The energy at home when the kids are around is palpable. And this manifests in many ways that only moms notice. Shoes in the exact angle they were taken off, left by the door. Bags, wallets, keys, and now masks as well! All these are clues to locate the kids when they disappear into their own rooms. And these bits and pieces of their presence breathe life into the walls of our home.
This last week, my son discovered that his sister had gone from one bedroom, which my son uses for his classes, to continue sleeping in another bedroom. Her bed was unmade as she literally sleep-walked to the other bedroom and plopped there!
My son stared at the unmade bed, grabbed my daughter’s quilt, bunched it up and walked purposefully towards the other bedroom.
When I asked him what he was going to do, he said, “I am going to throw this on her.” And I ran behind him trying to stop him from irritating his sister.
And as I entered the room, I saw him gently putting the quilt around his sister and tucking her in.
My throat catches for a moment. I get back to work with a smile.
There once lived a beautiful bird couple Mrs & Mr. Golden Oriole. They had met, fallen in love and made their home in a rich tropical jungle that was lush with fruits and vegetation, where the sun played hide and seek with the fronds, where colourful butterflies chased each other all day, and where the beautiful sounds of heavy rainfall were often heard.
After the monsoon season, Mrs. Oriole had three beautiful eggs in her nest, and patiently cared for them and kept them warm. Mr.Oriole was puffed up with pride as a soon-to-be-dad, taking care of the missus and keeping her happy. Mrs.Oriole had many dreams for her three children. She had to be brought out of her reverie quite often!
And soon, there was chirping to be heard from their nest. Mrs.Oriole had now become Mama Oriole, as she would now be known, her own identity subsumed into her role as a mother. From dawn to dusk, the Orioles were busy nurturing and caring for their hatchlings, whom they named Orin, Orion and Oreo.
In a few days, as the chicks opened their eyes and got to know their parents and the world, Mama Oriole seemed rather anxious. She did not know if she was imagining it, but could sense that her little Oreo was different from her other two kids. She did not know how, but she knew. She kept a careful watch, her anxiety increasing as the days flew by. Soon, it was time to teach her babies to fly. And that is when she found that her Oreo had a problem with one of his wings, and could not use it as well as his other one.
In just a few days, Orin and Orion were able to fly and behaved just like other siblings, squabbling and fighting and teasing each other. Mama Oriole watched Oreo, who smiled but could not comprehend or interact with his siblings. He could fly, but only short distances. Her heart filled with pain. From then on, her life transformed. She dedicated herself to encouraging and motivating Oreo all she could. She spent extra time teaching him, coaching him and loving him. Her life, as she knew it had changed, as she put her needs, her friends and her social life on the backburner; for she had to raise her Oreo into a confident young bird, who could take on the world despite all his limitations.
On some afternoons, when she needed some time to think, and when Papa Oriole took over, she flew to the mountains, craving some peace and time to dwell on life and all its machinations.
She came back from such sojourns with renewed vigour, determined to do whatever it took to give Oreo a good chance at life. She identified that Oreo could whistle beautiful tunes. She encouraged him to practice, she constantly clapped and cheered and built Oreo’s confidence. She roped in Orin and Oreon to encourage their sibling, and to take him out and have fun with him.
Her day began and ended with Oreo. At night, when the crickets set up their chorus and the predators were on the prowl, and when her Oreo cuddled up to her, Mama Oriole experienced a love like no other. A mom’s love.
She was his mother, and he was her world, and she believed in him and loved him. She would always be there for him, no matter what.
Today is Raksha Bandhan, a day that celebrates the special and deep bond between brothers and sisters. A day when sisters tie raakhis on their brothers’ wrists. A day when the brother promises to care for and protect his sister; and also gives her a gift.
A truly beautiful celebration indeed!
In our home, we celebrate this special bond every year. I have the raakhi and other paraphernalia required, ready for my children.
Image courtesy – Dreamstime.com
They stand in front of each other. My daughter picks up the raakhi and ties it on my son’s wrist. They don’t say much. They just high five each other, exchange a quick hug, and go their separate ways.
There is no talk about a gift.
It is business as usual, they are each back in their own world, where the other does not exist. When they do acknowledge each other, they tease each other ruthlessly, argue constantly or ignore each other.
I observe this.
The day has flown past, the sun has already set. My kids are talking animatedly. Very soon, my son comes to me and tells me that he is taking his sister to the mall nearby for a treat, and to buy her a gift.
And before I nod, the two of them are already at the door, arguing about something inconsequential, as all siblings do.
I smile. I walk back in.
Many years from now, when my kids move out of home and make their own lives, these bonds will deepen further.
But this bond, this love – will always be expressed this playfully, through silly arguments, high fives and awkward hugs!
It is 6.50 a.m., and our home is bustling with all the trappings of a typical school day morning. Both baths are occupied.
I am all over the house, trying to do many things at once.
I knock sharply on the door of one bath.
“What?” screams my son, over the sound of the shower water.
“7.20 a.m.”, I holler.
“Okay, okay”, says he!
I move to the next bathroom. I knock again.
“7.30 a.m.”, I announce.
My daughter says, “Ohh.. will be out in a minute.”
Strangely, my son seems to have heard the ‘time’ that I called out to my daughter.
And he shouts, “How could the time be 7.20 am for me and 7.30 am for akka (sister)?”
He calls out loudly to his sister that it’s not 7.30 a.m. yet and that I was lying!
I smile and move on.
Welcome to the world of a unique standard of time that Moms around the world follow – Mom Standard Time (MST).
MST is not time-based at all. It is based on a set of privileged rules that moms around the world have designed to get the best out of their children, to push them to give their best, and to generally show up where they are supposed to!
MST can help squeeze a mammoth school project into one evening! Mom Standard Time can also transform the boring hours when one is down with a cold or fever into something magical; a time when siblings are at school, and mom makes special soup and hugs you and shows you how much she cares!
Image courtesy – Geostat
MST has the prerogative to call you, whenever, wherever and impose time deadlines. The same MST allows you to sleep-in, and gets you that much needed shut eye on the weekend.
Mom Standard Time is based on love and the laws of parenting. It adheres to only one standard that every mom wants for her children – that they use their time wisely and become good humans!
Once or twice a year, there comes a day, when I realize that all my work projects are done, that my ‘things to do’ list is ticked off, and that there is just ONE DAY before school holidays start, after which the children will rule my life for three weeks.
Today was that day. I woke up lazily, plodded through my chores, ran a few errands (there is no escaping these), and then felt a frisson of excitement. I had nothing in my ‘to do’ list. All this means is that I am done with my old list, but mercifully have not added the hundred other things that need to be done.
I think I was quite sensible by cutting off the list at such a point, where ‘today’ could become a reality.
Courtesy – Clipart Kid
I giggle at this absurdity of suddenly having four hours to spend. I decide to do a little bit of each of the things I love. I read, I watch some of my favourite shows on youtube, I stare into space and ponder about life, allowing myself to drift away with my memories, and sit down to enjoy a great cup of filter coffee, on my easy chair, watching the heavy rain outside.
In what seems like four minutes, the children are back, in a high state of excitement that their holidays are within touching distance.
I smile, as I ready myself to become a referee to their squabbles over pencils and space and air, in the room they share. I prepare to get started on packing for our trip. I prepare to hoard the refrigerator and stock up on food supplies to feed two children, whose constant refrain over the next three weeks will be, “Is there anything to eat?”
The holidays will fly, and the New Year will glide in, and we will all get back to the grind.
But such days, the one between two ‘things to do lists’ are pure bliss.
My children have study tables that are at right angles – when both move their chairs backwards and if, by chance, the chairs crash into each other, a war erupts.
You would think that a six seater dining table would have enough room for four people. Apparently not! Both children want the same chair, every day, for every meal. TV shows are a bone of contention, the bathroom is a warzone. The bedroom is the missile room, armed as it is with pillows.
There are unspoken symbols and codes of conduct. There are lists of ‘what you dids’ on both sides, which resurface every day. They cannot agree on food or TV, computer games or books, studying in the same room or sharing resources. Each time they get in the car they clamour for the same seat. They draw invisible divider lines on the car seat, like animals marking their territory, pushing away even the other’s shadow if it crosses this line.
They look daggers at each other, don’t give way when they cross the doorway simultaneously, hide each others’ things and smile secret smiles of victory.
I watch this sibling-war and remember such battles with my sisters. Watching them as a mom, however, is aggravating. The best way to handle this constant bickering is to go passive. They get no reaction from me at all. I am blamed for both taking, and not taking sides.
The warring siblings leave for school – one takes the stairs and the other takes the lift. The storm has passed and the house becomes blissfully quiet.
In a few hours, two happy faces will come home, freshen up and look at each other, and off they’ll go again.
But the funny part is, if one goes on a school field trip or weekend camp, the other soon starts pining!
I recently read a joke in which there were two brothers, who had the same name ‘John’. One brother was a tourist bus operator, while the other was an undertaker. So, to avoid confusion, the people in the town called them ‘John – The Journey’ and ‘John – The Final Journey’ respectively.
This joke brought a smile to my face as it reminded me of the naming convention we follow in our community.
Unlike everywhere else, where there is a family name and all members of the household share the same family name, we follow a different system.
So, for example, if my name was Dev, and my father’s name was Kumar, and my grandfather’s name was Raja, then my name would be Dev Kumar, while my Dad’s name would be Kumar Raja. So, father and son don’t share the same surname. But that’s how it is!
The other big naming convention we follow is that if the first child is a boy/girl then he/she automatically takes his/her Paternal Grandfather’s/Grandmother’s name. If the second child is also a boy then he gets the maternal grandfather’s name; likewise with a second girl.
But the real confusion lies in this scenario. My husband’s grandfather had six sons, each of these sons has a son. Now, since all of them are firstborn sons, all of them have been given their paternal grandfather’s name.
So, when we meet for family functions and weddings, we have a lot of confusion, as each time someone calls out to one of the grandsons, six voices respond.
To make it easier on the family, we now prefix their names with their professions or the city or town they hail from. So we have
a tycoon Raj
a watch Raj
a pilot Raj
a banker Raj
a Mumbai Raj
a newspaper Raj
Despite having all these nicknames, we still end up being confused.
There is another twist to this naming story. One of my cousins has maternal and paternal grandfathers, who have the same name. My cousin has two sons, so the first one has been named after the paternal grandfather, and the second son after the maternal grandfather. Since both granddads have the same name, both sons have the same name (of course they have different suffixes to their names).
One can never say, “What’s in a name?”
There’s so much in a name and lots of fun to go with it.
I was in the supermarket last week doing my shopping. As I walked down the aisle that contained baking items, I saw two teenagers, a girl, who was around 15 and a boy, presumably her brother, around 13.
They were deeply engrossed in reading a long list of items, which they had presumably come to buy. I smiled and went back to my shopping list.
Suddenly, I heard hoarse whispers and some heavy shuffling. I turned back to see the siblings engaged in a silent argument, they were wrestling with the shopping cart and then, the boy tried to snatch the shopping list from his sister.
There was the sound of tearing paper as the list gave-in to the pressure of being pulled at from two sides. It split exactly at the middle, probably because it had been folded there.
The boy walked away, with his half of the list, to get another shopping cart. The girl turned away in a huff, with her half of the list and the shopping cart.
I was quite amused by now and as I did my shopping, I kept bumping into them, in turns. After sometime, I caught the girl staring at the list and moving it away from her face, and then bringing it close and inspecting it. At that moment the brother walked into the same aisle. He also looked puzzled.
Curious now, I watched. Both of them did not want to give in. They stared at each other for a while.
Finally, the girl said, “Give me the list, the paper is torn midway, and I can’t figure the item written, where it tore.”
The boy smirked and refused. The girl assumed her elder sisterly tone and said, “Suit yourself, you will have no part to play in this treat for mom then.”
The little brother watched and suddenly, he walked up to her with the cart, threw all the items from his cart into hers, and took out $ 20 from his pocket and shoved it into her hands.
He said, “Take that. I am doing this for mom and not for you ok?” He walked away.
The sister smiled in victory, she joined the two pieces and said, “Oh! It was cinnamon.”
Now with her ego appeased, she ran after her brother and said, “Ok, I’m sorry. Please? It’s no fun without you.”
The boy slowly nodded, they high-fived, and then walked away with their shopping cart.
After about twenty minutes, as I stood in line to pay, I saw those siblings leave the supermarket, laughing and talking.
I smiled. Brothers and sisters, now friends, now enemies.