: “Driti, dal is very smart. It knows the answers to all the questions. You should eat it. Mix with curd if you like”

D: “No. Curd is smarter. It knows all answers”

A: (acting every smart himself) : “Let’s try” and he asked the curd the following question “Curd, what is the capital of India?”

D:  “New Zealand” (she heard me whisper ‘new’ something. And New Zealand is the only place she knows, starting with ‘new’. Thanks to her uncle who lives there. Her aunts in Delhi, live in India.  And she doesn’t know Delhi is ‘New’)

A:  (looking very satisfied): “No. See, it does not know. Now let me ask the dal” And he looks all very smug as he asks the dal “Dal, what is the capital of India?”

A: "New Delhi" he answers trying ventriloquism.
D:  “No, even curd is smart. See…” and she sets about asking her own question to the curd
D: “Curd, what is the most popular character in India?” If dad can, so can she. “Chota Bheem”  was her ventriloquial reply.

And Ady and I did not have a retort. At this rate, she’d just get what she wants. So we had to use our powers to distract and get her to get some protein in her body.

This was definitely one of the few times that I had to think of a comeback.  I didn’t know if I should be proud of her ready retort or upset at my lack of response.

I just hope this is the extent she’ll go even as a teenager. I know my limitations. I just don’t know how strong my strengths are!!

So you see, Everest is a much easier conquest than actually explaining why food is good to the little monster.

Where's the Party Tonight?

Given a choice, I would much rather sit in a cozy corner at home than go out and meet new people. I'd much rather sit with a book, my laptop or a sitcom and interact with people virtually than shake hands with people in 3-D. People I know, I have no problem interacting - it's the new people that cause butterflies to do trapeze routines in my tummy. 

D on the other hand - is a party animal. A social butterfly. She refuses to come back home after school. And because she knows her teachers and friends will also go to their respective houses at some point. She'll reluctantly come with me complaining, "You're mean Mamma".

When on play dates, as soon as she lands in a friend's house, she'll say: "Mamma, you go. I will have my play date and you can pick me after a long time"

Her new school is close to a lot of human activity and high foot fall. So getting her from the car to her class, takes eternity. She'll talk to everyone. She'll ask everyone what they're doing. If she finds a smoker near a 'No-smoking', she'll go and tell him "You're not supposed to smoke here. Why are you smoking?" The embarrassed guy (it was a guy) would just walk away and apologize to her.  She's into the "Why is there a cross over there" phase now. She wants to know why you can't use the lift when there's a fire. Why kids can't sit in the grocery goods part of the cart in the supermarket. Why you can't take U turns. Everything. 

So anyway, when we do get to the school, she'll want to decide which class she wants to go to; which one is more fun. Hers or the younger kids or the older kids. And she'll take a while to decide while I keep looking at the time and goading her. Nothing can rush her. She'll do everything at her own pace. I wish I were like that. 

And when weekend finally arrives, she's up at 6 in the morning.  She'll come running to us pounce on the bed and say, "What are we going to do today?"

I'll say "Dance class and swimming class, Driti"

"But after that? Where else will we go?"

"Sleep Driti"

"But if we keep sleeping, the Sun will go away and we have to sleep again"

Such clear priorities. I can already hear her as a teenager. "Where's the party tonight?"

The Mentalist and Me

It was a lazy Sunday morning. Coming to think of it, almost every Sunday is turning out to be lazy. Perhaps it does need some RedBull after all. Anyway, the point of discussion is not Sunday here. (ADD me). It's what happened on that fateful Sunday. 

Ady was up like an excited kid and was getting ready to go for his tennis match. Yeah, any sport which has a ball gets him excited.  I've thought of a couple of chores I could get him to do at home throwing the ball in. But I've ended up playing on the tennis court and lost more times than I care to admit. Again, I digress. So anyway, while I was lazying around with Driti, Ady was  getting all sporty with a head band, a wrist band. 

Just as I was falling back into deep slumber after having been woken up by the sounds of the man-of-the-house, trying to open the closet door 'silently', Ady called for me. "Can you please come down?" "Whyyyyy?" I moaned. 
"I'd much rather you come down. I don't want to speak about it with Driti around" he insisted. 
"But she's sleeping"
"Ok. In that case", he said very calmly "We've been robbed"
"What?" I got up at the speed of, if not faster than light. 
"Is everything gone? How did we sleep through all the breaking in? It's all because of you" I started. "You had to watch that movie late into the night and keep me awake and tired" I continued, running down the stairs.
"But it looks the usual amount of dirty to me" I paused confused. 
"Yeah, if you give me a minute to explain, I can tell you" Ady threw his hands up in exasperation. 
"The car. Somebody broke into our car"
"The iPod?"
"No. The iPod was inside the house. It's the GPS. Actually both the GPSes, the stands and the phone charger" We had borrowed an old GPS from a friend and had bought a new one recently. And not surprisingly, we kept both of them in the car."

Ady got into the car to check for stuff broken and stolen. "Use a cloth!" I screamed. "You'll erase the finger prints" I had watched too many Mentalist re-runs to know better. 
"Just call the cops first. This is a crime scene"

And Ady hadn't watched CSI or The Mentalist. So he reluctantly listened to the expert and called 911. He gave a detailed account to them and as he hung up, I asked animatedy, "So are they coming?" Strangely, I was excited about watching the cops in action. The fact that our property was damaged somehow took a back seat. No pun intended. "They love donuts," I added. "Should I get some?"

Ady looked at me like I was some crazy person. "That won't be necessary" he said. "They're not coming" 
"What do you mean? This is a crime!"
"Yeah, only you and I seem to be hyper reacting. The police asked me to call the insurance. They said it's very common here. They'll just call back with a complaint number"

I stared at him like a daft person. I couldn't believe all my Mentalist watching was of no use. 
All our neighbors reacted similarly. "Oh, it's your first time. You left the GPS on the dashboard?" Rookie mistake, we understood. But no one told us when we did. Everybody said it was stupid to leave the GPS on the car. How do we know? In India we left our car open so many times. Maybe it wasn't that attractive but nobody tried to take anything from the inside of a car which had a car seat.

Anyway, it was an aaha moment for us - Car break-ins are common - it's a part of settling in. Cops apparently don't all eat donuts. It's a stereotype. (I learnt this in a cultural awareness class). And the one statement we heard so often.... "Welcome to Seattle"

Mother's Day for the Father and the Friend

This was the first Mother's Day my daughter could actually do something for me. Her motor skills had developed - finally! No, I don't mean she could cook or go to the shopping mall to get me something fancy (I wish), but this could've been the time she could  actually  make something for me. A drawing, a collection of stones or a bouquet dried and dehydrated flowers or just a box of plain old worms. This could've been my year of - The -Mother's -Day-when-Driti-made-something-just-for-me.

And Ady should've helped her do exactly that. But he had just returned from China and she had learnt about Mother's Day from her mother. I had told her  that Mother's Day is a day you listen to everything your mom says. And she didn't feel it was any different from the rest of the days in her life. 

But I didn't give up. Yeah, the fighter that I am. I was persistent. I got her all these cup cake stickers and sheets of paper. I gave them all to her and asked her to go nuts. And obediently enough, she did. 

"It's beautiful Driti" I chimed eyeing that sheet in her hand and greedily reaching out for it. "It's not for you" she said.
 "What? Why? Today is Mother's Day" I protested.

"I'll make a puzzle for you when we return from dinner with Sidonie and Simon. This is for Sidonie" she said stealing away my thunder and handing it over to her beloved friend in a fancy platter with delicious cup cakes. 

"Driti, Mamma will feel bad" Ady tried. 
"But you're there na Papa?" she said referring to the poster he got for her. 

You see, when we had gone on a vacation recently, I got this wall hanging of Mom's rules for her:

And Ady wanted to get something too, and he got:

So it was Mother's Day alright, but it was the father who got the "Aaww" moment and the friend who got the creative art. 

So Mamma had to make papa splurge to make up for an unplanned Mom's day. It was so stressful  - shoe shopping! 

But the best part - she did remember to make the puzzle for me. Happy Mother's Day?

The Masochist in the Parent

I've walked 10 blocks to my office from her pre-school.  It’s been a long day at work not from a number of hours perspective, but more from the mental strain. After hours of brainstorming, data analysis and proposal creation, my brain was dead on me and the only thing I felt I was left capable of doing was some linear and mechanical job. Like packing my bag and walking back those ten blocks back to pick my daughter and take her to her gymnastics class.

And it’s a shame I can’t kick myself in the back (why don’t I exercise?) ‘cause this is by far the stupidest assumption I could've made after having repeated experiences.

 I tried to separate my baby from her friend. I actually felt jealous that she was clinging on to stay a while in school. See, another stupid reaction.

I should've felt happy, said she can have a ball till the school closes, sat at the parent’s conference room and worked.  But no, I told her about her gymnastics class and she was super enthusiastic. Now I had a very high child in my completely sapped hands. Stupid. Stupid. Stupid . Oh, and I forgot to add… Stupid!

She was excited and she did come with me. We walked 3 blocks together to the bus stop. 3 blocks. That’s all. I walked 10 in 12 mins. We waked 3 in 20 mins. “Mamma, why is the Sun following us?”

“Mamma, why is that man’s teeth black?”
“Mamma, how is Apricot different from Peach?”
“Mamma why can’t I have ice cream?”
I was tired, but I really tried to attentively listen and answer all her questions. But one question always leads to tons more.

So, we reached the bus stop only to realize that we missed the bus. Yay! I can now answer some more questions. But she realized she was hungry and I took her to the closest place to the bus stop, which happened to be McDs.
We stood in the line.
“I want chicken burger and French fries Mamma”
“Ok Driti. But you have to finish the whole thing. The happy meal comes with chocolate milk”
“I love chocolate milk”
“Ok, but I can’t help you finish Chicken. I don’t eat it. You have to finish OK?” Stupid.
“Why won’t you eat chicken Mamma?”
Now, I don’t intend to brag, but Driti hero worships me. If I say I don’t like it or my parents asked me not to eat it, she will stop eating too. And we haven’t tested it yet, but I think if she had her way she’d choose to survive on air and a one sided conversation.
 So the only thing that she likes, I’d rather keep the interest active - the chicken thing.
So I said, “I am allergic to chicken Driti”
And she started crying.
“Why are you crying?” We are next in line; I can’t afford to miss the next bus trying to pacify your siren.
“I don’t have any allergies”
“Ofcourse you do. You are allergic to ice creams. You catch cold when you eat them”
“So do you catch cold when you eat chicken?”
We now have to order. “Chicken burger happy meal and the wrap without chicken and fries please”
Some more crying.
“What is it now?”
“I want chicken nuggets”
“Chicken nuggets happy meal please” I order.
Now we have 5 mins before the next bus arrives.
“Do you get cold Mamma?”
“Hun? Yes” I answer while wondering if the McD’s in US operate in the same 1 minute service like in India.
“But you are more than 5” the voice from below observes.
“I can eat ice cream when I turn 5”
“Oh God Driti, please keep quite. We’ll miss the bus again if we keep talking”
After 3 mins, the lady brings us our stuff. Now I only have 2 mins
So I pick her with one hand, two bags of food in the other and a back pack and sprint to the door.
Crying from under my nose.
“What’s it now?”
“The chocolate milk is cold”
No idea how she sneaked it out of the box.
“So eat your nuggets first. It’ll be fine by then”
Got the bus! Thank all the 330 million Gods!
In the bus, she wants to walk all the way back and sit on the ‘high seat’, the elevated seats. What world view she gains by it, I have no idea. Another string of questions and 5 nuggets down, she says “I don’t like nuggets Mamma”

There’s only one remaining in the box! And I turn to ask the lady behind which would be the closest stop for her gymnastics and by the time I turn around, all the French fries have spilled down and she is fast asleep.

So I pick everything, put it in a bag, smile sheepishly at fellow travelers and get down carrying her, the bags and the back pack. She has to do gymnastics and she is sleeping.
I walk two blocks and wake her up. She’s excited about gymnastics but she wants to first drink her chocolate milk that she loves. She has a sip and returns it to me. “I don’t like it”

Thankfully after gym she’s tired.

The Gods have been easy, and the bus was almost immediate.
“Mamma, why is she the way she is?” she asks pointing at a lady with tattoos and pierced lips, nose and belly button.
“Driti, how many times have I told you to ask me all these questions in Tamil?” I reprimand her.
And that’s the last question of the day. We reach home and I send her right to bed.
Phew! Tomorrow's another big day, and I hope I've learnt something from all the pain I feel in my arms, and feet.