Tuesday 14 December 2010

Cat out of the bag

I'm that mom. You know, the crazy one who's mostly unrecognizable without the big backpack or baby bag. The latter which contains all the stuff required to sit out a Richter 7 earthquake :) My Virgo instincts found full expression once I started going out and about with a baby. Disinfecting wipes, diapers, snacks, change of clothes, plastic covers, ziploc bags, medicines, bandages - you name it and it's there in THE BAG! While I like being this prepared for spit-ups, hunger pangs, wet and soiled clothes and dirty restaurant tables, I can't wait to ditch the bag and start lugging around something more elegant and classy. I thought that my ditch-the-bag moment would come in a year or so, max. Witness my surprise and disappointment when we visited one of S's cousins over the weekend and I found the cousin's wife (mom of two kids ages 8 and 12) lugging around a similar bag, brimming with all kinds of sports equipment, 2 water bottles and snacks. 
I mentioned this fact to her. She nodded sagely and said "There'll always be a bag. Only the stuff inside will change." Grrr. 
That was the day that I bravely left the bag at home while we stepped out. Within an hour Y had soiled her hands and face (we needed wipes, didn't have them), Ads was dying of hunger inspite of a heavy meal just before we stepped out (we needed snacks, didn't have them) and there were mosquitoes everywhere (we needed Odomos, didn't have it). Mr. Murphy, I know you're out there, you don't have to prove it to me! 

Thursday 9 December 2010

To cover all contingencies

I asked Ads why he was carrying 2 hankerchiefs and he said "One is for my nose and one is for my tears". Ufff....too much! It sounds so tragic, doesn't it? The melodramatic fellow!
Well, atleast no one can say I didn't allow my boy to express his feelings clearly. Nobody shall accuse me of curtailing his emotional growth or ignoring the emotional quotient in his personality.
To set the record straight, he'd been going through a weepy phase and just felt the need to be prepared :)

Afternoon activities

I never seem to get any alone-time with Ads nowadays. By the time he gets back from school, cleans up, has a quick snack and we settle down to some activity, Y is generally up from her nap, often a little cranky and I have to give her the lion's share of my attention. So the infrequent days when she naps longer than usual, are times when Ads and I get some much-treasured one-on-one time together. This morning, while walking to the bus stop, we were talking about the human heart and he wanted to know how it worked. I gave him the basic dope but he had so many questions which I could not answer because he was the cynosure of all eyes today and other children and parents at the bus stop kept coming up to talk to him. He was dressed up in the garb of Arjuna (from Mahabharata), complete with shiny bow, mustache and crown! While walking to the bus stop, one of the uncles left Ads speechless by coming up to him, bowing deeply and saying "Namashkar namashkar"!
When he was at school, I looked up some videos on the cardiovascular and digestive system and we watched them together, Ads continually interrupting (and not listening!) to ask tons of questions. Then he wanted to read some "new" books, so I feel back on my favourite online resource, Tumblebooks. We read 3 books together, two of which he really enjoyed. Well, actually the reading was done by tumblebooks, we just listened and commented and giggled over the silly stories. Y was still asleep (stroke of luck!), so he helped me fix his afternoon snack - stuffed puris. He was asking me whether doctors are also scientists. Whew -- one question I can answer without running to refer an external source!
Then Y got up, in just a terrible terrifying mood. I couldn't handle her and handed her over to Ads, who generally does a better job than me :) 

Tuesday 7 December 2010

Ads tantrum, and mine

I'd be a fab mother if I was more patient = less short-tempered.
Yeah, that's the ONLY reason I'm NOT a fab mother yet :(
Whom am I kidding?!!
That apart, being more patient, more zen, less liable to fly off the handle, has to be a good thing in itself. I know this. The constant struggle to get there, and the more-or-less constant failures, make me suspect that I'm simply not trying hard enough. My kids aren't angels, but they are pretty good kids; and I always feel I'm shortchanging them just a little bit by not being a little more angelic myself.
Last evening, I really lost it with Ads. The time between 6 and 7.30 pm is when a casual visitor sees my family at it's worst :) We are just back from the park, the kids are hungry, they have to have their baths, and mommy is just terribly tired and waiting for the day to end. Some days I just feel pretty pissed off because I know that after the kids are in bed, I can't kick back with a book or TV but have to sit down and slog at my books for a couple of hours, and THAT is my free time (yeah I dug my own grave with this diploma)
Anyway, so all three of us are whiny :) Ads is generally the whiniest of all. He has this thing nowadays where he has to come first in everything. So if I am talking about him and his sister to someone else, I cannot and should not say "Yukta and Advaith" - EVER. It has to be "Advaith and Yukta". Hugs - he has to be hugged first, before Y. Ditto for kisses. Mealtimes - he needs to be served before Y. I've gone along with this OCD-type behaviour, knowing it's just a phase that will peter our sooner rather than later. Yesterday, Y wanted to bathe first too, and given that she was filthy after having rolled around in the grass and mud at the park, I asked Ads for "permission" to bathe her first. He said no. I reasoned, saying that she never asks to be first and she's pretty dirty so can we please bathe her first. Predictably, he started whining even more and maybe if I'd handled it more calmly, we could have reached an amicable conclusion. As it was, I was too tired to argue with him. Irritated, I told him that since he cries and throws a huge tantrum at this time everyday anyway, could he please go into his room and cry and not bother us since I was going to bathe Y first. He threw a fit, started crying loudly, much to Y's mystification. At first I ignored him and when I could take the noise no longer, gave him a piece of my mind (which did not help, but it was good to vent!) He protested by removing all his clothes and staying stark naked for 10 minutes (it's cold nowadays!), consequently making me feel horribly guilty. He has had his TV privileges removed for the next few and doesn't seem too bothered about it.
I'm still feeling terrible about losing it for what, in the cold light of day seems like (and was in fact) a pretty trivial reason. I certainly wish I had handled his tantrum in a mature way instead of throwing one myself and setting a lousy example. But what are these incidents but steps to a purer, higher self? :) Thanks to yesterday, I have been a super-good mom today, but then it's not 6 pm yet :)

Monday 6 December 2010


So it has been more than 9 months gestation for us in India :) Time to take stock. Why wait for a year? 
How has the move been? A rollicking success, I'd say. There were teething troubles yes, in the first couple of months, when nothing was getting done. Vodafone screwed up, as did Airtel. We couldn't install cable. We followed up for several weeks just to get a couple of mattresses that we had ordered, delivered. The stuff we shipped from the US was delayed by 2 months. It was burning hot. Tempers ran very high! It was inevitable that I ended up comparing at that point the silky smoothness of our transition to the US, where utilities were up and running in a day, and it took one trip to Target to get our home up and running. 
But after the initial and I have to admit, expected startup issues, it has been a breeze. Probably since we weren't away from India all that long, we didn't come back with a lot of excess baggage in terms of unrealistic expectations.Probably since we really really wanted to come back, the road seemed smoother. Probably since S thinks India is the market to be in, he has been stoic about some really lousy working conditions. Probably all of the above. Net net, we are loving Delhi, kids have adjusted well and didn't fall ill (a big concern of mine) and we are reaping the substantial benefits of grandparents and family being a short flight away. We get to attend weddings, get groceries, veggies, medicines and diapers home-delivered, order library books and toys over the phone, celebrate festivals India-style, shop in Delhi's fantastic markets and gorge on street food whenever we feel like it.
It hasn't been all hunky-dory, of course, especially my domestic help situation - but that's India. You take the chillies with the jaggery :)
More friends are moving back in the next couple of years and that feels good!

Saturday 4 December 2010

Boys will be boys. Oh yeah?

All boys love sports! Girls love dancing and makeup. Boys will be boys. And girls will be girls, I suppose. What do these statements, these sweeping generalizations, really mean? I used to think they were harmless phrases, to be tossed out casually while making polite conversation. Now, from the standpoint of a parent, I find them frightening in their ability to wrongly slot and categorize.
We have come far from the days when the woman’s lot was to cook and clean and bear and rear children (it is still like this in many countries/regions but we aren’t going there). But what’s with the whole reverse discrimination? Girls excelling in sports, math, science, not knowing how to cook, couldn’t care less about kids, can’t thread a needle to save her life – all good. Boys wanting to cook, dance, sing, can’t kick a ball to save his life – hmmm……Indulgence and amusement yes, acceptance NO.
It has to cut both ways. When will we, as a society, learn and accept this? I need my son to learn household skills just as much as my daughter does. I need my daughter to be independent and self-reliant and confident, the same as my son. Why is it wonderful when my daughter gets a permanent commission in the Indian Army (yay for that bit of news!) but not okay when my son wants to learn ballet? Why is it ok for my daughter to start crying at the drop of a hat while my son is expected to be rough and tough? We don’t do anybody any favours when we reinforce the stereotypes of women being touchy-feely while men are analytical and logical.
I admit, I feel sorry for the boys nowadays!  They have to be tough yet sensitive, career superheroes AND a dab hand at mixing a pasta salad, fun guys AND expert at changing a diaper.  Not to forget that most young couples desire to have a girl first rather than a boy! (the latter is strictly an empirical observation, I’m guessing most couples are not going to come out in the open and say they really really want a boy just in case someone accuses them of being……err….. anti-female or something! Not like my grandmother who observed, sagely, when I was pregnant with Ads “Let us hope it is a boy, then you are ‘safe’.”)
It is my earnest desire to live to see the day when the “daddy wars” will take center stage and daddy bloggers will heatedly debate which is better – working dad or stay-at-home dad? J

Friday 3 December 2010

Why full-time motherhood is unfashionable

The more I think about it, the more I am convinced that the feminist movement, in trying to bring reform into important issues that affect women, has swung too far to the right and diluted the essence of femininity by making it unfashionable, in certain sections of society, to be a proud and fulfilled mother, who does NOT hold a paying job outside the home. Don't get me wrong. I think all women should have the CHOICE - to work or not to work, without any kind of judgement being passed on them. Leaving aside the issue of the millions of women who have a financial need to work outside the home, I personally feel every woman (and man, for that matter) needs to be financially independent and employable at all times (not necessarily employed throughout their lives). However, in a particular strata of society, predominantly middle-class, well-educated/professionally-qualified, the question that gets asked of SAHM moms is "So what do you do?" Subtext: What do you do all day? I hope your children are better-behaved, more polite, more accomplished, and A-graders at school to justify your stay-at-home status!
Certainly, I feel that I got the short end of the stick twice - I worked full-time for almost 2 years after Ads was born when most of my peers who's also had babies around the same time were taking their break. I was something of a puzzle for having gone back to work 45 days after giving birth to my first-born. Now that I am happily unemployed for the last 3+ years, things aren't any better. A few days ago, someone commented that "Whichever B-school you girls go to, at the end of the day you are all doing the same thing" (that is, nurturing and raising children). 
Now, this really bothers me. Not the debate on working moms vs SAHM (which has been done to death anyways), but the fact that being a full-time mother is somehow not enough. There has to be something else that defines me. I'm not sure that is a general need in all women. I might be quite happy to be identified as nothing but a mom for a few years (and a mom is everything, not nothing!), someone else might not - but why does that something else have to be a job or a career? Who are these others to decide my identity or identities?
I think we do ourselves and all other women, a disservice when motherhood is demeaned in this way. When people ask me if I work or if I have a job, I always say, yes I do! It's the most important job there is. And it doesn't matter whether you are a working mom or SAHM, the only difference is how many balls do you have up in the air. 

Thursday 2 December 2010

Hit or be hit?

Ads complained to me a couple of times about how some kid (a year younger than him) was hitting him on the school bus. This same kid used to forcibly take his water bottle away and drink from it, leaving Ads with no water in the afternoons. I told Ads to take a firm line with this kid. I'm not sure whether he did so, but I had also told the bus didi to keep an eye out for such goings-on, and the problem seemed to get resolved.
Contrast this with a conversation I had with Y's class teacher recently. She says "Y has been hitting other children. This is a phase, many kids go through it. You should talk about it at home, make her understand through the medium of stories that it is not okay to hit or push other children. We will do the same here at school." I was like - WHAT???? How did my children get to be so different? One is getting hit (and bearing it like a saint, I must add) and the other one is pushing poor kids around with no provocation. Every afternoon, Y comes back from school with some story about "So-and-so pulled someone's shirt, someone pulled so-and-so's hair". What is clear is that one of the actors in this drama is herself, but with her current lack of knowledge on pronoun usage, I am not sure whether she is acting or reacting! (Sure hope it's the latter, I am so not looking forward to the next PTM!)
Then I stumbled upon this article. Boy, did it explain a lot!

Large motor skills, and tennis lessons

A few days back, we had another parent-teacher meeting at Ads' school. As expected his teacher gushed about him - what an ideal student he is, how he is very bright, how she thinks he's going to be a scientist or a Prof (!), how his Hindi skills are improving, and so on. She wants him to be a little more outgoing in terms of participating in music and dance activities, putting himself forward to act in class skits and generally "loosening" up. I have been working on this; every evening after their bath and dinner and before bedtime, we have a session of full-on Bollywood music and all three of us shake a leg. It started mainly because Y loves to dance; Ads was reluctant to join in but after seeing how much applause Y gets on her performance, he was driven to compete! He has definitely become more confident about dancing, even in public, though he's pretty stiff and definitely looks like he has two left feet :(
The other feedback given by Ads' teacher is about how uncoordinated he seems to be. We have been noticing for some time that he runs in a strange manner, all arms and legs flailing about anyhow. He also cannot run very fast, he is still lousy at catching or throwing a ball, and the general effect when engaged in sporting activities is a complete lack of orchestration. The teacher suggested that we develop his large motor skills by getting him to run and jog more, for starters. I have been doing that every evening with him, and yesterday I hesitatingly mooted the idea of tennis lessons. We have classes going on right in our complex. It seems like the best option for him. He doesn't like team sports, especially contact sports like soccer. I've been wondering what would be the smart/wise thing to do. Should I persuade him to give a team sport a chance or just direct him toward an individual sport? Should he be given a chance to get over his aversion to "violent" (his term!) sports or should I not pressurize him to do something he clearly does not enjoy? 
I did ask him whether he wanted to go for soccer classes, especially since one of his good friends is going, but he vehemently refused. Tennis, he seems more receptive towards. So for the last couple of days, we have been sitting in the tennis court for 15 minutes, watching the session, just to get him acclimatized. He starts next Tuesday. Hopefully, he will enjoy playing and his eye-hand coordination will also get a boost.