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Scenes From An Early Morning School Drop-Off:
I hop—wait, I am merely sliding in —with my four-year old daughter gleefully jumping into it first with her eight-watts smile, disturbing the whole atmosphere without even saying anything. Morning person much? A man and two other women join us, hounding and blocking what I consider my free breathing space. Each of us moves to light up our destination digits, makes brief eye contact and zones out in our individual fortresses.
I pick the dark corner that also lets out a secret vent for my benefit. Saanvi continues to intrusively study everyone, keeping her wide-eyed smile. Of course, she can't stand still even for ten seconds. She notices something and yells at me from another corner, pointing crudely at the only man in the elevator.
"Mom! Mom! Look at him. He is wearing dad's t-shirt."
Of course, that remark is open to wide interpretations and I'm mortified. But I've learned the hard way that whatever I do in a desperate attempt to salvage is only going to backfire. So I just give her a half-smile and avoid eye-contact in general. I'm counting in my head to get the fuck out of everyone's hair when comes another uninvited remark.
"Uncle, can you give it back? Papa really likes that t-shirt."
Obviously, now I have to dive in head first with apologetic giggles that only get drowned in the roaring laughter coming from the seemingly-polite ladies in the elevator.
Kids say the ballsiest things, don't they? That's cool.
Mostly, they say things that overwhelm you and outnumber you in rapid sentences. And that's OK too I guess.
But if you're an introvert like me, it can get exhausting.
Last year, we went on a holiday to Bintan. Saanvi had just turned three that year. It was her birthday. We had a quiet dinner at an Indian restaurant so she could have her lunch staples—roti and bhindi—as opposed to Ramen and pizza. She picked the table next to a sweet Indian couple. The entire time we were there, our tables were shuffled incredibly close together with her chair facing the Indian couple. I felt sorry for them 'cos they seemed to be newly married. My husband took a picture of us from that day. The couple was downright jubilant to be in our company. Saanvi was in mid-sentence. And me - well, I had this sheepish, awkward smile.
Like I wanted to get out of there as fast I possibly can.
And that is definitive of how I feel when we're out as an introverted mom and extroverted daughter duo. 'Cos here's the thing about being an introvert. You want to be able to control the volume of conversations. So, when I'm talking to people, one-on-ones with people I know are ideal. Group-conversations are next best cos you get to catch your breaths a lot. Of course, I love my friends! I'd meet them with their kids too, sometimes craving for a cup of coffee with them in the middle of the night, imagining the kids all tucked in with a nice classic, say Wizard of Oz, while we sit outside and indulge in some petty, slanderous gossip about everyone we know.
But the perennial introverted parent trap arises in one form or the other. Like in the following situations:
- When you're amidst strangers in a long journey and you're forced to engage in conversations 'cos your chatty daughter won't have it any other way. And she won't even nap cos that'll get in the way of discovering new people. (New people are over-hyped.)
- When you're in the company of society park moms who're engaging in long conversations with your daughter asking her interesting open-ended questions. And you kind of feel obligated to do the same with their kids.
- When you've had a long, tiring day of relentless conversations with your little jabberer and you're ready to call it a night. And your daughter asks you to cook up a fairy tale from your imagination and narrate it to her. One that does not end with, "And she was tired, miserable and sleepy ever after."
I know what you may be thinking. Am I even remotely implying that my energetic daughter is making me miserable? So what if she talks a lot?
Don't get me wrong. I'm thankful each day for having a little ray of happy, bouncing sunshine in my life. And she's a good conversationalist. Not kidding. She talks like a grown-up. She'll talk about anything from fun science facts to philosophy, sometimes she'll just make up her own trivia for the sake of conversation fillers.
But for me, in order to be a functional mother, who listens to her and nurtures her with the same sort of love and energy every day, I have some alone-time mandates. Maybe, it is a little selfish. But my me-time refuels me, sometimes more than a good night's sleep, more than my other basic necessities in life.
So here are some everyday guidelines I've laid down for myself:
1. Tuning out from the world completely: Alone-time is not hard to come by since we're a nuclear family. So, I put my phone on silent, sit with a book/writing pad /mindless television, whatever the need of the hour and stay put for as long as it takes to feel rejuvenated.
2. Starting my day ten minutes earlier than everyone: Sometimes, all it takes is five deep breaths, a dose of morning fresh air and quiet to get me up and about. The realization that the world hasn't started needing you yet is divine energy.
3. Having a job that doesn't necessitate face-time: Because honestly, what good can come of a room full of people trying to fill up air with their own stuck-up ideas and making themselves look important? Fine, maybe greater good that can potentially change governments. But fortunately for me, I'm still trying to get all the way back to jump-starting my career and I realize that with my skills, I could potentially even work from a remote island. As long as it has WI-Fi.
4. Music: Big part of my survival kit. I can absolutely not do any sort of physical activity without my playlist. It is therapeutic. Irrespective of whether you're an introvert or extrovert, it's important to have at least one thing in your life that is meant just for your personal pleasure. My playlist is one of them.
5. Letting it go: You may try to mingle more and be more receptive to others and put yourself out there more often. But you can't change who you are. I try to accept that and not beat myself about it. I fail miserably but I try again.
Of course, it fills me with an inexplicable envy when I see bright, cheerful moms who can fill the room with their positive vibes and radiant energy. But I've come to healthy terms with the fact that I'm just not one of them. I'm happy to spend my alone-time refuelling for random play-dates and spontaneous social events that tend to drain the life out of me.
As long as I'm there in body and spirit, I'm enough.