Thursday 29 October 2009

R2I Part I - Schools

So the R2I (Return to India, for the uninitiated) decision has been taken. The hunt for schools and, incidentally, a job, has begun. Predictably, the state of affairs in Bangalore (and I am sure, in most other Indian metros) with respect to school admissions is so bad that the problem of LKG admissions assumes a strange sort of fake importance which overshadows the wee fact that the father of the LKG applicant doesn’t yet have a job which will take us back to India.
The not-so-exhaustive hunt for suitable schools led us to short listing the 2 schools that we will be applying to. The National Public School (NPS) and the Delhi Public School (DPS). The international schools are too pricey, some of the well-known ones are too distant, and (to my mind) elitist. The well-known Bangalore schools (like Bishop Cotton, FAPS etc) are too hard to get into, oversubscribed as they are by alumni’s kids and grandkids. There seem to be a lot of new schools which don’t fall into either of these categories and about which I read mixed reviews. Not being in a position to tour the schools and make up our own minds, we have fallen back on friend’s recommendations. Which have the drawback of being biased because absolutely everyone has jumped onto the NPS/DPS bandwagon. The one school that I was really interested in, a Montessori one called Sishugriha in Indiranagar, has closed admissions.
In any case, we had asked a friend to pick up the forms for NPS and they only managed to pick up one form, that of the Koramangala branch. Apparently the queues for picking up the forms were a km long! The whole experience seems to have been an unpleasant one, and what I don't understand is why all this hype and exclusivity just to apply. Stanford and Wharton are highly exclusive too, but even they don't make it so hard for a candidate to apply to them! Why not just put the forms online and make it easy for everybody? More people will be able to download and apply and the school will make more money out of this unholy racket!
So, we'll apply and hope Ads gets in, simply because the school is so close to our apartment in Bangalore. It will be a breeze of a commute for the little fella.

Friday 23 October 2009

Thoughts from a crazy day

S has had such a crazy work schedule for the last few weeks (conference calls at 4 am - can you beat that!), that I have begun to feel like a single parent. It’s a hard 12-hour shift everyday and the only “me-time” I get is a long hot shower after S gets home in the evening. Yes, a simple bath has begun to seem like a luxury!
I have to admit that it has gotten easier with time. Managing 2 small kids all by myself and playing the multiple roles of chauffeur, maid, cook and nanny no longer appears to be that scary. Part of the reason for this is that I have started working smarter and managing my time much better than I used to.
So we were plodding along and just when I started patting myself on a job reasonably well-done, Y brought me back to earth by sponsoring the “Day from Hell Part 1 (to be continued)”. She whined and clung and cried and was so cranky that she dragged me down along with her into her pit of misery. What compounded it was the fact that I could just not understand what it was that was so upsetting her, a fact that gave instant rise to feelings of being a bad mother because I could not diagnose the source of my daughter’s crankiness.
By noon, I was faint with hunger because she didn’t allow me to cook and decided I didn’t have the right to even fix myself a simple sandwich for lunch. By 3 pm, I was ready to climb to the top of the Golden Gate Bridge and thrown myself down into the Bay, thankful that I didn’t know how to swim. I did what I usually do in these situations – packed all three of us in the car and head to the nearest part – convinced all we needed was some fresh air. It always works. And it did this time as well.
A bad day in the life of a stay-at-home mother is bad not simply because it’s - well, bad. Not simply because you want to throttle your kids and then throttle yourself – I know that all mothers want to do that at some point in their life, not that most of them would admit to such unmaternal feelings!
It’s bad because you are forced to confront the hard fact that your entire life has come down to this. Soiled diapers. The smell of milk and vomit (when your kid cries so hard she throws up on you). A frazzled you who looks worse than a Chennai ragpicker. And worst of all, a baby who is unhappy inspite of your best efforts to the contrary.
And when all of these things happen, it’s almost impossible to maintain perspective, a bird’s eye view so to speak, and not think about how your life would have been without kids. A glittering career (HA!!). A social life not involving playdates. Unencumbered travel. Sleep. Fine dining. The list goes on and on. I *almost almost* envy my friends who decided not to have children.
And then the moment passes. Y laughs as we watch a train pass by on the tracks near our apartment (I don’t know why that is so funny, but then she’s a baby) and looking at that dimpled smile, that snub nose and those big brown eyes that look at me with love and trust even though I am the lousiest mother in the world, I remember that there was a good reason why I had children in the first place.
So, my prescription (to myself) when a bad day gets worse: Get some fresh air. Take several deep breaths. Live in the moment. Remember that kids grow up.
(And leave you. And ignore you. And make you miserable all over again!)

Friday 16 October 2009

To draw or not to draw

I've been somewhat concerned for many weeks now that all Ads seems to do in school is draw. He spends 3 hours every day, from 9 am to 12 noon, drawing. Which wouldn't bother me all that much except that for 850 bucks a month, it would be nice if he actually learnt something once in a while. I was about to talk to one of his teachers about this but fortunately Teacher M herself brought up the topic.
First she asked me whether he watches any TV.
Can you wilt in guilt? Cos that's what I did. I'm sure she noticed. Ads watches much more TV now than he did before Y was born, but I wasn't admitting that to Teacher M's beady disapproving eye. I admitted that he watches a little bit of TV (HA!!), mainly real-life action videos like firefighters, police officers etc and yes he has watched some of the DISNEY movies as well. The school has a strong distaste for cartoon characters. You are not supposed to send your kids with cartoon-or superhero-themed clothes or shoes. No lunch boxes or bags with such motifs. And definitely no Halloween costumes. It has always seemed a little extreme to me, but that's the rule.
Teacher M says that Ads needs to stop watching movies or videos because he gets so involved with the characters and the stories that he wants to spend all his time translating his imaginative thoughts onto paper. They have asked him several times to learn a new lesson or do some other work and apparently he always says "I'm not done with my drawing yet". Teacher M says I need to "stop the flow of information" to him so that he concentrates on other work also, in school. I was happy to concur.
So Ads and I had a little chat later that day and he has agreed to a) confine his drawing to when he is at home b) take a new lesson or practice existing lessons everyday at school. I used the opportunity to sneak in another bit of legislation that I wanted. They get about 15 minutes of outdoor playtime everyday which Ads spends inside the classroom when I would much rather he stay outside and run around. I negotiated that he could keep his existing TV privileges as long as he played outdoors every morning.
So far, it has been working well. The good thing about all that drawing of course was that it improved his fine motor skills to the extent that he has started writing alphabets and numbers by himself, with little or no intervention either by his teachers or by us.

Sunday 11 October 2009

First few concrete words and actions

Yukta has started saying 2 more words.
Anna - she stretches the N out so that it sounds like this: A-nnnn-aa.
And Appa too - A-pp-aa.
Train is The-the.
But still no Amma :)
We ask her Thala engae, and she touches the back of her head. Thoppai engae, and she pats her stomach/chest area. Yukta clap-clap, ta-ta, bye-bye and high-five all elicit the appropriate responses.
I really can't remember how verbal Ads was at the age of 11 months. Probably around the same. He has always been very advanced in verbal skills, especially more so compared to other boys. It is wonderful to experience the same stage again with Y.

Sunday 4 October 2009

Friday morning artwork

Ads had an unexpected holiday on Friday and I used the opportunity to engage him in some artwork. We have a string of birthdays coming up in the family (Sanjay's dad, brother and niece), and Ads made cards for each person. I try to recycle his artwork as much as I can, so the base for each of the cards is a drawing that Ads had already done, at school or home.
The first photo for example is the inside of the card he made for his 3-year old cousin. It had paper cuttings of the 3 little pigs and their houses (made in school) and I got him to redecorate it and convert it into a greeting card (frontage in the 3rd photo, the brown card with a "3" stuck on top)
The second photo is the inside of a card made for his grandfather. He has drawn the whole "CARS" series, since the CARS movie was something he and Thatha enjoyed watching together, multiple times. The exterior of the card already had a butterfly motif, all he did was stick some feathers and decals on it.
The third card is actually the nicest one. I used a nice drawing he had done, of Buzz Lightyear (from "Toy Story"), made him stick it on a foam board, and mounted the latter on another, larger foam board. It's the large pink card. Then he embellished it with paper cut-outs and stickers.
We wrote (or rather, I wrote and then read it out to him!) a personalised message for each recipient and bingo, the cards were ready.
I see a gradual and distinct improvement in his drawngs every month. Where there were weak squiggles (he calls them "scribble-scrabble"!), there are bold confident strokes. Where there was just a mess of paint and colour, there are decipherable images and coordinated colour schemes. It just warms the heart :)

Friday 2 October 2009

Driving without (or with?) a purpose

Yesterday H aunty, a cousin of my mother-in-law, spent a few hours with us. During the course of the afternoon, she said she had to buy a few things and could I take her to the shops? So we bundled Y in her carseat and off we went. By the time we finished shopping and set off for home, Y was distinctly antsy due to a lack of sleep. As we entered our parking lot, I glanced back at the rear seat to see her starting glassily out of the window, a sure sign that she was about to drop off very soon. Rather than yanking her out of the carseat at that time and running the 100% risk of a meltdown, I told H aunty I was going to drive around a bit more to make sure she fell asleep. So out of the parking lot we went.
I drove around quiet residential streets in Santa Clara for 15 minutes, maintaining an even 25-30 mph and taking care to keep the sun on my left (Y keeps tearing off her carseat canopy with the result that the sun hits her directly on her face). H aunty was dozing. The silent houses seemed to be slumbering in the afternoon heat, just like Y at the back. The only sounds keeping me company were the purr of the car engine, the gentle hum of the air conditioner and the barely audible squawks from FM 106.9.
It occured to me what a large proportion of my time as a mother I have spent in activities like these. Driving aimlessly through city streets in an effort to calm a fussing child. Parked in a quiet street, the windows down and an afternoon breeze blowing through the car as both child and mother dozed. Swinging Ads with both arms, back and forth, back and forth while belting out garbled version of 60's Hindi film songs. Rocking Y, up-down up-down, on the Lazy-boy. All in a bid to grab that grand prize - SLEEP baby sleep so that I can get some rest.
As much as parenting involves to such a large extent performance of such repetitive, mind-numbing and monotonous tasks, I have to admit that my most serene and reflective moments have occurred while engaged in such tasks. If God lies in the details, then surely peace lies in a sleeping child cradled in your arms.