parenthood

So, you want kids?

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Indian society has a problem. We somewhat detest the live and let live’ philosophy. Rather we’re followers of the live and let’s tell others how to live their lives’ movement. And true to this ideology, if you happen to be a single person on the slightly northern side of the age scale that begins at twenty-one, it is highly unlikely that you haven’t been asked even once - “So, when are you getting married?”. And even if you somehow manage to run away from that question and eventually with someone you want as your better half, they come up with the next question - “So, you’ve been married for ’n’ years - no kids yet?”. Sadly, there's nothing much we can do about it apart from silently mouth, 'Mind your own business!' Or deliver that witty and sarcastic one-liner we've been carrying around.  

As the father of a 33-month old cuddly, yet at-times overly active toddler, I have my hands full. Pretty much all through the day. Anyone who says that looking after young one(s) is not considered as a ‘job’ in the real sense of the word - kindly get a rectal examination done - your head seems to be stuffed all the way up your behind. Because, trust me - it’s the mother of all jobs. And hats off to every single mother on the planet for making it seem so effortless. I guarantee you - it isn’t as easy as it seems.

 

Ever since we’ve had our little one, there have been times that we’ve questioned the sanity of our decision to have kids. Yes, it is incredibly delightful - sometimes like living with walking, talking, laughing, utterly cute and cuddly teddy. But at times, it is also a rather dreadful experience when neither you nor the kids know why each of you are throwing a tantrum or bursting into tears over something as silly as a broken glass vessel. Yes, it’s a mixed bag of emotions, feelings and experiences, to say the very least.

 

During my pre-fatherhood days, I’ve often mused about this whole parenting thing.

What is it that a kid brings to that already healthy equation of two loving partners who mean the world to each other? Is a kid necessary for you and your spouse/partner to complete the picture of a ‘perfect’ family? Or is it because you are really worried about your lineage and that without kids, it may stop with you? Or is it because you love your parents so much that it has been your life long dream to give them grand kids?
  There were plenty of such questions running through my head when we were trying to decide if we wanted kids. And to be brutally honest, even as we waited for the home pregnancy test unit to show either the plus that would make us jump up for joy or the minus that would just make the optimists in us try again, I still did not know the answer of many of these questions.   I got around to writing this post because over the past year, ever since my ‘Daddy Journals’ started gaining a bit of popularity, I’ve had a few friends and readers ask me this question - if fatherhood/parenting is so awesome as you make it out to be, then why aren’t more people taking it to it? I could be plain blunt and answer that question with the charismatic smirk of a know-it-all diplomat and say ‘To each one their own’. And while that as a phrase is as good an argument as any, on a more personal level, I can only tell you what I’ve learnt.   For what it’s worth, I’d like to share it here:  

Do not let anyone rush you into this parenting thing. Because once you’re a parent, your very life as you know it, will change. You will still have late nights - except that the drinking and dancing will now be replaced by a feeling of helplessness while trying to figure out what a confused little soul wants. Oh, did I mention a confused ‘crying’  little soul? Enjoy.

Parenting is complicated. It always will be. People will try to 'un-complicate' it for you, but remember this - only YOU can do that. Because every kid (yes, even each of your own) is different.

There are no shortcuts or right ways to parenting. And no, there are no coursebooks. It is mostly a learn-on-the-go kind of practical lesson and you must be open to trying out what best works for you, your partner and your kid(s).

Having kids is like trying to eat your favourite ice cream while trying to navigate a heated obstacle course filled with LEGO bricks and other every day objects. Yes, if Daddy Journals ever got made into a movie, LEGO bricks would play the supporting cast.

If you’re lucky, until they grow up and are ready to clean after themselves, every day will involve either dirty diapers, poop-y behinds, sniffling noses, watery eyes, various bumps all over the body, chipped tooth, messy clothes, wiping drawings of Picasso off various surfaces such as walls, tables, sofas and sometimes even your favourite white shirt, projectile food and picking out stuff from your hair or pockets and being held to ransom over going to bed and wanting to play.

If you’re extremely lucky, you may get to see all of these in a single day. Sort of like the weather in magnificent England.

 

However as with everything in life, parenting has this balance which you must experience to see the blissfulness.

Like in my case, I was happy as a person before I met my wife. But having her in my life gives it a whole new meaning - a new dimension of happiness that I cannot begin to describe. And with my little one added to the mix, I’m now happier than ever. For it is a strangely humbling experience to realise that you will do everything in your power to make your kid’s life as perfect as you possibly can.  And despite the constantly messy, confusing and exhausting life that I have now, I am richer and feel more loved than ever before.

 

Plus you have the perfect excuse to eat ice cream almost all the time and play with toys and video games.

Jokes aside, there is no right or wrong answer to why you would or wouldn’t want kids - there are just careful, deliberate choices. So if you do end up having kids, make sure you give them the best you can. And if you don’t want kids, well, you can always be the fun uncle or aunt - all the fun but not much of the pain.

 Image courtesy - shutterstock.com


Sleeping with the enemy

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The luminous digital bedside clock says 01:00. I know, because I’m wide away nursing my right cheek bone with ice. "Oh, that’s going to be one heck of a bruise" I think to myself. Without making a sound, I turn around and glare at the culprit. He’s sprawled on his back, his arms folded behind his head as if he’s lying on beach chair in Hawaii. His legs are still twitching, probably as the result of the after-shock from having connected with my now bruised cheek. I glare at him, almost willing him to go for Round Two. Oblivious to my taunts, a slow whistle escapes his parted lips. I sigh, and get back into bed, contorting my body into weird angles, and try to catch a quick nap before the next attack. Welcome to Parenthood! Oh, and not to mention, the joys and tortures of co-sleeping with your baby. Now, just to make sure we don’t go off in a tangent and start to argue about whether or not co-sleeping is good for your child, let me put a huge disclaimer. I neither advocate nor condemn co-sleeping. Enough and more research has been done on the topic and there are two explicit sides to this argument. As for us, we’ve tried both, and due to a lot health-related concerns, we decided to stick it out with co-sleeping. Atleast for now. But the way things are going, that’s bound to change soon.

Co-sleeping with your kids, especially a toddler, is an art. And along with millions of other parents, I demand that it be recognised as one. To really understand what I’m talking about, you must have slept with the enemy, which ironically in this case, is your beloved off-spring. There are a number of positions that “the enemy” adopts to make sure he/she (or god bless you - THEY) can inflict maximum discomfort whilst they themselves enjoy this little game, so to speak. Of course, keeping with the “law of individuality”, each of them may have different preferences for warfare methodologies. And they change. As they grow, it gets worse before it gets better. So have some sympathy for us parents who due to reasons that cannot be revealed, have no other option, apart from to co-sleep with the enemy.

 

Mine, for example, started off with the “I don’t care about you” phase, where he’d just lie in a corner and not move around at all. To be honest, this was bliss. We were just less than a year into our parenthood at that point, and hence most of our information was gathered from the internet and parenting books. And not one of them mentioned this phase. Needless to say, that was the end of the “parenting by the book” phase for us. And as a new parent, I would find myself getting up frequently in the middle of the night, just to make sure he was breathing, and wonder to myself why he wasn’t moving around as they said in the books. Well, that lasted for approximately 4 weeks. You’d have thought we managed to get some sleep then, right? Oh no, we were still disturbed every now and then, for the feed.

 

That phase soon stopped and gave way to the “If you’re not coming to bed with me, then you have no space here” phase. Strangely enough this ultimatum did not come from my wife, but from my 12 month old son. I’m often the last person to go to sleep in my family. So by the time, I eventually make my way to the bed, I’m dead tired. Having to partake in a power struggle to reclaim my side of the bed was not something I was prepared to indulge in. So as parents do, well most of the time anyway, I quickly gave up my “night-time endeavours” (not what you think!) and joined the family in bed before it was too late. But here’s the part I still don’t understand. How can someone so small, take up so much of space? It truly defies all known laws.

 

But the troubles didn’t end there. Now that I was going to bed around the same time as him, he needed to up the game a bit. What’s more, we re-arranged the bed in such a way that one of the sides of the bed was adjacent to the wall. And then we shifted him to one of the corners which was brilliant in a lot of ways. For me, anyway. It meant that not only could I lie next to my wife (stop smirking!), I was completely away from him. But as some bright and intelligent person once said, never put doing the impossible past a kid, especially toddler.

 

Since then, we’ve been through :

 

  • the “Bridge” phase, where he lies horizontally between my wife and me, effectively shutting us away;
  • the “Over the face” phase, where he lies over my face/neck, sometimes drooling all over my neck, other times, just suffocating me;
  • the “I like your hair in my mouth” phase, where he twirls the strands of my wife's hair with his little fingers and then shoves it into his mouth; Fortunately I escaped this phase.
  • the “I’ve got my eyes on you” phase, where he suddenly sits up in the middle of night, and observes you like a hunter stalking his prey; Trust me, it really freaks you out if you happen to get up and see this.

And now we’re currently in the “inverted phase”, where somehow he invariably ends up lying in a direction opposite to us, so his feet are “scarily close” to our faces. "How bad could it be?" I hear you ask. This phase also incorporates the “Ninja phase” as we call it, where he feels compelled by some un-seen force to throw some savage kicks, which unfailingly always finds its mark - me.

As the clock nears the bewitching hour, I better wrap this post up, eat my dinner and rush to bed before I lose my spot. I guess Charles Darwin knew what he was saying when he said  “It is not the strongest nor the most intelligent of the species that survives. It is the one that is most adaptable to change”. He was obviously a parent :)

Three Golden "Post-Baby" Relationship Rules

Congratulations - the little one that you've been waiting expectantly for all these months, is finally here. Now, the mandatory 24 hours later, you get to bring him / her home. If you're one of the lucky ones who happen to have the luxury of an extra room (and money to spend of course)  to be converted into a baby room, you would have taken all the pains  to ensure that you left no stone unturned to ensure the room is cutely furnished and perfectly stocked with a year's supply of nappies, baby wipes, baby creams and stuffed toys. It is your first baby after all :) In an ideal world, you'd be very relaxed at this point, having completed the prerequisite 40 odd weeks as well as the really intense labour session.You know what, that was the easy part. Things are only going to get tougher from here on, but in a good way.

Often you hear inexperienced people say "Newborns, oh aren't they a piece of cake! All they do is Eat, Poop and Sleep". Frankly, the statement isn't without some truth. They do "eat, poop and sleep". What people often fail to mention are the effects that these three actions have on new parents. Since a quick google on the "effects of newborns on new parents" can spill out more accurate results, I'm going to leverage this space to talk about three golden rules, which if adhered to, can hopefully help you retain some sanity and strengthen those bonds, during this testing phase. And yes, there are purely from a dad's point of view.

a. Sleep:

Yes, you've all heard it. Every single person who has been through this "kid-venture" would have invariably offered both your wife and yourself this wholesome yet free advice of "Sleep while the baby sleeps"; At the time, like me, you'd have dismissed it as if it wasn't applicable to you. Strike 1. It is very much applicable to you; actually it is most applicable to you as the dad than for the mom, since she probably has the chance to nap when the baby does. To all the Mothers - No, I'm not saying that you would actually manage to catch some shut-eye when the baby naps, but at least you have the opportunity whilst on maternity leave. However for most of us working dads, paternity leave lasts a week to two at most. Which means past that stay-at-home period, the last thing you'd want is a "noisy, crying" baby disturbing the few hours of precious sleep that you can afford during night time. Now I could probably write a whole post on "post-baby sleeping habits" (actually I think I might); however for now, rule number 1: Sleep - Take it wherever and whenever you get it. You are going to need it!

b. Share the baby duties:

This is probably the most taken-for-granted part of the parenthood cycle. Most modern day fathers will definitely claim to have played a part in fulfilling the aforementioned duties. Dig deeper with the wife/partner, and you'll discover that "playing a part" involved merely "cuddling with the newborn". Whilst it is definitely a recommended activity, it shouldn't stop there. I might sound preachy, but if you are a small family, without a lot of constant presence from family, then the father-of-the baby definitely needs to step up and play a more vital part. There are a number of different advantages to this one, with the obvious one being that you get a bit more closer to your offspring. Sharing the duties also ensures that there's not a lot of guilt-tripping going around, which means, you know those days when your favourite team's playing and you want nothing more than sip some chilled beer and watch the game - your better half will actually let you off without any nagging. Though, it is very likely that you'll owe her a "ladies day out" with her friends as well, while you take care of the little one.

c. Listen, understand, and sometimes just shut-up 

I suppose its only fair to say that these three titular points are applicable in most relationships, even in ones without the babies. Nevertheless, they tend to be more profound immediately after you've had a little one. I mean, look at the big picture here  - Your better half has just pushed out a three-odd kg human being out not so long ago. She is tired, cranky, sleep-depraved, constantly having to pump or breast feed, change nappies, and so-on. To top it off, she still has the baby fat and is now constantly losing strands of hair, which prompts the occasional shrieks from her. So expect a rant every now and then, and cut her some slack. I guarantee you, the madness will end. The sooner we can turn into angels of peace, the easier you can get through this phase.

So there you go - three simple rules, which if (and I stress IF) followed can usually make the immediate post baby period a cake walk, in terms of your relationship with your partner.

I just wish someone had told me earlier - I had a very practical crash course, sort of on-the-go training so to speak.