Thursday, June 16, 2016

I don’t know your story

Almost 13 years back I was coaxed into attending a 2-3 day Art of Living course by my roommate, who was (and probably still is) an ardent follower. I was reluctant because at a time when I was still a student, earning negligible and had a lot of student debt to pay, I didn’t want to shell out close to $200 for a workshop I didn’t care much about. But I couldn’t figure out a way to say no. So I said yes. I attended the course and was surprised to see the wide demographics of attendees. There were men and women all the way from their early twenties to late fifties. There were students, working professionals and home makers. 13 years later, there is only one thing I remember from that entire session. It was an activity that we did in which everybody sat face to face with another person for, I think, a minute and then switched partners. We essentially got to sit opposite most of the people in the group. While sitting opposite each other, all we had to do was hold hands and look into the other person’s eyes. Yes. That was the exercise. I am giggling like a teenager as I am typing this. And I had a similar reaction back then as well. Well, this is an awkward exercise. Once we got over the initial awkwardness, something magical happened. There was this guy in the group and I had totally judged him the minute I saw him, for no particular reason. When I got a chance to sit opposite him and hold his hands and look into his eyes, I realized that all my judgement washed away. Looking into people’s eyes is powerful. It is probably the most honest part of our body. Our eyes tell our story. And more often than not, we don't pause to look into people’s eyes and take a moment to see them. Really see them. I think I have told this story before. But it is by far one of the most important experiences of my life. Because it taught me to try to understand people before judging them. 

The most powerful way, I have learned, of not judging people is to know their story. Everyone has a story. It is so easy to look at everything and everyone with one single lens and assume them to be good or bad. Until, of course, we know their story. Stories help us understand why people behave a certain way, or eat certain things, or spend on a certain item, or read a certain book, or play a certain sport, or wear certain outfits. 

Our story conveys the reason why we do what we do. Our story conveys how we got to this point. It makes us, even if for an instant, think about somebody else’s point of view. It makes our heart bigger. It makes our actions kinder. It makes our mind broader. It makes us love more. You will find out there is always more to people than meets the eye. You will understand people even when you don't agree with them. You will pass fewer judgements on people once you know their angle, their story. Especially when they are people who don't look, or eat, or dress, or think, or act like you. It will make us a better human.

Stories are important, people. Let us make time to find out someone’s story.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rules, Who?

Have you ever seen anything great happen when people follow rules? By great I mean out-of-this-world, or path-breaking, or crazy-innovative. Following rules can definitely result in excellence. In fact, to some extent excellence maybe a result of following some set of rules. But I highly doubt it can result in something that would change my life as I live it today. Changing lives means bending or breaking rules. It means taking a different path than the rest of everybody else. It means saying bye-bye to the crowd. It means having the courage to stand up when you stand out.

The thought itself makes me cringe. The thought of breaking rules. Not that I have never broken any rules. I totally have. But not enough. And there is a reason why this thought makes me cringe. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and reach out to my mind-space that I am not used to reaching out to. The discomfort in merely articulating this thought process is indicative of how deep-rooted our notion of following rules is.
I think I am no exception. I think that most of us would believe in following rules, give or take. We are taught this as kids. We are conditioned to believe that is the way. We are rewarded for following rules. We are punished for breaking rules. We are awarded for being like everybody else – in actions, thoughts, ideas, appearance, you name it. We are laughed at when we don’t blend. In fact, I am now doing the same with my kids now. I am establishing rules for them. All day every day I am trying to make sure they function within a set of rules. And I am beginning to question myself.
I am in no way trying to encourage the state of absolute entropy. I am not trying to encourage anarchy either.
My limited point is, why rules? Why so many rules? Why rules about what we do, what we don’t do, what we wear, how we dress, how we eat, how we talk, how we look, how we react? I mean there are obvious reasons. Most of the reasons will be hard to argue with. We follow rules for safety, coherence, sanity, civility. But there is something fundamentally wrong if the unfamiliar makes us cringe and uncomfortable and sometimes adversarial. I want my kids to be safe. I don’t want them to break rules that will hurt them. I want to be protective about them. I want everybody to like them. I want the world for them. Anyway, that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter, pretty much at all, what I want for them.
But how will they grow if they don’t break rules?
None of the innovations would have happened if we all followed the rules. Innovations happen because people challenge, because people are curious, because people question, and most importantly because somebody decided to follow a path not chosen by the rest of us. Our lives change because somebody decided to break the rules.
So while I don’t do it myself, just yet, I hugely admire people who do. The breaking rules part. Unless of course, it is my kids. Then I get mad because they broke “the rules.” I mean how can I not yell at them for eating from the counter top as opposed to their plates. Because, you know, those are the rules. I have tried hard to figure this out about myself. Figure out my line. The line I can cross, and the line I can’t cross. When is it ok for my kids to break my rules? And when is it not ok? I do know that one of my lines in this regard is pertaining to health and safety. Anything that hurts them or others and makes them unsafe is off limits. But what about the rest of the rules? How do I deal with that? Should I want my children to conform to the norms? Or should I encourage revolt? This question can get really hairy and controversial in about 5 seconds. And I don’t have a good response for that. But at the end of a rule breaking day, when it is dark and all the kids are tucked in, I can chuckle to myself. And maybe feel a little proud. Feel proud that they broke a rule today. Is that bizarre? Honestly though, with two toddlers and infant, I have those moments often. They break rules. All. Day. Long. It is exhausting. It drives me nuts. It makes me shout. So it doesn’t take much effort for them to break the rules. But this kind of rule breaking as a silver lining. This kind of rule breaking takes the face of innocence, that most of us lack. The naivety of belief, of faith, that most of us lost long time ago. I look for that silver lining, while I struggle with this decision for my kids. Because for most my rules, my kids react with “Rules, Who?”

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What do you want?

When we hear a child cry 
Our first instinct is to try
To try to find out
What this fuss is all about
To try to understand what he needs
Maybe it is time for his feed
To figure out what else it could be
Our next step is to plea
What is it that you want my child
I wish you would speak so I don't go wild
Is it a toy that you want to hold
Of course not, even if it is made of gold
Maybe you need a new diaper
But then maybe not, because you are still so hyper
I am pretty sure it is time for a nap
I really wish all the kids came with a map
A map of all their possible moods
Why you cry or sulk or brood
I tried everything I possibly could 
But I still couldn't figure it out and there you stood
You stood with your eyes fixed on me
What could it possibly be
And then it occurred to me
I felt so blind as I could not see
It was not a toy or food
It wasn't even about his mood
All this while it was right in front of my eyes
All you needed was a smile for a smile
And me right by your side
All you needed was my attention
It wasn't as if you were asking for a fourth dimension
All you needed was my time
It isn't some crazy novelty or a new paradigm
I am sorry if you felt a bit alone
I should have been with you all along



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Where am I?

Hidden in this simple three-word question is a far deeper question of “where exactly am I?” at any given point. Unfortunately, the probability of the answer being “not here” is very high.

There were just a handful of people who owned a smartphone about 10 years ago, I think. The rest of us were naively and happily carrying our flip phones or the non-smart phones. Without the slightest inkling of what the streets and the subways and the homes and the restaurants would look like in the very near future. Not to mention the humans. You know what has changed in us humans over the last 10 years? Most of us spend a lot more time looking not at our eyesight level, but a little below. A lot more time. While walking. While eating. While waking. While waiting. While playing. While watching. Nobody looks up anymore. Everybody is busy looking down. Most of us don’t even know who or what passed us by.
To be honest, it is not just the phones. It is a more generic human tendency. To not be in the present. To brood over the past. To worry about the future. To think about the unthinkable that may never happen anyway. And fear endlessly. It is so easy and ubiquitous to distract us from the “now” that it has become our second nature.
We live in this beautiful Pacific Northwest. It truly is drop dead gorgeous. The colors that compete with each other are all different shades of green. In the most beautiful way possible. There are mountains covered with tall, green trees. There are mountains covered in snow. Every single neighborhood has its own gem. A simple drive from home to the supermarket can be filled with beautiful picturesque views. We had to go someplace the other day and it just took us a little over 30 minutes to get all three kids settled in the car before we could leave. I was thinking about the dinner and the meals and the ride and don’t-even-ask-me-what and its almost as if I was doing all of this with my eyes closed. I know I had my eyes closed because I opened my eyes for one tiny moment. I mean, really truly opened my eyes. I noticed. I exhaled. To my right was a beautiful lake overlooking these beautiful peaks covered in beautiful shades of green, except for the top, which had a shade of white as if wearing a hat. It was a sunny day. The sky was blue. There was not a single cotton ball to be seen in the sky. Not even one that could resemble a sheep without legs. It was almost perfect. Except that I was not there. I was too busy to notice it.
All of us are so busy running around, trying to finish chores, cooking, feeding, missing appointments – that we don’t have time to pause. To take a reverse gear for once. To bask in the glory of absolute nothingness. To be free. To look into someone’s eyes and say “what’s up?” and genuinely be interested in a real response to this worst question ever.
I hereby promise. To be in the moment. To pay attention to the surroundings. To look around. To soak it in. To pause. At least once a day. Well, to begin with anyway. I promise to bring this once-a-day count higher and higher each time. You know why I am trying so hard to achieve this goal? Because that is the point. “Pause” is the point. “Break” is the point. “Nothingness” is the point. “Non-goal” is the point. Everything else that happens in between – chores, laundry, meals, work, deadlines, appointments, you-name-it, are fillers in these pauses.
The meaning of life is the pause that we forget to take. That break. That blank. That nothing.
You see what I did there? Very conveniently and smoothly I snuck the “meaning of life” in this seemingly banal post. Boom. I may have exaggerated a tad bit. Let’s bring it back. So, maybe not the meaning of life. But seriously. We live so we can take these pauses. We don’t take pauses so we can live. As long as I remind myself of this golden rule, I think I will be fine. At least I would have made a solid attempt at being fine.
This. Right Here. The tree. The flowers. The yellow. The purple. The blue. The mountains. The field. It is all here. Right here.
And that man on the phone...the irony is not lost on me.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Peppa Pig and her magical spell

For the uninitiated, where have you been? Peppa Pig is the sassy, curious pig. She has a brother, George. She also has a Mumma Pig and a Daddy Pig. And they are British. Most importantly, she rules the world. Peppa, that is. The toddler world anyway. She has a certain power over my kids that even I don't have. 

Oh, and those muddy puddles. One of the most important aspects of Peppa's life is the muddy puddles. And now, it is a very important part of Sammy and Rehan's life as well. These two words can shine bright light on their faces like they have been promised one chocolate ice cream a day for the rest of their lives. Sammy may be crying her lungs out for whatever reason, and I will have her attention if I merely utter the words "muddy puddle." Those two words are enough for her to stop crying for 30 seconds, until she figures that it is a trap and I just used those words to stop her from crying. Rehan could be having a horrible tantrum, and his tantrums will melt away as soon as I ask him "Do you wan to watch Peppa Pig?"

We all know what good parenting involves. It involves not giving into your kid's tantrums. Not enabling them. Not fulfilling the very request they have been throwing a fuss about, because otherwise they use that as a strategy to get what they want, all the time. It involves being consistent and following through. I could go on. Most of us know these golden rules of raising a disciplined child. But I can promise you, there will be days, and more than you would like to admit, when you will knowingly throw these golden rules out the window. Simple because you are too tired, either mentally or physically. Or just because. I keep telling  myself, "It is ok. It happens." I console myself before anyone else can condemn or console. 

We have this rule of permitting screen time for kids only on weekends. They could cry and request all they want but they don't get any screen the rest of the week. Unless of course, it is not our day. A day when Parents = 0, and Toddler = 1.  When all three kids are wailing at the same time. For no good reason. Or maybe, perfectly legitimate reasons. They have still not had their dinner even though they are starving. You know, because it is so much more important to throw a fit than to eat. And it is just Monday! They just had their screen time over the weekend. And the rest of the week seems so so long. So in the middle of our crying, screaming kids, I whisper the words "Do you want to watch Peppa Pig?" Suddenly, two out of three kids stop crying. "Yes," in unison they say. In my head I say "Victory." I know we have a rule. But today is not the day to feel married to it. Today is not the day to follow that rule. I need these little people to stop screeching at a 100 decibels. So I take out the evil-iPad and start the one and only, Peppa Pig. Magically, these kids turn into the most well behaved beings you may witness on this earth. They finish their dinner. Even ask for a second helping. They wipe their faces and drink their water. They clean their hands. Almost as if they are not my kids and were switched during the meal. So here we are. Watching Peppa Pig on a weekday.

Last month we were traveling and I noticed this super cool dad-mom duo traveling with their toddler and infant. They sat in front of us outside the boarding area. Eating their home cooked meal. Feeding broccoli to their toddler. Carrying a jogging stroller. Super fit. I was so inspired that I was borderline jealous. "If only I could be like them." I could hardly understand what they were saying to each other at a distance. But suddenly I saw the dad pull out his phone from his pocket and say something to his son. The only words I understood were "Peppa" and "Pig." Boom. Just like that. They became so much more relatable. My first thought was "I knew it! There had to be a catch!" My second thought was "Thank God it is not just us! That makes me a tad bit relieved." My third thought was "Parent, I hear ya! We all give in from time to time. Perfectly understandable."


Parents all over the world, coming from various different cultures, religions, regions, ethos, philosophy, race, etc., need a Peppa in their life. It is a magic spell that works no matter where we are from. 




Thursday, May 5, 2016

Keeping it real

Long time no post. I figured I will start with what happened since the last post. So we are 5 now. Two vs Three. Four Hands vs Six Hands. And I have to admit the struggle is real. All of me wanted to debunk the myth around three-under-four. Not that I wanted to prove it is easy. Just prove that we were able to glide this phase with a little bit of dignity. Grace. Or something like that. But boy oh boy! Is it hard or is it hard!?  

I sometimes get transported to the time when I wasn't a mom yet. But being a mom was still on my mind. All the things I said to myself. 

I will never let my kids eat fries, junk food and unhealthy food.

I will never say “no” to my kids. 

I will not shout at my kids. Ever.

I will never punish my kids. I will not give time out to my kids.

I will never let my kids cry, and pick him/her immediately to console.

My kids will be the most disciplined kids out there.

I will always cook fresh meals for my kids.

My kids won’t be those screaming, shouting, yelling kids you see on the streets and restaurants. 

I will never lie to my kids to get them to do stuff. 

I will be the best mom out there. Basically.

Because you know, all this modern parenting and attachment parenting and stuff. I was such a good parent until I actually became a parent. 

Fast forward now. 

My kids eat all the junk food known to mankind. Fries are their absolute favorite. Rehan could survive on sweets alone. Until some time back, Sammy was repulsed by any green and nutritious looking food. So much so that she refused a cake this one time because it had green icing on it. Rehan now refuses to eat anything that’s not sweet. We won’t tell his dentist.

Every other word coming out of my mouth is a synonym of “no.” I try to be creative and look for other words so I can convince myself that at least I am not saying “no.” But who am I kidding? As much as I try to talk about the consequences and tell them “It’s not a good choice,” I resort to the regular negatives. Don’t. Stop. Never. Don't you dare. Don't even. These words are very typical in my vocabulary now. On top of that, these kids have the why mania. I try to be a good mom and respond to all their whys in the most respectful and intelligent way possible. But I have my limits. Depending of their questions, my mood and the time of the day I respond with a “just” or “I don’t know” or a shrug. Although Rehan is quick to reciprocate with “But mumma, I asked you why.” But how do I respond to “Why is this a couch, mumma ?!” 

And do you even want to guess whether or not I shout at my kids. Heck yes, I do.

I do try to punish my kids. While some people believe in “talking it out” with their kids, others believe in straightening them with shouting-screaming-scorching words. I haven't figured out a punishment for my kids yet. What I mean is, I haven't figured out what my kids consider a punishment yet. Most time outs are fun exercises for them and they actually enjoy it. If I stop talking to them for some time then they go to each other for more fun. So as it turns out, what I consider punishment for them is actually way more fun. Its almost like they are showing me the middle finger in their own playful way. 

I remember someone telling me “I can’t imagine putting my kids in day care. What if they are crying and the teacher can’t pick him/her up because she is busy caring for another kid.“ In my mind I was like “How did I not think of this concern before enrolling my first kid in the day care!?” And now that we have three, of course our kids cry. And we let them. In fact when Rehan is crying for what we think is no-reason-whatsoever, we tell him to go to another room to settle down before coming back to the room until he is ready to talk. I had someone visit us recently and witness the spectacle that we are during dinner times. It was one step short of food flying around like it would in a space shuttle or in a gravity defying area. To top it, Kabir was screaming and was almost about to fall off his rocker because I forgot to buckle him. That did not stop me from finishing all the vegetable chopping I had to, because I knew I would be done chopping and be there to pick up Kabir before he could fall. And because secretly I know I am a super mom. But our guest did not know this, clearly. So they are staring at me in disbelief with their eyes saying “Lady, if your hands are full, do you need me to lift your infant so he doesn't injure himself?” My eyes communicated back to them “I got this…kind of.

Don’t even get me started on discipline. Our kids are not disciplined. At least not with us. They are slightly better behaved when we are not around. But ever so slightly. I have some folks give me advice based on their expertise because their kids are so well behaved and sorted. But none of that advice works on my kids. Or maybe it is me. Oh, well! I haven't given up. But my way of disciplining could look a lot different from your way of disciplining, to the point that it may look the opposite of disciplining. But believe me, I am trying to discipline my kids.

I am not a firm believer in fresh meals. I believe in left overs. I could almost call it my religion. I love left overs. Fresh food is over rated anyway. In fact my attitude towards kids’ meals is so unsettling for some folks that I almost suppress my natural instincts around people when it comes to feeding my kids. I try my best to let my kids eat on their own. And on the days they don't eat on their own, I let them be. I don’t wait for them to eat before I eat. I don’t cook any special ultra-nutritious food for them and just feed them whatever we are eating, which, let’s be honest, has questionable nutrition content to begin with. It bothers me to sit around waiting for kids to finish their meals, and spoon feed them if they aren't eating. Does that make me a bad mom? God, I hope not. But maybe it does.

Oh, I forgot. Let me introduce you to my kids. Their middle names are screaming, shouting and yelling. Respectively. Or in no particular order. Who cares? But wait. Those are their first names. Because I don't believe in middle names. Point is, they shout. They shout when they want something, they shout when they don't want something, they shout when they get what they want, they shout when they don't get what they want. You get the idea. They shout. Especially, Rehan. He is an angry shouter. Sammy is an experimental shouter. And then I shout back “Stop shouting!!!” You are probably wondering if it works. And the answer is - no. It absolutely does not. Being patient works sometimes. But I don't always have time for patience, you see.

Lying is a touchy topic with me. I can tolerate almost anything in my life but for lies. I have been honest to the point of being stupid. I used to either not speak, or speak my mind. But not lie. The worst thing for me in a relationship was lying. I have always hated being lied to. If I did not like you, chances are you would have known it. I am now getting better at this whole lying thing, because, well, life. But in this context, I lie to my kids. All the time. I tell Rehan, “Wear your shoes otherwise bugs will take it away.” When I am all out of patience, and time, and motivation, and energy, and he still has plenty of all of the above, I use his pretend-fear of bugs to get s**t done. He doesn't like bugs. So if he needs to eat his dinner but he wants to eat an apple instead, I tell him it has bugs so he can eat his dinner. I don't think it will last long though. Because off late he has started picking on what I am doing here. And he insist on eating the buggy-apple because he thinks he will like it more than dinner. 

So. Do I get mom of the year award? I am so bummed I don’t. But I think it is more important to live. So I will do without the award and the accolades for now. As much as I wanted to pretend to be modest, yet boast about my perfect family of five, all the struggles are so very real. I don’t need other people to judge me because I am constantly judging myself as a mom. Am I breaking my kids? Are they going to be ok? I could be doing so much more with them! I am in awe of and am surprised by parents who can’t stop talking about how awesome their kids are and what a great job of parenting they have done! That kind of confidence in themselves as parents is mind blowing. 

In fact, I often wonder how Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton deal with their toddler Prince George. I think he is roughly the same age as Rehan. When I saw Prince George greet President Obama, I wondered what Rehan would have done if he were to meet the President. First, I wouldn't let that happen. Because, toddler tantrums. Doesn't Prince George throw any fits? Doesn't he cry and yell when he meets strangers? Or when he doesn't get that one candy he probably needs for survival? How can a toddler be graceful when he is a threenager! Doesn't he embarrass his parents? Doesn't he make the Duke and the Duchess hide their faces behind the curtains and pretend like he is not their son. How do they do it? That will always be a mystery to me. A mystery I probably don’t want to solve anyway. 

While there are days when unicorns don't feel real anymore. Wait, did you just say they aren't real anyway?! While there are also days when I am trying to remind myself of the rainbows and the baby feet and the chubby cheeks to get by. While I oscillate somewhere between trying really really hard to be patient, and wanting to kill the next person who wants to give me advice on how to feed, or raise, or treat, or discipline my child. I do get some very real rewards. 

It is rewarding to see Kabir being a panacea for Sammy and Rehan. Kabir is their life line. They are majorly obsessed with him. It is almost scary because ever since Kabir was a month or two old, Sammy wanted to lift him and run with him in case she saw us coming in her direction. She still wants to hold him. She has understood that running with him is not a good choice. <Wink>. Rehan comes to Kabir and talks all about his sorrows because he didn't get the ice cream he so badly wanted. Tough life. The point is that it is heart melting to see them laugh and cry together. It is lovely to see Kabir being so loved by his (barely) older siblings. 

It is rewarding to see Sammy and Rehan be excited for each other. To see them play with each other for the 10 minutes in the 24 hours that they are not fighting (of course there is just a pinch of exaggeration) is my absolute favorite. I take Rehan to pick up Sammy at the bus stop every day and that’s one of the happiest times for Rehan. As soon as he sees Sammy’s bus in the horizon, he starts jumping until the bus stops in front of us. It involves about 20-25 seconds of continuous jumping. But he is beyond excited to see Sammy. In fact he can’t stop talking to her as soon as he sees her. “Sammy, I got hurt here. See. That’s right, Sammy. I got hurt here. I fell down over there. I was running and I got hurt. Do you want to play with me Sammy?” He goes on and on and on.

These rewards manage to bring all the mushy gooey feelings in my liver. Because my heart is too full. 

Her Expressions: "I will play nice for the next 2 seconds". His Expressions: "Get me out of here". My Expressions: "Hurry! You have the next 2 secs before they run in opposite direction".
His Expressions: "Lady, do you even know what you are doing?"


Thursday, January 21, 2016

Kabir

It took me a while to get comfortable with the idea that we will be sharing our super special news with our friends and extended family come time. 

I think it was about a month or so after Rehan was born. I was sitting and watching Sammy and Rehan interact with each other. Something about that one moment kicked my mommy hormones enough to want a third child. Add another one in the mix. There wasn't much more to the idea than “It will be nice to have three kids.” It was just a feeling.

I chewed on this idea for a while before bringing it up to Siddharth. I underplayed my excitement when I finally brought it up with him. “What do you think about having a third child?” I expected a reaction of “Are you mad?” Those were our sleepless-in-Seattle days when Rehan was waking up pretty much every hour in the night. Both of us were massively sleep deprived. And under-rested. To my utter surprise, Siddharth reacted with “I am not terribly opposed to the idea.” Even before I could be happy for his reaction, I was shocked. But I hid my surprise under a solid layer of “yeah, makes sense.” I thought if I acted surprised then he would change his mind. So I played super cool. As if that was the plan all along, when in fact it wasn't. I did have a twinkle in my eye. And in my silly heart.

We were super ecstatic when we found out we were pregnant. We started thinking of names. We started thinking of how we will manage grocery shopping when three kids will run in three different directions and we will just be two. Officially outnumbered. We thought of how noisy our home will be. How crowded our dining table will be. How messy our carpet will be. How chaotic our lives will be. How foolish in love we will be to relish it all. 

At the back of my mind I did think about how most people would react to our news.

“What’s wrong with you?” 

“It is hard enough to handle these two. How are you planning to put the third one in the mix?” 

“What were you thinking? Or not thinking?” 

“Well, I would never do this. But good on you.” 

I didn't really want to be judged for our decision. I told Siddharth about it. He laughed. He laughed thinking how much I cared for what people thought. Especially regarding a decision that is so personal. His reaction did put me to ease. Laughing it off. I realized the silliness of my worry. Oh, well.

Of course it is challenging. It isn't easy. We still have a total of four hands. And three kids. It doesn't always scale, you know. But sometimes it isn't about the hands to kids ratio. It is about how many people I want at my dinner table. My magic number is five. 

So here we were. With the last bit of our magic number in my tummy. 

My babies tend to enjoy the outside fresh air more than my tummy’s amniotic fluid. Both Sammy and Rehan were born in the 8th month and didn't quite reach the 9th month. And history was sure to repeat this time as well. So I rested. A lot. 

I was relieved as soon as I crossed the milestone when Rehan was born (35 weeks 5 days). This was the most pregnant I had ever been. I was pretty much ready to pop after that. 

November 1, 2015, 7:30am: It was a lazy Sunday morning. Siddharth and I were still not out of our bed. I was telling Siddharth all about me being really cognizant of every little thing I felt in my tummy. Every little kick. Every little braxton hick. Every little whatever-else-happens-there. As I was telling him this, I felt a massive kick. I told Siddharth “Like this one. I don't know if this was a kick or a contraction. A real contraction or a fake contraction.” Siddharth was like “You will know when it will happen. Don't worry.” Even though he knows that “worry” is my real middle name. 5 minutes later I felt like I was leaking. And I knew. I said “it is happening.” Siddharth knew that face. He had seen it before. Twice. 

Given that this was the third time, we took time to brush our teeth, freshen up. We didn't rush out like the world was going to end in the next minute. We took it a little easy. Just a little though. Then we went downstairs and told my mom and sister. Tata. Bye bye. See you later. With one more little person this time. All of us were super excited.

We called the hospital before leaving home. We also called our doula on the way, “We know we haven't discussed this yet, but we need your help. Do you mind coming over?” Being the awesome person she is, she did not hesitate. We reached the hospital and were greeted by a bunch of nurses who knew that I have a history of 2 hour labor and premature delivery. They were all ready. I was quite impressed. My gynecologist happened to be on the rounds at the time and she saw my name and dropped by. “So, you are here!” “Yup,” I said with a grin. She was with me for the entire duration and I am so thankful for that. 

Three hours, painful contractions, and a couple of major pushes later, we had our baby in our hands.

Kabir.



And I have to say, it doesn't get old. The happiness. The rush. The giddiness. The warmth. As much as I wondered “how can I love another child as much?” I realize that I am able to tap into my unseen, undiscovered pool of love to feel just as much madness for my third baby. My Kabir. It is quite nuts. This whole phenomena. It is pretty unreal. As much as the second and third kids survive on hand-me-downs and lack of attention (thanks to their super demanding older siblings), they get more love from their older sibling(s) than their parents. 

Sammy and Rehan have their heart in Kabir. I was surprised to see how much they instantly connected with him. Kabir happens to be Rehan’s confidant. Anytime Rehan is not happy, or gets hurt, he runs to Kabir and tells him “Kabir, I got hurt. I am sad.” And then he gives him a tight hug. It melts my heart. Sammy loves him so much. A little too much for his own good. She wants to hold him, play with him, bathe him, nurse him. I am pretty much not needed. Except, I am. Over the next few weeks or months I will be able to comment on the reality of three kids. But I am in my honeymoon phase for now. The rest can wait.

My life is made. Pretty much. 

A few months back, I wrote a poem on “The Chase to find happiness in life. Siddharth penned a response of his own to my poem. He called it “My 2 cents” :). 

My 2 Cents

In response to your latest blog
I’d like to share a mere thought
As a person I might be thick as a log
The one thing I agree is that happiness cannot be bought

While I understand that happiness is the real key
I shudder to think why there are so many locks
Even though some say the key resides within me
The closed doors are just nature’s mocks

You might think that you are in a bind
Only you can free yourself from the shackle
In the end it’s just a state of mind
Your negative thoughts are what you have to tackle

If you look deep inside, 'happy' is already a part of you
Everyone you know does think it’s true
I know some days are bright and some days are blue
Just remember that we are no longer just two

We now look forward to Kabir, if you’re counting, that's five
We’ve already met Rehan and Sammy
I couldn’t have asked for a better life
With kids so cute and a wife so dreamy

:)


I feel so lucky. Here is to the five of us!

Thursday, October 1, 2015

October

Samaira will be 4 at the end of this year and Rehan will be two and a half. Its crazy! When did this happen? My favorite thing about them is watching them grow. Watching them grow into these quirky little (actually mega) personalities. Another favorite thing of mine is to watch them interact with each other. We could sit and watch them interact all day. Literally. Until of course they start pulling each other’s hair or biting each other or hurting each other in any which way. Until then they are on their own. 

Both our kids are small enough that they have not started questioning their differences just yet. They look at each other and notice the differences - differences in behavior, attitudes, who shouts more, who says please, etc. Not quite about their physical features. They don’t question these differences just yet. We haven't heard Samaira’s classmates question her differences either. So we haven't crossed the bridge of explaining to them that Samaira has down syndrome. 

This is the down syndrome awareness month. And one of the things that I do wonder about is how will we cross that bridge when we get to it. We do put it off to “We will cross that bridge when we get to it,” but there are definitely moments of “But, how?” Honestly, the answer is I don’t know. I don't know if there is a right way or a wrong way. If it is ok to proactively discuss it with Samaira’s surroundings, or if it is better for her friends to form their own opinion about her regarding, or regardless of, her diagnosis. I am kind of divided in my own head about it. We even got some books that we could share with our friends and family. But I am not sure if that’s the route we should go.

In either case, if a kid does get curious about differences between Samaira and them, then here is how I think I will handle it. Maybe.

All of us are made of some building blocks. These building blocks are called our DNA. Our DNA decides the color of our hair, the shape of our eyes, the color of our skin, our height, our nails, and so on. We all are uniquely different people in every possible way and a big part of it is our DNA and the information that resides in it. So if you see someone talk differently, behave differently, look different, etc., know that a big part of it is because of their DNA. Down Syndrome means that there is some extra information in that person’s DNA. That extra information results in some differences, which is what you see. It results in different physical features, different learning capabilities, different speech, different pace of reading and writing. But then, we all have different features, different learning capabilities, somewhat different speech/accents, different pace of reading and writing. So it just proves that we are all different. Someone with down syndrome may seem very different, but those differences are just a small part of their personality. There is so much more to them than the differences that may jump out on face value. But you can only find out more about them if you make a friend with someone with down syndrome. You will know about things they like, the movies they like to watch, the people they like to hang out with, the food they like to eat, the story books they like to read. You will know a lot more about them once you get to know them. They will do great things in life, just like you will. They will do it at their own pace, in their own time. 

So that’s my hypothetical shpeel. I don't know if I will use it. But it is a start. It is a seed. We will take it from here when time comes.

For now, here are some very unique things about Samaira that I want the whole world to know.

This girl can mimic. It is a talent either you are born with or you are not. She mimics Rehan syllable to syllable. She has started saying meeeaaalk for milk, because that’s what Rehan says. She says yeow for yellow, because that’s what Rehan says. She mimics not only the words, but also his tone, his accent. Everything. She says it his way and then she smiles. She smiles because she knows exactly what she is doing. That sharp cookie. 

Samaira’s teacher sent her progress report a few days back. It said something like “Samaira has great leadership skills. She has the ability to convince people to do what she wants. She now needs to work on her ability to follow when other people are leading.” In other words, she can be really lazy sometimes and get other people to do the work she is doing. She is stubborn and has a very strong mind of her own. We somehow need to tell her “Sammy, the world doesn’t run according to you. Not everything works the way you want to it to…following is just as important as leading.” That’s for another day. For now, we just chuckle.

She is also a big tease. When she knows Rehan really really wants something, she snatches it from him and runs away and makes sure he is following her. She giggles because she finds it pretty darn funny. Rehan cries “Sammy took it away.” Sammy is so used to this routine now that when she snatches something from Rehan, she proactively comes and tells us “Sammy took it away.”

Samaira can tell I am not happy, or am not 100% myself without me saying a word. It may sound nuts, but she can look at my face and see I am not ok and she is the first one to ask me “Mumma, are you sad? Why are you not happy” All I can do in that moment is look at her in wonderment and think to myself “What did I do right to deserve her?” 

There are a lot of other unique things about Samaira and these are just a few. But you have to know her to find out what makes her so unique. 

We celebrate Down Syndrome Awareness Month every year now, with a little bit more information, a little bit more knowledge, a lot more joy, a few more fears. We don't know everything, just yet. We have a lifetime to figure out everything about down syndrome. But we can always share whatever little we know anyway. 

This girl rocks my world!

Sunday, September 20, 2015

Control

I was talking to my sister recently about positive and negative events in our lives and how they impact us. We went for hours talking about the so called positive and negative events. We talked and talked and talked and realized that we are talking about the stuff that we have known for a long time anyway. There was nothing new in our conversation. There was no groundbreaking discovery. There was no eureka moment. There was a constant realization of “I know. Easier said than done. 

We talked about negative events being and feeling negative because of the perception more than the event itself. What makes a tragedy a tragedy? It is not the tragedy itself. It is our perception of that event. Tragedy is probably too severe a word to use for our everyday life instances. But you get the idea. The way we think and process the events in our life have a greater impact on us than the occurrence itself. While the reality is that we are better off without a bad event occurring in our life, there is also the reality that when you think something bad is happening to us, it is not that bad in the large scheme of things. But it is hard to see it in that moment. In fact, more often than not it is impossible to see the greater good amidst some crappy experience you may be going through. That is why it is so much easier said than done that life is all about perspective and a bad event may not be as bad as we think it is.

In fact, there is so little in our lives that we can actually control. It may seem like a very regressive statement in todays day and age of technology, innovation and breakthroughs. But a big part of me really and truly believes in this statement. The philosopher in me treats this as a holy grail of our existence. We spend out lives planning and figuring and creating and inventing and progressing. All in the hope for a better future, more advancement and an easier life. But I am sure all of us have faced realities amidst these breakthroughs that ground us. That level our thinking. That make us realize that as humans keep getting more and more powerful and omni-everything each day, there is a part of us that cannot control it all. We as humans are not supposed to control this Universe and all its events. If that were the case we would have been born with a remote control to control this Universe. But we are born with the ability to control ourselves. And therefore we are born with our minds in our body. The point is that you can control yourself, your thoughts, your actions, your reactions. And you better know your limits. Of course, easier said than done. But it really puts a lot of things into perspective. 

My sister recently attended a seminar and one of the things she took away from it was the realization of how we treat things and events differently based on our convenience or perception. For example we all deem smoking and drugs to be vices that we supposed to be bad for our mind, body and soul. But we don’t treat negative emotions such as jealousy, contempt, anger, and so on similarly. While the reality is that these negative emotions harm our body, quite literally and physically and not just emotionally, just as much, if not than any drugs out there. But while we build our perceptions around physical substance such as drugs and cigarettes, we forget to pay attention to emotions that fundamentally make or break us. The truth is that we should be treating anger and jealousy with an equal force. But of course easier said than done. I read somewhere long time ago: When someone else does something wrong or unacceptable, we blame it on their character. But when we do something wrong or unacceptable, we blame it on our situation. I don't know about you but this is especially true for me. Once I put this thought at the back of my mind, I realize how much I actually do this. We are so willing to give ourselves the benefit of doubt and blame our faults on the situation. We are equally unwilling to realize that someone who did something bad to us did it because of their situation and not because of who they are. We are so quick to call people mean, selfish and money minded. When in fact we demonstrate similar behavior and conveniently ignore it, or attribute to factors outside of us.


What is the point of this long, random, round about piece of writing? Well, there is no one point. Maybe there is no point. But there is a realization, yet again, that we are small tiny fractions of unit in this world that we can’t really deem ourselves more important than we really are. While we deal with all sorts of events and emotions that happen around us, we just need to know our strength and our limitations. And control is a very important part of it. Knowing what we can control and what we can’t control is at the heart of making peace with the happiness and the sadness of life. Here is a to digging one layer deeper every day in knowing more about us. Our limitations. Our strengths. Our controls. And our non-controls.