Raising My Children My Mother’s Way! :)

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*I write this post as a rememberence to my mother who I lost almost 18 years back, and it’s meant to be a celebration of what she meant to me! :) I think holidays/milestones etc are often hard for those of us who’ve had to deal with loss and hope that what I feel resonates with those of you who sadly know what it is to stand in my shoes! I hope that in my journey as a parent, I also bring alive the memory of grandparents my children haven’t met! This is not a tear-jerker, and even as I love and miss her, it fills me with panic that my trajectory toward becoming her is nearly complete!! :D. Read on….

I’ve often heard people say that when you raise your children, you also raise your grandchildren – you never really see that till you hit your 30’s and you realise that the battle against becoming your mother is largely inevitable! You can run, but you can never hide!! I’ve been thinking about my mother increasingly these last few months, and realised (with a healthy dose of hysteria) that I’m quite a bit like her! I always thought that would happen to my sister! Throw in yawning at 10 pm and some serious anxiety over restricted baggage allowances and you’re ready to go to that place of no return! :)

I remember odd things when I think of my childhood. I remember my mother, who quoted Virginia Woolf to pre-adolescent kids in the face of any human conflict. We were to always remember, like we did our names, our telephone number and our address, that if we were to truly understand any human being, we were to see them in the context of their surroundings and the experiences they grew with.

Since we could never completely know the above mentioned parameters, it was eminent that we would never totally understand whoever we had the conflict with. Hence the conflict would lose its center – being not a conflict, but the natural outcome of human interaction!!

 Base premise – humans are essentially never to be wholly understood. Virginia Woolf! One of my mother’s most appreciated lessons!:D

Another of my earliest memories of when I was a little girl, was wanting to be in the kitchen because it was warm, and that’s where my mother was. You never lose that feeling – although I clearly didn’t pick up much more than that in all the time I spent there! As I’ve mentioned countless times before, I have no culinary skills and have begun to think I was probably dropped as a child resulting in a significant blind spot where one processes culinary-anything, Sci-fi, Gaming and Twitter!

Skillet, Balloon Whisk, cooking, kitchen, light
By Kanchan Char

When it’s 1 AM and I’m craving pancakes : As my children grow up, I, like so many of you, find that quite subconsciously, we’ve formed our own family traditions. Some are rooted in what I did with my mother, and make an attempt to reinforce that with my children as that’s the only way I can make my mother real to her grandchildren! For instance, the other night, both my girlies were up late and wouldn’t go to bed without a midnight feast..they were off school anyway so my otherwise regimental self agreed that it would be fine. We decided to make pancakes, my childhood solution to any malady, celebration or setback!! My mother passed this onto me, it was the only thing I ever learned from her! I’d have to say it was the most emotionally satisfying hour I’d spent with my children in the longest time. :)

Pancake making, children, mini boden nighties, eggs, vanilla, sugar, sweet, dessert, comfort
By Kanchan Char

“It’s a plié, Mummy, a plié!” : Aren’t winters just the most apt time for nostalgia and stocktaking?! Or maybe that this December was spent with me in largely hostage situation-husband away visiting family, one child down with the flu and asthma attacks, power cuts and storms, and I’ve had a significant amount of time to ‘ponder’! :) This winter, I passed down another thing to my children that harks back to my own childhood! When I was 10, my mother’s  very good friend gifted me Noel Streatfeild’s Ballet Shoes. She said to me gently and very well-meaningly “, I know you haven’t the body for ballet, but you do have a keen, imaginative mind that can make this story come alive. Every little girl should should have something to do with dance.” Clearly, either the words or the books made an impact – I fell in love with ballet and adoption! :) I gifted my ballet-enthusiastic children their own copy though I have my 20-year-old copy still kicking around, far from their grubby hands! Of course, I’ve had to modify the language as I read to them…like so many classics, it’s hopelessly politically incorrect for our times!

Ballet shoes, noel streatfeild, old ballet shoes, pointe
Ballet Shoes- Past, Present and In-between :)

Autumn is when every leaf’s a flower: At the start of every autumn, we make it a practice to go out and see the leaves, see the brilliance of nature and how seasons turn and change! Apart from the fact that we don’t do summer and are therefore very pleased to invite the cold, the payoff is priceless! To see the wonderment on my children’s little faces as they stamp on leaves and rustle through them is more than anything money can buy. Autumn/Winter is big at our home…we do walks, celebrate the nip in the air, have countless cups of hot choolate and babbycchinos laced with cinnamon. We incessantly and hopelessly watch movies! No better time to feel that “this is my family, I belong to them and they belong to me and there’s nothing more I could ever need more! ”  Growing up, my aunt would make us traditional drinks made with milk, clarified butter and lentil flour  (Besan ka doodh) when the cold set in, and we brought out our thick jumpers to get ready for it! Such magical memories of traditional bonfire nights and warm roasted bonfire foods! :)

I know that in a few years we’ll also have the danger of the shared tradition of the lot of us sat in the same room on our various devices, in silence !! We hope to get so much in before selfies, twerking, video games and dragging them out of bed become a part of our lives!! I think back to all the little things my mother did with us and believe that like us, these experiences will feed them throughout the happy and trying times of their life.

 

Autumn leaves, seasons, children, mini boden,teepee, winter, cold
By Kanchan Char and Daniel Simm

For all of us who try so hard and then fall off our saddles trying harder; I think of how all the most perfect memories I have of my mother are those that she would probably get shivers to, if she knew of them!  Our generation puts so much emphasis on ‘memory making’ and the complex ways we think we need to accomplish that…expensive holidays, high-investment gadgetry and other whatnots.

  • I remember the way my mother’s arm smelled as I rested against her on a journey somewhere… I don’t remember where to, though!
  • I remember her smile as she tried to drink a rotten cup of tea I made her (I suspect strongly that it never got drunk). Good parenting doesn’t need martyring yourself . My mother was a right rogue, very often telling me things right as they were…she believed in reality checks! She was a fabulous cook but the best thing I ever ate was something she put together for me, randomly on a rain-soaked day when I hated the stew she cooked for the family. She could never replicate that dish. It was for that one moment only!
  • She was someone who didn’t shy away from saying that every time I said I hated her, she knew she was doing the right thing.
  • I remember her absolute uncool dancing as she cleaned the house, unaware that I was going to retain this in memory without any desire to, believe you me! :)
  • I remember her perfume, her lipstick, her having a good and bad hairday. I knew her fake smile; and her corny laugh! I knew that her friends loved her, and she loved them back. Children know so much! :)

Good parenting is showing your child you’re there, you’ll always be there in them, even when you’re gone physically. Showing them the way for them…giving them the vision of their best self and telling them you believe they’ll get there, albeit after they finish hating you and life and their hair! Home is where you know you can always go back to, even if it’s just to find your corner, get into sweats and skulk  around for a week before you decide to speak!  I often have people say to me that my mother was the best mother ever,  like so many other lovely mothers who’re no more. I say, yes, she was the best mother she could’ve been –  to me!! She was funny, pure evil, loving, a rogue, a great friend! And I am so much of all that, at 6.5 and 5, I’m sure my daughters will already attest to the first two 😀

I haven’t had my mother around for more than half my life now…and never has a day passed when she’s not been around. I say that with the biggest smile… 😀

She’s left too big an imprint on me, and now- hopefully on mine!  x

 

                  *I’d love to hear about a family tradition that you do with your family, whether as a remembrance or just because it’s sweet :) !! *

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Disclaimer : This article  about the brush of two worlds,  is intended to be good-natured and entertaining at best! * Names have been changed to protect little children and their ponies in the heartland of the British countryside! This is also me doffing my felt-trimmed Trilby to the kind and genuinely polite people of this country! X

Let’s imagine that five people anywhere in the world, (who know a little about Britain, but have never visited) were asked to describe what they thought of it – they’re likely to say that the English Drink Tea. Eat Tea .Play Cricket. Have a Queen and see an awful amount of Rain! Everyone of course, also belongs to The Department of Tweed!  Well, the American of the five would sooner chew their ear off than forget mentioning Bad Teeth!! I’ll say nothing more about that other than people who live in glass houses learn not to throw stones at others!

I was on an East Midlands train recently, and it being my first return to a place I call home, I was too filled with nostalgia and imminent reunions to pack a decent, self respecting breakfast for a journey commencing 6 AM. Little did I know that my travel companion would be the most Henry Hatsworth‘ian characted ever, replete with a tweed jacket with suede elbow patches and desperately missing the Calabash pipe to complete the picture; and his 4 year-old-daughter, Constance* , who just had to have been the inspiration behind the Oreo cookie adverts! After the initial surprise of knowing that we’re actually going to be spending three hours together, rather cheek by jowl at that, I settled down to breathing again and getting my breakfast out! Carefully selected at the Costas’s

By Daniel Simm
By Daniel Simm

Café point, it was a Kellogg’s  bar, an orange, and a shamefully large serving of latte!! No one get’s aboard this train, taking orders for meals! East Midlands trains offer you no bells, though Constance had a whistle, and the jolly ability to pipe out ‘When the saints go marching in’ sporadically from 6-9.30 am!  ‘We’ then proceeded to feed Constance a croissant, a crumpet, butter and her favourite cheese, on a co-ordinated melamine service with matching serviettes! That should get the picture right, down to a T!!

I’ve often thought about those first impressions I had about British culture , the one borne out of the many hours of idle browsing through back editions of Country Life and Horse & Hound at my father’s  furniture store as I waited to be picked up or dropped; or till he was convinced that I really needed an absurd amount of money to buy shoes!! Traditional British life~one with ample shades of Green&Brown; as a British friend of mine jovially put it, the all- encompassing spectrum of compost! A life where one wears tweed and lives on an estate, hunts foxes and  stables ponies ~all to the chugging sounds of trains and brewing Earl Grey! Interestingly, ample catalogues trawl through the psyche of Middle England selling their wares, wholly based on these aspirations!

I’ve always thought that stereotypes were cultural nuggets (caricatured and often exploited) but pregnant with a teensy-bit of truth. How far that caricature’s stretched determines whether it was discriminatory or good-homouredly celebratory.

I stood centimetres away from pleading apologetically for getting my breakfast wrong, and whilst there, apologizing for pretty much all of my plebian ways! Made worse by his impossibly careful charm, his green cords and Barbour jacket, realising that here’s someone who’ll pretty much never be wholly alright with anyone eating anything but Whole Foods near him! His was the world of third-generation shooters of partridges on his acreage (always in the right season, of course!)  And the world of posh, floppy hair and clothes chosen with intelligence, put on with care and then forgotten with grace! I also know that he and I would’nt have ev-ah ordinarily swapped numbers or Facebook requests or expressly set up a date for cocktails and smoothies with the families!  But figured also from his demeanour, that despite the worst mockery of British Politelness that the best of us can muster, at the core, it all seemed to stem from an absolute need to be non-confrontational!  That even the worst attributes of the British typecast – the aloofness, the distance, the cool, were all sprung from the same seed.

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By Daniel Simm

After our initial dis-ease at the proximity and difference of our worlds, we got speaking, seeing that none of us seemed armed with anything more than our mobile phones to get us through the journey.

I began to take mental notes about how vine-ripened tomatoes were in fact superior in taste and longevity, that Reblochon and Saint Marcellin were the only cheese worth investing in, and that being the President of The Village Green Preservation Society was indeed a challenging, and often stressful position! Damning also, is that our ecologically damaged soil now resulted in British apples having a lower level of pectin, which was a jam-makers nightmare and had left the Women’s Institute in our part of the world distraught! We agreed that we can only look forward to a better season next year!!

Well, he’d often wondered about what ‘real’ Asians were like, did all of us learn Math since we were 2? Pretty much.  Did we have curry everyday? Well mostly, though hummous and Tagines and other Masterchef’ian devilry were soon becoming fairly bog standard in many an Asian home , I though, would be far more likely to attempt a sad spag-bol in the face of  even the most rudimentary curry! I am abysmally bad with food – any food!!  Do all of us marry the whole family when we do? We indeed do! :)

I realised that all that our little ‘Looking Glass’ showed us  ,was only in part true, after all, most of us hadn’t experienced the first thing about Slumdog Millionaire, apart from the traffic! And power cuts! :) And I’m sure he did more than eat perfect food- perfectly , and well-dressed’ly shoot birds for sport! There are many pleasures to be had debunking cliches!

We spoke about Norfolk, where we both live (you could get no deeper into the pure British heartland) , and how they don’t really relish foreign inclusions here, and that goes for the rest of Britain too! Though I did initially watch out for a Taekwondo-swiped pack of Sharwoods poppadoms lying smashed at my door (a strong visual of racial intolerance, IMO) ; being the only brown family in a 10-mile radius, we’ve only been met with acceptance and extreme politeness! We laughed. We were the first we’d met from each other’s worlds and I caught Constance looking at me oddly a few times. I asked about her pony Rosa-Belle, and told her my daughters loved riding too, and that if they all met, they’d have a lovely time brushing down Rosa-Belle!  I seemed to have warmed her Colonial heart with that, and felt my brownie points were large enough to have been visible from the moon!

I came away with the fondest memories of my brush with a true-blue Englishman, generalisations, propah-manners and all that! They are a dying breed in the face of the homogenisation of our world! And a bit sad that the original holders of Tweed and the world it represented- the hunting-shooting-fishing men of the earth and teachers who look like comfortable versions of Mr. Chips ; were being reduced to rails of identikit, cloned clothing marketed by celebrities. The next time I see the poker faced teenager down the road, in sartorial British Harris tweed and a flat cap, to whom ‘Heritage’ means nothing more than a big, old home decorated with chintz;  I know we can thank the 11th Dr. Who for it’s ubiquitous, Noughties revival ! :)

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