Month: May 2013

Hat..bat..rat

Buzz learned about rhyming words a couple of months back and finding rhyming words for everything is her latest game. Most of the time it is about substituting the starting letter randomly to see if it forms a word.

If asked what rhymes with say ‘Book’, her first instinct is to say ‘Shook’.

*digression* Proud mother moment that she has taken the Hindi lesson so well. Kaam – Waam, Roti – Shoti, Book – Shook *end digression*

Sometimes what she comes up with is indeed a word and sometimes it is not. If it is not a word, I tell her it is not and she goes on to think of another word.

Yesterday as we were at the same game she came up with

Duck

Thought and thought and said it rhymes with

*uck

Not hearing any response from me, she looked at me and asked

Yeah word hai kya Mumma? (Is it a word Mumma?)

I try and not lie to the kids no matter how difficult the issue is but saying yes meant answering the next question

What does it mean Mumma?

I quickly changed the topic. Things kids can come up with are beyond anything a grown adult mind can comprehend. Apparently rhyming words are also not landmine free!!!

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Chotta bandar..nakalchi bandar..

She spies the kiddy purse someone gifted Buzz on table and points to it.

Pur..pur

Purse? I ask her and she nods her head in affirmative, as she takes it from my hand.

Baaayyee!

she says as she waves her hand.

Khaan jaa rahi hei Bugz?

I ask aloud.

Baar

comes her reply. Baahar (outside)?, I say.

She gives me a big smile, lets the purse hang from her elbow, turns around and walks out of the room.

A couple of seconds later she is back in the room, purse held in palm of her hand and a big wave.

Haaayyyeee!

As I respond with ‘Hi, Bugz’, she laughs out loud and keeps the purse back on the table.

My every morning and every evening routine enacted perfectly without much words spoken and no prompting. This continues in the exact same way for numerous re-takes for the next 10 mins.

*************************************

As I get the two of them ready for bed, Buzz plays her usual game – whispered secrets. She whispers random things in my ear, I make funny faces, we laugh as Buzz pretends to fall on her bed.

As soon as Buzz is on her bed, Bugz comes up to me, puts her mouth to my ear, holds still for a couple of seconds and climbs on to the bed alongside Buzz. My amazement shows on my face and she falls on the bed laughing.

The two of them keep taking turns; one with words, the other without.

*************************************

My chotta sa bandar is becoming a true nakalchi bandar.

Wise words

We as parents often times over do the whole parenting thing; they should learn this, they should be protected from that, they should not eat this, they should not watch that, they are too young for this, they are too old for that; kids do fine and grow up just fine till we get the basics rights. We all did too.

I look all around me – people from different countries, different backgrounds, different economic status growing up – all good humans beings. And I think to myself that yes I am over doing it all, over thinking it all. I need to take a long breath, exhale and trust that I will not mess it up, my kids will grow up fine, just like we all did.

Guns.. Violence.. Death

Mumma, Policemen gun se other people ko kyoin maarte hein?

She asked me as we were driving home in the evening, day before yesterday. To say I was shocked by the question would be an understatement. My instant reaction was,

Who told you that?

Wrong way to go, I know, but that is what came out of my mouth.

There is this boy who joined Buzz’s class early this year. He is crazy about Superheroes, is always dressed in T-shirts with one or the other of them, has an Ironman backpack, had Superheroes as a theme for his recently over birthday party. Kids’ birthdays in Buzz’s school are very low key. The parents of the birthday kid get cake/cupcake, some juice or milk for the kids. All kids ask the birthday kid questions about his/her birthday, sing the birthday song, eat the special treat and it is done. This kid’s birthday was the first time they got a goody bag at school and it was ‘Superhero’ picture book. Once the goody bag is in the hands of the kids it is very difficult to get them out. The goody bags were opened and only then did the teachers realized what was in them. Since most kids did not know who the people on the picture book was, they asked questions and the teachers answered as much as they could, talking about the positives of a Superhero. That evening on our way home, Buzz told me she did not like the big giant guy in the green (The hulk). Having too many picture books, she was not too keen on another one so kept it aside and forgot all about it.

Last week after the Mother’s day celebration at Buzz’s school since I was out of work already and it did not make sense for me to head to work and come back to pick Buzz in another hour, I figured I would take her to the nearby park. Most moms were of the same mindset and so we all drove to the park. While the kids all played together, the moms got talking. Most moms of boys were worried because they were coming home and saying things like:

I will gun you down. I will cut you up.

These are little kids and them mouthing things like that is a shock to every parent. There has been a talk with the teachers and I know action is being taken at school.

To Buzz a Policeman is a very nice person. They help protect us, they enforce rules and regulations, they keep us safe. It has been drummed in to her that if something goes wrong she has to go to the police. To suddenly be told that they actually kill people was too much for her to understand. The thing that complicates it all is that Buzz knows what death is. She has seen her Nani be sick and pass away. She knows that Nani is never coming back. She looks at other kids play with their grandmas and asks questions around what happened to both of hers. Where they are, what happened to them are very common questions in our house. One day she started crying, because she thought D and I would die too and would leave Buzz and Bugz behind. Death and the void that it leaves is something she understands in her own child like way.

The same day as I was cutting vegetables for dinner she told me,

Knife se stab kar sakte hein.

Since I have always told her knife can hurt which is why only adults can use them to cut vegetables and fruits, and even adults have to be very careful while using them; I carried forward from there, talking about how hurting others is never a good thing, be it guns or knives or any other thing.

Looking back I regret not dealing with the gun issue when it first came up. I still don’t have the correct answer. I know the issue has come up a bit too early for the kids and in response the parents in her class and they are too young in their understanding of such things to deal with them well. But now that it is here, it can’t be taken back. While I search for ways to figure this issue, if any of you have any ideas please please do drop a line. Would really appreciate any help I can get.

Indeed a big deal

I am not a ‘days’ kind of person. I am mostly blind to them till my FB wall gets flooded with posts wishing each other. I make the same observations every year – like for mother’s day women are busy wishing each other, putting up pictures of their moms and putting status updates about how they understand their mom’s better now that they have kids of their own; for father’s day they have videos and pictures of husband and kids, along with status about their husband being the best dad in the world. The men are mostly missing from each of these days’ social celebrations. This year I saw not even a single post from any of my male friends wishing anyone a happy mother’s day or talking about how they thought their wife was the best mom around. It might be due to my limited use of FB and that I don’t see a lot of the feeds but this was the state of the feeds I did get. Besides these observations and wondering the why’s behind them, I am mostly happy for the ones who are celebrating the big day.

The first mother’s day after Buzz was born, we were out of town with no internet and missed out on the whole thing completely. Every year since there is something or the other Buzz’s (then daycare and now) school makes all the kids make for their respective Moms. I collect it all, as a I collect any other art that she makes, with a huge smile. The things that she makes and the festivity seems to be getting bigger every year but I guess that is part of her growing up. Like this year I got a flower pot that she decorated with buttons, we planted a small flower in it and will hopefully see it grow big in the months and years to come. There was also a card and questions about what she thinks her Mom does, printed and laminated for me to hold on to. Buzz thinks I am 55 year old, Pizza loving Mom, who speaks loudly when angry, loves to play with her in my free time and am special because I dress her up. Once the celebration at school is done, I get back to normal schedule.

Our weekends are hectic, there is a long to-do list and the day and time to get them done is somewhat fixed. Come Sunday we took Buzz to her swimming class with the usual plan of me slipping in a quick workout while Buzz was busy and D took care of Bugz and then we would do our regular swap. The class apparently got canceled without any notice because it was Mother’s day. Everyone seemed surprised that we did not realize this without being told. We tried a bunch of options like trying to find a private instructor for Buzz to no avail, while she kept crying non-stop because she looks forward to her class all week and it was not to be. We promised her that we would bring her again in the evening and get our swimsuits along so that she could swim with us, only to be told the kids pool would close early for the day. The indoor play area where the kids play was also closed. After trying to figure things out and nothing working, we somehow got Buzz to calm down, took her to the park and let the kids run around for a bit. To cheer us all up, D had the brilliant idea of heading to our fav. restaurant for brunch (it is a small little place with great food). Parking nightmare, long wait and brunch became lunch. Heading back was not an option because Buzz would not let us. Almost every table had gift bags and bouquet of various sizes. The servers were running around like crazy, trying to fit everyone. I guess same was going on in the kitchen because the orders took forever to come. Lunch was late lunch.

For the first time, I have really realized what a big deal Mother’s day (and I am guessing the rest of the days) is. That people take is so seriously. That it means a lot to a lot of people. That it is much more than FB status updates.

After the kids were asleep D and I got talking about it and I said, ‘May be we are missing out on something. How about we celebrate Mother’s day next year, the way it is supposed to?’

He came back with, ‘Like you will remember any of this a year from now.’

He knows me a bit too well.. grr.. so I write it down here just so that I can get back at him a year from now. One-upmanship the greatest motivator of all.

Raising a girl

When Buzz was about 2, a friend asked me my thoughts on Fairy Tale books. Buzz was in her animal phase then and I had not really given fairy tales much thought. I gave a very jumbled reply, if I remember correctly. Something along the lines of, yeah.. sure.. maybe.. when she is over her animal books.

Buzz is growing up, has her wishes and her wants. Says things like, ‘this is my choice’ and stands strong for it. But as a parent it is my duty (not choice) to look at the bigger picture and guide her through her choices. It is very easy to give in to a simple demand of ‘that dress’, ‘those shoes’, ‘this book’, ‘that toy’ as an isolated ask. The picture however is not made up of singular events.

We all love our kids, there is no questioning that. We all think they are the best thing there is. We want to dress them pretty, ooh and aah over them, click their pictures and in this age of social networking post them on Facebook for others to like. I love to do all of these things too, barring a couple that is. I never vocalize how cute/good I think Buzz (and now Bugz) looks. I in fact got really mad when a friend said Buzz looked very nice that particular day because her hair was tied differently, while in Buzz’s presence. There are a few messages I don’t want my daughters to be growing up with (inevitable as it may be). Looking cute or beautiful is one of them. The way to impress others is to get all dressed up, is another. Here I am not saying that I don’t complement Buzz at all. I am very free which them when she helps others. I tell her she did great when she does her art projects. I tell her I am super proud of her as she rides her bike without training wheels. I lavish her with kisses and hugs for the little things she does. Complements on clothes and looks on the other hand, no I don’t.

I dress Buzz up mostly based on the weather but it is important to me that she for now wears all kids of clothes, in varied colors. Her closet has jeans, tights, shorts, pants, T-shirts, tops, skirts and dresses in shades of blue, green, pink, orange, purple, yellow, grey and white. I was shocked a few months back when Buzz one day refused to wear Jeans and said, ‘Boys wear jeans and not girls’. Since then we have had this conversation about what girls do verses what boys do, a number of times.

D loves to watch NBA and Buzz sometimes sits with him. One day she said, ‘only boys play basketball’. D told her that was not true. We searched and showed her videos of girls playing basketball and since then every time we come across women playing a sport of TV, which sadly is way fewer in number, we record it in order to show her the girls indeed play varied sports. On our drive to and from school, she always asks if a certain song has been sung by a boy or a girl. The music industry thankfully does the boy vs. girl ratio well. One day we were talking about various things and she said, ‘only boys can be fireman’. I told her that girls can in fact be fire(wo)men. ‘No’ she came back, ‘xyz in my school said only boys get to become fireman’.

School and what other kids wear/do is such a big influence on our kid’s life. I knew that, but the sheer impact of it has taken me by surprise. Princesses, getting dressed up, wearing jewelry, cartoons now rule Buzz’s world. And this is when she has not been exposed to any of this at home. There is little or no television viewing for her, she does not see me wear any jewelry or put on any kind of makeup and there is little or no talk about dressing up. But she is seen wearing a necklace and a ring. I almost ruptured a nerve when we opened a goody bad from a friends son’s birthday party and saw the necklace and ring in it (for both Buzz and Bugz); plasticy, blingy, junk jewelry as a gift for little girls!! Apparently girls from school wear them all the time. I still deal with her wearing these at home (stand strong against wearing any of it in school) but I can see D’s eye itch every single time he sees her with one of those. She once colored all 20 nails of her’s with sketch-pen because a girl in her class came with nail polish on. It took multiple scrubbings to get is back to their normal color.

They asked all the kids in school, what they wanted to be once they grew up. Princess cried a few girls. The rest followed. So Princess it was. I asked Buzz what a princess does? She said, ‘the princess wears a long dress and a crown, spins in circles and waves to everyone’. Cliché Disney image of a princess anyone? I started talking to her about the importance of various professions after that. Fireman, gets fire under control and saves lives; Construction worker builds the house we live in; Pilot flies an airplane and so on. What is so important that a Princess does, I asked? She had no answer. The trip to India and back helped as she thought about it and said she wanted to be an airhostess. The way they were dressed had a big role to play but she had an answer to what they do. A giant step forward in my mind. This past week she was called out in school for not telling the truth. She thought something had happened and went and told the teachers. It in fact came out that it really had not happened, she perceived it that way. Not really lying but it was an opportunity to talk to her why lying is bad and how we should always tell the truth. She asked me, ‘if I don’t ever lie can I be a Police Officer then? I want to help everyone’. ‘Yes, you can’, I told her and did a mental dance.

I wore ear-rings one day. She asked me why she could not wear one as well. I told her she did not have her ears pierced. She wanted to know when she could get them pierced. I asked her when she thought was a good time. She came back with when she turns 6. Fair enough! I know there is a tradition in some parts of India around getting ears pierced and I have been now told that it is less painful for little kids but it somehow was never a matter of urgency for me. I remember sitting in my mother’s lap when my ears got pierced, so I don’t really have a precedent on getting the piercing done at a early age. When she turns 6 and still wants to go ahead, I will let her. Her choice as she so often says.

One day I was at the library picking books for her and came across one of the Fairy Tales. Keeping aside all my prejudice for Disney that I have build up since I have had Buzz, I picked up the book and did a quick scan through. Evil witch, damsel in distress, handsome prince, fighting, running away – is this what I want my daughter to read? No, I said and kept the book back. Buzz got ‘Hansel and Gretel’ as a gift. I have such a hard time explaining why the step-mom is evil and worse why the Dad left the kids alone in the jungle even when he loved them so much. ‘Chicken Licken’ is so much easier to explain.

It is very easy for me to keep the Jeans aside because she does not want to wear them, or let her think that only boys can be firemen, or put nail polish on, or let her thing that wanting to become a Princess when she grows up is OK, or get her ear-rings today, or get her the Disney princess books that she so wants. But I ask the very basic question every time. Why? Her reason behind it is what makes me decide what path I am going to take. It is my responsibility to give my kids choices, all the choices. I have to have the world opened for them. I have to let them see the entire spectrum and not get bogged down by marketing gimmicks, color coded dresses, what others are doing. Why narrow the scope by following what everyone else is doing or what the film industry and the marketing talking heads are telling us? I also don’t want to be a friend to my daughters at the expense of not being a mom. Discipline, is important for the kids. I don’t believe in letting them have their way in everything in the name of choice. As a parent I need to set boundaries and I would rather be on the stricter side than have the kids misbehave.

One thing I have recently started working on with Buzz is to tell her, ‘it is ok to be different; to think different’. Chicken Licken comes to the recue. We never know what the future holds but I am making this parenting thing work in the way it makes sense to me and hope that the kids grow up thinking it was not all bad. I hope both Buzz and Bugz learn to think freely and know the true meaning of choice.

Do read this article if you have a chance. Food for thought for sure. http://www.huffingtonpost.com/lisa-bloom/how-to-talk-to-little-gir_b_882510.html?ref=fb&src=sp

Introspection

To live is the rarest thing in the world. Most people exist, that is all.
Oscar Wilde

There is so much I do in a day and yet stay in the exact same place. It is like being on a treadmill. You have to run just so that you can stay on, but there is no place you are going to. And if someone increases the speed all you can do is grit your teeth and run faster, because falling is not an option. Now there are ways of running. One has the stamina and runs with long powerful strides; while the other clings to the hand rails, huffs along, at the very edge, just about dragging his feet forward less than a second before the machine throws him off.

The second one, yeah that is me. And no matter what, there is never a time to get off. On my hands and knees, out of breadth, out of shape, I keep going.

Life doesn’t imitate art, it imitates bad television.
Woody Allen

Sometimes I feel like a ragged doll tied up in strings for the cats to play with. A paw here, a pull there, a tug, a bite. A game for others while all the doll wants is for someone to cut the strings for a bit so that she can stitch herself back together again.

The demands of the day, tasks to be done, additions and subtractions of life. Where is my time to heal? To get better? To recharge?

All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.
Mitch Albom, The Five People You Meet in Heaven

Fears, so many fears. Two little lives and how they shape up, on my shoulders. Good from bad, right from wrong, time and attention, books, activities, decisions, love, punishments, enough, too little, too much, too strict, too lenient.

They smile, they laugh, they cry, they hurt. And every single thing becomes a reflection of me. Every single action gets internalized and measured on an invisible scale.

To love. To be loved. To never forget your own insignificance. To never get used to the unspeakable violence and the vulgar disparity of life around you. To seek joy in the saddest places. To pursue beauty to its lair. To never simplify what is complicated or complicate what is simple. To respect strength, never power. Above all, to watch. To try and understand. To never look away. And never, never to forget.
Arundhati Roy, The Cost of Living

Tunneled vision, that is what I have become. In between juggling all the day’s work, obsessing about the kids, meeting deadlines, over analyzing things said and done; I have somewhere lost the ability to look outside. Look at what others are going through. I have forgotten what is important.

Friends, I have lost touch with. People I used always have time for and now I don’t even try to make time. So lost am I in my self-pity that I don’t even sit and try to see the point of view of the guy who cares the most, about all things that I care about but most importantly about me.

Once you had put the pieces back together, even though you may look intact, you were never quite the same as you’d been before the fall.
Jodi Picoult

That cracked image in the mirror, millions of small pieces. Every piece is a part of me. I look and look closely and don’t like anything I see. All I can see are things I did not do right, things I could have done better. Questions, insecurities, what ifs: all showing a different part of me.

Is the mirror really cracked or is it a self-created illusion. I need the cobwebs gone, I need the lights to be turned on, I need to see clearly now. I need to start running. Right about now!

“I don’t get it,’ Caroline said, bemused. ‘She’s the only one with wings. Why is that?’
There were so many questions in life. You couldn’t ever have all the answers. But I knew this one.
It’s so she can fly,’ I said. Then I started to run.”
Sarah Dessen, The Truth About Forever