What’s a mother’s life if she can sip hot teas and click pictures basking in warm sunshine just because schools have started? My kids have shamelessly shouldered the responsibility of helping me stay humble. It is barely a couple of days since secondary schools began. It is natural to get carried away by newness. But to what extent?

The almost teen returns back from school and throws her hands up in the air, “I feel so plain!”

I look at her fancy hair, her tired yet excitedly disappointed features, her plush school bag and her new phone. Trust me, she needs to revisit the dictionary meaning of the word ‘plain’.

My mind instantly travels back to my schooling years, despite no travel bubble between India and Singapore. I see a fragile, rather timid looking, left-handed girl who would be spotted with a ‘boy-cut’, hanging around in t-shirts and a pair of shorts. Those were the days when my gender disclosure lay at the mercy of my clothes. But there was nothing fancy about my life. That’s what I call a plain-Jane, not the girl in front of my eyes right now.

No way. But as goes the custom, before I can open my mouth and blurt something that goes off tangent, there continues our young adult,

“You know most kids in my class are mixed. Some are 1/2 Irish and 1/2 Chinese, some 1/2 Chinese and 1/2 Indians, some 1/3rd Chinese, 1/3rd Indian and 1/3rd Italian. And look at me. I feel so plain – all Indian!”

She heaves a long, slow sigh of disappointment. I figure, if diversity was part of curriculum, her class would outdo the rest of the world. As a kid or even an adult, I sometimes felt the need to fit in – among a group of people I wanted to ape; sometimes in a career that seemed fancy, sometimes in a world I did not belong; but never in my faintest dreams did I desire to even be a part on an internationally mixed family.

One look at my offspring and I feel failed – as a mother. Why did I lack the foresight back when I was young and the new millennium was ushering in mixed marriages?

But back in my times, merely falling in love gave me an edge and helped me stand out. I enjoyed stardom for being the bold one while he has been enduring the badge of martyrdom. I was peacefully resting on my laurels of a novel marriage until, this plain little girl shook my throne.

Shame on me for making ordinary choices. Why did I not choose a man who at least came from a different state in my own country? From a different religion maybe? And why on Earth did I not marry a foreigner despite working on foreign soil? At least, profanity in my mother tongue would have zero impact on fights in this torrid ship of matrimony. Better still, my love story would stand a chance as the next original Amazon series.

Alas, all my blatant mistakes from a repulsive past zip past my moist eyes and torment me like a tragic movie in a matter of milliseconds. I have wronged my dear firstborn. But there is no way in hell I can make amends now. Her genetic code has been written. Before I can apologize or display remorse and cut all ties with her father, the bitter half jumps in.

“Who says you are plain? Other fathers married women. I married an alien. You know what that makes you?”

And as he chuckles, the girls match pace to unanimously guffaw at you know who. I refuse to join in. After all, my ego is trained to show up during the most difficult times. I play along,

“Certainly. And we the ones from Venus have a thing for the ones from Mars”

At which, the 9-year-old who has been laughing along while hopelessly trying to make sense out of this whole plain Jane conversation hustles in,

“So where is my bar of Mars?”

P.S. Now we all laugh cohesively, like one mentally mixed up family that belongs somewhere in this galaxy. The world has been changing so rapidly, you never know what feels better, to fit in or to stand out. Whether you belong to the newly added genders on a form, or to a complicated racial quotient that teaches you more about complex mathematical ratios than your forefathers or simply like my family, you think you are the byproduct of two aliens consummating, I realize it is the feeling of acceptance and belonging where you find peace and happiness. A state where questions absolve and all that matters is you. Just belong.