Tag Archives: parenting

Still the Slowcoach

I was born plump and nothing’s really changed in that department since then. But, because I was plump, and because I was more inclined as a child to bury myself in a book than to busy myself with sports, I was largely terrible at all sorts of games. When the class was told to split up into two teams and captains were chosen and the captains took turns to pick the people they wanted on their teams, I was the last man standing, the one nobody wanted. When you’re ten years old, plump, shy, and wearing glasses, that sucks.

Maybe one of the reasons I never wanted to have a party on my birthday as a child was just that: there would be running games and I would be horribly embarrassed. One year, we did have a party on my birthday. We were in the house in Chandigarh, the big house with the big garden described in this old post. I have photographs of that party, and I’m wearing a thick new jacket my parents had gifted me, which I loved. We played Pass the Parcel, which was ok because you didn’t have to run. Then we played Catch, followed by Vish-Amrit. That was such an ordeal that I can still recall it distinctly.

I don’t know whether I couldn’t run because I was plump, or whether it was more complicated than that. Maybe, just maybe, I couldn’t run because I thought I was fat and everybody laughed at me because I couldn’t run. Maybe it would have been different if I hadn’t thought I was fat (even though I was). But kids – even eight-nine year old kids – are complicated and so for some simple and complicated reasons, I couldn’t run.

When I say I “couldn’t” run, I mean, I tried, of course. My legs moved as fast as they could, but the rest of my body didn’t get anywhere. Sometimes we played the version of catch where the den hopped one-legged, while everyone else ran around on both legs. This was the most humiliating thing ever, because the one-legged den would catch me without even making the slightest effort; and then it would be my turn to be den and everyone would get bored waiting for me to catch someone. Sometimes, they took pity on me and just let me give up. Sometimes they let me chase on both legs – but even then, someone would have to get bored and let themselves be caught or I’d just never catch anyone. The girls who were really fast even on one leg would scorn catching me altogether, and would take pride in going after the faster kids. It was horrible.

So of course I didn’t want to be subject to this humiliation, especially not on my birthday!

The only sport I was ever any good at in school was throwball, which didn’t involve any running. But that only lasted as long as I remained one of the taller girls in class. When everyone else overtook me in height, suddenly I wasn’t so popular on the throwball team anymore. But by then I’d found my niche, something I really was good at and which even most of the brainy boys looked up to me (and resented me) for: Maths.

The most excruciating years for being plump and slow, then, were from about 8 till about 15. By then, I managed to lose some of the puppy fat (though, in recent years, it has come bouncing back) and in school the emphasis shifted from being fast to being “fast”. And “fast” was something I discovered even I could be, glasses notwithstanding. So it mattered less and less how terrible I was at sports.

The “plump-and-lazy” gene I was born with has never gone into remission. Though I’ve enjoyed playing tennis the past five years, and before that have periodically enjoyed long, brisk walks, trekking, swimming, and badminton, I still consider myself essentially a plump-and-lazy person. But it has never bothered me… till now.

The twins have recently started talking about “running race”, which, apparently, is all they do in daycare. They’ve also started doing “fighting”. I don’t know if they specifically mentioned “catch” or whether the idea floated up on its own, but one evening Amit set both of them to work catching him. He is of course an alpha athlete and even dodging around furniture and electronics in the small, cluttered living room, the girls hadn’t a prayer of catching him, not even two-against-one. I tried teaching them strategy by getting Mrini to turn in her tracks at crucial moments, instead of both of them running around in circles behind him, but even so, he was much too fast and agile for them.

“Your turn,” said Amit, grinning at me.

Well, when he did it, it looked easy, so I agreed. I didn’t last thirty seconds! I tried again and again, and though I did get a little better at it, I still didn’t last beyond a minute or two. After a bit, Mrini took pity on me and retired from the game, leaving Tara and me one-on-one. By this time, Tara was really good at it. I stood behind one chair and she stood in front of it, bouncing from side to side like a Kabbadi player. She swung her arms and jiggled her body for comic effect, so that I almost died laughing, but she bounced in a professional manner all the same, pinning me to my corner behind the chair. Every time I made a run for it, she caught me right away. I was so proud of both of them – they would never have to struggle the way I did when kids around them wanted to play running games.

It was hysterically good fun and by the end of half an hour, we were all tired and sweaty. But though I laughed and enjoyed just as much as everyone else did, a slight tinge of that old sense of humiliation came back to haunt me. I could hardly believe it – despite the trekking, the tennis, the numerous futile attempts at dieting, was I, at 36, so plump-and-lazy that even a four-year-old girl could catch me in thirty seconds? What was even worse was the next thought: So many years, and nothing’s changed. I still can’t run and I’m still ashamed of it.

The Second Party

So if you read my previous post, you know that the party I never intended to have, made itself happen on Wednesday, the day of the kids’ birthday. I suppose it’s only appropriate that the party that was supposed to happen on Saturday fizzled out.

Actually, I think we all ran out of steam ourselves by the time Saturday dawned. The kids were pleased in a puzzled way that they should be having another party, when their birthday was clearly already over. Amit and I were feeling kind of lazy about getting the party infrastructure going, so it was 12.45 before Amit left home, ostensibly to shop for party essentials, but in reality, to run various errands such as going to the bank, the post-office, and doing the weekly grocery shopping. Meanwhile I got the cakes done without much effort, and the kids helped me to beat up a delicious mayonnaise for sandwiches.

I gave the kids lunch and packed them off for their afternoon nap, waiting for Amit to return so that we could have lunch together. He returned around 3.30, by which time, hunger pangs had got the better of me. But, as he sat down for lunch, I had to dash out. He had refused point blank to pick up return gifts and he had also most unhelpfully forgotten to bring potatoes for the potato cutlets we were supposed to be serving.

By this time, one family had taken a rain check (though it hadn’t rained yet); another emailed to say he was out of town today, but his family would come, wasn’t the party tomorrow; and a third had already informed me a couple of days earlier that they would be unable to make it due to having visitors over that very day. So while we rushed around boiling potatoes and assembling sandwiches, our guest list disintegrated from five families with seven kids, down to two families with only two kids.

In the way that these things usually turn out, this was good. We had S&S and V&V over, and we fried up a ton of french fries. The potato cutlets were disastrous and the sandwiches were roundly ignored. Cake was cut and eaten only after one round of vodka and orange juice had been downed. We sang the birthday song, but nobody took photographs, far less a video. The kids ran amok, which was as it should be too. Around 9.30, we ordered in biryani and even Mrini managed to stay up till almost 11 as ten of us crowded around our small 4-seater dining table and dug in with gusto.

In other words, it wasn’t a birthday party, but it was a real fun party. Even the kids slept until 8.30 the next morning!

And now they are four.

Observation 2

We were invited by the kids’ school to go for an observation this week. This is an aspect of their school that I can’t praise enough. I’m sure all parents are itching to know what stuff their kids do in school. Kids are, typically, less than forthcoming. The Montessori system does not require notebooks or textbooks in the first two years, so we know even less than we might in the kindergarten system. An observation is our opportunity to find out what our kids are doing in the three-plus hours that they spend in school. We had been for it last year as well, and came away enlightened and delighted in equal measures.

Mriini-Tara were quite thrilled when we told them we’d be going to sit in their class with them. They led us into class somewhat shyly and spread their mats out in a corner next to each other. Their teacher told us they don’t normally sit next to each other and Mrini had already told us in the car, “Nandu and Nirupama and Vaishnavi are Tara’s friends. Navneet is my friend. Only Navneet.” She was very firm about it. (Yes, Navneet is the same boy she kissed a couple of weeks ago – at least she’s constant. And yes, the teacher confirmed that the kiss did, indeed, happen!)

Amit and I sat down on the floor next to the two of them. To start with, Mrini went through several very easy jigsaw puzzles, while Tara worked with great focus on some number-related activity. Eventually, with some effort by the teacher, Mrini was also persuaded to work on number-related activities. There were several different activities. The one I’d heard most about was number rods – a set of rods with length from one to ten units. The idea was to arrange the rods in sequence and then count the striped units on the rods and the correct number symbol with each rod. There was another counting activity that involved putting the right number of sticks into various slots; and another activity involving putting some kind of counters in front of the number symbols. What impressed me most was a set of beads. There were ten beads, nine strings of ten beads each, nine square mats made up of ten strings of ten beads each, and finally, a cube, made by stacking ten mats on top of each other. So you had units, tens, hundred, and a thousand, visually reinforcing the numerical, geometrical and decimal relationship between all of them. It was so simple it was beautiful – I wish I’d seen it this way when I was four. This basic concept – especially the concept of square and cube, and of zero (dot) one (string) two (square) and three (cube) dimensions – was never actually tied to the real, physical world when I was a student. They were abstract concepts which I didn’t get my head around until much later. Not that Mrini and Tara have any concept of square and cube right now, or of the decimal system or of dimensions of any kind or number; but when they do begin to understand those concepts, they have something real and physical to understand them by. That is just so nice.

The other activity that their teacher made sure they showed us was sandpaper letters. Both my girls can associate vowel sounds with vowel letters and many/most of the consonant sounds with consonant letters. Mrini can do a few more than Tara and other kids in their class can do more than both, but that’s neither here nor there. The fact is, my girls almost know their letters! Wow! Of course I was swept away by dreams of buying them a truckload of books each – I can hardly wait for them to discover the joy of reading! – but when I asked their teacher, she said it would take another year or so before they learnt to read. Can it possibly take that long to get there once you already know the letters???

Their teacher told us they were now much better at putting away stuff they had worked on – something we still have to get after them to do at home – and that they both were very independent in class. She also said it was possible now to have real discussions with them, which was nice. She pointed out some of their art work, mentioning that it was quite neat now, and they were probably ready to start writing. I told her they’d been practicing zig-zags, 5 and 2 at home.

We sat with them for about an hour. Towards the end, I was getting itchy. I think Amit would have sat there the whole morning, he’s that kind of a doting dad, but I thought the teacher had better give some attention to the other kids in her group as well. With a maximum of 30 kids, 3 teachers and an akka, they weren’t too stretched at any point, but you can’t hog the teacher’s time for too long all the same. Other kids came up to her to ask for work or to show her what they’d done. Several kids showed her words they’d written, and one boy brought his notebook and asked for sums. Yes, he asked for sums! He even knew what numbers he wanted to add – and the teacher let him dictate the questions! And when he didn’t like the colour of the pen she was using, she let him bring her another one.

Meanwhile, the girls were getting itchy too! In the middle, Mrini wandered off to join her friends and find out what Navneet was up to. She came back soon, but not for too long. We kept telling them we’d be leaving in “five minutes” – standard procedure for brining any fun activity to a graceful end – but when we still hadn’t left at the end of fifteen, Mrini gave me a disgusted look and said “bye, mummy,” much too firmly. We took the cue and left!

I was talking to their daycare teacher about it later that day. Their daycare runs a primary kindergarten school, where things are done rather differently. I mentioned to her how much freedom the kids had in the Montessori environment. She surprised me by saying, “It is one of the most disciplined methodologies.” I started to tell her how little discipline there really was, but she was two steps ahead of me. “It allows kids a lot of freedom, so they learn to do their own work, at their own pace, and to enjoy the freedom of being able to walk around without disturbing other kids. That’s what discipline really is. Not being made to sit in one place and be quiet, but knowing that you have to do your own work without disturbing others.” That was a good point.

Overall it was a very nice experience. It is nice to know that one’s kids are actually learning something in school, even if they refuse to show off or even talk about it at home. It’s nice to see the manner in which they are learning, and how much fun it can be. It’s great to watch the independence, freedom, and responsibility that this environment allows them. Best of all was the atmosphere in class. When I sat in class with the girls in June last year, when they had just joined school, it looked like complete chaos. But now it’s August and the class has settled down. A couple of the new kids are still shy, and one boy howled for five minutes when his mother handed him over to the teacher, but apart from that, the kids were all comfortable, happy, and mostly engrossed in their work. The teachers were comfortable, cheerful, firm and un-hassled. Kids were completely comfortable with the teachers, they didn’t even hesitate to sit in the teacher’s lap. Yet… this was school – not somebody’s home, not a playschool, not daycare – this was school.

I don’t have a very clear recollection of what my school was like at this age, but I’m sure that it was nothing like this! I’m so happy our girls are in this warm, bright, and happy place for three whole years.

101

We took the kids for their annual health checkup on Saturday. Actually, there wasn’t much need to take them for a check-up, they seem to be so very ok. But we do have to provide this letter to the Family Court each year, testifying to their mental, physical, social, emotional and academic fitness… so we had to go anyway.

One thing is for sure: the healthcare industry is booming. The hospital was so crowded that we couldn’t get parking, even though they have a huge open parking lot which I never thought could possibly be filled up unless there were some kind of city-wide calamity. I went in, while Amit sat in the parking queue, but he eventually handed over the car to a valet to park. It was a smart move: A couple of minutes later, even people asking for valet parking were being turned away!

Inside, the chaos was equally evident. The pediatric department was full and overflowing, and the two attendants at the desk were harassed and busy. I asked how long we’d have to wait and was told it would take an hour. I immediately regretted having paid up the consultation fee already, but then it turned out that that was the waiting time for those who didn’t have appointments. With an appointment, we wouldn’t have to wait long.

Their weight and height was checked. They weighed in at 14 kg each, and Mrini was measured at 100.5 cm, while Tara was 101! When we found our place in front of the doctor a few minutes later, she told us their height was good and weight was only a little (1.5kg) below normal.

I had worried a lot about their weight and height in the early days. What do you do, when your one-year-old adopted babies are in the bottom 5th percentile for weight and height, and you can’t seem to get the word malnutrition out of your head? But that was a long, long time ago. It was gratifying to see them shoot up in the first six months with us, gaining inches at a time when for most kids growth slows down to a crawl. And it’s been a long, long time now since I worried about whether they were on-track weight-height-wise. I see them with kids in their class and I can see that their height is about on par. As for weight – they are obviously thin and probably always will be, until emotional issues begin to influence their food habits; but they are not unhealthy any more, and that’s the important thing.

It was good to hear from a doctor that their weight and height was no longer a cause for concern, but it was not a surprise, nor a cause for celebration – just an affirmation of something we had come to realize and accept over the months already.

What the doctor said next, though, was a surprise and more delightful than I’d have expected. She said that the girls have started to resemble us in their “dentition” and features. I don’t know exactly what features she was referring to, and to what extent this is true and to what extent it is fanciful I can’t be sure; and I don’t really see much resemblance between them and is in dentition or anything else myself; but it was strangely elevating to hear and to think that our girls might actually look like us a bit. I realized, suddenly, how much I’d missed hearing anything like that. Personally, I still don’t see it – I don’t think they look anything like us; but it was nice to think that to somebody, they look a little more like us than they did before.

It made the whole effort of driving, parking, paying, waiting, waiting some more, and finally driving back – it made all of that seem well worth while. We left the hospital with quite a smile on our faces – yes, even Amit.

One – For Half A Day

Tara was off her food for a couple of days. Daycare reported that presented with lunch on Tuesday – which was chicken, a perennial favourite – her face crumpled up and when asked to eat, she actually started to cry. They questioned her health and wellbeing, including asking whether potty was impending, but all she said was, “I don’t want to eat.” Thankfully, as per our strict instructions, they let it go at that.

At dinner time, she drank her milk happily enough and went off to play; but by 8 p.m. when I called them for their bedtime routine, she was becoming cranky and clingy. It was expected by then, of course. If a child doesn’t eat for a couple of days, it’s bound to portend illness and the sooner it makes itself evident, the sooner we’ll know exactly what kind of a beast we’re up against.

Tara looked uncomfortable and tearful for a good solid hour before she made us all a little happier by throwing up in the bathroom. The papaya she’d had in the afternoon came up; the milk she’d had a couple of hours later, strangely enough, stayed down. After we’d got everything cleaned up, we left them in their room and they were both soon asleep.

It was 4 a.m. before the sequel was enacted. Tara coughed mildly in her sleep, woke up, and came to us crying that she’d vomited. I couldn’t see any evidence of vomit, so I thought she’d probably just coughed up some phlegm and I put her back to bed. This happened another couple of times before I realized what was going on. Of course – she was hungry! And her cough was making her retch. Around 5.30 I gave up on sleep and gave her some food instead. She ate eagerly enough and – thankfully – it stayed down. She went back to bed for a short while and then it was time for breakfast. She had her milk again, but soon after that, instead of looking happier, she began to look positively woeful. By 7.10 a.m. she was steadfastly refusing to go to school.

I’m happy to say that my girls are not the sort to actually want to miss school. Like me (and unlike my sister), they love school. They go eagerly and enthusiastically and they don’t quite understand why we have to have weekends. So if either of them doesn’t want to go to school, it means she really, really doesn’t want to go. Even when Mrini traipsed out of the door with Amit, smiling happily and waving, Tara only sat in my lap, clung to me, and looked miserable.

It was a complicated sort of day. Tara and I changed out of work and school clothes into home clothes. I had to unpack the kids’ lunch and reduce everything to make it suitable for one child. Then Amit forgot to take Mrini’s lunch with him to drop off at daycare on his way to work. Additionally, there was some kind of strike in the private van industry, which meant that the kids’ school van wouldn’t pick Mrini up from school and take her to daycare. So it was beginning to look like I’d have my hands full, lugging Tara to school, picking up Mrini, dropping her at daycare, and coming back home with Tara, all before lunch. I could also have just brought Mrini home – but then I’d have my hands full anyway, and why deprive her of the fun of daycare?

It all turned out well enough, though. Tara rapidly improved in the morning and when she looked grumpy and I asked her why, it turned out it wasn’t her stomach; it wasn’t a fever; she wasn’t tired or hungry or thristy; she was just missing Mrini. From 10 a.m. she asked me every few minutes when we were going to fetch Mrini. When the doorbell rang, she wanted to know if Mrini had come home.

Whenever she wasn’t asking about Mrini, she sat sweetly next to me “reading” a book, colouring in a drawing book, singing songs to herself, and hardly disturbing me at all. It was hard to believe this docile little girl was Tara!

By the time we went to get Mrini, Tara was sure (sore – as she says it) that she wanted to go to daycare. I guess the thought of spending the entire day at home without Mrini was too much to bear! So I lugged up the forgotten lunch bag, put back in all the food I’d taken out, got out of my ragged home clothes and put on my office clothes again, and left to pick up Mrini from school. The drive was more chaotic than usual due to a few new spanners the civic authorities had thrown into the works, so we got there ten minutes late, but Mrini wasn’t complaining. The girls greeted each other with utter indifference. I asked Mrini if she’d missed Tara and she said “No. I was in school.” I told her Tara had missed her and she looked faintly disgusted, while Tara looked distinctly embarrassed.

I dropped them off at daycare, updated the coordinator, and got to office just in time for lunch.

At the end of the day, when I picked them up, I was informed that Tara had been ok and though she didn’t eat much lunch, she ate a hearty mid-afternoon snack. Mrini, on the other hand, was distinctly off her food. Looks like it’s her turn next. If this is a stomach viral that Amit brought back from Delhi, it might even be my turn after that… Sigh.

Leave Education to the Schools

It’s all very well when you don’t have kids and you think: “Oh, when I have kids, I’ll teach them this and I’ll show them that, and I’ll share the other with them, and I’ll always do this and (especially) I’ll never do that,” and so on.

When the kids are there growing up in front of your eyes, you really have to pin down and put in words practically your entire belief system – and that’s not so easy.

One thing I’ve realized I do believe – if for no other reason than out of sheer laziness – is that it’s best to leave teaching to the schools. I’m a lousy teacher anyway. They, hopefully, know what they’re doing.

My mother was probably a good teacher. At least, I hope she was, because she taught tiny tots in school for a while. She likes to talk about her unconventional – for that time – approach to teaching. I remember her sitting with me while I painstakingly learnt to read. As one of the most impatient people I have ever known, the thing that stands out most is her patience while I struggled to piece the words together. (According to her, I was mildly dyslexic.) The other thing that stands out now, in retrospect, is that she didn’t try to teach me to read; she just sat there and let me learn it on my own.

Once I’d mastered reading, I don’t remember my mother ever working with me on any school-related task – from homework through projects, and, later on, even to issues with teachers or other students. She never glanced at my homework to see whether I had done it or even to know what it was that I had to do. She never tutored me for tests and exams and she never questioned me on the outcome. She never even told me to go study. But somehow I knew that I must do the work I was given to do, in the time I was given to do it, and I must do it myself, without help from parents, sister, or classmates. I knew that if I had questions, I should ask the teachers and no-one else (and from that I eventually learned that most teachers didn’t like to be questioned and often, especially in higher classes, didn’t actually have the answers.) I learned to be disciplined and conscientious and independent, qualities I now – strangely enough – value highly.

But how did this approach help me? Did it help me excel in school, or in life? Not really.

In school, I was a good student. I was not great; I was never top of the class; I was not even good enough to get a seat in an engineering college – or at least, the only engineering college I did get into was the one my parents didn’t want to send me to (Thapar, in Patiala); and I wound up doing English Honours (which was probably really the best choice for me anyway)… So I was not a great student, but whatever I did, I did well enough.

But is “well enough” good enough? Is, for instance, English Honours good enough?

Now the question is, of course, what do you want for your children. For some people, it might be a difficult question to answer. They might be torn between “doctor” “engineer” and (hopefully) “artist” (either creative or performing). For me, the answer is none of those. I don’t care whether they become doctors or engineers; writers or violinists; Wimbledon finalists or movie stars. I don’t care whether they ever achieve greatness in any field or not. I don’t care whether they have a job and a career or they are destined to penury as struggling artists or activists. I don’t even, really, care whether they make themselves rich or not. What I want for them is something more difficult to define. I want them to be balanced, determined, confident, secure, and independent people. I want them to have the foundations for strength, peace, and contentment. I want them to have integrity, at every level. I want them to be able to take on the world without blinking.

I want them to be people I can look up to in respect, even in awe – not for what they might achieve, but simply for who they are.

How am I going to help make them that way? I have no idea – but certainly not by helping them to learn whatever their school wants them to learn. Not by holding their hands to teach them to write. Not by pinning them to a study table while they struggle with numbers and letters. Not by pushing them to learn faster or better than others in their class or school or neighborhood. But maybe, just maybe, by letting them be whatever they want to be.

When they went on stage a few weeks ago, I was so proud of both of them. Mrini, for obvious reasons – she was unfazed by the lights, the sound, the audience, the strangeness of everything, and she stood in her place and did her part and enjoyed it. She can hardly wait to get back on stage. (I probably should get her into a music and/or dance class soon – she so loves to sing!) She had courage and elan. But Tara – Tara was bewildered by the set-up. The too-loud music troubled her. So she covered both her ears with her hands and just stood there, looking bemused. She didn’t cry. She didn’t run away. She didn’t even look scared; just puzzled. She stood her ground and did what felt right to her and she was not in the least bit embarrassed or upset by her performance. That takes a kind of courage and confidence too.

Academic performance, good or bad, is not going to turn them into the people I want them to be. Excellence at academics will of course give them confidence, but that is a confidence limited to only that sphere, and based on only that success. I want them to have the confidence to go against the flow, to not excel if they choose not to. To take their own time and do their own thing.

And that’s why I’m so happy with the Montessori system and with their school in particular. They let children learn at their own pace, and they have confidence in kids’ ability to learn (as much as in their own ability to teach). At the end of last year, their teacher said, “Well, they should know the number symbols from zero to nine by now, but they haven’t completely got it yet. You can work with them on it over the summer holidays if you want to. Otherwise don’t worry, we’ll do it when school resumes in June.”

That, exactly, is what I want to hear. I want to know where they stand, what they need to work on, and I want to know that there is absolutely no need for me to “work” on it with them. I did talk and play with numbers a bit with them during the holidays, but I didn’t “work” on it. And they seem to have got it now anyway. Ok, they are a couple of months late. Should I be worried? I don’t think so.

I have little enough time with my girls as it is. What time I do have, I want to spend enjoying them. I want to watch them play, and talk to them and engage them in all the things they don’t learn in school – making cake, listening to music (as opposed to nursery rhymes), watching (and playing) tennis, telling stories… And in all of this, if I can somehow impart to them some bits of my desired philosophy, my preferred outlook on life, so much the better.

I know what you’re thinking: it’s all very well to say this now, when they are not yet four years old and they don’t have tests and exams to pass. Can I stand by this when they are 8, 10, 14 years old and studies become more challenging and the rat race becomes more competitive? I don’t know – but I intend to try. And if their school means to continue along the path it has started out on, I imagine I might have some chance of success.

So here’s my plan: as school continues and they learn to read and write and then go on to arithemtic, geography, history and all that other stuff, I’m not going to be studying with them. I won’t “go over” what they’ve learnt in school each day or each week. I won’t be checking that they’ve done their homework or studied for a test. And I’m not going to stop them if they want to spend their time playing games instead of working. I spent the day before my Xth Standard English Board exam reading Tolkein (which was, sadly, not part of the curriculum) and my parents weren’t in the least bit perturbed by that. They trusted that I’d done my work for the exam – and I want to pass on that trust to my daughters, starting, oh say, a year or so ago. If they don’t do well academically, that’s ok – in the long run, they will learn that they are responsible for their own lives and that is a lesson well worth learning.

Some day, in their own way, they will take on the world. And I’ll watch from the audience and say with pride, “that’s my girl!”

For me, that’s good enough.

Back to School

We’ve been reminding the kids for a week or so that school would be re-opening soon. We took them out clothes shopping and school-bag shopping. All weekend, we talked about going back to school on Monday. And at last today we did it. Tara gulped down her breakfast, while Mrini dawdled over it, but as soon as I’d brushed their teeth, they rushed to put on their new clothes. Mrini is into Winnie-the-Pooh t-shirts and Tara is into Mickey Mouse. Mrini chose a pair of blue denim shorts and a white t-shirt, while Tara went for yellow pants rolled up at the bottom and a bright red t-shirt. They grabbed their new school bags and stuffed in their snack boxes and water bottles. They both agreed to two ponytails in their hair, and enthusiastically posed for photos.

Despite all of which, we got out of the house a good half hour earlier than we had been doing during the summer holidays, encountered as little traffic as could be hoped for, and they were (as usual) the first kids in their class to reach school. They are in a new classroom this year, but have the same teachers and most of the same classmates, apart from a handful of new admissions who haven’t actually joined yet. Predictably, both of them were shy when we actually reached their new classroom, but it took only a couple of minutes for them to relax enough to enter the room. After that, they kissed us and pushed us firmly away, waving happily. It makes me so proud when they do that – I’m so glad that they’re confident and secure enough to send us away smiling, even after a 10-week break and with a new classroom to boot. It must be so difficult for parents whose kids cry and fuss and don’t want to go to school.

Their teacher told us that school had already been open a week for older kids, and the bus/van services were fully operational. I’d planned to go and check that the girls get on the van today, but after speaking to their teacher in person and the van driver over the phone, I’m going to take a chance on it. I will go to daycare at lunchtime, to ensure that they reach as expected (and to drop off their lunch). And if that part of the day goes according to plan, then it’s official. The kids are back at school, and they’re not “babies” any more – they’re “second-years” now. They really are growing up!