Thursday, July 18, 2013

Playing Solo

Tarana: Mama, can you play Snakes & Ladders with me?
Me: Not right now, baby.
Tarana: (with a long-suffering sigh) Ohhh-kay. I will play with one peoples and that peoples is me.

Ah, the pathos of a three year old who can't get her mother to submit to her every whim...

What she needs is an adoring grandparent or two to melt at her fake-mournful expression.

(Also, if there is anything cuter than early childhood grammar, I cannot presently call it to mind)

Thursday, July 11, 2013

Acres Wild

I was talking to a friend this morning about how we go about selecting our holiday destinations. Of course, we have our bucket list - Egypt, Australia, Alaska and Peru amongst other dream travel destinations - but most of these preclude traveling with a very young child. I am sure Ayaan could keep up with us both in terms of interest and stamina but Tarana, not so much. So for now, we look for recommendations from friends, bloggers and Twitter pals who suffer the same travel constraints that we do.

In the last year or so, one place came up in multiple conversations in the real and virtual world - Acres Wild, an organic cheese-making farmstay in Coonoor. So for the kids' mid-term break at the end of March, we decided to go and check it out.

We got there somewhat travel-weary after a morning flight to Coimbatore, followed by a tedious and winding drive up the Nilgiris but with relaxation as our only agenda and this the perfect place to achieve it in, we soon found our groove. Once we had settled into our  cottage (named Haloumi - the other two cottages are equally appropriately named Colby and Cheddar), we set about exploring our environs. We made two discoveries that were to make our stay extra-special.

The first was discovering a treasure trove of books in the cupboards and cabinets of the recreation room. I found a stack of Georgette Heyer novels - the perfect holiday read! - and Ayaan was delighted discover three whole shelves of children's books. Even Jai, a World War II buff, found some weighty tome about the Third Reich.

The second discovery was that there was another young guest there, a girl just a little younger than Ayaan. From that moment till when the other family left (a day before we did), the two were absolutely inseparable. They mucked around, fed the ducks, played with the resident cows, set up a barter economy involving leaves, rocks, lemongrass stalks and other such precious cargo and generally got along like a house on fire.

Tarana, on the other hand, was clearly not considered part of this gang of two and though she followed them around like a little lost puppy, they weren't always keen to include her. Ah, the tragedy of being the second-born... (Sue, are you listening?) But she managed to keep herself fairly well entertained and continued her staring contests with cows.

Given that this a cheese-making farm, interacting with the cows was definitely high on the agenda. While Tarana preferred to keep them at a distance, Ayaan went the whole hog. He learnt how to milk a cow and insisted on landing up at the daily feeding hour so that he could do the honours. He also found a few willing calves who were happy enough to receive his affectionate pats.

We spent most of our time at the farm itself though we did step out for a tea plantation trek and lunch outing with the other family I mentioned above. We ate at McIver, a charming restaurant in a colonial villa repurposed as a hotel. The food itself was nothing to write home about but it made for a nice change from the home-style cooking over at Acres Wild. The trek through the tea plantation was nice enough but got boring after a while. We hope to do a forest walk the next time we go there.

No account of a visit to this trip would be complete without a mention of the charming hosts. The farm is owned and managed by Mansoor Khan (of Qayamat Se Qayamat Tak  fame) and his wife Tina. Both of them are warm, chatty and fun to be around. Tina conducts a cheese-making course (which I felt too lazy to sign up for this time - maybe on our next visit) and Mansoor is happy to give interested visitors lessons in baking bread and making soap. He is also passionate about sustainability and is the author of a book called The Third Curve, which revolves around Peak Oil and its economic implications. Also, in one of those amazing 'it's a small world moments', we discovered that Tina and my mother-in-law's families pretty much grew up in each other's backyards!

Overall, it was a fantastic break. The almost obscene greenery was a sight for sore eyes, the fresh air was restorative, and a holiday where we could all just put our feet up, curl up with a book or potter around depending on our mood or inclination was just what the doctor ordered. It's the kind of place that bears re-visiting when the trappings of city seem a tad overwhelming.

Monday, July 08, 2013

Definitely not in the Running for Parent of the Year

I have been meaning to get back to this neglected space ever since my frazzled nerves started recovering from the recently concluded summer vacation. And then yesterday, I read this article and really wanted to pen down my two bits on it.

10 Things You Should Never Say To Your Kids

The title just begs to be clicked. You just have to know what these terrible, unmentionable statements might be, all the while hoping that none of them have ever left your lips. A quick look at the article dashed any such hopes. Let's see how I did.

  1. "I know you can try harder." Check
  2. "Are you sure you need that second cupcake?" Check
  3. "You always…" or "You never…" Check
  4. "Why can’t you be more like your sister/brother? Check
  5. "I told you waiting until the last minute was a mistake!" Check
  6. "You’re the best at soccer!" Check
  7. "Don’t worry—the first day of school will be fine." Check
  8. "Because I said so!" Check 
  9. "I wish you didn’t hang out with Jack; I don’t like that kid." Check
  10. "That’s not how you do it! Here, let me." Check
Ladies and gentleman, that is a perfect ten! Now, if only, this weren't one of those things where a lower score, preferably a zero, is better... If I am to take this evaluation of my parenting seriously, I should probably just zip my lips and stop talking to my kids altogether. Or even better, start saving for the therapy they will clearly need after I am done with them.

But seriously though, am I the only one who thinks there's nothing wrong with saying most of these things to your kids? If our kids' self esteem is made of such flimsy glass that such harmless statements can shatter it, surely we have a bigger problem on our hands?

The only one I can sort of buy into is No. 8: constant comparison between siblings can't be advisable, especially when it comes to things the child has no control over - like intelligence or athletic ability - but I see no harm in asking them to model each other's behaviour when it comes to stuff like table manners or keeping their toy room neat. 

Don't even get me started on 'Because I said so', a statement that you might notice is suspiciously indistinguishable from this blog's name. There are times when I will painstakingly explain to my kids why something has to be done but there are other times I may not have the time, energy or patience to do so. And they have to be okay with knowing that sometimes they just have to follow my lead, without explanations, justifications or rewards on my part. This article does a better job of explaining this element of my parenting philosophy that I possibly could. 

Other than the sibling rivalry one, I simply don't agree that any of these statements could be seriously detrimental to a child's emotional health or well-being. They are not rude, they are not mean, they do not shame. Most of them are actually positive statements intended to guide, encourage or reassure children. Walking on eggshells around kids can't be good for them either.  

What do you think?