Monthly Archives: January 2009

Do I Look Like a Kidnapper to You?

A rather nasty thing happened on Saturday. We had just got the girls’ ears pierced, and I was walking them to the toy shop nearby. They were both still crying, and I was chattering away to them in English, trying to distract them from their pain. I had achieved a certain measure of success, when Amit caught up with us and that set them off again. (Kids are weird that way.)

Anyway, the toy shop put an end to their tears, and they were ok-ish by the time we were walking back. Then, from the verandah of one of the houses we were walking past, a young chap asked Amit, “Whose kids are they?”

Amit said, “What’s it to you?”

The chap said, “Well, they were crying…”

By this time we had passed the house and the conversation therefore ended. But what the person was implying slowly sank in: They don’t look like your kids, and they were crying (all the more when Amit appeared), so whose kids have you walked off with?

I don’t know whether I felt insulted, outraged, ashamed, shocked, defensive or what. I just felt horrible. I have been so comfortable with my kids, and they with me, that it never even crossed my mind that anyone could suspect that we don’t belong together. Of course I know they don’t look anything like us, but does that alone make us kidnappers? I know that often people look at the four of us together and guess that the kids are adopted, and that often people assume that it is ok to ask us outright about it, which, actually, is ok with me but I don’t really understand how they can presume that it is ok… But to look at us and wonder whether we are walking around with someone else’s kids, just because the kids happen to be crying…!?

Amit, thick-skinned as he is, just shrugged off the matter, and I probably should do so as well, but it really shook me.

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Earring Trauma

So we should have done it months and months ago and we didn’t. Naturally, we weren’t in any hurry to cause our girls an immense degree of pain. They say it’s easier to have it done when kids are very young and it hurts them less, but I don’t know about that – pain is pain at any age, I think.

Anyway, after putting it off as long as we could, we finally pushed ourselves out of the house this morning to take the twins to a jeweller’s shop and get their ears pierced. For those of my readers who are not Indian, I should explain that in India, ear-piercing happens to about 99.36 % of all girl children above the age of 3 months. Or maybe even below that age. And it happens to some of the boy babies as well. My parents never had it done to my sister and me, so we went without earrings till the ripe old age of 20+ or so. And, when I did get it done just before my wedding, I have to say, it hurt like hell. Like bloody hell, in fact.

But, while I do clearly remember the pain, I also remember the problem of not being able to wear earrings when every other girl in school had them, and you even sometimes got them as gifts because somebody’s parents couldn’t believe that you hadn’t had your ears pierced. We did get a few clip-on earrings, but there was very little variety, they looked big and clumsy, they hurt the ear lobes, and people only laughed at you for wearing them, even more than they did for not having pierced ears in the first place.

So, I thought I’d rather put my girls through a one-time trauma of getting their ears pierced, rather than have them miss out on the many delights of earrings till they grew old enough and brave enough to demand the ear piercing. Naturally, I expected them to cry – who wouldn’t? So I didn’t have the courage to attempt this on my own without Amit standing by to lend moral support. In the event, though, he lent his support mainly as a cameraman and videographed the whole thing on his cellphone. I should destroy that video before the kdis grow up and get to see it.

Anyway, we got it done, and of course they cried and howled and wailed. I’m not sure that we managed to align the dots symmetrically on Mrini, we kept getting it wrong till she lost patience, and we turned our attention to Tara. On Tara, we made the dots quickly and easily and proceeded to get her shot by the ear-piercing gun (it’s not really a gun, don’t worry). Once Tara was done and howling, Mrini began to guess that something not-nice was in store for her and began some pre-emptive wailing, which didn’t make things any easier.

It took them maybe 20 minutes afterwards to properly stop crying. By then I had got them into a toy store (clever mom, aren’t I?) where Amit distracted them with the stuff on the shelves, while I bought some essentials and some bribes. We rounded off the outing with a lunch, and by then they were all smiles again, though Tara spent a good part of the meal eyeing herself in the mirror and pointing to her ears and saying “earring”.

Which was all very well for them, but it took me another couple of hours to recover from the trauma and stop shaking.

A Date with No Reason

So our husband-wife date yesterday evening was an unmitigated… success!

Things went pretty much like clockwork. I started priming the girls in the afternoon, telling them we’d be going out that evening and that Noor-Auntie would be home with them, and that we’d be back soon, before they went to bed. They didn’t like the sound of it much, at least, Mrini looked distinctly worried. But, strangely enough, when Noor-Auntie came, both girls went to her to ask to be taken to the bathroom, so maybe they understood the idea after all. When we were leaving, both looked a little upset, but Noor-Auntie called them into the kitchen to help her shelling peas (ahhhh… the joys of fresh peas!) and they were thrilled to bits and even forgot to be miserable when we said bye to them (matter-of-factly, as the books say we should, not in a sad, guilty, worried, or otherwise negative manner).

We walked out to a nearby coffee shop kinda place that we’ve never been to before. It was already strange enough being out together without the kids, but walking into a new restaurant on our own felt really weird, it’s been years since we’ve done that. You get that strange feeling, like you don’t know the ropes, where to sit, whether you will be shown a table or should just pick one yourself, whether you need to pay and order at the counter or will be presented a menu at your table and so on. Anyway, we figured out all that, ordered, and then sat side-by-side watching tennis on a big-screen TV that was rather far away. We were both thinking of the kids, and of how strange it was to be out for a meal and not have to run around behind them and keep them under control. It was a strange feeling… weird as this sounds, I think we were missing them!

We’d promised Noor-Auntie and the twins that we’d be back by 9, and that we’d put them to bed ourselves, and despite the food taking a rather long time to appear, we made it just in time for our curfew. Mrini indicated the slightest bit of displeasure/relief at our return, but was all smiles in seconds. Noor-Auntie reported that all had gone uneventfully, and departed all smiles. Nothing could have been simpler.

So now, we’ve got to try this out more often. The one thing that has to improve, for this to work, is our ability to actually leave the kids at home, when we leave the kids at home.

Twinnings and More

Lots has been happening, but I’ve been too busy to blog about it.

The twins have started to talk, they answer questions promptly, and can sustain a back-and-forth exchange to about 4 or 5 rallies. They find novel ways to say things. Once I asked Tara if she was sleepy, she rubbed her eye and said “eye so sad,” which I took to mean yes.

They’ve become more active, both at home and in the park. They were gifted a couple of hockey sticks and balls, and I’ve mostly had to lock up the sticks because of their propensity to swing them around without a care for what (or who) is in the way. Yesterday the actually got into the Frangipani tree in the park, got out of it the other side, giggled wildly, rinse and repeat. So far they have loved being lifted into it and sat in its branches, but it’s good to see them start climbing trees, something I loved to do and had plenty of opportunity to do at just the right time of my childhood years.

They have started to enjoy jigsaw and shape-sorter type of puzzles now, as also play-doh and crayons. I thought they weren’t interested in scribbling on the walls – they’d only done it once, the rest of the time they used paper, their picture books, the floor, the bedcover, and their own bodies (with sketchpens that was, and they made such a godawful mess of their legs that they haven’t had sketch pens since) – but it appears it was only a question of opportunity.

I normally give them crayons when I’m sitting nearby keeping an eye on them, and take them away when they’re done with them; so it’s not as if they have crayons easily accessible at all times. But usually when I pack up the crayons, I can’t find quite as many as there were when they started. I’ve never bothered about this too much, they’ll turn up eventually, and if they don’t, that is also in the nature of such things.

So yesterday Mrini found one of the unclaimed, missing crayons. I was busy and turned my back to her for a couple of minutes… And that’s all she needed. Our bedroom walls became the canvas for her creativity, much to my disgust and irritation. I’ll have to keep an eye on those unclaimed crayons in future, I guess.

Meanwhile, the break from school doesn’t seem to have done them any harm. Yesterday they went back to school after a three week break, and they don’t seem to have forgotten it, they went happily and came back in high spirits. I think they now know the entire set of nursery rhymes that they hear in playschool. They surprised us by singing “God’s love wonderful” (in a somewhat garbled version) and asking for Jingle Bells (a few days after Christmas) – both songs they had not heard at home. What’s more Tara (and Mrini to a lesser extent) can tell the story of Aladdin, with a little prompting from me. It goes like this:

Me: Aladdin was a
T: Young boy
Me: And he went into a
T: Big cave
Me: And it was all
T: Dark, dark
Me: But Aladdin was
T: Very good (followed, after a pause, by) not scared
Me: He had a
T: Big torch
Me: And he went into the big cave and what did he find there? Lots of
T: Jewels
Me: And lots of
T: Camels (sometimes, rarely, it’s gold)
Me (carrying on, regardless): And a
T: Magic lamp
Me: And he gave it to his
T: Mama
Me: And she was
T: Rubbing it
Me: And
T: Polishing it
Me: And then what happened?
T: Whooooo… genie came!
Me: And genie said, Aladdin, I will give you
T: Two fishes (an interesting variation on three wishes)
Me: And the genie gave Aladdin lots of
T: Jewels
Me: And lots of
T: Camels
Me: And he made him
T: Very rich
Me: Then Aladdin went to meet the
T: Sultan daughter
Me: And he went on a
T: White horse
Me: And he fell in love with the
T: Princess (or sometimes the prince!)
Me (ignoring the gay tendency for now): And they got
T: Married
Me: And they lived
T: Happilygiligili

In other fascinating news, this morning they got up, took down their pajamas, took off their (sodden) diapers, pulled up their pants, took their diapers to the kitchen, and threw them in the dustbin!

Last week, when we returned from the park with S&P and their one-year-old daughter, p, the twins shocked all of us by happily going home with S&P, without so much as a single backward glance! (S&P luckily stay in the same building.) When Amit went to pick them up 15 minutes later, they didn’t seem very inclined to come home, and I believe Tara gave a determined no in reply to the question of whether she would like to go home.

What’s more, they repeated the act a couple of days ago, and they seem quite eager to make it a daily occurrence, without a thought for S&P’s convenience. Of course p loves the company, who’s bothered about the adults anyway?

So, given this happy independence, Amit and I decided it was high time that we adopted a baby-sitter strategy. We checked with the cook, who agreed to baby-sit one evening a week, provided we got back around 10 or, at the latest, dropped her home by 11. Considering we’ve had only two evenings out sans kids in the last 1+ year (thanks to S&S and Anjalimasi for their unpaid baby-sitting services), it sounds like a good deal. Our first date is tomorrow, and I have to say it feels a bit strange. I know we’ll both spend most of the time (we’re giving it 90 minutes for our first time out) thinking/worrying/talking about how the kids are doing without either of us around.

Big school starts in June and I think it’s going to be from 8.30 till 12.30 once they get past the settling in period. That means that, if Amit drops them, I’ll have an empty nest from 8 till 12 (when I’ll probably have to leave to pick them up). An older and wiser friend warns that I’ll miss them like crazy, but right now I can hardly wait. I always thought that when we had kids I’d like to be a SAHM for some time, but I never attempted to define the time. Now that I’ve done it for almost a year-and-a-half, I think the time to go back to work is, oh, let’s see, right about now, actually. Of course, it has to be just when there is a global recession on and there are no jobs to be had.

In my eagerness to start work, I took up a freelance writing assignment which turned out to be really, really (and I mean REALLY) boring. The sheer boredom of it almost killed me. I have never struggled so hard to finish a task in the agreed time in my entire professional life – and believe me, I’ve fought some tough battles in my day.

And finally, adoption update: We’ve been hearing for a month or so that we’d be meeting the District Magistrate any time soon, as the last step towards getting a birth certificate for the twins. It was supposed to be yesterday, then it got pushed to tomorrow, and now it stands set for Monday. Or Tuesday. Let’s hope it happens some time next week, it would be good to get those birth certificates in hand, it’s going on
for eighteen months since the twins came home.

Traveling with Twins

Traveling with two-year-olds is not easy. Traveling with two of them is no easier… Or at least, it is not much easier. True, they do a lot to keep each other occupied, but two kids also means twice the number of crises in the shape of bumps and falls, tantrums, toileting accidents, and everything else.

Last year, we made several trips with the kids: Once each to Delhi-Chandigarh and Calcutta to visit family, and three or four trips to Pondicherry for their adoption legalities (which, believe it or not, are still under way). On each trip, the kids enjoyed at least some part of the journey, but we also faced some troubles. Still, we bravely (or stupidly?) undertook a trip that was exclusively a holiday – no family, no court case and no reason at all other than our selfish pleasure.

Did the kids enjoy it? Well, at times they did.

Did we enjoy it??? Well… at times… or at least occasionally… hmmmm…. let’s see now…

It started badly, when Tara managed to wet her pants in the Indian style bathroom at the station while waiting for the train to Kochi. Mrini immediately seized the opportunity to run out of the bathroom and on to the platform.

After I had got that situation under control, we boarded the train. It being early evening, the kids were full of energy and did their best to run into other people’s berths or to run out of the coach altogether. Keeping them in check took all my energy (whatever was left after making all those masala dosas, remember?) and when they started fussing about going to sleep, I was end-tethered very quickly and reduced to a screaming wreck.

To make matters worse, no food was served on the train. We ate what was left of the dosas, then I started to dig in to the supply of snacks intended for the cruise, before sleep overtook me.

The next day, in Kochi, when we ventured out to go to the SPORTS office to get our tickets, we found that traffic was off the roads because Sonia Gandhi was visiting. We lugged the poor kids around while we searched for byways that would get us outside the cordoned-off area. By the time we had given it up as a lost cause and gone back to the hotel, her convoy had just passed and the roads were re-opened to traffic. But the kids had been subjected to a lot of foot-soring by then, and for no good reason. Still, after a trip to the toilet, we dragged them out again, and this time we managed to get an auto.

By the time we actually reached the SPORTS office, they were tired and sleepy, almost asleep in fact. Not that that explains why they chose to spend the half-hour there driving me to distraction running around screaming, and touching everything they shouldn’t touch.

When we got back to the vicinity of our hotel, we stopped at a restaurant for lunch. It was your typical “meals ready” type of thali, only, it was so extremely chilli-hot that by the end of it even I was begging for mercy. And I have a fairly high tolerance for chilli. The poor kids ate a few bites, then drank a gallon of water.

Stupidly, I then let them – made them, in fact – fall asleep, without thinking about diapers. With the natural, inevitable consequence. Not only did both of them do oceanic puddles on the bed, Tara, who was snuggled up with Amit managed to thoroughly wet his jeans and underwear as well. Of course, none of the three of them woke up until it was all a cold, soggy mess.

I paid for my stupidity by struggling with a huge load of laundry. The mattresses remained damp the rest of the day, as did the bed-cover. The sheets dried, but had a visible “watermark”. Ugh. That’s one hotel I won’t dare to show my face at again.

Toileting accidents continued to plague us. The first night’s dinner was as horribly hot as the lunch, and probably was the cause of both kids’ mild stomach upsets. The trouble was that on the islands we had access to only a couple of toilets among 150 tourists, and for kids with tummy upsets, that’s simply not enough. Nor were there any bushes for them to decently hide behind.

Moral of the story: use diapers, or don’t go on the sort of holiday where you aren’t guaranteed instant access to the toilet at all times. Ideally, if you have twins, you need access to two toilets, specially once they get tummy upsets.

Luckily their tummies weren’t too bad, and most of the time we could focus on other things. Like, for instance, on the ship, where we were mostly focused on keeping them occupied. In the cabin, there wasn’t a whole lot of room for them to run around and play, so I had to spend a lot of time reading to them. On the deck, the problem was making sure that they stayed on the deck and didn’t roll out between the railings and into the sea below.

Mealtimes, specially dinners, were hectic. We fed the girls before our dinner time was announced, then when it was time for our dinner, we took it in turns to go. Apart from breakfast, Amit and I didn’t eat a single meal together. Normally, at home, dinners are together, and so are weekend lunches.

It wasn’t all bad. The girls didn’t enjoy the boat rides to and from the islands much, but they loved the sandy beaches and were quite happy on the ship as well.

But, it wasn’t the way it would have been had we gone without the kids. (Not that that’s an option any more or will be for, oh, say, the next ten years or so.)

So, all said and done, is traveling with kids worth it? It’s a different answer for every family and maybe even for every journey. So far, from what I’ve seen, all I can say is that it’s better to go, and take the rough with the smooth, than not to go at all. But it doesn’t always seem that way.