Thursday 26 July 2012

Ad-Lib#10, Geekiness and Khichdi

Ads had Science week in school. They were supposed to perform simple experiments in class, make a presentation on endangered animals and think of puzzles/riddles to quiz their classmates on. Altogether a lot of fun for our geek. He came back home everyday quite disillusioned with his classmates' overall lack of knowledge! "Amma, they don't even know that tigers and lions' habitats are totally different! Amma, they don't know that tigers and lions have existed since prehistoric times. Amma, so-and-so did such a silly experiment - everyone knows water is colourless and odourless! All the children in my class think polar bears hibernate!"
These were some of the comments he passed as soon as he entered the door. But my favourite, as always - "They don't know nothing! They only know cricket!"
Many a time, I've also been accused of the same ignorance! When I was travelling, he would bombard me with facts like "Do you know a walrus weighs 1.2 tons?" I'd say "Yeah?" at which he would explode - "Amma, why are you not surprised?? A walrus' weight is 1.2 TONS!!! You're not LISTENING!"
I've been telling him that we will watch the Olympic highlights together and make a list of all the Indian medalists, and we'll also watch the tennis and swimming events (since he's currently learning both). He isn't very keen and thinks sports are a waste of his time.
Time better spent in getting to be more geeky, eh?
Someone asked Y yesterday what did she like best and she said polar bears. She also wants to be a zoologist like her hero. Only condition - she will wear pink and not brown like the boring clothes that most zoologists wear. Ads teased her - "You are a khichdi. You need to wear brown for camouflage. The wild animals will see you and they'll eat you up."
Y wailed. Not because the wild animals would eat her (lesser problem!) but because her Anna called her a Khichdi. Don't ask me what it means. That's the most insulting thing they ever say to each other! Sometimes, when they get mad at me, I can hear them whispering to each other - Amma is a khichdi.

Monday 23 July 2012

Daddy goes solo

Almost obscenely abundant greenery everywhere, emerald paddy fields, rubber plantations, clean roads, grey menacing clouds – where else but in Kerala? I was in Palakkad for a couple of days for a project that are pitching for. As always, I was blown away by the natural beauty all around me. S and I have done Kerala in bits and pieces over the years and managed to cover most of the state but Palakkad is one district we have never visited.
Anyway, back to basics. S has been in absentia, on a fair bit of travel for the last month. The last week, he was in Gurgaon on a flexible schedule and therefore I pushed for my work-related travel to happen during this time. There was a tiny bit of apprehension since this would be the first time that he would be alone with the kids and handling the routine craziness of a school day. I was confident that he could do it provided the domestic help landed up on time and did not take every other day off as they have been doing of late.  As it happens, my maid and cook have a soft corner for bhaiya; clearly they think he is some hapless male forced to take on child-rearing responsibilities while didi goes off on pleasure jaunts. S was very confident that they would report to work without fail and on time, something they somehow never manage with me! I’m happy to report that his confidence was not misplaced, though I’m also sure they are going to play truant now that I am back.
In fact, the only challenge they faced was how to tie Y’s hair, S never having learnt how to handle a hairband! We had a 15 minute negotiation before I left. Y sweetly suggested that Appa learn how to braid her hair to form 2 plaits. I countered that it wasn’t necessary and that she should be content with one ponytail for the 4 days that I would be away. She was most reluctant (she doesn’t like the single ponytail) but once we were able to convince her that she actually looked better with one pony instead of two, she gave in with bad grace. I’m glad that was the only roadblock we encountered!
S says he was able to manage just fine but that his work had to take a backseat, being crammed into the few hours when the kids were at school. He apparently had a long conf-call with the folks in the US and Y sat quietly at his side throughout, working with her crayons and glitter pens. This might be an important milestone for us in our journey towards (more or less) equally-shared parenting.
Clearly, they all managed just fine without me (maybe even better!). Have I made myself redundant? I certainly hope so!

Monday 9 July 2012

A 'zoo' on the floor

On a weekend afternoon, as the rest of the family snoozes, this is what a bored boy gets upto. Start with creating a whole zoo on the floor, then move on to specific habitats.
Does your kid have the 5 best toys of all time? :)

Panoramic view of the zoo :)

Or rather, "American Zoo", as the white notice stuck to the cupboard proclaims. The white bear and Ludo counters are "the statues at the entrance, Amma." Note the emergency vehicles all ready and waiting.

The "safari"and at the back is the grassland habitat (a green plastic cover) with zebras.

Board game covers, pressure cooker gaskets, Pediasure 'dabbas' have all become zoo enclosures :)

The toy basket cover hides a tiger and it's cub snoozing away in the afternoon heat.

Holiday homework woes

So. Holiday homework. Projects. The bane of every parent. The nightmare of every mum and dad. Every time I see someone with a harried look on their face, walking around clutching plasic folders and A3/A4 sheets, chart paper and thermocole, getting into the car for a quick dash down to the stationery shop for buying some glue or feathers, my heart melts in sympathy.
Been there, done that, you know :)
I don't know how it is in other cities, but the Delhi newspapers have been full of articles like this. We ourselves have a "homework uncle" in our neighbourhood, who for a fee will execute your ward's school projects. Is it any wonder that when Ads submits his projects or assignments, he comes back carrying tales of how terrific everyone else's project looked, as opposed to our home-made, eco-friendly output? I've seen some of these works of art displayed in the school corridors during the Parent-Teacher meetings and I'm ready to bet my last dollar that no first or second-grader could have made them. Or else, there are a heck of a lot of super-talented moms out there. I refuse to believe the latter too, it would be too damaging to my ego :)
This year as well, Ads got homework in all subjects (English, Math, EVS, Hindi). Now I simply don't understand why kids need to have homework during the holidays. Its a holiday, in case nobody noticed. Kids should have nothing to do during vacation. In fact, today's generation needs idleness much more than we did simply because most of them don't seem to know how to handle boredom. And when can kids just be kids if not during the summer vacation? They definitely don't have the time during the school year. Why add the pressure of homework on top of the classes and summer camps that they are probably going to anyway?
Someone definitely had put in some serious thought into the homework assignment design, that much was apparent. I did appreciate that. The theme was to compare the era of Ads's grandparents (1950s to 1960s) to the current era. In English, they had to interview each grandparent and write down about the differences in communication technologies and why these changes occured. In Math, they had to look at the currencies in vogue then, and also calculate purchasing power of the rupee (by comparing prices of staples across the years). In EVS, they had to figure out the differences in fashion and textiles. In Hindi, they had to discuss modes of transporation then and now. Pretty interesting stuff, really. 
What they had forgotten or conveniently overlooked was how much parental input would be required to complete the assignments. None of them could be completed without my active assistance. My policy of limited screen time/no video games backfired on me since Ads couldn't use the laptop to download and print stuff. (I still stand firmly by my policy, btw :))
Between my mom, Ads and me, we managed to complete the whole thing. The whole thing was quite pointless, if you ask me. I also know that most other kids in our complex have either outsourced their projects outside or else their mommies have done the whole thing when the kids were at school! What's the point???
Children only retain what they want to and it's a fact that they do forget a lot of what they have learnt, during the summer vacation. I also know that not everyone's home environment facilitates or encourages reading, craft and learning. Instead of overloading hapless kids and parents with homework, I would support if they asked all children to keep a daily or weekly journal (in both English and the second language, if they like). I'm sure they would be astonished at the creative interpretations the kids would come up with. Ask them to bring to school all the artwork they did during the hols. Make them write a story on that family holiday, with pictures. Let them describe something new that they learnt during the summer. Any of these options (just one, not all at the same time!) would be so much more age-appropriate and more valuable that the impractical stuff they come up with now.
As for Math, any decently involved parent will make their children do worksheets every week. I did. When it comes to Maths and Science, I think we don't need to doubt the Tiger mom qualities of Indian parents :)
I'm going to give these suggestions to the school. I hope they do something about it. This year, when Ads cribebd about the homework, I gave him a way out. I said, I will support you in not doing your homework. Go to your class teacher and say your mom doesn't have the time and the homework is too hard to do without any help, so you haven't done it. Do that, and I'll back you up.
Needless to say, our conformist thought the whole idea was insane. Coward :)

Saturday 7 July 2012

My other blog

Just a heads up that I've kind of cleaned up my other blog. It's still a work-in-progress (I'm not happy with the layout or with the name!) but I hope to be more regular at updating it from now on, and not letting it languish as I have been wont to do.
Have a look and let me know what you think :)

Wednesday 4 July 2012

Mumbai Rhapsody

Green mangroves.
Shiny rain-spattered streets.
Chaotic  traffic (so what’s new?).
The Arabian sea lashing against breakers.
The queen’s necklace twinkling away.
Sodium vapour lamps.
The beautiful crumbling buildings in Town.
Marvelling that Regal theatre is still standing.
An avenue of trees in Ballard Estate.
Worli Sea Link looming in the distance.
Walking in the midnight rain at Marine Drive.

Mumbai is most lovely in the rains.
So says someone who doesn’t have to live in Mumbai :)
I am soaking up all the rain and cold (literally and figuratively) in anticipation of my return to 46 degree scorchers in Gurgaon. While on the subject, I'm here to attend and conduct a business skills workshop for wannabe women entrepreneurs from lower-income groups. Three days of intensive teaching and learning with 45 cheerful and enthusiastic girls is proving to be a lot of fun. The only reason I was even able to travel this time was because my parents as always stepped upto the challenge of parenting and grandparenting while I was away. Yet some more people I have to thank for making life that wee bit easier :)

Monday 2 July 2012

Dad S vs Mom Me

This is not a delayed Father's Day post or anything like that :) I thought of this post after coming back home from our Kumaon break, when we had those episodes of the kids throwing up one after the other while driving through mountain roads. Ads has just finished his session (!) and I knew Y would be up next, so I elected to sit in the front seat with her on my lap. I generally never allow the kids on the front seat but it makes a big difference when you are nauseous if you are up front. 
In this case, Y did not seem to feel any better. I kept asking her "How do you feel - are you going to throw up?" and she would always reply in the negative. S was right at the back and he kept telling me "Don't go by what she says - stop the car and get her down." Of course, I did not listen :) 
And obviously, the next minute, she had coughed and thrown up all over me :(
I was cleaning up and S came around and said "I told you so. She's not Ads. You need to focus on the non-verbal clues."
So I did not really appreciate being fed a parenting lesson when I was covered in puke. However, the episode did underline my husband's vastly superior parenting skills, relative to my own. I used to feel a little insecure about it when Ads was first born. Why, both S and I had begun from the same start line, yet from Day 1 he instinctively knew how to carry and soothe Ads, how to change his diaper without making a mess, how to take sprays of bodily fluids with equanimity, how to know when he was falling sick, when he was hungry and when I needed a hard kick up my butt to wake up and breastfeed him :)
Even today, based on their moods and behaviour, he can tell when the kids are about to fall sick. He can predict a hunger tantrum a clear 15 minutes before I do. He knows what they mean even when they aren't saying it. Not that I can't do any of these things, it's just that he does it so much better and faster and accurately than I do. As my mother put it so many years ago - His father's instinct is so much better than your mother's instinct!
I have girlfriends who call S their best friend, because they know they can drop their kids off with S and he'll happily handle 4 kids for several hours while we girls go shopping :) When we go out to a birthday party, S is far more likely to hang out with the kids and play their games instead of chatting with the other adults. I have to tell people - "You see, he enjoys the company of children more than the company of adults." He's happy to spend a whole day hanging out with Ads and Y and then some more. I simply can't take a whole 2 days of my children's company, undiluted :) He'll read to them, play hockey with them, take them swimming and talk untiringly about wild animals. Yesterday I was calling Y for her bath and he said he'll do it. I said no, it's ok, I have time. He retorted "You don't MIND giving them a bath. But I LOVE doing it. So let me do it."
When I'm feeling crabby, I tend to tell him that he only loves doing all this stuff because he doesn't have to, every single day. He has the luxury of doing the bath routine and all the other routines on the weekends only (he arrives too late to do it on weekdays). But even I know that I'm being unfair as I say this. Often as I am giving the kids a bath and they giggle and whisper and throw soap suds at me, I wistfully wish that S were there to witness the cuteness.
Several years ago, I thought I was getting an awesome husband. I didn't realize that I was getting an awesome Dad as well!

Sunday 1 July 2012

So who's giving us a running for our money?

Guess who's floating in the pool with complete abandon and enjoyment and giving the (utterly false) impression of being a swimming expert?
No, no - it's not me. I haven't progressed much beyond where I was in the autumn. It's not Ads, who has finally started being coached by a really nice, young, patient and friendly coach. They have some communication issues - coach not knowing much English and Ads seeming to have forgotten all his Hindi during the summer break. It's not even S, who has now stopped maniacally studying YouTube videos and almost living in the pool during weekends. He is, for the record, doing pretty well with the swimming and able to get through almost the whole length of the pool in freestyle.
It's Y who has been stealing our thunder, with her enthusiasm. She jettisoned her lovely one-piece swimsuits (she has several hand-me-downs and they are just so cute!) in favour of the much more practical wetsuit-type thingy which has a built-in float. It was originally bought for Ads, back when he was two years old, but he was never much of a water baby. Y has been using it now for more than a month and it's really helped boost her confidence in the water. She floats on her back, manages to kick her way from one end of the pool to another, and generally lowers my confidence no end!
Last evening, the four of us were down at the pool and while I was sorting though our stuff and S was helping Ads into his cap and goggles preparatory to his lesson, we caught sight of Y casually sliding into the water. Before we could react and run to the edge of the pool, she was already in the middle and waving merrily at us! What a fright she gave us!
She claims she can swim and float and when the coach asked her if she would come for class alongwith her brother, she turned to me and muttered "Enakku already swimming theriyum" (I already know swimming).

Getting ready for a back float - she has since perfected it.