We celebrated Diwali for the first time today. It felt strange, to be honest. It’s originally a Hindu holiday, if I’m understanding right, celebrating Rama, Sita, and Lakshman returning from exile in the forest, the triumph of lightness over dark. My parents’ families converted to Catholicism many many generations back, due to Portuguese colonialism in Sri Lanka. I’m not religious at all (a cheerful agnostic), and neither is Kevin; neither are our children.

So we have no real connection to Diwali (or Deepavali, as I think it’s called in Tamil Nadu, where my many-times-removed ancestors would have come from). I felt awkward even saying the words, “Happy Diwali!” It’s not our holiday, and it feels weird to celebrate it, except as a guest at someone else’s party. I’ve joined Jewish friends for Seder, after all — it’s like that.

But not exactly. Because here I am, raising biracial children in America, and I know that unless I make some serious effort, Sri Lanka is going to drop away from them very quickly. I don’t speak Tamil anymore myself (though I understand quite a lot of it — I can follow much of the conversations when visiting older family). The children know a few words, which we have to remind them of. They eat almost none of the food. They’ve never been back home — of course, it’s not ‘home’ or ‘back’ to them.

It would be easier to let it all drop away, to let them shape their own American lives entirely. There’s an appeal to that — letting them find their own ways.

But I keep thinking — I’m brown. My children are somewhat brown too. Sometimes, in the dead of winter, they can pass for white, but at the end of summer, when they’ve been running around in the sun for months, their skin is almost as dark as my own. They’re going to encounter racism, in one form or another. They’re going to experience at least some of the negatives of being brown in America. I want them to have some of the positives of being brown too. I’d like knowledge of their mother’s heritage, our long, rich cultural history, to bring them joy. I want them to have good memories to stand as a bulwark against pain to come.

Diwali isn’t our celebration. But it was, once, long and long ago. Hundreds of years ago. Maybe it could be again.

We went to two parties today. My daughter and I dressed up in our fancy desi clothes and went to a potluck organized by South Asian families in our suburb. There are more and more of them every year — some of them ethnically blended families like our own. Please picture a Chicagoland suburban backyard filled with men and women in bright and colorful embroidered clothes. We were lucky enough to get tremendously mild weather for mid-October, so we filled the backyard, eating vegetarian curries, rice and roti, and plenty of sweets, traditional for Diwali. Dupattas fluttering in a gentle breeze. If you blinked your eyes a little, you could be in India. Or Sri Lanka. It was so beautiful.

In the evening, we had another party to go to, but my husband, Kevin, wasn’t feeling well. He’d been somewhat sick all day. My son didn’t want to go to a party — he wanted to stay in bed and play video games. And my daughter was tired from an afternoon running around in the park with her school friend. I could have cancelled and let them all stay home. But instead I insisted on them getting dressed up in our desi party clothes, Kavya and I loaded up with bangles, bindi, and plenty of sparkles, and we headed out together. We wouldn’t stay long, I promised them. Kevin looked kind of awful, and I felt very guilty.

But then we got to my friend’s house. She had done it up so beautifully. Masses of string lights in the windows, so that it shone from half a block away. The path to the door lined with diyas, little clay lamps she’d hand-painted, holding tea lights flickering against the night. A peacock rangoli she’d drawn on the ground — another traditional element. And inside, friends, delicious food, and more light. Lights everywhere, sparkling. Eventually, there might even be fireworks.

It was a gorgeous Diwali. It’s not my tradition…but maybe it could be, a little. Maybe I’ll bring the kids and join her to paint some diyas next year. I can tell them the story of the Ramayana — I told them a little bit in the car this time, just the good part, where the princes and princess return from their long exile, and there is great rejoicing.

For those in the diaspora, far from the homeland, Diwali may be the perfect holiday to celebrate, even hundreds of years later. A homecoming.

Happy Diwali.


Dear Anand

Dear Anand, I wrote this as a letter to you, and then ended up rewriting it to a different voice.  But it’s still basically a letter to you, to explain why we’re making the decisions we are, why we’re keeping you in the school that is doing much better than last spring, but is still stressing you out.  Love, mama.

I phrased and rephrased, trying to find a way to tell my son’s first grade teacher what was likely to work with him, without making him sound like a troublemaker.

“Anand is high-energy, full of enthusiasm and full of ideas, many of which he thinks are funny. Unfortunately, not everyone finds those ideas funny, and his energy can be hard to manage in a classroom setting.”

A few weeks ago, my son started school, and all of us were nervous. Kindergarten was rough – though Anand tried to be a good student, sometimes his ways of participating (enthusiastic shouting out of answers without raising his hand, interrupting his teacher, falling out of his chair with wiggly excitement) were challenging. He was hardly the only kindergartner having trouble with the new patterns of expected behavior, but as the weeks went by, most of the others adapted. By January, it became clear that he was having the hardest time in his class, which broke our hearts a little.

“When he’s done something wrong, Anand often needs a little time to process what’s happened; immediate consequences sometimes lead to either him arguing with the adult, or bursting into tears and running away.”

He would get off the bus, and I’d ask him and his sister, Kavi, how their days were. All I wanted was to hear a little bit about what had happened at school – something cool he’d learned, a conversation with a friend, a fun game at recess. But every day, the first thing Anand reported was how ‘good’ or ‘bad’ he’d been that day. “I only got three boxes today,’ he’d sadly report. His kindergarten teacher realized partway through the first semester that it was challenging for Anand to stay ‘good’ all day, so she’d broken the day into thirteen sections. If he behaved appropriately, he would be rewarded with some time playing a game. It helped, but we wished that our son’s whole focus wasn’t on trying to be good, on knowing that he was often bad. Kavi loved school, and so had I; we wanted that for him too.

Some of our friends’ kids have had trouble with public school. The class sizes are often large (Anand’s class was about twenty, which is a vast improvement over the thirty that was typical in my own elementary school, but is still a lot of wriggly little bodies for one teacher to manage). Lots of our friends have ended up with kids who are bored by a standard school curriculum, which then results in frustration, misbehavior, weeping. Several friends have ended up pulling their kids from public schools and either homeschooling or moving to private schools instead.

We’ve certainly considered our options, grateful that we have the financial ability to make such choices. If we homeschooled, we could get by on one income, though we’d have to have a serious conversation about which of us would step back from our career. Kevin’s job pays better than mine does. That’s typical for men and women, so even in an otherwise egalitarian relationship, it’s often the woman who stays home, sacrificing her own career in the process. Society tells us that mothers should sacrifice for their families, and of course, we do, all the time. But we should also ask, why do we so often ask women to make sacrifices we would never ask of men?

I dream of my ideal school – smaller class sizes, five to ten students per teacher. A curriculum that follows their interests flexibly – if Anand obsesses about video animation for a few weeks, letting him follow that interest would help keep him engaged in school, excited about learning. But that’s expensive – if wanted our public schools to look like that, we’d have to pay for more teachers per grade, so they’d be able to develop flexible and individual curricula to best suit each students’ talents and needs. I’d also love a lot more time spent outdoors – we know that human bodies thrive on regular movement, and that children’s bodies want to run and jump and twist, not be forced into stillness for hours. We should be building schools that accommodate and work with those natural instincts. There are private schools that look like that, but it’s rare to find a public school with those resources and that approach.

“Right now, Anand’s very conscious that he’s had difficulties in a school environment, and is worried and ashamed about it; he sometimes gets upset when an adult tries to talk to him about what he’s done wrong.”

We’re holding the possibility of moving our son out of school if we have to, but we’re still hoping that he’ll find a happy and productive space in the public school here. We moved to this leafy suburb for its schools, after all, which are well-funded (art and music and gym, a host of student service personnel). They’re great public schools, and we want to support public schools with our property tax dollars (at least until we manage to uncouple property taxes from public school funding, but that’s a political argument for a different day).

We think it’s better for society if the kids who live in the apartment building next door, the bright, sweet kids that are our kids’ friends and classmates, have access to the same schooling that our kids do. Excellent education for all children builds a better society for everyone. We could afford private school for both our kids, though we might have to sell our house to do it. But we’d rather pour our money and parent volunteer energy into the public school, as part of our commitment to growing a better community overall.

That said – we love Anand more than we love society. If it comes to it, we will absolutely pull him from that school if it’s making him miserable. We’re going to spend some time and energy on trying to find a way for him to be happy there first, though. Which is why I ended up spending a solid hour with his dad and his dad’s schoolteacher sister, trying to fill out the little personality form for the school, to help them place him in a first grade classroom.

“What usually calms Anand down is having some time away from class, either walking or sitting, to quiet down by himself.”

We were worried that an overworked, harried teacher would write him off in the first weeks as a difficult child, a ‘bad boy.’ And that he’d then be struggling with that label all through first grade. Age seven seems young to have that hung around his neck, weighing him down.

“Last year, Anand was allowed a fidget, a little toy that he could play with at his desk. They gave him his own special chair, to make it easier for him to sit still, and that did seem to help. He wears a chew toy on a necklace sometimes, because without that to chew on, he often ends up chewing his shirt, or a pencil, or the tv remote – whatever’s at hand.”

A lot of these accommodations are designed to help students on the autism spectrum, and if Anand continues to have difficulties at school, we’ll be getting him tested, to see if he fits onto that spectrum. I suspect he may be borderline – but I also think our understanding of mental structures is in its infancy. We tend to speak as if the range of human intellectual ability is like a line from normal to disabled, or from typical to atypical. But I suspect it is more like a map, or a globe, or perhaps some four-dimensional structure like those his mathematician father studies. We all have different needs and abilities, and we cluster and separate along a multitude of intersecting axes. Introvert / extrovert. Silence / stimulus. Visual / auditory / kinesthetic learner.

A few weeks ago, my own semester started, and I faced a classroom of young adults with their own anxieties about school. I tried to set a good tone for the semester, making clear the academic standards they’d be expected to meet, but also encouraging them to come to me if they have problems; we’d work on them together, try to find accommodations and approaches to make it possible for them to succeed. After just a class, I was already starting to get to know them. By the end of the semester, I’ll know them well, and even love them a little, these young people who want to learn, who can learn, if they get the right help along the way.

That’s really all I hope for, as Anand starts first grade. That his teacher sees the smart, funny, anxious, affectionate boy who hates to be alone. The child who enjoys wordplay and math games and climbing places he shouldn’t go. Yes, he may have licked the door to the classroom because he thought it was funny; yes, he planted his tiny kindergarten feet in the lunchroom last year and argued loudly with the principal over a point of perceived injustice. But my son wants to be good, and he wants to learn. In this country, we ought to be able to build public schools that can teach all our children well. Even the ones who aren’t easy, who don’t fit the standard mold.

We will fight for that dream of what public schools can be, and we will fight for our son. Hopefully, we can do both at the same time.



What’s owed

Dear Anand,
Yesterday at camp, you got in trouble because you kept hitting your sister. Now, Kavya wasn’t particularly upset about the hits in particular; your hits are generally fairly light, born of frustration, and you’re smaller than she is by a fair bit. She was upset when you sprayed water in her face, and when you moved her backpack (twice!) — she complained at pick-up that you were mean to her all day, and I think that really hurt her feelings.
This isn’t the typical dynamic between you two; you’re usually very close and affectionate, so I asked you what was going on. You said that Kavi had been ignoring you all day. As we talked about it, a clearer picture emerged — you’d been working really hard on your animation projects all day, and when you did something you were proud of, you wanted to show your sister (who is, incidentally, your best friend). And for whatever reason, Kavi just wasn’t in the mood to be as cheerful and celebratory as she usually is with you. Maybe you said or did something that annoyed her in the morning; maybe you didn’t do anything at all. Maybe she was focused on her own projects, and you were interrupting her concentration. It doesn’t really matter why she was ignoring you.
I told you, perhaps a bit intensely, “She doesn’t owe you her attention. Nobody owes you their attention.” Well, your parents do, but I wasn’t really thinking about us. I was thinking that you’re a thin little six-year-old now, but someday, you’ll be a college student, and probably bigger and stronger than the girls whose attention you want, and whatever dynamic this is, where your instinct is to respond to her disinterest with violence, we need to nip it in the bud, right now. This is not okay, and I want you to know that in your bones, to believe it on such a deep level that by the time you’re a teen, it wouldn’t even occur to you to react violently.
It’s no fun to be ignored, especially when you desperately want someone’s attention and affection. We talked about how frustrating that must have been, and then talked about strategies for managing frustration. Maybe there was another friend or a counsellor you could show the animation to at camp? Or you could just keep working on it, or take a break and do something else (it’s automatically saved, so you can always show Kavi later, when she’s in a better mood). When you really have the urge to hit, is there something else physical you can do to express your frustration? Maybe go run around the playground for a lap, or play with your fidget toy.
I’m not really worried about the hitting, per se; you already hit much less now than you did a year ago, and I think you’re naturally growing out of that particular response. It’s the attitude that worries me. So even though it feels a little overly-adult to use that language to a six-year-old: “She doesn’t owe you her attention,” maybe that’s the right language. Maybe that’s the lesson that will need to be repeated at six and seven and eight and nine, so that hopefully soon it’s second nature.
Also, Anand, building things that are super-cool, and keeping your cool, will be much more likely to find you affectionate, enthusiastic friends, than hitting people will. Let’s all have fun together, okay?

Letters to Kavya

Dear Kavya,
This morning, I came up to get you for school, a little surprised you weren’t up already, since usually, you set your alarm forty-five minutes early, so you have plenty of time to get ready in a leisurely way. You like to plan things, and be able to take your own time about the activities of the day. I walked into your room and to your bed, and you sat up, reached for me, and burst into tears. This is not typical behavior for you, sunny child. Apparently, you’d had a bad dream.
I asked you to tell me about it, and you said that they were signing up for new schools, and your best friend signed up for a different school, and you weren’t allowed to go there, and you *never saw her again*. And then you cried some more. So I hugged you and told you not to worry, that even if you did have to go to different schools, we would make sure that you got to see your friend again, lots. That things happened in dreams that would never happen in real life. We wouldn’t let them.
And you calmed down, but you were still pretty somber. So then I told you that the real problem you were likely to have, was that you would have too many friends and family who would love you too much, and they’d all want to spend time with you, when you just wanted to be alone. I reminded you that that’s already a problem with your little brother, who wants nothing more than to play with you constantly. And that it’s just going to get worse as you get older, with more and more friends.
The bigggest problem is going to be in college, when you’re going to be trying to get your homework done, and your mommy is going to be calling you, saying, “Kavya, I miss you, come visit me; we can make cookies!” Or “Kavya, I miss you, never mind that cute boy who wants to spend time with you, come home and we’ll play dress-up!” That was what finally got you to laugh, and you said that wasn’t going to happen, with the cute boy, and I said, well, it might.
And then you got dressed, and we found a new way to do your hair and a fun hair accessory to use for it, and you smiled at that too, and then it was downstairs for oatmeal and then off to the bus.
I’m writing all this because you probably won’t remember it, or all the other little moments like it, and maybe I won’t remember them either. But these are some of the best bits of being your mother. Despite everything your father and I can do, your life, like all lives, will have hard times. The terrible thing about being a parent is that I won’t be able to help with many of them. But the times when I can? When hugs and kisses and reassurances and silly stories can actually make everything better? That’s one of the best feelings in the world, sweetheart. Thanks for sharing it with me.
– Mommy

Dear Anand, you are four…

Dear Anand, you are four today! You don't actually know that yet -- your party will be Saturday, and I am tempted to just wait and do all the birthday hoopla then. But I know and your dad knows and the universe knows. You are four, and you are getting very big. Here are some of the things you love to do right now:

  • snuggle: you are much more snuggly than your sister was at this age, and sometimes I wonder whether that is because we started you in full-day preschool much earlier or if it is simply your nature to glom onto the nearest human being and climb into their lap, preferably with a blanket tucked around you both

  • play video games: when you were smaller, I worried more about this, about the way you would throw tantrums if we turned off the game. But now we've learned that it is relatively easy to redirect you to other activities if we think you've had too much screen time, so I worry less. You were obsessed with Angry Birds for most of your third year, which only really made me fret when you watched all the videos on YouTube, but I think the cursing in some of them went right over your head. Now you are on to Plants vs. Zombies, which I admit, mommy likes almost as well as you do. I am sure Minecraft is in your near future, and the only likely problem will be whether it keeps mommy from doing her own work. Which is my problem, not yours.

  • play with your sister: boy, we thought it'd be a good idea to have two kids so they could play together, but for a few years there, I was seriously questioning our sanity. We are old! And tired! And infants are hard! But now, thankfully, you two play together a lot, and mostly without fighting, and it is awesome. You like it when Kavi plays pretend with you -- that's your favorite game.

  • eat sugar. No elaboration really needed here. But left to your own devices, you would eat candy until you got sick. I am not sure if lollipops or ice cream is at the top of the list; it may be close.

    Generally, Anandan, you are a remarkably sweet and cheerful little boy, although you do seem to be hitting occasionally now. Hopefully you will grow out of that soon, because it is just not allowed around here. Your sister does not appreciate it. Although, I will grant that she can be thoroughly exasperating sometimes, especially when she's ignoring you, so I can understand the impulse. But really, you are not allowed to jump on her. It is not safe. You are also not supposed to put so many random things in your mouth, or destroy all my garden tools, or draw on the walls, the floor, the couch. Let's work on that.

    But mostly, sweetie, you are just a delight. I like you better every day, and I hope the next year is splendid. Happy birthday!


  • Kavya is not a very…

    Kavya is not a very physical child. By that I mean that her favorite activities are drawing and coloring (which she will do obsessively for long, long stretches of time) and storytelling / pretend play with dolls or doll-substitutes. She does occasionally like to run sprints and time herself (she is not fast, but we don't mention that), and she likes to clamber around on our couch. But that's about it, in terms of physical activity.

    We have tried her on soccer balls, baseball, etc. in our backyard with no real interest on her part. She took swim classes all summer and was terrible at them (the most scared in her class, the most weepy, the least willing to put her face in, etc.), although she did actually go, which is something. She recently went to a kindergarten gymnastics birthday party and broke down in tears three times while the other twenty kids (mostly girls, all her age) cheerfully ran through the equipment. She is definitely scared of heights.

    And while we thought kindergarten was sufficiently intensive that we didn't want to put her in any other classes right away, this trend is really worrying me, and I would like her to be more comfortable with her body and more confident in its capabilities.

    I am thinking in January might be a good time to start a new physical class, but I'm not sure whether to put her in gymnastics (on the plus side, a friend of hers is in it, on the minus side, tears and no interest whatsoever), karate (which lots of folks have said good things about), or something else. (We'll almost certainly do swim again next summer.) Any advice would be very welcome. If we make a decision soon, then we'll have all of December to talk it up to her and try to get her excited about it.

    We thought that this…

    We thought that this summer, since neither Kevin nor I are teaching for a change, we'd save some money on childcare and have them in pre-school only three days a week. We'd do our research/writing on those three days, and could do housework and/or fun activities on the days they'd be home. That plan, I have to say, was a dismal failure. I don't know how stay-at-home parents do it. I really really don't. I would be screaming my head off if I had the kids home 24-7. I am not a yeller, but a full day with Anand would raise anyone's voice several decibel levels.

    Kavya is actually fine, and often a delight, and even at age 2.75, I don't remember her being particularly much trouble. But Anand, my god. He is just this intense ball of energy and destruction, and by lunchtime on the days he's home, Kev and I are both frayed and miserable. Anand will grow out of this, I know (I hope!), but at least for right now, pre-school does a much better job of absorbing his energies than we do. Anand runs, he plays, he has many little friends and races around like a loon with them, and he's just so happy there.

    Here, despite two adults supervising and not even trying to get any real work done, Anand pops screens out of windows, he tears warning labels off them, he rips baby tomatoes off the vine, he flushes unnamed items down the toilet (he did another one this morning, and I have no idea what it is, hopefully we won't have to bring the plumber out again), he dumps dirt out of my plant pots, he pulls grown up board games off the shelf and scatters the pieces to three of them across the floor (yesterday), he gets bored and starts hitting his sister when she doesn't want to play with him anymore, etc. and etc. and so on. Ad infinitum, ad nauseum.

    So starting next week, they're back to five days a week, and Kev and I are both relieved. It makes our budget tighter for the rest of the year (especially with the recent dishwasher and AC repairs, sigh), but we can manage it. The kids are in school today, and so far I have emptied and spread three bags of mulch in the front yard, watered the grass a bit, emptied the car and taken it in to be seriously cleaned (it seriously needed it), and done a myriad of other tiny chores. In a minute I'll go pick up the car, and then my plan is to come back and write from 11 - 4, taking breaks every hour or so to unpack a box or organize some shelves (while resting my fingers, which otherwise would cramp up from five hours of straight typing).

    And at 4, the kids will come home, and we will be happy to see them and spend the next four hours with them, reading and cooking and eating and gardening and playing. They are sweet when they're worn out from a day at pre-school. Although even so, it is generally a relief when bedtime finally comes.

    Maybe we should have had kids at 20 after all. Waiting 'til almost 40 might have been a strategic error.

    We are having discipline…

    We are having discipline issues here. For example, yesterday afternoon, Anand opened the side gate, let the dog into the front yard (where she could run into the street), broke three of my alliums, and wandered into the neighbors' front yard to play with their rocks. All four actions expressly forbidden, repeatedly, and he knew it. I was totally enraged, and he was blithely singing and laughing, oblivious to anything I said about time outs, etc. In the end, I sent him up to his daddy and went out to run an errand, far away from my child.

    When I got back, we had a whole discussion about how only good boys get mangoes, and he promised he would be a good boy. We'll see. I'm a little uncertain about using food as a reward / punishment, but he does like mango very much, and it's a lot more effective than threatening to take away toys or tv right now. I think those are more abstract for him.

    The only good side to Anand snatching three of my alliums yesterday is that one survived uncrushed enough to put in a vase. Right to left: Purple Sensation allium, Zephrine Drouhin climbing rose, meadow sage.

    One of my tasks for…

    One of my tasks for today is to get Kavi's local birthday party scheduled (harder than one would think). We're going to visit my parents not long after her birthday, and she'll have a party there too, and I have to admit, I kind of want two parties here, which would mean three parties total, which is a bit excessive, I know. But see, the local party, for her pre-school friends, will be at a kid-friendly sort of place (probably Wonderworks or Pump it Up!), but I also would like to celebrate her turning five with our friends at the house. Because yes, it's her birthday, but it's also a milestone for us. We raised a child all the way to five (!) years of age with no serious mishaps. Woohoo!

    I have been Pinning crown party stuff, and it would be fun to put one of those together, I think. Maybe I can do a crown theme at my parents' party, but it looks like that might be at a Chuck E. Cheese (since my parents are planning to remodel their kitchen around that same time), which is not as conducive to themed decorations, etc., and more about the crazed running around and shrieking. We'll see.

    I admit, although I also love crowns, I will also be happy when (if) we can move on from princess-y things. I was sending my relatives a list of what Kavi is currently into. But I almost feel like I shouldn't have bothered, because right now, she is so much a classic culturally-determined little girl. Kavi likes:

    • pink, red, purple, but especially sparkly gold
    • skirts and dresses (do not even bother with pants or shorts, as she pretty much refuses to wear them)
    • princesses
    • long hair, which she does not currently have, but it is growing
    • fancy princess hair, i.e., braided, etc. -- I gave her two little braids in front a week ago, and she says she wants to wear them forever
    • art supplies -- she still really loves making art, and goes through supplies at a furious rate. Coloring in her little princess pages will keep her occupied for hours.

    Personally, I'm hoping this princess phase ends soon and we can move on to superheroes, or rocket ships, or something just a TINY BIT MORE INTERESTING.

    A few weeks ago, we took…

    A few weeks ago, we took down one side of Anand's crib. We'd planned to replace it with a toddler rail, which Kevin had even ordered, but it turned out after much attempt-to-assemble frustration and a phone call to the store that in fact, our crib was old enough that they didn't make a toddler rail for it anymore, and the one they sent us wouldn't work unless we wanted to pull out the drill and make some new holes in the crib. Which seemed excessive. So instead, we just took the side off and put a folded up mattress topper at the side of the bed so Anand could fall onto something soft if needed.

    And, in fact, the first few nights he did fall off, ka-thump, which entailed a few howls (mostly of startlement, I think), and one of us running up to comfort him and get him back down. And then Anand spent about a week sleeping on the mattress topper instead, because he'd decided that was safer. Which was fine. And then last week, he decided he'd rather be in his crib, but he seems to have mastered not falling out, because there have been no more ka-thumps, which is excellent. We'll probably leave the mattress topper there a few more weeks, just in case, and then we'll take it away and rely on the rug to save him from a cracked skull.

    Anyway, all of this is not really the point. The point is that all of this was initiated with the hope that our darling boy would stop howling to be released from his crib, thus dragging me upstairs at an unholy hour. I mean, I'm usually awake well before that, but from 5 - 7:30 is prime alone time for me; it's when I have my first two cups of tea, check e-mail, do any leftover dishes and straighten the kitchen while watching a show on Hulu, check on the garden, etc. I am not mentally ready to cope with children yet at that hour in the morning, even if I'm awake. So if I could just get Anand to leave me ALONE until 7:30, I would be a much happier mama. And I hoped that if he had his whole room to roam around in, instead of just the crib, he would amuse himself there until I came to get him.

    It's mostly working, in a somewhat chaotic way. Sometimes I come in there, and he's emptied the container of diapers and strewn them across the floor. Sometimes he's pulled the clothes out of his closet and stuffed them in a box. Often all the bedding is on the floor. But this morning -- oh.

    We got doors with big glass windows for the children's rooms. The plan is that when they're older, and wanting privacy in their bedrooms, I'll make stained glass pieces to install in those windows. But for right now, it's actually super-convenient to be able to look in and check on them without opening the doors. It would be even more convenient if their beds were in the line of sight from the door, but that doesn't work out, given the sloping ceilings of these attic rooms, but oh well. In any case, this morning.

    This morning I looked in, and Anand was sitting in the rocking chair. (This is the leftover nursing chair that Jed got for us when I was pregnant with Kavi, actually, so it's more of a glider than a rocker, with an ottoman.) He was mostly hidden because he'd pulled the curtain over himself, so he could sit in the chair, and rock, and look out the window. Up on the third floor, there's a lot to see -- a few buildings, a lot of trees with leaves blowing in the wind, plenty of sky. Anand was very quietly sitting and staring and rocking. And when I came into the room, he grinned and explained to me, with great excitement, that he was a big boy, and he could climb up in the chair, and rock, all by himself!! He was so happy.

    It was just so nice. If you haven't raised a baby, I'm not sure I can convey to you what a blissful moment this was. Because I'm sure there will be other late nights and early mornings. There will be bouts of the flu and nightmares and all sorts of other reasons why they will need their parents at unholy hours. But still; this felt like a transition. Most nights, we'll be able to put the children to bed at a reasonable hour, and then go up to see them at a reasonable hour of the morning.

    It's magic, is what it is. It's growing up. I know, soon, they'll be off to college, and I'll be lying in bed, wishing there was a little person upstairs, complaining that they're bored and they WANT TO GET UP. But today, I'm just grateful for the peace.