On Monday the 17th of August, Arvind began school.

On Sunday our home resembled a nuked whorehouse. Not that I am really personally acquainted with whorehouses – nuked or otherwise.

It did not look good. It did not look like the kind of home where a kid could find his homework. Not without stepping into a two-day old, dried up bowl of macaroni and meat sauce at any rate. We did not look like the parents who could be trusted with a schoolgoing child.

This was entirely ludicrous given how much planning has gone into the Excel sheet titled First Day of School. I slept with that sheet. There are lipstick marks on that sheet. All this by way of letting you know that Excel to-do sheets turn me on and…OhMyGod! I must give up the bureaucrat life before I become an even bigger freak than I ever was.

I had it all down.

What Arvind would wear? (Sweater had be bright blue. I knew that by the time he was one) What special, but healthy treat would he have for breakfast that morning? (Pancakes with fruit – duh!) Who would mind Armaan that day? Where would we go to celebrate after? It had to be perfect. There was no way I would risk him turning on me in my fragile old age and ranting, ” A POKEMON sweater in lime green? For my first day of school? ARE YOU FOR REAL?? And cheerios for breakfast?” All topped off with that look. The one of intense betrayal that says, “Thanks for memories I’m too ashamed to share with my kids.”

You get the drift. I leave nothing to chance.

Come weekend and everything (everything=me) started getting unglued. Terrible weather forced us to be indoors all day and a better parent would have made hot chocolate, found board games to play and even gone through a kiddie album or two. Me? I was only inclined to drink cuppa upon cuppa of chai. Occasionally I broke that tedium to run into the bathroom and sob into a towel.

I don’t do weakness well. Or guilt. Or failure. And it has been the hardest thing in the world to admit how hard this rite of passage was. This seemingly undramatic start of school. For me, it was like a hideous neon sign that wouldn’t budge, spelling it out glaringly:


I know, I know. With a conscience like mine, you don’t need enemies.

I couldn’t look at him without seeing the time I had lost. Seeing the mother that I couldn’t be for him. The mother I probably should have been, but wasn’t. And every permutation and combination of these sentences rushing in for the final thrilling crescendo of self- flagellating glory.

By Sunday, guilt gave way to a bigger storm outside and the mother of all panic attacks in our home. From going around grumbling “Aargh! the house cannot look like this” to the fullblown meltdown of “Why must our home always be the local pigsty!!?” We pulled through the day; the Viking and kids dodged some bullets of motherly ire and once the kids were tucked up in bed and peace reigned, I did my thing.

My thing, where I potter around our home, straighten up and wash and fix and make pretty. Make pretty was suddenly of the utmost importance because my firstborn child is tremendously appreciative of the pretty bit. He is the boy who will walk into a freshly cleaned home and sigh with contentment. Who will suggest a move as an antidote to the mess. Maybe, like his worn ole Ma, he is just one of those persons who feels a greater sense of harmony when their external environment is neat and organised.

Pottering and making pretty is also one way I can wash away the hostility I have stained myself with. It is when I wash the kitchen counter, pat myself on the back and go, “Ach, you’re not totally crap after all. Look, the counter – it shines! It defies crapness.” Pottering leads to gratitude, jiggly dances, flowers on tables and a bowl of fruit that you never want to eat, but would be content just staring at.

Monday was a lovely day. Well, it rained like a funeral, but who cares when you have pancakes for breakfast? And Arvind – oh dear – so handsome, so tall, so handsome, so clear-eyed, clowning around relentlessly, refusing to let me take a proper portrait…. and I have to stop because suddenly someone is sitting on my chest and all the air in my windpipe froze for an instant.

And the biggest surprise of them all.

A sudden need to pray. To begin this moment auspiciously.

You could have knocked me over with a feather. I am not a religious person. I don’t normally pray. I don’t ask the Big Guy for favours. I veer between a shaky agnostic stance and a vague spirituality which mixes well with gin. Why? Not because there is no world peace thanks to organized religion and LOOK AT THE STATE OF THE FRIGGING WORLD WILL YOU?

Because I always wanted to be able to take care of myself. Be strong without the crutch of religious faith. Yet lately, I crumble a bit quicker; I’m a bit more jagged around the edges and sub-consciously I have been seeking…conversation. Clarity. Quietitude. A place within to hear my real thoughts contra what I think I should be thinking/feeling/doing.

So I think of my maternal grandfather, a classy and spiritual man if there ever was one and I find myself lighting a lamp. It spreads the warmest light into our grey Monday. And from here things become a whole lot wierder – twilight zone wierd – because suddenly I know exactly what to do. And if you’d been granted residence inside my grey matter, you’d know that that never happens.

I scoop Arvind into my arms we join our palms, his little palms nestled inside mine and I ask him to repeat after me.

asato ma sadgamaya (Lead me from unreal/untruth to real/truth)

tamaso ma jyotirgamaya (from darkness (ignorance) to light (knowledge)

mrtyorma amritam gamaya (from death to immortality)

Om Shantih Shantih Shantih

.. and he does so, clearly and flawlessly, delivering me a moment of such complete, quiet purity that I still can’t wrap my head around it or do justice to it with words. Somehow they turned out to be the perfect lines to say at this perfect moment.

They also beat the crap out of “Best of luck at school, Sonnyboy. Now, don’t do drugs.” Oh wait, thats for high school.

He was off without even doing us the basic courtesy of looking nervous. We all gathered in the school auditorium and when his name was called, he sauntered off to line up. Without looking back and without reaching for our hands. Just like a boy who had waited impatiently for a year for this day in his life.

So composed that I can almost imagine him as a high school graduate – a self-contained yet confident young man who is often a million miles away on a planet I hope to visit some day, if he’ll let me.

And whats different with a skoolboy in the house? Well, you’ll get eye-rolled more often for one. You MAY NOT ask how his day was, you may NOT waste your breath, you may as well not bother. Thats how much he’s NOT going to tell you a single detail of his day. If you sigh sadly, he might relent a bit and say, “Ok then, we played a bit. Ok? Stop asking.”

At this point I will eyeball the Viking and communicate silently, “See! We need a chatty girl! This.. this is my brother and a re-run of my mother’s withheld-information-hell.”

So I do the next best thing. I go kiss up to the teachers and childcare staff and they tell me how kind he is, how well he plays with other kids, how some of them ask for him if he’s a bit late, how he’s too impatient to line up, how he eats well somedays and poorly if he’s too excited and how he hates being interrupted while he’s drawing and colouring because he’s telling a story too and THAT requires your stuck-out tongue tip and ALL of your brain – d-uh!

You’re okay, skoolboy.

Godspeed, darling.

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Filed under Arvind

39 responses to “SkoolBoy

  1. *sniffle*
    lovely, lovely post.
    first day of school always does a number on a mother’s heart, doesn’t it?
    good luck, big boy Arvind, good luck & have a great year at school.

  2. Dileep

    He’s growing up too fast. I still have that picture of him sitting on the swing with Shiv, looking like the Little Buddha. Small paunch and all.

  3. Coool…congrats to Arvind the skoolboy! And yes, daughters talk endlessly about school and sons growl at you if you dare to take an interest in their school lives. Gah!

    I don’t do Excelsheets…but I do have those handwritten lists floating around:)

  4. SMM

    Awwww…my mom still has this one photo of me in a red frcok with borwn Bata sandal, water bottle around my neck, tiffin box in hand, two pony tails with matching ribbons and an intsy bitsy school nbag in her roo – My first day at school & she also has one of my first day at college & at work (int he latter two my sartorial sense is wayyyyyyyy better than red frock with red ribbonss as I tell her) 😛

    He’s a biggggg boy now….hugsss

  5. first day of school – much more trauma for parents then kids in other words? hmmm must file that away for future reference then – so one can gracefully absent oneself and leave ONE”S parent to handle it.

    also congratulations on becoming a skoolmommy

  6. Shucks this is adorable. And I don’t even *like* the little critters.

    (Critters in general, that is. Yours seem adorable.)

    By the way, if you’ve been worrying about the weirdo obsessively going through your archives, that weirdo would be me.

  7. Awww… I watched that video and it was beautiful. And btw you have really nice shiny, healthy hair. I hate you.

  8. maidinmalaysia

    i love the prayer that you said.
    and so apt to start school with this one.
    *actually, this was our school’s prayer as well*

    i taught the second-line to my firstborn last diwali (tamaso ma jyotirgamaya) — he listened. but wouldn’t repeat.

    Love your son’s smile… I don’t think he’s ever worn a sulky face. He’s perfect. And sraikh’s right!
    you ARE gorgeous — Nandita Das should move over…

  9. Era

    “I know, I know. With a conscience like mine, you don’t need enemies.” It’s like we are sisters separated at birth.

    I love a good list too, but Excel for the wardrobe? You’ve just knocked me out of first place for the ultra organized crown. Hubby is all about Excel and trying to get me in on the act. I think I was traumatized by Lotus back in the day. But I think I might have to resort to Excel to start meal planning – I can never think of anything to make for dinner.

    Anyway, I digress. Boy, how this motherhood thing can tug at the heartstrings of even an old stoic like me. This is what we’ve been training for Shal. To see them off into the bigger world with all the tools to succeed. Those boys are lucky to have you and you’re lucky to have them.

    Your beautiful video made me into a sentimental puddle of mush. My little ones are growing up too. One more year till the oldest is in highschool. Excuse me – I’m going to go panic now.

  10. Mom Gone Mad

    @Kodis Mom: Thank you! Lately, every day seems to do a number:-( Will pass on your good wishes to the concerned boy.

    @Deep: Damn, now why didn’t use that snap? I love it! looks like I need another 15 snaps anyway for the whole song..thanks for reminding me to add this one. And yes – growing far too fast:-(

    Starry eyed:(sigh)lucky you to have one of both. My mother only survived because of my oversharing:-)And a to-do list is a to-do list!

    @SMM: I already love your mother. NOT A SINGLE SNAP of me for any milestone – accidental second child and all who came a bit sooner than expected:-)So here I am, overcompensating with my children. I forgive Amma now because she whipped up awesome birthday parties.

    @Cynic: Thanks.-)- and yes! thats a very important note to self!

    @Chronicus:LOL!! What a fabulous blog handle! And thanks:-)They’re okay. We have decided to keep them for now or at least till the food bills become unmanageable;-) And wierdo? I be the queen of that – takes one to know one and all that. Ferret away, friend. Besides, why are we putting a negative spin on that word?:-)

    @Sraikh: Just two hairs left, Sunita:-) nazar na lagaao!!! But thank you. And glad you enjoyed the video.

    @MiM: Its def. my favourite chant too.And FB is still small..he’ll start mouthing it in no time! As for sulky face – o, plenty of drama here! We just manage to capture a lotta smiles too:-)
    And don’t make N. Das come at you with a chappal;-)

    @Era: You’re so right. We train for this for so long and then I disappoint myself by being crumbly when I should be super stoic. but hopefully he will make good use of his tools. Hey – if you need some hand-holding in your panic, I’m right here:-)

  11. babiesanon

    What a heart wrenching post ! Loved it. Loved the video too, you have a beautiful family!

    Good luck to handsome Arvind as he goes to big school!

  12. Anj

    Lovely post Shal. It’s amazing how much Arvind looked like Armaan when he was little.

  13. Amma

    Lovely collection of photos. With eyes closed I can see him sleeping peacefully on his yellow cushion on my lap. He has grown into a lovely and loving boy. Don’t think of the days you missed out, think of the good times you have with him. No place for regrets, you can only do your best in the given circumstances. And one compensates for times missed in other ways. It is not the length of time but the quality of time that you spend with your children that matters.And if you can keep their love in your old age , you know that you have not gone horribly wrong bringing them up. You may have stumbled but you have always got up and went on. And don’t be a perfectionist and always look for your deficits. Just think that you are a great mom and your kids love you. That is all that matters in the end.

  14. @Babiesanon: Thank you!:-) I will pass on your wishes to Arvind.

    @Anj: Thanks, Anj. Yes, my boys are very similiar. Like those russian dolls you open up and voila! theres a smaller identical one inside;-)

    @Amma: When did you get so wise?:-) *hugs*

  15. Aww…such a lovely post, and how honestly you captured all the ups and downs of feeling..I was hoping to get some details of the day from the sonny boy too 😛 but his response was just too cute !!

    Loved the pics..hugs 🙂

  16. MGM, Ive asked you b4 – are you my twin??
    I’ve read and re-read this post a coupla times today. And I just kept nodding along right through it.
    The Panic. The list. House a mess despite best efforts. The guilt. Everything.
    Could’ve written this myself. Except that I dont write as well 😉

  17. ooh, and that lil guy is SOOOOO handsome. Darn. If only he were about 20 yrs older!!!

  18. Mom Gone Mad

    @Nidhi: Thanks:-)Yeah, no detailed responses to be expected from A!

    @Richa: 🙂 :-)Well, you still have a way to go with the lovely Goosh. If you don’t make my mistakes, I’ll be happy! and *raps Richa’s knuckles for checking out her boy!*;-)

  19. nat

    Shal – uff, next wednesday Im going to be a hopeless case of last baby left for full day school. Reh starts on the 9th. If you thought the first one leaving was bad, wait till the second one does…I think I’m going to have my nose stuck to the classroom window or pretend im the janitor.

    He’s such a darling. Godspeed and I hope these will be some of the best years of your lives!

  20. Lovely post.totally identify with son started kindergarten last week…still transitioning, its been an emotional roller coaster for the past few days.
    i cant wait to start the long weekend!
    your boys are gorgeous and they are lucky to have you as their mom!
    and that prayer….one of my favorites…used to recite it often as a kid and you gave me an idea..i should teach it to my kids just as you have….thanks MGM.

  21. and oh! loved the pictures especially the last one…you are one hot woman!!!

  22. You write well,lady.

    p.s: Pics 5 and 6 – err.. is that really Arvind?

  23. zeno

    & here I’m wondering ke mera number kab aayegaa!

  24. zeno

    p.s. ge ready to take a backseat,
    from mom knows best
    even mom knows that!

  25. Mom Gone Mad

    @Nat: So I’m going to call you on the 9th, talk you out of pasting yourself against plexiglass and let you weep unabashedly into the phone. You’ll just have to imagine my shoulder there! *hugs*

    @Sukanya: I’m so glad its smooth sailing for you now after the first rough couple of days. Transitions are tough. And thanks for you kind comments:-)

    @Print Lover: Thanks:-) and the pics.. yeah, they are Arvind. Did you think they were Armaan? They are v. similiar.

    @Zeno: Ok, you’re scaring me! Mommy always knows best. if i say it hsyterically enough, it will be true!

  26. Pri

    A very close friend of mine recently wrote this in her blog (and I’m borrowing it without her permission, but I’m sure she won’t mind)
    “Being a mom sucks on some days. … The ugly guilt – its a part of the job description…. I always have been one of the earliest parent to pick the kids up from daycare – and yet the maami who tuts over a poor child in school for 8 hours can stab my guilty heart seamlessly. Nobody can look into a mom’s heart. Not even another mom. Nobody can realize how a mom agonizes over every choice she makes. Whether it is what to send for lunch or what moral values to impart to her child. No mom expects to be made a martyr for what she does for her kids – but it would help if the world did not let the guilt eat her for breakfast. She does a pretty decent job of offering herself voluntarily!

    And your post reminds me of hers and I can’t agree with her (and you) more. But you’re doing a fantastic job from what little I know.

    Big hugs to Arvind on making it this far and I hope he has the nicest things happen to him for the rest of his life.

    And the picture collection and the song – simply to die for. Arvind has the nicest smile – he seems like such a loving kid.

    I’m not very religious myself, but I do believe in the existence of a greater being. So, thank you for the prayer, now I know what I will chant with my son on his first day of school, when he gets there I guess 5+ yrs from now (he’s only 5 months now, you know :))

    And oh.. you’re so my excel friend – my life revolves around excel. For the pregnancy I had 7 worksheets under a file called “pregnancy and beyond” with details on what to do pre-pregnancy, post-pregnancy, what to buy, what to put in the diaper bag, what toys to buy, what books to buy, what cd’s to purchase,… if you are ever having a third, I’ll send it to you (not that you’ll ever need it 🙂 )

  27. Thanks to your new pic, I have seen you on facebook!!! 🙂

    And Arvind looks TOOOO CUTE!!
    Lovely post, MGM! Hope he has LOADS of fun in school!

    Oh and I looooooove your new header.
    Ufff you are making me all hungry at 5.30 in the morning!

  28. Mom Gone Mad

    @Pri: Only too true, what your friend wrote. And thanks for all the nice remarks. I will make sure I pass it on to Arvind too:-) As for the prayer, its a winner!

    And please to send Excel prayer sheets;-)Pregnancy planning was one of the funnest things to do with Excel! And before you ask – no. NOT. I will need a new donor. Present donor on strike:-)

    @Miss M: Huh? HOW? WHY OH WHY is everyone smarter than me? Please teach me your tricks. Does this mean I can stalk your FB updates now? And thanks, M:-) Will convey your best to the lil critter.

  29. WhattaSlidesetMan! Very nice. Good luck to Arvind and Happy Onam to you all. And you found plantain leaves?

  30. Cecilie M

    Your post made me cry… and then the slideshow just made it worse.

    When I think of your little Arvind I picture that incredibly beautiful little boy that would run to me when I arrived at pre-school to pick up my kids. He’d meet me at the gate and his sweet and warm little hand would slide right into mine and then chatting happily away he’d walk me to where my kids were. He was like the little ‘mayor’ of TCH. I just adored it.

    Then we moved to the new and bigger school building and that little boy’s hand didn’t find mine anymore. I will always remember his shining smile looking up at me. You have a beautiful boy. He has stolen a little piece of my heart.

    You’re an EXCELLENT Mamma. Don’t let anyone, not even your own conscience, tell you otherwise.

  31. Arvind and his mommy are both gorgeous!
    Wishing him many many happy years of learning, both in school and beyond.
    God bless.

  32. Do you have to make me go boo-hoo all the time. Still snivelling and looking a total mess. Love you and hate it when you take time off from writing. One big sloppy kiss to that school going sonna of yours. God bless. Gorgeous pics….and here I go again all misty eyed. Face the same situation with regard to the monosyllable answers with my son here!! And yes it is hell coz I cannot cosy up to his teachers or girl friends for that matter!!!

  33. Chuchu

    *wipes away a tear* you’ve put down in words so well, what moms all over the world go through…brought back so many memories!and mine have just entered high school so it wasn’t that long ago!
    Arvind is sooo gorgeous and you’re not too shabby either;))all that jet black ,shiny hair,that smile *shoves ND out of the way*!

  34. LOVED, loved the slideshow – esp the last pic. Man I was blubbering by pic 5!! Why do these kids have to grow up on us? Ingrates.

    So how does Arvind like school?

    ps: He looks a LOT like you, doesn’t he?

  35. I arrive late but my best wishes to Adu too!

    And I already know that’s how I will feel when my little ones suddenly turn out to be all grown up and going to school. The guilt, I mean. Not the part about the sweater planning, or the prayer (perfect!), and I can’t make pancakes. So no redemption in sight for me, I’m afraid…

    The slideshow is great! It took ages to load on my poor internet connection but that way I got to listen maybe ten times to the song – nice choice. I hadn’t realized Arvind and Armaan looked so similar. Same with my two boys, so far.

    And like other people have said, The List plays a fundamental role in my life too, but Excel?? Who would have thought you were that kind of girl 🙂

  36. Omg, I just had lunch with this hotty hot mom today! Omg, the hotty hot mom has a kid that looks like he’s ready for college! *freaking out about time passing me by* Lovely children you produce 🙂

  37. choxbox

    Hi MGM. de-lurking to say – you write so beautifully. Firstborn goes off to school – perfectly captured.

  38. Mom Gone Mad

    Choxbox! Omigod, you’re here:-) Thank ye!

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