Laddu peeks in the study and noticing I am on a work call, closes the door gently behind her as she runs upstairs in search of akkas. Her pigtails bounce up and down as she scampers away and my heart swells with a feeling that feels too big for me.
I am disoriented by the feeling and shake my head to bring me back to the moment. The call ends and I get back to work. There are about ten days left before school reopens and the children will be back to a familiar but rigid routine.
They have all grown. The older twins are taller. They are mini adults. They do chores around the home and ask for money. They have lists they keep. They are looking forward to school. The youngest has grown physically but she is still the baby of the house.
All around me are markers of the passage of time. Changing timbre of voices, hair that is brushing shoulder blades, clothes that seem to shrink with each use, sneakers that no longer fit, shelves that were once unreachable no longer safe hiding places. I see it mostly in the way they negotiate the world around them.
Pattu makes her own coffee. Ammu sets out snacks for all of them. Laddu uses the word randomly in casual conversation and I am blown by how well she uses it. On a sleepover with cousins, the older children stay up late giggling and watching videos on their cousin’s phone. The younger two link hands and traipse through the house, one unit against older siblings. When the cousins leave, Pattu manages to pitch the idea that she is perhaps ready for a phone. Ammu talks to me about how no one has flip phones anymore.
I am amused. I am also proud. These children for whom I feared are showing progress. The changes are incremental and amazing. Some mornings as I pass their room and they are still sleeping oblivious to the world around them, my heart swells, the feeling light and uncontainable.
Parenting has been a hard won, cherished outcome for me. There are days when I wonder about alternate universes. Then there are days like today when the sight of bouncing pigtails make me realize there is no other life I would rather have.