Monthly Archives: July 2009

Officially Naughty

Recently, the kids were paid the highest compliment by their class teacher.

Those who’ve followed this blog for an extremely long time know that we adopted the twins in September 2007, when they were just over a year old. When we brought them home from Pondicherry in a taxi, and for many weeks and months following that, they were meek, quiet, scared little girls. They each had a spark of mischief in them, but fear, apparently of punishment, and timidness were by far the predominant characteristics. I look at the very earliest photographs that we took of them and I see two rather miserable and distinctly scared little girls.

We must have done some things right in the past couple of years, because now there’s not a trace of fear or apprehension about them that I can see. Quite the opposite, in fact. Even when I scold them severely, they just laugh at me.

So in a way, though keeping them busy at home is not that easy, I’ve also been enjoying the swine-flu-enforced holiday. Not only do I get to not drive, I get to not experience the sheer madness of picking them up from school too. The last couple of times that I went to pick them up from school, I found myself wishing for an extra pair of arms… And legs. Most parents have to manage just one child, and appear to do so with elan. I, on the other hand, am clearly frazzled, outnumbered, and outsmarted by my kids, and rapidly end up completely losing my temper or my footing, to the endless amusement of about a million onlookers.

As soon as the girls are let out of class, they run to me and grab my legs. That’s the good part. After about four microseconds, they run off, and the mayhem begins. Naturally, they run in opposite directions, and finally converge on the slide in the sandpit. Here they climb the steps, and stop before they reach the top. That way, as long as they refuse to slide down, or sit on the top, I can’t get to them. After infuriating me for a while, one of them proceeds to slide down and quickly scamper around to climb the steps again. If I manage to catch her before she reaches the steps again, which I usually do, then the other girl manages to slide down and run around. Running to catch her means letting go of the first, who then runs off to some other corner of the sandpit. By the time I’ve rounded them both up, one wrapping her legs around me like a coconut tapper climbing a tree, the other dangling by one arm like a rag doll and almost yanking my arm out of its socket, my shoes are filled with sand – a highly irritating sensation.

Completely fed up, I try and drag both of them to the bathroom, and, immediately, I’m plunged into another prolonged skirmish. Many admonitions of “go to that cubicle, it’s clean and dry,” “hold your frock up” “front and back” “flush” “don’t play with water” “don’t step in that” and “put on your panties/pants/skirt” later, we emerge, exasperated, only to have them run off in opposite directions again, while I struggle to get their shoes and bags on them.

The whole thing is 15 minutes of absolute chaos which starts with amused indulgence on my part and ends with me ready to tear my hair out – and not necessarily just my own hair, either. On one occasion, as I ran after Mrini, I lunged for her collar so furiously that I succeeded in knocking her down. She sprawled full length, bawling hopefully, as I ignored the horrified glares coming my way, dragged her up and marched off with her, mumbling vicious threats as we went.

Just the other day, when Mrini succeeded in knocking my glasses off and tearing out one of her earrings in one single swipe, I lost my temper, gave her a spank on her bottom and a severe dressing down in full sight of her teachers, akka, and classmates. I don’t know what they all thought of that little exhibition, but I was SO past giving a fig by then.

It was, of course, abundantly clear in many ways by now, that the two timid little creatures we’d brought home two years ago had blossomed into full-fledged, maniacal brats.

So, it actually came as no surprise when their teacher smilingly, almost approvingly, told me last week that they’d suddenly become very naughty in class. “They climb everywhere, they never do what they’re told, and they don’t listen to anyone,” she said. I took it as it was intended – as a compliment, and told her, “I’m surprised it took them this long.”

Dressing Down

I like to think that in my childhood days, I was a bit of a tom-boy. Actually, I like to think that I still am, at least a bit. At any rate, I’m very much a jeans-n-t-shirt sort of person, who avoids make-up and high heels.

Don’t get me wrong: I don’t by any means think there’s anything wrong with nice clothes and make-up and making an effort to look good – but it’s never been a priority for me and I’ve never had (or made) the time for it.

Now we have two little girls; and, left to themselves, they’d never wear anything but their shorts and t-shirts. That too, they only ever want one of two or three favourite t-shirts. Since they seem to have very constant and long-term favourites, these favourites are obviously now somewhat the worse for wear. Park Moms Inc, of which Supriya is the founder member, and, in this regard the most outspoken member, is of the opinion, not entirely baseless, that I dress them in rags – even that I go out of my way to dress them in rags. Or at least, that I don’t go out of my way to get rid of their rags and replace them with decent stuff. (Luckily, she saw them returning from school one day and admitted that at least they went to school looking halfway respectable – something my verbal assurances to the effect had not been successful in convincing her of.)

The truth is, I’m not very sure that I want my daughters to look very girlie and pretty-pretty. I’m actually quite happy with their tomboyish-ness. I like to see them romping in the park and I prefer not to have to worry about them spoiling their pretty clothes. I don’t want to spend a lot on buying pretty but expensive clothes that are only going to get ruined in three days. If they’re happy to rotate three t-shirts per head for three months, that suits my stingy, minimalistic nature just fine. Left to myself, I’d do the same. (In fact, I do – except that instead of three t-shirts, I have about a dozen.)

I also like them to be able to have a say in at least this most harmless decision in their life. There’s so little else that they do have control over. I’m all for encouraging independence of thought and if that means that Mrini wants to wear “my favourite pussycat t-shirt” seven days a week, well, why not? (Apart from the occasional break for washing it.) It might look atrocious, but they’re happy and who cares what others think, anyway?

I do believe that they should be decently and practically dressed for school, the way I myself make an effort to be presentably turned out for work, but if they want to be ragamuffin-ish tomboys at home, I don’t think I mind. At all.

Besides, even if I did mind, what could I do? I have been accused by my better half of setting a bad example. But my casual approach to dressing is too deeply ingrained in my nature. Even if I had a stock of pretty clothes, wearing them at home on a regular basis would be unthinkable for me. That’s just not who I am, and I’m not going to even try to change just so my daughters can learn to be pretty. As they grow up, they can learn those things from other role models than me. At some point, their Anjali-masi can give them a crash-course in grace and poise and elegance.

Meanwhile, I hope to be able to teach them other things which are more important to me, like a love of reading, music, playing violin, traveling, baking… All the fun stuff where mothers can lead by example – and in the bargain, if I run the risk of raising two little ruffians, I can live with that.

Watch What You Say

The twins are almost entirely toilet trained and have been for months. When they started school, Tara had about three toileting accidents a week for the first three weeks or so; Mrini had none. I asked the teacher why, and her answer was that Tara just seemed to be too engrossed in whatever she was doing. But soon after that, things must have settled down, because recently neither of them has had to utilize the change of clothes that I always send with them.

They still use diapers at night, and they clearly still need them, but during their afternoon naps I stopped putting diapers on them months ago. Occasionally, if she’s had a lot of water just before lunch, or if she naps for exceptionally long, Tara has an accident. Mrini seems to have figured out how to wake herself up when her bladder is full. Tara’s accidents are quite infrequent, so I haven’t done anything about them, I’m just hoping they’ll eventually stop on their own.

I was talking to my mother recently, and, after discussing many mundane and meaningless things, the conversation somehow turned to changing bedsheets; the frequency of changing bedsheets, to be specific.

Mother: I change them about once a month, I think. How often do you do yours?
Me: I change them whenever the kids pee on them.
Mother: Gosh, I hope that’s not too often.
Me: You’d better hope it’s often enough.
Mother (in a rather satisfied tone): Gosh, I’ve brought you up abominably.
———-
Then, the other day, I was playing my violin. The twins were playing together nearby. As I reached the end of a piece, Tara came to me and said, authoritatively: “Put your violin down.”

I did – I didn’t have a choice under her unflinching gaze. “But why?” I asked.

“Come,” she said.

“Where?” I asked.

“I want to do sussu (pee).”

“Then go to the bathroom,” I said. At home, they’ve been able to manage without help for ages.

“You come and turn on light,” she said.

I went with her and saw the light was already on, and told her so.

“Ok, you go,” says she, regally. “You go play.”
———–
On another occasion, Mrini wanted to talk.

Mrini: Mama, let’s talk.
Me: Ok. How are you?
Mrini (outraged): No! That comes later! First, what’s your name?

Right. Got to remember etiquette: exchange names first.
————
Since Amit’s Honda Civic, which we bought last year, is the Newcar-Newcar, my battered (literally) old Wagon-R is now known as the Oldcar. (But this is about to change.)

While driving them to school today, the car went over a rather bad patch of road. Mrini didn’t like it.

Mrini: Mama, what Oldcar doing?
Me: Oldcar is driving.
Mrini: No! Oldcar not driving. Mama is driving. What Oldcar doing?
Me: Oh, sorry, you’re right. I’m driving. Oldcar is being driven.

Just what I was trying to avoid – passive voice. They’re not even three! Looks like I have to brush up on my language skills, or my daughters will be giving me grammar lessons before long!
———–
Amit (scolding Mrini): Don’t do that! You’re a bad girl!
Mrini (promptly): No, I not a bad girl!

Talking back? To Father?! Of course, I did a lot of that as a child (I’ve improved a bit now, or so I think), but I’m sure I didn’t start this early!

Conveniences

Before the kids came, or more specifically, before the kids began to be toilet trained, I hardly ever used public restrooms.

As an aside, why on earth are they called rest rooms? The thought of actually resting there is hardly appealing. Relief rooms I could understand – if you find one when you urgently need one, it is certainly with a sense of overwhelming relief – but why rest rooms?

And, for that matter, the public ones are not even “bathrooms” – not unless you happen to be in, say, an international airport lounge or some such place.

As for “conveniences”… certainly finding a toilet when you need it is a lot more “convenient” than not finding one… but… can the toilet itself be considered “convenient”? I don’t think so!

Like I said, public toilets weren’t on my beat much in the “good” old days. If I absolutely had to use one, I preferred an Indian style one, where physical contact with any surface was restricted to shoes on the ground. (For the uninitiated, Indian style toilets, or squatty pots, consist of a hole in the ground, with a porcelain bowl sunk in it, and a sort of platform for placing the feet. They do usually have some kind of flush rigged up, but it’s anybody’s guess whether or not it will work. In this respect, though, they are no worse than any other toilet in a similar location.)

On those rare occasions when I had to use a western style toilet in a public place, I of course practised my patented technique of hovering six vertical inches above the toilet seat, so effectively actual physical contact remained limited to shoes on the ground.

In Indian style toilets, the ground is usually wet, and you never can tell what proportion of it is water and what is pee. So you assume the best, fear the worst, tell yourself it’s only the shoes, and only the soles at that, and get on with the job.

In western style toilets, the floor might be less wet and disgusting, but the toilet seat has all the potential to more than make up for it. Even the six-vertical-inch-hover tactic often doesn’t seem like enough.

Either way, limiting physical contact doesn’t do much to contain the stink.

Nor do I think that public toilets are better anywhere else around the globe. You might find halfway bearable occurrences in the more high-class establishments like star hotels; or, for instance, at a shopping mall you might get lucky and reach the restroom just after it’s been cleaned; but in general, the best option is to simply avoid toilets outside home whenever you can.

All that changed when I started toilet-training the kids. Suddenly, after all the luxurious safety of diapers, I needed to be able to rush one – or, more likely, two – kids with critical bladder situations to the bathroom – like, RIGHT NOW! In those days there was no time to look at the bathroom and consider its level of cleanliness or hygiene.

Things are better now – in a manner of speaking. I still have to take the kids to the toilet in public places way too often. But now their every toilet request is not a crisis in the making. They can wait a few minutes while we get to the toilet, wait for it to get freed up, wait for me to do some kind of sanitising of the toilet seat…

In all of which I get to see up close and OFTEN exactly how gross public toilets really are.

And then, they started school.

Their school has squatty pots in miniature, more convenient for kids than the adult-size ones. The bathrooms are common for small boys and girls. Cubicle doors can’t be locked and don’t extend right down to the floor. Not all kids have learnt to close the cubicle doors behind them when they go, so the anatomy lesson is thrown in gratis.

A few days after the kids started school, I had taken them to the toilet before leaving, something I still insist upon before every drive or outing.

Tara went in and squatted, and… She slipped. Eeeks! Her right foot landed in the bowl!

It could have been worse… (do you need me to draw a picture?)

Then Mrini went, and neglected to hold up her skirt properly.

One day, Mrini, influenced by seeing how little boys pee, decided to try doing it standing up. Naturally, it ran down her legs. Ugh! And I had to load her into the car and take her home. Ugh ugh ugh!

But worse was in store for me.

The flushes in these cubicles don’t always work. I think the flush tanks just run out of water, with so many small kids going so often. There are taps in each cubicle and small buckets. So often the floor is wet either due to water running from over-flowing buckets, or from the water being used by the helpers to wash the floor.

Why wash the floor?

I saw one of the older girls – maybe 4 or 5 years old – walk into the stall and pee on the ground. Not near the toilet, not even in the correct orientation to the toilet, just right there on the floor near the door.

And the next kid who comes in wouldn’t know! They might not even think about it.

Shudders!

So what can you do? Close your eyes; close your mind; get your kids home and give them a bath; ignore the worst and assume the best, and hope they get through it all somehow, without catching any horrible diseases…

Dosa, Boys, Chicken, and I’m Not Asking You

It seemed like we were on track to leave for school at the usual hour this morning. Then came a minor disaster. The bread turned out to be completely mouldy. Really, this cannot be my fault. It was a pretty fresh packet, we only opened it last evening. Anyhow, there were, of course, no fresh chappatis in the house (Monday morning, remember; no domestic help over the weekend). And my options for the kids’ tiffin consist pretty much of either bread-and-jam or roti-and-jam. At least there was jam. There was even readymade atta in the fridge. But I am SO not the sort of mom who sets about making chappatis for my kids early in the morning.

So what could I do?

I could do dosa.

Yeah, I can’t do chappatis, but I can do dosa. Specially when “doing” dosa starts with opening a packet of batter…

So I did dosa.

You try squeezing making dosas into the time set aside for slapping jam on two slices of bread. It’s no dice. The dosas took way more time, and of course we were running late. I handed the kids their clothes and Mrini put everything on back to front. Tara, only the shirt. Got that straightened out and somehow got out of the house only five minutes late. If the traffic was kind, we’d still make it on time.

But traffic was not kind – not at all. It was about twice as bad as usual. Do ALL the worms have to come crawling out of the woodwork on Monday morning?

As the kids were getting into the car, Mrini managed to squash her finger between the car door and the car next door. (I didn’t have anything to do with that either.) Tears ensued and had to be wiped away, hurriedly. At last we were on our way.

After a few minutes of silence, Tara asked Mrini solicitously: Mrini, now you ok?

Sniffles from Mrini.

Tara: Mrini you hurt your finger, now you ok?

After a bit, Mrini said she was ok. But she wasn’t in talk mode. Tara, surprisingly enough, was; usually she’s the silent-er one in the car.

Tara: Mrini, did you see the Mall?
Mrini is silent.
Me: I saw the Mall.
Tara (curtly): I’m asking Mrini. Mrini, did you see the Mall?
Mrini still silent.
Tara: Mama, Mrini not talking.
Me: Mrini, Tara is asking you, did you see the Mall?
Mrini remains silent. Long pause. Then: I not talking. I seeing the cars.

—————

Yesterday we had taken the girls out for lunch and were at the restaurant waiting to be served. After we had waited for quite a long time, Mrini almost embarrassed me by saying loudly: Mama, I want my CHICKEN. Where’s my CHICKEN?

“Almost” embarrassed me, because she’s still young enough for this to be cute (or so I think, anyway). But honestly! Anyone would think we don’t feed them at home. (Just for the record, we do.)

————–
Well, it could be worse. This other brick was dropped when there was no-one but us around to hear. We drove past a playground where a lot of boys were playing cricket (or something like it). Tara immediately goes: Oooh! Booooooys!

I know they start younger these days, but hang on, these girls aren’t even three yet!

More Twinnings

Oh, the small joys of parenting.

The first words I heard at 6.30 a.m. on Sunday morning before I was fully awake, were, from Mrini: Mama not there. Mama gone to tennis court. Only Baba there. Whereupon, she turned on her heel and headed back to her room with something close to disgust.

I was there, buried under the bedclothes, and it was immensely satisfying not only that she should disdain the company of her father, but also that she should go back to her own room, where she played very cutely (judging by the sound effects) with Tara, thereby allowing me to sleep “late” – all the way till 7.15 on a Sunday morning.

When we were all irretrievably awake, we decided to take the kids out for some loafing followed by lunch. The lunch venue, selected and declared vociferously by the girls, was Shanti Sagar(!). After a very successful lunch at this venue (successful, in this context, means that most of the food landed in somebody’s stomach, everybody got something to eat, and the place didn’t look perceptibly shabbier by the time we’d finished), we went to Corner House for mango milk shake.

There, I ordered a deliciously dark-looking chocolate ice cream that didn’t taste as good as it looked, strangely enough; while Amit ordered his mango milk shake, which turned out to be a mango ice cream smoothie, in disguise. Anyway: chocolate ice cream versus mango milk shake – which do you think the twins wanted? The mango, of course! Who wants chocolate when there’s mango on offer?! (And these are my daughters!?)

So the mango milk shake was passed around the table solemnly between the three of them, strictly turn by turn. It was a real treat to watch them eagerly reaching for it, then, after as big a gulp as they could manage, sweetly passing it on.

Of course, one between the three of them was not enough, so another had to be ordered, and I got to see them passing the glass all over again. (Though I must admit I wasn’t entirely a spectator the second time around!)

I was also very impressed with my daughters’ dustbin sensibilities this weekend. On Saturday, we were at a birthday party in a public place. After drinking water out of one of those small plastic glasses, Mrini turned and asked me where the dustbin was, and wouldn’t be satisfied until she was allowed to throw the glass in it. Again, at Corner House on Sunday, the girls both rushed to throw the plastic bowls in the dustbin. It’s wonderful how they pick up such things without having to be explicitly told. In the past I have often seen small kids littering and thought to myself that it must be tough to teach kids to be neat, but now I’ not so sure. Maybe it’s just a matter of setting the right example and letting the kids follow.

Or maybe I’m just being prematurely proud, and a few months or years later, my kids will suddenly start littering, too. I hope not… But for the moment, I’m just happy to see them being so angelic.

And then, this morning I overheard this exchange:

T (teasingly in a singsong voice): Mini not a goooood girl. Mini is a baaaaaaad girl.
M (indignantly): Why am I not a good girl? Tell me!

Oh gawd! Have they really entered the “why” phase already? Then I am in for it!!!

Twinnings

While driving the kids to and from school, and also at sundry other times of day, I’m treated to absolutely delightful snippets of conversation and logic. Why should I have to enjoy these all on my own?
=====================

M: Mrini is a good girl.
T: Panda also good girl.
Pause. Long pause.
M: Panda is a boy!
T: No, Panda is a good girl.
M (beginning to wail): Mama, Panda is not a girl, Panda is a boy!
T: Panda is a big boy.
=======================

T: Mrini, where do you stay?
Mrini correctly rattles off our full address.
M: Tara, where do you stay?
T: I won’t tell you. I’m sleeping.
======================

M: I want to bite the bus.
T: You can’t bite the bus.
M: Mama, I want to bite the bus.
T: If you bite the bus, it will hurt. (It will get hurt, she means.)
Pause
M: I want to bite the car
Me: You can’t bite the car, it’s my car.
Pause
M: I want to bite the dog.
Me: If you bite the dog, it will bite you back.
M (in shock): Then I’ll get hurt!
======================
I was popping cough-drops for several days after my bout of flu. The kids asked what they were, so I said “medicine”. Mrini decided that “medicine” looks nice. This is what ensued.

M: I’m not well.
Me: Really? What’s wrong?
M: I have fever.
Me: No, you don’t have fever.
M: I have a rash.
Me: Yes, it will clear up in a few days.
M: I want to go to the doctor. I want medicine.
=======================

M sobbing with full force and speaking through her sobs, an effect that is awfully cute: Mama, I stopped crying.

=======================

We took the kids out for lunch on Sunday. Perhaps they found the food a wee bit spicy. On Monday, morning, after going potty:

M: My bum is hurting
Me: Ok. It will get ok soon.
M: Mama, my bum is hurting.
T: Minnie, your bum is hurting?
M: Yes.
T: Ok, come. I’ll give it kissie.
===========================

T: I want my hard. (The gutli, aathi, or kernel of the mango.)
M: No I want hard!
Me: Whoever finishes their food first will get the hard.
M: Tara finished.
T: No, not yet. You give Mini the hard. I’ll eat the mango. Mini eat the hard.
M: I want the hard. I want the aathi.
T: You want the igloo?
M: I not want igloo. This is not igloo. This is the gutli.