Rita, 57, and Kritika, 34, currently live together in Greenwood Village, Colorado. At the beginning of the pandemic—while Kritika was pregnant with her first child—she and her husband moved from Denver to live with her parents. Her son, Rumi, was born in October. Kritika is a clinical psychologist. Rita helps take care of Rumi.
This is part of “I Miss You. I’m Worried About You. Get Out of My House.,” a series of conversations between parents and their children about how their relationship has changed since the beginning of lockdown.
Kritika: I was a tough kid. I think I was pretty bossy and difficult and moody. So I know you had to struggle to make me do things.
Rita: I still do.
Kritika: I never liked having routines or practicing anything. So you would have to, like, manage me. I would say that we had a very formal mother-daughter relationship. I was scared of you. You’re intense. My sisters and I call you “the flying midget.” You’re about 5 feet tall.
Rita: I’m 5-foot-1½.
Kritika: One example for why we call you that is once you were trying to hang up some art behind your bed. But no one was able to help you at the moment. So we come upstairs to find you basically spread-eagle, standing on top of the headboard, hanging up this crazy artwork all by yourself. This is what you do. You won’t wait for anyone. If you want something done, you’ll do it right away. And this impatience sometimes causes conflict.
Rita: Did I do it or not?
Kritika: You did, but—
Kritika: And also, you will get mad at us for not doing things your way.
Rita: I’m a little intense. But all three of you girls are perfect because of that. Well, I would say you’re a little lazy. But you do things your way. If I don’t yell at you, then who else will? I have a right to, as a mother.
Kritika: When the pandemic began, we didn’t want to go to your house because I was worried about you, since you’re immunocompromised. My husband, Albert, and I were living in an apartment. Back then we didn’t know if, like, corona came through the ceiling. I remember one doctor’s appointment at the end of February—on our way back from the ultrasound, we stopped at your house and dropped off the first pictures. We didn’t get near each other. I was 12 weeks pregnant when lockdown started. I was super sick—I got hyperemesis. I was throwing up and crying all the time. You kept wanting to FaceTime, but I didn’t want to see anybody. And then one time I let you see me—
Rita: Oh, your face. You were just crying and crying.
Kritika: That’s not me. I’m not like that. You made me come home. So I packed a bag. I showed up, you made me food, I went to sleep, and I literally didn’t leave.
Rita: I got really excited. I started making all kinds of food.
Kritika: I remember our first big fight in quarantine very clearly, because it was pretty insane. I’m going to just chalk it up to hormones. I found out that Dad was inviting his business partner over. I was working, and I heard someone in the house. And then when this guy left, I came out of my room, and I screamed so loudly. Like, I’m pregnant, I can’t believe you’d threaten our safety by inviting this person over! And then I went back in my room and slammed the door. My ears were ringing. My face was hot. I knew I’d messed up. But I couldn’t stop myself.
“We used to have a very formal mother-daughter relationship. I was scared of you. You’re intense.”
Rita: We’d told you that somebody would be coming. We had the 6 feet of distance. He came to drop off some food. And this child, she starts screaming. Being Indian, respect is very, very important. You’re our daughter. How could you do that? I told your dad, she’s pregnant, we have to be kind. But we were shocked.
Kritika: I lost my mind. You and I didn’t talk for a week. We’re really good at ignoring each other while living together. This is how we deal with conflict.
Rita: It runs in our family.
Kritika: Eventually it passed. I went downstairs, I was hungry, you fed me, something like that. I also got gestational diabetes. And then I had to change the way I was eating, so a lot of our fights were about what I would or wouldn’t eat. You had a totally different take on what my diet should be than what the doctor was saying. I would yell at you. But in the end, my blood sugar responded best to the food you made. So you were right. Which is really annoying.
Rita: Normally you hate spicy food. But during pregnancy, you suddenly wanted it. I was so happy I texted all my friends to tell them.
Kritika: I had a really hard pregnancy. I was very disconnected from feeling any joy. It’s horrible to admit. But you were so excited. You always wanted to touch my belly. I honestly think your excitement kind of got me through it, because I couldn’t feel it for myself. In October, I went in for my 38-week ultrasound, and I developed preeclampsia. I called you from the hospital being like, they’re sending me to labor. You were running around packing my suitcase and crying.
Rita: I was scared, because it was early.
Kritika: You weren’t allowed to be at the hospital during the birth. You literally were on the phone asking the nurses, “Can I come?” And they were like, “Ma’am, no.” I had you on FaceTime for as long as I could tolerate.
Rita: I felt so sad not to be there.
Kritika: But bringing him home, and seeing you meet him, was just the best. Dad will not hold tiny babies. So he did not hold him for seven days. But you did immediately.
Rita: And when I held him, I started to cry. That cry was a good cry. Happy cry. Oh my gosh. I saw this little face, you know? The bottom, from his nose down, looked like his father. The eyes looked like you.
Kritika: Once the baby got here, I apologized to you. I told you I was really sorry I was so horrible to you, ever. I’ve realized you have to be completely selfless as a mother. I think I spent a lot of my life thinking that you were doing things intentionally, to be mean, or to be like, “I’m your mom, do this.” When I was growing up, I felt like, why we couldn’t just do whatever other kids were doing? But now I see that your intention was to make sure we had a really good life. You did it your way. And yes, that felt controlling and insane. But you were just trying to take care of us. And I couldn’t have seen it through that lens until we started living together, while dealing with the fact that I was bringing another life into the world.
“I’m really bad about giving space. I think I’ve learned this year that I need to give you some room.”
Rita: You don’t yell at me anymore. Well, you do now and then. But it has changed a little bit, because you see what we have to go through.
Kritika: I needed you this year. It’s amazing to me now that you did this with three kids under the age of 3. You did this in a foreign country, not knowing the language. I’m just seeing it now. Now I have a baby and I’m like, I can’t get out the door for a walk without my mother helping me to the garage. I don’t think I’m selfless in the way you are, at all.
Rita I’m really bad about giving space. I think I’ve learned this year that I need to give you some room. That’s very hard. Sometimes I get in trouble because I will just go and sneak in to see what Rumi’s doing. He’ll be sleeping, and I will look at his face and then I will leave. And then of course, you will see me on the camera.
Kritika: Oh yes, that makes me completely exasperated. We’re trying to do sleep training. You rile him up. He loves his grandma. Though this morning, I think he was crying because he missed you, so I actually told you to go in there. And then Albert came in and said to you, “What are you doing here?” He gets annoyed because he thinks we’re teaching bad habits. So I think the three of us need to have a few more conversations about our co-parenting.
Rita: Rumi was crying for half an hour! Come on.
Kritika: But I think you’ve generally gotten better about giving us space.
Rita: The family I come from, when your daughter has her first child, that should happen at her parents’ house, not their own house. So for me, you coming home, it was very meaningful culturally. Of course, you will go on your own, one day. But as long you can stay here, I will be happy. In the pandemic, my husband and I would have been alone. Instead, we have a daughter, now we have a little grandson. I can’t wait to see him walk. Oh my god.