thewilltoholdon

As I breathe and think and dream


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‘Meat’-ing Expectations

I have always been a non-vegetarian all my life. I like meat (both lean and red), seafood and the works. Being a Hindu, I should probably not be eating beef on religious grounds. But I have never really been a conformist and while due to health reasons I reach for lean meats most of the time, I love to dig into my occasional meatball sub and lasagna. My husband, on the other hand, comes from a very traditional and conservative Indian family. And they are ALL vegetarians. And very strict vegetarians at that. The rules of their household are – No meat. No fish. No eggs. Not even garlic for a number of his family members. Now for those who do not know much about Indian dietary rules, please do not ask me why garlic is clubbed with the rest of the non veg brigade. It just is.
When my husband moved to Australia in his early twenties, he was a vegetarian just like the rest of his family and he planned on staying that way. However he found it difficult as there were not too vegetarian options available at the time. There was just one burger joint that offered a decent vegetarian burger and he had that so many times that he soon became sick of it. He tried cooking at home. However that was not possible everyday with his study and part time job schedule. Besides his flat mate and best friend was a non vegetarian who loved cooking biryanis and chicken curries. So this meant that my husband had to cook vegetarian meals just for himself. It all became too much. His well-meaning flat mate suggested that he should ‘try’ eating chicken as it would make life a lot easier for him. My husband agreed and they went to a KFC joint where my husband had his first original recipe fried chicken. And he loved it. He took to eating chicken as the proverbial duck takes to water. From then on life in Australia was a lot easier for him and by the time I met him, he could cook a mean chicken curry himself. With me urging him on, he started liking lamb and goat too. He could not develop a liking for seafood as the ‘fishy’ smell was too much for him, he said. Also he did not like beef or pork. Still in our household, we had reached a happy compromise. Say, if we ordered pizza, it would many times be half and half – pepperoni on my half and chicken on his.
So all is well in our tiny world. The only problem we now face is that my husband’s family has no idea that he is no longer a vegetarian. My husband has never really ‘come out’ in front of them in this aspect. When we got married, my in-laws knew that I was a non-vegetarian but they assumed that I would mend my evil ways and embrace vegetarianism. Now my husband might have had something to do with them thinking on such lines, as in a bid to get me ‘accepted’ into his family as soon as possible, he probably took a few liberties with the truth. Since we live half a world away, we have never really been caught out till now. I just need to remember while on our weekly telephone conversations with my hubby’s family, that if someone asks me what’s for dinner, I need to quickly substitute words like chicken or lamb with mushroom or cottage cheese.
When we visit my in-laws in India, we of course have to live like vegetarians for the duration. This can be a little bit of a bummer because we expats always crave food from back home while abroad and it does not seem fair to be missing out on all the yummy non vegetarian options available when in your home country. I do put my foot down at times and insist on sneaking out of home and eating at a non-vegetarian restaurant. Like when in Hyderabad, I wanted to taste the incredible biryani the city is famous for and in order to escape from my sister-in-laws house, we had to cook up a false story of having to meet up with a friend for lunch.
Of course, things will be much more difficult when some of my in laws come to visit us in Australia. I guess we will have to empty the freezer and the pantry of anything vaguely resembling meat or fish. And probably get some new cookware for cooking vegetarian food as my in-laws are known to have noses like police sniffer dogs. That is the reason they avoid eating at restaurants which serve both vegetarian and non-vegetarian fare.
However the thing that is threatening to blow our vegetarian cover is not the imminent arrival of my in-laws from India – it is my toddler. My daughter loves her chicken and fish (“chick-chick” and “fishie” in her speak). And I can just imagine that day not very far away when she will blurt out on the phone or video chat that she had tandoori chicken for lunch. I imagine my mother-in-law will probably faint on the other side then! However that is not the worst that can happen. A friend who has a similar situation with her in-laws, tell me that her 4 year old has sensed that his mom and dad do not want non-vegetarian stories to leak out to his grandparents. Conniving devil that he is, he now routinely blackmails his parents and tells them – If you do not give me such-and-such, I will go and tell grandma that you made roast lamb for dinner. Gosh! These kids! I guess I now have a few months at most to start saving in order to meet future ransom demands. Or to get my husband to confess to his family about being a meat eater (and that will probably lead to my being branded the ‘evil wife’ who lead her pious husband astray). Or to really switch to vegetarianism.


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Of Learning Curves

I have been a mom for nineteen months now (incredible!). I have survived the difficult first year – the sleepless nights, being used as a milk production unit, the dirty diapers, the tonnes of laundry. I would like to believe that these past nineteen months have toughened me up so much that I can take most things in my stride now (namely the meltdown in the supermarket aisle, the tantrums in the car, the puke on the best dress (hers and mine) on the way to the party, etc). But no – that was me being self delusional. In all honesty, I am still pretty clueless. However I am not as clueless as I was three, six or nine months ago and compared to my naive self nineteen months ago, I am a venerable Yoda now.
Each day I am learning something new as a mom. Well, that is good. I am not scared of learning. It is the teaching bit that gives me the heebie-jeebies. I am worried about the heaps of things that I will need to teach my daughter in the days and months to come. They are (in no particular order) –
1. How to brush her teeth (she screams bloody murder as soon as her toothbrush comes within a meter of her mouth).
2. How to chew her food properly before swallowing (Put in mouth-chew-chew-no, no! don’t spit out- swallow!)
3. How to use the loo in an adult fashion (Ooh, the all-important potty training!)
4. How to dress herself (yes, sweetheart, a hat goes on your head because… it just does!)
5. How to spell her name (why did I not name her Eve or Liv or Skye?!!)
6. How not to bite/scratch/push others – and yet not be a doormat
7. How to eat broccoli and spinach without complaining
8. How to fix breakfast for herself to give mummy and daddy a break on weekends
9. How to share her things with others (lovely sentiment – though as with most things in life, easier said than done)
10. How tie her shoe laces
11. How to color inside the lines (and not on the wall or… gasp.. the white couch!)
12. How to climb down the stairs (she can manage the climb up pretty well but loses nerve while trying to get back down)
13. How not to dig her nose in public
14. How to look this way and that before crossing the street
15. How to ride a scooter…. a tricycle… a bike
And … the list goes on and on. Now I am not a very good or patient teacher. And if truth be told, I myself struggle to remember to do some of the things on the list. So the idea of having to re-iterate these things a million time each to an independent and rebellious toddler seems like an uphill task. Why can’t kids come pre-programmed with the basics?


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Love Thy Baby

You know how all books, articles and forums talk about that moment during childbirth, when the new mom looks at her baby for the very first time and feels this overwhelming deluge of love. She feels that the baby in her arms was worth every ache and pain that she suffered for the last nine months and more. Swimming in oxytocin, she can feel love gushing out of every pore and she wants to move mountains, slay dragons and cook spag bol for her baby.
That IS what is supposed to happen. and I knew it would happen to me too. I had heard all the stories, read all the narratives and seen all the tender photos. Only it did not happen to me. I looked at my daughter for the first time. I felt relief that the ordeal was coming to an end (they were still stitching me up at the time). I felt some worry that the baby did not cry all that loudly when she made her entry into the world. I marveled at the fact that she had very long fingernails. I felt mild disgust that she was placed in my arms still caked with yucky stuff. I thought my husband should probably not be making the first call to family right at that moment (wasn’t serious medical stuff still going on?). I thought many things.
But where was that extraordinary rush of love and devotion? I did not feel all that and I was very conscious of not feeling that way. I felt cheated. I felt guilty. Where was the bloody oxytocin? Maybe the epidural had affected my brain along with my lower extremities. Ten minutes into momhood, I was already a failure.
It was only much later that I read an article that said, while 70% of women fall in love with their babies at the moment of childbirth, the other 30% take more time in bonding with their baby. So thankfully I am not the monster who lives in a crooked houses on legs and routinely stews sweet innocent babes for lunch. That is a relief.


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Bad Mommy

Are we moms nasty, bigoted, mean? I would love to say no – but all evidence seems to point to the contrary.
1. Moms are judgmental – stay-at-home moms make snide remarks about working moms and vice versa; breast feeding moms look down their noses at formula moms.
2. Moms tend to fall over themselves trying prove that their offspring is extra special (‘Look, he is sitting up at 2 months”; ‘my DD crawled at four’; ‘she speaks 2 languages at 18 months’)
3. There seems to be a mad frenzy amongst moms to compete at all levels (better mom than her, more caring than her, my kid is more cute/intelligent/well-behaved etc) – at the daycare dress up day, on the soccer field, at the family gathering, amongst friends on Facebook. There is this relentless one-upmanship everywhere.
4. If you still have any doubts – trying reading the comments of any slightly controversial article on parenting (and almost every article is!) and you will find moms are intolerant. They have scant regard for beliefs for others and are full of themselves and/or their precious offspring.
Conclusion – We are not a nice breed. We wouldn’t normally be behaving this way about ourselves but somehow our kiddos seem to bring out our worst bits. Hmmmmm. A point to ponder on.


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Sleep Wars: Breaking All Rules and Loving It

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The stories of my friends and colleagues who were fellow moms to infants or toddlers used to fill me with envy. Kim had a set bedtime routine for her one-year old who went off to bed without a fuss at 7:30pm. Kim, who had a high pressure job in the mergers department of our consulting company, swore that her son’s bedtime routine was what kept her sane . Once he was asleep, she could catch up on pending housework chores, unread office emails and of course get ample amount of sleep to ready her for the next big day. Nora’s three month old was very clingy. Every night the baby would keep her parents up. Finally, exhausted, they decided to put the baby in her own room and leave her to self soothe. The first night was difficult but Nora says that after that the baby understood that the dark nursery meant that it was time to sleep and she started sleeping through the night.

Whenever I heard such things, I could not help but compare those kids to mine. R has always been hard to settle and I have never been able determine the right routine for her. I have read lots of baby sleep books and articles on the Internet but nothing really worked.   Put her down to sleep early and then she would be up all bright eyed and bushy tailed by the middle of the night, expecting us to begin playing with her. Put her down late – she would over tire herself and it would be hell to quieten her enough for sleep. Most nights she would go to sleep in her cot but around midnight she would start screaming. She would refuse to go back to sleep until we brought her into bed with us. Then she would happily hog most of the space and kick us all night at every opportunity.

 I like my space when I sleep and moreover, I love sleep. In my pre-R life, I would always ensure that I had a minimum of 8 hours shut-eye as that made me function properly through the day. After the baby, the lack of regular sleep was what hit me the hardest – especially once I joined back at work when R was around six months old. So I decided to do what my friends had been doing – try and enforce some routine by the tough love methods as advocated by all the books. Crying-it-out was a big failure – the problem was not just that R screamed her lungs out but also that K could not bear hearing his daughter cry so much. We had one of our very rare fights over this. I suggested putting R in her cot in a separate room and K would have none of that as well. He did not care for what is written in the baby rearing books or what the childcare experts might say.  I tried explaining to him that the baby was just stringing us along as she knew that we were nearby and that we would rush to comfort her every time she let out a small whimper. I forwarded him articles and narrated the success stories I had heard. However he was adamant that R would remain in the same room, preferably in the same bed as us. That really caused a quite bit of friction between K and me. Though we had similar outlooks in most things in life, we were definitely not seeing eye-to-eye on parenting styles.

The months went by and R now mostly sleeps in our bed. Her bedtime routine is still choppy. She still kicks and keeps tossing – and generally wakes us up many times during the night. No matter how much I try putting her into a comfortable position (for all three of us), she just will not stay that way. She flails her tiny arms indignantly and gets back to sleep-exploring every inch of the king sized bed. At times she wakes herself up. Then she looks up at me sleepily and offers a half grin barely visible in the faint light of the night lamp. It is at those times, feeling her tiny warm body against mine, that I realised that I love this. And more importantly she loves this – she loves being sandwiched between her mommy and daddy. It makes her feel safe in her little world. And I found  that this waking up at odd hours in the night for sleepy family snuggles and our quiet laughter at discovering the new weird posture R has contorted her body into, is a lot of fun for us as parents

So I guess K was right all through. Before I had just been thinking of myself, how I need my sleep and how I need to be super-efficient at office. But those actually mean nothing when you think about R or like R. I try and imagine what life must be for her. Eight month old, helpless, totally dependent of other people, unable to communicate in any way other than cry. Now if the very people she is the closest to and depends on, tell her ‘You know what – You are going to sleep in this scary room all alone. Cry as much as you want – it will not be of any use.” Can anything be more upsetting or heartless?

 It seems probable that I will not get much sleep in the coming days and months. I will continue to be groggy at work and perhaps will not be able to contribute my 100% on some days. Probably I will end up with a horrifically spoiled kid after some years.  However right now, my heart tells me that my main task and responsibility should be to make my tiny baby feel safe and utterly confident that she is cherished. My rest, my work, rules or schedules do not get priority over her happiness.


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15B, Happiness Way

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I thought I would write a blog about the weird behaviour of the healthcare nurse at my daughter’s 8th month check-up yesterday. Once she heard R was just having a few spoons of solid food each day, the lady in question became so bent up on underscoring the importance of the stuff and how R should really be having a cupful of fruits and vegetables three times a day that she turned somewhat manic. She definitely succeeded in stressing both me and my husband out. Whole day I had nothing but the word S-O-L-I-D-S flashing in my head and I also felt very indignant when I thought about the nurse’s lack of social skills. By evening I was fuming and armed with loads of stories from fellow moms at work who have had similar unpleasant experiences, I was determined to write a scathing blog lambasting bossy nurses with terrible bedside manners. However when I woke up this morning, I felt surprisingly mellow and yesterday’s big thing seemed diminished.

I remember one quote posted by a friend on Facebook. Incidentally I find it very strange that people are always posting these inspirational posters on their wall. Scrolling down the newsfeed is basically trawling through reams of quotes about the importance of time, broken hearts, dads who are heroes, superwomen moms, and more. Most times I just race past those. But undoubtedly there are a few good ones out there at times. The one I am referring to now, talked about how life is not about the actions of others but rather our reactions to those actions. Our happiness is ultimately tied to how we react.

I have decided this morning that I will not react negatively to things or spend time pondering on those. Instead I will celebrate the good things that have happened – both big and small. So, Healthcare Nurse, I have nothing against you now. You were probably doing your best. And I have met enough lovely midwives and nurses to know that most of them are really awesome. As for my daughter, she will learn how to accept solids at her own pace. I don’t see her as the only 20 year old in history living on infant formula!

 So at least for today, I will focus on the good things in my life that make me happy every day and give thanks to God that there are so many. This is what I am celebrating this week –

1)      R is crawling everywhere now. In the evenings this week whenever I made dinner, she crawled into the kitchen and made a beeline for me. On drawing level with me, she would delicately pat my leg asking to hoisted up. Awww! I love this phase so much.  

2)      I finished 2 interesting books this week – crisp taut thrillers both. Started on thriller number 3. I am really enjoying my train commute into city these days.

3)      Made a couple of dinners this week that were very well received. The first was chicken biryani on Monday night and while that dish is fairly normal in my household, I am proud of the stuff I cooked on Tuesday – Kung Pao chicken with steamed rice and Mee Goreng with seafood. Even if I do say it myself, they tasted as good as the ones served in restaurants.

4)      Had a few funny experiences at work. A colleague lost his pants at the gym on Monday and walked around in office all day in his cripsly formal shirt and electric blue gym shorts. The visual was so ridiculous that none of us could help bursting out with laughter, even while feeling very sorry for the guy. Heard a hilarious anecdote from the girl who shares my cubicle about how a couple of years ago she accidentally toasted a mouse along with bread and unknowingly ate the toast. Eeeek! Well, office can be a lot of fun at times.

5)      On the serious side, today was the deadline for a piece of work at office and everything got finished well within time. That is nothing short of a miracle!

6)      K had a good appraisal at his workplace. I am happy that all his hard work has paid off as he really has been slogging out for long hours for the past year and more.

7)      I got two posts in this week and this is the third. I haven’t been this productive since the first week after I signed up. Awesome!

Happy Friday, everyone! Enjoy your weekend.

So what made you happy this week?


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Motherhood Clichés

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I know this sort of post has probably been done a thousand times before, if not more. So I am definitely not trying to write anything unique here. Maybe that is just as good – as when I do try to write unique stuff, in the end it turns out that it has all been done before. It seems I don’t have a single new thought in my head. Imagine how crushing that feeling is. You think you are this special one with special thoughts specially buzzing in your oh-so-special head. But finally it seems everyone is as special or more.

Anyways I digress. Returning to this post. This is about and for my baby daughter who is growing up so fast that I cannot believe my eyes. (Aha, I’d told you this stuff has been done before. You should have stopped reading this in the first paragraph itself! Since you did not heed my advice then, you now have to listen to me rambling on and on in that typical mommy fashion about how cute and talented my baby is.)

Time heals. Time is money. No, wait, those aren’t the right clichés. Time flies!  Yes, that’s the one.  Time has definitely been flying and these past eight months have gone by in the blink of an eye. (Well, I really did blink just the one time as certainly not many blinks or shut-eyes have been happening for me in this last two-third of the year!) Anyways, last time I checked my baby was this wrinkled and splotchy redfaced screamer. And now she resembles a human being and behaves like one too. A slightly demented and off-the-rocker human being. But then there are so many adults who are worse so I am definitely not holding that against a baby. The screaming bit hasn’t changed much – though R has trained me to hazard a few guesses about the reasons for the screams and the possible fifty things that might get her to stop or not.

When R was around 2-3 months old, she was fascinated by doorways. She would be door watching all the time. I think she was totally blown away by the concept that doors were gateways to a magical world where people vanished and then sometime reappeared as either themselves or as a whole new person. Now she can crawl. She crawls from room to room always pausing at the doorway and then sticking out her head to check  whether any dangerous creatures are lurking around. Doorways have lost their allure. I hope she is not losing all her faith in magic!

R perhaps thinks that she is the royal baby born a year ahead of time and whatever her heart desires will just appear in front of her exactly the way she wants it to. She certainly throws royal tantrums if that does not happen! And she is impossible to contain these days. She does not want to sit still. She even dislikes her old favourite of being held and rocked. Independence strikes so early. And there I had been bemoaning a scant few days ago that my arms were aching from carrying her around.

A thought that keeps coming into my mind pretty often that I must be an awful Mummy (another very unoriginal thought I am told!).  Certainly I am not one of those zen-like calm capable Mothers who can take all that motherhood throws their way and continue sewing or knitting or whatever it is they do.  Their houses are vacuumed each day. They do not keep losing one baby sock each day and they never run out of nappies.

Well I might be one scatty mom but I love you, my Pumpkin. Even when you won’t sleep in your cot and  after I relent and bring you into bed with me, you kick me awake every half an hour. Even when you used your tiny fingers to pry out the right arrow key on my laptop keyboard. Even when you gnawed on both sets of the car keys with your toothless gums so and now it is a ten minute task to unlock the car doors. Even when you scream blue murder whenever we go on a long drive or even short one to the nearest supermarket. I love you soooo much! You see, while I have come to terms with the fact that I am extremely average; I have discovered that you are indeed the most special human being on this earth.