Holy shit my kids start ‘big school’ tomorrow.

Yes. Tomorrow. Uniforms, socks, shoes, the works. They may be in the Infant School, but it’s basically a new thing. A different concept. Bells, more rules, more older kids in one place than they’ve ever seen in their lifetime (granted, it’s been a short lifetime).

Given my past experiences with schools and educational institutions, putting my kids into a school has been a breeze. I thought I’d be blacklisted as the ‘mother-who-had-no-school-spirit-and-wrote-that-blog-dissing-her-school’ and no school would give my kids a chance!

There are so many different thoughts whizzing through my head right now. Things I may have forgotten to do or have done; worries about this new schedule; worries about them settling in; what happens to teachers’ kids; is this the ‘best’ fit for them…endless. Like bees. Buzzing in my brain. A hive of buzzes.

I spent the last ten minutes watching a series of videos. Each video shows less babyness. Less chubby cheeks. Fewer lisps and mispronunciations. They aren’t my little babies. They’re not babies. They’re little pains in my butt, whom I love and adore. I wish I could bottle up those memories and relive them, and appreciate them more in the moment. Not just watch the videos on repeat. I wish I could tell the me-of-a-few-years-ago to take more pictures and make more videos. Great. Now I’m tearing. Sigh.

This is a terrible and blubbery post. If any of my students’ read this, they’d massacre me for having no structure and no cohesion.

I know this is a recurring trope of mine, but parenting is so hard. There’s nothing ‘right’. I’m an advocate of going with your gut and ignoring the aunties out there, but by gosh you’re blady fumbling in the dark a lot no? I enthusiastically purchased all my kids’ school books and began, with gusto, to cover them and paste stickers and name tags on them. Somewhere down the line I realised that despite loving to cover books and engage in the whole shebang, this was kinda sucky. That killed my buzz. The books lost interest and the polythene covers were honestly not my best work. What I’m trying to say, in the most convoluted manner, is that the little things are what we focus on instead of the big picture – and I don’t know if that’s good.

In conversation with a mummy-friend recently, we deduced that parenting today is harder than before. There are more social evils at home. I think it trickles down from massive urbanisation and the technological boom, but raising kids (fewer in number than the average parent in the 1920s) is tough now. Another friend confessed that she had had enough of her career and wanted to stay at home now, I told her about my depressive angsty time at home. How I felt useless and angry at everyone but myself because here I was making the ultimate sacrifice and staying at home with my kids, and no one appreciated me! Of course, this is just me and I go through many phases in my life and I needed to be useful. Work was the best thing that happened to me because it gave me purpose and I think it’s made me a better mother. I advocated to her the importance of utilising her education and her knowledge and to work because she could. Anyway, I digress.

My kids start school tomorrow. Here we go.

Bullying and illusions of control

You cannot control may things. While there is also a lot you can control, there’s plenty you cannot. 

These days I’ve been thinking a lot about what I can’t control. I’ve also begun to wonder what I can do to feel a little more in control when it seems I cannot be. Haven’t you had that feeling? When you know you’re not really in control, but you like to give yourself the illusion that you are? Feelings like these really appeal to me; it could be the sign of something deeper. 

I was just sent a link to this post. It reads similarly to mine. Very similarly. So alike it is, that I am flattered. I’m also haunted by the fact that I may have taught this child, but I can’t put a finger on it. No actually, I don’t want to. (See what I mean about control?) 

Bullying is a phenomenon that’s so hard to control. I’m not going to expound on it in this post, because there’s no point but what is frightening is that synonyms to bullying are present everywhere. 

Presently I’m experiencing something similar with a family member. My heart goes out to this person who’s being stressed out by something she cannot control. You can’t control who’s in your family, you’ve got to suck it up and deal with them. Right? I’ve learned the hard way that there is no point attempting to change the mind of my grandmother on certain matters that are fundamentally important to me. I wonder how can I be her granddaughter? Sigh. Of course it’s no big deal, because this is an element of life one cannot control and hence must accept as inevitable. The bullying though. That’s got to suck. How does one attempt to paint a façade over being bullied by near and dear ones? 

This is why sometimes I agree with my mother, she says (and I paraphrase) ‘sometimes some friends are better than family’ and I agree wholeheartedly. You’re not born into a family of like-minded people. However you make friends with like-minded folk, who perhaps get you more than your family do. Some may think this strange. Sometimes I do, because of the whole ‘blood is thicker than water’ cliché. But when I think in retrospect, perhaps it’s true. I know my friends have got my back, I know my parents have my back…my brother will probably complain to me but he’ll have my back…my grandmother though 😂😂

the inevitable

There’s been a lot of death around me lately. I specify, me, because I don’t know if it’s been the same for you.

I lost a student. There’s been a flood. A close friend’s death anniversary looms ahead. There is death. It is inevitable. You’ll never know when it comes.

Yes, I’m a bit maudlin right now. Another student recently told me, ‘what’s the point in life when I might die tomorrow?’ Of course I combatted that rhetorical question with an arsenal of optimism, hope and positivity. Perhaps I’m surrounded by too many moody teenagers these days, or maybe it’s just that time of month, but I’ve been thinking about death a lot.

Of course, no one is ready to die. No one wants it per se. I don’t. I haven’t lived enough yet. I haven’t taught my children enough…yet. I doubt even when they’re 20 I’d still not be done, but still. Death frightens me, as it does everyone, because of its uncertainty. You have the poets and writers who’ve explored the topic senselessly – of course. Harry Potter survived death, in a way. I’d like my death to be like that. Meet a sentient being who gives me the choice of moving on or staying back. I’d also like the maturity to realise when I really need to move on. Right now, could I move on?

I seriously hope I don’t die in a few days cos this damn post will be used as evidence for my apparently obvious suicide. *rolleyes*

I need to teach my daughter to be less of a brat; I need to ensure my son is less of an introvert; I need to make sure my husband doesn’t spend his life in front of a screen; I need to act again; I should write a book; I need to read for a Masters degree; I need to look after my parents or at least teach my brother how to; I need to see my brother get married.

That about sums up my list of absolute-essentials-to-do-before-i-die.

 

A grown up ‘pandithaya’

I’ve always been a pandithaya.

Also known as a brat, smart aleck, smart ass, mouthy..you get the gist.

I’ve never really been ashamed of this fact, it’s been a part of me for so long I’ve learned to love it. However, I was always under the impression that I’d eventually grow out of it.

I haven’t.

Earlier today I bumped to an extremely interesting gentleman, whom I’ve impressed as a school-going debater with my smart aleck comments. Something about gender roles, when he had a ponytail. I laughed out loud as we reminisced because…honestly…that’s so totally me!

In the course of my work with students I come across many such pandithayas, and it’s interesting because as a Teacher students like this are supposed to be a pain in the ass. They’re not to me, because I know they’ll grow up to be someone like me…and I’m not that bad once you get to know me🙂

The thing about pandithayas is that we’re all pundits (i think that’s the root of the sinhalese word). We start off on any given topic armed with a substantial amount of information, and then sometimes we just can’t help ourselves we go overboard. Either we get blind sided by our own pomposity or our egos are puffed by an ardent audience member we always take it a notch further. That’s when it all comes crashing down (Humpty Dumpty seems an apt comparison here). Obviously someone who knows more, or bullshits better always calls us out. I think a true smart aleck will recover from a telling off with the nonchalance that he/she started said BS initially (that’s what I do anyway), and then the whole episode is just another cog in the wheel of experience, and said pundit only learns more on the fine art of pandithaya-ism. This trait I’ve seen in students and while I find it hilarious, I also realise that I’ll probably never ‘grow out’ of it.

Just a little food for thought that came my way when I should have gone to bed about half an hour ago.

10 signs you’re married to a Gamer

I wrote this some time ago for a magazine my friend was to edit; somehow the magazine never got published and I forgot about it. Came across it this evening and thought because tomorrow is of Valentine’s Day will publish it as a sign of my love for the Geek :) 

Playstation, Xbox, Wii U, DS…if it’s a console, I’ve heard of it and I probably have it in my house. Not because I am an enthusiast, but my husband is. Of course, this was a passion that I have had to contend with over the past 12 years of being with him. Now it’s just a part of the package of the man I’ve married. Turns out I’ve become immune to certain elements of the ‘deal’, and was reminded of the funny aspects of it recently. So if you’re dating a Gamer, just got married to one, or your beloved is considering becoming a Gamer, here are a few things to look out for. Consider this a disclaimer. Facts of life you’re going to have to accept as part and parcel of the man you love, along with the eternal toilet seat up, the burps and excessive body hair.

  1. Headphones

Very expensive headphones were purchased, ‘for the sake of the family’, to save us from the incessant gaming noise. Now I’ve realised it was to save him from me. My requests and demands literally fall on deaf ears. Sometimes, I think he ignores me intentionally because if I say something like, ‘your tea is ready’ up he comes. Yet if I complain, ‘you forgot to put your towel out’ he doesn’t move a muscle. So yes, headphones are a sign that your nagging is about to be ignored. Fight it ladies. Fight for the right to nag. Say no to headphones.

  1. No sleep

They say sleep is for the weak, ‘they’ have probably met a Gamer. Sleep is not for the hardcore. My husband gives up sleeping for gaming. Apparently it’s the best time to game. This man, who was dozing off at 10pm while watching Game of Thrones, stays up till 3am…gaming! Logic and reason fail to explain why this is really a bad idea, so I just go with it (and post a whole bunch of stuff on his Facebook wall about the importance of sleep).

  1. Dinner/date night conversations

If most of your dinner conversations revolve around him telling you why ‘Arkham Knight’ is so amazing, then my child you and I are in the same boat. I now know the backstory to ‘Witcher 3’, ALL the Batman games and why the next Halo game won’t be as good as the previous games because a different developer did it. For a week he moaned about how Vesemir was killed by Imlerith! Vese-who? Imle-what?

  1. You know lots of useless information

Heard of Bungie? Naughty Dog? Rocksteady? They’re game developers. Kratos ring any bells? How about Princess Peach, Yoshi and Luigi? Yennefer? Ciri? They’re all characters. You probably know most of the DC and Marvel characters because of the barrage of comic book movies these days, so I won’t go into that.

Lately I dream of my husband shouting, “THRALL COMING MACHANG!” – that’s cos he’s really into Destiny these days, and Thrall are some form of enemy. Personally, I now hate that word. It’s amazing how his English is generally grammatically correct, but his gaming language would kill the Queen.

  1. Your kids consider ‘watching-thathi-gaming’ an acceptable form of recreation

‘What shall we do today?’ I ask my four year old son, who’s just woken up from his nap. “Watch Thathi play Batman!” which will be echoed by my two year old daughter, who will do a jig and then run off behind the brother.

Really, need I say any more?

  1. Best friends are gamers

My best friends are those I spent the last few years of school with. My husband is in touch with a maximum of 3 friends from school. His bosom buddies are all introverted gamers, who are enthusiastic extroverts when they meet up and then yell at each other in gamer gibberish. ‘Tis fun. They boast about how tolerant their wives and girl friends are. If only they knew. If only they knew.

  1. Money spent on games, not groceries

The only way I know how much is being spent on games is because I am the one who accepts the numerous packages from the courier, and pay the duty (till he comes home and reimburses me, of course!). It is an expensive passion is all I have to say. Sigh.

  1. Core leave/annual leave is taken depending on what games have been released

“Uncharted is out in September! It’s a good thing I’m on leave then” – coincidence? Nah.

  1. Non gamer visitors are ignored

Literally. As if they’re not there. The headphones are on, and they eyes are directed towards the TV. No one else, except the kids, is taken any notice of.

  1. You suck at being a Gamer

I am really bad. No one likes to play with me. I cannot walk with my head up in Halo, because I don’t really get the whole up-is-down and down-is-up controller thing, and even in Mario Bros. I’m always the last. I put it down to the universe deciding that my husband is enough Gamer for the two of us.

 

Yes, I like to complain. I like to nag. I also love my husband. While he’s a passionate Gamer, he’s also a gentle giant of a husband and a loving father. He games, not smokes. He stays up, at home; he’s not out drinking. I am grateful for my small blessings…but a girl’s got to complain😉

Let’s talk about Sex.

“Joy does not mean riotous glee, but it does mean the purposive employment of energy in a self-chosen enterprise. It does mean pride and confidence … To be emancipated from helplessness and need and walk freely upon the earth: that is your birthright. To refuse hobbles and deformity and possession of your body and glory in its power, accepting its own laws of loveliness. To have something to desire, something to make, something to achieve, and at last something genuine to give. To be free from guilt and shame and the tireless self-discipline of women. To stop pretending and dissembling, cajoling and manipulating, and begin to control and sympathize. To claim the masculine virtues of magnanimity and generosity and courage” – Germaine Greer

I stumbled across this quote recently and it resonated with me. The little I know of Germaine Greer is due to the Lovely Ladies at the English Department, of the University of Colombo. The glimmer of Greer was enough to hook me, and soon I was a fan. I attended some of her discussions when she came to the Lit Fest a few years ago and my mind was sufficiently blown.

Greer advocates, in her book ‘The Female Eunuch’, that women in the 1970s had no sexual freedom. Perhaps the West has now overcome these obstacles, but Sri Lanka definitely hasn’t. If one is to talk about Sex, at any point with any one, undoubtedly brings about simpering, giggling or a swift change of the subject. If it’s a man however he may become coarse or uncomfortable. There are those gossipmongers who love to hear of another’s sex life, and lap up these details greedily…only to regurgitate them later with some other sex-starved individual.

I realise that me writing about Sex is something that my mother will perhaps call me about and ask why have I done this; my husband may roll his eyes; I may get ribbed by a few male friends, while my femme fatale friends, who agree but aren’t as vociferous or shameless, will chalk it up to me-being-me…🙂

What’s wrong with Sex? Isn’t it a perfectly natural act?  Why are we ashamed of it? Why is it taboo? Why is it a secret? Why is there little or no public information available about this? Why are schools so extremely inept at providing children with proper sex ed?

As you may have, intelligently, deduced I have no issues with Sex. I never have. Now that I think about it, I wonder why. I’ve never placed much on the concept of virginity, strange given my convent upbringing. I do not, honestly understand what the fuss is all about. Is it because you have to be naked? Is it because you have to enjoy being naked? Is it because porn has made the act of sex so ‘dirty’?

I work with a very interesting lady who’s been sharing with me her recent experiences in teaching teenagers about Sex. Through her I’ve come to realise that kids nowadays know (albeit much more than my generation did) very little about Sex. It’s all cloak and dagger; secretly obtained information that they’ve picked up from a website or something. No wonder children make such stupid decisions nowadays and start sharing nudes among themselves. Sex should not be taboo. Sex should be normalised. If it is normalised then we won’t have as many abortions, as many teenage pregnancies, as many STDs.

I love the work Hans Billimoria does with Grassrooted. I wish there were more people brave enough to speak out about these issues. Sri Lankans still wear the Victorian cloak of shame the colonisers imposed on us. When do we shed it?

The reason I love Greer’s attitude is that she’s not ashamed to proclaim out loud, at a time when proclaiming out loud wasn’t as popular, that she likes Sex. I see nothing wrong with this. I mean, none of us would exist if not for Sex. I like Sex too. Now go ahead and judge me. I don’t see anything wrong with this statement. Perhaps I need to be burned at the stake, for not being a good little convent educated Sri Lankan girl. Yet this is the truth. I am not shy to boldy talk of these things with my friends, or even with colleagues. I constantly advocate that wives should have more Sex. When Sex comes up with my students I tell them plainly that personally I see nothing wrong with Sex; should one decide to engage in Sexual activities kindly do your research. Sex is fun, if you know what you’re doing. I advocate being mature and making mature decisions, if you’re going to have Sex. A good friend once told me that she was going to the Family Planning Clinic because she was too shy to ask her mother, and she felt she didn’t know enough to have Sex without arming herself with the right information – that is maturity. It’s like learning a new language, or arming yourself with any new skill – it’s something you need to read about, inform yourself on before taking the plunge.

I feel sorry for parents, mine included. I was never given a ‘birds and the bees’ talk. Instead my mother kept pressing me to get married soon, and ‘stop this other nonsense’. Of course at that time my relationship with my mother hadn’t matured to the point where we discussed my sex life, but lately we’re on better footing. I think any child should hear about Sex from his/her parents. Today we’re besieged by so many kinds of sexual predators a child needs to know what Sex is and know that being forced into it is not cool. This is my greatest fear as a parent. That some pervert will abuse my children before they’re old enough for me to talk to them about Sex. This is very real and very frightening to me.

We need to change the way people respond to Sex. It is not taboo. If it were, the porn industry wouldn’t boom as it does now. Sex needs to be so normalised that parents talk about it with their kids, as an essential part of kids’ safety. Children need to know the importance of appreciating their bodies and knowing what their bodies are capable of. In this context, the once radical ideas of Greer are still important because at the end of the day, women need to accept Sex as something that’s not only for procreation. Women need to be liberated from themselves.

“Women have somehow been separated from their libido, from their faculty of desire, from their sexuality. They’ve become suspicious about it. Like beasts, for example, who are castrated in farming in order to serve their master’s ulterior motives—to be fattened or made docile—women have been cut off from their capacity for action. It’s a process that sacrifices vigor for delicacy and succulence, and one that’s got to be changed.”  – Germaine Greer 

What I want to be

So Shevin has been exploring various occupations in school these days, i.e. fireman, policeman, dentist etc. Almost everyday he’ll come home and tell me about the dentist, because he’s never heard of the dentist before, or policeman or a doctor. So I’ve taken to randomly asking him what he wants to be when he grows up. Of course the smart aleck comes up with some superb retorts; “I want to be God. Then I can protect everyone”. Nangi chimes in with, “I want to be an Angel” and then the Omnipotent one will reply with, “don’t worry nanga, God protects Angels too”. Apart from this he has explored many possible options such as street sweeper, truck driver and most recently a lamp post.

Shevin’s most poignant response to my question has been, “ammi what do YOU want to be”. Stumped. By a four year old. Of course I said I am a teacher and a mother and that’s enough, but it got me thinking about what I want to be and of course  I came up with a list🙂

Here’s my list of things I’d really like to be, and they don’t necessarily align but of course I’m all about the wishful.

  1. I’d like to be healthier, but not vain-er (there’s no implication that I am vain now, but I feel that losing weight and getting fit make one vain-er and I don’t want that).
  2. I’d like to be more calm, especially where the kids are concerned.
  3. Be more loving to Shanil.
  4. Be happier.
  5. Be more friendly.
  6. Be less judgemental.
  7. Be more patient.
  8. Be less inhibited.
  9. Be more giving, and not think about what I’ve given.
  10. Be someone who sleeps and wakes up not sleepy.
  11. Be positive.
  12. Be less insecure about…I’m not sure what.
  13. Be funny.
  14. Be satisfied with what I have, in terms of my house especially.
  15. Be full, when I’m really not.
  16. Be less of a headless chicken when I’m in a hurry.
  17. Be more enthusiastic with the kids.
  18. Be more tolerant of Shenine – because she’s SO STUBBORN. I’m being calm about that…
  19. Be a better grand daughter, because while I spend time with my parents I feel lacking in the granddaughter department.
  20. Be more open minded.
  21. Be less affected by what others think of me, say to me.
  22. Be less lazy and reluctant.
  23. Be more proactive.
  24. Be assertive.

Right now nothing else comes to mind, though this list has been unfurling in my mind for the past few days.