Tuesday, June 25, 2013

Essential or Indulgence - what would you pick?

Someone not –so-wise once said– indulgence is sometimes a necessity and strangers often provide perspective.

And that same person went on to say– Utility is good but not at the cost of one’s vanity.

I have forgotten to pamper myself. Thinking practically and acting prudently has turned my world into an organized, safe BUT predictable heaven. Small pleasures like a movie in the afternoon without the kids or an uninterrupted hour on the phone with a friend are exceptionally rare and give uncontained joys and thrill when they come to me.

More than the outings or the me-time, it is how I treat myself that makes me wonder if I was ever important at all? No one asks me to or tells me to but it is as if the function of the Mommy brain differs a little bit from the rest of the world.  Convenience presides over protocol and comfort over fashion.

Here’s a small example to help my case.

When kids learn to eat adult food, it takes time for them to develop a taste for it and so every time a new flavor is introduced, they try a couple of tablespoons and then clearly indicate their unwillingness to gulp it all. Ever wondered what happens to the rest of the oatmeal, the half bitten grilled cheese sandwich or the dried out rice and beans? They don’t go directly to the trash can, not before the mother has tried to finish off as much as she can!

The point here being, and I say this for myself, I have gotten used to treating myself to leftovers, food being the most unimportant thing on the list. I get my husband’s full attention only when the kids are not around (which is like never!), goes without saying I wait for the residue of my own time from time to time! Anywhere I go is not without the thought “what about the kids?” and anything I buy for myself  is always accompanied by a reasoning which has negated my first choice and that reasoning is “how much am I really going to use this with the kids still being so small?” Out of the shopping cart goes the clutch, in comes a ‘utility’ handbag which shall have to serve million other purposes of storing a snack, a diaper, paper napkins, wipes, band aids, a small toys, a pair of baby clothes apart from the wallet and my phone for which the bag was originally intended to be bought.

Picking up something I liked without a second thought does not happen often. Making a wise choice has become a habit and at times it comes with the cost of regret. There is this huge bucket list titled ‘once the kids grow up’ and nothing gets ticked off it these days. Not until recently.

Last weekend we set out to stock on summer clothes and footwear for the upcoming holidays and trips. First of all, going shopping with the kids is never a wholly pleasant trip; parts of it go in staging walkouts from the store and finding them hidden between racks of clothes. Secondly, it is always them versus us. If I concentrate on finding the right things for the kids, there is no time left to shop for myself and vice versa. This time around though, hubby insisted we shop for me first and so we settled on the first floor of this huge departmental store starting with the shoes. I immediately liked a color and style so we asked for the shop assistant to get the correct size.

While waiting for the pair to arrive my eyes fell on a gorgeous pair of aqua heels. Before I could take my eyes off them, hubby brought them closer for me try them on. “Are you kidding me? I couldn’t possibly walk even a step in them!” was my response and he goes “Atleast try them on.” Highly unsure, I slipped my feet into them and stood a few inches taller, feeling beautiful. Trotting before the mirror I wondered how long had it passed since I wore such high heels, was it 8 years or even more? The pregnancies, subsequent backaches and clinging kids who refused to settle any place other than my hip, when in the world was there an occasion to prance around in heels?

Before I could dwell too much on it, the sneakers arrived and I reluctantly slipped out of the heels. The sneakers fit well and I walked a couple of steps to check out the comfort but my heart was already lost to those pretty sandals. Flat and robust, taupe colored sneakers felt dull on my feet in comparison to their previous counterpart which were delicate and fashionable.  “Why don’t you buy both?” hubby interrupted on my thoughts gently, perhaps I had a look on my face similar to that of a child who can’t have a forbidden candy. “No, no” I quickly said, “I don’t need the heels, I will hardly even wear them and we have come to buy walking shoes because that’s what I require for the summer.” I blurted out, maybe too much, too fast.

And while I was saying this, I had taken the taupe shoes off and slipped on the high heels one more time, to revel in the feeling of being “non-motherly” for a moment. “I can’t decide, I am confused.” I begged hubby for help.  There was actually no confusion; the decision was simple enough to be made. Flat was what was going to work for me most days of the year, the heels would be worn once or twice if I got lucky, the rest of the year they would lie in the closet giving me the pleasure of having bought something I set my heart on.

Now comes the stranger and the perspective part. And mind you, her opinion proved to be very vital, similar to that guest appearance in a movie that plays a small but an important role. A well dressed lady sitting in a corner, probably waiting for her shopping companions, was watching me go to and fro between choices. At one point our eyes met and she said out loud “Buy those Aqua sandals, they look good on you.”

“I am probably gonna use the sneakers more, I hardly wear heels these days” here I was, confiding in total strangers.

“Doesn’t matter. Don’t think about which one you are going to use more, buy what you love, just go for the heels, they are awesome!” she said it so decisively and clearly, it was as if she knew I needed that small push to indulge myself. And I will always be thankful to her for giving me a perspective that went out of sight long time ago.

Tuesday, June 18, 2013

School Holidays – fun and frustration with the Siblings!

A normal day at home is never whole of this or whole of that; it is a combination of fun and frustration with the balance tilting in either direction on different days. Our day together isn’t perfect because it is all fun; it is perfect because we make it so!

So the morning bell has stopped ringing and it’s time to stay up late and sleep in till late, only that at our house, the invisible bell still rings and the kids are up by 8 a.m. if not earlier!

Just as I sit to write this one, I am thinking should I amuse the readers with the fun part or vent my frustration right away? Ok, let us save the best for the last!

The morning, yea, let us go back to the time when it all begins! For me, the mornings can swing either ways. If I get lucky, the girls are up and giggling in their bed, being best buddies and reading each other stories by the time I wake up and go to check on them OR my ears wake up to blood boiling screams and a thud or any kind of noise which clearly implies that things (or people) have been pushed or dropped. And before I can make a guess on what it could be, running steps come and encroach my bed one after the either, parking themselves on either side of me, making me a prisoner in the middle of their war. Of course, they want me to be the judge, but that early in the morning and without my cup of tea, all I am in the mood for is some verbal bashing and threats on what they will be missing out on during the day (T.V. time, scheduled play date or visit to the park) if they don’t make peace and get off my hair this very minute. Some parenting experts may argue that blackmail is probably not the best way to deal in situations like these, but I have little patience for anything else at that time so I guess I would have to accept a ‘B’ grade as far as the mornings go.  

Rest of the day, I assure you, I am much better and contained and somewhat patient. Mornings are the worst you see of me, I am a much more pleasant person to meet other parts of the day.

If the day starts bad, it takes a while for it to get nicer. Then, the younger one doesn’t want to brush her teeth and the elder one wants to finish reading her book without having milk. The bickering, fighting and crying emerge at regular intervals throughout the day.  The temporary pauses are when I let the older one watch T.V. and hand over the Kindle to the 3 year old.

Once we painfully get through the morning, lunch time is another struggle. First they are not hungry, then they don’t want to eat what I have cooked and as a final recourse they happen to have a ‘tummy ache’ at the same time (with sisters anything is possible!). Once again the three “B”s are deployed. Beg, Bribe or blackmail, whatever works.

Earlier when I was a novice in this field of parenting ‘two’, I would buckle them up and take them out for an ice cream or to the library or any store hoping that the change of scenario would calm their tantrums and my nerves down. But alas, what works with one child totally backfires when there are two of them. The shift in place only shifts the fight to someplace else and believe me you would rather have it inside, than outside!

The evenings tend to pass slightly better, maybe because they are tired of picking on each other or they forget all about what they have been combating about. Of course one last showdown before bed time is expected and warranted on a day that starts with one.

On a day like this, I pray for it to end soon as it leaves me irritated and angry and drained. I even question my love, loyalty and parenting abilities and wonder what I did wrong or what I should have handled differently or if I should have had two kids at all! More than the kids being wrong I worry if I was the right mother for them (as if they had a choice!).  And while I am having these random thoughts I also realize that frustration leads to depression and depression makes you think insane things. The emotional outburst is as momentary as the girls’ squabble, comes in a second, disappears the next.

BUT like I said before, if I got lucky; the morning would start with wet kisses and snuggly cuddles and precious smiles saying ‘good morning’ from underneath the princess blanket where they are huddled together, siblings and best friends (well, maybe just for that day!).  There’s something intriguing and magical about sisters whispering secrets and holding each others’ hands. Hell, they even make me feel like an outsider at times. It is still a struggle to get them going for milk and breakfast, but it is a playful kind of an effort because they are in unison and tempers aren’t flying high. If they are in an exceptionally sisterly mode, they will even wear the same clothes and pretend they are twins.

And if they are nice to each other, they are even nicer to hang around with. It’s a breeze to get them to do anything, even chores. Laughter fills the house and I wish for the day never to end.

When a perfect day like this one ends, I am happy and I am sad. Happy that they had such a wonderful time with each other and that I stay at home to be a part of it; sad that they will grow up and leave and the house will be empty. Happy that they need me to be around; Sad that they won’t shout for ‘Mommy’ every minute and for everything they do, very soon.

Whatever kind it has been, I wish and pray for the same thing every day. I pray for their bond to stay as strong forever and for them to watch out for the other. Doesn’t matter if the day has been exhausting or exhilarating, it ends with the satisfaction that even when they don’t have me, they will always have each other.