Minefield

I know I have not been updating the blog. I had a week off and went to do the Bibbulmun track in Western Australia. I am tired and sun burnt, but my soul is at peace.

And today I thought I would write about the minefield my son is traversing at the moment.

Before we go any further, I want to mention that when I was his age, all I ever wanted was someone to love me. I grew up wanting to be loved because no one in my family cared about me. Sometime ago, there was this thing everyone did, write a letter to the 17 year old you. If I did that, I would have told myself, it is ok to look for love, but check first if the guy is worthy of your love and also mind the expiry date of your relationship. When I look back and think of the days I shed tears for the guy who broke my heart, I would tell my old self that I really had a lucky break. There indeed is a guardian angel that kept me safe from living a terrible life with a guy who was not worthy of my love. What I was trying to say was that, when I was young, I was all out to please the guy because all I wanted was to be loved. Clearly I was an idiot.

And now I watch this relationship my son has ,going through various stages.

My son is attending Chemistry bridging class at the moment from 8.30 to 5 pm and after that works from 5.30 to 9,30 pm. He came to pick me up from the airport few days ago in the evening and in order to do that he had to take time off from his  work. He also went to pick up his gf from work and she did an 8 hour shift that day. I was too tired to cook, so we ordered a pizza. After dinner, my son went on to play the xbox (first time in about 8 weeks) and the gf who was exhausted from her work slept off laying down on the couch.

Next morning, I heard this argument where the gf was accusing my son for ‘not paying enough attention to her and ignoring her and  for playing xbox”

I heard my son reply, “i thought you wanted to rest, especially after an 8 hour shift at work”

They argued back and forth and there was no clear winner.

I didn’t say anything because it is not something that concerned me.

But I do know that my son will have tough time if he doesn’t learn what a woman wants.. and I guess this is a good learning experience for him. I just hope he won’t come out as a cynic at the end.

Mom

She called me “mom” and it felt so good to hear.

I had often wondered how I would treat the people(my children’s partners) who  will eventually be part of my family. I don’t talk to my family members and I just don’t want history to repeat. ( I am always worried about that, my kids could always throw that at me and say “you never talked to your own mother and how dare you expect us to talk to you?”)

I also learned that it really doesn’t take a lot out of you to be nice. I treat her exactly like I treat my kids. My best friend met her husband when she was 15 and he was 15.5 years old. They moved in together when she was 17. He did two jobs a day to help her through med school and after she graduated, she helped him to finish his engineering degree and they are still happy together. So, there is every likelihood that she could be end up being my son’s partner. I have not asked if they are serious in their relationship as I think that is their personal matter and they should decide.

At the moment, the days my son has exams, she fills his water bottles, make sure he has taken all the documents/pens etc and go with him to school to offer moral support and he does the same thing when she has exams.

In a lot of ways, I have learned so much in a few weeks. I have learned to accept that my children are not babies who depend on me. My children can have partners that might make me think what in the world were they thinking? My children’s partners will take over the nurturing role that I have been playing until now. But most of all, I have learned that if you treat them with respect and love them unconditionally, they will consider you like their mom and it is worth it.

Oh the things that you learn.

I have OCD. I have my way of doing things. In fact sometime ago, my youngest was helping me to fold the laundry and as she was leaving she mentioned very casually ” Don’t think that  I don’t know that  you are waiting for me to leave so you can refold the undies that I just folded before you put them away” Which incidentally is nothing but the truth. I like things to be neatly organized and if my daughter didn’t fold it the way I want, I do it again the moment she is out of sight.

I don’t clean any of my children’s room. It is their room and keeping it clean is their responsibility. I however do put away my son’s clothes in his closet. He and I have come in to an agreement on that. I just couldn’t stand him chucking freshly laundered clothes on the floor, on the chair or where ever he found the place to chuck them. The problem was with me. My son had no issues where he kept his clothes and he felt  if I had an issue, I should deal with it and in this particular situation, I could put his clothes away.  And since I am doing the putting away part, I get to do it my way, it is all color coded and follows a specif pattern. Formal outfits, pants, shorts, sportswear, t shrits in 4 colour groups, school uniforms and winter wear.

Few days ago, as I was taking the clothes from the laundry line ‘she’ asked me if I needed help and I said “sure”. She took my son’s clothes from the laundry line and I was just about to tell her how she should hang them in his closet. And that really was an issue faced by all mothers in law world over. ‘She’ is not my daughter in law yet, but she could be. The truth is eventually I will inherit a daughter(in law) and I need to get my acts together. Just as I won’t allow anyone to dictate how I should hang my partner’s clothes in my closet, I don’t have the right to dictate how ‘she’ should hang my son’s clothes. It really is her choice.

I don’t deny that I am tempted to go in to my son’s room when no one is in the house and sort the closet to the way I like. I considered doing it couple of times. But I do know that I need to let it go.

I also treat ‘her’ very well. There are two reasons for that. One of which is that one day, some other woman will inherit my daughters as their daughters(in law) and I hope they too will treat my daughters well. The second reason is that I want the best for my son. If I treat her well, (I am hoping that) she will treat my son well and that is very important to me. Yesterday when I went to buy the groceries, I bought her favourite tea (Honey and Vanila) and gave it to her.  No in laws ever bought me my favourite tea.  However, that shouldn’t stop me from buying it for  the girl my son brings home.

Plenty of good lessons I have learned in such a short time.

Circle of life

Life has a way of repeating events.

Couple of days ago, my son woke me up in the middle of the night to ask if it is with me if a friend of his came to stay at our house.

That was a very odd request at a very odd hour, so I asked for details.

Turns out that a classmate girl is having family issues where her life may be in danger and needs an urgent intervention. My son already had the car keys in his hand for he was  very sure I would say Yes. And I did say Yes, even though I was worried about a lot of issues.

The first reason I said yes was because 27 years ago, a friend of mine offered me a place to stay when I had no where to go. I was doing 3rd year Medicine and we were living in Bangalore. Amma had gone back to Kerala and only I and my sister younger to me were at home. We never got along (and will never). Once in a while, I used to go out late in the evening to have ice-cream (mint chocolate ice cream, it cost 10 rs then)at a small shop in the city with a friend who stayed few blocks away from our house. We usually went for the ice cream and then for a long walk and he dropped me back home. That particular day, my sister locked the house from inside and pretended to be asleep. No amount of my knocking could rouse her from her sleep. The worst was that at one stage when my friend and I were standing downstairs and contemplating our next move, we both saw my sister looking at us through the window in her room. Clearly she was not asleep and clearly she wasn’t going to open the door. Where was I going to go in the middle of the night? My friend(bless his soul) took me to his house and let me sleep in his room, while he slept in the living room, It was too late in to the night and he didn’t want to wake his parents up. (perhaps, he felt if his parents said No, I would be sleeping outside on the street and he didn’t want to take that risk). I know he got in to solid trouble the next day. But I was given a place to stay when I needed it and it is only right that I do the same to another person in times of need.

The issues I worry about

  1. My son’s IB final starts this Monday. I have always felt that there is no point running a marathon if you don’t cross the finishing line. I worry that all this dramas are causing my son too much of distraction. However, I console myself that whatever has to happen will happen. I also teach students who have come to the School of Medicine from various backgrounds and I know there is nothing that stops my son from achieving whatever he sets his mind to.
  2.  Allowing a  teenage girl and a teenage boy to stay in the same room is not an easy decision to make. Both are 17 and are past the age of consent. Callous as it may sound, what they do in the privacy of their room is their problem. Not mine. However, I am still an Indian and struggle with cultural issues. This morning, while I was in the garden, both of them came out and were talking to me and my Indian neighbor was walking his dog and I introduced the girl to the neighbor. I did worry about what he thought. I know very well that the opinion of a stranger is immaterial, yet I worry.
  3. Precedent. Am I setting some sort of precedent here? Would my youngest ask for the same privileges? I have always had the same rules for all three of my kids. I am not sure why I am even worried about it !

I am not stressed, but I am not very comfortable either. The Indian in me is desperately trying to get out and I wish this process was a little bit easy, that somewhere in me there is a middle ground.

You learn

Years ago, while living in Canada, I was at my Pakistani friend’s house when the postman delivered the mail. She is a very traditional Pakistani woman and I didn’t agree to a lot  of her parenting ideologies. She wouldn’t let her kids attend the school dance, prom etc and was paranoid about every second her kids spent outside her home. But what happened that day was something I will never forget.

So, she collected the mail from the mail box. Rushed inside, quickly opened the letter and then yelled “yesss”

I thought she won the lottery and can you believe how shocked I was when I learned that what she was holding was an Infringement notice (skipping the red light) from RCMP with a photo of her son’s car skipping the red light.

I thought my friend had gone in to shock, how else can you explain such a weird reaction.

After seeing my puzzled face, she explained

“You have no idea, how many days I have been waiting for something like this. My son had recently got his license and I was worried about him speeding. There is nothing more terrifying than receiving a ticket from the police. It teaches you that you are not a kid anymore, but an adult and there are rules to follow and consequences to face for not following the rules. After today, my son will be even more cautious while driving”

I thought about and felt she was right and saved the lesson in my head.

My son got his first speeding ticket. 20 KM over the limit!. He not only had to pay 259$ fine, he will have to drive like a granny till next April, cause if he gets one more demerit point, he will lose his license.

You have no idea how long I have been waiting to receive this particular letter. When my son came home, I gave him the letter and left it at that.I didn’t yell at him. I didn’t scold him.  which is even more harder for kids to deal with, for they are used to being admonished for doing something wrong. But now he is almost an adult, he doesn’t need admonishing. He needs to man up and face life.. He was miserable, but I do know that this was a really valuable lesson.

 

Enjoy the ride

I know the blog updates are becoming rather infrequent.

Here is the thing. I have reached a point in my life where I decided to please the only person who matters. And in this case that is me.

James Taylor sang the secret of life is to enjoy the passage of time (Secret 0 Life) and that is what I have been doing,

I stopped stressing on things that doesn’t matter.

One of the major thing was my children’s education. Although I am no way a pushy mother when it comes to my children’s education, I have always been worried about them getting somewhere in life. I wanted to give them the best opportunities. When Yaya declined UCLA, UCSD etc admission offers, I was disappointed. But I had always given her the right to choose and she is happy where she is. I now teach students who wrote the Gamsat exam with me. I would have been one of them if I wasn’t deaf.  I find it really odd that I teach them now. Life is really funny at times eh?. One of my student is a famous researcher whose papers I have read. After completing her PhD and Post doc, she decided to do medicine and wrote  Gamsat. The thing is, after PhD, you are not entitled to receive student loan, so she is self supporting herself by working 20 hours each week and living in a share home. I have another brilliant student who has done PhD in Chemical engineering and then felt that is not what he wanted to do and is now doing Medicine (Again self supporting by doing construction labour). I have a student who is the only child of a single mother with questionable past ( her words, not mine) and doesn’t know who her father is and determined to change her destiny. Interacting with students from various backgrounds, I have learned that if you want to get somewhere, then you can. All you need to do is to work for it.

Hardest part for me as a mother was to stand aside and watch.. When Yaya was in grade 12, during her study hols before the finals, she read novels. She even worked when she had two days off between her exams. It is the same with my son. He is currently binge reading Jeffrey Archer novels. His finals will start end of this month. I only ever studied just before the exams. So not studying when you are on study holidays used to bother me a great deal. But not anymore.

So all in all, I have changed. I decided to enjoy the passage of time doing things I want to do. In this instance, I stopped fretting.

Dreams

The best part of working at the Uni is that you get to meet a lot of wonderful people. Toni is one such person.

He is the first generation Argentinian born to Korean parents. He was born in Argentina, didn’t speak a word of Spanish(his parents themselves didn’t speak Spanish, they moved from Korea to Argentina in the early 90’s and had Toni a year after arriving in Argentina) and went to school, struggled and persevered.

He became an Orthopaedic surgeon. A very successful one too. Pride of every immigrant parent, role model for the whole Korean community.

Last week, he registered for a carpentry trade certificate at a local Tafe college in Brisbane. He had always wanted to be a carpenter and dreamt of selling his own signature works.

He sold everything he owned and moved to Brisbane. From owning a posh car to a beat up cycle, condo to share house.. all because of a dream.

There are two  factors at play here.

His parents having to explain to the rest of their community that their successful son has gone mad and he having to live with the choices he make.

I know so many people who are stuck doing the jobs they hate, yet they do nothing to change their situation. They are afraid of taking that leap even if they know that it is the right thing to do. You have one life to live.. live you must. Even if it means giving up so much, just to gain what you really really want.

 

 

 

Costly lesson

It all started with a letter addressed to my son.

I never open a letter addressed to my children. I strongly believe that children have a right to privacy. I hated the fact that my mother and my oldest sister opened all the letters addressed to me. It was like I have no rights whatsoever.  In fact, when I cleaned my mother’s room while I was in the 3rd year of medicine (I was legally an adult for all intent and purpose), I found a bunch of letters addressed to me under her mattress. Most of the letters were from friends and my mother hiding the letters from me costed me a good friendship. One of the letters was actually a request for help. A friend’s younger sister wanted to do journalism in Bangalore and he wanted to know if I would help her when she arrived in Bangalore as it was the first time she was ever leaving Bangalore. I should also mention, this is the friend who saved my ass countless times by sending all those telegrams to my medical college .. (you know the ones where he killed my paternal and maternal grandfathers over and over, so I could get leave of absence). Because I never saw the letters and never replied, he never ever talked to me, even after I wrote to him and explained what had happened.

Besides the issue to privacy, there is also the thing called respect. I am raising little adults and they deserve respect. So, I left the letter on my son’s desk, which kind of looks like a mine field. He was busy with exams and I was busy with work. I forgot to tell him about the letter and he didn’t tidy up his table.

Last week, he finally saw the letter. It was a letter of demand from the toll company!

He had used the toll road unknowingly and didn’t own a toll tag. Now there is fine which is increasing exponentially as each day goes by.

I tried to call the toll company and they wanted to talk to the owner of the car (my son) and he was heading to work at that exact moment. He said ” I will deal with it when I have time”

Well, if you have ever received a letter of demand, then you know that time is of the essence here. The toll company doesn’t wait for you to make time, they just charge you an insane amount of money every day you delay the payment, which I explained to my son.

“It is my money” my son said.

I was really really annoyed with him. Of course it is his money. He earned every bit of it by working and earning 11 $/hour. But why would he want to waste money like this? If you act on time, then you could avoid a catastrophe.

I have heard from my colleagues about students coming to Uni with no financial management skills. (I know personally a student who is so badly in debt that she needs to work all summer to pay off her debts incurred this year )

I felt, my son needs to learn to take responsibilities. He will have to make that call to the toll operator and sort it out. And I just have to accept the fact that even though an early intervention would have saved a lot of money, sometimes children need costly lessons.

And so I wait.

There are only two options.

He calls the toll operator in the next few days and sort out the mess.

He doesn’t call the toll operator the next few days, he will receive another letter of demand and the amount of money owed would be higher.. and then another.. and then another.. and if he didn’t pay up, he will get a debtor’s note.. and a negative credit history.

Drugs

This is going to be a contentious post. Read at your own peril.

 

Last weekend, one of my children (we will call the person child in this post) told me that there is a party the child wants to attend and there will be weed and alcohol. I was asked if I was ok with the child smoking weed?

This was in contrast to a friend who came to me  a year ago to ask for advice as she found weed in her son’s room. She freaked out, screamed and yelled at the child, punished him, then went to the priest and made her son confess to the priest. The atmosphere at home was unbearable  and her son was no longer talking to her. But she was not interested in fixing that, all she wanted to know from me (because I am medically qualified) was how to find out if her son was still smoking weed?

There was much I wanted to tell her, but I knew she was not going to listen to me. So I told her what she wanted to hear. You can do a saliva test(drug alert kit), which will show positive in the first 24 hours.

So, weed.. also known as Marijuana.. it has been around since time immemorial. Plenty are people who smoked weed.

The first question that needs to be asked is why kids want to smoke weed?

Children often want to take drugs for the curiosity factor. How does it feel to be high?

Sometimes, it is out of boredom,

Sometimes it is out of parental neglect and wanting to teach the parents a lesson. (hurt the people who hurt you, even it at the expense of self harm)

Sometimes it is because they have reached the end of their tethers and need something that will help them face another day.

The second question is the safety

Medically, there are two hypothesis.

1.Weed is known to  cause psychotic symptoms in a healthy child who wouldn’t otherwise have it if the child didn’t smoke weed.

2. Weed may precipitate psychosis in children who are predisposed to acquiring psychosis related disorders.

So, much as weed is considered a safe drug(as compared to the rest of the hallucinogens), it still comes with a lot of risk.

Legally

Weed is illegal in most countries.  THC metabolism is a bit tricky as it is  hydrophobic and tend to stay around in your cells for a while, it can stay on your saliva for 24 hours and your blood for a week. So no driving for minimum 24 hours after smoking weed. Besides, one should never drink/take drugs and drive. That is a big No.

Quality

There are good weed, bad weed, really bad weed. You should read about how to judge the quality of your weed.

Future

What is your plan? Once you have learned how it feels to be high, are you planning to smoke regularly? Can you afford it? Will it affect your job prospects(most companies now do random drug tests)

How did I deal with it?

First of all, my child didn’t have to tell me or ask my permission. I wouldn’t have known if the said child smoked weed if they didn’t tell me. So, it is a good thing that the child and I share a relationship where we can talk about things like this very open.

I discussed with the child all of what I wrote above.

And said yes.

Jimmy

Sometimes, there are stories that truly makes you happy. This is one such story.

Jimmy is a former Singapore defense force staff. Just after the war and before Malaysia gained independence Jimmy as a 20 plus year old young man was posted to Sabah. Near the base, there were a row of houses and Jimmy often noticed a young girl standing by the gate and watching him. But he was older, she was still a school girl. Before he went back to Singapore, Jimmy managed to find out her fullname.

Jimmy eventually found the love of his life, got married, became a father of three, quit Singapore defense force and migrated to Australia in the 70’s.

Few years ago, Jimmy got divorced.

Now that the kids have flown out of the nest, Jimmy often travels around S.E Asia to go for diving.

He was in KK and the couple who was running the airBNB accommodation he was staying at told him that they were heading to play Balut and asked him if he was interested. He was heading back to Australia early next morning and he did consider telling them No.

Balut is not a very popular game, but some of the Kadazans are very fond of the game and they often host a game or two at various locations in Kota Kinabalu. Jimmy had never even heard of Balut and decided he might as well go and see what it is all about.

When he went, he was introduced to the other players and one of the ladies in the group caught his attention. She had introduced herself to Jimmy using her first name and Jimmy asked is your surname xyz?. Turns out she is the same girl who used to watch him.

She had a difficult marriage and got divorced 20 years ago, promising never ever fall in love again. Jimmy cancelled his flight back home and now they are together.

When I saw them, all I could see is the happiness in their eyes. It is a truly remarkable love story.. all because of a game called Balut.