Thursday 5 May 2011

Chai and all the rest of it

I've often wondered what kind of a mother I would be if I was denied my 2 large mugs of ginger tea a day. Answer: The absent kind! :) I'd have run away from husband, kids, everything :) It's my one indulgence (yes with 2 small kids it does seem like indulgence!), my one obsession and I am fiercely protective of my tea-time. I don't like anyone else making my tea because it has to be just so. Freshly grated ginger has to be dropped in boiling water and simmer for two whole minutes; only then do I add sugar and after another minute, the milk - my recipe for that mild honey colour that signals the perfect brew. I'll take the tea my mom prepares because I learnt how to make it from her and now I can't turn around and say - your tea sucks! - and it truly doesn't! It's actually very nice.
So, the reason I am randomly talking about tea now is that tea-time is one of the times (mealtimes are the other) when the kids know NOT to disturb me. I've drilled it into their heads really really well that Amma will not be disturbed during those times, come hell or high water. If they need to go to the loo, they go. If they need to be wiped, they sit on the pot until I am done eating/drinking. If they need something, they jolly well have to wait. I may rouse myself if one of them falls down and starts bleeding, but since that has not happened yet, I don't know what my actual reaction will be :) For all practical purposes, I am deaf and dumb during the 10-15 minutes that I take to sip my tea and the 15 minutes that I take over lunch or dinner. 
I wasn't like this until a year ago. After we moved to India, suddenly it all became a bit too much. Y was over a year old, the kids were interacting (and fighting) with each other all the time, S was never there and for all practical purposes, for almost a year, I was a single mom. I needed a mental space (physical space was impossible!) to retreat at periodic intervals and recoup and just be. I didn't want to talk, yell, soothe or mediate. Sometimes I didn't even want to think. I just wanted a little core of silence inside myself for a few minutes. The caffeine helped to calm horribly frayed nerves :) Call it some kind of mental pranayama; I found I was getting back to the kids in a better frame of mind.
I used to feel a little mean that I was denying myself to the kids when they needed me. But I told myself that they need to respect my limits and what better way to start than to start early and start small? Now, I enlist Ads' help to allow me to get my work done by telling him - Amma needs some peace and silence for some time, can you play quietly with Y and not disturb me for such-and-such time? And he always steps up, understands my need and more or less manages to help me out.
I never get to go out and socialize with friends on my own. Not that I have a huge bunch of people waiting to hang out with me - our multiple moves have made deep friendships difficult. The point is, even if I did, it would be hard to do. I don't mind all that much because I know kids get clingy and need mom around all the time at particular points in time and this phase will pass sooner or later. But if I didn't carve out time and space atleast to relish what I'm putting into my body, what's the point?
Okay - I'll admit it - I'm a chai addict and only created all this emotional-need-theory and faff to justify my two (or more) cuppa chais a day! 
What do you all do to get some breathing space from the kids (or family members, or husbands, or whatever?!)

Food....Y's worst enemy

The "picky eater" - it is a nice name for someone who drives their mother nuts!! Y has never been a great eater, right from the time she started solids around 5 months. She weighed a good 3.8 kg at birth but it's all been downhill from there. At one point she was at the 5th percentile for weight. I kid you not. From 3.8 kg to the 5th percentile. I asked her pediatrician (we lived in the US at the time) what he thought about it and he said he didn't see a problem. I wanted to conk him over the head. She had been dropping steadily from 50th, to 30th, to 25th, to 10th and now 5th percentile and he was ok with it???!!!! Pray, when would he start getting concerned? Rationally, I knew enough not to worry. One, she has the skinny genes. Ads for all his voracious eating has his ribs showing, stick-like arms and legs. Their father is slender. I don't put on weight that easily. Y will thank us for this genetic bonus when she is older. Two, she is super-active and I know that over the course of a week, she is probably getting most of her nutrient stock. Three, breastfed babies gain weight less rapidly than exclusively formula-fed babies, babies who are on a diet of breastmilk AND formula during the first 6 months of life, as well as babies who start solids before 6 months. This is something I learnt much after the 5th percentile episode. I wish I had learnt about it earlier since it would have saved me a lot of worry (and guilt, and having to counter unsolicited advice from people)
She is 2 and a half now and mealtimes are my least favourite part of the day. There are precisely 5 items that I know for sure she will eat - omelettes, roasted potato curry, plain white rice, chips and Haldiram bhujia. Except for the omelette, and I concede the potato as well, the other options are so unhealthy! And oh, she will eat anything that's savoury and fried. Murukku, thattai, seedai - all par for the course. I'm not one of those moms who will make a huge effort to churn out creative foodstuff for their kids. You know, the sandwich with the smiley face, the red pepper cut in the shape of a flower, that kind of thing? My rule is - no separate meals prepared for the kids after they start on real solids. They eat what I cook for the adults and if they don't like it, they just stay hungry. So Y has frequently eaten a meal of just rice, or just potato and I compensate by getting her to drain a glass of milk or Pediasure later (half of which she vomits out to spite me!) 
She's growing - more so in length - as well as can be expected. She's very bright and very active. So I shouldn't be worried, and I'm not, except that I think the need for moms to feed their children, and see them eating well, is such a strong emotional need that it takes a huge effort to break out of that mindset. Every now and then I succumb and feel guilty that I must not be trying hard enough, or I'm a lousy cook. Every now and then someone makes a comment like this: She must have developed a squint because she is underweight. Now that's a whopper to lay me low for the rest of the week!