Oh baby, don’t grow up so fast.

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Arjun, my almost two year old boy is at an age, where he can make sense of the little things going on around him. He can explain , argue, try to convince or throw a tantrum as the last resort. Many times he says things to us which we have previously said to him. When I hurt my finger with a kitchen knife, he came running with his baby lotion and told me to apply it and it will get well very soon. When his father coughed during a meal, he quickly pointed out that he should take smaller bites and eat slowly. Stuff that we tell him sooner or later comes back at us. He knows which clothes I wear to work and which clothes on the weekends. So last Saturday when I wanted to go meet a friend for lunch, I told him I am going to office and you take a nap with your baba. He looked at my jeans and gleefully exclaimed that I am not wearing office clothes, so I can’t go to the office. It’s hard to say anything to that when you feel half proud about your child’s supposed intelligence and half stupid to be so simplistic that a 2 year old has already figured you out. But that’s what it is. Many times we have to talk in spellings now, because he knows his mother tongue Marathi very well, and can also pick up on most commonly used English words. Often you will find us talking like this – ‘Should we take him s-w-i-m-m-i-n-g in the evening?’ or ‘Don’t bring that a-p-p-l-e in front of him till he finishes dinner’ et cetera.

But this baby boy is wary of loud places and crowded rooms. Any new people make him nervous and he starts saying he wants to go home. When I took him to a Mentor Me India meeting a few weeks back because no one was at home to baby-sit him, he cried non-stop till I quickly called an Uber to go home. But as soon as I showed him that an Uber was on the way, he stopped crying. A fellow mentor asked him that if you understand what is happening then why are you crying? Arjun replied with a wail to ensure that I don’t cancel the cab. He was uncomfortable there for whatever reasons, and he was communicating it to me in the best way he could. Now so many times it happens that I want to literally and figuratively run out of a place. Especially dark rooms with small windows. I have yet not been able to articulate why. Then how can I expect him to do that? But nevertheless I feel exasperated at times and wish he was more ‘social’. More like me than his dad who also needs a lot of alone time.

Currently Arjun’s grandma has gone to the USA for a few weeks to spend time with her granddaughter. Naturally he is quite upset that his beloved ajji can’t be seen anywhere. Without any frame of reference of a month or a week, I was worried how to tell him that she will come back soon, but after many days and many nights. He cried for the first two days but now he tells himself every morning that ajji has gone to US to bring his cousin Sara to Mumbai so that they can play together. Suddenly he misses her less, because it’s for a special cause. It is so that he gets back not only ajji but also Saru-tai, his cousin. Poor baby Arjun is set for another heartbreak in a few weeks, but for now he is waiting. And valiantly assures me that ajji will come back soon when I say that I miss her too.

These new generation kids are really smart I tell you. Making sense of the world faster than us. My two and half year old nephew can unlock any cellphone, take selfies and photos. And if there is no password, he can even play his favourite Youtube videos! My friends’ similar aged son can identify cars whizzing by. His toy cars include a Lamborghini, Bugatti, Ferrari etc. And I can’t even recognise my white Activa scooter without seeing the number plate. I often wonder how can we match up to these kids? How do we keep them stimulated without binding them to dozens of activity classes? If you have any tips, I am very keen to hear.

And of course things are not so sensible every day. There are times when Arjun is crying unconsolably because he wants to wear the same soiled diaper from the dustbin or he has had a bad dream at 3 am and wants to go to the park right now to see the horse or some other absurd idea at an ungodly time and I want to disappear from this life. Wake up in another era when I had my brain to myself and was not muddled with concern, worry, and a whole another individual. But then that’s why parenting is a two person job (mostly). Akshay takes over and asks me to shoo away when I am running out of patience. It true that it takes a village to raise a child. If it were just the baby and me I would have gone crazy long back.

End of this month little baby turns two, he just switched from rear-facing baby car seat to front facing big-boy seat. I cling to his baby ways of doing things, his sweet smell, the way he asks me to pick him up and hold him, the way he wil hold my face in both his hands and prevent me from talking to anyone else. Because it won’t last long. Soon his non-stop chatter will turn into reserved one-word sentences. Cuddles will be hard to come by and the grown up air will surround him. I better enjoy each moment now, and go give him a nose-to-nose Eskimo kiss. Right now.

Xoxo.

Rutvika

 

 

A letter to my yet-to-be born nephews

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Arjun and his cousin Malhaar

Flashback April 2014 : This was a little before I got pregnant. Although I initially wrote it for K and N, I read it a few times to Arjun when he was growing within me.

**

My best friend and my favorite cousin are going to have a baby in just a couple of months. I am incredibly fond of both these women but work and distance separates me from meeting them as often as I would have liked. It limits the opportunities that I have to tell their soon-to-be-born kids of how kick-ass their moms are. And how this is the one and only time when they can see their mom at the workplace, in meetings, experiencing the daily conundrum of life, be a part of everything that’s going on and still be aloof.

I want to tell those little ones (I am not sure what I should call them, the doctor also doesn’t refer to them as babies till they are born, so I will be calling them little ones), that –

“Mommy is incredibly proud to host you for 9 months as a part of her and this is the time when you will be undividedly hers, and she yours. Of course, later on you will be a priority too, don’t grumble in there, your mommy can feel it. But while you are cocooned inside, have a fun time. Your mom is eating different foods. I am sure you must be playing a guessing game of ‘what-mom-ate’ based on the tastes and smells you get. Yes you are right, there are a lot of different tastes, sweet, sour, salty, spicy, but momma is protecting you from the bitter taste, and she most always will.

Little one, I have known your mom since she was a very young. She is sweet yet determined, organised yet crazy and loving yet stern. I wish to tell you these things because at times you may find she is talking mildly in a soft voice and sometimes as if she is commanding an army. Dont worry little one, it is just the situation that demands your mom to act that way. But in her heart she is always the kind girl.

It is still a few months before you arrive and yet all arrangements for you have been made. That doesn’t mean you should hurry up, oh darling, take your own time in there. Because you will be spending the next 100 years on this land, but just the nine months inside. So fully utilize this time, get in a lot of nutrition (mommy is really eating for two) and become a big fat baby while you come out. Recognize your mom’s scent, hear the way her stomach grumbles when she is hungry, feel the tremble of her shiver when she sees a scary thing and notice her goosebumps when she reads something emotional. She is your shield little one, and yet she will let a few things seep in so that you are not utterly shocked once you come out.

You dont know the concept of gravity yet, but when you do, you will be able to appreciate how your mom held you up in her stomach, and how her back must have hurt. Of course the version you are seeing of her is the slower one currently, because she has to protect you. Oh but let me tell you, she is one fire-brand. You haven’t seen her kick a football so hard that it goes out of the field or watched her get into a train full of people, where it seems not another person can get in. You haven’t seen her hop on a bike and zoom off with your dad or brave the snow and dashingly go off to buy groceries. And you will see how once you are 2 years old and running around, she can run behind you but way faster than you. She can toss you in the air and swoop you up, and you will feel as if you are flying. She will tickle the hell out of you and laugh so hard, that you will think this is the best moment in life.

She will do a lot of things for you little one, but you are doing good too. Your kicks reassure her, your swelling size makes her confident. Uncomfortable, but confident. Your movement makes her feel alive inside and the nudge of your toe lets her know you are eager and connecting. She can feel your heartbeat and that is what keeps her going.

Love you little one, more than you can ever know. ”

Rutvika Charegaonkar

“I tell you, we are here on Earth to fart around, and don’t let anybody tell you different.”

― Kurt Vonnegut

Trapped.

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Yesterday I had a rough day at work. I tried to do something I am not good at. And it backfired. I was upset and distressed.

When I came back home, my 14 month old son sensed it. He gave me some hugs and in general wanted to cling to me. I was already pre-occupied and tried to shrug him and look at my laptop. He was not happy. Finally I took him to bed at 8 pm, his usual bed time and tried to make him sleep. Changed his diaper, gave him the vitamins, put on his night dress and kept him on the bed. He wanted to babble and read his book . About dogs and balloons in the park. I wanted him to go to sleep. Finally I switched off the lights, he cried a little, but soon fell asleep with his blanket. He likes to carry it everywhere these days. It’s my grandma’s old saree now stitched together to make a blanket. Baby boy hates it if we try to take it from him. I used to use that blanket before him, and it still has my smell. May be that’s why he likes it.

Later that night, I was talking to a friend. He was having a troubled day. I have known him for the last 3 years but that was the day when he decided to tell me that he was abused between the ages of 5-8. By his dad’s orderly. He tried telling his parents; they shrugged it off. Ever since their display of indifference, he had severe self-esteem issues, which continued for 20 years until he identified and began working on the issue when well into his thirties. He confronted his parents many years after the incident. They continued to maintain their stance of being without responsibility for the incidents. Today, he is trying to be a good husband, a good father to his young daughter, but it is with great efforts that must be renewed every day.

My son woke up again, I heard him crying on the baby monitor. The husband usually makes him go back to sleep, but he was at work. I went up to my crying baby, picked him up and tried to make him go back to sleep. He crawled in my arms on the bed and wanted to sleep with his little head tucked safely in the crook of my neck and shoulder. He often does that, his back touching my chest. Snuggled like a cocoon. I put him in his bed once he falls asleep. But last night, he just wanted to stay there. Would start crying if I tried to get up. In a way, I was trapped . Couldn’t get back to my world and its problems. So I relaxed. I smelled his hair, stroked his fingers, kissed the back of his head a few times and started singing a song which we both love. He hummed his own tune. I kissed him some more and he slept peacefully for the night. I was calmer, composed and felt blessed.

I thought back to my parents, and how they stood together through adversities just to give us a stable home, a firm ground where we could dream and live. Several times after one of their fights – regular fights which couples have – they would threaten to leave each other. I wondered why they don’t do it, if they can say it so easily, why do they not do it? The reason they gave us and to each other was that they stayed together for the kids. To my rebellious teen brain, it felt ridiculous. But I cannot thank them enough now for being the parents that they were. I will never know what they really thought in those moments, but I am so glad they overcame it and raised us as a family. A family we can go back to for support and comfort even now when my brother is studying 9000 miles away or I am married and raising a family of my own. Their role in who we are today, is insurmountable.

We as parents have such a big responsibility in shaping the life our kids will have, it feels scary at times. But there is no other way. Once we decided to have a child, we have committed ourselves to it. I am trapped. But in a good way. Now its upto me to make the best of it, for myself and for my child.

Rutvika

The fault in ourselves

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Baba putting away his glasses before a photo

A few years ago when Baghbaan, the Amithabh Bacchan starrer was released, I had not seen it. It was too old-fashioned and the same stereotyped rona-dhona of parents vs. kids did not interest my 17 year old self at all. But later when it was replayed countless times on television, I saw it in parts. And I also saw my dad- a police officer, no less, shed a few tears while watching the movie. (He is going to admonish me for writing this, but he reads the blog post only after I publish it, so there is no going back.) Baghban is a story of how children as adults mis-treat parents who have given up their life and dreams and money and house for the kids.

And then yesterday, I watched the marathi movie Natsamrat. It delves on a similar premise, but this man here Ganpatrao Belvalkar is an acclaimed theatre artist and an excellent actor. He sees a lot of fame and fortune in his heydays and eventually retires, transferring all his property to his son and daughter. It would be easy to say that they mis-treat him, but it is not that simple. The movie is complex and multi-layered. It did not let me sleep the entire night. I wanted that 165 minute movie to go on and on. I wanted Nana Patekar to keep talking, to keep bringing Shakespeare’s words alive on the screen. I was processing a lot of thoughts. You will realise when you see the movie (and you must – it also has English subtitles ) that ‘The fault, dear Brutus, is not in our stars, but in ourselves.’

The fault in ourselvesOur heart goes out to Ganpatrao, but at the same time wondering what a fool he is to transfer everything he owns to his children. To not have a retirement plan. To have such faith in your kids that it makes you fool-hardy. To relinquish everything you owned for them in the hope and belief that they will care for you forever. On paper the idea sounds ridiculous, which stupid person does that?! But if you look around, you can count at-least a dozen people who have done so. That’s just the Indian way of being. But I wish my parents, my parents-in-law and the parents of everyone I know refrain from doing that. At any cost.

Nobody is evil or bad to begin with. In their own perspective they may not even be doing anything wrong, ever. But situations, circumstances make people act as they do. And it doesn’t take long for a situation to go out of hand. Because every unjust thing that happens or is done – is just slightly more weird than something that happened before that. In totality if you see the journey of decline of relationships from point A to point B, it feels how did they reach this level? Did they never look back and stop? But the comfort of hindsight is not available when you are going through the rigmarole of days and life. And eventually its too late to go back. To undo.

Financial stability has always been very important for me. Even when I was studying to become a professional, I wanted to get a degree which empowers me to be independent. Financially and otherwise. I cannot imagine what retired parents with limited savings feel especially after being the bread earners for all of their life. My grandparents atleast had retirement pension. That facility is not available to us. We have to make our own investment and retirement plans which go way beyond our children and their needs.

I am at an interesting position right now. Mother to a one year old son and a daughter and a daughter-in-law to two sets of very accomplished parents. I hope for all of us that we do not redeem our financial security against any emotional or psychological requirement of the time. Because ‘Money is a good soldier,sir.’.

Saat Samundar Paar, here we go!

Arjun eating momma

When a boy wants to eat momma, he will do it 😀

My boy is 10 months old now. Which means officially he is outside me for longer than he was inside me. Which means his four little bunny rabbit teeth have long replaced that toothless gummy smile. It also means that as he relies more and more on solid food than mother’s milk for his nutrition, he will be less dependent on me. As a corollary I get more freedom. But I cannot continue to flatter myself with the thought that he can’t live without me. He can. For hours at a stretch.

Soon that day is not far when baby boy might want to independently do stuff with his dad. Just the boys. “Purush-purush” as my brother used to say, which means ‘men only’ in Marathi. There was a period from age 3 to age 13 when my brother was so attached to our dad that he wouldn’t care if he woke up and mom wasn’t around for an entire day. They would go for drives, lunch and movie dates, shopping – all on their own. Purush-purush. Of course the next 10 years till he left home to study MBA were filled with ‘I-hate-dad phase’ to the extent that he would do everything possible to piss him off. Sometimes even just for the sake of it. And my poor mom had to constantly play referee. Without taking sides.

So I am prepared that my baby and husband will team up against me and my feminine shenanigans.

But for now he is my baby kangaroo. And I am going to take this little chipmunk across the seven oceans , all the way to California, all by myself.

When we made the travel plan and booked tickets to go visit family in San Jose for thanksgiving, it was for the three of us. But Akshay, my husband, can’t make it due to unavoidable work commitment. Now I have (or had) two choices. Cancel the trip and keep thinking forever that we could have done it, just the two of us. Or simply pack up our shit and go. I chose the latter.

So here we are, this mom and son duo, all set to take the 24 hour international flight to the other side of the world, in less than three weeks.

It would be an understatement to say that I am not scared of the flight, of the jet lag, of baby not feeling well or of a thousand other things going wrong. What if I don’t get the bassinet seat in the flight? What if he decides to not sit still even for a minute? Will he eat whatever I carry for him? Will he nurse during take off and landing to avoid his ears getting clogged? Will Arjun miss his dad and grandparents? He will meet a dozen new people in a week, will he be okay with that? Will they like him? Oh, it’s a wreck in my head.

But I guess the only way to find out is by doing it. Exactly 2 years back when I was preparing to go to Paris for Le Cordon Bleu, I was similarly quite nervous. But it turned out fine. Danielle my hostess tremendously helped me throughout my 5 weeks there and plus I knew if something goes wrong, Akshay will be there in the minimum amount of time it takes to travel. And it is the case even now. So I guess we will be fine.

I have always been a big-family sort of a person. I love and cherish all of my cousins, uncles, aunts, and now my teenage sister and brothers-in-law, and in-law set of uncles and aunts. And a whole load of grandparents. I have fond memories of going to different relative’s houses with my dad and mom and I want baby Arjun to have these too. The added benefit is the Californian family has a dog and a cat. Arjun is going to be thrilled.

So all I need to do now is stop worrying and start planning.

Have any of you travelled with a baby? Or noted anything particular about long travel? Any tips, pointers dos and dont’s will be highly appreciated.

xoxo,

Mama bear

Rutvika