Monday, June 27, 2011

Kids and the Bane of Stability.

My husband and I (we hope) have provided so much boredom in the guise of stability for our kids, that we are now officially stuck in the unbearable lightness of invisibility. If not for the stiffness and some wheezing and groaning, we could be the invisible residents of Skokie. Interestingly, this invisibility took on a completely different weight when I was growing up. Erratic as hell, my family left me confused to a great degree. Vacuum was another name for the adrift nature of things that occurred from the absence of direct parental involvement, which consequently allowed me to thrive well and additionally excite the age old debate of Nature versus Nurture. Trying to explore the middle ground, I haltingly asked my older one to rate our performance as parents from a scale of 0-10. I was ready to explode at any number below 5. He gave us a resounding 8.5. Fair enough I said. The other missing 1.5 I could fill in with some groundings. I don't know how he got that percentage but he is a Statistics-Math child and very sharp with numbers and understands those seemingly minute percentages with enormous consequences. It's the exact placement of the dot, whether in the middle of the forehead or before a number or after it that hold the key. 

My parents were invisible too, much more in togetherness. I didn't see them or hear them for periods of time. But in all this, I knew and felt that they were always there and as things would have it, are there even more now with a vengeance. Such is the power of parenthood. There and not there. Something like God. On the other hand, my earthly power comes from owning responsibility for both denial and acceptance. And I do like to exercise that once in a while with the kids. I do not expect them to be happy about it but what is a bit of being upset on their part compared to the vast array of opportunities that I envision for them. I have been called soppy and when angry have been told to stop throwing tantrums! I may not be the perfect parent or find my way in one shot but I am there in the vicinity, lurking somewhere, just like my parents, perhaps like a Bhoot. I like Bhoots (ghosts). 

My husband sighs our kids are not interested in anything. But he forgets how beautifully they play soccer. The older one moves the ball deftly with a purpose; the younger one blasts the ball with his power play. Both styles are admirable. Father forgets how many friends the kids have and how much they love hanging out. They do so in parks and play grounds where kicking and horsing around is as important an activity as any other. They enjoy movies and restaurants and concerts especially if they can sneak in for free. Half the pleasure lies in doing things surreptitiously. They are of the age when halting traffic by putting on emergency lights for no reason at all is the greatest thing on earth; running into unknown neighborhoods and playing a hoop or two on someone's private basketball court is a blast. They enjoy the spectacle of irate home owners running after them with base ball bats and yelling profanity to get the hell off their property. I am glad they do this outside our home.

I understand how many kids are ready, responsible, involved, focussed - but that's them. I was one of those kinds too and narrowly escaped becoming a complete burn-out. Some kids bloom rapidly while others do so erratically. I have both kinds. All I know is my kids are assured beings which comes from being free. They possess plenty sauciness and no visible gratitude for things which I feel should be done in this life at this time at that very moment. They ask why and aren't things supposed to be this way? They know nothing better. They are comfortable in their skin and if ever they feel rootless, I can share some of mine which stretch across many lands and oceans. I do however leave them a little confused with my joys at profanity. Nothing quite beats a volley of curses. For all parents, their child is the best; and so I am at peace with ours as well. They will eventually soar or flap or glide; they will see the world with all its beauty and ugliness; they will hopefully explore and continue to be in shock and awe at the absurdity of it all. I hope life will be kind and they learn to appreciate both the yin, yang, and twang.

Sunday, June 12, 2011

Gold Finger.

My husband's childhood friend (Sunand) came for a visit complete with his two kids, mother, Macs but sans wife and jackets. Even his child figured out that the further north you moved, the colder it got and she's just 7! Nonetheless, the shifty nature of Chicago weather and and its politics should have been well known. No wonder it's called the 'The Windy City'. The friend lives in Indianapolis, the name a mouthful by itself and often mis-pronounced as Indiana-police by many (Indians and others). There have been many instances of the lost and confounded being sent off to different Indiana police stations when seeking directions to Indianapolis. English is a tough language and unfortunately not phonetic like Hindi or even Spanish. We Indians have a hard time pronouncing some names here in the US.

Anyway, our friend was in Chicago for an Indian wedding where anything less than the color of gold is unacceptable. So in keeping with the Indian tradition, the 7 year old son was donned with shaadi gear and a beautiful gold ring. I'm sure the ring looked perfect with the shaadi clothes except for the unfortunate fact that the ring grew smaller and tighter or the child's finger grew bigger and bulkier as the hours went by. I noticed the finger being red and bulging around the ring; told Sunand about it and from there on our entire house was plunged into a frantic activity going across state lines. Grandma said get oil; I said which oil - almond, sesame or arnica.; my husband said forget all oils, bring out the soap. My evil teenage children suggested a big saw for the finger and the ring. The child screamed and I'm sure the gold ring shrank even further. Sunand quickly got on the phone with his wife in Massachusetts. 

From Massachusetts, Sunand's wife gave some brilliant suggestions albeit one at a time; put the child's hand in hot water which would expand the ring. I protested what about the finger that would expand simultaneously as well. I was ignored. Sunand quickly gathered the confused child and headed off to the bathroom. Some whimpering was heard and within a few seconds before gold could even think of expanding, Sunand came out as quickly as he'd gone in. Grandma cried out in horror. Our friend was back on the phone with his wife. This time she said use ice cold water. The child wailed that he would freeze. Sunand asked my husband for one ice-cube. My husband said one was not going to be enough; three ice-cubes at least were needed for freezing one little finger. I said ice was going to shrink both the ring and the finger thus making everything redundant. I was ignored completely, again.

The only one who cared to expand the conversation at any time was the other non-gold-ring-child, the one mentioned in the first paragraph. She stated in a matter-of-fact manner how difficult it would be for her brother to eat his food with one finger missing! Meanwhile, having run out of options and the ring being stubborn about staying stuck on the finger, I sighed and suggested trying some jeweler who kept special pliers or saws to cut rings off. (Somehow marriage bands also tend to get tighter and tighter as years of marriage go by. My husband and I have both landed at the jeweler's at different times). This time I was heard, my advice heeded, and everyone looked hopeful of finding a jeweler that would be open on a Saturday evening except the gold-ring-child who was completely oblivious to all the whirlwind of confusion and fuss around him. Ah those adults and their incessant worries!