I wake up in the dead of the night. Squinting, I realize it is 2:00 AM. I slide out of Laddu’s bed noiselessly and pad my way to my bed. Even as I decide to use the restroom, Laddu plods in behind me, her plaintive cry raising my hackles. Irritably, I climb into the cold bed with her. She burrows herself into my back.
It is 7:45 AM when I wake again, my body aching from being a punching bag all night. I am almost grateful when Ammu climbs into the spot I vacate thereby ensuring Laddu will give me a few minutes of peace.
The morning drags and we shower, make Pongal, pray to the Sun god and settle down in a carb-induced haze. I let the children open two unopened toys. The twins play “Don’t rock the boat” while Laddu fishes using her slender plastic rod in a tray of fish hungrily opening and closing their mouths. I watch awhile and head upstairs for a nap.
Sometime during my nap, Laddu sidles in beside me. Her body is warm to touch. She is sniffling. I hold her close and we nap an hour more. The twins are watching TV and I am too tired to tell them to turn it off.
The evening seems to stretch into eternity. I hate the kitchen but head there grudgingly. We have coffee and I set out vegetables to chop. All three kids congregate on the island. They take turns playing. As I start shelling edamame, they leave their games untended and form a circle around me. First, they gobble up the indecently plump beans, then they take over the shelling from me. I pound the dough for the rotis wait for them to run off to play.
I painstakingly make dinner. A basic roti, subzi and dal. It has been a week since Saathi left to tend to his dad. I haven’t stepped out of the home but to courier Laddu between school and home. My fridge is rapidly emptying itself of essentials. I can sustain a day more.
Most of the days have been routine. I focus on the feeding and the nurturing like I always do. I also feel the ache in my feet at the end of the day. My back feels like it could do with a deep massage. My brain craves a few minutes of things that have to nothing with the kids. I sleep way too early and wake up in the dead of the night. I am weary. I am exhausted.
I cling to the phone like it is a lifeline. I say thanks to the powers that be that this state is temporary. I say prayers for women who do it all themselves without breaking a sweat. I am cognizant of what it takes to raise children, the daily grunt work that goes into turning out future citizens. Kind, empathetic, functional adults who give more than they take.
This parenting thing is mostly flying solo, relying on indeterminate markers to take you to the destination. It is a lot of faith and hope. It is also a lot of work. It is whispered cries for help in the darkness. It is hanging on to a voice on the phone to drive away loneliness. It is pouring your thoughts onto paper just so you can remind yourself that you once felt this way.