Monthly Archives: February 2008

DON’T!

It’s not so much fun being a toddler, I think. There’s so many things you’re not allowed to do. For instance:

  • Don’t touch that (about 25 times a day for phone, computer, broom, dustpan, dustbin, and mop, dirty diaper…)
  • Don’t open that clothes cupboard
  • Don’t open that kitchen cabinet either
  • Don’t put your hand in the toilet
  • Out! You’re not allowed in the bathroom
  • Don’t take off your clothes unless I tell you to
  • Or your shoes
  • Or your hair clip
  • And DO NOT open your diaper
  • Nor your sister’s
  • Don’t bang on the washing machine, or dismantle its detergent tray
  • Don’t stuff the washing machine full of toys (unless you really dirtied them, in which case, don’t)
  • Don’t mess with the TV
  • Don’t bang on the window, the mirror, or the framed paintings
  • Don’t tug on the electric cable of the fridge
  • DO NOT UNDER ANY CIRCUMSTANCES EVER pull the childproof pieces out of the electric sockets and stick your fingers or bits of metal things into them
  • Don’t pull the paint off the wall
  • And double-don’t eat it!
  • Don’t climb on the dining table
  • Don’t unravel those bedsheets which I just spent 15 minutes folding
  • Don’t pull/push/pinch/beat her or poke her eyes out or pull her hair – she’s your sister!
  • Don’t attack me – I’m your mother!

And lastly but most vehemently: DON’T lock me or yourselves into or out of anywhere or anything (including, but not limited to the bathroom, verandah, apartment, and car)!

Evening Out

Last weekend we went out for dinner with friends. Once upon a time, this would have been commonplace. Now, it’s a rare occurrence. Of the two other couples we went out with, one has a son a couple of months older than the twins, the other is expecting their first baby in a couple of weeks. So, not surprisingly, evenings out together have been on the decline over the past couple of years.

From our point of view, the evening out was a bit of an experiment. We’d taken the kids out for dinner twice before, and the first time had been an unqualified and unmitigated disaster. So, although the second time with my sister for added support was a success, we still approached the idea with some trepidation.

We waited until the kids were asleep after dinner, then scooped them up and transferred them to the car, thereby waking them up. They remained awake for a long time after that; Tara eventually fell asleep lying on the sofa in the restaurant, but Mrini remained awake till we returned home well after 11 p.m. Still, both of them were very low key and, though a little grumpy, did not trouble us half as much as we were troubling them.

Yesterday evening, we tried it again. We were feeling brave, so it was just the four of us, without any moral or logistical support, the way it was the first time. We went out straight after the kids’ dinner at 7.30, while they were wide awake, which was really very brave. We selected our target carefully: avoiding formal restaurants we headed for the club.

If you’re thinking nightclub, or country club type of resort, or something fancy like that, forget it. This is a small, modest neighborhood club that offers tennis, badminton, squash, a gym, a small-ish swimming pool with a clubhouse that doubles up as a guesthouse, and some arrangements for food and drink.

The one factor that makes this place somewhat suitable for small children is that there’s a bit of a lawn with chairs and tables where they’ll serve drinks, snacks, and dinner.

It turned out to be quite a pleasant evening. Of course we had to run after the kids a bit, and they were a bit restless and cranky; but we also did manage to eat and drink sufficiently and even had some conversation that wasn’t addressed to the girls. We got home about 90 minutes past their bed-time and Mrini went straight to her room and flopped down on her pillow with complete determination, at which I felt a bit guilty for keeping her out so late. But they slept till 8 a.m. to make up for it, which was a blessing, because so did we!

So, with four dinners, innumerable lunches and general outings, a long trip to calcutta, and a short trip to CFC, I think we’ve earned quite a few notches on the family belt already.

And there’s another big one coming up – our tenth wedding anniversary. We have some ambitious plans for that one, let’s see how that works out.

The “Easy” Way Out ?!

It’s almost five months since the twins came home. Time has passed quickly, but we’ve also come a long way, as have the kids. I do miss some things about my former, but some things I definitely don’t miss. Gone is the sense of hopelessness, of want, of exclusion from the club of happy families, of a strangely empty future.

And yet. There is one thing more that I wanted that I didn’t get – pregnancy. I accepted – or thought I did – that what I wanted was to raise children and that pregnancy was not the only route to that goal. I thought that once we had children it wouldn’t matter that I had never been pregnant. After all, pregnancy was only a means to an end. I thought.

But I was wrong. I think I also wanted pregnancy as an end in itself. I also wanted to belong to the club of had-morning-sickness-been-through-labor-and-survived women.

Of course, I wanted to have children even more than I wanted to be pregnant, so that’s why adoption worked for me – as opposed to, say, IVF. It no longer pinches so terribly now, when I see other pregnant women. I can be more sanguine, because I already have my kids, while they are still “expecting”.

Still, some things do pinch.

A friend who is expecting recently said – unthinkingly, perhaps – that pregnancy was so unpleasant, difficult, tiring, blah, blah, blah… “it would have been easier to just adopt.”

This is not the first time a friend has told me that adoption is the “easy way out”. One person I really liked a lot told me that right away, as soon as I told her we had adopted. I am still surprised – she never struck me as an insensitive or a mean person.

Perhaps adoption really is, for some people, the easy way out? It really wasn’t for me, for us, not following the infertility business as it did. It was a difficult decision in a difficult situation that had three difficult options (the other two being IVF and forever-childlessness). How can you envy a person who has been in that position, for having taken an “easy way out”? Or, alternatively (since this has also been done), how can you accuse them of it?

It’s probably an easy thing to say for those who are or have been successfully pregnant. It’s probably not an easy thing to swallow for anyone who has wanted to be but hasn’t been. I wonder what those people would say, who have done it both ways.

I had already come to the conclusion that pregnancy and parenting are separate things, one not necessarily required for nor necessarily leading to the other. I thought I’d be happy with just the parenting… and I am… It’s just that it is not a substitute for wanting to be, or rather, for wanting to have been pregnant.

At least I’ve got the girls, and I’m happy about that. But I’ve still not completely accepted or somehow got resigned to the fact that the other is not something that’s ever going to happen to me. And beyond the regret that that brings, there’s the guilt; as though I’m somehow undervaluing the girls by wishing they had been born to me.

Added to that is a sense of disgust. It seems pathetic to still mind about never having been pregnant, when I know very well that I am blessed – twice blessed, in fact – to have got two such adorable daughters.

Sigh. Whatever else this may be, I don’t think it is easy. And this is just the beginning.

A Long Way to Go

The twins have been with us for over four months. Someone I met recently who had adopted a baby girl in December 2006, told me that the paperwork for their adoption had been completed in four months. They adopted from Belgaum (Karnataka), and had to make one trip back there to complete the process.

For us, adopting from Pondicherry (Tamil Nadu) the process seems to be completely different. First, we were told, we could not even file for adoption until we had completed three months of foster care. I wonder why that is: do they want to give adoptive parents time to change their minds?

Now, after about six weeks of daily phone calls, they have sent the papers to the lawyer, albeit missing one signature. Once the lawyer okays the paperwork and obtains the missing signature, we can actually file the case in the court. That might – with luck – happen next week or so.

The lawyer gave us a rough overview of the entire process. The details are cumbersome, but the summary is that it will involve at least five or six trips to Pondicherry and will stretch over seven or eight months, barring any disruptions to the schedule such as a lawyers’ strike, which are quite likely to occur.

Worse, for every trip to Pondicherry, both parents are required, which means, in our case, that all four of us will have to go. I wouldn’t mind just travelling to Pondicherry and spending a couple of days there; the problem is that most of the time will be spent waiting at the lawyer’s office or at the court – and that will be tough on the kids.

Well, you gotta do what you gotta do. At least by the end of it, we’ll be so used to travelling with the kids that family holidays will seem less like trouble and more like a vacation.

Certified Medically Unfit

It’s been crazy here the last few days. It all started with Mrini’s fever and vomiting episode last Thursday. Well, I suppose you could say it started the Friday before that, when she first developed the cold, but until that Thursday, it was just an ordinary, everyday sort of cold with runny nose and that’s about all. Tara got it, then I got it. We all did steam several times and things seemed to get better, until Mrini started her fever and vomiting episode that Thursday. The doctor advised us to wait and watch.

Meanwhile, my cold had caused intense ear ache, so Friday saw me trudging off to the doctor who, thankfully, put me on a short course of antibiotics. Thankfully because, normally I avoid antibiotics as far as possible, but now with two kids, who can afford such luxuries?

Saturday passed relatively uneventfully at the fishing camp. Then came Sunday. It was the sort of Sunday I wouldn’t want to repeat in a hurry – or ever, if I can help it. Mrini’s stomach was still troubling her, as evidenced by the watery stool and complete disinterest in any food that wasn’t in liquid form. This was worrying enough, but there was more coming. Tara, who had thus far been well, enthusiastically threw herself against the wall and split her forehead on the skirting. Blood gushed dramatically, as Amit and I rushed helter-skelter digging out Savlon, gauze, bandaids, and telephone numbers of nearby doctors. Luckily, the nearest one said he would see her if we brought her soon – but, he added, he wouldn’t do stitches.

We went to him anyway, thinking that if stitches were required we’d have to rush off to the nearest hospital. After looking at the deep half-inch cut, he started rummaging in his drawers, muttering about anaesthetic and tetanus. After several minutes, I pointed to a roll of thread lying on the floor and asked him if that was what he was looking for. Apparently, it was. He proceeded to give poor Tara a Tetanus shot in the thigh, provoking a fresh outburst of wailing, which had subsided only a few minutes ago. Then, while I held the hapless creature’s arms and at the same time attempted to keep her head still, he took a really fat and viciously curved needle threaded with the thread he had picked up from the floor, and sewed the gaping hole together with a single stitch. Ugh.

I don’t know who was more traumatized by the whole process, Tara or me. For me, it wasn’t the act of sewing the wound together that was gruesome, what was really difficult was to tolerate Tara’s absolutely piteous gasps and wails. Amit took Mrini and left the room, but Mrini was supremely unconcerned by the whole incident, apart from being rather miffed at all the attention that Tara was receiving.

Monday got off to a bad start: there was no water. We’ve been having terrible water problems of late and Monday was, I thought, the worst of it, because there was no running water for several hours in the morning. The little water that trickled out of the bathroom tap was filthy as ditch water and could only be used for emergency flushing of the toilets. We had a little drinking water stored up and that was all. The kids had had only a cursory bath on Sunday at the fishing camp and they really needed a bath. So, if it came to that, did I.

A stack of dirty dishes collected in the sink while we waited for water to come. The cleaning girl came and used the dirty water in the bucket for mopping the floor, thus rendering them a great deal less hygenic than they had been before her effort.

At last a tanker came, water was filled, then pumped to overhead tanks, then trickled down reluctantly to our taps, pushing a stream of air ahead of it and hissing out in a series of explosive farts.

I wish I could say that from then on things went according to schedule, but I really can’t. First I had to struggle with Tara to get her to swallow her antibiotic. On top of that, I had to force her pain killer syrup into her as well, and though it is supposed to be sweet, she hated it and fought with such vehemence that I really felt it would be kinder to let the wound pain. I didn’t give it to her any more after that, and she didn’t seem to be in any discomfort at all.

Mrini’s stomach trouble turned into diarrhoea, with seven clean diapers being dirtied in the course of a few hours. So Amit made an appointment at the hospital near our home and took her there in the evening. The appointment was for 6.30. By the time the doctor came to the hospital, it was past 8! It was long past Mrini’s dinner time and well on the way to her bed time. Having been kept waiting for 90 minutes, you could hardly call her cheerful and well-behaved.

The worst was still not over. Today I commenced on the course of treatment recommended by the doctor. Mrini was eager to take a hand in her treatment – in fact, she took both hands in it and threw all her various medicines vigorously over her clothes, my clothes, the floor, Tara’s head, and whatever else she could reach. Still, by using all my strength, I managed to force 50 ml of electrolyte down her throat while she was wailing. I was scared she might choke on it, but apparently she swallowed it the right way – I can vouch for that, because a few minutes later, while I was holding her, she determinedly brought it up all over me – not just the entire 50 ml, but a little bit extra as well, for good measure.

According to the doctor’s orders, she should be having at least four helpings of medicine a day, and electrolyte after every installment of potty, effectively bringing the total number of doses to about a dozen. So far, I’ve managed to force five separate helpings down her throat (and it’s not even 2 p.m. yet), with the result that she now no longer trusts me at all. If she sees bottle, glass, teaspoon, or any other type of implement in my hand, she’ll run a mile with her lips tightly pressed together. There’s nothing I can do to convince her that whatever I’m offering her is “only” water, or “only” curd. How am I going to help her to recover?

To say I’m worn out would be an understatement. I’m at my wits’ end. Fighting with the girls, even if it is in the interests of shoving medicine into them, completely drains me. It must be devastating for them too, to have their one main protector and ally turn against them in their hour of need. Surely there has to be a better way to help them when they’re ill.

Back from the fishing camp, without any fish, but without drowning or getting eaten by a croc

Perhaps a wilderness camp is not the easiest place to take two small kids for their first holiday. Staying in a tent, no electricity for much of the day, no hot water… At least we had a limitless supply of Cauvery water, which is more than you can say of the water supply at home.

This time, we went to Cauvery Fishing Camp at Doddamakkali, not Bheemeshwari, where we’ve been several times before. We got extremely late leaving home, due to various complicated reasons including changing a tyre on the car (the puncture was a couple of weeks earlier)(don’t even ask), playing tennis, eating a nice but ridiculously expensive breakfast of Post’s banana nut crunch… Oh and doing the packing, too.

The distance to Doddamakkali is only 150 km, so we had expected a leisurely 3 hour drive, but after the first 80 km on the Mysore highway, we turned off the highway at Maddur and the road surface deteriorated considerably, so it took us a little over 4 hours, with a half-hour stop to give the kids lunch at Kamat. (Apart from the last 8-km mud road which leads to the camp, this is also the road to Shivanasamudram.) The last stretch of 8 km was pretty interesting, winding through arid forests and sloping hillsides before finally descending steeply through a series of swirchbacks to the campsite by the river.

The location was very scenic, the river broad and lazy, studded with rocks, fringed with greenery. There was a beach of sorts, with soft white sand. Civilization was as far away as could be with the 8-km mud track between us and the nearest settlement deterring all but the most determined visitors – usually those who, like us, had paid up in advance and weren’t going away without getting their money’s worth.

There wasn’t much to do at the camp. After a late lunch and a lazy afternoon snooze – me and the kids tested out the hammock and managed not to fall out – there was a coracle boat ride, followed by fishing classes for those who were interested. I wasn’t, nor were the girls, but we watched the trainer expertly throw out a line that seemed to hover in the air before flying straight out to a point in the middle of the river. A short while later, the line gave a jerk and the man scrambled to his feet and pulled in (no reel) a small fish which, he said, was a mahseer. After being duly photographed by various eager “students” (some of them more interested in grilling and eating the fish than in catching it) the poor fish was gently returned to the water.

We spent the evening sitting around the largely unnecessary campfire (it was quite warm enough without the fire) eating spicy barbecued chicken and drinking beer. The kids entertained themselves by throwing sand on the table and putting some of it in their mouths whenever they thought we weren’t looking.

The next morning I insisted on being taken for what they called a trek, what I called a morning walk, and what Amit called a walk in the park. What this entailed was walking 15 minutes uphill along a narrow path in the grass, with sweat pouring off me at 7.30 in the morning, and sliding back down the same path in 10 minutes flat. Apparently, there was an option to go around the long way and return along the river’s edge, but the guide was extremely reluctant to let me go that way. Probably afraid, speculated Amit. What if some locals saw him alone with a woman in the bushes???

A leisurely breakfast occupied an hour till 10, and then there was only time enough to bathe and dress before leaving at 11. Lunch at Kamat, and we were back home a little after 3.

On the whole it was a not-bad experience. I wouldn’t say the kids enjoyed it entirely – they did get fidgety with the long drive, and weren’t always full of smiles and good cheer the way they are at home. But, apart from being really hungry before their dinner was ready, they weren’t too put out by it either. They fell asleep easily at night, slept soundly, and woke up after 8 the next morning!