The Exhausting Reality of Children

I woke up this morning like I wake up every morning: ready to go, planning the things we would do through the day, excited to try to make my (and our) day a good one.

Then it happened.

“Mooooom, carry me!!!”

“Moooom, she’s playing with my car!”

Mooooom, I need you!”

This all took place within the first 15 minutes of coming downstairs. The conflicting yells for me and for me to give the kids breakfast always hit me hard because it’s not humanly possible to make breakfast in the kitchen if I’m sitting next to the kids at the dining table!!”

But make them understand that. Make them understand that I only have 2 arms and hands and not 8. I do frequently joke to my older child that I could do everything she asks for in the minute she asks if I was an octopus.

This means though that this great, exciting, fun-filled day we were going to have is over as my mood goes south by the end of breakfast time. Then, I’m playing catch up all day to feel like I actually have control of something, anything.

I know these are 2 little humans with their set of needs and wants and incapable of completely regulating their emotional well-being. I know they depend on me for a lot of things (although I do try to make them as independent for certain tasks as quickly as I can). But all of this knowledge disappears when I end up arguing with them over which shirt they want to wear or which plate they get to use.

Oh my gosh, it is exhausting. It’s mentally draining. It’s emotionally draining. And even though I have now been a parent for over 5 years, I have no idea on how to thrive. I’m surviving sure. I will never be a Pinterest mom and I have long accepted that. But I’d like to be better. I’d like to at least be a Berenstein Bear Mom.

I’m not, though. Unfortunately, I get rude and sarcastic and mean. My goodwill melts away into impatience. My requests become orders. Honestly, I’m just trying to get through the day.

Is it possible? Is it possible to not be so exhausted by these little humans?

Or is it just reality?

The Boy Who Wears Bows

We are in a new time in our lives. When I was growing up, the ideas of what boys wear and what girls wear were pretty established.

Now, if you were growing up like me, it was okay to be a tomboy. You could wear boys’ clothing and play sports and video games and it was no big deal. But if you were a boy, the same gender neutrality wasn’t the case.

I have a son and a daughter. My son is the baby so he follows his sister everywhere. She is a tomboy in princess’s clothing. She wears dresses, does her hair, and puts on a necklace and then goes to climb mountains and play baseball. There is no separation of what is acceptable for her to do or wear from any other child.

My son likes to do the same thing his sister does plus a few things she didn’t do. He loves cars and trains and trucks in a way she was never into. And he will participate in all of it with a bow on his head. He sees his sister wear bows and asks for them as well. Because we have never established something was a “girl thing” or a “boy thing”, we put the bow on and let him rock it.

It definitely raises interest especially in our South Asian circles. We have heard “that’s for girls” a few times. But really is it? Or is it just something that we have established as a “girl thing” in society? If boys were given a fair chance to express themselves, would they themselves have immersed in the bow culture?

The next question that arises is what happens when my son wants to wear something else his sister wears. What about princess dresses or necklaces or bangles?

What do we do when we have let the kids live in a gender neutral zone where they can be free to do or wear whatever they want? Is it better to follow society’s gender norms at least for now so we can protect our son from the chance of being bullied until he can understand how to protect himself? Would we follow the same rules of parental protection as we would with climbing structures and riding bikes? Would we do whatever we could to protect them in the real world until the real world catches up with the way we think?

As parents, what is the correct path? I don’t know if there is one. I think we are in a new territory where children have the freedom to become who they really are, who they are truly comfortable with. I want to be able to be there for my children for whatever choices they make. I want to be there for them to fall back on and to be their shield when they need it. My parents did that for me when I was breaking society’s norms and I don’t want to be any less for my kids.

It may turn out that our son doesn’t care for “girl things” as he gets older. It may turn out that he loves them.

It may turn out that he may go on to drive monster trucks with a multitude of bows in his hair.

Dowry

So, yes, it still exists in India. One of the drivers we met in India told us that he was working as hard as he was because he had three daughters that still needed to get married. That means that not only does he have to pay for the cost of the wedding (which will be over-extravagant and way beyond the family’s means) but he has to give the groom’s family a variety of gifts.

The official definition of dowry according to Google is the property or money brought by a bride to her husband on their marriage. In India, as far as I know (and you can correct me if I’m wrong), the groom’s side asks for a bunch of things from the bride’s family as part of the requirement to marry her. Yup, that’s right. The bride’s family is required to give him all sorts of stuff in order to marry her. Now you tell me how that makes you feel if you’re a woman.

My mother-in-law told me the other day that the ratio of men to women in India is now 6:1. That means there are so many more men than women there. Women are valuable and in high demand. So why and how the dowry system still exist? And I know it does because I’ve heard accounts of people dealing with a situation where the demands of the groom’s family are getting out of hand.

My big question is what if that driver invested the money he was saving for his daughters’ weddings into their education instead? Wouldn’t that then provide these girls of a way to become independent and financially support themselves? They wouldn’t need to marry unless they wanted to. They wouldn’t need a husband to take care of them. They could choose a partner based on mutual respect and equality.

Is that even a possibility? Could you imagine what would happen if so many more women were able to take care of themselves?

If these women could get an education and financially support themselves, would they have the confidence to refuse to marry someone who was asking for a dowry?

What Indian People Think

Sometimes, I read what other people write about being an Indian raised in another country. It’s scary to see what they think. I read a couple of articles written by these Indian people about how we are losing our culture if we are born and raised in America. We defy our parents, we ignore our traditions, we don’t want to participate in anything even remotely Indian.

I’ve written a few articles about this in various forms already. Just because I’m American does not mean I’m not Indian. Yes, there are things that have changed since the good old days where the daughter or daughter-in-law would just blindly do what her elders asked but that’s called progress. It’s called knowledge.

In exchange for me not being the world’s best cook or the Indian woman that cleans all day long, I am independent. I know how to financially support myself. I never needed to get married to someone in order to survive. Instead I chose to marry someone who supports my passions and interests and we have a relationship based on friendship and love. We are here because we want to be not because we have to be.

On that note, I chose my own life partner. I really got to know myself myself and having gone through previous relationships only helped me understand who the right person was for me to take this journey with. In exchange for that, I won’t resent having missed out any part of life. I won’t feel stuck in a relationship because it was my duty to be there. I will love myself and my partner because I have gotten the chance to chase my dreams.

Yes, I don’t agree with or listen to everything my elders say. In this day and age, with all of the information out there, the ideas that we had grown up with might not be the same or even accurate anymore. I also believe in making my own mistakes. But guess what? Neither of us, my elders or I, know everything. We all have to learn. It doesn’t matter if they had done something before us and we are in the process of doing it now. Times have changed! Things have changed!

It’s frustrating that those of us who were raised in a different country still get judged for it. The truth is that our parents left India to make a better life for us. Our parents wanted better opportunities for us. So then why do we get judged when we take advantage of these opportunities? You can’t expect us to move forward in one thing and still be behind in something else. I can’t be an educated woman and then be expected to sit at home, cooking and cleaning all day (unless it’s truly what I love to do). With knowledge comes change. With knowledge comes progress.

I think it’s time that the Indian people who keep thinking we are losing our culture and traditions realize that it’s not that we’re losing them. It’s that our culture and traditions are evolving. Things will change. They always have. Even if you believe that everything has been the same for thousands of years, I can promise you that it hasn’t. Even in India, things have changed over time.

So please stop judging us. Accept change. It’s the only way that you’ll really ensure that the things that are important to you stay around (unless you expect me to wait on you hand and foot because that’s not happening).

A Letter To My Child

To my baby,

I don’t know what to say. I can’t believe you’re here. I’ve been waiting for you for a long time. Your father and I had to go through a lot before you came but you’re here now. Our perfect little baby.

I finally know what it means to watch my heart walking around outside of my body. The first week or so, one of us had to stay awake while you slept because we wanted to make sure you were okay.  I didn’t know then what I know now,  that you are tougher than you look. But I still always worry when you’re not smiling at me. I still wake up at least 3 times a night to make sure you’re doing fine.

It’s been tough.  We are learning each other and teaching each other at the same time. There are days I’m completely frustrated and exhausted but then, you do something new that I’ve never seen before and forget everything and am in awe again.

I love to fact that you do smile at me now. It feels like you know who I am, even though I’m not sure if you do. I can’t wait to share more with you. I want to laugh with you, dance with you, live with you. I want to teach you everything I’ve learned so you don’t make the same mistakes. I want you to see the world in the best light possible. I want you to always be happy.

I can’t believe I’m writing this letter to you. I hope you get to read it some day. For now, I’ll settle for you being the love of my life. Thank you for coming to us.