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Saturday, April 04, 2009

Everyday Moments

It is just another typical evening getting dinner ready. I go about it absentmindedly pulling a little of this from the fridge and a little of that out of the cupboard , with an eye on the stove and another on the kids.

I notice with a mixture of elation and chagrin how happy Oggie seems just strewing his toys about. More stuff for me to pick up after I get him in bed, I catch myself thinking.

I savor the deliciously simplistic rhythm of Ana dressing her dollies right from diaper to shoes, socks, mittens and hat, and then stripping them naked to repeat the cycle, singing and talking to herself.

Dinner, then bath, then bedtime I announce aloud more to reassure myself than to prepare the kids for a wind down. They have the routine down by now. Appa comes home late, they are usually asleep by then, so, they just cluster around me quite content most evenings, playing, squabbling, and occasionally whining, till I tuck them in bed.

As I strap Oggie in his high chair, my heart explodes with an immeasurable sense of undeserved bliss hearing Ana chirp ever-so-sweetly, "Amma, I love you!" out of the blue.

Not wanting to let the moment pass, I pretend not to hear her knowing full-well that she has this habit of repeating things until it is suitably acknowledged to her satisfaction. I hear the next, "Ammmmaaa... I love you!" stated with the same sweetness that makes me turn away and smile, secretly begging for more. Still not getting the response she is accustomed to, Ana reiterates, "Ammmmaaaa... I looovvve youuuuu!" for about half-a-dozen times patiently and warmly... I can hold back no longer; I rush to pick her up and kiss her soft little neck and cheeks, declaring, "I love you lots, my Honeypot! I love you tons, my Rani Kutty! I love you forever, my Pattu Thangam!".

Giggling gleefully, satisfied with my response, she extricates herself from my demonstrativeness and beams back at me with a cheerful glow that I hope will always be her trademark.

Dinner is in progress... I watch Ana bob about her dining chair, staying still only long enough to eat a bite every now and then. I stifle my urge to ask her to sit down and finish her meal. At least she is taking a few bites, I reason with myself, focusing on feeding Oggie first.

Suppressing my indulgent laughter, I gently admonish Oggie when he carefully picks up and drops his finger food on the floor. "Let's not throw food down, Oggie... that's not okay" I tell him, shaking my head and index finger parallely while using a fairly neutral tone, valiantly deflecting his infectious giggles.

Indicating vehemently that he wants no more nourishment shoved into his baby mouth, Oggie yelps and wiggles about restlessly. Releasing him to the floor, I try to focus on Ana. "Ten more bites, Ana, I am going to count in French for you. Just ten more bites and then you are done" I cajole, ignoring her antics. "Un... Deux... Trois..." Sure enough the ten bites go in quite happily, albeit in slow-motion. "How about a few more bites?" I venture knowing the answer. I retreat unwillingly to keep my end of the bargain wishing I had said 15 instead of 10.

I notice Oggie clapping and giggling as if amused by an invisible entertainer. I remember my mom telling me that when newborns smile in their sleep it is because Krishna plays with them, showing them a pretty lotus flower; and they cry in their sleep because He takes it away and doesn't play with them anymore. She admonished me for being cynical and pointing out that it is not really a smile at that tender age but possibly a muscle spasm...

One sticky baby, part-messy floor, half-eaten dinner and a sinkful of dishes tax my tolerance. I take a deep breath and draw a warm bath for the kids, looking forward to the 10-15 minutes of sitting-down-in-one-spot with only one thing to do: watch the kids get squeaky clean.

Oggie rubs his eyes and tries to stand up as if on cue when I get the towel ready to wrap him up and take him away first to get ready for bed. I pull the drain plug and as I walk away I call out from the hallway for Ana to get out of the bath and towel herself, put on her jammies and brush her teeth meanwhile.

Phew! Fortunately tonight, Oggie is too tired to put up a fight. A few minutes of cuddling and rocking settles him down. As I tuck him in, my irritation mounts hearing Ana still in the tub. I turn on his lullaby, turn out the lights, leave the room quietly to take a deep breath and count to ten. No point in rushing in there and yelling at Ana for not getting out of the bath already - she is not yet four, she is *almost* four, but not yet, she is practically still a baby..., I remind myself reluctantly.

I offer her my usual veiled choice, "We can read two books if you put on your jammies right now, Ana, else we won't read any tonight", which works about 60% of the time if she is not terribly tired.

It works today. "OK, Amma. I am going to wear my princess panties, warm piggie shirt and pink jammie pants" she declares and scuttles off to her room. Emerging fully clad, she climbs on her step stool and gets the Tink toothpaste onto her little toothbrush, pushes the bottom of the brush against the counter to get its lights flashing and brushes away. "Rinse and Spit, please", I remind her when she is done brushing.

I send her off to her room to pick out the two books she wants, promising to be there in a few minutes. Reminding myself that a Stitch In Time Saves Nine, I clean the tub of all the baby toys, wipe down the bathroom counter and sink cursorily, make a half-hearted sweep of the floor with my palms to collect my fallen hair from the morning brushing... M.S. Subbulakshmi's golden voice rings in my head with powerful lyrics that stir the depths of devotion in me: Ariyaathu Naan Seytha Pizhayaal Nee Veruthaayo?... Enakku Arul Koduthaalvai Mutthaiyyane... Oru tharam Sharavanabhava endru...

"Amma! I am waiting for you!" shakes me out of my reverie. Satisfied that the bathroom is not terribly gross, I walk over to Ana's bedside hoping she did not pick Fancy Nancy again.

Thankfully, it's just If... (by Sarah Perry) and The Funny Little Woman (retold by Arlene Mosel, pictures by Blair Lent). They break the monotony, but they also take a l-o-n-g time. We talk about the illustrations and suggestions in If and Ana comes up with a few... we make up short stories about the silly unconventional things in the book... then we get to The Funny Little Woman, Ana requests that I skip the part where the Oni try to eat the woman up as it is too scary...

Finally, Ana is tucked in, with her choice of music. I consider putting off doing the dishes till morning, but decide against it. As I unload and reload the dishwasher, I bring forth the sweet images of Oggie and Ana chipping in with the dishes on weekends. Looks like Ana likes the Annapoorna Stotram I play these days on our morning drive... Will I ever be able to share the beauty of the words Bhiksham dehi kripavalambanakari, especially Bhiksham dehi, with Ana when she is old enough? Will she even care about any of the stotrams and songs that move me to tears?

I am glad I am not married to some vague idea that packing weekday evenings with what I consider productive and desirable activities is somehow more valuable than just letting it flow as it does each day, with nothing significant accomplished. I remind myself that just being with my mom in the house, each of us pursuing our own activities, was soothing and reassuring enough when I was young.

If imitation is the best form of flattery then my mom must be most flattered now. Perhaps Ana will choose to imitate me in her own way and my resolve to be myself and let each day flow comfortably would be just the right thing to have done...



At 8:48 PM, Blogger ranjani.sathish said...

Hi Sheela
Reading this post makes me want to comment on it immediately. The routine is pretty much like mine, though the kids are slightly older than the respective kids of your household ! I like the way you try to pause each time before the tiredness and beckoning work load make you snap. Some times I snap at the kids for these exact reasons and then feel miserable for having shouted at them. Some days I tell myself that I should consciously slow down before I react. The other days make me think that it is just impossible to not lose my cool, when I am with them 24/7 (yeah now that summer hols have started !)


At 9:45 AM, Blogger Sheela said...

HI Ranjani,

Believe me, I do exactly what you said sometimes - I raise my voice and then see the scared look on Ana's face and am immediately filled with guilt and want to bury myself somewhere begging for forgiveness from whatever authority keeps track of such things!

Why aren't mommies endowed with special genes to cope with the demands? Or, is this Nature's way of preparing our children for the real world so we don;t end up mollycoddling them?!

You know, I was doing some data-analysis on when/why I sort of 'lose it' needlessly at home, and it seems like it is usually around hormonal changes each month... nobody seems to want to acknowledge it these days... as if somehow the biological process being natural automatically prepares moms to deal with it mentally as well!!


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