Tag Archives: parenthood

Parenthood and childhood

19 Jun

I was just reading about school choices by parents – and yes, I read homeschool choices too. In fact, primarily those because blogging seems like a major outlet slash networking tool for those mothers!

And one of the comments on one of the posts said something to the effect that children don’t remember what happened when they were two, when they grow up. Do you?

No, the question tag was part of the comment too. And I had a very quick response – yes.

I actually do remember what happened when I was two. I remember walking into the rain on the terrace, falling backwards from the trike and someone running down the stairs and nearly flinging themselves over the balcony on the landing to stop my dad who was on his way to work… that, when you were barefoot, the floor in the kitchen was somehow a little different from the one in the bedroom with the power outlet under the bed and the unconnected plug that served as my mother’s or the maid’s stethoscope or mine, whenever we played together, the sadness on some days when the sunset came and the parents hadn’t yet… These posts I was reading were on separation anxiety. And while the commenter was giving good advice – “Go anyway. Your child does grow up and does learn to be her own person” – my instinctive reaction was that children perhaps do remember.

I remember.

I think children do remember. They hold these memories precious. And if you bring them up well, they know both the wonderful things you have done and given as parents and the things you might do differently. They also know the things they might do differently, if they were parents, given the memories they have as kids.

And after all, isn’t that the point?

I don’t think either extreme of the spectrum have it right – children are neither best served unguided, nor controlled. That sense of the child being a wonderful new person in Christ, as well as that sense of her being your responsibility the moment she steps into or forms into your family – both seem important.

The possibility of being a parent scares me sometimes. And I am often glad that it does. I’ve always wanted to adopt and the intentional choice and mission in that decision is such a symbol to me of the calling that parenthood is. Parenthood is a calling both for husband and wife. When it comes, it probably takes over everything else. Probably changes your choices about e-v-e-r-y-t-h-i-n-g. Like God – he left his home, he left his place with God, he became a servant (becoming is a word for changing, he wasn’t only God anymore, he changed), he let them take his life if it would save the children… You practice for it when you marry someone, already. Too few people see that nowadays, I think. This is why I am glad that the idea of being a parent has not lost its fear for me.

But I’m just a 20-something talking.


Undiluted breathing

28 Mar

I went to set up coffee at work today and it was quiet – no stretching out to meet and greet and welcome a new person.

But I offered to clean up the coffee afterwards. This morning there was some confusion and no one knew who was setting up, so instead everyone from our section of the college turned up to set it up. Or so it seemed.

It is a beautiful summer’s day today – despite it being spring – as if Summer couldn’t wait and asked for a house swap with Spring for half a week. So while Summer’s in residence, the British become colourful and ridiculously happy. They forget about these days of sunshine for the rest of the year. Sun?! Really?

But when she’s here, suddenly there is free time in the middle of a work day. Suddenly they want to smile at you even through your sunglasses. Suddenly it’s like someone took a sharp, serrated meat knife and scored through a cloud sheet in front of you and of them. And the awkward discovery of life just in front of you that you hadn’t noticed happens. Awkward but happy. You smile.

But inside the Wycliffe College staff room, there wasn’t a terrible hurry to rip any sheets apart.

And as I cleared away the dishes, an older gentleman – I’d met him before and recognised his friendly, unashamed Northern brogue – put his hand on my back while the last people left. Unusual in an Oxford college at a staff rendez-vous, but er I am not immune to charm…

He thanked me for helping clear up. Everyone seemed quite surprised and amusingly thankful at someone doing it off the rota – but the only other place I’ve ‘done’ coffee or tea for a group is at church. And there I’m not thinking about a rota… usually only about how to hide my face from socialising when I need to. *Confession alert. Memo for later*

QED Once I’m there, I love ‘doing’ coffee or tea. It hides your face almost as much as leading worship or standing up front does. *Definitely memo for later*

“And if you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today,” he said…

I hadn’t been wondering. I’d noticed, that’s all. But I straightened up from the coffee pots.

“If you’re wondering why we’re all a bit quiet today, it’s because an ex-student is having a still-born this morning.”  

And there was community and love. Ripped open cloud sheets by the sun, with healing in his wings.

She had been a student and had worked there. Her mother had flown from the US to be with her when she’d heard what was happening.

There were a few things that crossed my mind. That I wanted the ‘still-born’ to be called a child or a little girl or boy. That I wanted to tell him to go and visit if he needed to – the coffee pots and work would survive. But he told me people had gone, and more people would go. And I asked for her name and I wanted to pray for her.

I cannot imagine the years of pain, of unfinished story that an unborn or a still-born child must bring. About as many years of joy as he or she does, I suspect, knowing if you do that they live in the arms of a bigger, greater Parent than we will ever be.

I’ve admired mothers and fathers who have loved their children through life and death. I am in awe of them when they see that joy – I don’t know if I would be able to.

In my mind, I have this picture. The babe in the womb takes oxygen from the bloodstream. She’s not ready yet for O2 straight. We’re not ready yet for the physical presence and glory of God straight. Not all the time anyway. But then those babies are, those people are. They’re breathing it in already and to us, it must bring joy in the rain.


Easter is not far.

Mother’s Day tradition 2.0

18 Mar

Happy Mother’s Day to everyone in the UK. And Happy Mother’s day to everyone in the Arab world and the commonwealth (that is not yet re-colonised by US commercialism 🙂 ) – and to everyone in the rest of the world, celebrate mothers again, why not?!

My mother managed to surprise me today. Not that I ought to have been surprised but… I thought she would give me not so impartial advice, take my side, rush to protect me.

Instead, she listened.

If you have or had a mother, someone who stayed by you – aren’t they such a good thing the Father gives us? And if you are a mother, you know what a privilege it is. Or perhaps to you, it’s not – and I wish you could just see it from my side…

And if we were at church together on Mother’s Day where I’m from, they’d give us each a flower to hand to our mothers. Or get the children to do it. So here are some for my readers…

I love you.

Happy Mother’s Day.

Hey, Littlest

11 Feb

My students – well, not mine. But it’s either that or calling them ‘the kids’ which is misinterpretable to the uninitiated, not the least of the reasons being that there are about forty of them!

Anyway… Start over. My students keep asking me if I have any nicknames. What is my favorite shortened version of my name? Did my family really call me by name…? My name is a three-syllabled thing. Shorter than Elisabeth. Longer than Charlotte. Not Anglo-Saxon. But it’s not hard to say and it always strikes me that people who complain about saying it, complain not so much because it’s ‘long’ which is what they think they’re complaint because 😉 but because it’s ‘foreign’ and when someone’s name is foreign AND long, I mean that’s just way too much trouble. Not only do you expect to learn something non-English, non-American – you want us to not even make it easier on ourselves…

And yet, no one complains about say, Giovanni, Madonna or even Angelina Jolie. Just something I suspect, but I daresay no one even notices as a prejudice in themselves. I am not unsuspect in this either. Me too!

But it is true. My family really always has bothered to call me by my whole name. All three short syllables of it. And the only other nicknames they gave me were terms of endearment.

And pretty unusual ones at that. Ever noticed some terms of endearment come more naturally to some people than others? I could never say ‘darling’. I don’t know why. I try – even to a puppy, I can’t manage it with a straight face.


My mother often calls me ‘her baby girl’ or just her baby. I’m not baby anymore, that’s for sure. I’m definitely not any more the little, plump, curly-haired thing you hauled on to your lap that that phrase brings to mind! Lol.

But it’s the kind of protective, stepping-in-for-you surge of emotion that probably brings that phrase to her mind. And it’s the knowledge of that affection that can still make me clog up when she writes completely ridiculously sentimental stuff like:


I love you, my baby girl.


I mean seriously – how can I ever read my email in a library?! Haha. But my eyes still well up, because I know she does love me. And I miss her.

So no. I got the whole three syllables plus a whole lotta love in eeeeven LONGER terms of endearment from that source. So still trying to find a response to my students, my mind tracked back to my dad.

The dad is pretty stoic in some ways. He’s the kind of dad who, when faced with the teary-eyed, trembling lip precursor to a good cry, will quickly and staunchly pat you awkwardly on the back and say ‘Now, now’. In as soothing a tone as he can manage. He gave pretty decent hugs though – if you managed to get one off him as his daughter, he’d grunt comfortably and give you a hug… Before, of course, patting you strongly and firmly on the back with a ‘Now, now’ equivalent.

Yet he’s also pretty emotional when he’s emotional.

And then my mind tracked again to the father who’s always been near. I must admit my father unashamedly hovers. Like he did at creation. Good habits die hard 🙂

I have so much love to be thankful for. The father, my mum and dad… Today I’m thinking about them. My dad’s nickname for me was a Tamil variant – Chinza – that simply meant ‘a little person’. I figure he didn’t lose out on the protective streak either. But it’s a diminutive (look that up, if you need to). In English, it would sound sorta like ‘Hey, Littlie’ but not in any demeaning way that that could imply. When the dad wanted a game or to pick me up or to go on a drive together, he’d often start with ‘Hey, Chinza!’

Hey, Littlest.

It is one of those words I’ve never heard without love. So last night, I pushed my bike up the hill considering my rather-unsharable nicknames. Considering proofs of love I knew. And I think my head became quite silent inside. God stopped me. My father stopped me.

Hey, Littlest.

I love you more than anyone else. More than you can ever know. 


8 Oct

I have a heart-longing this afternoon for a moment in time that embodies a lifestyle, a way of living and loving, a way of doing community and society that I doubt the Western hemisphere finds easy to come by.

I’m sitting here with Manzon’s attempt to outline The Construction of a Field, but my mind is stubbornly on a rickety bus whose seats are steadfastly warm from the sun. I’m on the bus with my mother, who is the perfect person to go out with on a lazy, laid-back expedition.

We’ve just been to the salon and gone perusing through bargain-hunter haunts. I’ve dragged her reluctantly from shop to shop, presumably. And she won’t refuse because I’m leaving soon. But she does really want to stop for food.

It’s easy to find some place to eat from bus stop to bus stop in India. It’s easy to eat out on your wallet too. It’s easy to choose from a variety of tastes. And it’s easy to treat yourself to a meal that is less easy on your wallet, but still doable.

And so it’s easy to change your mind. To decide not to go into a restaurant and find another one two street corners away. To ask the lady selling bangles why she won’t sell them cheaper and nearly have an argument with her but also ask her what her daughters are studying in school and listen to her tell you to get married soon. To turn around and say to my mum that I want to delay our plans by a half hour because… well, I want to get a henna tattoo on my hands. Mehendi is what we’d call it.

And I’m walking around with a blue umbrella, avoiding the sun, and I like the absence of heat beating down on me and the presence of prevailing warmth in the air. And this is fine. In India. It’s not weird. Nobody’s going to carefully keep their eyes off you so as not to look at you like a spectacle.

Also, just so you know, if it were a spectacle – they’ll look. You know? And you hate it when you’re there. But it’s a way of life. It seems to come with the territory. Passive-aggressive is just… less passive there.

So we step off the bus, walk into a restaurant, and my mother finds a table. I am less laid-back. I walk up to the counter and tell the guy that if we’re paying for air-conditioning (which you do, actually, in restaurants there), we want it on. Of course, he’s amused because I look as unlikely a candidate for independence as possible. I’m in jeans and a t-shirt, I carry a backpack, I’m shopping with my mum. I look like I’m in college – you know what I’m saying? 😉 I also look unlikely to be able to speak in any authoritative way in the local dialect. But I do. So he smirks, but I practise my stare and the A/C gets turned on. Stat.

And then we saunter over to the mehendi stand. Four youngish guys, all in jeans, in a mehendi stand. Daunting. One of them takes my measure. I take theirs. And then he nonchalantly asks me to put my hand on his knee.

I am a little less nonchalant. I’ve learned different social codes. My mother doesn’t care – she’s just encouraging me to tattoo both hands. But I gingerly lay my arm out and the man paints a tattoo on. And my mum looks on – and there’s love in her eyes and enjoyment of this time. A security I only know when I look for it. But it’s always there.

And they wait while we fumble with our many bags, umbrella and wallets to get the cash out. It’s always a struggle between my mum and me to get to our cash first. And they listen in to our banter. They’re not in the least uncomfortable. We know it’s banter they can listen in to, of course. It’s an allowed intimacy.

She pays. I am incapacitated by the wet paste on the whole of my left arm and hand.

And we hop on a bus again. We’re talking about the dogs and my father. I hope he’s waiting for us for dinner. If he’s been out, he’s probably bought something for us. And it’s okay to stick my hand out into the sunlight streaming into the bus. It’s not weird either. It’s not in anybody’s space because it’s not as crowded in the afternoon. And it’s okay to hide my really hot cheeks from the sun, and it’s okay to laugh with my mother and give her a hug if I can manage it with my bags.

It’s okay to change my plans, to delay things, to speed up things, to make something happen that I thought about ten minutes ago. It’s okay. And I miss it today.

An honest letter…

12 Mar
Haha, today I have a treat for you 🙂 This is so cute, it needs not much explanation besides! This is a letter in our First Grade Writing Workshop, when we were writing to an audience… from a 6-year-old girl to a 6-year-old-boy. But doesn’t it shock you just a little?!?!1st grade, relationships, relationship, ESL, postbox, boy girl, girl boy, writing, workshop, letter, love letter, writing workshop, grade 1, honesty, culture, parenthood, too young, Korean restaurant, relationship, relationships, i like you, love,

Early Start!

Justin was grossed out, needless to say, as boys generally are. Doofuses 😉 Next week, she told him she loved him. He was her valentine. (Laughing yet?)

Cue everyone: Aaaaawww

A couple of weeks later Yeobin kissed another boy’s hand, although she still likes Justin… I assume because of all those bright smiles (!)…

Now – shocked much?!?!


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