Archive of ‘Attempts at Parenting’ category

The Colors in Her Rainbow

I had been out of town for a short work trip when my daughter, Shaila, told me what was upsetting her. I could hear that something was bothering my seven year old as she told me the details of her school day. Yes, her teacher had liked her Christmas present. Yes, she was being a good girl. Yes, she was excited about Winter break.

It was only after a little more prodding and handing off the phone to my husband, who was also accompanying me on this trip, that we were able to get at what was really bothering her.

“Um, Daddy?”
“Yes, Honey?”
“Um, well, today at school? My friend, Kylie* told me she doesn’t like brown people.”

John looked up at me and I could hear him weighing his words as he chose carefully what to say to our daughter, next.

“Yeah. She said she doesn’t like brown people. And she especially doesn’t like Nico because he is REALLY dark.”

Shaila’s five year old younger brother, Nico, is certainly a darker shade of brown than my daughter, but I so rarely think about it that it made me catch my breath to hear of someone’s distaste for my sweet, little son.

Because he is too brown. Too dark. Not white enough.

My heart caught in my chest and shortened my breath. I am not an idiot. I knew this day was coming at some point. I knew that one day my kids would be told, however innocently, that they were not good enough or on the other side of right, because of their skin.

When I got back on the phone with Shaila, I said the first thing that came to mind.

“Honey, you know that no matter what color a person’s skin is, we are all equal.”

“I know that, Mommy,” she said.

“And no matter what someone might say to you, you can never judge anybody based on the color of their skin.” I said this absolutely, allowing no room for argument.

“I know that too, Mommy. I’m just really sad,” she said, despondently.

My heart broke for her as I thought about the weight of those words on her little shoulders. Words that made her feel inferior. Words about her brother that made her confused and hurt.

“No matter what anyone ever says to you, you have to know that the color of your skin doesn’t mean anything about what kind of person you are. And I want you to know that no matter what you might feel, and what Kylie’s words made you feel, she is the one with the problem. Not you. NOT you.”

I couldn’t see her over the phone but I imagined her resigned nod.

“When I get home, we’ll talk more about this, ok? I know that you know this, but you should never like someone or dislike someone because of what they look like or because they are different from you.”

“I know that, Mommy,” she sounded stronger when she said it this time.

I wanted to say more, but I could feel my voice cracking and my composure going a little. We hung up with me assuring her that I loved her. But I wished that I had been there on this day to help her through this experience alongside her.

My kids are five and seven years old. Sadly, this isn’t the first time they have even heard words of prejudice or intolerance. Less than two years ago, while they had been playing in our front yard, a group of young boys walked up to both of my children mocking them with the words in a mangled Indian accent, “Hurry, hurry – get your curry!” Both of my kids had just looked confused, but unbeknownst to the boys, I had heard their words and their laughter as they continued down the street.

At the time, my son was three and my daughter was five. The dagger in my heart didn’t draw blood, though it felt like it had.

I had to think carefully about the words my husband and I say to our daughter about this situation. The same way I am going to think carefully about how I might approach this with my daughter’s teacher, to make her aware of the words that were used in her classroom a few days ago and how they dampened my daughter’s spirit. I know the school already messages very strongly about inclusion and embracing differences, and I am certain she would want to know that this took place.

This wasn’t the first time and I am fairly certain this won’t be the last time that my children encounter words of intolerance and ignorance. At the same time though, the world can be a brutal place and I know I would have to teach them this lesson at some point. I just wish that Shaila could have worn her rose-tinted glasses for a little longer.

I try to explain to my kids how boring this world would be if we all were the same. I am happy to say that I think they get that. You don’t have to be brown to understand what I felt that day my daughter related what happened to her at school. All the unique things we love about our children can also be the target of someone else’s disdain.

It’s up to us to remember as parents that we have to make them love and embrace those very differences which make them stand out today. For those differences are exceptional and need to be accepted, explored and held up proudly by our children. While they hurt, these character building experiences have to be handled in a way which won’t cause shame to our children, but makes them proud. In a way that makes them hold their heads up a little higher and backs a little straighter.

The world may not always give our children what we think they need, but we can always take what the world gives them and shape that experience for them so they can learn from it.

So bring it, world. We’re ready.

* Names have been changed to protect the young child that said this to my daughter.

Shaila Masala Chica








Can Any Mom Have it All? Guest Post by Sheryl Parbhoo

Today’s post was written by a friend of mine, fellow blogger Sheryl Parbhoo, who you can find at Southern Life, Indian Wife. According to Sheryl, she is “born and bred in the South, I am as American as they come.  My shoulders burn after 30 seconds in the sun, I love fast food, and the only language my ancestors ever spoke was Southern.  I am also the wife of an Indian man, who is paradoxically as Indian and as American as they come.  His arms turn black after 30 seconds in the sun, he loves fast food and his mom’s food, and speaks or understands five languages, including “Redneck.””

I asked Sheryl to come and bring her voice over to Masala Chica to share it with our readers over here. I hope you enjoy her authenticity as much as I do. Today she asks if any mom can have it all, inspired by Pepsi CEO Indrani Nooyi’s recent musings on the subject.

Sheryl and Dharmesh 2014

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Can any mom have it all?

I recently read online Why PepsiCo CEO Indra K. Nooyi Can’t Have It All, where Nooyi admits her own faults as a mom trying to balance career success with motherhood.  What she said made the insecure stay-at-home mom in me doing a little mom-jig.  She may be wealthy and successful, but she isn’t a great mom, either.  All the years of insecurity about missing my calling as a career woman faded.  I haven’t had it all, but she hasn’t either.  

Fifteen years ago, I stood in a mall elevator with my four small kids, smiling back at a middle aged woman next to us. My newborn twins napped in the double stroller, my older kids held onto the side of the stroller as instructed, and I rummaged through the diaper bag for my phone.

Elevator woman gazed benevolently at the babies, “Aw, how old are they?”

“The twins are six weeks and,” I patted my son and daughter’s heads, “five and three.”  The woman nodded politely and gave a little wave to my daughter who peered from behind her new stuffed puppy.  Then, my son started banging on the buttons, my phone rang on full volume and both babies screamed awake.  As I searched for pacifiers, the doors opened and my son and daughter bolted out.

Elevator woman said as she held the door for me, “Wow. Better you than me.  If I were you, I’d shoot myself in the head.”

Yeah, she really said that.

Needless to say, the choice to stay home and raise four kids came with judgment from a spectrum of elevator people, movie theater people, waiting room people, neighborhood people, and even family people. And, to really give grit to people’s comments, we went and had a fifth kid!  That really crossed the line.  Deep down inside, though, I judged myself right along with them.  How could I do this many kids and myself justice?

The answer is – I couldn’t.

When we got married twenty two years ago, my husband and I agreed that I would stay home to raise our hypothetical two kids for the first few years. But, after graduating with honors from college, I felt pings, and sometimes stabs, of regret being stuck at home pregnant while my friends went to graduate school and built careers.  Still, I knew the end was in sight. I would go to law school soon, then our neatly packaged life would commence.

The wrapping on that package fell off when I set foot in a law school classroom.  During lectures and readings of case briefs, my mind wandered to nursery rhymes.  I knew someone else was nuzzling my baby girl’s fuzzy head while she took her bottles, and someone else was reading Dr. Seuss to my toddler son.  So, I put the legal dictionary I’d just purchased at the university bookstore on the shelf, and went back to play dates and nap time and rolling out Play Doh snakes in the afternoons.

Just one more year with the kids, and then I’ll reenroll.

Then the twins happened, and the package completely unraveled. And the comments began:

Four kids? Wow. Are you Catholic or Mormon?

Did you plan this many kids?

Haven’t you figured out how this happens yet?

Not wanting to get arrested, I kept my fist to myself and ignored strangers.  Family, though, I couldn’t escape.

My husband is Indian, and true to a stereotypical Indian family, nearly everyone our age is a health care professional of some sort.  His Indian friends and cousins had semi-arranged marriages to good Indian wives. Both worked, and the guys’ parents took care of their one or two kids.  At family dinners, men and women alike chatted about medical or dental crap that I could care less about, while I silently spooned spicy daal and rice into my mouth.  When I was younger, people asked me when I was going to finish law school.  After the twins, I think they benignly wrote me off.  Not only was I white, I wasn’t a professional something-or-other.

Or was I just judging myself?

I’ve thrown myself into raising my kids, and until recently, forgot I was a person outside of being a mom.  I’ve been room mom, field trip chaperone, classroom helper, chauffeur, and room mom. I’ve spent entire mind-numbing school days at driving around town to find the right soccer cleats, and shopping for the perfect teacher appreciation gifts.  I’ve been bored, stressed, and craved conversations about something other than my kids.  I’ve yelled at them, I’ve nagged them, and I’ve cried when they’ve told me they hate me.  But, I’ve also gotten the good stuff.

When the school nurse calls me about a sick kid, I am the one that gets to hold a cool cloth on their foreheads when I bring them home.  When they come home from a long day of middle school drama, I am the one they share their frustrations with as we sit at the kitchen counter and eat a bowl of popcorn. And when they forget a major research paper because they were up all night typing it and forgot it on the printer, I get to save their butts and bring it to them at school.

My kids are now 20 and 18, with the twins at fourteen, and the youngest is seven. I’ve found myself once again now, not as a lawyer, but as a writer, and I crave the excitement I feel crafting my own future on the page.  Would my kids say I was a great mom to them because I stayed home to raise them?  Hell no. I guess they get to have it all, either.

Who gets to have it all?  I don’t think anyone ever does.  Fulfillment is different for the Indras of the world, for the cousins and friends, for the elevator people and all the rest. And that’s okay.  I just do my best to accept and be peaceful with all the little choices that add up to my life.  I love as much as I can, and like we all do, I always, always search to create something sweet to look forward to.

Family Pic 2014








Letters to Myself: When I Have a Teenage Kid

When I was a kid, I used to write “Letters to Myself.” This may seem odd and no, I don’t have multiple personalities. I just wanted to make sure that as an adult, I didn’t forget about all the “horrible” things my parents did to to embarrass me while I lived under their roof. I figured if I could warn myself in the future and help prevent my children from suffering the same kind of embarrassment that I had been through, we could potentially break the cycle. Thus leading to less money spent on counseling sessions, which would be a win-win from any perspective, because even my parents would agree that we shouldn’t waste money. I didn’t start the letters until I was in middle school, but I think I covered my bases pretty well.

So without further ado, let me present you with the teenage Masala Chica’s list of parental “Dos” and “Don’ts.”

1)   Don’t wear saris when I pick my kids up from school. Try to be cool like the other moms and wear jeans.

Not wearing mom jeans = uncool!

I’m Just a Girl. A Girl With a Blog.

You know that line from the movie Notting Hill? The one where Julia Roberts, who plays a famous actress – real stretch role for her –  tells Hugh Grant’s character, the manager of a small bookstore, “I’m just a girl, standing in front of a boy, asking him to love her.”

First of all, I call bullshit. She’s not just a girl. He’s not just a boy. When most people become famous, odds are, they change. I have seen and known it to happen with some friends in my own life. They became more than just a girl or a boy and depending on their character, the people they need to surround themselves have to come with a pedigree I don’t have or serve a purpose I apparently don’t.

To them I’m just a girl.

But I do want to re-purpose that line for my own use and maybe change it just a little bit.

“I’m just a girl, writing a blog for anyone who will read it, asking them to understand me.”

You might be the ones calling “Bullshit” this time since I am using the word “girl” quite liberally here. But I wanted to tell you a little bit about what this girl, who is writing this post way too late at night, has learned about herself and her life over the years through the course of blogging. She’s not going to write it all today, but maybe she can start.

(Please don’t mind the use of the third person reference there. It’s 2 AM. Cut me/her/she some slack.)

Blogging about your life is a constant balance

I know you’re thinking, “Like, duh.” Of course with blogging, there is always the balance of time. Do I play with my child or answer the comments that are waiting for me after my last post? Do I try to work on the business model for the company I am launching or do I come up with new witty posts about what happened to me at Target the other day? Or today. Or on Saturday, just because I needed an extension cord. In pink.

That time balance is a constant struggle and I am not going to lie. If I was sitting on a seesaw and my family was on one end and the blog was on another, over the past few months, it would be clear that my family won out and I sat my butt on one end of that seesaw and pretty much stayed there. I needed to. Stuff was happening and it was a choice I needed to make.

But it’s the other stuff. The below the surface stuff. It’s deciding whether to write about the things going on in my life that are hard to talk about, but for whatever reason, seem to flow from my fingers with a power of their own as soon as I open WordPress. It’s about contemplating what daily struggles I want to share that I am having with my spouse, siblings, in-laws,  friends or co-workers. It’s talking about the issues that I am really thinking about but can’t write because I know that there will be collateral damage in doing so. Hurt feelings. Irreparable damage even.

I can’t write what I think all the time because I don’t live in a vacuum and every word I put out there impacts the people around me.

Some people call it brave to put it all out there. I think I used to believe that. Now, I think that there is a fine line between bravery and needing constant validation from people around the internet, sometimes at the expense of my own family. That? I don’t see that as bravery anymore, but I do think it’s pretty freaking selfish.

I was at a conference once and Jeff Goines, the author of “Wrecked” was taking questions after a presentation on creative writing. I asked him how he draws the line between writing about himself and impacting the privacy of those in his life. He didn’t seem to understand the question and I struggled to find the words during that 10 second period to explain what I meant. But It think it’s something like this.

If I were to tell you that I battle depression, it’s not just my story. It’s also my husband’s. It’s also my children’s. It may become their teacher’s story, who may look at them differently or treat them because of a different lens they now have on. Oh, your homework is late? Is it because of what’s going on at home?

If I were to tell you that my husband has done something to me, something which has shocked me, it’s not just my story or his. Again, it’s the story of my children, our friends and our families as well. Perhaps even his co-workers and colleagues who might have seen or read the piece (Don’t worry, John hasn’t done anything to me. Yet.)

The reality is that over time, as a blogger, you start to feel that you owe it to yourself to be honest. And that you owe something to your readers. And while this may be true, I find that there have been a few times where I took this a little too literally and did so at the expense of the most important people in my life. These people – my family, my friends – don’t always understand my blog and they don’t get why I have opened up about some of my life. When I talk about the cathartic aspect of it, I think I lose them a bit there too. In fact, I am pretty sure my Dad would just say, “Get a diary.” In fact, I am pretty sure that after I publish this, my Dad will ask me why I had to say that he would say, “Get a diary.”

What I consider to be my story has sometimes been violations of the story of others. Especially when it has come to my family. What was hard for me to learn was that in my re-telling of the stories, they also saw many of the things very differently than I did.

But I got to tell my side of it, so it’s all good, right?

I guess I just don’t know anymore.

I think one of the reasons I have also taken a break from blogging was to figure this part of things out. I can tell all and really mess my children over forever or I can write with boundaries. And sometimes writing with boundaries is so hard to do that I just opt to not write at all.

And that sucks. The not writing just sucks.

Things in my life are finally settling down after what has been a very tumultuous few months. Some of it I can tell you about. Some of it I can’t. And I think that’s what I am learning. These boundaries with blogging are just never going to be that clear cut.

Thanks for sticking with me through my ride though.

At the end of the day, I’m just a girl. A girl with a blog. And I really want it to be a good one.

All my love,

Kiran

P.S. If you are in the Northern VA/DC Metro area, there is a conference on October 26 empowering bloggers and small business owners being run by Femworking. I will have a stall there as Simply Om, my jewelry company dedicated to raising awareness and aid for women living in oppression around the world. If you haven’t signed up, please come out and check out my good friend, Jill Smokler, (Scary Mommy), as the keynote speaker. Hope to see you there!








Under the Bleachers and Far Away

“When I grow up I want to be a slut,” said no girl. EVER.

Screen shot 2013-07-10 at 10.57.14 PM

The other night I was talking to an old friend about nothing and everything. We somehow ended up talking about a reality show, since everything in my life has about two degrees of separation from the Bravo Network. The subject moved to the storyline of one of the the women that appears on this show. I don’t know her, but she seems like a really sweet woman with an amazing personality, which says a lot for anyone represented on reality television. I think it’s fair to say that 80% of them DON’T seem like real “quality” people. Quite the opposite, even.

Anyway, I would guess that this woman is about 40 years old. I can’t say for sure, but she seems so nice, like she would give you the shirt off her own back.

Apparently, however, she has a reputation for not having a shirt on her back.

“Yeah, I heard she used to be a real slut in high school,” my friend mentioned casually. “My friend Rich went to high school with her. Apparently she used to have a reputation and used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”

Hmmm.

I thought about the woman in question. For the past few years, she has lived her life on television and allowed people to see her as a mother, a friend and a wife. This is reality television so take it for what it’s worth, but she seems kind, she seems loving and she seems like she works hard to have a good life.

But for whatever reason, to some people, she will be known always as the “girl who used to go down on guys under the bleachers.”

Over twenty years ago.

The whole conversation made me sad. I don’t know, nor do I care to know what choices this woman made about her sexuality when she was younger. I doubt they define her and I highly, HIGHLY  doubt that any male who participated in the activity is still remembered by anyone for whatever it was that he did under the bleachers with her.

Which takes me back to how I started this post. When I was a little kid and played dolls with my female friends, we talked about our dreams.

“When I grow up, I want to be a doctor.”

“When I grow up, I want to be an astronaut.”

“When I grow up, I want to get married and have two kids named Chanel and Coco.” (Ok, ok. Only once).

You know what I didn’t hear?

“When I grow up, I want to be a whore.”

“When I grow up, I want to be known as the girl who gives guys a good time.”

“Maybe if I work really hard I can become a pole dancer one day.”

No, these are not things that I hoped for as a young woman. I don’t remember any of my friends having those aspirations either.

The names that women are called for choices they make around their sexuality are brutal and meant to debase. We might not live in the day and age of a Scarlet Letter, but society shows a woman a huge double standard when it comes to her sexuality. It’s no wonder that the names women get called who are deemed as “too sexual”  carry such a stigma. They are meant to cause shame. They are meant to devalue her.

Which is why, as a woman, I make a conscious effort not to look at another woman as “a slut”, as “a whore”, or any of these other terms that get thrown around a little too comfortably and reduce a woman’s identity to the lowest common denominator. Society might be telling me to call her such a name.

I choose not to.

We’re playing on the same team here, sisters.

When I look back at high school and I look at the girls with a “reputation”, I see things a little differently now. They weren’t professional hookers at 16. They were lost and they were confused and they could have done with some light in their life.

To any girl I may have judged in high school because perhaps I’d “heard things about you,” I’d like to apologize. I look back at the young women you were and while we may not have always run in the same circles, I certainly judged you. I regret that and wish that instead, I had extended a hand in friendship and supported you.

Maybe if you been given a little more light and less judgement in your own life, you might not have mistaken love as one night of the quarterback’s affections.

I made my own mistakes later in life, I will admit. My college years were fueled by insecurity, pain and alcohol. I don’t really want to know what names I might have been called. I do know that my sorority named me “Most Likely to Hook up at a Mixer” which wasn’t even fair because I didn’t even go to mixers.

I don’t think that those years define me, but they certainly play a role in shaping who I am today. The sum of my parts are not comprised by my best days alone. They include my mistakes and my weaknesses, which I believe I continue to learn from.

I hope one day I can watch my Bravo television in peace, with my glass of wine in my hand, the kids tucked into bed and the dishes miraculously done. Where I can watch a woman act like a moron on national television while she drinks too much chardonnay, flips over a table and pulls her friend’s hair weave in a cat fight.

Just doing what they do on any given Tuesday.

Just don’t tell me what she did under the bleachers 20 years ago. I don’t care.

And neither should you.

XO.

Kiran








Get out the Map

“Mom, where is your family from in India?” Shaila asked me the other day.

“Your grandparents are from a state called Bihar.”

“Where’s that?”

“Well, it’s in the North.” I explained, “If you were looking at a map of India, it would be at the top, near a country called Nepal.” I explained.

She looked at me blankly.

“Here, I’ll show you.” Rather than pulling out a handy map though, I had something much better.

“Mommy! What are you doing?!!” Shaila yelled at me, diva hands on hips and all.

I had pulled up a pant leg in the middle of the mall, figuring I could find some vein formation on my legs to show her the geographical landscape of India. It didn’t take long to find an imperfect asymmetrical peninsular shape of India on the map somewhere on my right cankle.

Or should I call it my rankle?

The map of India I had found even had a vein that looked like the Ganges river running right through it. If you felt it the upper-left corner, you could probably feel the mountainous ranges of Kashmir in it.

I don’t know when my legs became so veiny. It’s not something I particularly pay attention to since they are hibernating behind jeans, warm pajamas and yoga pants most of the year. But I know that the years have not been kind to them.

Previously one of my best physical features, my legs now look like they should be used to teach my kids lessons on geography. Instead of taking my kids to the planetarium, I can draw out the Big Dipper and Ursa Minor on my legs instead, giving them hours of joy as we trace the constellations and tell stories about vengeful Greek gods who cursed some women with varicosity.

Childbirth can be terribly unkind and humbling for many mothers. Despite the way that I represent myself on Facebook or on this blog, the pictures are often a facade. It’s like I am wearing one big SPANX girdle thingy and have found a way to wrap it around my life to make all the loose skin, muffin-top and puffy eyes that are going on, somehow look pretty.

There are days when I look back at my body pre-baby and then compare it to the one I have post-baby.

I will not tell you which side is “winning,” because technically, we are all “winners.” But I will say that my butt is a lot bigger, my hips a lot wider and even my feet have grown.

So, like I said, not calling anyone a winner or loser here, but do want to make sure that if “more” is “better” than I am doing something very well and am ahead of the pack. Like a fine wine, you could say I have improved.

Fuller bodied?

I would say that this is all just part of the miracle of being a mother. That I find this all quite rewarding. But there are days where I don’t at all find it fair. Right now, Nico is going through a “I love my daddy so much and who the hell are you, woman who calls herself my mother?” kind of phase. He goes through this every few months and it does little for my ego as a parent.

Tonight he started crying when he realized I would be putting him to bed and not Daddy.

“Nooooo!” he yelled. “But I don’t want you. I want Daddy!”

In an attempt to distract him, I took off my knee high boots and rolled down my sock.

“Do you want to see Disneyworld? Florida?” I said, trying to find it somewhere on my legs. Like Murphy’s Law, I could spot Georgia, Kansas, Utah – lots of other states against the landscape of my legs.

But not Florida.

Not until later anyway. Just for the record, It’s on my left leg, upper thigh. It does sit next to California, but I’m not going to be a purist about my leg art.

I try not to let Nico’s words hurt. He’s too little to appreciate the 10 months I had with him in my belly. Maybe one day he will get that and some of the other ways I love him as a mother.

In the meantime, I am going to go and trace New Jersey on my right quad. There, it’s next to Wisconsin, but my kids are American and prone to geographical ignorance anyway, so I’m not too worried.

Namaste,

Kiran








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