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I love my clutter-free balcony. It is the place I retreat to almost every day for some quiet time. These days I find myself spending more time in the balcony than I ever have in the past – playing a game or two with S1, watching the sky turn a brilliant shade of pink in the evenings with little S2 in my lap, bridging distances on video calls as she shows off her newly acquired clapping skills to my family, watching her sway happily to some music (little does Billy Joel know that he has a 1-year-old fan:)), waking up early to get some moments of quiet with my cup of tea, slipping in a few minutes of meditation every day, soaking in the sun on lazy Sunday mornings and watching the world go by.

I realise that there is plenty to be truly grateful for in these times of uncertainty. Incredible technology has allowed our parents and close family to see the glee on little S2’s face as we celebrated her milestone first birthday in the company of a home-baked sponge cake, extra family bonding time – with lots of family music/movie nights and cooking experiments with S1 (he has now officially perfected a deadly cheese toast). Then there’s the unbeatable resilience; it’s inspiring to see how our children and parents are soldiering on and dealing with this situation. Then, of course, there are the early morning cuddles and late-night story sessions with both kids, my girl squad who is but a call away when I need to vent, laugh or simply talk.

Before you ask, yes, there are those moments. As a working mom of two, I am constantly at crossroads these days with a multitude of ‘How do I?’ questions running in my already crowded head. Chief among them is – How do I keep S1 engaged? Here’s what works for me – hardly qualifies for expert advice, just good ol’ mom talk.

Stem toys

1. STEM toys: Designed to encourage creativity and problem solving, nothing keeps a 7-year-old more engaged than a STEM toy. S1 spent 7 hours straight on a Saturday, assembling his hydraulic crane. It’s fun, sparks an interest in science and as an added bonus gives me plenty of undisturbed time

2. LEGO: We’d not let him open all his Lego gifts at one go and had saved them for a ‘rainy’ day. Little did we know that it would come in perfectly handy in dealing with endless lockdown boredom. Again, it’s engaging, teaches him lessons in patience and delayed gratification. Bless them blocks!

lego

3. This is the part when mom-guilt spikes – TV screen time. This is also the part when my house looks like it is tornado-hit – the little dude perfects his bottle flips, turns into a kitchen scientist, builds domino challenges and finally settles into a corner with a Rubik’s cube in hand. There’s a lot of movie and cartoon binge-watching, too.  I was fervently praying when he watched the Home Alone series – “Dear God, please don’t put any more experimentation ideas in his head!”

4. There are times when he is constantly behind me – “Amma, I’m bored”. I just let him twiddle his thumbs and stay bored. Amuse yourself, boy!

5. We’ve become an experimentative mom-son duo in the kitchen – by way of spending quality time with him and hopefully, he learns some life skills along the way. Life gives you lemons, make lemonade.

6. Having a younger sister to help out and play with is a blessing. On days when both of us have simply run out of ideas to stay engaged, he builds a play area for S2 with cushions, mattresses and toys. Can’t go out to play? No problem! We can always fling soft toys at each other and burn energy.

7. As a child, books were my sanctuary, still are. My childhood memories are replete with Enid Blyton and happy endings. S1 loves a good tale but doesn’t yet enjoy reading books. I hope he goes past a couple of pages and begins reading for pleasure soon.

8. It is vacation time, not a regular one at that, though. Schedules, both daytime and sleep, have gone for a toss. I let S1 sleep in a few days. Gives him a chance to rest after being up and about all day and me some peace and quiet. And for that, both of us are grateful.

Of course, there is chaos and cacophony when two young kids and two working adults are home-bound all days – tempers run high, we grumble and whine, boredom begins to bite, evenings see the house messy with a mountain of dishes to tackle, paper Concordes, Airbuses, Star Jet-fighters incessantly zoom over your head and crash-land all over the house, counter-tops are always overflowing with S1’s science apparatus and the floor houses everything from Lego robots to hydraulic cranes to dragons and unicorns.

But I know that essentially I have two choices to make every waking day (like I always tell S1) – 1. Be anxious, grumpy, worried OR 2. To savour the moment, let the goofiness sink in and join the fun. I truly hope I choose option 2 – now and forever.

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