Saturday, October 11, 2008

Grandparent Envy

Am I looking a tinge green these days? I promise you it's not from sampling all those 5:00 Fridays I've been testing. It's because I have a tad case of grandparent envy. Bird and Deal have grandparents, of course. I do not. But that's because I am 40, which means I am approaching middle age when most people no longer have grandparents. But honestly, if my grandparents walked into my kitchen and pulled up a seat at the table next to me, I wouldn't be sure who they were. I don't have vivid memories of them, and those I have are with blurred faces like the poor souls who didn't give their consent to be in America's Funniest Home Videos. I do recall glimpses of eating fresh coconut with my Amma, the squishy and syrupy rasagola my Nani made, and the teasing humor of my Dadu. I don't have much else. Mac Daddy, meanwhile, grew up just houses away from his grandparents.

I never really knew my grandparents. They were an ocean away and 12 hours ahead in time. And those are just the literal, measurable distances. When my parents made the choice to give my brother and me a better life in the States, they did so knowing they, and we, would be on our own. They essentially gave up their familial ties (not the heart strings, of course). I am floored to think of the sacrifices they made, moving to a new world and raising two kids all alone. My mom was an insanely young mom, and I cannot imagine her day to day struggle. My parents have now lived in America longer than they lived in India. A milestone for any immigrant. I lived in America longer than I lived in India by my second birthday. I had been back to India only a few times in my young life. Hardly enough to forge a relationship with my relatives. The fact that my family spoke a different dialect of the native tongue that had become foreign to me did not help matters.

And so India was simply a place I was from.

There were many times I ached not having extended family, but the family friend aunties and uncles that became our adopted family quickly filled the void. I was always, however, jealous of my friends who had real live grandparents to visit, read with, adore and be adored by. I was eager for my children to have what I did not. Eager for those pillars of wisdom, the good ol' days, and posterity to be front and center of my children's lives.

But they're not. At least not in the Normal Rockwell ideal that's been steeping in my fantasies since childhood. Bird and Deal have what I call a "ticket relationship" with their grandparents. We need a ticket - plane, bus, or train - to see grandparents. There's only so much relationship building when they see their paternal grandmother once a year for five days. No matter how much time we carve to be with her or how much we talk about her at home or how many photos are hung at their eye level, the daily interaction is missing. Wisconsin might as well be an ocean away.

My parents are at least closer on the map, but they don't see Bird and Deal all that much either. Enough to pal around, read some books, buy some toys, whoop it up, cuddle, and exchange laughs and kisses. Bird and Deal have not celebrated their birthdays with doting grandparents since they were one. They have stopped asking where their grandparents are when they see other kids' gramps and grannies at the playground and car pool. A ticket relationship is not enough to forge a bond. A real relationship with their own secrets and traditions and rituals and games. A ticket relationship does not allow for the trappings of intimacy. There is simply too much to cram in before the next plane, bus, or train takes off. Too much for which to compensate.

I am jealous of our friends who have parents in town. I am not jealous of the free and frequent babysitting or the feasible nights and weekends away to renergize with their spouses (OK, maybe a tish jealous), rather I am envious of the family bond they have. Those kids have a real relationship with their grandparents who are role models, care givers, friends, and confidantes. Those kids have the benefit of the village having a hand in their rearing. Those parents, my friends and peers, have the benefit of a second opinion (solicited or not) and a knowing shoulder to lean on, the perspective of someone who lived to tell about it and perhaps offer insight from their own experiences. Those grandparents have the benefit of seeing the fruits of their labor and seeing the cycle spin round once again.

I see grandparents pick up their grandkids from school time to time. Or at a tennis match. Or simply stopping by to make rice krispie treats and carve pumpkins. Bird and Deal don't get that kind of relationship. The beauty of the every day is impossible in a ticket relationship. Deal asked me recently if Miss Emma, our nanny, was his grandma. That broke my heart for him, and for his biological grandmas. She loves my boys as she loves her own grandchildren. She spoils them as her own. She protects them as her own. She scolds them as her own. She snuggles them as her own. And they in turn love her.

Now don't get me wrong. Bird and Deal love their grandparents too. We talk about them all the time and have their photos placed at kid height in the playroom. They chat on the phone long enough to thank them for birthday gifts. And then we sit and wait for the next plane, bus, or train to arrive. Bird had no grandparents to show off his newly aquired bike riding skills (two wheels!) or swimming strokes. Deal had no grandparents to buy him ice cream and kiss away the tears when the paramedics came. No grandparents to come read to their school classes. No grandparents to whisk them away to a museum or park or penny arcade.

And so my childhood hopes are dashed. I am grateful that my boys are loved and thankful that our parents would do anything for our children, and for us. That goes without saying. I am still sad that the cycle I grew up in goes on. No extended family. Mac Daddy and I have surrounded ourselves with fantastic friends whom we love as family and people who love us in return. The thing is, they actually have family. And that cannot be replaced.

I am astounded that all these families move to live closer to each other. To be closer to their kin,
their flesh and blood, their new generation. Not my family. They're not even on the same continent as us for a good portion of the year. And so history is set on repeat.

I think having grandparents close by would make us all much closer, and not just in terms of geography.
Grandparent EnvySocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Friday, October 10, 2008

Accentuate the Positive

So how do you like my shirt? You love it, don't you? Can you read it well enough to see the most excellent tag line? It says "Accentuate the positive." I got the shirt from Erin by way of Jen. Pretty cool, huh? I'm going to wear it proudly everyday until the election. Well, being the neat freak I am, I'll wash it regularly. But I can't promise I'll fold it. The empty guest room acts as our clean laundry depository. It's best to make use of our space, right?

Watch this video to see me in my other fave Obama shirt. You'll see Bird and Deal in their shirts too. We're going to all wear our shirts in a little neighborhood parade when we go vote on November 4 (NOTE: North Carolina's deadline to register to vote is TODAY, and early voting starts next THURSDAY.).

Let's have an Obama bling runway show. Send me a link to you wearing your favorite shirt or pin or hat or whatever.
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Thursday, October 9, 2008

5:00 Fridays

Today's drink is courtesy of Seriously Mama. She calls it the "Glad-My-Husband's-Home-With-A-Bottle-of Bubbly" or something to that effect. Let's call it the Glad Hubby's Home for short.

And so here it is:

Equal parts Grey Goose L'Orange and Veuve Clicquot (or any champagne but not the cheap crappy stuff you drank at sorority mixers). Add a splash, just a splash for color, of pomegranate juice and float some pomegranate seeds in the glass. Toss in a lime twist and voila! After a few of these, you will have drunk "just enough" to make your husband glad he's home too! Wink. Wink.

Regardless of tough times and political cyclones, we have plenty to toast. Cheers, my friends.
5:00 FridaysSocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Tuesday, October 7, 2008

Until I became a Mother...

Until I was a mother, I had no idea that...

feeling a life dance and hiccup inside of me could be so earth shatteringly amazing.

meeting my baby would be so humbling.

the smells of a freshly bathed or happily sweaty child are equally sweeter than any scent on the planet.

holding my child's tiny, warm hand squeezing mine ever so slightly would make me float across the street.

I would ever give up the last scoop of ice cream.

I would want to devour a naked, wrinkled little bum.

sometimes 60 minutes would feel like 3 days and sometimes it would pass like a blink.

a belly button on a pooching out little belly would warrant so many kisses.

fat thighs were so delectably adorable.

innocence and wonder are indeed magical, lost, yet can be regained.

children were so freaking funny.

the sounds of children's laughter cannot be too loud or too frequent.

my child's cries of pain, shame, hurt, and angst make my tear ducts overflow too.

pride could be so powerful.

love could be totally unconditional.

my husband could be so amazing.

my responsibility was so great.

Cheerios could make glue.

Cream cheese does not wash easily out of hair.

kissing toes was such a feast.

cotton could be such a tactile pleasure.

stroking the hair and feeling the rise and fall of breath of a sleeping child was so hypnotic.

snuggling with a stack of childhood favorite books was so satisfying.

being spit upon and shit upon would be no big deal.

I could feel such intense rage and love within the span of a moment.

I. could. be. so. damn. tired.

wearing a suit of baby food drool to a meeting would be a badge of honor.

I could relive my childhood, only better.

I would wake up three times a night just to ensure my kids are sleeping soundly.

wet sloppy kisses would taste so good.

hearing the word "Mama" uttered for the first time would musically moving.

all art would be frame worthy.

part of the job was to let my children grow and go.

family and tradition are powerful.

regular diapers don't work in a pool.

I would be kicked and bruised and thrashed upon, just before being hugged in sorrow and comfort and forgiveness.

my heart could break into so many shards and melt into so many puddles.

I never knew what fulfillment meant.

my mom and dad worked so hard and sacrificed so much.

I would feel grace.

time would hasten its pace.

I could be so unwaveringly content.

I was maternal and giving and loving afterall.

What about you? How did motherhood or fatherhood change your constitution, the fibers of your being? What were your epiphanies?
Until I became a Mother...SocialTwist Tell-a-Friend

Monday, October 6, 2008

Barbies, not Babies

I was not a little girl who wanted to grow up and get married and have babies. I never draped a pillow case over my head and played bride. I never picked clover and made a bouquet as I hummed the wedding march and walked down the sidewalk aisle. I made crowns and intricate necklaces with the white flowered clover that overtook our yard each spring. My childhood friend Katy did the bride schtick all the time, and I rolled my eyes and thought she was a dweeb. I preferred to pucker up to the Shaun Cassidy album cover and dream of a more glamorous life.

Katy had rows and rows of those fancy pants Madame Alexander dolls that we were not allowed to play with. What was the point if I couldn't mix and match the dirndl from the German doll with the flamenco headdress of the Spanish doll? Katy also had a Sasha doll with tawny olive skin like mine and hair that I was sure was real because it smelled exactly like Gee, Your Hair Smells Terriffic. I coveted that doll. Alas, Sasha was also too delicate to be played with, lest her perfect hair become mussed. She stood on a stand atop Katy's dresser beckoning to be cuddled. I'm quite sure I heard her once ask to try on a snazzy new outfit and be rid of the red corduroy jumper and peter pan collar shirt with the pearl buttons just one time.

Katy got those dolls as gifts and would about pee her pants at the mere thought of setting them up for a tea party. You see, Katy's world traveled vixen of a grandmother who wore red lipstick and a tightly pulled bun and a silk kimono everyday, gave her those dolls. She was a strict, fierce creature who provoked a palpable fear in me and conversely catapulted me into wild behavior just to see what she would do. Truth is, Grandmama scared the shit out of me, and I hated when Katy invited me over there. I swear it was a bait and switch. Katy would invite me over to her house (well before the word playdate was in our lexicon) and after a few minutes of flipping through 45s her mom would jingle the keys and tell us to get in the car. Katy's mom thought I knew the plan was to see Grandmama all along, while Katy guiltily looked to the ground and refused my not-again-with-this-Grandmama-business stare. I was 8-years old. What was I supposed to do, throw a fit and refuse to go? Come on, my parents raised me better than that. So off I went, dragging my Buster Browns, giving Katy the stink eye the whole way. I was always relieved to be back home in the comfort of the giant closet in the loft that was my makeshift toy haven (before the words play and room became a compound word).

Back at my house I played with Barbie dolls. Yeah, I know Barbie gives girls a fucked up body image and all that. I don't think people worried as much about that stuff in 1976. I loved my Barbies and will forever be pissed and saddended that my dad let his new wife's daughter break into my old stowed away Barbie trunks and cut off all their hair. I was saving those for my daughters. I guess it's good I have sons. Anyway, I spent hours making clothes for my Barbies and mixing and matching outfits. I put on fashion shows and pretend beauty pageants, all the stuff that makes me cringe today. The sidebar lesson here is that I turned out fine and never battled anorexia, bulimia, binge eating, or other such body issues aside from the normal disdain of back fat and touching thighs. Barbie had no real meaningful influence on me whatsoever, aside from a generous boost to my imagination.

I pretended my Barbies were high powered chicks on a mission who could kick G.I. Joe's ass and had pussy whipped Ken into submission. Ken frequently sported an apron tied at his waist and a homemade feather duster I crafted from the shedded pink feathers of ours. Clearly I had issues. I never wanted any of those Barbie babies or Kelly dolls. And Skipper was a total dork. I definitely didn't have room in my high falutin' Barbie world for meek little Skipper who just tagged along Barbie's heels whining that she couldn't keep up. Skipper with her sensible shoes.

And Barbie had no time for babies, not with all that shopping, jet setting, cavorting, and deal making she had to do. If I wanted to play with babies I'd go play with Katy, whose mom acqiesced and bought her a Baby Alive so she could have a doll she could actually touch. Why on earth would I want a doll that ate and peed and pooped? Nothing about that sounded fun, even the name creeped me out. Baaaabbbbbyyy Aliiiive is gonna get cha! Waaaahhh!

This 8-year old was busy bringing home the bacon, frying it up in a pan, and awaiting sprouting breasts so I could burn a bra or two.

I did not sway from that menacingly unmaternal path into my adult years. I was never the girl who dreamed of cradling a baby. I was not anti-child; I simply did not think about kids in my life. I guess I just did not see the appeal. I did not babysit much, and when I did I hated it. I never knew any babies or little kids because I was always the youngest in the neighborhood. I was simply not wired to be a maternal being. My biological clock was not only not ticking, it was not plugged in.
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