Sunday, January 13, 2008

I'm Here.

It's OK. Nothing happened. It'll all be fine.

Silly, meaningless little phrases I have taken to saying. To soothe a little boy. He's outgrowing his babyhood so fast I have this urge to fold it carefully, wrap it and store it amongst the old clothes and discarded toys.

He was quite ill in December. The tummy infection I didn't catch on to was given ten days to play up and the antibiotics he was given after that opened him up to a cold. The cold was mild, but it did make the month four weeks of various illnesses, big and small. In that time I became quite possessive of him -- something I had got over mostly. I began to resent other people playing with him, touching him, daring to think they knew anything about him or his needs. I didn't know I was doing that until we started the final leg of rehearsals for Proof last week and I had to leave him for entire evenings. V took to wandering with him, taking him to visit his parents, going shopping etc. And suddenly I found myself getting paranoid.

How stupid is that? Don't tell me, I do know.

And just as I was scolding myself out of this, The Bhablet went and fell very ill. On Thursday night V called me at rehearsals to report that The Bhablet had thrown up his dinner. On Friday morning there was some scary diarrhoea. Both were repeated on the long car trip to the airport on Friday evening. (I know, I know, he shouldn't have gone, but he had seemed better all day.) And I just panicked. I called up my director and told him I needed a day off (6 days before we perform). I cancelled all plans and sat at home, watching him. Holding back, letting V do stuff for him, letting my parents play with him, relying heavily on my instincts. Watching him every second like my life depended on it.

Seems to have worked. He hasn't thrown up today nor has the diarrhoea been repeated. Am keeping my fingers crossed for tomorrow because I'll be away seven long hours tomorrow and I can only hope he (and Vicky) will be OK.

This is why I stay at home. I can't sit in an office when my child is ill. I know it's a weakness I'm displaying but it's who I am. I can be strong if I have to be, but if I can stay at home, I'd rather.

But staying at home comes with so many catches. My father has said, several times although once would have been enough, that I'm wasting my education and all that he "invested" in me. I'm not sure what he wants exactly because he doesn't like me going out of home leaving his grandson 'alone' but then, my father doesn't claim to be consistent. I myself feel like I'm vegetating. I get desperate for conversation and company sometimes. V is out of the house for the best part of the day now and that can get pretty lonely. But even when he is around, he and I don't share too many interests. He is liable to think I'm showing off or acting pseudo intellectual if I bring up anything I studied. I'm not criticizing him because I know he doesn't understand that this was my life for five years, that it's not a pretension. But it's true, if I were working, even studying, I'd be able to find people to share my interests.

The worst thing about staying at home is that I'm so unsuited to it. I was born to have my own family but I was not born to stay at home. Really. I've played house and nurtured my dolls since I can remember, and it's always been my dream to be able to boss my own family around. But it also depresses me to stay at home day after day. I need to see traffic, people, shops, bookstalls. When I get a little dose of 'outside' everyday I can function fine, enjoy my housework, love my family. This does not have to be much but it does have to be.

I have to say, in this respect I have been lucky. The Bhablet is like me and loves heading out of the house. He likes people and noise and lights and travel. If he has upset other people in restaurants or annoyed them in aeroplanes, I do not know of it. Nobody has ever complained and I'm quite used to having random strangers play with him, offer to babysit him while I take the weight off my feet, give me sometimes useful but always unsolicited advice.

I'm not sure what I would do if somebody complained. I do try not to give anybody a reason to. I think if a child is disruptive then, if possible, the parents should go home. It usually means that the child needs rest or quiet (assuming food, clean diapers etc. have been attended to). We try to go to places where kids are expected and welcomed. The one non-kiddy place we visit is T3 and I go there knowing that people will be smoking at the next table. So I don't go too often, even though it's a tea-room I really like. The other day we went for lunch with two friends of V's. The Bhablet decided to bang on the table through a large part of the meal. V's friend S didn't like it and told me so, that the noise was giving him a headache. I tried to mask it by covering that side of the table with a napkin. But really, what else could I do? I couldn't walk out with him because we were eating. Asking to leave would disrupt the lunch and ruin V's special day. And stopping a cranky toddler from doing the one thing that's keeping him happy is asking for a tantrum -- which would be much noisier and way more embarrassing.

In time The Bhablet drummed less and S also got used to it. Now he was not really being difficult, I'll give him that. But it just drove home to me how my perspectives have changed. Earlier I might have witnessed such a scene and judged the parents for 'spoiling'. Now I can recognise a tired child and therefore know when disciplining is useless.

But this change of perspective brings along with it a change in priorities. Earlier, I was the one who volunteered for extra work. Living alone, all I had to consider was whether I wanted to do something or not. If I did, then time, effort etc. were never considered. Nowadays I still check whether I want to do it or not first, but my willingness is largely influenced by whether I will need to step out of home to do it, whether V can juggle his work hours for my needs, whether it will be OK for The Bhablet.

This reasoning can be a bit difficult for non-parents. Both V and I receive a lot of consideration from our single friends, but it's still consideration. It's not something they understand but something they do out of kindness. So sometimes, when they think we are stretching their limits too far, they stop being so considerate. But it is not we who are stretching the limits. Having a baby, bringing it up only by the two of us, one of us also running a full-time freelance career, another trying to juggle out of home activities, all of this does mean that friendships have come second. It's not been an easy transition for a couple like V and I -- we are both very social and like having friends around and dropping in on them. We like friends depending on us. We like being able to live up to that. But all of that is not possible the way it used to be. Now The Bhablet comes first and we've often let down friends because of that.

We are not as punctual or as dependable. We don't lend money. (Heck, that's assuming we have some, which we don't, although let's not get into that.) We skip parties or go singly or come away early. We don't drink as much and I stay away from smoke and smokers. We don't go for mad drives. We are no longer available to hop over at a moment's notice. I mean, I would want to do all those, but it's all now possible only if it's acceptable by the The Bhablet.

Sometimes I wonder whether we only discuss The Bhablet's doings. I don't think we do. I have enough doting grandparents to discuss him with.

In the meantime, I've taken repeating what V told me when my need was great: "I'm here." He said that to me when I woke up crying from a nightmare. He held me and told me that when my word collapsed around me. And I tell that to our son now. It costs me a lot to say it because it's not just a phrase but an entire shift of focus and direction in my life, but I say it because it soothes both my son and me. I pat him and kiss him and tell him that I'm here. And hope that he understands that I'll only ever be as far away as he wants me to be.

[P.S. This post is not nearly as clear as it needs to be -- it's nearly 3 a.m. -- but I don't think I'll edit it either. Whatever you don't understand or take issue with I'll clarify in the comments' section.]


RJ said...

I can so relate to this post on so many things. I think I can even write a similar post.
Hope Bhablet feels better soon.

Mona said...

aww, sue. this is such a great post. so honest, and so straight from the heart. so you.
it touched a chord and i know what you mean. i think in that sense, i'm a lot like you. needing to be a homebody, maybe it's a cancerian thing after all and yet, need some me-time too. out working, or doing my own thing.
the conflict is crazy hard. and 'i'm here' is so hard to say, but you're doing a great job.
many hugs!

dipali said...

Sue my dear, this is called growing up!
Wonderfully honest post, as usual. Hope The Bhablet is fine now. I wish I could help in some way.

Mystic Margarita said...

So true, so very true. Hope the Bhablet is fine now. I, too, experienced all the emotions you mention - Popol is recovering from a nasty ear infection and hardly had any food for 4 straight days without throwing up.

D said...

No issues and no clarifications needed, Sue. All your emotions seem perfectly justified.

I'm a non-parent contemplating parenthood and I totally relate to your experiences. There are all these things you've written about that I and my husband are considering before finally going ahead and having a baby. We're scared we'll be miserable if we have to give up so much we enjoy once we are parents. I'm scared because being a mum is such a full time job and there are no off days.
Which is why I said, no issues and no clarifications required.

karmickids said...

I am so glad for you Sue, you are so clear about things already, while I am so confused still. And whenever you need ears to listen, we are all here...

Anamika said...

I work from home but I really do miss the daily contact with employees, the giggling over annoying bosses, the motivation towards a common deadline, and all that. So I really appreciate the role of external stimulus in keeping me sane.

Needless to say, it is a phase, and you and V are in it earlier than a lot of your circle. But you're both doing a great job! And I am constantly impressed by all the different things you seem to be engaged in. So hats off (think if often, but have never said it). So take heart, and "we are here" to listen to any soul-searching you ever need to do :)

Good luck for the play.

Squiggles Mom said...

Aww Sue, I can so relate.
First, hope the bhablet gets better soon.
DD and I don't have similar interest as well and it can be difficult being the one at home. I totally relate to the paranoia thing too. I have to consciously tell myself that if someone gives Squiggles a bit of mithai it won't make her crazy or a little bit of television (however unwanted it is) won't make her eyes go wonky just yet.
And you were really clear... maybe not so clear to non-mommies.... but very clear to me.
Ps - All the best for the play. In fact I will act upon what I have been meaning to do for a while and email you!

choxbox said...

well all i can say is - we are all in the same boat, either been there or still there.

the good news is - things do change as they grow older and therefore less dependent. saying this from first-hand experience.

SUR NOTES said...

oh i connect so completely with you feeling down unless you have been out in the city- seeing the sights, smelling the smells. and your child will be hapiest when he is out gallavanting with you.

very early on we decided to take her with us all over. i was not happy leaving her home, and i was not happy stuck at home. so did the next best thing - and except for the occasional days when she gets pissed off, she is fine, and a delight to gallavant with. she actually sat through a two hour dance performace by a german group- she was smitten for an hour- not a sound- and then chomped on pav, and then slept off. and now she goes around spinning like the dancers ( most important thing is she knows that dancing is not only what happens in bollywood!!!)

so have a blast with little bhaeblet. show him your world. and have a fantastic opening with your play!

the mad momma said...

i think all of us who are home identify with exactly what you said. nobody is going to be wanting clarifications. you're astoundingly clear for someone who typed this at 3 am!

and yes - its the smells and sights of the city that i need. i just grab the babies and head out even if its just for groceries and i feel better.

and yes - i cant bear to think of a sick child at home with someone who doesnt love him the way i do.. which my dear sue is why we're where we are.

noon said...

Oh Sue - such a candid post. And every sahm mom I am sure can relate to it...And yes it when they are sick that it is most worth it - the isolation we go through staying home - that we are able to be there for the child and not have to worry and wonder if someone else is taking good care of the sick child or not...
Wow - I would love to come to your play...wish I could. Calcutta/Delhi - places I really really want to visit. God - wonder when!

DotMom said...

what a beautiful post sue! so lucid and straight from the heart. Motherhood truly tests you.. doesn't it. But do rave and rant and write such fantastic posts when you feel the need to pour. we are here for you. and we are in the same boat.

And if it makes you feel better, you said
But it's true, if I were working, even studying, I'd be able to find people to share my interests.
is soooo not true.

Moppet's Mom said...

Hugs. I feel almost exactly the same way sometimes. I get through it by reminding myself that they don't stay babies for very long - so while this may seem like the longest 3-4 years of your life - if you think about it, that's really all it is....

Tharini said...

Sue, that was soo lovely to read. I could relate very well to what you said about getting a regular fix of the outside world. And I think its amazing how diverse you are in seeking that. The walks, the play, and so much more.

I think you are truly in your element when you are so thoughtful, and the light of your soul shines thru radiantly.

Keep penning your innermost thoughts like this. It just reaches out and draws everybody in!

Nisha said...

Agree totally with your situation. Hope the Bhablet gets well soon and all the best for your show :)

Sue said...

RJ -- He's better, thanks.

Mona -- Hell no. If I were were doing a great job I wouldn't be so torn. I guess this blog is where I glorify my own shortcomings. *Sigh*

Dipali -- Thanks, all the same. When do we meet? Next week looks good, how about you?

Mystic -- Oh poor Popol! And poor you. Hope he is no longer in pain.

D -- But it's a soul-enrichening experience. For that alone it's worth it. I'd say go ahead.

Kiran -- Do I sound clearheaded? Thanks for being there, it does help.

Anna -- Thanks. :) I think I've bitten off more than I can chew, you know!

Squiggle's Mom -- I'll reply, just let this crazy week get over!

Choxbox -- Oh yes, that is what I look forward to. I don't think I'll be so clingy when he pushes me away himself.

Sur -- Really??? You give me hope. Wish I could take him to 'Proof' but I guess he's too young for that.

MM -- Yeah, I have to be home when he's sick. I decided this when V was ill, waaay before any Bhablets. It's there in my archives somewhere, that post.

Noon -- Oh you must come to Cal one day, it'd be fun to meet you guys.

DotMom -- Ok, if I were more mobile I would definitely find more kindred souls. Why else do I -- or you -- blog?

Moppet's Mom -- I know. I feel very guilty for grudging him such a short time. Guilt vs. resentment... tough battle.

Tara -- Aw come on. Now you've made me blush.

Nisha -- He's so much better, thanks for asking. And thanks for the wishes.

The Marauder's Map said...

I know exactly what made you write this post and the latest one -- the all-round carping against babies and negativity against parents in general gets to me too. And what makes it more bizarre is it often comes from people who have much more measured, tolerant views of mostly everything else.

I've often discussed this with friends who complain that they are being pressured to get married/have kids -- do you think we who chose to get married, have kids didn't feel pressure? In fact, I think it's much easier to deal with whining from a generation that you can dismiss saying they don't 'get you' than to put up with raised eyebrows from people you see as peers. There's a bit of contempt attached with that that can be very off-putting, and I'm glad you discussed this here and now.

Y said...

Now, how did I miss such a beautiful post?

Sue said...

Marauder's Map -- You put it so succintly. Yes, it's so much more difficult when it comes from your own peers.

Y -- How did you, indeed? :)

Casuarina said...

A big hug !!! :)

Poppins said...

I'm with Y, how come I haven't read this one. Love it. Your writing shines in this one.

Sue said...

Casuarina -- Thanks.

Poppy -- Thanks, hon. You missed it in the avalanche of posts that month!

Took out those sandals the other day and was thinking of you. Sweetpea must be growing so fast now.