Sunday, August 29, 2010

New Kid, Old Toys

As a mother of two kids with a four and a half year age difference, I find myself spending a lot of time and energy on the use (and abuse) of the toys in our house. With Ayaan, this was never a challenge since the toys that came into the house were always specifically for him and he made the transition from rattles to blocks to playdoh in an age appropriate manner. But with Tarana, that option simply does not exist because Ayaan's toys are already in existence, most of them with dire warnings like 'Not suitable for children under 36 months' and 'Contains small parts that may be a choking hazard'.

And, of course, she finds her big brother's toys far more interesting than her own. Paradise for her is finding herself in front of one of his open toy drawers. So the rattles usually lie ignored while she prefers to play with his wooden blocks and toy cars. Supervising her playing, therefore, can be quite a high stress enterprise.

To start with, there is the constant tussle. She is most interested with what Ayaan happens to be playing with at the moment. And she has to only show the slightest interest in a toy for that to become the very toy that Ayaan wants to play with at that very moment. It usually doesn't end well since there is an inevitable struggle that ends with Tarana either getting hurt as Ayaan snatches something from her or pushes her or in Tarana having an indignant tantrum when she is denied the object of her choice. 

Then there is the whole choking hazard thing. One has to watch her like a hawk because dangers lie everywhere. One day, the wheels on one of the dinky cars broke off as she was playing with it and had to be taken away from her before she put it in her mouth. Another time, I noticed some greenish liquid dribbling from her mouth and got the fright of my life - thankfully it was just a piece of green chalk that she had popped into her mouth and was most upset to have fished out. (For once Dr. Google was reassuring.) This eagle eye business is doable when Ayaan is entertaining himself but when he wants to me read to him or play something with him, I need to call my maid in to watch Tarana. I wonder, how do mothers without any help manage?

The other problem is that Ayaan is into colouring and crafts in a big way these days. So when he is not building crash scenarios with his ever-growing collection of airplanes, he wants to make something that involves working with one of more of the following: paints, playdoh, glue, scissors and crayons. Tarana is attracted to all of these like a moth to a flame and there are essentially two scenarios that ensue:
1. She gets her into his 'art', ruins it and Ayaan has a meltdown
2. She is intercepted in time and has an immense meltdown

To avoid a potential meltdown on the part of one or both kids, they need to be separated when Ayaan is doing crafts. Between me and the maid, one of us does crafts with Ayaan in his room (with the door closed, because no other place on earth holds the kind of fascination for Tarana that her brother's room does) while the other plays with Tarana in the living room. Again, moms with two kids and no help, what do you do?

There is the matter of the toys themselves. Some of Ayaan's stuff has not been designed to survive the ministrations of the pre-toddler brigade. With him, we only had board books but she has managed to get her poky little hands on a couple of his books and tear the pages before she could be stopped. Ayaan is no saint either and I wonder how long her walker-cum-wagon will survive, given his tendency to convert it into a racing car.

All in all, I am quite looking forward to the days when they can be counted upon to play together without doing any damage to the toys or each other. Because that will be the day I crack open a bottle of tequila, make myself a margarita and snuggle up with a book while they get on with the business of keeping each other entertained.

Wednesday, August 25, 2010

Redefining Rakshabandhan

Yesterday was Rakshabandhan. The festival is all about brothers and sisters, so this was the first year that Ayaan could legitimately participate, having a baby sister and all.

All these years, I have never thought twice about the way the festival is traditionally celebrated - the sisters tie rakhis on their brothers, the brothers vow to protect the sisters and the sisters in turn pray for the well-being of their brothers. I simply followed the ritual and tied rakhis on all my brothers and cousin brothers.

But having my own daughter made me stop and think about the inherent chauvinism in the whole process and how that somehow made the whole festival something of an anachronism. In the days in which the festival of Rakshabandhan came to be, women were truly the weaker sex and therefore the presence and protection of the male members of their families (fathers, brothers and husbands) was not something that could be taken lightly.

But centuries on, much has changed, especially in the socio-economic strata that my children and I inhabit. I find it hard to imagine that Tarana will be the weaker sibling, in dire need of her brother's protection. I think they will both go through challenging times and I hope they will retain the love in their hearts that will help to provide help, support, encouragement, protection or whatever else is the need of the hour to each other.

So like many of my friends and acquaintances, I have decided to tweak and update the ritual to make it more contemporary. In our house, rakhi will be about celebrating about the sibling bond and both Ayaan and Tarana will tie a rakhi on each other, with everything else that that entails.

We made a start this year, though Tarana was a rather unwilling participant. She was most upset at having some random thread tied on her wrist and wailed while I guided her finger to put the tilak on Ayaan's forehead. In the middle of all this chaos, no pictures were taken of the actual rakhi-tying since Jai is travelling and I have only one pair of hands.

But I did manage to get some pictures once the rakhis were tied and Tarana had deigned to calm down. Here's the proud boy displaying all his rakhis:

The Winnie The Pooh (his favourite cartoon character) rakhi was from Tarana. The ladybug one was bought for Tarana but the tubelight came on in time to realise that the cute spotted fellows were choking hazards, so I found a plain red thread rakhi for her. The ladybug one was promptly appropriated by Ayaan and I got the junior maid (he calls her didi) to tie it for him. The big yellow one was made in school, along with this card for Tarana:

This is the front of the card - he said that he drew this so that she can learn about shapes :)

This was the inside of the card - a random selection of words he can spell, in a mish-mash of lower and upper case letters.

And this was on the back of the card. The 'TR' is supposed to indicate that that stick figure is indeed Tarana and the sun is shining down on her, with an arrow for emphasis.

I thought it was awfully cute :)

This post wouldn't be complete without a shot of a disgruntled Tarana, eyeing her rakhi suspiciously, so let me sign off with that :)

Thursday, August 12, 2010

The Sudden Significance of W

Tarana took her time to sit without support. At her seventh month check-up, she was still not sitting unsupported. She was crawling and trying very hard to pull herself into a standing position but she would not sit. And then one fine day, she plopped herself down into this position:

For the next couple of weeks, she would sit in this position for short bursts of time before crawling away. But by the time she approached the age of nine months, she could comfortably sit in this position for extended periods of time. She was unable to sit in any other position without support. If you sat her down with her legs out in front, she'd either put her hands down to support herself or crawl away. Either way, she'd be back into her favourite posture within seconds.

At first, I wasn't worried. I thought the way she was sitting was a lot like the vajrasana yoga pose, that is said to be very beneficial for both the body and the mind; so I thought it was kind of cool that she was sitting like this.

But then a friend saw the picture above and said that in kids, that posture is called w-sitting (in any case, it is not really vajrasana since in that your bum is not supposed to touch the floor) and that is not always such a great thing in babies and kids. So I consulted Dr. Google and was alarmed to find that amongst other things, w-sitting can lead to orthopaedic problems and interfere with the development of refined motor skills. (Quotable quote from a friend that must be shared here: Do not consult Dr. Google. He didn't go to med school)

Somewhat freaked out, I brought this up with our regular paediatrician. He did a detailed check-up and evaluated her muscle tone, reflexes, etc; and said that there did not appear to be any problem. He suggested that we wait till her tenth month appointment and prescribed calcium and vitamin D supplements. He mentioned that if there was no improvement, physiotherapy might be required.

I decided to get a second opinion. This doctor also did a detailed check-up and could find nothing wrong. But he did suggest that we get x-rays and blood tests to rule out vitamin D and calcium deficiencies conclusively. These reports have all come back completely normal. He suggested that we consider starting some form of physiotherapy to help Tarana sit properly, before the w-sitting habit became ingrained. He reassured us that it was not a big deal and they would just teach me some exercises to do with her regularly that out to sort her out.

We decided to wait a couple of weeks till we meet our regular doctor and then decide on the course of action. Meanwhile, we keep trying to plop her down with her legs in front, but she won't stay that way over a couple of seconds before manoeuvering herself back into the W. Occasionally one of her legs will come forward while the other stays curled up behind but that's about it. Meanwhile, she is now expertly cruising so it's only the sitting that seems to be a problem.

So anyway, her tenth month appointment is early next week. Let's see what the doctor has to say...

Wednesday, August 04, 2010

Breastfeeding Fascism

The other day, I happened across this poster on a wall in the paediatric OPD in a well-known hospital:
For those of you who can't read Hindi, this translates as: Only a woman who is willing to breastfeed a baby shall have the right to be called a mother.

This irritated me on so many levels...

To start with, since when did motherhood become a right that could be given and taken away by some random authority? The last I heard, Mother Nature made it so that we could have babies and no man-made code of morality can claim to strip that away or tell us that the babies we gave birth to cannot call us their mothers. Sure, we may be good or bad mothers, but mothers we will be irrespective. Next, they will be saying that you aren't really a mother if you chose to deliver via an elective c-section. Or if you don't want to give up your career and be a 24-7 mom. Really, who gave anyone the power?

And yes, I agree, they are people who do not deserve to have children - but they are the ones who knowingly harm and neglect their children. I don't believe that choosing not to breastfeed even makes you a bad mother, forget about being one who should relinquish her right to be a mother.

Don't get me wrong, I am HUGELY pro-breastfeeding myself. I fed Ayaan for eleven months, even though it was one of the hardest things I have ever done - pain, endless fussiness, lots of tears (his and mine) and poor weight gain were all part of the package but I kept at it because of a deep belief in it still being the best source of nourishment for him in his first year (his totally rejecting the bottle also had something to do with it). Feeding Tarana has been much easier and at nine and a half months, we are still going strong. Both times, I have chosen to put my career, social life and beauty sleep on temporary hold because this is the one thing I did not want to compromise on.

But, that was my choice. And while I don't necessarily understand and agree with women who don't want to give breastfeeding everything they have got, I accept that that is their choice. And it is not as monstrous a choice as the breastfeeding Nazis make it out to be. So give it a rest, people. The choice to breastfeed is between a mother and a baby and no one else should have the right to interfere and judge. I think women should be provided with all the necessary information and support and then left to make the decision about what is best for their babies and themselves.

In other news, supermodel Gisele Bundchen has been shooting her mouth off and saying that there should be a law that requires women to breastfeed. So what now? Prison time for women who won't??! Because obviously the only thing better for a baby than breastmilk is a mom locked away in the slammer...

This is one issue on which people really need to lighten up. This kind of rabid extremism really gets my goat.