Friday 27 March 2009

Being a kid is hard (I must remember that)

The other day, Ads's school had what they call a "minimum day". School closes at 12 noon and there are no extended hours or daycare. Which means that instead of the 4 or 5 kids (including Ads) who leave school at noon every day, there are about 60+ kids who get to go home at that time. As prepared as I try to be for any new situation that might affect my sensitive little fellow, I was caught unawares by his reaction. He came out of the classroom at the tail-end of a noisy stream of 3-6 year old kids who instantly started swarming all over the playground, and the sight of this unexpected crowd reduced my poor baby to tears. I think I must have been a little slow that afternoon -- it took me a few seconds to understand why he was upset. He wanted all the children to clear off from the playground and he wanted to have it all to himself!
I have to keep reminding myself that tiny changes to Ads' routine can cause big changes in his mood. I am constantly looking ahead to see whether there is some activity or event that I need to prepare him for. With advance notice, he is good at handling new people or a new activity; otherwise our happy train tends to get derailed pretty rapidly.
Sometimes (when I am not feeling harassed or hard-done-by :)), I get to thinking that being a child must be jolly hard, work. Being the smallest and shortest person in the house. Having to abide by what seem to be arbitrary and senseless rules, laid down by overworked, sometimes cranky parents. Having little or no control and choice on most things. When I keep this in mind, I become much more empathetic towards Ads and I think he responds to that by being more reasonable. Unfortunately, I am not that sensible all the time, which is why I do dumb things, like raising my voice and yelling at Ads "Do NOT shout and scream". Yeah. No wonder he doesn't get it.

Gymming it up with Ads

Ads has been enrolled in a gymnastics class for the last month. It's a class called "Tiny Tots Gym" offered for 3-4 year olds by the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation Department.
Class 1, was a disaster. No surprises there.
Class 2, he was fine until he saw me. This was about 10 minutes before the end of class. Then he started bawling his lungs out and the gymnastics center resonated to the wails of Mommmmmeeeeeee, mommmmmeeeeee.
Class 3, his teacher said he did okay. Apparently he had done an "awesome" job of participating in the previous class and she felt she was more timid the third time around. He refused to get on the trampoline or monkey bars.
We sent him to Class 4 after a pep-talk, asking him to be bold and try the trampoline. He jumps all the time on our bed, and has tried a trampoline once, and which kid doesn't love anything that bounces them up so high?? I peeked in just before the end of class and was thrilled to see him take multiple turns on the trampoline. He didn't cry even once and finally seems to be getting comfortable with the class, the coach and the other kids (all 5 of them!)
It is heartbreakingly cute to see the 5 kids form a choo-choo train and walk around the classroom. I have contained the impulse to grab my camera and go shutter-crazy, but I think I will take some pictures at the next class.

Friday 20 March 2009

Hospital woes

I am now officially an expert at navigating our hospital's tedious IVR system.
Teensy-weensy victory, there. A baby step forward in coping with the mess that is the US healthcare system, and keeping my babies reasonably healthy.
Y and Ads have been falling sick ever so often in the last 2 months. We had the usual rounds of colds and coughs and lately, a pink-eye (conjunctivitis) infection that Y picked up on her last well-baby visit to the doctor's office. She went in a well-baby and came out a sick baby! This is the reason I don't allow Ads to accompany me to the hospital unless he's the one being seen. Every small bug hits each of us in turn, and just when all of us are recovering, a mutational strain of the same bug returns with a vengeance to strike us weary souls down again. I am yearning for the chance to give my kids big slobbery kisses again without worrying about whether I am infecting them through contact with mouth, nose, hands or eyes.
We got yet another shocker of a bill (for $165) for Y's treatment at the ER. This is in addition to the $100 that we already shelled out. Apparently the new bill is because 2 doctors came in and examined Y. Well, we never asked them to come see her; we would have been just happy with a pediatric nurse. This must be the costliest stuffed nose ever :(
I have now cannily figured out that the only way to get an appointment with my pediatrician at short notice is by twisting the truth a little bit and making my child seem a little bit sicker than he/she really is. This assures me an appointment the same day or the next day. But a "non-urgent" condition generally necessitates a wait of atleast a week. I don't understand why there is nothing that falls between "Urgent - go to the ER" and "Non-urgent - cool your heels for a week or more". Common sense dictates that they could just have a nurse look at any cases that don't fall into either of these two categories.
What a mess. As S puts it, it's a good system as long as you don't fall ill.

Tuesday 17 March 2009

First parent-teacher conference

S and I had the first parent-teacher meeting at Ads' school yesterday and the report has been very good. Not that we expected anything else. Ads' is the quintessential good student. His teacher describes him as "very gentle, helpful and quiet". Apparently he explores all the materials in the classroom and has been listening in on the lessons other children get, thereby absorbing extra information. In a mixed-age classroom such as his, sometimes they learn things one wouldn't expect. The other day, he came and told me that "There is a place called Ukraine". He had been listening to an older kid getting a geography lesson!
His teacher also mentioned how she had observed him spend more than 20 minutes concentrating on a drawing. He has always been interested in art and craft. Yesterday I got him some new markers and he spent the evening colouring, making "greeting cards" for all of us. Here's a sample.

Of sand and boys

What is it about sand that makes kids want to fling it around everywhere? Even my usually gentle son goes a little ga-ga when he goes to a sandy park. He rolls around in it, digs in it and flings handfuls of it all over himself and around in a wide circle.
A few days ago, we were at the park adjoining the Santa Clara gymnastics center, for some play after Ads' gym class. My mommy radar, zooming in and out, instantly picked out an older kid, about 5 or 6, looking for trouble. Ads was peacefully playing by himself and this other kid had his hands full of sand and I just knew that he was going to throw it in Ads' face. I silently glared at him (thankfully I was wearing my sunglasses otherwise I might've found it hard to explain why I was intimidating some random kid). He stared back at me. I kept glaring, just daring him to move a muscle in Ads' direction. In a few seconds, he dropped the sand he was holding and went off to play at the monkey bars.
Whew -- mini-crisis averted!

Friday 13 March 2009

Winding down with Y

You know, even before you become a parent for the first time, what lies in store for you. The constant work-load - nappy changes, feedings and cleanups, not to mention scary infant illnesses - are as much a given as the sleep-deprived nights (and days). This is the real scary stuff of mothering folklore. Right?
In my naivete and ignorance, I heaved a big sigh of relief when my first-born started sleeping through the night. Now, I thought with great satisfaction, the hard stuff is all over and I can start enjoying my child.
And I did. I really truly did.
And I still do.
But Ads is making it a little difficult for me at present.
Dealing with the minefield of complex emotions that is a 3-year old is harder than anything I've ever had to do in my life as a mother (doubtless there are other nasty surprises waiting in store for me in this particular career). A day spent with Ads (which is...errr.....all the days of my life!) is mentally and physically exhausting.
That's why I so much enjoy the few minutes I get at the end of every day with Y. We have fallen into the habit of having the master bedroom (and our huge Cal-King bed) all to ourselves during the night-time. It is infinitely relaxing and therapeutic to be around someone who does not feel any fear, embarassment, awkwardness, shyness, anger, betrayal, frustration......Give her a clean diaper and a full tummy, and she is content. What uncomplicated happy creatures babies are.

Wednesday 11 March 2009

A Mom can't be Ms Congeniality

These days, I wonder - Are all parents this terrified of their children?
Because these days, I walk on eggshells around Ads.
We managed to breeze quite happily through the terrible twos. But the tiresome threes hit us without warning.
My daily objective - get through the day without any major meltdowns or tantrums. Our baseline for appropriate behaviour has been so low for the last several months that a day which we can end with just a couple of tantrums and just 5-10 instances of rude behaviour counts as a "good" day. With an infant to care for, I have little energy left to enforce discipline - not that I used to do much of that even before Y's arrival.
I've always parented by instinct. I read some child development tomes and lots of stuff on the Internet and listened earnestly to more experienced parents dishing out advice. But I've always believed that you know your child best and you should do what feels right and what works best for the family. My model has always been - explain and reason with your child and he will understand and (hopefully) cooperate. This worked pretty well for us as long as Ads was a malleable toddler. As he grew older, he began to question and test his limits and in doing so, exposed all the many glaring shortcomings of my non-method of discipline. Ever since I got pregnant, we allowed him a lot of slack and this has now backfired on us.
The slightest scolding or admonition now sets him off and we have to deal with tears and worse. In addition, he has become manipulative. He sets S and me against one another and plays on the affections of grandparents. He clings to them and is extra-nice when he wants them to do something for him, but ignores them or is rude when he doesn't need them. I dislike this kind of emotional blackmail and manipulative behaviour and sadly, I don't think that this is just a passing phase. He is highly intelligent and understands the consequences of his behaviour very well.
I have now started enforcing some dos and donts and I notice that being strict actually works, as opposed to being nice and reasonable. I turn my heart into stone and allow him to scream and cry, his little body racked with heart-rending sobs, until he does as he is told.
Sometimes you have to stop being their best friend and just be a parent.

Sunday 8 March 2009

Y rolls over

Y rolled over! She did it 4 days ago and has been doing it with increasing confidence ever since.

Thursday 5 March 2009

Tearful gymnastics

Yesterday I broke one of my own cardinal rules. The one that says that I should always remember that hovering around Ads can be extremely counter-productive. He started a gym class yesterday afternoon. It’s offered by the Santa Clara Parks and Recreation department, a 45 minute session once a week for 8 weeks, designed to introduce kids to basic gymnastics. At Ads’ level which is the 3-4 year old class, all it involves is a 10 minute warm-up session, followed by some sliding down poles, swinging from monkey bars, jumping on a trampoline and cartwheels 101. All very interesting and fun for a 3-year old, wouldn’t you think?
I made the strategic mistake (when will I learn?) of deciding to stay back and observe the class. The experience at Ads’ school has shown me that he will cry when I am around, but sobers down when I leave. This is the case with most kids and their parents, of course. The lil fella started crying his heart out as soon as the (very nice and friendly) teacher took them through their paces. The rest of the nightmarish class consisted of medium to high-intensity crying episodes. Ads kept getting more and more agitated and I kept getting more and more irritated (with him and with myself, for not having left the class sooner).
Next week, I will drop him and just leave and hopefully he will do better without me around. As excruciatingly painful as the whole experience was for both of us, I kept reminding myself that the reason I have signed him up for these classes (he starts basketball next month -- another nightmare-in-the-making!) is not to teach him new skills but to expose him to various environments so that he learns to be less shy, less timid and more confident.

Monday 2 March 2009

Y is going....nowhere

Is it any wonder that I haven’t mailed in a few days?
My mother left 10 days ago and S and I have been holding our increasingly shaky fort - buoyed up by the fact that the in-laws arrive in a few days to provide much-needed support. It has been an exhausting time, but I also feel good because now I know that as hard as it is to manage the kids on my own, it’s not as hard as I feared!
Y’s latest is that she is still trying to roll over but suffering from the last-mile problem. She rolls quite easily to her side and halfway onto her tummy, but then her paunch and her arm get in the way and she is remains stuck in that position, unable to move either forward or backward. I swear that in this respect she is just like me -- she tries (sometimes energetically, sometimes quite half-heartedly) to push herself over onto her stomach, but after a few attempts she thinks “Oh what the heck….it’ll happen when it happens…”, puts her thumb into her mouth and falls asleep :)
When I think of all the projects and hobbies and activities that I have thought about or started with so much enthusiasm and dropped after a few attempts, I have to wonder whether some of those genes haven’t been passed on to my daughter!
Apparently, rolling over (like crawling) is an optional stage. A lot of kids don’t roll over, they just sit up and then start crawling. Sometimes they even skip the crawl and go straight to standing up. We have to see which mode of locomotion Y prefers.