Meenal was having a conversation with her mother over the phone. ” How are the little ones, dear?” “Oh Mom, they are fine. It’s just so hard to get them to eat their food. Yesterday, it took me half an hour, literally running behind them to feed them the rest of their breakfast. On their own, Shruti ate two pieces of bacon and half a toast. Rohan ate all of the scrambled egg and milk but did not touch the rest of the food. I could not just waste the rest of the food! Besides, I worry if I don’t feed them well at home, they will be hungry at daycare or school.” “Meenal, you worry too much,” observed her mother. “How is your new job? Are you able to put in enough hours? ” she asked changing the topic. “So far so good. You know how hard it is to manage all the responsibilities at home. Thankfully, I am working on a smooth routine to get to work, on time” Meenal added proudly.
Meenal was a software engineer by profession. She had been married for 7 years. Her husband Vivek, was a manager in an IT company with a very busy schedule. They had two kids, a 5-year-old son, and a 3-year-old daughter. For the past few years, Meenal’s career had taken a back seat. Many a time, she had to take time off from work to take care of her children when they got sick. Sometimes she would wake up in the morning to find that one of them had a fever. She would have to forget to go to work that day.
Over the years, however, the kids were developing stronger immunity and staying healthier for longer periods. It finally seemed like she could follow a morning routine and focus on her new job.
Meenal was a morning person. She usually woke up before the alarm. Vivek sometimes cuddled up to her right when she was preparing to get out of bed. So, she set an alarm on her phone at 6:30 am to add a further thrust for her to get up.
One night, she forgot to charge her phone. With the battery, out of charge, no alarm rang at 6:30 am, the following morning. So even though she was awake she did not get out of bed till it was quite late. She looked at the clock, horrified. It was quarter past seven. “Oh my God, Vivek! I am so late,” she shouted. Vivek felt guilty and tried to soothe her. “Meenal, don’t you worry. I will get the kids ready before I leave for office. You can take care of the rest. It will be fine,” he reassured her.
The rest was a lot of apparently useless things that had become part of her routine. Meenal fed the fish and changed the water in the aquarium as needed. Then she took a shower and got ready for work. She prepared breakfast for everyone and packed her own lunch.
Vivek let little Shruti take her own time to choose her clothes. She changed her mind a few times and then decided on a pink dress and leggings. Vivek put them on and brushed her hair. Rohan was easy going and wore what his Dad asked him to wear. By quarter to eight, the kids were seated at the breakfast table. Vivek was done with his breakfast, quickly. “ Meenal, I am heading to work now. Have a good day!” he said as he picked up his laptop bag.
While the kids were picking on the food, Meenal emptied the dishwasher. With a little more coaxing from their mother, the kids finished breakfast. They still had to brush their teeth. Finally, everything was done by quarter past eight. “Phew, if I were ten more minutes late, Rohan would miss the school bus that picked him from the daycare,” thought Meenal. A sense of accomplishment filled her heart. “Today, going to work will be a breeze,” she smiled.
It was starting to get chilly in the morning. So, it was a good idea to wear jackets. Shruti started to create a huge fuss about her winter gear. She did not want to wear her furry jacket that Meenal picked out. She chose another pink light jacket. She also wanted to put on her warm cap. This was quite ridiculous as it was 50 degrees outside. It was way pleasant to wear warm caps. However, it was useless to reason with a three-year-old unless one was willing to lose the battle and sometimes one’s mind too. Meenal reasoned with her best logic but got no response. She had to give in, though she did not like it when her words were simply ignored by others.
Finally, they were all in the car. Shruti had to be buckled her in her car seat. The cute little thing sat there looking quite funny with the warm cap on. It irritated Meenal, as it reminded her of her defeat.
Meenal drove a hatchback wagon with low ground clearance. She started her car and was slowly backing out of the garage. Within a few seconds, Shruti clearly articulated her position. “Mommy, I need to go pee-pee. Otherwise, I am going to pee in my pants,” she said. She was just starting to talk in full sentences. She felt quite proud of her accomplishment. Her mother, however, did not see it quite the same way. She pictured what she would have to go through if Shruti started to go, right then and there. For starters, she would have to change her clothes and clean up the car seat. Rohan would miss his school bus. She would have to go to Rohan’s school after dropping off Shruti at her daycare. Going to work on time would be too optimistic an idea at that point. Being already hard pressed for time, Meenal felt herself losing her temper. When she lost her temper, she got very unmindful too.
In a hurry, she tried to stop the car, by turning off the ignition and without paying any attention to change the gear position to park. As a natural consequence, she could not get the car key out, in spite of her best attempts. She was puzzled and angry. In her frustration, she got out of the car to take her daughter out, quickly. Her only focus was that Shruti should not wet her pants.
As luck would have it, the driveway had a bit of a slope. Meenal stood there shocked as she saw the car very slowly but surely rolling towards the alleyway. It was about to hit the fence any moment. Being at her wit’s end, she got behind and tried with all her might to stop the car with her hands. The car was a mid-sized wagon and Meenal was not exactly a body builder. So, the car did not stop. There was no way to get to Shruti as she was sitting on the other side of the car. In desperation, Meenal sprinted forward and opened the front door. She jumped back into the rolling car. As soon as she got her right foot in, she decided to hit the brakes with that foot.
At that very moment, Meenal had a realization. She understood exactly what she had done wrong. She sighed heavily and changed the brakes to the park position. She also engaged the emergency brakes. The car stopped like any good car should. When Meenal tried to take out the car keys, it came out without any problem.
That bunch of keys happened to contain the house key, too. She quickly ran to the other side and unbuckled Shruti out of her car seat. Thankfully, Shruti’s pants were still dry!
Meenal ran with her three-year-old daughter in her arms. She opened the rear door that led into the kitchen. The opening of the door set off the alarm. Meenal had to put her little girl down and punched in the code to disarm it. At last, she took her to the bathroom. She put the potty seat over the toilet and helped her sit on it .
Meenal was furious about the whole situation. She was panting and sweating. She could see her hands trembling when she stood there waiting for her daughter to get done. She knew she needed to calm down.
As a lame response, she took off Shruti’s warm cap and allowed herself to feel quite relieved. She stood there and breathed deeply several times. By then, she started to see things in its correct perspective. This made Meenal burst into a hearty laughter.