This is the year I lose friends.

Crabs have been crawling out from under my son’s blanket and pillow at approximately 2 am every night, pinching him with their “pinchers’. He wakes up screaming.

We assure O that there are no crabs, and tell him that maybe they’re lost and looking for their friends? We calm him down saying we will never let anything hurt him, and that we’re right there with him.

Did little Aya’s parents tell her that moments before she lost sight of them in Aleppo? Is that why she was being so incredibly brave?

Almost as an echo in my head, I can hear parents all around the world promising their little ones the same thing. In Aleppo, Mosul, Sudan, Peshawar, Sandy Hook.

I started writing this post around the fourth anniversary of the Sandy Hook massacre. I was sitting in the back of a cab, reading an article written by a father who lost his child on that day. My vision blurred and cheeks burned with something more than rage.

It wasn’t a blinding sense of helplessness like I’ve felt these past few years when living beings have been reduced to dispensable numbers, through power struggles, cowardly terrorism and blatant intolerance towards a different race, gender and opinion. It wasn’t helplessness or rage or sadness I was feeling.

It was failure.

Absolute, crushing, suffocating failure.

I failed. As a thinking, breathing person of the world, I failed. Because I didn’t act when I had the chance. I researched all the perspectives to make an “informed decision”, but these children and people didn’t have time to spare to educate me.

But now I see it. There are no good guys or bad guys. There are no oil pipelines or terror groups. There are no ifs and buts.

There are dead bodies, orphans, rape victims. Parents who will never kiss their child’s toes again. Dreamers who will struggle to close their eyes again.

And then there are heroes. Women, men and children who rise above fear and differences, every day. Who stand – at frontlines, rallies, shelters. Who stand – for equality, compassion, peace.

This is the year to take a stand. From world peace to workplace sexism, we cannot take this shit lying down any longer. We cannot wait for someone braver, smarter, richer to come sort it out. It’s up to us. You and me.

I understand keyboard warriors make more noise than action, but if the biggest election upset of our generation was stirred and spurred on by social media, then I’m sure as hell not going to stop spewing strength, support and positivity.

Nothing major has changed in my life to suddenly make room for activism, but there has been a big shift in my mind. So from here on out, I will be loud; I will be outspoken; I will be relentless. I will continue to feel the pain and weep openly, but I will not give in to hate. I will be optimistic and see the best in everyone. I will be happy and spread cheer when I feel it. I promise to be an insufferable feminist and opinionated pain-in-the-arse. And I take courage in knowing I’m not alone. (Even if it means I will be left alone because I’m being a Debbie Downer and taking the “fun” out of casual racism and sexism. Sorrynotsorry future former friends.)

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If support seems biased to you (there’s more #prayforparis than #prayforsyria), then please shout louder to balance the scales without tearing the other one down. Shout until we silence the very idea of hate and intolerance.

Here’s to a future where pinching-crab-nightmares are the only things that keep adults and children up at night.

Let’s do this, 2017.

“The whole world wants to save Tibet. Don’t worry about saving Tibet, don’t get caught up in trying to save the world or trying to affect what is not in our direct control. You will grow old and the world may not be saved. Dream big, but instead change yourself and affect people directly in your realm of influence, and soon it will have a rippling effect.”

                                      His Holiness the Dalai Lama

Another month, another move

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It’s 7:15pm and I just want to crawl into my parents’ pull-out sofa bed and pass out.

12 hours earlier we left our spotless new apartment, with stars in our eyes and crumpled clothes on our backs. This was it, our first official workday from our new home.

It’s 7:18pm and we’re taking the familiar elevator up to my parent’s home to pick our son up and say no to my mum’s requests to have dinner with them – just twice, before we say yes.

We’re late because we went to buy groceries for the little guy, who starts school tomorrow. We stood in front of the vegetable aisle for 5 minutes trying to tell spinach apart from every other green leafy leaf. (It’s been 17 months since we last cooked. And last time we shopped, “spinach” was written in English. And we forgot.)

It’s 7:30pm and I’ve shamelessly handed over the freshly bought chicken and pasta to mum, asking her to cook my son’s school lunch.

It’s 7:31pm and I am so ashamed. I’ll chastise myself when I get that half an hour extra of sleep tomorrow night.

The last time I did this, it was so much fun. The novelty of sitting on the floor and eating pizzas, of picking clothes out of boxes and of imagining all the ways to fill up your corner space, is now replaced with a crippling case of nerves and fatigue. And fatigue.

It’s 8:05pm and we’ve been saying bye for about 6 minutes now. I don’t know what we’re expecting: for them to ask us to stay over tonight or to stay forever?

We enter the new place and are instantly glad to have our own space. Except when we see the kid’s lunch bowl and bottles in the sink. Why can he just use paper plates and cups like we do?

It’s 11.38pm and the only stars in my eyes now are the ones swirling around my head.

Kid’s school lunch only took about 2 hours of prep time. That should do – to impress the teachers, that is; he’s going to reject it anyway.

1t’s 12:18 and I’ve been awake for 18 hours and need to be up at I’ll-smash-that-goddamn-alarm o’clock. I’m writing this random piece because I’m overtired and cannot sleep.

Sorry, what were we talking about? I dozed off for a minute there.

Oh yeah, new house. Yay!

Yo’ mama needs a break.

He’s a skinny boy, with nary a growth spurt in sight. He’s crawled into our bed sometime between deep sleep and morning dreams, and has now taken over my space and sleep.

I carefully slip his warm weightless arm off mine and pick up my cold weightless phone. It doesn’t take a new-age embrace-your-child-or-ruin-them-forever mama to point out what was wrong there. So I toss my phone aside and pick up his little arm again.

Why stop there? Look at the little guy lying there, curled up beside me. All trusting and cushy. So I nudge closer and scoop him up in my arms. Oh his little frame so close against mine makes it feel like he is in my womb again. All mine, and mine alone.

He promptly kicks me in the groin and rolls away to a less needy pillow.

Little turd. Doesn’t he know I made him? And that I know several other mummy clichés?

  1. I wake up with bumps along my brow and cheekbones, because for a puny 2 year old, he head-butts like a pro-wrestler.
  1. Every muscle in my body aches from changing his clothes. It’s like trying to slip 4 pairs of wet tights on a wriggling octopus – blindfolded – with one hand tied behind my back.
  1. These days, when I gather him up after a fall to “take the pain away” with the age-old remedy of mama’s kisses, suddenly it’s: “Yucky. Too much kisses, mama. Don’t dooo that.” (While I thank M for passing on his ability to crack everyone up, I very proudly take credit for his witty comebacks. And oh how it has come back.)
  1. My body is a bean bag (put that in your song, John Mayer), and not just in reference to the shapelessness. When it comes to my lap, my son has called shotgun for eternity. Once seated on me, he proceeds to squish and squirm and jump and curl and stretch and wildly trash about as if possessed by the devil. His elbows, head and knees have a way of giving me a deep tissue massage from hell.
  1. When I try to reflect on my life and where I’m headed, the thoughts come unbidden to me. What’s for dinner, what’s in the pantry, what’s in the laundry, what should we do tomorrow to keep his mind active, all the ways I could be stifling him, all the ways I’m not nurturing him, everything I’ve not done for my husband that I used to and vice versa, all the free time I have that I don’t use…was that the baby crying?? I should go. I shouldn’t. Maybe just this once. One time can set a habit. Aaarrrgghhhhhhh.

Hence, this post.

Hence. This. Post.

There comes a time in every parent’s week. When you’ve been smacked, kicked and yelled at. When the naughty corner gives them enough time to come back with an apology, but doesn’t give you enough time to calm down. When all the cuteness in the world becomes a blur. And then, you lose it when they accidentally drop a pen.

You know you can’t be angry with anyone in particular, but you want to be. You know you’re not a victim, but every bit of you hurts. You’ve got a mostly calm and independent child, so saying you haven’t had any me-time just doesn’t feel right. Even when the most well-intentioned partner, parent or friend offers to help out, your brain cannot detach.

Which is why, even when the baby has been an angel, you still need an out. Except, you’re guilty to even say the words.

Come on mamas say it with me: I need time away from my child and that’s okay.

Even when my child has done nothing but sleep all day, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve had a relaxing weekend and an easy week at work/ home, I still need time away and that’s okay.

I’ve spent all day at work, and come back to a whiney little sook. I momentarily wish I was still at work, and I hate myself for thinking that. That’s okay, too. On both counts.

They’re cute as hell and bottomless pits of love and adoration. The joy they give us is pure and overwhelming. And we still need time away and that’s okay.

In 2 days when it’s Mother’s Day and they make cutesy hand-drawn cards, but we secretly wish they gave us some solid baby-free, chore-free time – that’s okay, too.

Because if I’m not okay, they’re not okay.

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Happy Mother’s Day, ya’ll.

(Mostly to my mum, who’s had to endure us, and now our kids, without a minute’s break.)

Confessions of a smug new mama

Just over two years ago, I was a new mama. Not much later, I was a smug new mama. And here’s why I’m now eating humble pie behind closed bathroom doors.

For a few weeks after my son was born, I was tethered to the bedpost like a cow to a milking post. I envied the cow for all the time she got to graze around freely for the rest of the day.

I was sore, sleep-deprived and so in love. And no matter what the woman kissing her child in the meadow says, the love didn’t make the rest of it ok – at least not until it was in hindsight.

So I pulled the plungers off me, brushed my teeth for the first time in weeks and decided to sleep train the little guy.

5 days of letting him cry it out (Put the phone down. Child services are sick of this call. Besides, 2 minutes of crying isn’t going to hurt them. Neither is 5 minutes, apparently), 5 days of learning how to duck if he squirms when I’m in the 3k radius, 5 days of absolute sleeplessness and heart-steeling.

5 days later, I had the whole thing down pat. Feed-Play-Sleep. No “snacking”. Proper nap times, only in his cot. Let him fall asleep on his own, do not give in to big eyes.

And I was free. 5 days of hard work for pain-free parenting. Or so I had planned.

See, my whole theory was: I’m not very maternal. I know this. But I’m feeling a bit maternal now, and I know that feeling’s not going to get any stronger. I know I’ll want to go back to work at some point, and I want to do all the right things before I introduce him to popcorn for dinner in front of the TV. So while I’m home on my maternity break, I’m going to be the maternal-est mother there ever was.

I followed his routine to perfection. In one and a half years, I hardly ever switched on the TV. I never showed him the phone or iPad. I only fed him homemade, sugar-free, salt-free food. I even baked.

Early motherhood is a time when everyone lovingly tells you to look forward to sleepless nights and cold meals, if you ever have the chance to eat.

Oh I slept and I ate. I also caught up on all the Netflix that Netflix had to offer. In my son’s first year, I was up-to-date with Mad Men, Sons of Anarchy, Game of Thrones, Parks and Recreation and New Girl. I re-watched parts of Breaking Bad and 30 Rock.

Hey, don’t hate me. I was working against the clock (and I got one o’ dem sleeping babies). Once the feeling wore off, there was no saying how far I would run.

I was smug as a bug in a smug-land.

The plan was that by the time the maternal cloud moved on and I was back at work, he’ll know his bedtime routine, he’ll have a healthy eating habit and will be quite independent. The awesome people at the Early Learning Centre can take it from there.

Except, we changed the plan. We decided to move countries and jobs and lives and routines.

We decided to take a well-settled 18-month old and turn his life upside down.

Now, 3 time zones and 4 different homes later, he’s slept in a portacot, toddler bed and our bed. He’s eaten at the dinner table, on a couch and in a car. He’s played with his elder cousins’ toys, grandfather’s toolkit and in dirty puddles.

That’s our new feed-play-sleep.

See, what I missed was that all the training and routine works only for responsible adults. Not for us, gypsy folk.

Not that it failed. Oh no, I wish it had! But it worked and that’s what’s screwing me over.

Sleep train, and they’ll go to bed and wake up like clockwork. So when I sit up till 2am to eat chocolate, blog or reply to emails, he still wakes up at 6am saying, “Minish seepin!”(that’s “finish sleeping”, for the unacquainted). I’ve only slept for 4 hours.

Teach your child to eat independently, they said. He’ll never depend on you to feed him, they said. But THEY DIDN’T HAVE THE DECENCY TO TELL ME THAT HE WILL ALSO CHOOSE TO NOT EAT A DAMN THING FOR 3 DAYS STRAIGHT AND REFUSE TO BE FED, BECAUSE I-N-D-E-P-E-N-D-E-N-C-E.

“Use your words” was probably the first thing my poor, military-raised child heard from us. And uses his words, he does. For a little guy who isn’t sure what life without a suitcase is, he’s figured out that M & I are his only constants. He adores his gramps, uncles, aunts and cousins, but he needs to know one of us is around. I’ll let him have that. He’s only 2.

Here we are now, 9 months later. Semi-back to semi-reality. And he’s semi-not-having-any-of-it.

M started work last week and the tears were out of control. But the promise of me being there softened that blow, and our independent son clung on to me.

Until I got a freelance gig (oh yeah, I got a job! Yay!).

After 2 years of trying (and miserably failing, at times) to be the hands on, stay-at-home, maternal-est maternal mum, I’ve realised that a toddler who misses bedtime is a crazy party animal, co-sleeping is addictive for adults, eating chocolates and junk every now and then is still the best, and the smart device can save your sanity.

Another important lesson: mollycoddle them, helicopter-parent them (whatever that is) or military train them, babies will be babies.

On my first day at work, I got a call from my breathlessly teary little boy. He used his words.

“Only daddy work. Mama no work.”

 

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Old is the new New

2016, going on 1993.

 

In early 1993, I boarded the flight back to Kuwait after the Gulf War with such excitement that I thought I would be sick. My cousins, uncles and aunts came to receive us at the airport with loud squeals of joy and big jackets (we were travelling from 35 degree Indian spring to 15 degree Kuwait winter). I took in all the squeals and hugs and familiar Kuwaiti air. I shrugged off the jacket. I wanted to feel everything.

Through chattering teeth and quickly-freezing toes, I asked all the important questions. Were KDD juice boxes still available? Was Funny Face chips still the best? How soon could I get my hands on a Snickers bar? Were Hardee’s burgers still as big as my face?

Yes, yes, right away, yes.

I swear, I did not blink during the ride home. The water towers, Kuwait Towers, my school, our first home. They were all there.

We were all home, together.

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Photo cred: As always, m @rnanoj

When the war chased us out of our homes and lives that fateful August day, we thought we’d be back before the summer ended. That was innocence.

A few months into our refugee life, we accepted that was going to be our future. That was adaptation.

Two years later, in the middle of all the excitement that glorious cold, winter evening back in Kuwait, I knew that wherever my past or my future took me, I would never let go of the heart-aching happiness in that moment right there. That feeling of being exactly where I should be.

That was conviction.

Since then, I’ve loved Kuwait and hated her, I’ve left her and scrambled back to her, I’ve missed her and avoided her. I’ve moved, married and made a baby. But I never let go of that memory.

I went looking for new, and came right back to old.

We landed in Kuwait on a cold, wintery morning few days ago (M got a job! Yay! We’re working members of society again). All of the cousins and uncles and aunts were at work, but the phone calls were loud with squeals of joy. I took the jacket this time. Adult.

I got home to my KDD mango juice. Funny Face only comes in a multipack now, the only way to eat it (them). Snickers are not a rarity anymore, but I scoff one down, all the same. Hardee’s burgers are now as small as my palm. Budgets.

We’re all home together, again.

We left Melbourne in search of a new adventure, and I cannot think of an adventure greater than a second chance. Here we are, where I was born and raised. I know the people, the roads and the life. Now, I get to put aside everything I know and do it better and do it with my own little clan.

And if there’s ever a sign of weakness, I’ll always have that moment in ’93 when I sat on my uncle’s couch, shivering with excitement and from the cold.

Just like back then, I’m unsure about the future, but can barely conceal the blind faith that it is going to be the best days of my life.

The numbers are in! 

 

(Do not check above calculations. They’re pretty accurate.)

 
This year, we’ve taken 14 flights between 9 airports. Slept on 11 different beds in 5 time zones. We’ve been through 2 summers, 2 winters, 1 autumn and a very Indian monsoon. We’ve had more fights than I care to remember and even more love that I’ll never forget. We’ve had several massive Indian celebrations; I lost count after the 27th dance routine and 13th shot. We’ve been robbed and we’ve been blessed. We’ve made new friends and reconnected with old. We’ve fallen in love with our families all over again, and we’re falling in love with ourselves, too. 

That’ll do, 2015. That’ll do. 

You’re up now, 2016. We’re coming for you!

Christmas on the go!

   
It’s a Christmas without turkey, ham or inebriation. No presents (it’ll just be extra luggage), Santa’s visit or pretending to enjoy eggnog. 

But it’s our most exciting Christmas, yet. Full of dreams, hope and adventure. Family, new beginnings and old memories. 

And we’re keeping the Christmas spirit alive, while in transit.
Wishing everyone the happiest of holidays! 
Happy happy 🙂