Sunday, November 22, 2009

Are your children cherished?

Clothes carelessly scattered over the floor of my children’ rooms are usually enough to get my blood pressure shooting up to lethal levels warranting a visit to the ER.

Every pair of smelly socks that I unearth from under a sofa is a cue to open curtains on the most explosive show of fireworks ever displayed. One that would shame even the best July 4th celebrations in the country.

The occasional ‘B’ among several ‘A’s on a child’s report card has been instrumental in me experiencing a few fairytale-like fainting spells giving me a chance to test the strength of the smelling salts that I once bought over eBay.

Feel free to pull up a chair because I can go on forever about all that my kids do or not do to push me to the brink of a cardiac arrest on any normal day.

I am a perfectionist. Not by desire or design. I simply am one. Or I was until yesterday.

A 15 year old child from our community took her last breath two days ago. Yesterday was her funeral.

She was a beautiful girl, so full of promises. She had sung like a dream. She had played tennis with the grace and ease afforded by youth. She had brought home her share of good grades and had laughed wildly with the abandon of a teenager. She would have sulked, rebelled and cried too. She could have been mine or yours. Today she is just a statistic. One more life snapped off before its time by the cruel claws of Leukemia.

What wouldn’t her parents do to see her clothes lying messily in her room today? What wouldn’t they give to see her walk through the front door one more time with a report card? Where would they not go to retrieve her sweat drenched dirty socks?

With a heavy heart, I realize today that I have lost the desire to raise flawless children. I don’t want to see them grow up to be perfect angels. I want to see them grow up. It only took the death of a child to make me understand a simple truth - our children are precious gifts that we quite so often forget to cherish and enjoy.

I am going to have to control myself into not giving big hugs when my children next come home with a few ‘less than perfect’ grades. After all, I don’t want to confuse them.

My heartfelt condolences to the family. May God give them the strength to survive this grief and find meaning in life.

-Meena Sankaran

Wednesday, November 4, 2009

PTCs are not for amateurs. Seriously!

I got out of bed this morning feeling quite confident. I could do this. After all, I had prepared sufficiently for this day.

Mentally running through the checklist once again only proved that I was right.

New running shoes. Check. Water bottle. Check. Whistle on a long chain. Check. Paper bags for hyper ventilation. Check. Facility maps. Check. Schedule for the day. Check. Warm-up exercises. Done. Breathing exercises. Done. Squatting exercises to strengthen upper thigh muscles. Done.

My most recent trial run was 2 days ago and I clocked it just under 5 minutes. All in all, I felt up to the challenge.

“Mom, are you sure you can do this?” Hearing the hitch in my daughter’s voice, I held one of my spare paper bags in front of her face to help with her hyper ventilation. “Have a little faith, will you? Step aside and wish me luck. I will be fine.”

Armed with a well-stocked knapsack, I marched out to face the challenge of yet another parent teacher conference. Just to spice up my otherwise boring life, my morning was scheduled to start off at my freshman’s high school with no block system and end at my third grader’s elementary school.

If you have no knowledge of a block system, take a minute now to give thanks to the Almighty. Not knowing the difference between a 4 period and a 7 period day gives you away as the parent of an elementary child or a preschooler. Life may be predictable even a little boring for you at this stage but at least your heart is sure to be free of excessive palpitations. After all, how much excitement can you expect out of a 15 minute meeting with one teacher? And all those 15 minutes spent in only one room!

When I pulled in to the pathway leading to the high school, it was crowded alright. After cruising around the lot for about 20 minutes I finally crammed my van in a spot meant for bicycles (don’t try this unless you have a good third party auto insurance coverage) and strode in through the main entrance.

This was it. This was the moment that I had prepared for all these weeks. And I was ready. Lips pursed, shoulders squared, eyes slightly narrowed with focus, I whipped out the schedule that my kid had painstakingly hand-written for me even while I flipped open the school map with the other hand. A quick glance at the schedule showed me that my first meeting was with Mrs. R, the social studies teacher in room# 94 in exactly 6 minutes.

If you were a seasoned parent like me, you would know that on a parent teacher conference day, the dozens of long, winding hallways of a high school are more crowded than the busiest highways of an industrial town.

Estimating the time I was going to need to get around the many parents circling the hallways, I mapped the shortest route to the 90s hall mentally and started off on an easy rhythmic jog. 2 more minutes left to my destination, I faced my first major hurdle. Closing in on the intersection of the 60s and 70s hall just beyond the library, I noticed a group of parents huddling around a map looking confused and lost. Amateurs! They were clearly blocking my way. I had 2 options there. I could stop near the crowd and politely tell them to get the hell out of my way or, ta da, I could blow hard on the whistle hanging around my neck to startle the crowd into giving me way. Take a wild guess as to what I chose. It was certainly a stroke of genius to bring the whistle along for the day.

After making a quick stop outside room# 94 to gulp down from my water bottle, I stepped in to greet Mrs. R with one minute to spare. The conversation that followed went like this.

“Mrs. R, how are you?”

“Very well, thank you Mrs. S. Please take a seat.”

“Don’t mind if I do. How is A doing in class?”

“Oh, fine. She is a conscientious….oops, your time is up Mrs. S. Oh my, how time flies when you are having a riveting conversation! It has been a pleasure to meet with you Mrs. S. See you in nine weeks again.”

That was certainly a productive meeting. I couldn’t help but like Mrs. R. She was awfully nice. I left the room reassured that my daughter was in good hands.

I now had 5 minutes to get to the 500s hall to meet with Mrs. M, the Math teacher in room# 505. After that I had 5 minutes to come back to the 50s hall to meet with Mrs. B, the English teacher in room #56 followed by more such meaningful meetings with the Science, Band and PE teachers – all of whom were spread across the sprawling campus.

The $120.00 that I paid for my new Nike running shoes was well worth the money. I was going to get great mileage out of it in just one day.

By the time, I got out of my last meeting at the high school, I was soaked in sweat and just a little breathless. When I got into the van at last to drive to my last (thank god!) meeting of the day at the elementary school with my 3rd grader’s teacher, I made a mental note to add some Gatorade and vitamin tablets to the next parent teacher conference preparation checklist.

As the wise say, live and learn.

-Meena Sankaran