Thursday, July 28, 2011

How Not To Potty Train a Toddler

This post will pretty much write itself if I share two of my tweets from last week.

First this:
And then two days later, this:
Yes, you may now join the dots and fall off your chairs laughing while I mourn the loss of my third limb, my precious iPhone. If you are particularly mean, like some folks on iPhone forums, you may start framing a preachy comment on the inadvisability of taking one's phone to the loo. 

Now for the gory details. I have had the Koi Pond app on my phone for the longest - Ayaan used to love it when he was younger and it was a surefire way to keep him busy at the doctor's office. For those who don't know it, it is a simple app with fishes floating on the screen - you can feed the fish by shaking the phone or scare them away by touching them. A few days ago, I introduced it to Tarana during potty time and soon discovered that the watery visuals and sounds had an almost magical effect on her bladder and she demanded the 'fishie game' ever time she deigned to oblige me by sitting on the throne. Since she was on the baby seat, there seemed very little space or chance of her being able to drop it into the toilet bowl, or so I thought. So one fine day, I left the loo for a measly 30 seconds only to hear a splashing sound and rushed back in to find that the seemingly impossible had happened. 

Without any queasiness whatsoever, born out of six years of being a mother and all that that entails in terms of 'bathroom duties', I quickly fished it out. I switched it off, ran it under the tap, applied some sanitiser and wiped it down. Then I went online. It turns out that there are a lot of kindred souls whose phones have suffered similar fates. There was some interesting remedies, like one that involved baking the phone in an oven at a low temperature for 8 hours. I decided to go for a less extreme step that many seemed to swear by. It involved removing the SIM tray, wiping out all cavities with a earbud and then packing the phone away for a fortnight in a bag filled with rice. Yes, it sounds weird but at this point, I don't have much to lose and the rice supposedly helps draw out all the moisture. It's just been 3 days so it remains to be seen if it actually works.

So there you have it. My public service announcement for the month. DO NOT USE YOUR PHONE AS A TOILET TRAINING DEVICE. I think I should change my blog tagline to 'Mama Says So. Making Mistakes So You Don't Have To'.

Tuesday, July 26, 2011

Milestone Alert

On Friday night, Ayaan held out his palm towards me and said, 'Mama, look! My tooth fell out'. The tooth had been shaky for a while and we had been eagerly waiting for it to fall out so that the tooth fairy could visit. So much excitement ensued.

First, we had to discuss how to keep the tooth under his pillow. The brat was in favour of just putting the tooth there. But I, having no desire to rummage around for a teensy bit of tooth under his pillow in the dark and risking waking him up, insisted that we put in an envelope to make it easier for the tooth fairy to find.

Next, there was the question of what the tooth fairy's going rate was these days for a tooth. When we were kids, I remember getting a few rupees which would go as far as buying myself a packet of boiled sweets or the much wanted bottle of Campa Cola or even a packet of Crax but that was it. Times having changed, I decided on Rs. 100 as adequate compensation per tooth.

I decided to check with the brat what he thought the tooth fairy would give him and he confidently announced '1000 rupees!' I almost fell off my chair and then when I had collected my wits about me, I gave him some spiel about the tooth fairy having to give money to lots of kids around the world so it was unlikely that she would be able to afford a thousand bucks, which was a LOT of money. To his credit, the brat took this in his stride.

Once he was fast asleep, I sneaked into the kids' room and retrieved the envelope and replaced it with a crisp 100-rupee note. In the morning, he came rushing out of his room bright and early and held out it with great pride. It was super cute. I was asked to keep it in my purse for safekeeping but in the coins section so it did not get mixed up with the rest of my hundred rupees. I decided to hold the lesson on money and its fungibility. :)

He wanted to go to the toy shop to decide what to spend the money on. It was quite disappointing for him to realise that everything that he wanted (remote control helicopter, set of toy airplanes and a big globe amongst other things) was way beyond his slender means. A part of me wanted to step in and buy him one of those things but then the mean mommy half prevailed and I stuck to my resolve of having him choose something that fit his budget. He asked if he could have some time to think about it and come back another time and we left.

Since then, he has also asked if his money could pay for a dinner for all of us in an Italian restaurant. I had to regretfully tell him that it would not and suggested that we could go to McDonalds and order a round of fries but he wasn't too thrilled at the idea. So back to the drawing board. Meanwhile, the money remains safely nestled in my coin apartment.

So all you moms of gap-toothed brats, what are your practices when it comes to fallen teeth? Do your kids believe in the tooth fairy? What do you do with the teeth (some people bury them, I have preserved his first one)? How much, if anything, do you shell out for the tooth? Tell me.

Friday, July 22, 2011

Down with Mommy Guilt

Art tagged me with this tag. The rules are:
  1. Write about 2 instances where you have put yourself before your child/ children... been a wee bit selfish.
  2. How did you feel? Did you feel a pang of guilt or were you comfortable?
  3. Tag 2 more moms 
I have been a working mom for about four years and, to hear some tell it, that is the ultimate way to put your own needs ahead of the kids' needs. But what with that being ancient history for the time being and all, let me think of some stuff from more recent times.

The first instance involves the pre-bedtime routine we follow in our house. In Mumbai, I was the one who got them brushed, changed and ready for bed. But here, what with me being a slave to their demands all day long, I am all mommied out by the time dinner is done. So this task has been handed over to Jai. There was a lot of whining about this for a while but I just hardened my heart and ignored it. To stay truly out of the various grumblings and battles that go on during these 20-odd minutes, I keep myself safely out of earshot and line of sight. It's not like I have anything very pressing to do with this time - usually I am just downstairs twiddling my thumbs on Twitter. I don't feel the slightest iota of guilt about this and consider this as Jai's quality time (if whining and resistance can be counted as such) with the kids.

Take Two. It's exhausting being a role model 24-7. If I feel the urge to stuff my face with chocolate or some other junk food just 15 minutes before dinner time, I sometimes indulge that urge. I wait till the kids are occupied with something, sneak into the kitchen and chow down the stuff before they are any the wiser. This makes me feel somewhat dishonest but the happy feeling in my stomach more than compensates. (On a related note, I recently purchased a jar of Nutella, ostensibly for the kids - but a week later, it was all gone and the kids were never even informed of its existence).

Those are mine then. What about you folk? I tag Noon and Sai. Take it away, ladies.

Monday, July 18, 2011

Crafty beginnings

I have never been much into doing crafts with Ayaan. Books have always been the cornerstone of our quality time together. But at six, he's now starting to read on his own more and more and though there is a part of me that wants to grab the book out of his hands and insist on reading it to him, I am thrilled that his love for books goes beyond cuddling up to me and being read too.


But he won't read all the time and there are other times where his energies need to be channelised. Otherwise crazy things start to happen - like last weekend, when he managed to get hold of the maid's talcum powder and sprinkle it all over the kitchen floor, sink and freshly washed dishes. Also, I am fed up of having a constant stream of his pals running through the house at all odd hours of the day, so I have designated Tarana's afternoon nap time as a sort of an activity hour for just the two of us. On some days, we just lie next to each other and read our individual books. But on other days, he's way too keyed up after school to settle down to something so low on energy. So on those days, I rack my brain to come up with stuff we can do together.

I have been reading some mommy craft blogs and mostly feeling over-awed by the ability and willingness of these moms to create super-fancy stuff with their kids. My objectives have been somewhat less grand - I want to do stuff that both of us will enjoy and that will be within the range of Ayaan's skills (and mine).

If you promise not to laugh, I'll show you some of things we did over the last couple of weeks.

One of the first activities I designed for him was a scavenger hunt. I didn't want to make it too hard since he is blessed with the frustration tolerance of a wounded tiger but I also didn't want to make it too easy. So this is what I came up with:


His answers were actually quite fascinating and very different from what seemed obvious to me. For things that can stretch, he came up with arms because we stretch them when we wake up. And despite having a clock and a measuring tape lying within his line of sigh, he took a long time to find something with numbers of it and finally settled on Tarana's counting book lying upstairs in their room. It was surprisingly fun and we managed to get through it without him losing his cool.

Then I came across these adorable, and eminently doable flower girls. We broke this up into two separate activities. On day one, we went around our complex, scavenging for all the fallen leaves and flowers and twigs we could find. On the second day, we used them to put together these artworks. Mine is a girl in a garden with the sun shining in the sky (at this point, I'd like to remind you of your promise not to laugh):


Ayaan's is supposed to be a setting (orange) sun and a tree with a ladybird sitting on one of the branches:

The one below was Ayaan's idea. He found this rock when we were out scavenging and he wanted to paint it with all the colours in his paintbox, even mixing some to make new colours. The result: my new paperweight.


So that is what we have been up to. We are now in the process of making a papier mache stick puppet. I was hoping to make something pretty like a butterfly but the son had plans of his own and we have made a mushroom that is waiting to be painted. Expect to see it if it is even vaguely presentable :)

Friday, July 08, 2011

Class Concerns

I have been wondering whether to write about this, especially because it seems like something that might draw the trolls in but then what's the fun in always being on the safe side of the line. Also, it's a genuine problem I am facing and I am hoping for some suggestions.

One of the big upsides of this move has been the place we live in. It's very centrally located, yet it has all the facilities of an apartment complex in the suburbs - spacious house, play area, swimming pool and most importantly, lots of young children. The last one was something that was on my must-have list as we were house-hunting. In Mumbai, we lived in a smallish building and there was not a single child in the building with whom Ayaan could play. The youngest boys were 4-5 years older and there were a couple of baby girls. Finding him age-appropriate company outside of school hours meant organising play dates and daily trips to the park.

Now, the thing to know about our complex is that most of the houses have a servant's quarter allotted to them. So the families living on the property include those of the domestic staff living in this accommodation. And Ayaan seems to largely prefer the company of these kids and this is starting to bother me. This is probably the point where some of you will think I am class-conscious, a snob and maybe even a racist. But just hold your horses for a few more paragraphs as I get to what exactly troubles me about the current situation.

It all started about a fortnight after we had moved in. This young girl (let's call her Raji) was playing just outside the downstairs house, where her mother works. School had not yet started and being at a loose end, Ayaan saw her and started interacting with her. Notice I say interacting as opposed to talking or chatting because Raji does not know a word of Hindi and Ayaan does not know a word of Telugu. Anyway, about twenty minutes later, he came and asked me if he could have her over to play. At that point, I found his supreme ignorance of class boundaries utterly charming and I immediately agreed. An hour later, it was lunch time and they were still at play, so I invited her to stay for lunch (rather I told my Telugu-speaking cook to do the needful).

The next day, she was back. Their budding friendship survived the traumatic (for Ayaan) incident where Raji broke his treasured snow globe and was nourished by the constant stream of snacks that Ayaan kept appropriating from the kitchen to share with his new friend. Up till this point, I was still quite positively inclined to the events unfolding in my house. But I guess word got around about the stash of toys and the unlimited snacks and soon my house was like a creche for domestic staff's kids. A couple of days later, I came down to find five boys and girls sprawled across my living room eating from a jar of biscuits. And as they got comfortable in my house, things started to get chaotic and with a very dodgy maid situation and another baby (if I can still get away with calling Tarana that) in the house, it all got a bit too much. So I cut off the snacks and lo and behold, most of them disappeared.

But Ayaan is very clear about his preferences. On a typical evening, there are two disparate groups of kids playing outside in the complex - the kids of the residents and the kids of the help and they usually tend not to mix and Ayaan is usually (read: always) to be found with the latter. And it's not the snob in me upset about this; it's the mother.

Now for the stuff that bothers me. Firstly, there is the question of hygiene. I am not talking from a general, 'poor people are dirty' point of view but on the basis of stuff I have observed. The other day, I saw Raji's mom sitting on the steps of her house with her daughter and searching through her hair, in a way that mothers only do when they are looking for lice. I don't think regular baths and change of clothes are much of a priority either for most of these kids, judging by their appearance. Also, Ayaan was recently diagnosed with a case of intestinal worms, and I can't help but wonder....

Then there are the behavioural implications. While Ayaan might be blissfully unaware of class boundaries and hierarchies, these kids clearly are not. So that automatically makes it an unequal relationship and when they are playing together, Ayaan has no trouble donning his Alpha male avatar and giving free rein to his bossiness. Kids from a similar background are more likely to put him in his place and that's why Ayaan has stopped hanging out with the kids from the other flats.

Now this bothers me more than the hygiene issue. Because if there is a kid who needs friends who will teach him to play fair and keep him grounded, it's Ayaan. And these kids do nothing of the sort. Even though a couple of them are slightly older than Ayaan, he has managed to, in a few short weeks, establish himself as the leader of the pack and pretty much gets his way when they are playing together.

I am a loss when it comes to what to do about this though. I can't just forbid him from playing with these kids and force him to play with others. That will probably be a recipe for disaster and I am not sure I have appropriate answers for all the 'whys' that will follow any such order. Ideas, anyone? Or am I just over-thinking this and should I just let him choose his friends, whoever they (and their parents) might be.