Thoughtful Giving

On Monday evening, Arvind and I had an arts and crafts date. We were going to paint porcelain and make special presents for two people who have meant a lot to him over the past three years. Anita, his school therapist, and V, the physical therapist who came once a week to supervise his overall progress and take him for pool training.

Arvind was born with a brachial plexus injury (the most severe grade of avulsion) which, in his case, meant that he had an entirely paralysed left arm at birth. (Awful story that I don’t have the stomach to narrate.) It has taken two major, dollar-chomping operations (free medical care. socialism. remember?) and a tremendous amount of loving, patient and innovative training by Anita and V to give him a functional arm. By innovative, I mean just downright clever. It takes cunning to make a 3 or 4 year old like working out everyday. These two spectacular women have also taken the weight almost entirely off our guilt-free shoulders, allowing us to be just his goofball parents instead of parents and part-time therapists.

So back to Monday night. We are at our dining table, making initial sketches before we transfer our ideas onto the porcelain. Arvind comes up with some good ideas and we get started. Ten minutes into it, he is borrrreeed and begins to muck around.

“This pen is too slippery on the cup. Oops. Slipped. Harhar. That flower looks like a NOSE. Or a big bum.”

More hilarity follows and all the while, I sit there with my jaws clenched in irritation, bone-tired after a long day with office work and housework.

Predictably, I snap. And I come down on him like a ton of bricks. “Fine. We’re done here now! If this is how you want to do it, we might as well not do it. I can’t be arsed to waste my time. Go to bed!”

I begin gathering up the pens and after glaring at me balefully for two minutes, Arvind’s eyes fill with tears and he runs down to his room.

“C’mon, ” says the Viking, taking time out from surfing iphone waves, “Do you have to be so hard on him? He’s just six. So he fooled around a bit,so what? Its his present. Let him do what he wants with it. Its not like it has to be artistically perfect. Its a kiddie gift for crying out loud.”

By this point, I’m not far from tears myself.

“Its not because its not perfect,” I say, “Its because it’s a gift to people who have given him a lot of love and I want this gift from him to mean something to him and them. I don’t want it to be something that has been done in a goofy, half-hearted way. Thats just no way to repay them for all that they have done for him. I just want him to put his concentration and effort into making this as nice as he can. I want his appreciation of them to come through in it. Nothing to do with my standards of good art.”

I don’t like thoughtless gifts. Or thoughtless work for that matter.

If it doesn’t matter that much, then for heavens sake, cease and desist.

Its not really perfectionism, because as much as I would like that, its not there and I can’t beat myself with the stick of constant improvement. But it is all about knowing that you poured yourself into acknowledging someone. That you thought about them enough to come up with something that would move them. That you made it personal.

I go down to Arvind and he is huddled on the bed improving his sketches. He looks up briefly just to let me know that he is still upset and goes on drawing.

I apologise for snapping at him and ask him if he’d allow me to explain. One of the lovely things about him so far – he will give you a fair, but tough hearing.

So I explain. And I remind him about how much they have cared for him over the years. I remind him how weak his arm was before Anita made it strong, push-up able and Superman-like. I remind him of how often she has held him when he was very sad some days. How she always a chocolate biscuit in her bag that appears magically when he most needs it. How much fun they have had and how much they laugh when they work out/play/shoot hoops together.

He is eerily still in my arms till he turns his face towards me, utterly crestfallen.

“I wish Anita could come with me to the big school.” he says.

“So do I,” I say. “But she can’t. Thats why this is important. So how about you make the most kickass present ever to show her what you think of her?”

He stayed up till half past 9 that night, talking idly to me, squinting and sticking his tongue out in concentration as he thoughtfully created a gift. I loved the result, imperfect as the lines were, only because he had grasped the spirit of the process.

Was I too harsh on him? Most probably, I was. Maybe I could have gotten to point B without a minor explosion at point A. Still, life isn’t perfect and aren’t there things we should fight to instil in our children? Like putting effort and soul into one’s work – hobby or otherwise?

I know that I am willing to struggle to teach them that cost does not necessarily equate with value. If there is no thought, no effort behind it, its just bling – but it won’t make me sing:-)

When are we demanding and when are we doing the right thing by kids? I won’t even demand a college education from mine. They can be carpenters or mechanics or whatever makes their day. But I know that I will be disappointed if I see them living without spirit, without a sincere effort. Whatever you do, make it count, will be all I really expect.

Naive? Whats your take on this? And while you think, check out some tableware:-)

Cup and saucer

Cup and saucer

Another angle to satisfy my obsessive nature at 2.a.m

Another angle to satisfy my obsessive nature at 2.a.m

Kawfee Kupp - my favourite

Kawfee Kupp - my favourite

p.s. Porcelain is from Ikea. Painting is done with special pens. Check out your nearest hobby shop. Let the paint dry for 24 hours and then bake in the oven for 35 minutes at 150 degrees celsius – and voila! You’re dishwasher-friendly:-)



Filed under Life Lessons

24 responses to “Thoughtful Giving

  1. Naive -not at all. Make it count – exactly my anthem too.
    Bravo, MGM and Arvind.

    We have something in common here – the Imp was born with hypotonia which essentially meant her muscles weren’t developing at all, and she couldn’t even sit up unaided at one.We went through physio too, and today she is way more agile and physically daring than most kids her age. But those early days – when we wondered if she would ever even be able to walk – came back while reading this post.

  2. finally delurked…i have been following your blog lately and of course keep coming back to it cuz you write beautifully.
    Glad to learn about Arvind’s progress-this must have been hard on you.
    I love the gist of this piece…its is also about making it count. My father and even my FIL say the same thing-whatever you do, do it well, give it your best shot. something i am trying to instill in my little ones.
    lovely gifts-very thougthful indeed. and yayy to Arvind!!

  3. i meant-“its all about making it count”. sorry its morning and my fingers are still asleep!

  4. Era

    It’s a beautiful and worthwhile lesson and perhaps the minor explosion at point A makes it even more memorable.

    The fact that you explained your reaction is golden. No one’s perfect but seeing you make the effort, seeing your passion, and being included in your thought process is a great lesson in itself. You were living up to your own premise: whatever you do make it count.

    Love the table ware!!!

    I’ve seen the beautiful pictures and heard the wonderful stories of you and your family, but I never would have guessed the struggles that you’ve had to overcome. You guys are truly awesome.

  5. Chuchu

    the ‘designs’ on the porcelain rocked…and the lesson is something which I have also drummed into my kids from when they were little-recently my daughter created the most beautiful collage of photos(actually print-outs) put into a fairly cheap frame for her friend-it turned out to be the most loved gift out of a number of expensive bought ones.

  6. Dottie

    So glad to learn that Arvind’s arm is progessing great..I had no idea about these struggles A and your family have been through. Those teacups and mugs are beautiful and it shows that Arvind has put his heart into designing them!!!

  7. This is what makes you a great mother.
    A value for whatever is done, that it be done with the utmost sincerity. Those early years must have been so tough for you, I’m glad you had those wonderful people helping.
    The cups and mug are just lovely.
    Do tell Arvind that friends across the world are admiring his art work:)

  8. the tableware is lovely 🙂
    and so is your post.

  9. clap, clap, clap, clap!!!

    For Arvind with his beoooutiful artwork.
    For you, for being an awesome mother.

    Am in awe.
    Terrific way of handling the situation. Not everyone manages to get to point B.

    Kudos to A and to you and the viking, for getting thru the rough patch with such amazing grace.

    The vivacity and the warmth of ur blog never lets on the tough times u’ve been through. To make it through those, stronger, more in love with life, is rare.

    Love the lesson “whatever you do, make it count”. Holds for me too. Feel I’m missing out on that right now. Needed the reminder.

    ok, now i’m completely in awe 🙂

  10. allrighthere

    He did a beautiful job – and he put his heart into it. The significance of the project wouldn’t have occurred to him. They do art projects all the time in school, and I’m sure to him it was just ‘another one’. You taught him a valuable lesson! You go girl! That’s what real parenting is all about.

    I’m so glad to hear he’s doing so much better! I will never forget standing in the parking lot of the old TCH when you told me about the birth, his arm, surgery etc. Makes me twitch.

  11. Pri

    Your blog and words have had such a joyous disposition and you’ve been so unpretentious that I would’ve never guessed the challenges you’ve had to overcome – you certainly do with a lot of courage and style and you’re one helluva family – from what I’ve read so far.

    As for Arvind – he did that??? OMG – he is certainly very talented with his hands – does that run in the family?

    And you’ve done quite a nice job handling the situation – I guess it teaches him a lesson as well – that it’s ok to get upset, but he’s got to be gracious enough to accept when he’s wrong by apologizing, just like you did.

  12. Mom Gone Mad

    @WJ: Wow, hypotonia? That sounds tough. I’m so glad she’s fine and thriving now. Can it be true that kids who get used to physical training/therapy early in life maybe have more positive associations of physical activity?

    @Sukanya: Hi there! Yup, I don’t really think its *what*you do, but how you do it that counts. And i really wished this was a lesson I had learned in some way earlier. It would have been good for me:-)

    @Era: Thanks for those kind words. At some point, I want to get to where I get without the exploding – though I won’t hold it against myself:-) Its hard to be *that* good:-)

    As for overcoming obstacles and staying strong, I don’t know what choice we had. We had an otherwise healthy, delightful spark of a child and we were just glad that he escaped with his little mind intact. We just did what any parent would do. We hung in there for him.

    @Chuchu: I’m such a believer in personal presents. Your daughters present sounded lovely.

    @Dottie: We advertise prudently:-) The struggles – I’m wary of making them sound like they were more than they were. I saw parents who had a far worse deal and perspective is always a blessing in these situations. And he helped by being a absolutely perfect baby on every count – almsot as if to apologize for the inconvenience:-)
    And thanks! I will pass on your comment to Arvind. He will be thrilled:-)

    @Dipali: It felt like we had a whole cavalry to support us in those times. We have been so lucky. And I will definitely pass on your kind comments to Arvind:-)

    @Mumbai Diva: Thank you so much:-)

    @Richa: LOL..I would love to take a lot of credit here, but the path to amazing grace is rarely smooth:-) And there is always a price. I think we just fumbled through and made it from day to day. And somehow, sometimes you land sunny side up I suppose:-)Thats why I am very un-awed and still pinching myself!

    But thanks for your lovely words of encouragement and chillax, girl – you’ll get there too. When the Goosh is six;-) Think long haul:-)

    @Allrighthere: LOL! Just like me to go spill my guts in a parking lot. The least I could have done was get you a chair in case you needed to pass out from the tales of blood and gore!
    And you’re right about kids. They do art projects all the time, what was special about this? Yup, sometimes drumming in is required for parent and child:-)

    @Pri: The courage and style is easier to project in the rear view mirror, looking back:-) In that situation, I don’t know that I was “all that” – quite honestly, a lot of that period is a bit of a daze. But yes, we’re fighters. We threaten to crumble, but we’ll be damned if we cave;-)
    Will def. pass on your compliment to Arvind. And of course it runs in the family – check out the Ma;-) And hey, as much as I screw up, apologizing is the least I can do:-)

  13. YAY for good therapists.
    YAY for a mom who explains everything.
    YAY for Arvind for the wonderful present.

    And boo to Viking for surfing on the Iphone!!

  14. maidinmalaysia

    let me never be the person who said “i told you so…”,
    but seems like i was right about the ice-berg.

    @ mgm and wj: kickass mums you two.

  15. Brilliant..I am amazed a little 6 year old took the time to do something as lovely as this. Honestly..get real, how many 6 year old’s will give a shot at something so thoughtful and listen to the mum after being snapped at. Arvind is a great kid and the mum is doing a wonderful job with her kids! Whatever you do, make it count..such an important lesson and starting with it so early on, I am sure he’ll do just great in life!

  16. I think that when the Dude presents us with a tough situation, He makes sure that there will always be more than adequate support, and at the same time tells you that you are the one whom He gifted a particular situation to, either because He knows it’s something you and only you can handle, or because you need it to stretch you and make you grow.
    @WJ: It sounds so tough, the hypotonia.
    I’m so glad that it was resolved. God bless.

  17. this was a beautifully written post.

    and please tell the young artist that his designs are lovely

  18. RM

    In complete agreement with you on the thought. Try your best, the results don’t matter as much.

    The one thing that did stick out and make me nod in agreement is
    “One of the lovely things about him so far – he will give you a fair, but tough hearing.”
    Sounds just like my older one – I find it easier to reason with her, and I appreciate the fact that she lets me be human and not a perfectionist. Its just what a hot headed mom need. Not to imply you are one; jus’ saying. 🙂 Glad A’s arm is much better.

  19. Hey MGM, I the table ware is beautiful! And I think it is lovely how you are teaching his how to be sincere and put effort into all his gestures/ acknowledgements.

  20. @Dipali and MiM: Thanks.
    But any aspirations I had to kickass-ness vapourized the very first day I went to the physio’s clinic. Compared to the gamut of horrific, heartbreaking, totally UNFAIR conditions that can befall children, and given the incredibly brave kids and parents we met there each time, hypotonia was a cakewalk.

    MGM: Hey, interesting point about the affinity to physical activity.
    Second, third, fourth the iceberg theory.

  21. Anj

    Gosh I can’t imagine what those early days must have been like..and it’s wonderful that you’ve all come through it with your humour, sanity and love of life intact. Does that in part explain Arvind’s “knowing” eyes and his extreme thoughtfulness? Kids who have to deal with pain early on seem to grow up so much quicker, and Arvind is clearly an awesome child. It doesn’t hurt to have an amazing mom! 🙂

    I was a “why” child (now “why” person) and I always needed to know why I had to do things a certain way. I was more compliant if there was a reason, and my dad really was good with the explaining… most of the time that is….he has occassionally resorted to “BECAUSE I TOLD YOU SO!!!”. (I can try the patience of a saint :)). I like to do the same with Utthu..thought at 2 years I don’t think she understands even the half of it..but she does seem to appreciate the explanatory tone and it calms her down (most of the time :)).

  22. nat

    see this is what ive always appreciated about you – the fact that your thoughts could be so eloquently put across – whether to ollie or arvind. or me.

  23. Mom Gone Mad

    @Sraikh: See? you’re the only one who took the iphone thingy and beat the Viking with it. Thank you!

    @MiM: Awwwww. Thanks. But if I fall off that high a pedestal, I’ll hurt my bum!

    Sole: Thanks for the encouraging words!And here’s hoping things turn out right.

    @Dipali: this is *exactly* what I believe too. I know this child came here with these challenges so we could learn. So we could step up to it.

    @Suma: Thanks! will be sure to pass it on.

    @RM: Oh, but I am a hot-headed mom:-)My temper is one of the worst things about me, but I’m getting better at reining it in. And I know what you mean – having a kid who appreciates hearing you out and being heard makes everything easier.

    @June: Thanks babe:-)

    WJ: I hear you! Throughout the first year of group therapy I kept thinking how narrowly we escaped worse fates. And psshaw – iceberg- shaisberg!(trying to blush becomingly)

    @Anj: yes, i do think Arvinds first couple of years explain his nature a lot. He completely conquered all the hospital staff because he was always curious and rarely cried or was fussy.He dealt with a lot very very early and I think it ceased to be a big deal for him.
    And i hear you about the effectiveness of the explanatory tone. Def. would have worked with me as a kid too!


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