To My Brave 8-Year-Old

Dear Krish,

My big 8-year-old!

I can’t believe it has been eight years since I first laid eyes on you at Gleneagles Hospital in Singapore, where we locked gazes in an intense and unwavering bond to each other. I thanked my lucky stars that you were happy and healthy, despite a gestating journey wrought with extreme emotional pain. I remember being so thankful that I survived the harrowing journey of my pregnancy in the U.S, where I hit some of my lowest lows, drowning in isolation and misery, all the while trying to stay afloat amidst a whole lot of chaos. I said a thousand prayers the night you were born, thanking the universe that both you and I got the finish line in an entirely different location – back in Singapore, at my home, with Mumumma, Thatha, and Chithi, in a space that was so much more comforting, nurturing, and safer.

The suffering I endured during your pregnancy was unacceptable, and to this day, I can’t seem to forgive myself for the turmoil you would have felt inside of me as I battled through. But I hope you know I was helpless. It was not my body that let me down, or my health, but the toxic home environment we were nesting in. Those nine months when you were inside of me… oh, I was happy enough that I kept you safe and protected. As for myself, I’m happy I managed to survive. The story has a happy ending though – as I always believe stories should –  because on January 23rd 2010 I was gifted with the perfection of you.

image3And now, we are already 8 full years into the wonderful journey of us. 8 years of calling out “Amma!” as soon your eyes open every morning, of asking me to help brush your teeth and feed you breakfast (even though you very well can do it yourself!), of drop offs and pick ups at different schools (your Lincoln playschool, Alphabet, Sishya, Cambridge East, and now, Rototuna Primary), of country-hopping chapters, of infectious giggles over shared secrets, naughty behavior, and happy holidays, of frolicks in the salty ocean and cuddles up in the misty mountains, of endless bedtime stories that I spin out of my imagination (“Mouse & Mole” being the all-time favorite), of tireless homework-ing, of numerous afterschool activities, of countless fun playdates, and most of all, of being my main co-pilot, my teamplayer, and my inspiration for every single step of the adventure.

So much has changed now. Your world is now pieced together in a way that is unrecognizable to you. Homes have doubled, things have multiplied, but you have been halved. It isn’t ideal (of course it isn’t) and it isn’t fair (it definitely isn’t) but it is what it is. These are not the cards I asked for, but this is the hand we have been dealt. I wish I could do more to ease your pain and soothe your worries, but it isn’t all in my control. That doesn’t mean things are hopeless. If anything, we finally have the safe space to recreate our world, our time together, and piece together our haven. Of course it hasn’t been easy – the transition has been so difficult for you and Shiv. My spirit breaks into a million pieces during drop offs, and my heart is in my mouth when waiting for you at pick ups. But I have the faith that we will work through this (blood, sweat, tears and all) and come out on the better side of things. Soon enough.

Meanwhile, I sit in complete awe and swelling pride of your unwavering courage, your smart adaptability, and most of all, your resolute resilience in accepting these new changes. I know how terrifying it is for you, but you trust me when I say that it will all be okay soon. I know how difficult it is for you to be brave for Shiv, when you’re trembling inside, but you hold his hand and you give him strength to face all of it. He is okay because he has you. And you will be okay because you have me. We are all in this together, and believe me when I say, we will be okay.

image4I wanted you to have a very happy birthday this year, regardless of what was happening at home. I planned a jungle-themed birthday party at the FunShed and ordered a Jumanji birthday cake for you. You invited your friends (Devon, Mahmood, Zaid, Jeriah, Mandla, and Josh) and they came along with their mothers and littles (Oliver, Rita & Tabang). The party was a roaring success – lots of play, lots of food, and most of all, lots of love. When I saw you smiling and laughing with your buddies, chasing each other around, I was delighted. When I watched you all dig into the food, with you seated at the head of the jungle-y table, each one of you lost in animated conversation, I was happy. When the boys lifted their “goblets” of juice to give you a birthday toast, screaming “Cheers!” in giddy excitement, I smiled big. Hamilton has only been our home for less than a year but we have good people around us, and I am eternally grateful to the universe for allowing us to cross paths with them. Your birthday party this year was extra special, not just because Mumumma (our ever-trusty rock!) was there, but also because of our new friends who have embraced us wholeheartedly into their lives. We are so lucky for their companionship.

My brave 8-year-old Krish, your birthday has ushered in hope for a good new year, and I am confident we will keep chasing the light at the end of the tunnel. Don’t worry how long it takes; I will be holding your hand through all of it.

Enjoy the beginning of Year 4; in time, you will not only take flight, but you will soar. This, I know for sure.

I love you, more than the universe.

Your biggest cheerleader,

Amma

 

Advertisements

The End Is The Beginning.

Dear Krish & Shiv,

It’s 2018 – yes, a whole new year. Thank you, Universe, for this cleansing cycle every 365 days, where we can say goodbye, dust things off, and start again at the very beginning. 2017 has thankfully come to an end; it can now be wrapped up and set aside in a box titled “Thank you, but no thank you. I’m glad you’re over.”

image1We have now been in New Zealand for almost nine months. I haven’t written for the last six months though. So much has happened – so many smiles, laughs, and tears – and so many different experiences – beautiful and ugly – that it is difficult to write it down without a sense of turning bipolar every few minutes. Where do I even begin to catch you up?

Do I start at the deceivingly charming beginning, where everything is rosy and sprinkled with rainbow glitter? Somewhere in the messy middle, where things keep flip-flopping amidst undulating waves of emotions that ebb and flow with every twist and turn? Or at the very end, when things come crashing down, where there is a final full-stop, the inevitable conclusion, when the curtain finally falls?

New Zealand as a country has been amazing to us. We have been embraced and welcomed in the best way possible: we have made Hamilton our home and both of you have had an extremely fulfilling time at Rototuna Primary School, (made many nice friends, met some lovely families, and been helped by wonderful teachers), we have visited too many gorgeous places to even keep count (Auckland, Rotorua, Taupo, Mt Ruapehu, Wellington, to name a few) and reveled in New Zealand’s breathtaking array of endless beauty (the beaches, the forests, the waterfalls, the hills, the lakes, the cities, the parks, all of it!), and even been lucky to have some special visitors in the last few months (Mumumma, Chithi, Chithappa, Adi, & Ahana). We have loved every single roadtrip, every car journey, every curve, every dip, every highway stretch. With so much beauty surrounding us, in every possible way, it seems inconceivable that our home could be anything but… happy?

My return to New Zealand to be with your father was tinged with tenderly mended hope, carefully reconstructed faith, and a tremulous desire for a future together, the four of us, as a family again after a long separation. There is much I have done to forgive (and desperately tried to forget), and much I have given up to move to New Zealand and try again (yet again), but here is one big life lesson I learned this past year: sometimes it is more important to recognize when it is time to give up and walk away, rather than relentlessly persevering on a thorny path that only repeats in vicious cycles. The only person who could have changed the direction of the path was your father, but unfortunately it all came tumbling down like an imbalanced house of cards in our first couple of months here. (I know I shouldn’t have been surprised, given the track record in the past, but it still gave me immense grief that, once again, it wasn’t going to work). Rejoining with your father only further proved to me that I cannot (and should not) live with the constant ups and downs, the masked living, the duality of public persona and private self, the pretenses, the heavy silences, the suppressed need to control, the passive aggression, and worst of all, the lack of trust and respect. It seemed to me we were trying to create new experiences but we were still recycling the same old unpalatable ingredients. Not exactly a recipe for success. All I wanted was honesty in my marriage, and after 8.5 years of treading on unstable grounds, it finally hit me: I was never going to get that from him. And that realization was the undoing of everything.

So, in December of 2017, I separated from your father. And now you have two homes in Hamilton – his and mine. I know none of it has been easy on you, but I also know that a big part of my reason to return to New Zealand was to reintroduce you to your father. No matter what happened between the two of us, he is still your father and you have the right to build your relationship with him. He stayed away from you during the years we spent in Chennai, but us coming back here has given him the chance to get to know you again. Co-parenting has been (and will be) stressful – for him, for me, and most of all, for you – but I know that living a lie under the same roof, pretending to be at ease with each other, acting like we were a “perfect family”, all of that will only cause further heartbreak, confusion, and frustration for the two of you. Worst of all, it would model a type of dysfunctional relationship that I hope (so much) you never experience in your lifetime – a relationship based on playing a role for the sake of our “community”, acting a certain way to be accepted, denying yourself your basic rights of being loved, respected, and trusted in order to mime the perception of a wholesome family so others can pat you on the back and validate your “goodness”. Everything that was being modeled to you was… wrong. I didn’t, couldn’t, wouldn’t have you growing up thinking this is what a “good” marriage is supposed to be like, that this is the definition of an equal partnership, that this is how a man treats a woman, that this is what a woman is worth in a relationship, that the disparate man and woman have to stay together “for the sake of the children” (even when they are regularly destroying their children’s innocent experiences, restricting their growing perceptions, and diminishing healthy relational prospects for the future by dragging them through the muck of lies, deception, and manipulation, all of this just so the outside world can think “everything is fine”), that underneath the umbrella of Indian culture a man can do whatever he wants with his wife and she must live with it without choice, without opinion, and worst of all, without reaction, and if she so much as speaks up, even in the gentlest of tones, it is considered inappropriate, uncalled for, and most of all, outright arrogant, and… that all of this is acceptable, that all of this is what the Indian institution of marriage “upholds”, that all of this is OKAY, when it… just isn’t.

I will not have the two of you growing up thinking that any of that is okay. None of it is okay. None of it was ever okay.

And now, in January of 2018, it’s finally… come undone. It’s been painful, distressing, and challenging. It’s shaken the ground beneath us, thrown everything into the air, and rearranged it all into dramatically different formations. It seems unidentifiable, strange, scary even, but my dear children, soon enough, it will start making sense. It is a matter of weathering the storm to get to a better place, a healthier space. I am here to help you navigate the choppy waters of single parents, double homes, double families, and divided lines. I will cheer you on as you reconstruct your relationship with your father. I will encourage you to get to know him on your own terms. You will make your equation with him. I will be here by your side through it all, but I will give you the space to create your own understanding, to stand your own ground, and to form your own expectations. I will, as I’ve always done, respect your individual wishes and desires. I know you’re you, you’re your own person, and you will have choices and decisions to make as each year passes by. I will continue to do what I’ve done for you from the day you were born: hold your hand, help you, guide you, support you, protect you, and as you grow older, I will give you the space to come into your own. Your life is yours to lead; I’m simply fortunate enough to share the ride with you.

My dear Krish & Shiv, let us give ourselves the chance for a proper redo this year. For you, for me, for your father. And trust me when I say, we are going to be just fine.

I love you more than the Universe,

Amma

 

 

Patches of Green

Dear Krish & Shiv,

You’re both on your term break now (seems almost laughable, because I swear it felt like we just started school here, like what, yesterday?), which just goes to show that time waits for no one and keeps chugging along to its own pace. It was a bit of an eventful school term, considering Krish joined halfway and had to catch up, and Shiv started afresh with a new class, and then of course the relentless chain of illnesses that assaulted us one by one – coughs turning into colds turning into fevers turning into debilitating flus! The entire household was down with sickness at one point and it was one of the most challenging weeks as yet here in NZ. Apparently this is all very normal during the winter in this part of the world, so perhaps it was necessary for our bodies to acclimatize to the environmental change. I must say, Mumumma‘s special ayurvedic medicines from India were what really saved us. Thank God for her kashayam concoctions, no matter how terrible they taste!

Your school holidays started off very busily with Dada‘s birthday on July 8th. We had a movie marathon (“Cars 3” from the week before, and then “Transformers” & “Despicable Me 3” over the weekend) and a complete overdose of sugar and popcorn and all things junky. We visited the Waikato Museum and spent a couple of fun-filled hours there amongst Permian monsters and hands-on children’s activities and games centered on geeky scientific principles (which is always a good time). We made a trip to the Hamilton Zoo and enjoyed saying hi to all the animals and little critters. image1(12)We explored the Hamilton Gardens, darting in and out of many beautifully landscaped green spaces, mesmerized by the different themes and the sheer expansive of something so lovingly maintained and alluringly displayed – all for free. I remember it was one of my favorite places here in Hamilton when we first visited NZ back in 2011 and I still feel that way. You boys loved it so much that we went back there in a couple of days on a playdate with Krish’s classmate and new friend, Mandla, and his mom and twin siblings. There was still so much left to explore – somehow gardens have a magical sense of never quite ending – and all that green space was enough to get your boy limbs dancing and hopping and running all over the place!

Continue reading “Patches of Green”

One Day At A Time

Dear Krish & Shiv,

Believe it or not, we are still “settling in”, even after about two and a half months here in New Zealand. It’s not necessarily a bad thing, after all, because moving to a new place and sinking our feet in isn’t always an easy process. It actually takes months for anyone to feel anchored anywhere, so I’d say we are doing quite alright.

image1(10)Of course, the settling in process restarted for us when we decided to leave Cambridge and move to Hamilton in the middle of May! As if it wasn’t enough that we made an international move from India to New Zealand, we also made a local move and relocated from quiet (almost too-quiet) Cambridge to a-little-bit-louder Hamilton. I admit, I was gunning for the move. As much as I liked pretty Cambridge, it was far too “sleepy”. I didn’t think it was bustling enough for a young family like us. I wanted a place that was a little bit busier, a little more populated, and definitely a little more… urban? Hamilton was the next best option, and we were lucky to find a rental place pretty quickly. Since Mumumma was still here to help us out then, we got the ball rolling on the move. Before we knew it, I had the movers booked, and the men came in and loaded everything into the truck, and by the end of the day everything was unloaded and set up in our Hamilton house! It only got busier after that for Mummuma and I; unpacking, setting up, moving furniture, organizing, discarding, storing, and of course, beautifying. I couldn’t have done any of that without your dear Mumumma‘s help – physically and emotionally. She is our biggest blessing!

Continue reading “One Day At A Time”

Happy Birthday, Shiv!

My dear not-so-little 5-year-old,

How did this happen? You’ve turned 5?

image1(9)You still smile as sweetly as you did in your toddlerhood, cry the same way you did as a baby, and charm everyone with your little tricks that you have almost perfected in the last couple of years. And yet, you’re not little Shibby-doo anymore. (For the record, you won’t even allow me to call you that now).

You are 5-year-old Shiv, who is now in Primary School, at the same campus as your older brother. You eat by yourself, you put on your socks & shoes, and you take your own showers. You also attempt to “brush” your teeth, use the restroom by yourself (without failing to wash your hands with soap every time!), and even buckle yourself into the car seat! You have opinions (many of them) – you know what you like and what you don’t like. You’re still as stubborn as ever, and let’s be honest, it’s not easy to get you to do anything you don’t want to do. You still hate your morning milk and have now decided to ban rice from your diet as well. You won’t go near anything green, no matter how hard I try to disguise it in your food. After all, you claim to be allergic to vegetables! You still like creamy pasta, scrambled eggs, nutella sandwiches, bananas, apples, and blueberry muffins. You seem to think this is enough to survive on. Your new favorite treats are plain vanilla ice cream and classic cheesecake, both of which I love as much as you do! You haven’t asked for a birthday gift or a birthday party this year; all you want is a slice of vanilla cheesecake. (Simple pleasures, indeed!) Continue reading “Happy Birthday, Shiv!”

Kia Ora, New Zealand.

Dear Krish & Shiv,

It’s been almost a month since we landed into Auckland and drove 2 hours to the little town of Cambridge where we dropped our 7 suitcases, paused, and said, “Whoa, wait, so we really ARE here!”

image13We left an incredibly hot, sticky, humid, sweaty India and arrived at a perpetually rainy, chilly, cold, shivering New Zealand. We said goodbye to Chennai’s everlasting sounds of chaos and waved hello to Cambridge’s eternal quiet. We morphed from a family of five (you both, me, Mumumma & Thatha) to a family of four (you both, me, and now Dada). Well, technically we are currently a family of five (because we are ever so lucky to have Mumumma here with us until the end of the month!) but technicalities aside, I believe we have now transformed back to a family of four, and… that in itself has been a huge adjustment. image10There have already been some fun times: driving to Raglan beach and walking along its shores (chilly winds or not!), cycling around the neighborhood block, feeding the ducks at the local Te Koutu lake, enjoying a dusky canopy walk within the Redwoods forest, visiting Rotorua multiple times (Rainbow Springs, Agrodome, Lake Rotorua) while getting personal with New Zealand’s finest animals – sheep, cows, ducks, geese, a variety of native birds, and even some funny alpacas – and taking in the astounding natural beauty of New Zealand during our zig-zagging country road image12drives. (Sidenote: I have also been thoroughly enjoying my new ride with you boys!). It’s been nothing short of amazing, when we are exploring what New Zealand has to offer. On the flipside, there have also been some trying times: getting adjusted to new schools (hello, separation anxiety, we meet again at Cambridge East Primary School and Little Einstein’s), understanding a whole new culture (it’s exciting, but in a new school context, it is… confusing? intimidating? downright scary?), forming a renewed family unit (no one said it would be easy, but still), setting up new routines, warming up new beds, and suddenly realizing that every single thing that was familiar and comforting and stable has just poofed off. (Well, except me, of course). So… “overwhelming” would be putting it lightly.

image2(3)It has been days of running, skipping, and hopping, but also some stumbling, tripping, and foot-dragging. I know change isn’t easy. (Mumumma and Thatha brought up Chithi and I to understand that change is the only constant; nothing ever really remains the same, so the best you can do is hold your head up and roll with it!) All that said, global transitions are still tricky, even to veterans like me. They are loaded with excitement, anticipation, and an “ever after” hope, but yet laced with bits of trepidation, worry, fear, and of course an inevitable dose of anxiety. It’s basically two sides of the same new coin, and that is just how the coin is set up – you can’t have one side without the other. Neither side is wrong, in their own essence, but what this means is you get the “good” with the “bad”. Continue reading “Kia Ora, New Zealand.”

Bye Bye, Chennai

Dear Krish & Shiv,

Our bags are packed, but are we ready to go? image1(6).JPG

I’m feeling a little strange right now. Today is our last day in Chennai before we fly out to New Zealand tonight. It’s been so busy for the last few days – saying goodbyes, spending time with family, an overnight trip to Tirupathi, and last but not least, celebrating Ahana turning 1 at her birthday party last night! So much excitement, so much happening, but now it’s starting to calm down. And reality seems to have hit?

I’m sitting in the living room, eavesdropping on the two of you in your room, role playing with your superhero figurines, little bits of Lego, and a whole lot of cars. Amidst this regular cacophony of laughs and screams and giggles, I feel a deep sadness. We had have so many good times in Mumumma & Thatha‘s house. It was our haven, our cocoon, our delight. We called it our home for the last four years. How is that, now, we only have four days to go before we have to say goodbye to all of it?

Continue reading “Bye Bye, Chennai”