Thursday, May 31, 2007

The Tag That Won't Go Away

It seems to be tag season and there's no escaping this particular one. I got the same tag (with variations) from 4 people. Talena’s tag involves putting down 7 random facts or habits about oneself. Sunita and Noon passed on the same tag but with the number of items upped to eight. Gauri’s tag added another angle – eight facts that are true and one that isn’t – and seems to satisfy all the other ones as well, so I am going with her version. Let’s see if you can figure out which one is the lie.
  1. My feet are the most badly maintained part of my body. I do absolutely nothing to care for them other than the monthly pedicure. I walk around barefoot whenever at home and at office sometimes as well. So I have to say that my feet look pretty gross at end of the day. I’m also really lazy about moisturising and while the rest of me kind of survives, my feet really show the effects of this with lots of dry, scaly skin till I finally can’t stand it and drag my lazy bum over to the salon for the much needed pedicure. Add to that the fact that I never bother to remove the nail polish between pedicures, chipped nail paint adds to this pretty picture.
  2. The other thing I am not as prompt with is the whole waxing thing – what with the need to spend every free moment with Ayaan, trips to the beauty parlour are not easily justified. I normally try to co-ordinate them with his naps on weekends but it doesn’t always work out. So in my wardrobe, I have actually divided my clothes into piles depending on how much skin they show. So the tops are divided into full sleeved, half sleeved and sleeveless. The bottoms are similarly divided into three piles of trousers, capris and skirts/ shorts. So if you see me all covered up in trousers with a full-sleeved shirt, you should know that a trip to the beauty parlour is much overdue.
  3. I hate brushing my teeth. Till now, brushing once a day was all that I could bring myself to do. But I am trying really hard to turn over a new leaf, given that I want Ayaan to brush at night and soon he will be old enough to notice whether his parents practice as they preach.
  4. I secretly enjoy cheesy novels of the Mills and Boon variety. I hate to admit it, you would rarely see me reading one of these when I am in public and they are not exactly showcased on my bookshelf. The only time I completely gave into this urge was when I was pregnant. Yes – most pregnant women crave some kind of food, my hormones demanded a heavy dose of romantic trash.
  5. I love my meat. My meat-eating occasions at home have become limited with Jai trying to be vegetarian but when I go out, I will only choose from the non-vegetarian options on the menu. Given a choice, I prefer stuff with bones in it (boneless curries are for wimps!) and love the whole experience of making sure that there is not a morsel of edible meat left on the bone.
  6. I hate lending my books, because most of the time they never come back to me. I have never actually refused to lend a book to anyone who asked but I wish they wouldn’t ask. I keep my favourite books (the ones I am sure to read again) in the back of the bookshelf, where only the most enthusiastic borrow is likely to find them.
  7. I am quite a bit taller than the average Indian woman and for a long time (read: my teenage years), this really bothered me to the extent that I would only wear completely flat shoes. Over time, I have come to accept and like my height and the long legs that come with it – having a really tall husband helped as well. While I do own some shoes with heels now, I am still more comfortable in flats.
  8. I am an obsessive ear-cleaner. I know you are supposed to only use those ear-buds to clean your outer ear but I risk possible eardrum damage and deafness by cleaning my inner ear as well. I know I shouldn’t but I can’t help it. I don’t feel entirely clean unless my ears are clean as well. I wonder what it says about me that I am lazy about brushing my teeth, which have a lot more visibility, but clean my ears out every single day that I can get my hands on an ear-bud.
  9. Motherhood notwithstanding, I love to party. But I happen to be married to a man (from Goa, mind you) with two left feet, zero tolerance for alcohol and an inability to function beyond 11 p.m. So I occasionally go clubbing with my friends after Ayaan is tucked in, leaving Jai to baby-sit the baby monitor.

Well, there you go. Guess away.

Oh and before I forget, I have tag 8 people: Ranjit (and/ or GingaBoo), Shome (it's about time you posted something), Melissa, 30in2005, Grafx, Sue, CeeKay, Aqua - consider yourself tagged.

Tuesday, May 22, 2007

The Reluctant Birthday Boy

Ayaan turned two this weekend. As with all things with Ayaan, things turned out quite differently from the way we had planned it.

We agonised for ages over how to celebrate his birthday. We considered having a proper birthday party and having some other kids over. But we were stopped in our tracks by the fact that we don’t know very many kids. At 29, I wasn’t exactly early off the block in the baby-making race but for one reason or another, not many of my friends have kids yet. The one couple who do were out of town last weekend for a family wedding. And while Jai does have two cousins in Mumbai with young kids, one of them has been advised bed rest for her second pregnancy, while the other was all pooped out from planning and executing her sister’s wedding last week. Moving on from this idea, we considered going for a fun weekend trip to somewhere with a beach or a swimming pool but this didn’t work out either due to a combination of factors – disgustingly hot and humid weather, no available reservations at any good place and more people (three grandparents and us) than could comfortably fit in a single car.

So finally we just decided to keep it simple and celebrate his birthday quietly at home with the grandparents and then maybe go out to an early dinner to a kid-friendly place like Pizza Hut. Easy fool-proof plan, wouldn’t you say? Hah! Fool-proof maybe but definitely not toddler-proof. Because of all days, Ayaan picked this one to refuse to go down for his afternoon nap and was therefore not in a particularly co-operative mood by evening.

To start with, he refused to blow out the candles and I had to quickly do that to keep him from touching them. He was quite happy to assist with the cake-cutting but tried very hard to take a more controlling role in smashing the knife through the cake. We managed to save the cake and cut it but when we offered him the customary piece of cake, he clamped his lips shut and refused to let even the tiniest morsel pass through. Here he is - turning his face away in his final rejection of the foul-tasting substance...

He also refused to wear the birthday caps we had bought to create the birthday mood.

He finally had a half an hour nap in the car when we went to drop a friend but that only served to make him really clingy and cranky. Given his mood, we decided to cancel the dinner plans but since the maid had left, I had to prepare his dinner – which I slaved over (it was just pasta but cooking does not come easily to me) only to have him reject it – he was too grumpy to eat. So we finally just gave him some ice cream and put him to bed. Phew! What a day! I hope birthdays will get to be more fun, atleast for him if not for me.

It was not all bad though – the day did have its redeeming factors. A family friend dropped in for a while with her daughter so he had a good time playing with her. And he got a lot of gifts from various friends of ours, all of which he loved, but the favourite one was the tricycle my mom gifted him.

And though nothing has changed yet (except the subject line on the weekly Babycenter mail from 'Your Toddler This Week' to 'Your Preschooler This Week'), it is going to be a big year for him (and us) – he starts school in June, he will be a pageboy in two weddings around Christmas time and we hope to do atleast one long holiday along with him. Wish us luck for what I am sure will be another fun, frustrating and eventful year.

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Singled Out

Ever since I saw this post up on Indianmommies, I have been itching to write about it. Rather than put a comment there that would have exceeded the length of the post itself, I thought it might be a better idea to wax eloquent on my own blog. That being said, this one needed some time and thinking through; so I have been working on this on and off for the last couple of weeks and finally, I’m done.

I find that there is a scary trend among a lot of affluent young couples to consciously limit their family size to three i.e. have just one child. My opinion on this is pretty black and white. Even when I was agonising through the decision of whether to have a child or not, there was one thing that I was always pretty clear about - either there would zero kids or a minimum of two. If for some reason, I don’t manage to conceive a second child before my biological clock runs out, I am quite sure that I would adopt my second child.

Honestly, I don’t think the decision about whether or not to have a second child can be based on what the parents want/ need. It has to be about what is best for your child and in my humble opinion, every child needs atleast one sibling. And depriving your child of one, without a really good reason, borders on being selfish.

Here’s my take on what having or not having one means to a child:
  • No matter how popular a child may be at school (as evidenced by the number of friends), it can never make up for having a person of their own generation in their home. Once school is over and everyone has gone back to their homes and families, the single child must be so lonely. What can compare with having a readymade playmate available at all hours of the day? I don’t know how my brother and I would have survived our almost parallel bouts of chicken box and the resultant quarantine if we hadn’t had each other for company, even if most of our time was spent bickering.
  • My personal opinion is that children with siblings are likely to be fitter and more intelligent that those without. This is not borne out by any evidence or research greater than ‘Because Mama Says So’ but think about it. Having a playmate would mean that you would play more and I know that the endless quarrels and arguments with my brother kept me mentally on my toes. And television, that seductive temptress, might have somewhat less appeal to a child who has a sibling to romp around with.
  • I have always found that single children lose their childhood and grow up faster than others. It is to be expected since much of their social interactions out of school are with adults. I find they often relate better to adults better than children of their own age, sometimes finding their peers somewhat immature.
  • The clinching argument for me is that a sibling is the only person from your own generation with whom who have a common history. Noone understands better what or where you come from. This is especially true in today’s world of nuclear families – in the past, cousins could have easily filled in but with careers taking us to all ends of the country and world, our kids will barely get to meet their cousins, let alone forge a close bond with them. When this lack of a sibling will really pinch will be when the parents themselves pass on. A single child in such a situation will be truly orphaned, no matter at what age he loses his parents.
  • Lastly, the one cliché I do not agree with is that single children are selfish and spoiled – I think I have met enough children from large families who can give single kids a run for their money on those counts.

Having said that, I know there are several very valid reasons to have just one kid but not all the reasons I have heard to date can be categorised as such. To my mind, some of the valid reasons are:

  • Serious medical issues. If giving your first-born a sibling comes with the risk of him losing his mother, it’s obviously not worth it to even try. Difficult, complicated pregnancies are best avoided, especially if one knows in advance that they are likely to be that way. But a bad case of morning sickness or haemorrhoids, while uncomfortable and painful, are worth the long term gain, I think. Also, I am not familiar with how post-partum depression works (having fortunately escaped it) but I do not, unlike this guy, think it is something to be scoffed at and I think a severe case of the baby blues that doesn’t respond to professional help and/ or drugs definitely does classify as a serious medical issue – imagine the trauma to a first child who has to contend with a severely depressed parent!
  • High/ increased chances of genetic defects. Unlike parents like these, I think if you know that any child you conceive is likely to have serious, even debilitating physical and/ or mental defects, it’s best if you stayed away from having that second child and committing him to really difficult and challenging life. Also, if your firstborn is a special needs child and needs all of your effort and attention, it would be unfair to have another whom you would end up neglecting.
  • Severe financial issues. Bringing up kids needs time, patience and yes, it also needs money. If you cannot support two children, there is no point in having them anyway and denying them the right to the life they could have had if their parents could have focussed their resources on a single offspring. However, the line is fine here and one has to be clear about where to draw it. Not having a second child so that you can afford to send your first one to Harvard may not quite cut it.
  • Fertility issues. It does happen sometimes that couples who had their first kid as easy as pie find it hard to conceive the second one. I know that I mentioned that adoption is an option that I am open to. But the adoption decision is not for everyone. I have friends who cannot imagine being able to adopt a child and I think it's great that they are honest enough to admit that. In the end, it’s important for children, adopted or not, to be loved and if you cannot be confident that you would love your second, adopted child as much as your first-born, it’s better for all concerned if you didn’t adopt.
  • A crumbling marriage. It’s bad enough that you bought one kid into an unstable family situation. Why subject another to it?

What, according to me, are not good enough reasons to not have a second child are:

  • I can’t go through all that again. ‘All that’ covers everything from pregnancy, labour, breastfeeding, sleepless nights and the terrible twos. Are you really going to grudge your kid a lifelong gift of family for two, maybe three difficult years? I honestly cannot relate to this emotion. The last two and half years of my life have been the most challenging but they have also been the most fun and rewarding. How can you not feel that way about giving birth to and bringing up your children? Also, I am so much more aware and confident as a parent now; I can’t wait to try all I’ve learnt on the second one.
  • I can’t take another break from my career. To my mind, this is the most cold-hearted one. Are you really saying that your career takes priority over your family? That you grudge 6 months to a year of your career, which will span atleast three decades, to do what’s best for your family?
  • I feel I have no more love to give. Well, another way to look at this would be to think of the love you are depriving your first-born of by taking that decision. I know that Ayaan consumes all the love that I can give right now, but I am also completely confident that my heart will just expand to accommodate the extra love for my second child.
  • I have no time to spare for another kid. Ok, here I will draw on my experience with my dogs. We started with one and then decided to go ahead and get another one. Friends asked us whether we would be able to manage two dogs and my response to that was ‘Two do not mean double the work’. Don’t get me wrong – I am in no way suggesting that dogs are anywhere near as challenging as kids to care for but to my mind, the philosophy of it not being double the work holds. I think parents with single children actually have much more responsibility because in addition to being parents, they also have to step in to provide additional camaraderie and companionship that their child would have ordinarily got from a sibling.
  • The world is already over-populated. I don't think people like having only one child is going to fix world's population problems. It's the lower-income group of parents who can barely afford to have one child who need to put the brakes on family size.

Anyway, that’s my two bits on the issue. I know what I said might hurt or upset some people who think otherwise but really, I am just talking aloud and sharing my opinions. And that’s all they are opinions, as right or wrong as anyone else’s might be. So disagree with them, but please don’t take it to heart – just dismiss them as the random ramblings of an exhausted working mom trying to justify her decision to stuff another child into an already jam-packed life!