What Matters Most

Yesterday, I turned 36.  And, I chose to celebrate my birthday by taking the day off, and spending it with my family.  Lunch with my better half, play time with the kids, and finally, dinner with my family and in-laws.  In short, one of the nicest birthdays I’ve had in a long time.

I was just thinking about that when I chanced upon another interesting post by my good friend – Neeraj.  Now, I’m not a fan of the obscure titles he choses for his blog posts, but he does churn out some thought-provoking stuff.  His recent post – Tempus Fugit – is one such example.

Preserving each memory of their children into jpegs and mpegs, struggling to find more storage, more space, more pen drives, more hard drives. Anything that could bring them closer to the myriad ways they knew their kids. I thought growing up sounded pretty hard for a parent.

I was wrong. It’s much worse.

… Possibly in a bid to rationalize my muddled priorities a couple years ago I asked myself whether it’s easier to connect with your child when he/she’s a little older and able to communicate. Maybe. Then I lapsed back into my blue funk when I realized the difference between “connect” and “bond”. Those videos of me and Tyke when he was a baby or a babbling brook weren’t of vedic instructions repeated flawlessly by an eager ward. They were of delight, joy, warmth, bonding with your child and discovering what it means to be a dad. Unfortunately, there’s only 60 videos worth of me getting there.

I remember the time I had traded in my Royal Enfield bullet (350cc classic bike) for a camcorder, when Pumpkin was born.  Seven years have passed since that day, and I am left richer with megabytes of memories by way of still photos, videos, mobile pics and blog posts… memories that we as a family will cherish for years to come.  And, through this blog, I hope to leave behind a legacy of these moments for my children – a way for them to relive their formative years – something I was not fortunate to have as a child.

Yes, I still long for a ride on a bullet, and turn my head every time I pass one on the streets.  But, I have no regrets for the tradeoffs I’ve made in my life, since my children were born.  They bring an incredible amount of joy, fascination, amazement and wonder to our lives – just being with those two little people can do all that!

Neeraj sums it up beautifully, when we writes:

Today, I’m heavily invested in things I’m always going to hold on to for the rest of my life; a family, children, work and friends – online and offline. The first two will always deserve more than their fairshare and the other two will always demand more than their fairshare. It’s up to me to balance those inequities before time runs out.

You and me, both, I say.

Dreams Do Come True

It was a little over two years ago, when I first spoke to Pumpkin about taking her to a “snow place”.  Since that time, on numerous occassions, she used to ask me when we would be making the trip, and I would always reply that we would go soon, and that these things take a lot of planning, and even if we go there would be no guarantee of actually seeing snow.

It had been bugging me for a while now – the fact that it was a promise not yet fulfilled.  Something or the other would come up each time we planned an excursion for the family.  And, the “snow” vacation just did not happen.

But, I was determined to make it happen before the year ended.

The more I researched the idea, the more I realized that perhaps relying on the good fortune of the weather or enduring the trials and tribulations of what goes by the name of “tourism” in India, may not be the best way to go about it.  So, I started the hunt for indoor snow resorts / theme parks and after exploring Dubai and Singapore, finally settled on Bangkok’s Dream World / Snow Town.

Bangkok is a destination that I am very well-acquainted with, and it would be a great way to introduce the kids to the sights and sounds of a foreign culture!  We had been talking about taking the children for an international trip, and were waiting for both to be the right age.  Tiger had just turned 3, and Pumpkin was 6 and a 1/2.  The timing was perfect. As luck would have it, a popular travel site was also running a special promo offer for Bangkok during that period, with a free entry to Dream World!

We took an Air India flight out of Mumbai as the timings were most convenient.  (I still can’t see myself taking an international flight that departs in the middle of the day!)  The service apartment suite on Sukhumvit Road was cozy and well-managed.  Dusit Zoo was delightful.  The day spent at Safari World was enchanting in so many ways, the most memorable of which was feeding the giraffes!  The afternoon we spent in Rotfai Gardens & Butterfly Park was simply magical.  And, Dream World / Snow Town was literally a dream come true – unlimited rides for the kids through the day, and we touched snow. 

All the planning and preparation had paid off, and I was able to fulfill a promise to my Pumpkin. Seeing her face the first time she touched snow was a memory I would cherish for a long time.  And, Bangkok would never be the same again for me…

The Game Is Afoot!

Thanks to a re-tweet by a friend, I discovered a really well-written piece by Natasha Badhwar (Indian Express) on what it means for her to grow up with her kids. 

The essay is generously laced with humour and insight, and has a lot to offer, not just for those of you who may be trying to understand what parenting involves, but also for young parents like us who can use some welcome tips to help us make the most of our experience!  Here are some excerpts…

We are parents of three children, but don’t let the number distract you. The more they are, the better pictures they make. The more they are, the more time off a parent gets. The higher the sense of achievement when one gets anything done at all. Like being on time for the school bus…

Like everyone else around me, I embarked on parenthood with my own set of delusions. Eight years into the game, I’ve lost a lot of the wisdom that had seemed a natural gift. I feel lighter. My learning is inconclusive and contradictory and doesn’t work all the time. Quite like the children I learnt them from. After all, it’s still early years.

I call it a game, because that inspires us to play. Play demands creativity, one gets better with practice and if one keeps up the spirit, then laughter and fun comes along. Play can get difficult; it requires fitness and training.  

I especially love the analogy about parenting as a “game”.  Being a father of two kids myself, I know how much work can go into being a good parent.  And, at the same time, the act of being a parent can be so incredibly rewarding and filled with joy, that it can get quite impossible to explain to any non-parent, on a logical level, why so many of us opt to have children!  That’s why the “game” analogy makes perfect sense.

But, that’s not all you can get from Badhwar’s write-up.  Here’s some more…

Parenting demands that we have to be more present, rather than absent. It’s easier to be away at work, far easier to be stuck in traffic every day. Parents love Mondays. If you work at home, you get to send the kids away, if you work outside, you get to send yourself away. Monday is parents’ secret Saturday. But eventually, our children will give each other what they get from us…

So I make a game out of this too. We are all crew and cast on a film set. Sometimes I am allowed to raise my voice because I am the Director. I always make up for it with my crew and actors afterwards, because you know, I need them on the sets tomorrow. This film depends on their motivation, I couldn’t pay anyone to act in this one…

If you’re still wondering why parents enjoy parenting so much, I’ll offer you some more of Badhwar’s words, in response: “They remind us of what we were like when we started out. What we can be like, what can be reclaimed.

Simply put, children are reminders of the best that Life can be.

Stay-At-Home-Moms

Thanks to a link posted by BossLady, I discovered a brilliant writeup in the Post on people’s inability to comprehend what stay-at-home-moms do all day long !!!  Carolyn Hax attempts to answer the question: “Why don’t moms have time for a call or e-mail?”, and succeeds admirably, I might add…

When you have young kids, your typical day is: constant attention, from getting them out of bed, fed, clean, dressed; to keeping them out of harm’s way; to answering their coos, cries, questions; to having two arms and carrying one kid, one set of car keys, and supplies for even the quickest trips, including the latest-to-be-declared-essential piece of molded plastic gear; to keeping them from unshelving books at the library; to enforcing rest times; to staying one step ahead of them lest they get too hungry, tired or bored, any one of which produces the kind of checkout-line screaming that gets the checkout line shaking its head.

It’s needing 45 minutes to do what takes others 15.

It’s constant vigilance, constant touch, constant use of your voice, constant relegation of your needs to the second tier.

It’s constant scrutiny and second-guessing from family and friends, well-meaning and otherwise. It’s resisting constant temptation to seek short-term relief at everyone’s long-term expense.

It’s doing all this while concurrently teaching virtually everything – language, manners, safety, resourcefulness, discipline, curiosity, creativity. Empathy. Everything.

Read the entire post.  It hits the nail on the head!

All Joy, No Fun?

A good friend posted yet another writeup on the “childfree argument” and the trials and tribulations of Parenthood:

An extremely well-written overview of recent studies showing how and why the fun has gone out of parenthood:

All Joy and No Fun

Why is this important to the childfree by choice? Well, the next time someone says, “You’ll regret not having kid.” or, “Parenthood is such a joy, you’re missing out” you can send them a link to this article.

And, I was compelled to respond…

That’s a detailed writeup with lots of references to well-founded studies, no doubt.  But, I do not think it is putting forth an argument that has no “other” side.

I quote from the writeup… “A few generations ago, people weren’t stopping to contemplate whether having a child would make them happy. Having children was simply what you did. And we are lucky, today, to have choices about these matters.

The question is, why are we beginning to examine this new “choice”.  Is it really because it’s better for the planet to have less resource-depleting human beings on it?  Or could it be self-centeredness on our part?  Or hubris?  Just the pursuit of our own happiness/comfort/convenience, above all else?

Once again, I quote from the writeup… “Children may provide unrivaled moments of joy. But they also provide unrivaled moments of frustration, tedium, anxiety, heartbreak. This scene, which isn’t even all that awful or uncommon, makes it perfectly clear why parenting may be regarded as less fun than having dinner with friends or baking a cake. Loving one’s children and loving the act of parenting are not the same thing.

Re-read this para in light of the questions I asked earlier.  Yes, travelling across the world or catching a movie with friends can be infinitely more satisfying to us as individuals, than the trials and tribulations of “parenting”, in spite of the limitless love we may have for our children.  So why do some of us do it?!

I’ve said it before, and I’ll say it again – Parenting is not for everyone.  And, I don’t mean to imply that being childfree is not an option.  But, there’s gotta be more to the reason than individual comfort and convenience, don’t you think?!

Every Life has a purpose, even though, at times, it may not be quite apparent to us.  And, being a part of nature’s creation process may be the one thing that brings us all closer to Nature herself, and by extension, to God (or whatever life-force we believe in!)

We may each have our reasons for doing what we choose to do (and not doing so, too)!  The next kid that walks this Earth may not invent cold fusion, but that doesn’t mean that his/her time on this planet was purposeless…

Go Aah!

As readers of this blog would know, the Bachwani family tries to hit the shores of Goa at least once a year, sometimes twice a year!  It had been a while since our last trip, and so it was time to schedule another one.  Early in 2010, we decided to book us a 3-night stay slated for mid Feb.  And, as predictable as the Old Faithful in Yellowstone, a few days before departure, ill health struck… 

Pumpkin came down with a very bad bout of viral fever and cough.  A quick trip to the pediatrician confirmed that the bug was in the air and would  take 7-10 days to fully get out of the system.  She advised us to carry on with our holiday plans, since there was not much to do besides take the required medicines regularly.

So, off we went to our annual visit, fully prepared with a large kit of medicines for any eventuality.  What we did not plan for, however, was that Tiger would soon catch it from his sister.

The kids would alternate between having high fever (sometimes reaching 102!)  and no fever in the day.  There would be times when either one of them was “down”, and also times when both were sick or both completely normal.  The nights would keep both parents awake with both the kids coughing and choking incessantly. 

Of course, during the day, in bits and parts, it would feel like a completely typical holiday when we would head to a nearby Goan restaurant for some yummy food!  We even shot some videos on the digital camera on which you’ll see no trace of any thing unusual, just a family on a holiday having fun!!!

It was a very weird experience in a funny and tragic sort of way… Kind of like suddenly having your energizer batteries pulled out and pushed in, throughout the 4-day stay.  By the time we returned, both the kids were on their way to recovery, but the wife and I were fully “out”.  Guess, attending to all the ill health and not getting any sleep ourselves didn’t really help our immunity.  It took both of us nearly two weeks to recover from that.

But, we made it.  And, we would surely return to Goaaaah soon!

First Cut

Boys will be boys, so the saying goes.

Even though he’s very well-mannered and generous, Tiger has always behaved in a manner that is distinctly different from Pumpkin’s, and more or less typical of “boys”.  There’s a lot more energy and excitement with the simplest of activities.  There’s a lot more need to keep him busy and entertained.  Even when he plays with “Pumpkin didi’s” toys, he plays with them differently. 

It’s not just the fact that having two kids is ten times more work than having one child!  It’s also the fact that our second one is a boy!  So, it was only a matter of time before his boundless energy was going to be the cause of an injury.  And, that day came last week.

I was at home playing with Tiger, while BossLady and Pumpkin were out on some errands.  Suddenly, out of nowhere, he decided to jump off the edge off our bed… 

His face hit the edge of the dressing table near his lip and left a big gash.

The next half hour or so went by in a flash.  He burst into tears. I rushed him to the washroom and put some ice on his wound.  Till the bleeding stopped, I couldn’t really tell if it was just the outside of his face or he’d even lost some teeth.  After a few minutes, it became clear that it was his lip. 

The gash was about half an inch, and deep.  It was bleeding for a good 20 minutes or so.  I keep on putting ice and tried to keep him distracted with a new toy, but I knew that the wound would hurt, and so would the ice.  I’m not very good at the sight of blood, but there was no one else around. 

Eventually, the bleeding stopped.  BossLady and Pumpkin returned home.  We assessed the wound and decided that it would need not stitches.  Some ultra-fast, ultra-effective homeopathic doses later, the open wound began to close up.

We both heaved a small sigh of relief, knowing fully well that this was just the first of many more exciting episodes in the years to come…

Before vs After

An interesting post from MetroDad sparks off a series of thoughts.  In it, MD quotes a passage from one of the books presently helping him with his insomnia… 

“I have a thing for Dickens. I’m reading his letters at the moment. There are 12 volumes of them, and each one is several hundred pages long. If he’d only written letters, he’d have had a pretty productive life, but he didn’t only write letters. There are four volumes of his journalism. He edited a couple of magazines. He squeezed in an unconventional love life, and a few rewarding friendships. Am I forgetting anything? Oh, yeah: a dozen of the greatest novels in the English language. He’s pretty much the one guy whose life you could look at and think, man, he didn’t mess around.

But there aren’t many people like old Charles. Most humans don’t get to do work that’s going to last. They sell shower curtain rings, like the John Candy character in that movie. (I mean the rings might last. But they’re probably not what people talk about after you’ve gone.) So it’s not about what you do. It can’t be, can it? It has to be about how you are, how you love, how you treat yourself and those around you, and that’s where I get eaten up.”

He goes on to write about how a certain amount of introspection and fantasizing can actually be a good thing…

All I’m saying is that, regardless of one’s station in life, I think it’s healthy to sometimes visualize or fantasize about the life that you want to live. Frequently, this forces you to make extremely tough decisions that seem painful but may ultimately make you much happier.

And then, ends by asking some pretty tough questions…

In all seriousness, do any other parents out there fantasize about how your life would be different without kids or a spouse? If you’re single or childless, are you living your life how you’d imagined? Why or why not?

Sure, we all have fantasies about living a different Life… whether or not we have kids!  So often, we hear well-meaning grown-ups advise younger friends on how they should make the most of the time they have, especially while they are still young, single or childless.  But MD’s questions made me think long and hard about this.

As parents of two adorable little ones, me and the mrs. often talk about our love for Travel, and how we need to make the time for it.  In fact, we have just started a new saving fund for our shared passion, now that the kids have reached a more manageable age. 

The more I think about it, the more I’m convinced that it’s not a matter of cramming every thing in your life, while you’re still young, single and childless.  For one, that phase won’t last the rest of your life.  Besides, your life-circumstances can change quite rapidly, irrespective of how much you planned to achieve in your younger years.

Every day matters.  And it’s up to every one of us to make the most of each moment! 

And, if that doesn’t work, there’s always the Batman costume or the Porsche, right?!

Is It Worth It?

A forwarded email came with a presentation on the “Price of Children“.  The purpose of that communication was to show how, even though bringing up children costs a significant sum, the benefits far outweigh the costs involved. 

Be that as it may, it also served as a great reminder of the joy that only children can bring to our lives.  Here’s a brief extract:

As a parent, you get …

  • Naming rights : First, middle and last!
  • Glimpses of God every day, and giggles under the cover, each night
  • More love than your heart can hold
  • Endless wonder… over rocks, ants, clouds and cookies
  • A partner for blowing bubbles… and flying kites
  • Someone to laugh with… no matter what the boss said, or how the stocks performed
  • To finger-paint, play hide-n-seek, catch fireflies
  • Keep reading… and reading… the Adventures of piglet and Pooh
  • Go to Disney movies… and wish on stars
  • Handmade greeting cards with backward letters!
  • To be a hero just for removing a splinter, or filling a wading pool
  • A front row seat to witness the first step, word, bra, date, drive!
  • Another branch added to your family tree… immortality!

In the eyes of a child, you rank right up there under God… You have all the power to heal a boo-boo, scare away the monsters under the bed, patch a broken heart, police a slumber party, ground them forever, and love them without limits – so one day they will, like you, love without counting the cost.

Isn’t it all worth it, just for one of these benefits ?!