It is no child’s play

Childhood is a beautiful phase…when you are the child. As a parent, you realize that Childhood is not just one phase. There are several phases in childhood. Every phase is marked clearly, with boundary lines, like the proverbial clouds. And no, they aren’t always silver. I can tell you from experience that until it lasts, you cannot be a judge of which phase of childhood was the best…. or the worst. I am warned that bigger challenges await me as my child grows older, wiser …and more arrogant.

The phase between helplessly waiting to be carried around as a new born, to toddling about in the confines of the house with a vocabulary of regurgitated sounds that are heard as words only by parents, is delightful, if you discount the number of diaper changes and night feeds. Every milestone met is celebrated and makes headlines.

Toddler

The next phase  when the toddler actually begins to mime body language of the adults at home and begins to build a decent vocabulary from which the why questions begin to form is adorable. As a parent you wait to amaze the child with your limited knowledge of various subjects. If the child is toilet trained by now, it is like an unexpected bonus at work.

Then dreaded school phase begins. I use dread in context of the child. It takes time for the child to outgrow the weepy I don’t want to go and why me mornings. By the 12th year, the weepy why me mornings become the prerogative of the parents. The home assignments begin innocently as worksheets of standing lines and sleeping lines to fill up to working out compound interest in just 12 years. By now, school becomes a dreadful thought …to parents.

Mind you, it is not the academics alone that makes this phase of childhood- the one that I am living-  the worst so far.

Woridwom

It is the – who is she hanging around withFrom where did she learn that? What does she want next? I hope she didn’t see that! oh- she- knows- brands! When is all this going to end?!  that really nails you.

You evolve from this smart, knowledgeable, lovable person to this ginormous, ignorant old witch at home- in a short span of 10 years.

I hope to update this blog post, if I live to tell the tale.

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Engineered patch up

What do you do when …..

…..your child is unable to remain friends with classmates just because someone asked them not to?
…..your child confides in you that she knows who this person is that is spoiling her chances of being friends?
…..the teacher whom you thought would be the person to solve this issue for your little one, does little to help?
…..challenges like these affects your child’s perception of the school, the city and mankind at large?
……it starts to affect the way she performs at school?

 

I engineered a patch up. I conceived a devious plan of inviting the perpetrator of the trouble in class to spend quality time with my child at our home, spending time rummaging her DVDs to find a movie to watch,splashing away in the pool while playing Truth or Dare, enjoying a specially ordered just- for- the- two delicious pizza. No one else was invited. I am hoping that the patch up plan worked. Only when school begins on Monday, we will know.

My brush with miracles.

I saw them sitting at a table of a busy restaurant their backs facing me. What drew my attention to them was their conversation. It was a little girl about 8 years old and a middle aged man. The man was animatedly in conversation with this little girl. I could see him smiling and engaging her in talk, as she ate her dosa. There were several others who threw a sideways glance at this odd pair and went about their business of ordering or collecting food at the take away counter. It was not my turn yet and I was in no big hurry. I had this incredible urge to pull up a chair at the same table as the man and the little girl and join them in the conversation they had submersed into.

Would I have interrupted any other conversation between two people, you wonder. No. I wouldn’t. This couple was special. They were odd. The man was Indian. The girl was African. A native of Africa with the typical color of skin and hair texture. As I looked closer, I realized that the girl was special. Even though she was around eight, she was eating like a toddler. The dosa was cut into several smaller pieces like you would serve a toddler who was just learning to chew on solid food, there was food spilt on the floor and her nose was leaking. The man didn’t seem to notice. Or even if he had, it did not seem to bother him or his flow of thoughts as he continued his conversation. I saw that the girl had fewer fingers on both her hands and they were malformed. It looked like the man had to repeat everything he was saying, slowly, for the girl to understand and respond.All this while, I was standing behind them, making my observations and drawing conclusions.

I imagined that this was a man who was spending his Saturday afternoon with a child who needed some company. He probably was someone who volunteered for an NGO that worked with children of a lesser God and was spending his Saturday doing something meaningful. That thought warmed my heart. I decided not to stand there, furtively stealing glances at the backs of the two of them and decided that I had to confront the man and find out.

I waited for them to pause in their conversation and I stepped right up to the man and asked him if I could sit next to him. He obliged with a smile. I took that up as invitation of a conversation starter and asked him how he knew the girl. “She is my daughter” he said proudly. If you have ever wished that you could take back something that you said and hoped for another chance to say something right, you will appreciate how I felt just then. I had to make up for my gaffe and so I quickly said something like oh- I-would- have- never- known. I found out that he had adopted her from Africa when he and his wife lived there. I introduced myself and asked the girl her name. The father had to reword the question slowly and in a language that comes easily to you and me. Tamil! I am sure my jaw dropped four inches closer to the table when the girl replied to that question, with pieces of dosa flying about as she said her name. As I found out, the girl was five when they claimed her as their daughter and she was eight now. The dad was keeping her company while his mother and wife went shopping at a store near by. Anything else he said was a haze since my heart was pounding hard and I was fighting to keep my emotions in check.

My token number was blinking on the counter and I got up to pick my take away masala tea not before I quickly dug into my wallet for a calling card that I offered to the man and said that I would love to know more.

Apple – October 2002 to February 2010

fairyI knew of her only for a year. I met her only about half a dozen times. Including yesterday, at her funeral.

There she was neatly laid out in a white coffin, laced with white lace. She herself was dressed in a white frock with pink roses around her waist. She seemed at peace. Her eyes were closed and she was upright. Almost as if she was asleep. Except that I had never seen her sleep. When Apple was awake she was talking. She talked about her friends in the neighborhood where she lived, a dog which was so friendly that it always wagged its tail at her, her drawings of little fairies and the imaginary stories she weaved about them. She loved drawing fairies. Especially the ones with sparkly wings. She loved drawing them out in her note book and giving them all detailed clothes and accessories.She always had new drawings to show me, each time I visited her. I could only see her when she came to the hospital for her chemotherapy. She braved it all. All 17 cycles the first time. The cancer came back giving her a brief respite from treatment. Long enough to have a taste of being back in school for a month. She went through another 5 cycles of chemo, a surgery when they removed her rib and another 4 cycles to make sure that the cancer was nailed and it would not come back. But it did. Less than a month of her last chemo session. Before you knew, her lung collapsed and so did she. All in a matter of ten days after the PET scan revealed the metastasized cancer.

I had a premonition that she would not be around for long. Some one once told me ‘follow what your heart says‘ and that is what I did. I planned a visit to the city where she was, to give her a pep talk one last time, spend a day reading a story to her, or find out what else she had drawn or maybe even meet the friendly dog that wagged its tail. But it was not to be. By the time I reached the airport, I got the news.

It was not easy to see her lying all quiet and still in a coffin. Not a place for a bubbly little girl full of promise. Her life had not begun at all.