Friday, December 29, 2006

The World in Ayaan Speak

Ayaan has been relatively slow to talk. I know other kids his age who are saying a lot more than he is. I worry about this on and off and then reassure myself with the following pieces of wisdom:

  1. As long as the kid is saying a few words and has other non-verbal ways of communicating with you, things are moving along in the right direction. Ayaan is a fairly expressive little person if you account for all the non-verbal communication, which includes:
    • Pointing at things that he wants
    • Responding to demands to fetch various items like his shoes, pram, books and potty
    • Waving goodbye and blowing kisses when anyone leaves
    • Slaps and bites to display anger and affection (not good but communication nonetheless)
  2. Many people have told me that kids usually pick between physical and social development to focus on in their early toddler years. So kids who walk and run earlier (Ayaan took his first steps in his eleventh month) tend to be slower off the block as far as talking is concerned and vice versa.
  3. Another piece of wisom from Ranjit: Boys tend to talk later than girls. I had heard that before but it slipped my mind when I writing this post.
  4. Something to Say adds that children in bi-lingual households tend to speak later. And our household is seriously multi-lingual - on an average day, Ayaan is spoken to in English, Hindi and Marathi


Anyway, to reassure myself, I decided to make a list of the words he does say and came up with a surprisingly long and comforting list. Here it is:

Favourite Word

'Nuh' (accompanied by violent head-shaking)


Basic Needs
When he’s hungry, he demands ‘Foodie' or sometimes just ‘Foo’
At night when he’s been changed and read to, he knows it’s time for ‘Nini’ (sleep)
When he hears the bucket filling up in the bathroom, he knows it is time for his ‘Ba’ (bath)
Any other demands are communicated through finger-pointing accompanied by ‘Di’ (‘De’ is Hindi for give)

The VIPs
Mama’: This is not only the term used to address me but also his most favourite and oft-repeated word, often to no end. Sometimes, he will sit in his car seat and say ‘Mama’ over and over again twenty times is a row while observing the traffic.
‘Dada’: This is the second most favourite word - said most often when Jai is travelling. I try to give him involved answers like “Dada is in Delhi. He will be back on Friday – that is the day after tomorrow” but after he has done this about twenty times, I regress to a simple “Dada is in office”. I know it is not the truth but it keeps me from wanting to pull my tongue out…
‘Didi’: This is how he addresses the young maid who stays with us.
‘Sheeya’: – We have two maids for Ayaan – Surekha (morning) and Shashikala (rest of the day). He refers to them both as Shiya
‘Aayee’/ ‘Yaya’ – I am not 100% sure yet but I think these are early attempts at pronouncing his name.

Mother Nature
All birds are referred to as ‘Kaw’
All big animals (horses, cows, buffalos) are referred to as ‘Moo’
All small animals (dogs, cats, pigs, rabbits) are referred to as ‘Wawa’ (Bow-wow)
All plants, trees and leaves are referred to as ‘Fouva’ (flower)

Modes of Transportation
All big vehicles (vans, buses, trucks) are called ‘Bois’ (bus)
All small vehicles (cars, jeeps, SUVs) are called ‘Kai’ (car)

Other words
‘Koi’/ ‘Koni’: This is a questioning word. For example, when he throws his ball and can’t see it, he will turn his palms upward in a questioning manner and say "Koni?"
‘Dis’: This is a recent addition. He points to things he does not know the name of and says "Dis" (this?) and then you have to tell him what it is.

How do your experiences with 19-month olds and their vocabulary compare?

Tuesday, December 12, 2006

The Birth Story

Well, it’s not quite a tag but Mad Momma suggested I do a post on my c-section experience. So here I go…

It was all set up to be a normal birth. To start with, I had the necessary pelvic structure (I come from a long line of big-boned people) and had an easy, textbook pregnancy. I had gone for pre-natal classes and religiously done the exercises, which included the duck walk (which, for the uninitiated, is exactly what it sounds like and is supposed to help the baby descend into position). The baby also seemed to be doing his part and was not only facing in the right direction but the head too had got engaged, though not yet fully fixed.

17th May (the due date) arrived and there were still no signs of labour. My gynaecologist did a rather painful procedure called ‘stripping the membranes’ which she said would get the labour kick-started. I went home that day and witnessed some spotting but still no sign of labour. On 18th, I started to get some minor contractions (they were more like cramps actually) and I spoke to the doctor, who said that we should wait till they get stronger. But by the next day, they hadn’t really got much stronger so my doc insisted that I go and check myself into the hospital. When I reached the hospital, the resident on duty rightly commented that labour was at a very early stage and that I should go home and wait. He spoke to my gynaecologist on the phone and she suggested that he administer the pitocin drip and hurry things along. This made me pretty uncomfortable – for starters, the resident seemed to see merit in waiting and I also spoke to my mom-in-law (a practising ob-gyn in Bangalore) and she too didn’t see any reason to be in such a hurry.

So I called back my doctor and told her I wanted to wait. She sounded pretty pissed off and tried to convince to stay but finally agreed and asked me to come to her clinic in the evening. There she gave me a long talk about how she was the doctor and knew what was best and that waiting any longer than the next day was a risk that she was not willing to take and that I would have to check into the hospital the next day, no matter what the circumstances.

All the while, the contractions continued to be disappointingly mild though they did get closer together (moving from 30 minutes apart to 15 minutes apart). I had a horrible, restless night because of nerves as well as the contractions. The next day, without much progress being made, we had to finally give in to the expert advice of our doctor and get me admitted into the hospital. We had some wild thoughts about changing the doctor at the last minute but everyone advised against it since I had been seeing this doctor throughout my pregnancy.

So on 20th morning, we drove back to the hospital. Again, the resident and my mom-in-law (in touch via the phone) felt that we could still afford to wait but at that point, it didn’t make sense to fight my own doctor anymore especially since she kept saying that waiting longer would put the baby at risk. So they finally administered the pitocin drip and the pains did start to increase but 3-4 hours later, I was still dilated barely a finger and a half. Then they decided to do a heartbeat check on the baby and there were some irregularities. The explanation for this was that since the contractions had increased but the baby had not moved forward, the baby was getting the brunt of the contractions. So they decided to do a c-section and before I knew what was happening, I was in the OT.

The actual surgery was a pretty surreal experience. I really did have my heart set on a normal delivery and since all indications till then had suggested that it would be so, I hadn’t prepared myself for the c-section and was severely disappointed. And the experience of the last couple of days had made me feel like I had been pushed into something that could have been avoided. I think I even cried a little while they prepped me. I was awake throughout but only felt a pulling sensation on my abdomen. It was pretty weird as the other doctors in the room were pretty matter-of-fact about the whole thing and were even discussing the traffic they had to brave to get the hospital – most inappropriate I thought!

After that, I kind of lost track of time and I don’t really know how long the whole procedure took but I remember hearing the baby’s first cry, the doctor telling me that it was a boy and them showing him to me very briefly after they had wiped him off. Then I didn’t see him again till I was all stitched up and back in my room when they brought him all bundled up and ready for his first feed.

I’d like to be able to say that I took one look at him and it all didn’t matter any more. But I would be lying if I did. For starters, I wasn’t one of those instant bonding kind of mommies. The first few days for me were all about the physical aspects of having become a mother – dealing with the after-effects of surgery, painful breastfeeding sessions and loads of sleep deprivation. It was only a few weeks into the experience that I really started to feel the first pangs of maternal love. So this didn’t exactly distract me from my discomfort with the way the last couple of days had panned out. I felt then, and still feel today that things didn’t go as they ought to have. I have since then read up on some of this stuff and there are quite a few things that seem fishy:
  • There seems to have been an astronomical growth in the number of c-sections. I couldn’t find the data for India but it in the U.S., the percentage of c-section births has increased from 5% to 28% in the last 30 years! From a doctor’s point of view, c-sections are preferable. They are easier to schedule – active labour can come on at inconvenient times like 3.00 a.m. on a weekend. My c-section happened on a Friday, well in time for the doctor to get a few hours in at her clinic and be home in time for dinner… Also, c-sections are a more efficient use of their time – they earn more (almost double) for a lot less time.
  • I also sensed an impatience in her to get the thing over with. My delivery happened on Friday evening – maybe she had weekend plans that I was getting in the way of. I’m just saying…
  • Her biggest stated reason for hurrying things along was that it would be a risk to wait. Since then, I have come across many cases of women who went into labour more than a week after their due dates so I am not too sure what the risk was. After all, we did a foetal heart rate check on the 19th and it was perfectly fine. Also, she should have done an ultrasound to check if the amniotic fluid was drying up but when I suggested a last pre-delivery ultrasound, she said there was need for it. So in hindsight, I am a little unclear on what her risk perception was based on.
  • I also did some very basic research on the stripping procedure that the doctor had done. It is not as simple as she made it sound. It seems that it is effective only if the body is ready for labour and the cervix is adequately ripened and dilated. (I was not even 1 cm dilated when she did it). Moreover, it is not entirely risk-free and can result in infections both for the mother and the baby.
  • Lastly, after the surgery, she told me the reason why the head had not fixed fully was because it was de-flexed. I looked this up as well. The ideal position for labour is when the baby is head down, facing the mother’s back, with its chin tucked on its chest. When the chin is not tucked, the position is known as ‘deflexed head’. Nowhere did I find anything to suggest that this necessitates a caesarean (as a breech position does). It is only an indication of a possibly long, slow and difficult progression of labour. If this was indeed the case, I should have been the one to choose since it was not about risk levels. And we would have known that all that was holding things up was the deflexed head if she had only done an ultrasound before pressing the button…

I know all this sounds a bit like crying over spilt milk but I feel cheated out of a potential normal delivery. And it might happen the next time around too, since doctors are usually even more risk-averse when it comes to a vaginal birth after c-section (VBAC). It also doesn’t help that everyone involved, including family members, was very disappointed that I didn’t have a ‘normal’ birth. I know better now, but in the less rational postpartum days, I just felt like a big, fat failure.

On a final note, I have nothing against c-sections or people who have them. I just feel, and I am sure that most of you would agree, that if a natural birth is possible and there are no real risks involved, then doctors and mothers should be patient and let nature take it course.

Tuesday, December 05, 2006

All about No

Any parenting book or website worth its salt will tell you that you should avoid saying the word ‘No’ to your toddler too often. And like a lot of optimistic advice that these books offer, it is virtually impossible to follow.

Will someone please tell me how I can keep the dreaded N-word off my lips for more than 10 minutes, when in every 10-minute slot of time Ayaan does atleast one of these very no-worthy things:
  • Slaps, bites or pinches me
  • Pulls my hair
  • Assaults some unsuspecting kid in the park
  • Tries to eat mud
  • Picks up handfuls of mud and throws them at me or other kids
  • Attempts to paint the wall with his food
  • Throws his food at me
  • Climbs up onto high surfaces and prepares to leap right off
  • Tries to climb onto the dining table (which by the way has a glass top and pretty flimsy wrought iron chairs)
  • Tries to throw something out of the window of our fourth floor apartment
  • Finds one of our mobile phones and tries to murder it
  • Tries to play with the electric switches (the sockets are blocked off but still!)

And that’s not quite the end of it – the list could go on for atleast another page. So I don’t know how I can be expected to go for more than 10 minutes without saying no.

What I count as being worthy of uttering the negative can essentially be categorised into 4 categories:

Dangerous

This includes things like launching himself off the 2-foot high sofa, playing with electric switches and trying to investigate the kitchen counter (which is often populated by sharp, glass and/ or hot objects. When it comes to this category, there is no doubt in my mind that there is no option but to let Ayaan know that I am vehemently against what he is doing and that he must stop it RIGHT NOW.

Destructive

These are actions that destroy items of value such chucking of things out of the window and the use of my mobile phone as a hammer. These items too I place outside the limits of letting Ayaan explore and discover. Let him do that with things that cost under Rs. 100 - destruction on a budget!

Rude

This category is about behaviour that is socially unacceptable. My expectations on this are pretty low. I have no problem with reserved behaviour where Ayaan refuses to interact with some over-enthusiastic baby-loving person we meet along the way – that is completely his prerogative. But I do object to violent behaviour towards me or other kids in the park – and this includes both actual violence (slap, pinch, bite, etc.) as well as snatching things that do not belong to him. I have to say that the snatching part is not such a problem and Ayaan will usually give back what he has snatched with good grace when asked to. But the violence… now that’s a whole other cup of tea. I actually have scratches on my face sometimes and the other day, he picked up a pebble and threw it at another kid, completely unprovoked. Again, very no-worthy behaviour.

Messy

This is the hardest one. It is very difficult to draw the boundaries between learning and discipline here. For example, when Ayaan attempts to paint the wall with his food, should I let him ‘express his creativity’? And when he wants to splash around in the filthy puddle in the park, do I let him enjoy this wonderful experience and forget about germs and the mess in the car from his dirty clothes and shoes? Here I usually decide based on the degree to which the mess is reversible. So food on the wall and mud stains on the car upholstery are clearly out but playing with dry mud, emptying the onion rack and pouring water on the floor is okay.

Anyway, that was my side of the story. But that’s not all. What does Ayaan have to say on this subject? When I say this word to him, his reaction is one of the following:

  • He actually listens and obeys – a rare but satisfying response. He does this for a few things like not entering the loo and not walking out of the park gate but mostly he doesn’t approve of the word.
  • He pretends that I never said it and continues with the offending task that he is being reprimanded for. This is what I call his denial mode. If I repeat the N-word often enough, it will result in one of the other reactions recounted below.
  • He looks at me, nods his head in disagreement and goes back to what he was doing. This is the toddler equivalent of showing me the finger.
  • He screws up his face and starts crying – this usually happens if he’s already pissed off in general or if I utter a particularly violent ‘No’.
  • If he has hit me and I say ‘No’, he will sometimes smile and press his face to mine in an imitation of a kiss in an effort to placate me. Basically, the rascal knows he did something wrong and he is admitting it and apologising in his own (very cute) way but do you think that stops him from doing it again just a little later? I would have to say no.

And of course, no discourse on the subject would be complete without an account of Ayaan’s love affair with the sentiment of refusal, especially when it originates with him. It’s like he’s suddenly woken up to the delightful (for him) fact that he has the fundamental right of choice and he can exercise it with a simple movement of his head. Sometimes he will say no just for the heck of it – because he can. Like when I know he is thirsty and offer him a drink of water, he will shake his violently as if I have suggested the most unthinkable thing ever and then just moments later, he will go up and pick up his sippy cup and drink as if it were going out of fashion…



Tuesday, November 21, 2006

The Many Faces of Romance

Remember those first few years of courtship. Everything was new. Every look and touch was special. Every night, you went to sleep with a small smile on your lips and in your heart – thinking about that one moment that he did something that made your heart beat just a little faster. You got out of bed each morning with a spring in your step, waiting to meet him again. What a wonderful time that was…

And then romance met the daily monotony of married life. Life changed, if not dramatically atleast noticeably. You’d wake up in the morning and rush about your morning routine, in a hurry to get a jumpstart on the day. And the last words you’d exchange at night would probably be something like “Did you remember to switch on the washing machine?” Things that were cute and attractive in the pre-marriage days now became irritants. What was admired as ‘attention to detail’ got re-branded as ‘control freak’ and what was endearing as ‘easygoing’, now translated into ‘lazy and careless.’

But life went on and you fell in love again with the person your spouse really was and not the polished, best-foot-forward side that you got to see when you were both still trying to impress each other. You began to see the romance in little, everyday moments of thoughtfulness rather than the grand gestures of the past. You looked for little ways to create small moments that would lift life beyond being ordinary. And it really helped that you still had loads of that valuable commodity – time. Evenings, weekends, holidays – they were all opportunities ensure that romance did not die an untimely death.

But then that valuable community got seriously depleted by the arrival of THE BABY. All free time is now invested in him – evenings mean trips to the park, weekends mean quality time with Ayaan and holidays (as I have previously said) shouldn’t really be called holidays any more! Romance takes yet another beating but still manages to squeeze into the cramped spaces left between work, sleep and Ayaan time. It often takes forms that non-parents might find really mundane – it could be something as seemingly ordinary as letting your spouse sleep in even when you yourself are sleep-deprived or baby-sitting a cranky toddler to allow your spouse a much-deserved break to catch the cricket match or squeeze in the much-postponed trip to the beauty parlour.

So take heart all you to-be spouses and parents, romance does stand a chance even in the face of the dual battering rams of marriage and parenthood. You just have to learn to recognise and appreciate it in its different avatars.

While on the topic of romance, I was also thinking about the romance that a mother shares with her child. This is quite different from love or bonding because these are of a more enduring and consistent nature. This romance is about brief moments of magic – they may not make your heart beat faster like the other kind of romance but they still do have the power to turn your insides to mush. Here are some illustrations of the ‘romantic’ moments that I share with Ayaan:

  • When he’s resting his head on my shoulder and suddenly lifts his head, looks into my eyes and gives me a gentle, contented smile.
  • When he’s busy playing with his toys and then suddenly looks up at me and says ‘Mama’ and then goes back to playing.
  • When I come back home, he runs towards me with his arms outstretched – it’s a moment that’s comparable to any Bollywood movie reunion scene.
  • When he’s sitting in my lap and he holds my hand and lovingly caresses it, finger by finger.
  • When he’s eating something that he really loves (like plain corn flakes) and he offers me a bite.
  • When he gives me a ‘flying kiss’ when I put him into his cot at night.

These are the moments that sustain me in my time away from him. Whenever I am feeling low, I only need to bring Ayaan's face to my mind, smiling with utter devotion and saying ‘Mama’…


Friday, November 10, 2006

A Day in the Life of a Working Mom

This is what my life looks like these days:
6:00-6.30Get rudely awakened by Ayaan’s morning greeting on the baby monitor. Listen to him entertain himself for a while before convincing myself to get up and go get him.
6:30-7:00Pick up Ayaan, give him his cornflakes and follow him around to ensure that he doesn’t drop any and eat it off the floor.
7:00-7:15Change Ayaan out of his diaper and nightclothes, attempt to look reasonably presentable, put on shoes for Ayaan and myself, strap Ayaan into his stroller and head off for the morning walk.
7.30-8.00Walk to the park, play with Ayaan in the park and then walk back.
8:00-8.15Feed Ayaan his breakfast.
8:15-8:30Eat breakfast with Ayaan hovering around and expecting every alternate bite to go into his mouth.
8:30-8.45Transfer clothes from the washing machine to the dryer. Put away the clothes back from the dhobi. Take a 5 minute break away from it all.
8:45-9:00Look at the clock with shock – where did all that time go? Have a rushed bath and get ready for work.
9:00-9:30Drive to work.
9:30-5:30Work, work, work.
5:30-6:00Drive home.
6:00-7:30Take Ayaan to the park.
7:30-8:00Sort laundry out to put into the machine. Leave Ayaan with Jai to take another 5-minute break. Put finishing touches to Ayaan’s dinner.
8:00-8:15Give Ayaan his dinner.
8:15-8:30Play with Ayaan and attempt to get him to sit on his potty.
8:30-9:00Wash and change Ayaan, play and read to him and put him to bed. Phew!
9:00-10:30Eat dinner, watch TV.

To add to this, there are days when I have to work late or travel. And weekends are not time for rest either since I try to use them to make up for the time I have missed with Ayaan.

This kind of a hectic schedule arises from the fact I am much more hands-on than most other moms (both of the stay at home and the working varieties) I know. I think it arises out of my being a minor control freak and makes me hesitant to delegate Ayaan’s care to anyone since I feel they couldn’t do it better. When Ayaan was a baby, my mom was the only other person allowed to change his nappies (I couldn’t say anything to her since she was the one who taught me how to tie the nappy in the first place!). I had to relinquish some of this control when I went back to work but I still want to change his diapers, feed him his meals and bathe him whenever I am at home.

As a result, I am always, always exhausted these days. I can’t think of too many days when I feel rested – I think I might have forgotten what that feels like!

What irks me most though is that at the end of the day, I am still left with a feeling of discontent. I feel like I am not doing my 100% best at either of my jobs (mother and professional). I operate at lower levels of efficiency and effectiveness at both than I would like. I often envy stay-at-home moms for their ability to give that 100% to their jobs as mothers. I don’t however envy women without kids though – I’d rather be an 80% perfect mom to Ayaan than not have him in my life at all.

That being said, I have two disclaimers that must be put up:
  1. Though it may sometimes seems like it (because I don’t mention it often enough), it’s not like Jai has nothing to do with any of this. Often, when I have had a really late night or I am not well, he will pick up Ayaan when he wakes in the morning and tend to him till the maid comes. On the evening park activity, our aim is that atleast one of us should be back in time to take him to the park atleast 4 times in a week and so far we have managed to split it pretty evenly. And of course, he takes over the reins from me when I have to travel for work.
  2. I know there are many moms out there who will see this and say “Huh! You call that tough?!” I especially have a healthy respect for moms who don’t have the benefit of household help and have to do all this and also worry about the cleaning, laundering and cooking. Seriously, I don’t know how you do it!


Wednesday, October 25, 2006

Height of procrastination

It’s been too long. Again. Anyway, I am back and have decided to start off with addressing the backlog of tags. To start with, here's my attempt at the heights tag from Itchingtowrite and Artnavy.


Height of cruelty

Ayaan’s violent behaviour which is usually directed towards me – on an average day, I am subjected to biting, slapping, hair-pulling and pinching. If this is not domestic abuse, I don’t know what is.


Height of reward

Opening the shoe drawer (which he knows I disapprove of), closing it and then clapping for himself – all the while looking at me expectantly, waiting for me to join in the applause.


Height of challenge

Ayaan trying to help me with the laundry. To start with, he wants to take the clothes out of the laundry hamper that just happens to be taller than him. Then he wants to carry the clothes to the machine. At first, he tries to lift the whole pile. After attempting this for a while, he decides to scale down his ambitions a bit and picks up a smaller part of the pile. He then takes it to the machine and puts it in. He continues to repeat this till all the clothes are moved but he gets more and more tired so the clothes are dropped off at various points in the route to the washing machine. So the end result is no clothes near the hamper, 3-4 clothes in the machine and all the rest in a long trail from the hamper to the machine…

Height of vigilance

Ayaan always knowing where our mobile phones at are every moment of the day and constantly trying to figure out a way of getting at them.


Height of dieting

Ayaan refusing to eat more than a few spoons of his dinner. And throwing it up on the day that he did finish it all. I think it must have something to do with the big, fat molars sprouting in the back of his mouth.


Height of comparison

Ayaan putting on Jai’s shoes and walking around in them as if that’s just the right size for him to be wearing already...




Height of rivalry

Hating it when I have any conversation (live or on the phone) that does not revolve around and include him. In the car, he will actually start whining and fussing if Jai and I so much as exchange a couple of words of adult conversation.


Height of anger

Everyday meltdown moments when even the smallest of things don’t go according to Ayaan’s grand plans – made all the more complex by the fact that he lacks the ability to communicate these plans to us.




Height of table manners

Sharing his breakfast with the crows by putting pieces of his toast out on the window sill. The crows have become quite bold too – they hop right up and grab a piece while we’re still sitting there.


Height of choice

First thing the morning, the only thing that Ayaan will agree to eat is cornflakes – just plain, without the milk.


Height of choosiness

Ayaan agreeing to sit on his potty only while fully dressed. Putting him there minus the bottom half of his clothing is a surefire recipe for a meltdown moment.



Height of dadagiri (bossiness)

Ayaan ordering the whole household around by pointing at things and uttering an aggressive ‘unnnhh’ roughly translatable as “GIMME THAT! NOW!”


Height of provocation

Ayaan throwing down his plateful of finger food and then watching for my reaction. He gets thrilled by both anger and amusement on my part so now I am trying the ‘I am pretending I didn’t see that’ approach to discourage the throwing.


Height of endorsement

When I am feeding Ayaan, he turns his head away to refuse whatever it is that I am trying to feed him and then picks up a piece of the same offending item and offers it to me…

Height of embarrassment

Ayaan showing his whole arm down the front of my top and pulling the neckline down…

Height of irony

Ayaan refusing to sit in his pram in his pre-walking days and then months after he started walking and just when we were going to give the pram away, he started enjoying morning walks in the pram.




Height of starting early

Ayaan already practicing his parenting skills with his Noddy. If you say “Ayaan, put Noddy to ninnee (sleep)”, he will put the Noddy on the bed and start patting him!

Height of daredevilry

Ayaan wanting to climb up and come down the slide all by himself! Any obvious attempts to help or support him are met with extreme irritation.


Height of cleanliness

Ayaan hating to get his hands dirty. If he gets too much food on them during meals, he holds them up to be wiped.

Height of grooming

When I am dressing Ayaan, he picks up his brush and first brushes his hair and then tries to brush mine. I use the word ‘brushing’ pretty loosely here – mostly my head just gets banged a bit.


Height of participation

When I am having breakfast, Ayaan comes and hovers around me and takes bites out of whatever I am eating (even if it is the same thing he rejected for his own breakfast just minutes ago). Once I am done, he insists on taking my plate to the kitchen and handing it to the maid.


There, all done. Now comes the part when I pass it on. I tag Talena, Mint and Ranjit (for the doggy perspective on the heights)

Thursday, October 05, 2006

We finally did it

The great feat that I am talking about is a solo trip with Ayaan. So far, all trips with Ayaan have either been to visit our respective parents or with my mother along to help. This time we finally bit the bullet and went without any additional support structure in the shape of parents or maids. And it was quite an adventurous first attempt too – involving a long car drive, some horseback riding and a tranquil and low-activity hotel.


We went to a small hill station called Matheran which is a three-hour drive from Mumbai. We were quite nervous about such a long drive with a hyperactive toddler in tow, but Ayaan behaved quite well. He slept for about 45 minutes of the drive and was reasonably quiet for the rest of the journey. The only time he got upset was when we encountered traffic and the car slowed down… On the way back too, he behaved just as well. The only mistake we made was feeding him his mid-morning snack before a long, winding drive downhill – which was promptly ejected all over Jai during the course of the drive!


Now, the interesting part – the thing about Matheran is that automobiles are not allowed to enter so we had to leave the car in the car park and then traverse a hilly, uneven path on horseback for an hour to get to our hotel. Yes, we had to travel on a horse with Ayaan! Much to our surprise, this was much easier than we thought. He stayed on the horse for most of the time and the guide sweetly agreed to carry him for five minutes every time he got restless. On the way back, he got so comfortable on the horse that he actually slept through most of the ride.


We stayed in this place called The Verandah in the Forest and it’s actually the kind of place where a typical holiday would involve lots of walking around followed by periods of lounging, reading and napping. That is, unless you happen to be accompanied by a noisy and restless young fellow. Ayaan completely altered the profile of the place while we were there by charging around the place at high speeds and shouting and screeching at the top of his voice. I am sure people who came there for some quiet time were in for quite a shock!


It was quite rainy while we were there but we did manage to get in reasonable amounts of outdoor activity. Ayaan really enjoyed himself and got completely dirty every time we left the hotel. He went to sleep at his normal time so we got atleast a couple of hours to have a drink and a quiet dinner but for the rest of the time, he was constantly on his feet with one or both of us running behind him.


There was a 5-year old boy there who befriended Ayaan and they had a complete ball chasing each other around the drawing room. The boy really took to Ayaan and his mother had a tough time convincing him that it was not possible for Ayaan to sleep with him in their room! Seeing them play together made me want to have a second child tomorrow! But I guess that will have to wait a bit – Ayaan is still in a very needy and clingy stage and work is quite hectic. I don’t think I could manage being pregnant just about now…


Anyway, all was good and I am very glad we mustered up the guts to go ahead and do the trip. Till now, I was always balked at the thought of going on a holiday with Ayaan but this trip made it quite clear that it is not only possible but even fun, though different from the kind of fun we have been used to. It’s challenging and tiring but well worth it… it exposes Ayaan to new experiences (horseback riding and meeting new people, to name a few) and also allows us to get on with our plan of seeing more of the world than the cities where we and our families live.


So now our new family motto is ‘Have baby, will travel’.

Monday, September 25, 2006

To share or not to share?

Sharing was one of the first values I remember learning as a child. It was just not acceptable for me to be possessive about my toys and not let other kids play with them. I remember there was even this rule for my birthday party – I was allowed to participate in the party games but if I won, I would not be allowed to keep the prize and it would go the kid who came in second. My mother’s logic was pretty simple – since it was my birthday and I was already getting a lot of gifts, it was only fair that I didn’t get the prizes as well. I used to really hate it – after all, what’s the point of winning if you’re not going to get rewarded for it??

Now that I am older and wiser and also a mother myself, it makes a lot more sense and it is clearer to me what my mom was trying to inculcate in me. I hope I can teach Ayaan the value of sharing as well. So, in the park, when kids come and ask me if they can play with Ayaan’s toys, especially the ones he is not playing with, I always let them have them. Right now, Ayaan is too young to be possessive or protest about his mother’s generosity with his toys but I hope he is getting the subliminal message that it is okay for other people to enjoy his toys as well.



I have always felt good about doing this too and the sweet smiles and polite thank-yous make it well worth it. But it has not been all smooth sailing and there have been recent incidents that really irritated the hell out of me:

Yesterday, a bunch of kids asked me if they could play with Ayaan’s ball and sand toys. Since Ayaan had lost interest in them and wanted to run around the park, I readily agreed and told them I would be back to get the toys and if they needed to leave before I got back to the sand pit, they should just leave the toys there anyway. I came back 10 minutes later and guess what – no kids and no toys!

I have been wondering… Those kids were too young to have come to the park themselves so their parents must have been somewhere around and they must have left with them. Does that mean that the parents thought nothing of it when their kids appeared with someone else’s toys and actually condoned the act of taking those toys home with them? And even if I were to give those kids the benefit of doubt and assume that they didn’t take the toys, it still means that someone else (a kid or even worse, an adult) stole Ayaan’s toys while they were lying unattended in the sandpit. Who does that and what have their parents been teaching them??!

A few days ago, I had another bad experience with this boy and his mother. This kid was about 4 years old and was really rude and obnoxious. To start with, he came to the park with absolutely no toys of his own. He then zeroed in on Ayaan as a soft target and started grabbing his toys without so much as a please or a thank you. I looked towards his mother in the hope that she would control her offspring but it was not to be. She made a half-hearted attempt by occasionally saying things like, “Don’t take all the baby’s toys. Play with him.” But considering that these words were said in an indulgent and half-laughing tone, they had little effect on the kid, who just shook his head and carried on behaving badly. When I stepped in to at least get back the one spade that Ayaan was playing with, the kid had a complete meltdown and then tried to snatch it back. Finally, I just picked up Ayaan and took him to another part of the park and let this completely misbehaved boy have his way with the toys (which included making a really messy slurry of mud mixed with his drinking water in the bucket). After all, if his own mother won’t discipline him, who am I to try?

My last crib is against mothers who don’t encourage their kids to share. Sometimes, Ayaan will get interested in some other kid’s spade or bucket. Most kids don’t have a problem if he picks up something that they are not playing with at that point of time, and even if they do, they are clearly told by their moms to share. But sometimes there are kids who will have a meltdown if Ayaan comes within a foot of their toys and their moms won’t blink an eyelid. And then last week, there was this mother who snatched up a toy before Ayaan could pick it up even though her daughter hadn’t protested.

I cannot for the life of me understand why parents do this. Are they really that paranoid about the transfer of germs or do they value the cheap, plastic toys more than helping their kids to grow up to be kind and generous people?

Saturday, September 16, 2006

Travel Woes

This has been a tough work week. I was out of town on work for two days and had a business dinner on the third. So I have been feeling separation anxiety and guilt pangs like never before. The day I returned from my trip was especially stressful. I had planned it all very well so that I would get back in time to spend at least an hour with Ayaan before his bedtime. But everything that could go wrong did – the flight was delayed by 15 minutes, the check-in baggage took ages to appear, the driver took a wrong turn and there was bumper-to-bumper traffic on the way home from the airport. I got terribly stressed out in the car drive, shouted at the driver and shed a few quiet tears of frustration and guilt. Eventually, I did get home in time to meet Ayaan but for just about 15 minutes…

Though I must admit that travelling does have its upsides:

  • To start with, one can theoretically sleep late in the mornings. Let me clarify this a bit though. Firstly, 'late' in the current context means till 8 a.m. Also, note the strategically added ‘theoretically’ – as I discovered on this trip, my body’s internal clock seems to have decided that no matter what the circumstances or levels of exhaustion, sleep beyond 7 a.m. is just not an option.
  • Since I am travelling and away from home any way, I can indulge in some guilt-free socialising with friends who stay in that city and stay out as late as I like.
  • I can go shopping by mysef and for myself, without the added burden of having to worry about an unwilling, bored husband and a restless toddler. (Ayaan's list of retail mishaps now include breaking a clothes hanger, bursting a bottle of buttermilk, throwing up on the floor and opening a packet of nicely wrapped apples and digging his nails into it!)
  • I can spend quiet evenings without toddler arms wrapped around my legs or grubby toddler fingers poking and pinching me with gay abandon.
  • I can actually walk out of a room without a wail following my departure.

Yet, they don’t make up for:

  • Not being the first person Ayaan sees in the morning and the last one he sees before he sleeps at night.
  • Coming home to an impersonal and empty hotel room with no ecstatic, six-toothed grin to greet my arrival.
  • Hearing about his antics from Jai on the phone and feeling miserable about missing out on them.
  • Seeing other women with their babies during the course of the day and getting a horrible, empty feeling in the pit of my stomach.
  • The guilt accompanied by the never-ending internal debate of “Is this really worth it?” - which really makes its presence felt at times like these.
  • Worry about whether he is missing me and the tinge of sadness that comes with admitting to myself that he is not.

And then I’m back home and life goes on… until the next trip, that is.


Monday, September 04, 2006

Eating my words

Life has been so hectic and before I know it, it’s been two weeks and no post.

It’s a bit strange writing after so long. So far, I’ve always managed to find the time and energy to write about what’s going through my mind in a day or two after it first occurred to me. In the last two weeks, there were many would-be posts floating around in my head, waiting patiently for me to start typing them out. But now that I have actually got down to it, they all seem to have either disappeared or become too dated…

While I haven’t had the time to write, I did manage to keep up with my favourite blogs whenever I got a free moment. And I came across two posts that reminded me of how much my perspective has changed since I became a mother. The thing is that I could imagine having written either of these posts in my pre-Ayaan days and did, in fact, say and think these things pretty often.

The first post that I came across was this one which talks about this animal called an Uber Mom. It got me thinking about whether I am an Uber Mom myself. I sure do meet some of the criteria that have been set down in the post:


  • I regularly inundate my friends’ mailboxes with photographs of Ayaan. To my credit, I have been shaving down this list of lucky people every time, removing people who don’t respond to my mails or those who show little or no interest in the most important person in my life. But what if, like Vijayeta, the ones who respond only do so to be polite and to avoid seeming like misanthropes?
  • While my paranoia does not extend to clothing Ayaan in dye-free white clothes, I do obsessively check for the 100% cotton tags on any clothes that I buy for him. And though I don’t police my maids' deodorant usage, I do check the length of their nails and prefer them not to wear glass bangles around Ayaan.
  • And the Uber Mom’s passionate cries of “Blow a kissie” in the post sound suspiciously like my urgings of “Ayaan, say ta-ta to Auntie”.
  • Lastly, I often try to convince my married but child-free friends to traipse down the motherhood path - though my motivations are not quite noble as trying to convert other people to the wonderful joy that is motherhood. I just need some company and some friends who can actually get how bloody hard this whole thing is.

So have I indeed become an Uber Mom and crossed the line between crazy about my kid to just plain crazy?

The other post that got me thinking was this one. There is actually just one paragraph in this post that got quite a war going in the comments section between parents and non-parents:

Now I don’t know about you but for me the biggest terrorists abroad flights are those babies (from my experience, mostly South Asian) who keep on bawling like air raid-sirens and their ‘couldn’t-care-less’ parents, who seem to think that all of us are supposed to find their little cherub’s screaming as cute and hence obligated to grin and say choo-sweet. These are closely followed by those people who keep on kicking the back of the seat in front of them—just when you are about to doze off.

This post made me think about some the misconceptions that I had before I too had to undergo the horror that is air-travel with an infant:

  1. Bawling babies and their parents have gotten on to the plane for one reason and one reason only and that is to make my life as difficult as possible. I now realize that while this might be a plausible reason in some cases, it is much more likely that they are there because they need to get from Place A to Place B and air travel is the shortest and least traumatic way to get the journey over with. This is of course from the parents’ point of view – fellow passengers in the immediate vicinity of this family are likely to disagree vehemently.
  2. The baby is bawling with the express purpose of pissing me off. With a few plane trips under my belt, I know that this is not the case. Babies usually cry either because they are in pain or just seriously pissed off. Air travel is often hard on their ears and the ear pressure can be pretty much unbearable for them. My doctor suggests feeding Ayaan little bits of sugar every few minutes into takeoff and landing to ensure that he swallows and relieves the pressure. This usually works for us. What we find harder to deal with is the pissed-off part. The basic design of toddlers makes them prone to crawl, walk and run around during every waking moment. Any situation that restricts their activity (being held hostage in a cramped airline seat being one of them) is likely to really get their goat and then they won’t let a small thing like 100 other innocent bystanders get in the way of creating a ruckus, notwithstanding desperate efforts of parents to avoid said ruckus.
  3. These children are badly behaved because there parents haven’t made the requisite efforts to get them to shut up. Motherhood in general and air travel in particular has made me realize one thing for sure. There is no neat, mathematical equation that explains the input-output relationship as far as a child is concerned. On one occasion, the child might behave like a complete angel with little or no effort required from the parents to distract, amuse or comfort him. And yet on other, very similar occasions, the little monster (and we are still talking about the complete angel from the last sentence) might decide to scream his lungs out inspite of every human and superhuman effort of his parents to calm him down.
  4. Parents couldn't care less and are actually immune to the sound of their baby crying. I think it would take a really hard-hearted parent to be immune to the sights and sounds of their upset baby, who is after all the most precious thing in their life. I think the reasons why some parents might give the impression that they couldn’t care less could be:
    1. Nothing they are doing seems to be working. And one of the golden rules of dealing with a tantrum is to ignore it. After all, a tantrum is a performance and once you take away the audience, the kid’s incentive to keep performing is somewhat diminished.
    2. They are in the process of having an out-of-body experience so that they can cope with the situation without having a nervous breakdown.

So now not only have I been forced to eat my pre-motherhood words, I also find myself sympathising with and defending other mothers in their moments of paranoia or when their little tyke is bringing down the house in a public place. I want to go upto all the people who are judging this poor mother for her lack of control on the situation and tell them that she really is trying her best and it is harder than it looks.

Friday, August 18, 2006

"Holiday"

There should be a word to describe the whole experience of going for a trip with a baby. Because ‘holiday’, ‘vacation’ and ‘break’ are grossly inaccurate ways of describing it.

To start with, you travel with enough stuff to feed and clothe an army. The tough part here is not that you have to carry it because other than loading it on and off the trolley at the airport, that part is largely taken care of for you. But the packing and unpacking can sure be a downer. There are so many fragile items that you have to pack with care and then you worry about them till you can open your suitcase again and reassure yourself. Try packing the video camera, the digital camera, the baby monitor and multiple jars of baby food in a suitcase whilst ensuring that each is safely cushioned amongst soft items like clothes, don’t touch each other and are far enough from the load-bearing areas and you will know just what I mean. And with the crazy levels of airport security, we had to open up everything at the baggage check because they wanted to see what the suspicious liquid (baby food) was and also made us separate the batteries from all the electronic equipment. Phew! I was exhausted before we even started…

The plane journey to Goa was reasonably uneventful since the flight was not full and we were able to able to put Ayaan in a seat of his own. For once, he was not the noisiest baby on the flight (he more than made up for this good behaviour on the flight back but I’ll get to that a little later). By the time, we got the hotel, it was already evening so Ayaan played around in the rooms for a bit and then we took him down for dinner. We took along a folding booster seat so he was able to sit at the table with us. This was good for us but I am sure the hotel staff would disagree since the area where we sat looked like a war zone since Ayaan decided to test his throwing arm on whatever food and cutlery he could get his hands on! After that, we made sure to sit outside to reduce our nuisance value to the hotel and its other guests!

Sunday was fun since we introduced Ayaan to the pool for the first time. He was a little apprehensive so we started really slow. I sat at the edge of the kiddies pool with him in my lap and let him dangle his toes in the water for a while. Then he stood knee-deep on the first step and then waist-deep on the second step, before I carried him into the pool with me. After some initial wariness, he really enjoyed himself and even played with another boy.

In the evening, we took him to the beach. He enjoyed playing in the sand but the sea completely freaked him out. Basically, the shifting sands under the water bothered him. So we spread out his toys on the beach and he happily played with his toys for quite a while.

Monday was not so great since Ayaan got a fever and was cranky and clingy through the day. I don’t know if it was the time in the pool or the air-conditioned environs of the hotel that did it but that pretty much sent the 'holiday' for a toss. On Tuesday, we left in the afternoon. Ayaan refused to nap in the morning, cried throughout the flight and threw up all over me when we landed.

Phew! It will be a while before I try that again…

As for the pictures, the humidity completely screwed up the cameras and they refused to work. The digital camera worked for some of the time so here are some of the pictures, we did manage to click…

Mama's little helper (or atleast that's what he thinks since he was under the mistaken impression that I was packing when actually I was unpacking and he kept putting his books and toys back into the suitcase)


Ayaan makes a splash...


Ayaan makes a friend in the pool. This kid played with him really sweetly - running around in the pool while Ayaan chased him around, propelled by me. He laughed and laughed...



Ayaan tries to climb over the barrier into the big people's pool. Check out his cute swim diapers - they have Nemo the fish on them.


Ayaan at lunch just outside the main dining room...


Friday, August 11, 2006

How?

Today, the strangest thing happened. And I just can’t figure it out. I am going to try and describe it and if anyone can figure it out, please let me know.

When I got to office, there was an envelope lying on my desk. This is the description of the envelope and its contents:

  • It was one of those airmail envelopes with the postage stamp pre-printed on it (as opposed to being glued on).
  • The postage stamp is from the United Arab Emirates. I don’t know anyone who lives there.
  • The postmark on the stamp is Kottayam, a town in Kerala. I don’t know anyone who lives there either. There is no Mumbai stamp anywhere.
  • There is a printed sticker on the envelope with my office address on it. What’s unusual about it is that unlike the other mail I receive at work, it has neither my designation nor my department mentioned on it.
  • The flap has been closed with some Scotch tape.
  • Inside the envelope is a single sheet of thick, cream coloured letter paper.
  • On the letter-paper, there is a letter that says the following:



Abu Dhabi
12.06.2006

Dear Papa, Mom and Namita,

Trust all of you are fine. Sanjay, Divya and me are all very eager to see you. Divya’s school vacations start by the end week of June. She has already got me to book the flight tickets for June 30.

My colleague and close friend Ravi is getting married on July 18. I’m planning to gift him a mixer-grinder. And for you Mom, how about a fully automatic washing machine? We’ll go shopping in Kochi or Thrissur I’m glad I don’t have to pay excess baggage this time, since we can get all the stuff from Kerala itself. Is the plastering of the new house over? Papa, please keep the flooring and painting on hold till I come.

When is Namita’s exams getting over? Mom I feel it’s time we bought some jewellery and started planning for her marriage. I’ll call up later to confirm our travel plans. In the meantime, Mom, you can get the mango pickles ready. And yes, coconut barfis for Divya. Looking forward to seeing you all soon.

Yours,
Anita



  • I don’t know anyone by the name of Namita or Divya and the Anita I know lives in London.
  • How and why has this letter, which has nothing to do with anyone I know, arrived in an envelope addressed to me?

Anyone like to venture a guess? Because I can’t for the life of me figure this one out.

In other news, we are heading off to Goa for a long weekend. I just made the list of things to be packed – as you would remember from the last post, packing for non-business travel clearly lies on the right side of the table, which is my domain. A couple of funny things about the list:

  • There are 41 items listed under Ayaan’s name, 25 under mine and just 13 under Jai’s.
  • The toy list for Ayaan includes – beach toys, water toys and other toys.

Which brings me to the other thing I can’t figure out – is it possible to travel light with a baby. And if yes, how?

Tuesday, August 08, 2006

Division of Labour

Today I came across an old notebook in which we had clearly outlined roles and responsibilities for each other. This is what it looks like:

Jai's ResponsibilitiesRohini's Responsibilities
  • Bill payments

  • Car maintenance

  • Managing finances (including insurance)

  • Emergency groceries

  • Travel (tickets, passorts, etc)

  • Putting suitcases back after travel

  • Repairs around the house

  • Getting rid of things we no longer need

  • Entertainment (movie tickets, lunch reservations)

  • Counting and giving clothes to the dhobi*

  • Administrative work for the new house

  • Paying the servants' salaries
  • Laundry

  • Buying groceries

  • Managing Ayaan - feeding, clothing, bedtime, doctor's visits, etc.

  • Supervision of daily cleaning and cooking

  • Weekly spring cleaning

  • Instructions to and training of servants

  • Packing (except for business travel)

  • All design aspects of the new house


* dhobi - person who irons our clothes

Some points to note:

  • Jai likes to boast about the fact that his list is longer - the implication being that he does more work in the house. But a closer look at the list reveals that the comparative lengths of the lists are not representative of the division of responsibility.
  • To start with, the magnitude of the tasks on both the lists is quite different. One task on my list (that of managing Ayaan) is bigger than all the tasks on Jai’s lists put together.
  • Most of the tasks on my list are urgent, immediate and essential while most of Jai’s tasks can be postponed or done at one’s convenience. Ayaan has to be fed, clothed and put to sleep today, tomorrow and everyday but car maintenance or house repairs can be done at one’s convenience.
  • Most of the tasks on Jai’s list are jobs that need to be done once a week (movie tickets, emergency groceries and bill payment) or less (car maintenance, getting rid of things). The only exception to this is the dhobi responsibility that is part of Jai’s list of to-do things – and this is his responsibility only because the dhobi usually times his daily visits at the same time that I am busy putting Ayaan to bed. On the other hand, most of the tasks on my list are of a daily nature – with the exception of groceries and packing.
  • While many things show on Jai’s lists of responsibilities, they still have to remain on my mental to-do list to ensure that I keep following up and reminding Jai to get these done. Did I hear someone say ‘control freak’? Just to silence that dissident voice, here is a glimpse into what happens if I don’t:
    • Our telephone line gets disconnected atleast 3-4 times a year because ‘someone’ forgot to pay the bill.
    • I have been driving around without a side view mirror (it got stolen) for close to three months.
    • When we come back from a trip, it takes atleast a week of nagging and tripping over empty suitcases before they are put back on top of the cupboard.
  • Delegation of tasks is a one-way street – coming towards me. It is usually not a good idea for me to delegate my tasks to Jai. Often this is because I have to nag him so much to do it that it is less effort to just do it myself. Even when he does actually do the work, I wish I hadn’t asked him to, like in these examples:
    • The other day, Jai decided to help me out by putting the laundry in the machine. Not only did he mix whites and coloured clothes, he also threw my sequined ‘dry-clean only’ top in for the ride as well.
    • When I had gone to Jaipur, I had asked him to wash, dry and put up the curtains in our bedroom. When I came back, it was all done and I was most impressed at such levels of efficiency and compliance. However, the hooks were fixed to the curtain so badly that they proceeded to disengage one by one till yesterday they were barely hanging there. So I had to take them down last evening, take all the hooks off and put them back and then hang up the curtain again.


    In the same notebook, I also came across this note I wrote to Jai. This was back in the days when Ayaan would only sleep on me. So I needed to tell Jai to get his meal ready without talking and waking Ayaan. To any other person, I would have simply written “Can you please heat Ayaan’s dinner”. Given that it was Jai, here is what I wrote:

    “Boil some water. Then put it into a big dish and stand his dinner (in the plastic box lying on top of the dining table – show me if you are not sure) in it. The water level should not be high enough to leak into the food but should be high enough to heat properly."

    :)

    Friday, August 04, 2006

    Sugar and spice and everything nice? Not so much...

    I have been looking at the fairy tales and nursery rhymes that we grew up with and some of them have pretty Grim(m) themes running through them that vary from the weird to the downright morbid. Here are some that I can remember (with some able help from Google)-

    Poverty and starvation
    In Hansel and Gretel, the father is so poor and unable to provide for even the most basic of his children’s needs that he agrees to go along with his second wife’s scheme to abandon them in the forest. In Jack and the Beanstalk, the poor widow and her son Jack live a life of extreme poverty, depending only on the milk that their cow gives and one day, that too stops. And finally there was Old Mother Hubbard whose cupboard was bare and whose poor hungry dog has to go without a bone.

    Child Neglect
    In Hush-a-Bye-Baby (my least favourite lullaby ever), the baby is left hanging in his/ her cradle on the treetopand is told that his cradle is likely to come tumbling down if the wind blows - not a very sleep-inducing thought! In Hansel and Gretel, the parents abandon their children to almost certain starvation and death in the forest.

    Animal Cruelty
    The award for depiction of animal cruelty clearly goes to Mother Goose with her nursery rhymes like Ding Dong Bell (where the poor pussycat is drowned by Little Tommy Thin), Three Blind Mice (where the farmer’s wife cuts of the tails of three visually handicapped mice) and Sing a Song of Sixpence (where 24 blackbirds were baked into a pie when they were still alive).

    Attempted Murder
    The evil queen from Snow White would put any modern-day over-competitive beauty contest participant to shame. She would stop at nothing to ensure that that she was the ‘fairest of them all’ and tried to murder Snow White three times to achieve this end.

    Cannibalism
    As a kid, the witch in Hansel and Gretel always scared me silly. She kept Hansel locked up in a cage and fattened him up so that she could eat him. And who can forget the giant in Jack and the Beanstalk and his chilling chant of “Fee-Fi-Fo-Fum, I smell the blood of an Englishman. Be he alive or be he dead, I’ll have his bones to grind my bread”.

    Death
    In ‘Ladybug, Ladybug’, it’s not very clear what is meant when she says, “your house is on fire, your children are gone” – have they fled or are they dead? There is no doubt though in the case of poor little Humpty Dumpty who couldn’t be put back together again - a rather early introduction of death to the little tots.



    Unrequited Love

    The Little Mermaid leaves behind all she knows and loves (including her tail and her voice) to get a pair of legs and go up into the world. This is all done so that she can make the man of her dreams fall in love with her. In the end, he doesn’t and she comes to an untimely end by becoming one with the foam in the sea. Read a review of the same by Aqua, who couldn’t bear to expose her little daughter to such sadness and actually changed the ending while reading it to her…

    So I wonder. If these tales and rhymes were written today or made in films or TV shows, would they get away with a ‘U’ rating or would they merit atleast a ‘PG’...

    While googling around for this post, I also found another old favourite – which, as it turns out, I was singing wrong all these years:

    The English Version:
    Ring a-round the roses,
    A pocket full of posies,
    A-tishoo! A-tishoo!
    We all fall down.

    The American Version:
    Ring a-round the roses,
    A pocket full of posies,
    Ashes! Ashes!
    We all fall down.

    What I used to sing:
    Ring-a-ring-a-roses
    A pocket full of posies
    Husha busha
    We all fall down.

    Was I the only one or is this the Indian version? :)

    Updates:

    Some of the comments alerted me to stuff that I had missed out:

    1. Ranjit informs me that Ring-a-round is really about the bubonic plague that swept Europe in the fourteeth century, claiming the lives of over 30% of the population. Now, that is really morbid...

    2. M points out Cinderella as an example of child labour.

    3. Talena adds that most so-called "fairy-tales" were originally told around fires and in ale-houses as adult entertainment, which is why they are so gory, violent, and filled with terrible themes.

    4. The Visitor points to the fact that Agatha Christie used nursery rhymes as the titles and themes of many of murder mysteries. Here are some that I could find:

    - And Then There Were None

    - One, Two, Buckle My Shoe

    - Five Little Pigs

    - A Pocket Full of Rye

    - Hickory Dickory Dock

    - Three Blind Mice

    5. Lady M suggests that Hush-a-Bye-Baby might have been a parable about an English king, possible Charles II, whose reign was threatened. I wonder how and when it made a transition from that into being a lullaby.

    6. And now for the most bizarre one. According to Frida, the nursery rhyme The Muffin Man is really about Jack the Ripper!

    Wednesday, August 02, 2006

    Of noses and belly buttons

    I have been trying to teach Ayaan his body parts for a really long time now. About a month ago, he got what and where a nose was and would point to his nose every time you said the word. This was really exciting but he got kind of stuck on this and no matter what body part I mentioned or pointed to, he would point only to his nose.

    And finally a breakthrough. He has been very interested in my tummy of late – lots of flab, an abundance of stretch marks and the presence of a belly button all add up to irresistible in his little world. So whenever I am flat on my back, he comes and lifts up my T-shirt and starts poking around. So I would point to my belly button and say “Belly button” and then point to his and repeat. Today in the morning, I asked him –“Ayaan, where’s your belly button?” fully expecting him to point to his nose. And he actually lifted his T-shirt up and pointed right at it. Pride and joy!

    The first word has happened too. He has been saying Mama for over a month now though we go back and forth about whether that’s just a new sound or whether he is actually referring to me. Currently, he seems to have got bored with plain vanilla ‘Mama’ and is experimenting with various ways of saying it…

    “Mmmmmmmmmama”
    “Mammmmmmmmma”
    “Mamawee”
    “Mummm”
    “Amumm”
    “Mamamamama”


    and so on and so forth...These are also said with varying degrees of emphasis, intonations and at various volumes. I think he trying to find the best rendition that he is going to be comfortable with using for the next 50 years.

    Among other non-words that he is constantly blabbering, there is something called ‘Dan-yaa’ that comes up pretty often. The jury is still out on whether those are his first attempts to say ‘Daddy’...

    Thursday, July 27, 2006

    School already?!

    On Tuesday, I went and checked out a couple of playgroups for Ayaan to go to when he’s a little older. For the good ones, you need to go way in advance since the seats fill up pretty quickly. I have registered him for two that I really liked and since I was pretty early, the chances are reasonably good that he will be accepted at atleast one of them. But I need to figure out a backup just in case he doesn’t.

    Most of the parents I know seem to be sending their kids off to playschool as early as 18 months these days. This phenomenon is more prevalent in Mumbai than in Delhi where parents tend to hold off till their kids cross the age of two. Mumbai’s smaller houses, fewer parks, nuclear families and time pressures all probably have a role to play in this.

    After much debate and discussion, I have decided to swim against the tide and send Ayaan to playschool only when he turns two. Here are some of the reasons why I decided to wait:

    One of the arguments for sending children to playschool at 18 months is that they enter into a structured environment. I don’t really understand what the big hurry is. Once he starts, he will be in a structured environment all his life. I also disagree that learning can only happening in such environments. Kids learn from the minute they are born and probably even before that. As long as parents can spend atleast some quality time with their kids talking, playing, reading and exposing them to new experiences, they will learn.


    The second argument is that the current urban set-up is not conducive for kids to learn how to play and interact with other children outside of a playschool. Again, I would rather Ayaan got into this gradually rather than throwing him into the deep-end where he has to suddenly deal with mixing with 20 kids at a shot. I think it has to start with the short and sweet encounters that Ayaan has started having with kids in the park to a level where he is completely comfortable interacting with new and unfamiliar kids in a socially acceptable manner.

    There can also be some slightly selfish reasons for sending the child to playschool early. An over-tired stay-at-home mother in desperate need of a break or a working mom seeking to assuage her guilt over the fact that the child spends a majority of his waking hours with the maid… When I decided to get back to work, I resolved that I would not let this fact change some of the basic things about parenting Ayaan that I hold dear – I don’t believe in keeping Ayaan up late just so that I can have more time with him because I think good sleep habits will serve him well in the long term. I have held back from hiring a full-time nanny because it forces me to plan my day in such a way that I am home in time to spend atleast a couple of hours with him, feed him his dinner and put him to bed. I do not intend to spoil him (either through physical gifts or by giving in to tantrums) just because I don’t want anything negative to happen in my time with him. And so I will not send him to school early just so that I can feel happier about my time away from him. Some amount of guilt is good – it makes me try harder to make the time I have with him really count.

    I also remember reading somewhere that at 18 months, the immune system is still pretty fragile. And given that Ayaan is already prone to catching colds at the drop of a hat, I am not too keen to expose him to the cocktail of germs and viruses that are sure to exist when there are lots of kids together in a confined space. And that’s what most Mumbai playschools are (confined spaces) – run out of places that are not much larger than our apartment!

    Jai’s boss offered another good reason to wait a bit. At 18 months, kids are just barely learning to communicate. So they may not have the ability or words to tell you if something is not right. What may look like tantrums because the child doesn’t want to go school could be a result of mistreatment by a teacher or bullying by another child.

    The last reason is a matter of timing. The normal term starts in June. At 18 months, Ayaan would join in December 2006 and be put with a class that has been there since June 2006. Come June 2007, those kids would move from ‘playgroup’ to ‘nursery’ and Ayaan would continue in playgroup for another year with a new bunch of kids. This seems unnecessary to me since six months (the December-June part) of the programme would be a repetition. More importantly, just as he would get comfortable with the first bunch of kids, they would move on and he would have to start over with a new, unfamiliar set of kids.

    Disclaimer: This is just my point of view. I am not trying to say that mothers who do other than what I plan to do are wrong. As the head of one of the playschools I went remarked on my decision to wait – “ It’s a personal decision. A mother knows what’s right for her child better than anyone else can”.

    Monday, July 24, 2006

    Double Whammy

    It would seem that we not only make bad hosts, we also make for pretty crappy guests, especially when accompanied by a certain young gentleman called Ayaan. Here’s some of our behaviour at a friend’s place for lunch on Sunday:
    • The first thing I did on walking in was a quick spot of childproofing. I quickly scanned their living room for objects that were dangerous – meaning that they were either a danger to Ayaan or Ayaan was a danger to them. I then proceeded to move or rearrange said objects. I wonder what my friends really thought about my attempts to redecorate their house without their permission!
    • I next noticed that many of the guests had taken their footwear off and left them out in the open. This was not so good since Ayaan has a huge shoe fetish and will immediately grab any visible shoes and try to stuff them into his mouth. So I ordered everyone to get up and go hide their shoes.
    • Most of my conversation was punctuated by phrases such as “No, Ayaan!”, “Jai, he is going to put that in his mouth” and “Eat another bite, sweetie?”. As you can probably guess, I did not make the most brilliant conversation with the adults in the room.
    • And last but not least, there was the mess Ayaan made. He dropped his food all over the floor, spilled someone’s drink, threw one of his cups down from the balcony, broke a piece of crumbling concrete from a ledge, threw bits of paper into the terrace of the people living below and stuck his hand into the toilet bowl.



    And did I mention that all my friends are not yet parents? I shudder to think what I would have thought of such behaviour before I had Ayaan – because that’s probably what they are thinking about me!

    Thursday, July 20, 2006

    I've been tagged!!!!!!

    Ladies and Gentlemen, I have finally arrived in the blogworld. I have been tagged for the very first time and that too by the very cool blogger Smugbug. So here goes…

    I am thinking about…
    How sick and tired I am of the endless stream of unsolicited parenting advice that I get from family, friends and complete strangers. I know it is well meaning (well, most of it is) but please…. Give me a break! I’ve got it covered. Really!

    I said...
    “No! No Biting! Ayaan! Mama said ‘No Biting’!”
    Ayaan’s latest kick comes from biting people and I am usually the chosen one to feel the surprising sharpness of his teeth on my skin!

    I want to…
    Find the perfect furniture for our new house. So far, I haven’t had much luck with this – everything is either too tacky or too expensive.

    I wish…
    I always knew the right thing to say or do in every situation.

    I hear…
    Selectively. I sometimes switch off from conversations even if they are not boring or irrelevant. I think it’s some kind of attention span issue.

    I wonder…
    When the silly builder will finally give us possession of our flat. It was supposed to be ready in May and now his latest estimate is early October.

    I regret…
    Not having travelled more before the Ayaan was born. Travel will never be the same – it will be accompanied with either the hassle of travelling with a kid or the guilt of having left him behind.

    I am…
    I am stubborn, difficult to please and easy to anger. I sometimes wonder what the people who love me see in me and worry about driving them away.

    I dance…
    Very rarely these days – a combination of getting older, being married to He Who Has Two Left Feet and having a dramatically curtailed nightlife.

    I sing…
    Mostly nursery rhymes and lullabies since that’s all that plays on our system at home these days. If we switch if off, Ayaan goes and stands in front of it and points his finger demandingly. Currently, I have “I am little teapot” running through my head.

    I cry…
    Mostly out of frustration at not getting my way rather than out of any genuine sadness or sensibility. I think Ayaan has inherited this trait of mine and it augurs for some tough times ahead.

    I am not always…
    As patient a mother as I would like to be. Ayaan is a really fussy eater and really drives me up the wall for his dinner (the one meal a day that I insist on feeding him). I have slapped him (not very hard though) a couple of time in the last few months. I wish I hadn’t…

    I make with my hands…
    Nothing. Really. I am a terrible cook and have no artistic skills of any sort.

    I write…
    Only on this blog, not counting work stuff.

    I confuse…
    Myself about whether I’d rather be a stay-at-home mom or a working mom. Ask me on two different days and I might just give you two different answers. With perfectly logical and good reasons to support either.

    I need…
    To know where Jai is - always. I have an over-active imagination and I worry too much. I just read that again and it sounds a bit like I am worried about him being unfaithful to me. My greater worry is for his safety and incidents like his narrow escape from last week’s blasts only feed my excessive worrying. I worry that this will make me an over-protective mother.

    And finally…
    I am relieved. After a few months of tension, life on the career front is all figured out. I don't have to quit and a position has come up that suits my personal needs (reasonable working hours and manageable levels of travel) perfectly.

    And now, the way this works (I think) is that I have to tag five people who will do this tag on their blogs. So here goes:

    Zen: Because I know her outside of the blog world and can (in theory) kick her ass if she doesn’t comply...

    Ginga and Booboo: It would be fun to see get a doggy perspective :)

    Talena: If she can find the time to introspect the deep questions of this tag in the midst of all the childcare, scrap booking, home improvement projects and of course, dusting. :)

    Gettingthere: It’s about time she wrote a new post…

    The_Outsider: Maybe this will push him into writing his first proper post