Sunday 31 July 2011

Slowed-down Sunday

Ads was sick today, running a high temperature in the afternoon. Towards the evening, I wasn't feeling too great myself and so we two sick-birds were thrown together while S took charge of Y, took her to the park, bathed and fed her etc. Since Ads could not go down to play, I kept him amused by reading a few books together and doing a couple of crosswords. We also retired to bed early and spent a lot of time in the darkness while lying in bed, talking about this and that. He was talking about his friends in school and all the class 'politics' (!) and I was reminiscing about my school days and how we would have to copy the day's notes from a classmate if we were sick and absent from school (how long ago those days seem, definitely in another life!). As Ads and I were chatting, it dawned on me, that because he was ill, today I had been more solicitous, more patient, more present and more caring with him. In short, I had been the kind of mom I strive to be every single day (a task at which I fail spectacularly on so many of those days), and I hadn't even tried all that hard!
Sigh. Now I can't wish that my child falls ill so that I can feel great about my mothering, can I? :(
I'm the kind of parent who tries so hard to do a good job that sometimes I don't enjoy what I'm doing.  I get so focussed on the nitty-gritties of day-to-day parenting that I lose sight of the nurturing and 'mothering' aspect. As they say, the journey is the destination. Today, Ads reminded me of all the reasons why I stay at home with my kids. The companionship, the conversations, the closeness, that should be a part of our everyday lives and ever so often, isn't. Because I am too busy washing dishes or folding clothes or making sure the maid has dusted properly.
When kids fall ill (yes, when mothers fall ill too!), life slows down. It's good when that happens :)
As you can tell, I am in a philosophical mood this evening. I caught the morning show of Zindagi na Milegi Dobara today, with a friend. While it's quite difficult to stop drooling and look past the 3 tall and very attractive lead actors of the movie (!!), what I liked about the movie was the non-preachy way in which it communicated a very simple but oft-ignored and forgotten mantras: Live life to the fullest. Enjoy every moment. Live in the present. Let it go.

Wednesday 27 July 2011

Baby steps for Ads and some advice needed for Y

I'd posted just a fortnight ago about Ads being afraid of being left alone at the bus-stop. And yes, yet again, my children have surprised me by behaving out of character (maybe that is in character?!!) Because the mornings are so hectic, with Ads' bus arriving at 7.20 am and Y needing to board her van at 7.40 am, Ads has started walking alone to the stop (which is just outside the main gate of our complex so he doesn't have to cross the road). Most days, S or I follow him to his stop within 5-10 minutes, with Y in tow, and we are there to see him board the bus. This is because the bus sometimes arrives only around 7.30 or 7.35. But on the days it is on time (like today), we haven't been able to make it because we are still getting kid#2 ready for school. I feel a little bad about Ads going alone but he doesn't mind. He's proud that he goes to tennis class all by himself and gets back home after playing in the park, again by himself. These small steps towards independence mean a lot to him, as they do to me. In any case, I am usually around whenever he is down, just in a different place; for example in the children's play area with Y while he is in the lawn with his friends. It helps that the complex is quite secure, tons of guards everywhere, lots of kids/maids and the security staff in general is quite alert and seem to know all the kids. 
He has prohibited me from picking him up from the bus-stop at 2.45 pm, but this is something I said no to. Primarily because, once he fell asleep on the way home and the bus-driver and the bhaiyya did not realize that he had not got down. They were all ready to speed away but then saw me waiting and realized a kid was missing! Since that incident, I have lost a little of my confidence in them. So I go to the stop and wait anyways, risking Ads' annoyance on seeing me! I'd much rather not have to pick him up because I'm forced to leave a sleeping Y alone at home when I am downstairs, but at the moment I don't have any backup.
In the meantime, our old problem has resurfaced. The class teacher at Y's new school has been telling me of almost-daily episodes involving Y hitting other kids. Today, she has bitten some child. I've been feeling really upset because, believe me, I've been on the other side of the fence and I know how it feels when your child tells you that some rowdy element in class hit/bit him:( I've been talking to Y and this afternoon she was visibly angry with me (probably because I kept harping on the same theme). Any good ideas on how to explain to her that hitting/biting/shoving is NOT okay? Her teacher seems a little inexperienced and I get the sense that she's a little out of her depth in handling this. In Y's earlier Noida school, the teachers were very savvy and managed to resolve this issue in no time. I've asked S to talk to her too, and hopefully she will understand why it's hurtful to cause pain to others.

It's easy....just don't eat

I posted this on my facebook page some days ago. The caption was "And this is how we maintain a steady size zero" :))

Thursday 21 July 2011


At what age should kids start doing more chores around the house, and what should these be? I've been thinking about this because I think it is very very important that kids develop a sense of ownership, even pride, in their home and it's environs. I expect my kids to grow up making their own beds, clearing up after themselves (no flinging schoolbags and shoes randomly as soon as they get back from school!), keeping their rooms clean and in general helping mom and dad around the house. Because it's their house too, and they are not non-paying guests! Ads (and due to his influence, now Y) has always been very good about cleaning up his toys after playing, from a very early age. It was something I always insisted on and they both don't give me any grief over it. Now Ads is definitely old enough to shoulder some additional responsibility, other than keeping his room clean.
When he gets back home from school, he puts away his bag, keeps his lunch sack near the kitchen sink, puts away his shoes, undresses and throws the soiled uniform into the laundry basket and chooses his own clothes to wear after his bath (which he takes all by himself). He has also, most days, been folding his freshly-laundered clothes and putting them away. In the morning also, he takes a bath by himself and would dress himself except that we are in a tearing hurry at that point and can't wait for him to struggle with buttons and straps. At mealtimes, I expect him to put his plate/bowl away and get his own water. Note that technically, I don't even consider any of these as "chores" because he isn't doing anything out of the way but only managing himself and his possessions.
However, laying aside that semantic technicality, are there other easy chores that he can do? I can't ask him to lay the table because we hardly ever have a proper sit down dinner. S eats later than the three of us because by the time he gets home, the kids are usually at the end of their meal and I am just beginning mine. The mornings are too rushed for me to ask Ads to fix his own breakfast (though I could probably do this on weekends). He already makes me a cup of green tea on request :) 
Blast - that's the problem with India - so many of the domestic services like cleaning, dusting, dishwashing and ironing are now outsourced!!! So, does anyone have any suggestions for this slave-driver of a mother? :) Or is he doing well for an almost-6 year old? Have any of you paid your kids (in cash or kind) for special tasks or even general chores? 

Friday 15 July 2011

Sick, home alone and raring to read

The better half is away holidaying...err...working.... in Johannesburg and dutiful and affectionate wife that I am, I have been sending some malevolent and envious thoughts in the direction of the Dark Continent. Descriptions of how he saw Mandela's house, how he had a multiple course English afternoon tea, complete with scones and 5 different types of jam, and how he is staying in the best hotel in Johannesburg, which hosts the likes of Will Smith and Shakira, is not making me feel good :(
As a result of my vibes, the poor guy has actually not managed to see much of the city and has been staying up till 2 am some nights to get his work done (evil laugh). Okay, I'm not normally this wicked. But two reasons. First - It is freaking HOT in here! Really, I can deal with the heat but the heat and humidity combination makes me collapse. The next person who tells me that I am from Chennai and therefore should be used to such weather is going to get a sharp kick from me. Chennai heat is nothing, read nothing, on Delhi's. It doesn't sap you and make you go all nuts in the head, for one. The silver lining (if that is what it is) is that it has been so hot that it can't possibly get any worse (am I jinxing myself?) and it does feel like the oppressive heat that precedes a good dose of rain. But we'll have to wait and see whether my prediction comes true.
Second reason - I have been down with the viral, again, just a day after S left. The first couple of days were bad, especially the morning hours when I had to get 2 lunches and 2 kids ready for school and out the door by 7.20. Can you blame me for being catty and mean?!! (Hint: DON'T! :)). I was planning to spend the week luxuriating in a few hours of nothing-to-do everyday; instead I spent a lot of it in bed, snoozing and fighting the infection. However, I did manage to sign up for an online library here, a temptation I have resisted for a whole year, in the interest of maintaining my focus on studying. But ...woo-hoo! I can finally start reading again, so please please do send me book recos. It should be easy because a) I read EVERYTHING except management and spiritual books b) I have been out of the reading loop by choice for almost 2 years so I have a lot of catching up to do. Gosh, I feel so happy just thinking about the possibilities! :)

Monday 11 July 2011

Y's vision update and new school

All good! Her number has changed a little, which the doc assures me may happen often pretty often as she grows. So she has new lenses now and is getting used to them. The thing I was worried about was that we would have to patch the eye. The doc says - no need, for now atleast and she wants to review her after 2 months and see how its going. So Amma and Appa are pretty relieved, for now, and a lot less anxious!
Y has also started school again. It's one of the schools we had considered for Ads. We had really liked it and the reason we didn't admit him there was that kids from Grade 1 onwards were being shifted to a larger and nicer campus almost 10-12 km from our home, which would have been too long a commute for the little guy. But playschool until KG is in a small campus not too far from our place so that's where Y is going. We dropped her off on Friday which was her first day and she, characteristically, was quite nonchalant about separating from us. The teacher even called later to say that she was totally fine and that I don't need to pick her up in the afternoon and they would send her home in the school van! Day 2 is today and she went off without a backward glance, in the school van. The girl astonishes me with her coolness (something she has doubtless inherited from her father), especially because my whole mental framework is so oriented towards Ads personality/temperament. It is difficult for me to reorient myself a whole 180 degrees to deal with Y! Difficult or not, I'm so glad she is strong and phlegmatic. A few days ago, I was dropping Ads at the bus-stop and all of a sudden I realized I'd forgotten to pack his water bottle. There were a few minutes left for the bus to arrive, so I asked one of the other moms to keep and eye on him and ran back to our flat to get the water bottle. BIG mistake! I knew even then that on my return, I'd find Ads crying and guess what - I was right! My sins: #1: I sped off at a second's notice, and didn't give him a full 10-15 minutes to mull over the sudden change in plan #2: I left him ALL ALONE at the bus stop (evidently the 8 other children and their maids/moms did not count as people whom he knows) #3: It was MY mistake that I had not packed his water bottle. If I had packed it, I would not have had to put him through all this trauma!!!! 
See what I mean? :) 

Wednesday 6 July 2011

Men, women and work

When I was studying social policy, we were asked to read about feminism and it's history. One of the sub-topics that really resonated with me was the whole subject of women, and work, and the unequal and subordinate status of women in society and work relationships. The central problem for feminist strategy, it is said, is the old debate of equality vs difference. The former, which is the egalitarian ideal, asks for equal treatment for fundamentally unequal people, and the latter, which is the new feminist ideal, asks for women to be treated as different but equal. The dilemma is that the two routes towards EQUAL citizenship that women have pursued are mutually incompatible within the confines of patriarchal society, and within that context, they are impossible to achieve. Women demand on one hand that they be treated on par with men in every respect; the implication being a gender-neutral world. On the other hand they also say that as women they have different talents, needs and concerns, therefore the expression of their citizenship, their rights and obligations, will be different from that of men. These two routes/demands are incompatible because it allows 2 alternatives only: either women become like men, and so full citizens; or they continue at women’s (traditional) work and roles, which is unpaid and seemingly of no value.
Clearly the fundamental issue from a fairly narrow perspective of equal rights, pay and opportunities at the workplace, is that a) women have primary responsibility for household work including children and other dependents, whether or not they work outside the home b) Men are INDEPENDENT to a large extent from such responsibilities. I've always believed that men's independence in this context is a far greater and problematic issue than women's dependence. Unless men are made to fulfil their household responsibilities (chores, raising kids, cooking, all that stuff), and unless such responsibilities become part and parcel of the very fabric of our society, there is little to be gained by cracking open the glass ceiling. The latter is very important, however the real constraints lie in the home, not in the workplace. 
If the patriarchal norms of society are harmful to women, they are also unjust to men. We don't hear of a "Daddy track", do we? I'm sure there are many men out there who'd love to get onto that track! And why should they not if they want to? The answer really needs to come from what would work better for both sexes. Can our communities organize themselves in a way that would allow both parents to give wholeheartedly to their families and children? 
I have a dream - that each country would implement welfare policies which would allow both men and women to pursue their careers (or not). It has been demonstrated that countries with generous maternity leaves actually worsen gender equality prospects as women stay home longer and men continue to.....well....they pretty much just continue as usual!!! Scandinavian countries which have a "use-it-or-lose-it" paternity leave policy actually do much much better in increasing gender equality. I'd love for India to have shared leave in baby's first year (as in Canada), high-quality childcare and lots and lots of flex-work opportunities. When do you think the developing countries will get there? Anytime in the next couple of generations?

The parent who soothes

That's a reference to my husband, not to me. His magic touch is very very evident when it comes to Y, who can be, well, a little strong-willed and picky, to say the least. When she gets that way, she brings out the worst in me because if she is stubborn, then I am stubborn-er! I jump into a childish war of wills to prove that I can prevail, which does no one any good and ends with Y crying her heart out and me feeling like a fool of a bad mother. We have been making the long weary trip to Noida the last couple of weeks to meet with Y's opthamologist, who is going to take a final call on whether or not to patch her left eye. I have my third trip there tomorrow when her power is going to be tested. In order for the test to happen tomorrow, I have been dilating Y's eyes with this ointment for the last couple of days, twice a day. The first three times, she yelled and sobbed and kicked me. I steeled myself, pried open her eyes and slopped some ointment in. Most of it came out immediately because she was crying so much. The fourth time, S was around. All he did was take her on his lap and keep talking to her. She obligingly lay down and opened her eyes wide open for the ointment. Not a squeak out of her!! This morning, she was helpful enough to even ask me whether she should open her eyes even wider!!! What the %$^&*&&^&!!!!!! 
S says all I need to do is STAY calm, NOT communicate my tension to her, and TALK to her. It all sounds very easy and I know how often I have tried to do exactly this in so many situations with both my children. It simply does NOT work for me. Being calm, steady, soothing - these qualities do come naturally to some people. They don't to others! I remember how when Y was young, S would be the only person who could put her down for her nap. He is still the one who can shampoo her hair without screams and bellows issuing from the bathroom :) 
It's good that S is the soothing influence in our family, though I am insanely jealous that he always gets to be the good cop to my bad cop! I'm a details-oriented person and so I am good at the nuts-and-bolts of parenting - the nutrition, the schedules and routines, the organization, the skills-development, the blogging :) S is a big-picture guy, the Guru! Oh well. Whatever works.
He is off travelling all of next week. I am NOT, repeat NOT looking forward to it. Stress-eating, here I come!!

Sunday 3 July 2011

Little things

My little helper, Ads (NOT Y! She's my little diva! Help me? Her?) has picked up a couple of very useful skills. Thanks to our vacation in Hyderabad and his constant observation of his friend YV (whose place we stayed in), he has now started to bathe himself. YV is just a couple of weeks younger than Ads and very independent. So now, Ads manages the entire bathing process on his own, only calling me inside for one last scrub over his back. He reluctantly also allows me to check whether he has bathed properly! The downside is that Y also wants to bathe herself, which I don't allow and so we have a little tussle twice a day - sigh. We have now negotiated that she can mess around with water and soap for 10 minutes and "bathe" herself before I come in and "wash" her. Terminology is so important!!!!
I have taught Ads how to fold and put away his freshly laundered clothes. This last week, he has been good as gold at doing it. I am waiting to see whether the initial enthusiasm continues well past the first few days. He also makes me a cup of green tea (in the microwave) every afternoon if I want it. I've been getting him to do some tasks that he finds difficult. For example, carrying a loaded plate of food from the kitchen to the table is something that is guaranteed to have half the food settling on the floor. We went to Haldirams last weekend for dinner and this restaurant has the seating on the first floor while ordering and self-service are on the ground floor. Ads came downstairs with me to pick up the food and he carried his plate upstairs, very carefully and gingerly. The chole was slopping about everywhere and the bhaturas seemed about to jump out at every step, that's how much he was wiggling the plate! My BP rose several notches because I was sure the whole thing was about to fall on the ground! But we reached our table without mishap. I was proud of him especially because Haldirams is such a crowded place with people jostling you and rushing up and down with plates of food. I realized that this is one aspect of parenting that I really enjoy. I'm not so much a read-books-and-teach-things person. I simply don't have the patience. But teaching life-skills - so important and so under-rated - is something I can jump in and tackle with tons of energy.
The other day, we have having a random conversation and we started talking about products versus services. I told Ads that a product is something that is manufactured, a tangible something that can be seen, felt and experienced; whereas a service is something that is delivered to us, something that we can or do not want to do ourselves. It is also intangible. I struggled with explaining intangibility because I didn't want to give him an example of a service but wanted him to come up with something on his own. However inspite of this expectation, I was a little astonished when he actually came up promptly with a correct example of a service. He said that our maid  was providing a service to us. With some further prodding, he realized that our iron-wallah, car-cleaner, electrician etc, were also providing services to us. Do y'all think it's too soon to explain to him the current trend towards the industrialization of services, the Indian IT model, and so on? :))
A funny incident: Y and Ads were having breakfast. Ads was as usual pontificating (did I ever mention that my m-i-l calls him Professor?!). He told Y "When you have cold-cough, you must drink hot milk." Y responds instantly "And if I have hot cough, can I drink cold milk?"