Oh the things you will learn !

I was having dinner with my children at the mall food court when Yaya pointed to a guy and said

“Mom, That dude over there, He is a mall cop”

I looked at the dude. He looked just like any other dude, no mall cop insignia to suggest otherwise.

“How do you know he is a mall cop?”

” ’cause he caught me couple of times”  She said the preceding comment very casually and according to my son who was sitting right across me, My jaw was on the floor and my eyes were so huge it looked like I was choking on a giant squid. ( may be the  other way around , the giant squid was choking me)

Now, don’t get me wrong, I am under no illusion that my children are angels. But Yaya is not really the kind of child one would expect to get in to trouble, that from a mall cop.

I have never gotten a speeding ticket when she was in the car, for she would be looking at the ‘spedo’ all the time and if I went a km over the posted the limit, she would chant “mom, you are speeding, mom you are speeding” over and over. It made no difference to her when I explained to her that legally I am allowed to go up to 10% above the posted speed limit ( to avoid calibration errors) for she argues that there is no sign underneath the posted limit that says + 10 km ! She follows rules diligently. So it was a real big shock to hear her tell me that she got caught by the mall cop couple of times.

“What did you do?” I asked while trying to imagine all sorts of things teenagers do ( Like I did when I was a teenager) and get in to trouble.

“First time, I was riding the scooter inside the mall”

“you didn’t”  I said, for there are signs at the entrance of the mall that says no scooters/roller blades etc are allowed inside the mall.

“Yes, I did, but the mall was closed and I was waiting for you to pick me up. Mom, my friends and I just wanted to know how it feels to ride the scooter in the mall and unfortunately I was on the scooter when the mall cop came”

(Mall closes at 5.30 pm on weekdays, however Kmart/target/food court are still open and I wasn’t an irresponsible mom ask her to wait in a closed mall.. she was supposed to wait at the library)

“and?” I asked

“And what? He came and rolled his eyes just like you do and told me I can’t ride a scooter in the mall”

There was nothing much I could say, so I didn’t and I continued to eat, then I remembered she did say ‘ couple of times’.

Yaya, what else did you do to get in to trouble?”

“Oh, We were caught for playing on the escalator few times. Did you know it is against the rule to sit down on the escalator?” She asked me.

No, I didn’t. I never thought of sitting down on the escalator. I am still an Indian and can never sit somewhere  where millions of people have walked and left a track of dirt. Imagine the types of dirt that are present on the floor !

“And?” I asked again

“And nothing mom, We figured he works on Wednesdays, so we don’t do anything to get us in to trouble on Wednesdays”

Hmm, I thought. Obviously she is enjoying the thrill of trying not to get caught.

But I am still her mother and it is my duty to tell my child not to get in to trouble.

“Yaya, you could get a police record and that will affect your future” I said, thinking that using police and future in one sentence probably might add a sense of fear in her.

“Mom, Seriously? You get a police record for shoplifting, but not for sitting down on an escalator. We only do that when no one is around and we are not hassling anyone”

I had no answer. And as the mall cop got up to take his tray to the bin, he passed by our table and he looked at Yaya and then at me. I think I saw a tiny smile of recognition..That he and I, we both have done many such things in our youth..and life is a great big cycle.

The process

I get so stressed when I have to write an official letter/email. It takes me ages to compose a 4 line letter. It is not because I don’t know English, It is just that I find it so difficult to write what is in my head in a correct form and manner without making any grammatical mistakes.

Even simple things like emailing the parents of my children’s basket ball team to let them know when the next game, would take me an hour to compose. I know a son of an English professor who still gets she/he mixed up ( he was the top student in  his class). Surely I shouldn’t be so hard on myself having studied in Malayalam medium. But I do feel miserable when my colleagues can write a letter just like that and send it off , while I am still thinking of the salutations.

When I was growing up I was taught to write a leave letter, query to the publisher of a book and a thank you letter. You got full marks, if you wrote the letter the exactly how the teacher wrote and with my eidetic memory it wasn’t very hard to get 100% marks. But I wish the education dept/school/teacher/me understood how important it would be for a student in her/his future to learn to write a decent letter on their own. ( I found it first hand when I had to write referal letters during my internship. Mine was always a two liner that included patient’s diagnosis and please do the needful !)

Even now, children of my cousin learn pre written essays  ( written by my cousin!), just so they would get 100% marks. I tried to tell my cousin how detrimental this rot learning would be to his children’s future and my cousin thinks that I am suffering from acute case of jealousy and just don’t want his kids to get good marks !

Yaya has a persuasive essay to submit this week and few days ago she told me

“Mom, I am thinking of writing my essay on child abuse”

And I thought that is a good topic. Honestly, I was proud of myself. Our dinner time always included talking about Gay rights, child abuse etc. And I felt my child wanted to talk about child abuse because I made it a point to discuss all those topics. ( one brownie point for the mom! )

Yesterday when I picked her up after her guitar lessons, she told me ” Mom, I decided that I am not going to write about child abuse because everyone knows it is wrong and there is no counter argument, instead I am going to write about ‘mandatory reporting of child abuse’ because sometimes a wrong reporting can break up a family or perhaps some of the children are better off in their own home than in a foster care even if there are minor abuses in their own home”

When Yaya told me that she was going to write about child abuse, I didn’t know to think about counter argument. I never wrote any essays in my life. And I couldn’t help my child.

Fortunately my children don’t really need my help. But I wish I wasn’t this stupid and I really wish my education didn’t give me the short end of the stick.

 

Trigger

The one word I could use to describe my family ( children and I)would be “funny”. We use humor to get at each other and there is never any maliciousness in this random personal attacks.

The other day Yaya had science exam and she was obviously very stressed because she needs to get an A to be eligible for the academic achievement gold medal at the end of the year. And she told me, “mom, I am thinking of quitting studies after grade 10”

“Sure” I replied.

I knew she had something up her sleeves and waited for her to continue.

5 seconds later when she noticed that I am not continuing the conversation, She said

“I think I will join the circus, I will get to travel and see all the countries and there is no stress”

“True, you could be the clown and you know you are good at tripping on your own feet even if you are standing on a flat ground”

“But Mom, I am doing the random gravity check, for all you know gravity could be switched off and you need people like me to know if the gravity is still working”

And we laughed and laughed and I could see that Yaya wasn’t as stressed as she was before.

When my son came back from the camp, he updated his fb profile photo. My son is a very handsome boy ( yes, all mothers feel the same way !), but in this particular case, his face looked like a gangster having  constipation ( half grimace, half angry look )  his hat turned to one side,headphones ( those DJ type) around his neck and a dog chain to complete the whole ganagsta style.

He was laying down next to me and was reading when I saw on my fb page that he updated his profile photo and I told him” toothless, that really is a sad photo of you”

Until now, if I had said anything like that, my son would stare in to my eyes for a few seconds and say, “mom, is there any cure for blindness? or Mom, it is time you got new glasses, or stop being so vain mom, it is time you accepted you are old and started wearing your grandma spectacles” etc,

But not this time.

He jumped off the bed, told me ” I hate you mom, you are so mean” and plenty of other mean things with the same theme as to how horrible his mother is and how,instead of supporting her son’s self esteem, how detrimental I am to his health and well being”

Then I heard him slamming the door to his room, knowing very well that the one thing I hate the most in my life is slamming the door.

I did get up from my bed to go and yell at my son. I was that annoyed. What was the need for this much of drama. What does he mean by saying that I am detrimental to his health and well being. I am his mother for goodness sake.

Then I remembered my son will be a teenager two weeks from now and we have reached a stage where anything I say or do will be taken as a good thing or bad thing according to how the planets are aligned. It is now my turn to walk carefully, knowing very well that my son will be going through a tough time trying to understand where my limits end and where his begins.

Late that night he came to my room to give me my goodnight kiss and I could see that he was crying. It broke my heart mostly because I never wanted to hurt his feeling, yet I did.

“I am sorry” I said

“me too Mom, I am so sorry I was mean to you, I don’t know why I feel this way” He said

” Welcome to teenage years” I told him.

For now everything is alright, but I have no idea what is the next thing that will trigger another door slamming.

 

 

 

Celebrating

A very close friend has completed her degree last year.

It took her 10 years to complete a 5 year degree. No, she didn’t fail any subjects. She had 4 kids in that 10 years and took a time off after each delivery. Nothing stopped her from achieving what she really wanted in her life, even if it meant that each time when she went back to Uni, she had new set of classmates, she was considerably older and poorer than all her classmates and  gave the final year exams while having 4 kids under 7 yrs of age.

It is woman like her that makes me want to celebrate international women’s day. Most define success as reaching the pinnacle in their career. I read somewhere that Fb has a woman at the helm and that she leaves work every day at 5 pm, surely it is woman like her that shows to the world that  the women can be successful and can balance work and career.

My friend only works 2 days a week. She can work full time and make tons of money. Instead the rest of the week she is at home with her youngest child. Sometimes I stop by her place for tea after work and there will always be something freshly baked ! Her house is a mess with toys, clothes and books strewn every where. She drives an old Holden that breaks down regularly. The most unusual part of her home is none of the kids have the house key, they get inside through the window when mom isn’t home.

I know I didn’t say what degree my friend got. She is a doctor.

As a woman, you can do everything a man can do and often better. But don’t forget that you have a choice as to what you want to do with your life.Don’t just define success by thinking that working full time and earning a lot of money is the only way success can be defined. Success can also be completing medicine after having 4 kids and enjoying being a mother and a doctor!

Idiot

That is yours truly.

It all started with a very simple question from Yaya

“mom, can you tell me what is gene, DNA and Chromosome is?”

I know what is a gene, what is a DNA and what is a Chromosome. I can tell you all about genetics, autosomal dominant and recessive disorders, x linked disorders etc. But I have no idea where it all fits in a simple system. My education in India never gave importance to basic stuff. I was more likely to be asked during a viva, who discovered DNA and when than what exactly is a DNA. No doubt I learned about DNA bases, purines pure as gold etc and the difference between DNA and RNA. But I never learned the very basic.

As my children grow older and learn more stuff, I see the gaps in my knowledge.

Now, don’t get me wrong, my children don’t judge me just because I didn’t know the answer. It is I who judge myself and feel so stupid..that I studied so much, yet I know nothing.I do feel annoyed with myself that even if the teachers didn’t teach the basic stuff, I should have read and understood what it is all about instead of spending all my time rot learning.

I am now learning grade 12 biology. I bought the text book and each evening instead of reading my novels, I am reading biology. I now know fish living in fresh water has more dilute urine than their sea living counter parts and why I need to know that is irrelevant, but it is so much fun to read all that and think “really?, I didn’t know that”

And now I need help. Is there anyone here who knows organic chemistry? If you can help me with chemistry could you please mail me daofto at gmail dot com.

Edited: I can’t get the answer to this question, please help me.

samples of colourless solution of unknown ph in three test tubes. when thymolphthalein was added it was colourless, with alpha naphtholphthalein it turned blue, what would be the colour if thymol blue was added to test tube three?

I know pKa for thymolnaphthalein is 10.0 and it is colourless in acid form and blue in base form. so the sample showing no colour means it is in acidic form.

pKa for alpha naphthalein is 8 and it is yellow in acidic form and blue in base form. the sample showing blue means it’s ph is more than 8 ( am I correct to assume that?)

Pka of thymol blue is tricky..it is 2.0 with acidic form showing red and basic form showing yellow and then it has another Pka at 8.8 showing yellow at acidic form and blue at base form. I am lost here. I assume I can ignore the first part which is given to confuse me further since I know my sample has pka above 8 and below 10. So what would be the colour and how do I find out..

And yes, I regret that I should have attended classes instead of skipping classes to watch reliance cup match and Imran Khan. And see where I ended up? I didn’t learn chemistry and I didn’t get to marry Imran Khan.( pavam Imran Khan, what a great loss for him, alley?)

Clueless

That is my son.

He went for a three day school camp this morning.

5 weeks ago, when the school started I explained to my children that I will not do anything the last minute. Tuesday is Basketball day and my preparation for the day starts as soon as I get up and start making the school lunch. Before leaving home, I put dinner in the slow cooker, so it will be ready when I return after the basketball practice at 8.30 pm.

I rush back home in the evening to pick up the kids for their practice to find my son is not ready because he has to pack. Evening traffic is a nightmare and every minute that I am not on the road makes me at least 10 minutes late. We were already running late and as we were leaving home, my son said “mom, can you please buy me some lollies and chips to take with me to the camp?”

“no, I am not buying anything. I have warned you when the school started that I will not do anything in the last minute” I was so mad at him. He is 12 and he can see for himself how much of a struggle it is to balance my work and their activities.

I looked at the time and it was already 5.15 and I had to be at the practice by 5.30. I couldn’t risk going to the supermarket after the practice because it was raining and there is no guarantee that I could get back to my place before the shop closes.

The letter from the school did mention “please don’t bring any food” and I did tell my son I will not do anything the last minute. But I still felt sorry. I didn’t want to feel sorry for clearly it was my son’s fault for not telling me that he wants to take lollies to the camp when I did the grocery shopping on the weekend.

Still I went to the shop and bought the stuff he wanted. No I am not a martyr. I don’t know what I am.

After all the mad rush, I was already having a migraine and I just wanted to come back home. Fortunately dinner was ready and hot  in the slow cooker and I told the kids to serve themselves while I went to get panadol.

Then I heard “mom”. Not the usual tone. this one sounded soft and nice and very apologetic.

“What now?” I asked

“What bag should I take?”

I had this image of living in Flint stone era, for I really wanted a giant club and smack my son.

I had to get the bag for him from the attic.

I thought now he would do the packing and he did. All was well I thought till I went to brush my teeth and saw his boardies ( shorts) in the washroom. As he was going to a beach camp, I asked “don’t you need to take your boardies?”

“Oh yeah, I forgot” he replied.

The school has given him a list of items he needed to take with him and he was using the list to pack..and still he forgot to take, socks, hat and water bottle.

This morning as I was rushing to get everything ready, he asked “mom, do you know where my rain coat is?”

Finally he was ready and he carried all his stuff to my car and just as I was leaving, I thought I will check his room. There on the bed were his sleeping bag, pillow and water bottle. ( all items that he must take)

My son has an IQ of 139. He was given admission to maths acceleration and robotics program on the basis of his school report and interview. ( he didn’t have to sit for the entrance test) He built a vpd ( virtual presence device) on his own last year, He can do everything except get his stuff organized.

When Yaya went for the same camp two years ago, I just dropped her to the school and picked her up when she returned. I didn’t have to do a thing for her.

Both are surely my kids..yet how different they are !

 

Those little things.

I found a piece of paper, folded and crumpled in my handbag and I knew it would be something from one of my children. In this case because it was crumpled, I knew it will be from either of the younger ones. Yaya’s notes would be in an envelope that is folded neatly. It isn’t that they deliberately crumple the letter, my handbag is small and they don’t want me to see the letter when I get the car keys, I am supposed to find it when I am at work, for the letter is a surprise and so they try to hide it somewhere at the bottom of my tiny handbag.

This is what I found

met2013The little surprise is a clay bead she made.

I grew up in India and although my cultural upbringing was all about showing respect to teachers and elderly, I was never taught to say Thank you or please. I never once said Thank you to my mother for anything she did for me, for it was assumed that what she did for me was her duty and there was not any need to say Thank you for something someone did as part of their duty.

It was Beautiful Eyes who changed my perception. I remember going for a dinner date with him to the Blue Peacock restaurant in Bangalore. It was a big cultural shock to hear someone saying thank you to the waiter few times through the course of the meal. Thank you, when the waiter guides you to the table, thank you when he brings the menu, thank you when he gets you the drink etc etc. But the waiter was doing his job !

But I did learn to say thank you and I taught my children to say Thank you. It was fun taking Yaya to Bangalore when she was 3 years old. We were in Bangalore for only 2 days and in that two days, My mother tried her level best to teach Yaya, ‘you don’t have to say Thank you to the Auto driver’.

Although I taught my children to say thank you, there was another lesson I learned when I moved to Canada. It was saying Please. It was a humbling experience to tell my children “please eat your food” rather than “EAT YOUR FOOD” I felt like a queen without her scepter. The ‘please’ took away my authority, at least I felt that way. But over the course of time I realized that I don’t need to be the boss for my children to listen to me.

You learn so much when you become a parent !

As for the letter I received..It made me feel special, to know that my children appreciate the little things that I do for them.  I am planning to make a pendant with with the bead.

 

Getting there.

Last weekend I went for the parent interview with baby’s class teacher. I dread these interviews. Perhaps dread isn’t the right word. I feel it is I who is judged at these interviews,( even though the idea behind these meetings is for the teacher to tell me how my child is doing in class and to ask if I have any concern) because my child’s output directly reflects on my input.

My idea of what my children ought to get from going to school is very different from everyone else and I do worry sometimes that I fail my children. I am supposed to check my children’s homework before they submit them for correction to ensure that the homework is complete and done correctly. I do not correct my children’s work because it is their job to do their work well, not mine. If they don’t know to do something, they can ask me and I will help them. I also do not tell my children to do their homework because it isn’t me who will get in to trouble for not doing the homework. I want my children to be responsible for their own life.

I do not go through their textbook and test their knowledge or teach them, however each evening while we are having our dinner, I do ask my children what they are learning at school and we talk about it.

Every evening after dinner my children read story books till they go to bed and not once I have seen them studying. I never felt the need to ask them to study either.And so it was with great trepidation I walked in to my daughter’s classroom to meet the teacher one to one.

The teacher briefly introduced what she will be teaching and what is expected from the children. She had already prepared a leaflet with instructions about homework and assignments and instead of giving the leaflet to me, she said ” you don’t need this, your daughter’s work is always perfect”

It felt so good to hear that because that perfect work my child hands in each week is her own work, done entirely by her.

Then the teacher told me that my 11 year old has been assessed and they found out that she reads at grade 12 level and the school will be providing language extension classes for her.

Before this post be construed as an egotistical post by a very happy mother, I shall say what I wanted to say when I wrote the title “getting there”.

The only reason my children read at a high level is because I read to them everyday since they were babies. I started to read for Yaya when she was 4 months old. At first it was just a few sentences each day. I don’t think she understood anything the first few months,but it gave both of us a routine.

As they grew older, sometimes, they asked me to read the same book over and over and I hated doing it. ( my son loved a train book that I read everyday for him for months and I tried so hard to get him to give me any other book, but he wouldn’t. He just wanted the train book) I also hated some of the story books my children loved, especially the magic school bus series. I never understood what they saw in those books.

When they were little, I used to skip few pages when I was tired and skipping pages didn’t work as they grew older for they used to keep an eagle eye as to where their mother’s eyes were and knew if I skipped a sentence. Yaya also knew the story I was reading for her siblings because I read it to her when she was little and if I skipped a line and even if the younger two didn’t notice, she would tell me, “mama, you missed that part” and I will end up reading it again.

I loved fairy tales and bought Celtic fairy tales for my kids and I remember wanting to burn that book because the stories were so long and at one stage, my children wanted me to read stories from only that book. Even if the story was 8 to 10 pages long, I still had to read three stories, one for each child. And then there were the readers the school send that my kids had to read and I had to sit with them to do that as well. Usually by the evening, after all the swimming and skating lessons, I was exhausted and this night time ritual was killing me.

But I persevered. My children still read a lot and the effect can be seen in their school work. All three of them get straight A’s for English. And even the assignments in other subjects are all written well and they do have a very good command of English. Reading to children helps them a lot.