“Come inside!” I hear Ammi’s voice as she squints outside from behind the French windows. “In a while; we’re making the doll camp,” I reply, sitting in the middle of the courtyard in the blazing sun, tenaciously trying to balance a ragged piece of cloth on four tiny sticks. “But it’s too hot! Come inside!” she persists. As always, my brother and I try to squeeze in maximum playtime before she completely flies off the handle.
I snap back to the chaotic – and strangely ironic – present: typing on my computer, I hear a shout, followed by a smack, then a thud. Hurriedly finishing off the sentence, I hear a resounding bawl getting louder by the second, as the pitter-patter of little feet approaches. Similar to an episode a few hours ago, an agape mouth with a few teeth missing, flanked on either side by rivulets of indignant tears, meets my rolling eyes.
*Sigh* So much for finishing off that urgent email reply! As I scoop up my almost two-year-old son to console him, his 4-year-old sister, close on his heels, gives me the breaking news-report, “Mama! He yanked my pencil from me; I pushed him away, so he fell and hit his head on the carpet!”
“Alright, alright; please bring me that …..gray car of his,” I say, frantically thinking of any object that’ll make him stop crying. With the car clasped in chubby little hands, tears wiped and peace restored, everything including my stress level goes back to normal, at least until the next tantrum.
Sometimes I feel I am performing a juggling act of sorts; I do not mean just the physical aspect of having two hyperactive, intelligent children at home, but the emotional and judgmental battles that I need to win with myself that pose the greatest challenge – am I too harsh with them? Am I too lenient? Am I doing a good job of raising them?
Motherhood is such a whirlwind in the early years that it leaves us mothers little time for ourselves. Also, we feel guilty even about occasionally complaining to others of no personal privacy, or for having a little ‘selfish’ treat whenever we get the chance.
Usually my children are still napping as evening approaches; I silently make my way into the kitchen to prepare a mug of hot tea to have with that brownie that I hid away from them last night; the one generously oozing with chocolate sauce! As I log on to a blog or video that I’ve been meaning to view, and bring my dessert to the computer table, a bleary-eyed, tousled head appears at the bedroom door.
“Oh no!” My heart sinks; so much for the clandestine treat.
“Please bring me my milk,” says my daughter, who, like all 4-year-old’s (or so I like to believe), still must have her milk in bed with her security blanket in one hand.
Back on duty, Mom!
It’s not just secretly relished treats that I sacrifice for catering to my children’s needs. I vouch for the fact that there exists an uncanny cause-and-effect relationship between a mother’s meal-time and her child’s poop time. Many times, the minute I extend my hand towards my food, I am summoned, “Diaper time! We can smell “it”.”
Also, it is ironic that on the day I am more tired than usual, my toddler decides to wake up crying, twice during the night! To top it off, I am expected to look perfect at all times, in addition to being the incessantly calm, composed mother: never losing my temper or my patience, nor ever shouting at my children. Also, I should bounce back to my initial weight within weeks of birth, and flaunt a flat stomach before the baby can even walk!
I recall how my husband and I would anxiously await the day our first-born would start talking. Now, our adorable chatterbox hardly pauses during her waking hours for half a breath! Besides replaying adult conversations she overhears, she can easily pass off as health inspector, warden and reporter!
“Mama, why are you drinking Pepsi? Don’t you know it is junk food? You will get bugs in your teeth that the doctor will remove by putting a drill in your mouth!”
“Baba, why didn’t you bring the eggs like Mama asked you to?”
Now, where ever she goes, her incessant questions cause at least a few exasperated sighs, skyward glances and outright requests for silence!
Although the day-to-day challenges of early motherhood do stress me out, it is after both my munchkins fall asleep that I reflect on how soon this phase, too, will pass. My eyes well up as I realize that one day, I will not be able to pick them up in my arms, or cuddle and kiss them the way I do now. The brevity of these joyful moments hits home, and before they pass and etch themselves in my mind as a lifetime of memories, I tell myself to heartily cherish these chaotic years with each – exasperated – breath!