Monthly Archives: November 2008

Surviving Playschool

Here is Armaan on his first day of playschool. This was the smile plastered to his face all day.

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People tend to ask us, “Is he always like this?”

We know that what they’re really trying to ask us is, ” Christ! How much coke did this kid snort?”

What kind of hippies do you take us for? The kid is just naturally stoked, say 90 percent of the time. He is a blaze of fury for the remaining 10 percent and he flings himself to the floor like a scorned Kaikeyi, weeping copious tears. This usually lasts all of 3 minutes and when he realises no-one gives a toss, he picks himself up and gets jiggy with his life again. So far there is not much whimpering and whining. Maybe he’s waiting to turn two before he unleashes a new personality upon us.

For about a month before he began playschool, Armaan could be seen scratching and clawing at doors and windows, making pitiful noises. “Release me from these shackles of loneliness,” he seemed to be saying  “Let me go play.”

So I took him to his new playschool. A bright, roomy, airy, cheery place, where employees are so pumped on Prozac that they’ll readily acknowledge HOW MUCH they love changing your childs poopy diaper. Armaan loved it. He crawled around completely unfazed, pointing out “poovu” (flower), mammam (food in the fridge) and wuffwuff (doggie). He sat comfortably with his carer, all cuddled up reading an animal book, while I sat in another corner, against bright, squashy IKEA cushions, sipping my coffee and wondering when I had become so dispensable. The least the child could do was show SOME consideration and be slightly off-balance and clingy. Instead, he decides after a while to go around trying to cuddle and pat completely strange children on the head – completely strange children who were bleating in terror, y’know like normal children that age do when faced with the prospect of imminent separation from a parent.

Our hero looks at them as if to say, “Suck it up a bit, will ya brother?” and moves on to the toy trains and cuddly toys, every inch of which is covered in unspeakably spooky microbes. That’s right, “playschool” is euphemistic nomenclature. The correct term would be Bacillus Central. He buried his face in snot-marinated teddies and for good measure he might even have washed the floor with his tongue.

And here begins his downfall. You see, the universe is always tripping up the cocky ones and my son would be no exception. Once he was done tonguing all the toys, we headed home and he proceeded to puke for three days. At this juncture, the universe surveyed our tattered life and decided to up the pain and suffering, either to strengthen our souls or finish us off. Fresh blessings came in the form of Otitis Media. In plain english, thats the kind of ear infection which a) makes you want to rip off your ears and b) makes you beg for deliverance. Armaan, unable to do either of the above, just shut the happy shop and screamed. This carnival lasted a week. Peace now reigns in our life again.

Now, when we drop Armaan off at playschool, he keys into his empathy and joins the sonata of soul-wrenching screams with the rest of them. At least for the obligatory minute or so till the anti-jinx kicks in.

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Signed, Sealed, Delivered..

I’m yours.

It must be love

It must be love

Here is my new MacBook. This is how I am celebrating 33 years on this planet. By getting me a new Boy Toy.

If you should find an unwarranted number of typos in this post, it’s because it’s hard to type lying prostrate, worshipping at the keyboard of this slim, slender and total hottie. As my fingers skip and dance over the delightful keyboard and I can feel the endorphins streaming through me.

Once you Mac, there’s no going back. Its a love affair for life. Unlike real life, however, you do get to upgrade to a hot new model when covetousness strikes. Officially it “ours”. Unofficially, its “touch him and your gonads will be moving south to China.”

Its Saturday night and the Viking and I are on on the sofa, making out with our respective Apple devices and catching up on TIVO – namely the Life and Times of Mao Zedong. Yeah, we’re rocking. Give us a NatGeo documentary about platetectonics and you’ll have steamy windows. This is what I love about having been together for ten years. The total lack of pressure and the kind of comfort level that results in unshaven legs, love handles, large boxes of chocolate and a bottle of chianti on Saturday night.

Tonight though, I’m sneaking me a hot little Macca lurrve machine into my bed and doing the nasty under the covers till sleep seizes me. Such fun threesomes are rare, wot?

Edited to add: The Viking would like to clear up a potential misunderstanding in the penultimate paragraph. HE doesn’t shave this legs. Never has and never will. That refers only to me. The Viking would like you to know he is hirsute. And a man’s man. Now where’s that jug of mead?

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The pestilence has passed..

and we have lived to tell the tale.

Seriously, I’m NOT going to tell that tale because my depressed heart would code and I’d be dead in three seconds flat. Yes, it was THAT bad. On the plus side, there were brief periods of merriment when I was lucid enough to envision intensely excruciating and original ways to end the absentee Vikings life. These were narrated to him in great detail each time he called. He tells me today that the furious North Sea has nothing on me, when I am exhausted, sleep-deprived and raging.

Last Tuesday our GP finally condescended to see us. Our GP is a sprightly and vivacious lady from Sri Lanka – not that these qualities are necessarily what I look for in a GP, but it most definitely makes her easy to talk to. I walk in and she cuddles Armaan a second before saying, ” Oh well, looks like we’ll be family soon!”

I am baffled by this statement and try to respond by raising just the one questioning brow as smart and sophisticated people would do. This was bound to fail since I am none of the the above. Instead my eyebrows shoot into my hairline to give the overall effect of surprised and stupid. She laughs gaily and continues.

“Steph(anie) has decided that she is going to marry Arvind. She told me today that he is the best kisser amongst the boys. So welcome the family and all!” Haha.

I laugh merrily while I try and wrap my head around the fact that a four year old girl has a test sample of boys she has kissed. They have been qualified, graded and ranked in her four year old mind. It took me 18 freakin’ years (in our admittedly repressed youth in Kerala) to work up a respectable and somewhat random sample. Wow. Clearly, this was a girl well ahead of her time, clear and resolute, knowing what she wants and going after it.

Either that or a total Ho.

And my son is kissing? Willingly? Or is he being chased and violated? Having lips forced upon him by hormonal kindergarten girls? And here I was, thinking I had at least a good ten years before any such worries came my way.

The protective mother that I am, I hasten to pick him up and get to the bottom of things. I’m all Hey! dude! and casual as he runs over to hug me somewhat diffidently. This is a recent development. Kindergarten law has decreed that only real wussies hug their mothers in public. PDA is so not on. Locking lips and making out, however, has clearly wrangled legal sanction.

We pile into the car, argue a bit over our playlist and then settle down for the ride home.

“Hey, so I heard today that you and Steph have been kissing.”

Arvind pretend vomits in the backseat.”I HATE girls!” he spews vehemently, “They keep chasing us and trying to kiss on the lips. Girls suck!”

“C’mon, there must be some nice girls?” I venture hopefully.

“NO! Girls are poop with a fart on top”. Ok then.

Its all peaceful for a while as Boney M belts out Rasputin’s sinful but wildly exciting life.

“Mamma?” comes a small voice from the backseat? “Can boys love boys? And marry boys?”

Woah. Was not ready. And should definitely not be driving or swerving when that question pops. Its the kind of question and answer that requires eye contact. Or is it? Does it mean anything? Or is this just my son, completely disgusted and disgruntled by aggressive overtures and wanting to know his options? Wondering if he is doomed to a life with pink-and-barbie-loving-bimbettes? Either way, I decide that this not the time to sweat it.

“And play Star Wars forever and live happily till you’re old? Sure you can, babe.” I laugh.

He emits a huge sigh of relief. “Good,” he breathes. And he looks at me levelly in the rear view mirror, “because I will never EVER marry a girl. I only love Henrik.” And then he does something which just blows me away. He raises his palm and I see that he has written his beloved friends name in a heart. And he smiles.

I know that I am far too much of a libertarian to be rocked by this. And I am going to type fast before the hit-men that my parents will have authorised get here.

He is five and the kind of child who feels everything intensely. He loves his friend. Should it be the case that he loves men in his adult life, I would still be happy for him. Because more than anything, I will pray for my children to find real friendship and love. Not some shabby, convenient excuse, but the real thing. The person who really gets him and stands by him weathering it all. The person who loves his quirky, bright mind and his expansive heart. “Must have vagina” really has not made it to this checklist.

This is not the post about my son being gay. He can barely wipe his own arse in a competent manner, let alone label his feelings and slot them in a category. He wants to do maths, know what happened to the dinosaurs and figure out where EXACTLY in the solar system we are. Can we see it on the GPS? Everything else, unless it is Hanuman or Ben 10, is an inconvenient interruption.

And we can grant him his innocence for this short while. Avoid the unnecessary digging, shovelling and general over-examination of every bloody feeling/conversation that seems to pass for caring parenting these days. I am eternally grateful to my parents for being just repressed enough to leave us the hell alone, never forcing “sensitive conversations” on us or mining for our deepest feelings. They accepted us, got on with their lives and let us get on with ours. I plan to do my sons the same favour. Que sera sera.

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Surfacing for Air

I will be a single mom for the next 10 days. Unfortunately this collides with..err.. life. I find myself suddenly having a full time job, but working part-time, just so that I can make the school-playschool run. This really cramps my prolonged coffee breaks during office hours. Laundry and dishes are piled high, plants are withering and dying.. hell, I’m withering and dying!

I don’t know single moms-for-real do it, but I bow to them and worship at their unpedicured feet.

The Viking will be far out at sea, completely unavaibable to his family and this situation has me gnashing my teeth, wailing and howling at the moon. However, after ten years, he’s immune to my appallingly manipulative wiles and goes about the business of packing, all the while muttering about making a good living and did I care about food on the table?

Life, cruelly waits until the Viking is at sea, (oh I dunno – probably playing out his favourite Jack Sparrow fantasy in his engineer suit) – before handing us yet another gift.

Yes, sirree bob! Our favouritest fairy of all has come-a-visiting. The fairy of Playschool Contagion arrives sprinkling us liberally and carelessly with her shiny shimmery germs. Oh happy days!

So I am home with Armaan, who is burning up, snotty, sniffly, clingy and whiny. And if you re-check that sentence, there are no warming adjectives there. At some point during the day, he might grace me with an hour or so of sleep. But otherwise, he’s stuck to  my hip and I discover an array of mummy superpowers I never knew I had.  Like, clingfilming an entire dish with one hand, Armaan in the other. High Five!

The Viking calls in the evening. You’d think he’d know better by now, but the man is either an incurable optimist or a glutton for punishment, depending on which side of the whisky glass you’re on.

TV: How’s it going?

Me: The good news is that it’s crap. The bad news is that it’s utterly and completely crap.

TV: Could he be teething? Do you think its more teeth? He normally gets ill when he’s teething.

Me: Well, right now, he could be getting his bloody periods and I wouldn’t give a shit.

A moment’s pause as the ungracious comment sinks in. We then proceed to laugh till we almost pee. (Yes, we have opposable digits AND we’re potty-trained, though it’s hard to tell at times)

A sliver of light, people, a sliver of light in very dark times.

If you don’t see me in a few days, warming the cockles of your heart with a post oozing love for my children, pliss to send a search party. My offspring might be feeding off my rotting flesh.

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The Virtues of Benign Neglect

.. are now official. If I had any doubts yesterday, they are well and truly banished today. Our adamant refusal to provide Arvind with ANY intellectual sustenance of the organised kind (homework, Kumon etc.) is finally paying off. What do I mean by this? It basically means that my five-year old has clued into his own curiousity and his thirst for knowledge and taken his education into his own hands.

This evening, as we were sailing effortlessly through our bum-parent routine (which we have down pat) and serving up our Sunday leftovers as Monday Specials, Arvind announces that as soon as dinner is done, there is WORK TO DO downstairs in his room. Could we please be there? He would bring papers and pens and we would do MAGICAL STUFF.

Yeah, whatever, we mumble as we stuff ourselves with pizza and Armaan binges on leftovers on the floor.

We troop down dutifully after dinner, though somewhat unwillingly. I mean, schoolwork is SO yesterday to us. We enter his room to see him sprawled out on the floor, doing, whaddaya know, maths. At this point, the Viking’s geeky chest is almost bursting out of his body, maths being like foreplay to him and all. And I park my butt and pick my jaw up off the floor as I watch my son doing sums so casually – adding, subtracting, multiplying and having the TIME OF HIS LIFE. His eyes sparkle and you could almost hear him cracking the code – CCCHHHING! as he bounces about begging to be quizzed..”Ask me.. Ask me stuff I can’t count with my fingers!” And I see that it is magic to him. This numerical revelation that has opened up a whole new world to him. A world he masters and controls. Hell, even WE can see that this is HUGE stuff for him, and we’re pretty slow.

Now ask me about a surefire way to kill that sense of magic and wonder. We could start by signing him up for Maths coaching and make it a mandatory must-do.

I know. Shame on our lazy asses and all. Maybe if we pushed him, he would be brilliant. And if I believed that for one moment, I would actually sign him for all the insane classes people sign five year olds up for. But the Viking and I are maybe arse-backwards that way. I really believe that if you never take away the enjoyment in a task, if you stimulate “freely” and without structure in the early years, children WILL blossom. They will love the magic in a mathematical sum and NOT ONLY because they have been told that they are good at it and SHOULD keep at it.

For Pete’s sake. He’s five. He is supposed to be goofing off with fart cushions, riding around the neighourhood on his bike and singing songs about poop. All of which he does, by the way. And sure its a time for learning, for absorbing the world around him. I just don’t think 4 and 5 year olds need tutoring to do that.

At this age and for the next couple of years, I don’t want a child of mine learning through anything other than play and activity. They need to be in the park, in the woods and picking up on basic science, tasting the good mushrooms and blueberries and figuring out how and why seasons change. They should be having conversations with their parents and grandparents about the world and people they see around them, making sense of it. This is as much a time for developing EQ and building social sensitivity. They should be cooking and baking with their families, learning how to measure and weigh. They should be hearing all the stories their tiny heads can stand.

And for all my cocka-whopee talk, this I believe.

They should be endlessly curious and never satiated. Lets never let them believe that learning has a beginning and an end. They should NOT always be served up answers. Leave them wondering. Stop giving a shit whether they colour inside the lines or write perfectly neatly. Did writing perfectly neatly get you very far? Sorry, but there’s still a lot of post-colonial cockamamie shite going around.

Let them colour their mangoes blue sometimes.
(Thanks MM, for this heads up)

In the meanwhile, I will apply for Queendom in the Republic Monarchy of Benign Neglect, yessir, and spread the gospel with the kind of zeal that would put Jerry Falwell to shame.

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