There are days when I look at my soon-to-be five-year-old and be awed about ‘how mature he is and how logical his thought process is.'
And as I sit there and virtually pat myself on the back for having managed to do a reasonable job with him so far, the mood suddenly changes. From someone who perfectly understands what you’re trying to tell him, to someone who pretends to be dumb - the swings in mood are both amusing and scary.
Amusing, if you’re an on-looker. Scary, if you’re the parent.You’ve probably heard that phrase - The Terrible Twos. Well, I did too. And then I experienced it and found out the reason why they call it that. Of course, what I didn’t realise was that it would then turn into the ‘Terrorist Threes, where a lot of things (including the lovely glass Bric-à-brac in my showcase ) would develop a tendency to blow up without any warning. But then again, a lot of people continued to tell me that things would only get better. Someone, even told me that the worst was over. And I believed it. Until he turned four. Year Four too has been one of many discoveries and learnings, much like the ones before. And just like that, I’ve also discovered that my son has graduated from the illustrious League of Ordinary Toddlers to a gang of the Young and the Restless. If you too have kids in this age range, you’ll probably be able to relate to some of these. For the rest, enjoy the laugh. After all, one person’s **** is another’s entertainment ?
And of course, if you do happen to catch them on a good day, put on your most charming smile and ask them why they behave the way they do, you’ll probably get an answer like this:
Suddenly, everything makes perfect sense. Your 'Because I said so!' now has a valid counter argument.
[tweetbox design="box04" float="none"]Someone smart said: Parenting guides should end with recipes for strong cocktails.You will need it.[/tweet_box]
"Why?", I asked my mother flashing her the best puppy-eyed look I could muster "Why, me?" Sitting across from me, my mother averted her glance just as the waiter walked up to the table with our drinks - a strong filter coffee for my mother, and a bottle of juice for me. She said nothing in reply to my question, as she took a sip of the drink.
Even though I was only fifteen years old, I knew the reason for her silence. I had just completed my 10th CBSE board exams, which I had passed with flying colours. Yes, the results had surprised me too. But nevertheless, I was riding high on the success. And then my father had dropped a bombshell.
Walking into the living room one day, while I was inconspicuously trying to watch an episode of FRIENDS, he had nonchalantly announced, "Sidharth, you're going to a new school." Now, my father is often known for his good sense of humour, so I just dismissed it as a prank that he was trying to pull off. I barely looked up and just let out a guffaw. But then he came over and sat down on the opposite sofa and placed his hand on my shoulder. "You're going to a prestigious residential school in Kerala. There will be many kids similar to you, ones who have been born and brought up abroad in the UAE and elsewhere. So you won't feel out-of-place either. "
Of course, the news hit me quite hard. I am an only child. So as expected, my parents have always gone out of their way to make sure that I've had every level of comfort that they could afford to give me. That is not to say that I was spoiled for choice. No, they offered me a rein, long enough for me to be able to make my small choices, while looking out for me. So perhaps, the last thing I had thought I would ever hear was the fact that I was being 'banished' to the depths of a windowless, soul-less dungeon where I would have no friends, no family and was be all alone. Or at least that's what my fifteen year old brain convinced me would happen.
What followed next were a few weeks of utter torture. Not of the mental kind, but emotionally heart wrenching. I bade a heavy-hearted good-bye to all my friends and my neighbours and was soon on my journey to this new 'gated hell' that awaited me. Since the summer vacations in the Middle East and in India are during different times, my father was unable to accompany us. So a couple of days before the start of the new academic year, my mother and I, made the long and arduous journey to this enormous residential school in Nilambur, thousands of miles away from home.
Now, up until that point, I had never asked my mother the reason behind my father's actions. I mean, I did not even ask my father the reason. I just complained and tried to resist the change. But that day, sitting at this quaint little cafe, merely minutes away from walking through the gigantic wooden gates that would lead me to my new 'home' for the next couple of years, I was overwhelmed. Mixed emotions surged through me like roller coaster ride with no stop in sight. But somehow I gathered my wits and asked my mother why they did what they had done.
As I sat there waiting for my mother to give me an explanation, tears started to well up and for the first time I could remember, since I had entered my teenage years, I cried. No, it wasn't a wail like how babies or little kids do when they're hurt or throwing a tantrum. It was more of a continuous stream of pearl-shaped droplets chasing each other down the contours of my chubby cheeks, while my brain struggled to process the potential reasons behind my parents' actions and how I would face the next two years in a strange place. I felt like I was in a dark tunnel and there was absolutely no light at the end.
Suddenly my mother spoke. I wiped my tears and looked at her. Her eyes had started to well up too and the tip of her nose had turned a shade of light pink. As she gently called out my name, it struck me. This transition and change was going to be a lot difficult for her than it was for me. Yes, in due course, I would make friends and settle down. But my mother, whose life revolved around her little family, that included my father and me, would be missing a whole part when I had gone. The fact that she was a teacher who would be teaching kids around the same group as I was, would not help either. For in every pair of eyes that looked back at her while she was reading aloud that poem or story, would remind her of me.
As these thoughts rushed through my head, she pulled up her chair towards me and embraced me in a tight hug. Suddenly, I felt like a little kid again. I did not want to go anywhere, but just stay like that forever. But she cut short the embrace and looked into my eyes.
"Listen," she said, her soothing voice offered me as much comfort as a gentle babbling brook, "We're in this together. Even though your father might not acknowledge this, it is as difficult for the both of us to be away from you, as much as it is for you to be away from us. But we won't be there with you forever. There will be a time in your life when you need to be able to adjust to newer surroundings, make new friends and be optimistic about the future. And that time is now! Look back fondly on the memories of all the time you've had with us and your friends and at your old school. They will be your light during the darkest days. And they will guide and help you to make more memories with new friends here too."
As I quietly nodded along to everything she said, she added, "And remember son, we love you. We are doing this because we love you and want you to be independent. You can't live in our shadows forever or live with the decisions we make for you. This is the first step to your new life. So embrace it. And for everything else, we're always there to guide you. Together, we can do this."
Looking back, that was perhaps the best decision that my parents had made for me. And also the last. They gave me the support that I needed to be independent, and of course have always been together with me during my low points and high ones. Today, I stand proud and tall with my head held high because of the fact that I've known they have always supported me. In retrospect, I might even say that was perhaps one of the most memorable moments in my life. The time that I spent with my mother in the cafe that day and listening to her telling me the reasons behind their decisions, helped me look up and be optimistic about my future. No, it wasn't easy, but as she said, #together, we did it.
Thank you Housing.com for giving me the opportunity to relive this valuable memory that has made me the person that I am today
Image courtesy : www.shutterstock.com
For as long as I can remember, I’ve been a sci-fi aficionado. Particularly with a lot of affinity towards Superheroes (and superheroines of course). As a child, I’ve dressed up in my favourite (not to mention, self-made) super hero costume, jumped up and down on my parent’s king size bed, kicking the living daylights out of imaginary villains. And I’ve sprained many a joint as well, throwing uncomfortable round-house kicks and falling from the high wall of my compound. Despite my numerous injuries, none of which were imaginary by the way, I retained my dedication to all these costumed superstars. I even remember the phase, where I secretly hoped that my parents were some sort of retired superheroes who were maintaining normalcy (and secrecy), to shield me from a mega-villain. And yes, I was tempted to try and dig up any records which could potentially incriminate them as superheroes in hiding. But against my extreme desire to give into this temptation to follow in the footsteps of the great Sherlock Holmes, I finally resigned to the fact that my parents were just normal human beings. (I know, how boring right?) And that I had no super powers. Except the ability to fart and burp at the same time. Which to be honest, reveals more about my digestive capabilities than anything else. Oh, and the super power to put on weight by just looking at food. Anyway, I digress.
As I grew up, I had more sense knocked into me, and I started dismissing all those childhood episodes of “super-hero-ism’s” and ascertained that it was more to do with me being a single child. After all, I did have plenty of imaginary friends. So then, why not, super heroes and mega-villains. Fast forward to the present. I am now a proud Papa to an amazingly active and naughty toddler, who is often the main source of inspiration for most of my parenting posts. Including this one. And over the course of the past year, I’ve discovered that I’ve had some superhero-esque traits, all along. I just had to be a parent to release them. Now before you go about picturing me with my underwear over my jeans or trousers, let me make one thing clear. The only similarity between Superman’s costume and mine, is that there are times when the waistband of my boxers tend to play peek-a-boo over my jeans (as well described in my previous post, Fashionista). But that’s where the costume similarity ends. As for the powers, yes, there, “we” definitely have a few similarities.
Superhuman strength & stamina
Now, as some of my previous posts have boldly stated, I’m not what you’d call healthy. So having to often run after this little toddler of mine, is something that makes me huff and puff like the big bad wolf in those fairy tales. But surprise, surprise - I've discovered that I not only have the ability to carry my toddler son in one hand, but also a set of heavy grocery bags in the other and run after public transport too. As a parent, we can often go for a whole day or even more, without taking rest, just powered by pure adrenaline. After all, being the parent of an active toddler, means having to spend a lot of time on our feet. Because you can be assured that the moment we decide to put up our feet to rest, is the moment that something will go drastically wrong.
Superquick reflexes, alertness and the “need for speed”
As a parent, we are always alert. After all, there is a crawling/walking/running/tip-toeing mini-bomb waiting to go off, the moment we look away. But not on our watch. And this alertness manifests itself as an ability to react to changing problems or objects. Like, how quickly we'd jump into the water to save our child or how when s/he is on the swing, we know the exact moment when they’re about to jump off. Not to mention, the incredible power of hearing that we have, when our toddler is not within our eyesight.Oh yes, we parents can give “Mr.Spidey” a run for his buck, with our ability to suddenly dive to catch a toddler falling from the bed or from above the table, and the capacity to duck high-impact flying objects, such a sippy cup or sometimes even the mushy-mashy food that we just stuffed into their mouth. Of course, not to mention the speed with which we have to chase them around the house to make them eat or get them to do stuff. Even, “The Flash” would be so proud :)
Nothing every misses our eye:
Unlike the Man of Steel, whilst we may lack the synonymic X-Ray vision, when it comes to our child, we notice everything. And when I say everything, I mean quite literally, everything. Nothing ever escapes our vision and we are constantly on the look out for trouble, no matter what hideous form they might take.
The power of Super-Jumps (and occasional flights):
Having a toddler in the house is like being in a metropolitan city, without the beauty of the architecture. Regardless of our toddler’s tastes, or our intentions to keep the house spotless, we will invariably find buildings and objects of varying shapes and heights littered across every room. Though it mostly doesn’t cause us much harm, every now and then we may feel a stiff pain when our feet connects with these lovely objects. And soon, we too learn to jump over buildings and obstacles.
We have our own version of short, cunning scientists
Battling cunning, smart scientists is in a day’s work for a Superhero. Here again, we are very similar in that aspect. We too deal with 3 foot tall scientists, who are constant up to mischief and forever looking for ways to destroy the peace of the planet, that is our home. The only difference is that ours are way too cute for us to be angry with them indefinitely.
Of course, this isn’t an exhaustive list. And as each child is unique and different, each of us will also have a special hidden super power which helps us "tackle" our cunningly sweet scientist. So in a lot of ways, each of us as parents are not really far away from playing superheroes, all day, every day…well, maybe bar the costume.
On second thoughts, I might look into investing in a costume. A six-pack sounds fancy :)
Image courtesy : A very vigorous and tiring Google search The brilliant image on the front is from ANDRY "SHANGO" RAJOELINA - http://andry-shango.deviantart.com/ I stumbled on his site via Google image search, and he is a true master designer
“Go to your room, and think about what you did!” Though my neighbour spoke in a fairly monotonous voice, I could sense the firmness in her words. So could her seven-year old son. Giving her an angry stare, worthy of Hannibal Lecter, he picks his PSP, storms off into his room, and slams the door shut. The whole flat shudders slightly, and so does my teacup, which politely sat on the coffee table. Not quite sure how to respond, I do the best possible thing – I pick up the floral teacup and sip on some heavenly masala chai.
Now in the interest of respecting their privacy, I’m not going to divulge what led to this “battle”. Nevertheless I will say this – The kid was in the wrong, at least in my opinion. But then, people say that the behavior of kids are usually a reflection of their upbringing. Anyway, this incident got me thinking – Are kids really that different now, than say the 70’s-80’s, when most of us would have been in their shoes?
Not much has changed biologically, I suppose. Kids still like to run freely and jump about. They still love to go higher and higher on the set of swings in the playground. They still get a kick out of playing games such as hide & seek and running & catching with their friends. They are still impressed with the tall giraffes at the zoo and the playful dolphins at the Water Kingdom. So, the kids of the 21st century all seem to have been essentially “wired” in the same way as us. So what’s changed then?
The answer has to be technology. Yes I know, our kids are probably more adept at using newer technology than we would have been at the same age. The difference is the influence of technology in every day life. And that’s what is changing our kids and subsequently our parenting style. Confused? Let’s take a look at few examples:
Communicating with friends
Back in the day, we spoke face to face. We wrote letters and notes. When our friend’s parents answered the phone, we respectfully addressed them and politely enquired about our friends. We spoke in complete sentences. Today, technology has completely turned this art of communication on its head. With most kids having some form of portable communication device – i.e. smartphone /iPod/iPad, they don’t find the need to have to speak at all.
Research has shown the average number of phone calls have dropped drastically while the numbers of text messages and Instant Messages have increased almost three fold. Even if they need to speak to each other, the good old fashioned “Let’s meet at my place, my mom has made cookies” has been replaced by “Let’s FaceTime/Skype”. Why, even a good oldfangled “Hi” has been replaced by the inevitable “Poke”.
Do I see a few raised eyebrows? Sure, technology has ironed out a lot of monotonous creases. No longer do we have to mull over the pages of a dictionary to check the right spelling. And when in doubt, we always have Wikipedia and Google (and others) to correct us. But my concern lies elsewhere. Most school-going kids these days are unable to string together a whole sentence without grammatical error. Strangely, they could probably convey the same sentence in less than 140 characters via an SMS, Twitter or Facebook status update. With auto-correct and online dictionaries, kids of today are much more reliant on technology for writing (or maybe I should say typing) than we used to be. Spellings have just become plain awful.
Kids, particularly the teenage groups, are showing a decreased ability of memory retention. From simple things such as phone numbers and special dates such as birthdays and other important occasions, kids (and adults too) are becoming increasingly reliant on their “faithful, on-hand technology” such as smartphones, laptops and tablets which often serve as memory aids or in some cases, their personal assistant (Yes, Apple – I’m talking about Siri). Whilst the act of utilizing technology to remember important occasions is not something to be entirely frowned upon, scientific research has shown time and time again, that those who rely almost completely on technology suffer deterioration in their cognitive abilities. Even Google co-founder Larry Page had mentioned in an article that research showed that our memory retained much lesser information when reading from a screen as opposed to reading the same thing from a physical book. Need I say more?
Frustration, Anger & Patience (or rather lack of)
When we were young, the terms frustration and short-tempered were often used to describe the teenage years, and with good reason. There were a lot of physical and emotional changes associated with the age group and hence time and again, boundaries were crossed and sometimes thrown out. However, it has been observed that pre-teen children these days, are victims of increased frustration and shortened fuses. It isn’t out of the ordinary to see kids as young as seven or eight flip their lid, when asked to do something as trivial as taking their plates to the sink after a meal. With regards to the patience element, I suppose it’s not just kids, but even adults. I mean back in the days when the Internet was in its nascent stages of dial-up, we were ok with having to wait the better part of 10 minutes for a basic page to load. These days, with technology having forged ahead, kids do not even know what “slow” means when it comes to technology. The amount of times they refresh a browser page or their Facebook page is a clear indication that the virtue of patience is on the decline.
Let’s be clear – I am not against technology and its use in day-to-day activities. Yes, technology has its upsides. Kids today know where to get the information. They are able to harness technology effectively, be it for the school essay homework or for their science project. Technology has helped make them more independent than our generation was, as kids. But there are always two sides to any argument, and I’m merely suggesting thatexcessive exposure to technology, especially for kids during their formative years, will not be without its drawbacks.
The simplest thing we can do is to ensure that we, as parents, use our sound judgment to ensure our kids use technology as a tool to survive and flourish in this era, but not at the expense of their basic inherent social skills
Now, to end on a lighter note, I’d like to ask all of you to attempt something – whenever you find a few spare minutes.
Try and “write” your next article or blog post in a book or sheets of paper. Ok, maybe that’s a bit harsh. Try and write a page of something, maybe even try to copy an article from the newspaper. Try writing it continuously without taking a break, sort of like writing an exam. For most of us, after a few lines, our arms will start to ache. Might be in varying shades of pain, but it will ache. Now think why?
You’re right – It’s simply because we don’t write as much as we used to. It’s all about typing, touch-screen pinching and swiping; that’s what we’re so used to, that we’ve completely lost touch with the art of writing. Our arm/hand muscles don’t get that much of a work out as they used to. Now think of the current and future generation of kids. They are already adept at using the touch screen to type and their fingers often fly through the keyboard keys. Imagine how they could possibly tackle a 3-hour examination (assuming that it is still three hours) where they have to write their answers. Their little arms probably hurt a lot more than ours; after all they’ve been using touch screens and keyboards from birth, and pens/pencils occasionally.
Do you reckon it’ll come as a surprise if their grades fall due to their inability to complete a physically written exam? After all not every exam will be a computer-adapted one. On that hopefully thought provoking note, I’ll end this here.
This post was originally written for Parentous, and you can view the original version here.
Paul Dixit was a compulsive addict. His addiction - mobile phones, especially smart phones. He spent a considerable chunk of his monthly salary buying the latest mobile phones. His wife Devi, on the other hand, was the complete opposite. She too had a mobile phone, but only by compulsion. At Paul’s coercion, she too had bought a smart phone. It was an Apple iPhone 5s. Though everyone she met went gaga over the phone, it did not tickle Devi’s fancy at all. According to her, a phone only needed a few features - Make phone calls, send short messages and occasionally set the alarm. Anything beyond that was an unnecessary facet, and she just did not care. But when Paul insisted on getting her the very latest in smartphones, she dropped her standards, and let him get her a state-of-the-art phone. The trouble now, was that she had no idea of how to go about using this piece of junk. And to make matters worse, the sim card was a different one. She had tried to fit the new sim card into her old phone, and it just slid through and rattled about in the slot.When he “gifted” her the phone, Paul had promised to spend some time over the weekend helping her get accustomed to the new phone. However in typical Paul fashion, come Saturday morning, he was suddenly required in Frankfurt, and he left on the very next flight. This left Devi in quite a pickle, since she did not have a clue with regards to using this shiny new equipment. Since Devi was predominantly home during the weekend, she could continue to use the land phone. "The real problem would be on Monday morning, when I get to work", she thought. "Hopefully someone at work can help me with it." Monday mornings were a nightmarish affair for Devi. It always had been, and this particular Monday morning was no different. To make matters a bit more complicated, their son’s nanny had pulled a sickie, which meant eight year old Arnav was alone at home. Though Devi’s neighbour, Mrs. Jain, had promised to pop-by, every hour or so, Devi knew that she shouldn’t have left him alone. But with her boss breathing down her neck demanding a finalised projection report before lunch time, she had no other alternative but to go to work, at least for a few hours till she got the report sorted. “I’ll just keep calling Arnav every hour to make sure he is alright” she thought. She had asked their friendly security guy, Ramu kaka, to keep an eye on Arnav as well. As Monday morning wore on, Devi found herself drowning under the workload. Things got worse when her Managing Director, Mr. Tiwari, called for an impromptu all-hands-on-deck meeting in the board room, during lunch. She checked the time on her watch. It was 1:15 pm. As she walked into the meeting, she wondered if Arnav would have had lunch. The meeting room was packed and she noted that everyone, except Mr. Tiwari was present. “I’ll just make a quick phone call before he gets here” thought Devi, and took out her phone. She glanced at the screen of her new phone, unsure what to do next. For the love of god, she couldn’t find a phone icon. And this god-forsaken item did not have many buttons either, much less anything that resembled a phone symbol. As she sat there fiddling with the side-buttons of her phone, Devi failed to notice Mr. Tiwari enter the room. Unfortunately for her, Mr. Tiwari did see her playing with the phone. “Ah, the new iPhone I see, Devi. Looks like we’re paying you too much again!” he exclaimed loudly, from across the room. Embarrassed, Devi put the phone away into the depths of her handbag. “Why am I worried?” she thought. “Our numbers are programmed into the landline unit’s speed dial. Arnav will call us if there was anything urgent." As the meeting dragged on, Devi could feel her eyes start to get heavy. Suddenly she heard a distant buzzing. It sounded like a very large mosquito, a few meters away from her ear. She glanced around to see if anyone had noticed. Nobody else had seemed to notice it. She dismissed it nonchalantly. The buzzing continued, and Devi just tuned it out. Ten minutes later, when the meeting finally ended, Devi jumped up from her chair. She decided that it was high time she checked up on her son. As she carefully dug her phone out from the abyss of her hand bag, she noticed that the screen was already lit up. 38 missed calls, said the message on the screen. All from a private number. At first she panicked. Then slowly her sensible part prevailed and she decided to check it out in detail. She somehow managed to unlock the screen and clicked on the icon which had the number 38 superscripted in bold, red font on it. She looked at the time of the first call. It was at 1:50pm. The last call from the number was at 2 pm, a few minutes back. 38 missed calls in 10 mins! She wondered what was going on. Something was wrong. She immediately dialled the home number to check on Arnav. There was no answer. She tried the number again. The result was the same. No answer. She could feel trickles of sweat starting to build up on her forehead, inspite of the air conditioning running on full blast. She dialled Mrs. Jain’s number. She answered on the first ring. Talking to Mrs. Jain, Devi felt like she was having a panic attack. Apparently Mrs. Jain had to leave the building to post an urgent letter, and she had just returned. On her way back, she had stopped by Devi’s apartment to check on Arnav. But inspite of ringing the door bell numerous times, she did not get an answer. She had just stopped by her own flat to get the spare keys to Devi’s, when the phone rang. On Devi’s request, Mrs. Jain opened up their flat and checked it thoroughly. Arnav was no where to be found. Arnav was missing! Devi felt the brand new iPhone slip from her hand and hit the floor with a resonating crash. Almost immediately a series of “WHY” enveloped her thoughts:
I intend no offence against any tele-callers who may be reading this, or any of you who may know someone who have been unfortunate enough to do the job, or if you have previously done the tele-marketing/caller role. It too is a job that pays the bills.
For those of you who were wondering what happened to Arnav, he is safe and sound. Paul returned early from Frankfurt, and he was surprised to find Arnav home alone. So he took him out to McDonalds for a nice meal and some much needed father-son bonding time. As for Devi's phone not ringing, remember the time when she was fiddling with the side buttons of her phone in the meeting room? She inadvertently slid the button on the side which put the phone into vibrate mode.
Ever so often, we’ve all wished for things, irrespective of whether you are a believer in the power from above or not. Sometimes it is for material objects such a new car, a new gadget, new clothing, new jewellery …. pretty much anything. Sometimes it is for intangible and non-material items such as a happy and stress-free life (apparently they exist!), your kids and parents being hail and healthy and so on. The remarkable thing about wishes is that as we progress through each stage of our lives, these wishes change quite dramatically. Now while that rule may not hold good for every person, I’d bet my bottom dollar that most of us would probably fall into that category.
And it is no different when we start out on our journey into parenthood. From the very beginning, we continue to hope and wish. We hope that the little one who is no bigger than the nail on your little pinky finger blooms his/her way into a beautiful and healthy human baby. When they eventually get here, after the pre-requisite 9 months, we believe that nothing on this planet could make us wish for anything else, materialistic or otherwise. Haha - you wish!
Fast-forward to a few months later. Dogged by sleepless nights, three-hourly feeds and shrieking cries at unearthly hours, you find yourself wishing and hoping again. For the little one to grow up a little bit. For him or her to sleep through the night. For him or her to consume more milk in one sitting, so that they don’t get up in between. For them to start getting into a pattern, which is a little less stressful on us.
Once again, let’s forward this “Parenthood” movie ahead a few more months. Your little one now sleeps through the night. You’ve been fortunate enough to catch a fair amount of shut-eye through the night, though your partner (mostly the father of the afore mentioned child) is often snoring away to glory. You’ve probably even started introducing solid foods to the apple-of-your-eye. What more could we wish for, isn’t it? Let’s move on.
Your infant is now completely en-route to being called a toddler. He/She has started strutting some really fancy looking walking styles and is starting to develop their own quaint and unique personalities. They’ve started developing some dangerous looking teeth, which they aren’t afraid to use under any circumstance - sometimes for their defence, other times just to demonstrate their power to hold us ransom to their unspoken demands. They’re now choosy about their food, and very often repetition of any food item becomes a sin. Often kids also develop the miraculous ability to turn perfectly good and healthy baby food into a projectile weapon of sorts, which sometimes even makes us parents resort to hiding behind a cushion or towel. And somewhere along this phase, you cannot help but wish. For the times when milk alone provided all the nourishment that they needed. For the time to come, when your toddler can possibly feed themselves, without too much of interference from us (the parents). For the time when the kids start to speak properly rather than the mumbles that make no sense at all, so that they can tell us what they want. Since the most brilliant of scientists are yet to discover the power of time-travel, we rest our hopes on the future when the kids will start feed themselves and we can make sense of their mumblings. Surely that’s the perfect life isn’t it ?
You’re probably not entirely wrong in making that assumption at this stage. Once your little ones start tending to their own cycles of feeding, pooping and telling us their likes and dislikes, needs and wants, apart from the occasional wishing that things were a lot simpler when they were just babies, the phase from the late childhood to early teenage / pre-teenage years go through without a lot of wishing and hoping from the parents.
Cometh the teenage years, and the urgency and frequency of your wishes increase manifold. Suddenly you’d wish that your once little non-stop babbling angel would continue talking a lot more to you. You can’t help but wish that they’d involve you more in their lives and their little decisions. You hope that you’ve done enough as a parent to stop them from making those questionable choices. You hope they graduate with flying colours and wish that they succeed in every examination that the school of life throws at them - academically and otherwise. You spend every waking minute, hoping that they waltz through any troubles that they might find themselves in. This period is when your wishes free flow like water, and you find it hard to keep track of each and every one of them.
Your off-spring’s journey into adulthood has commenced, and with that your wishes take an additional form - concern. You hope that he/she finds their heart’s calling, and are able to make incredible strides in their career. When they embark on a successful career, you find yourself hoping that they will find a suitable partner who’ll be their pillar of support going forward, and hope it is someone you can pass on your batons of “love” and “care”. You find yourself wishing for them to complete the full circle and present you with darling grand-kids on whom you can continue to shower your love.
As the years go by, and you move on to your second child-hood, your list of wishes start to dwindle, but never cease. Even though your little one’s are no longer “little”, you continue wishing for their good health and success in life. Though you refrain from giving them advice on how to bring up their kids, you once again hope that you have been able to impart good parenting knowledge to your successor(s). In spite of finding some of their parenting choices “too Gen-Z” for your liking, you hope that your grand children will go on respecting their elders and making those right choices.
The transition to old age is not without its share of illnesses and complications. As your body struggles to adjust to practically everything, and even day-to-day activities become a struggle, you can’t help but keep on hoping. But the hope at this stage has now turned into a silent plea, a prayer if you will. It becomes a desire to leave your earthly being without much pain. It becomes a longing that you are able to quietly drift away into paradise without giving too much trouble to your loved ones.
You wish for the inevitable end to be smooth and swift. And as you cross over into the light, you wish one last time. You wish and hope that your loved ones do not shed too many tears over you. You hope that they continue to go on with their lives as usual. And you hope…..that you’ve done enough for them to remember you by.
“Remember, Hope is a good thing, maybe the best of things, and no good thing ever dies.” ― Stephen King
I’d like to put a disclaimer to reiterate, that not all kids are alike, and the “wishing “ and “hoping” will vary depending on the kid and the style of parenting. Also, since my little one is still a toddler, the remaining parts of this post are purely based on observations of other kids, their parents and some my own personal experiences.
Most people who know us will agree when I say “We love travel!” Unfortunately, as is the case with every couple in a serious relationship and not oodles of cash at their disposal, most of our travels and visits to famous “world tourist spots” were far and few, and we ended up doing a lot of off-beat holidays. And that’s where we discovered the real beauty of Ma Nature. Right then, before everyone starts to wonder why my writing suddenly resembles a travel blog, or if I’ve gone a bit cuckoo in the head, let me make my intentions clear. I was merely reminiscing about how “exciting” things like holidays and vacations were, prior to having a 3rd little member (or 4th, or 5th) join your “holiday-planning”. So to put it simply, I was merely thinking about how planning a vacation or a holiday are miles apart depending on whether its just the two of you as a couple, or on if you have your lovely offspring(s) join you. So let me tell you a story….
Back Then – circa 2005
Going back to the time when we first started dating (was it still called dating then?), we were shuttling between different cities in India and the United Kingdom. So as you can imagine, we’ve had a fair bit of travel, both alone and together, since we were both based at different locations. Most of our holidays (or maybe I should say, “spur of the moment” breaks) were quirky, fun, free-style, come-what-may discoveries executed with a “let’s see how it goes” attitude. Let me make one point clear – neither of us are true adventurers in the complete sense of the word; we’re merely people who like to see new places, eat new food, be with each other a lot (yes, I know, sounds lame to some) and explore “some” unknowns.
And the planning involved back then was actually a piece of cake. We’d just fix a place or a location and Google some Wikipedia/Trip Advisor entries; not even bother reading most reviews, wouldn’t care about booking hotels, and absolutely wouldn’t fix an itinerary. And food – my wife’s a vegetarian (yep, they still exist! Just kidding, I love vegetarians…they leave more meat for us…ok, I digress. Let’s get back now); However instead of seeing that as a potential …let’s say…difficult life choice…(I’d get shot in the foot if I said disadvantage, but you know what I mean), we’d both try and embrace the local specialty…almost always. And luckily, most places we’ve been to, they’ve been happy to oblige and make a vegetarian equivalent where possible. So food was always an adventure in itself for us. This beautiful “let’s do something new and exciting for the holiday this time” phase for us as a couple lasted exactly until August 2011. That’s when we discovered Little Ri had “swum” his way into our lives.
Since Little Ri was born in London, we did make a few trips down to India and one to Dubai to see family, friends et all. However I wouldn’t term them as vacations or holidays. They were more like, ok some of you are going to hate and judge me for this, say visiting a religious place (Atheists and other non-believers of the spiritual power from above – I love you guys (and girls), but I needed a strong social example). You kind of know what to expect and who you’ll see and meet, but it is often a social compulsion that is usually succinctly dressed up in the lines “You’ve GOT to do it!” Once again, I digress (I’ve got to stop doing that – bad Sid!). So as previously mentioned, since Little Ri entered our lives, we haven’t taken much in terms of a vacation. That is until now. I’m happy to inform all of you, that right now, in the middle of our holiday, at 1am in the morning, I’m sat up fine-tuning this post for you amazing readers (Reckon that explains a lot more about my lack of orderliness and time management than the vacation). Nevertheless, the point that I’m trying to drive home is “We finally managed to take a holiday, with our toddler – a real family holiday”.
If this trip proves to be a success (it’s going to take a few days to get the final verdict, but initial poll results look promising), then all that handwork would have paid off. “What…. hardwork? But it’s a vacation!” I hear you think. On the contrary, taking a holiday, vacation or even a short trip with a toddler, involves a lot of planning and yes, RESEARCH. If you’ve been lucky enough to have already taken a holiday with your young one(s), you’d know exactly what I’m talking about. For the rest of you, your turn will be here soon.
Designing, planning and executing a “family holiday” is filled with hours of man/woman-work. Gone are those days of “free-birding”, where you could literally take off to a new destination, and enjoy yourself come what-may. In my case, they’ve been replaced by the below mentioned thoughts/ questions/ dilemmas. Kindly note, there is no exhaustive list of questions or checklists. The below ones are just samples and snippets about the four major activities a usual holiday would entail –travel, clothing, accommodation and food
Thoughts back then
Let’s train/bus/car it if we can. It’s going to be an adventure; book the cheapest flight available – who needs those frills, bells and whistles anyway; why waste money on an organized sight seeing tour – we can do the whole thing cheaper if we walk!
What flight do I book – are they infant/kid friendly? Do they have baby/kids meals? Do they have in-flight entertainment? Let’s do an organized tour – do they take kids? Will the kids/baby like the mode of travel? Can the kids adjust to the long travel time?
Thoughts back then
That’s it, 2 pairs of jeans, couple of t-shirts, a few undergarments – I’m good! Who cares about the weather – rain, snow or sunshine, I’ll just wear the same things
How many diapers do I take? How many tops for the little one? How many nightdresses for the baby? What will the weather be? Should I pack an extra pair of shoes?
Thoughts back then
Let’s crash at that bed & breakfast – it’s only a few bucks; Booking a room – oh come on, we’ll just stay with friends; Let’s camp; We’ll just sleep in the car; So what if we’ve got to drive/walk to those tourist spots – it’s only $10 a night for the place, and they have bunk beds.
Is the hotel kids-friendly? Do they have a nice swimming pool/play area for kids? Are they non-smoking? Do we have to travel a lot from the hotel/accommodation to the “kid-friendly” tourist spots? Do they provide a baby cot? Do they have lifts? Do they have an on-call doctor? (I could go on and on with this one)
Thoughts back then
I’m going to try this one, that description sounds great; I should definitely try some street food; who needs reservations – let’s walk in;
Do they have baby/kids meals? Is the restaurant baby-friendly? Do the eateries have a baby chair? (Ok that’s not food, but it sure fits in); That street food looks nice, but maybe I should stick to something I know – after all, if one of us falls ill, the other will have to look after both the baby and the ill-fated one;
Once again, these are just a few points that I’ve noted down from my latest experience. To even try and put down a comprehensive list is a sin that I shall not attempt. And as you’ve probably noticed, the key phrase that you’re likely to frequently encounter when you have planned/will plan a family holiday with your little one(s) is “kid/baby-friendly”. That phrase, to simply put, is capable of turning you from a laid-back, casual, let’s-not-stress-over-too-much-planning kind of person into a meticulous, detail-oriented, have-planned-for-any-eventuality kind of person, who to be honest, is sometimes too tired from all this planning and thinking, to actually enjoy it fully.
So in a nutshell, yes, just like every other aspect of your life, even your holidays and the amount of planning that goes into that to make it successful, will change with the presence of your little one. And I admit, often planning a “family holiday”, can be considerably tiring enough to make you wonder if it is worth it. And sometimes, you might just want to do it, so that you can take a break, and a “family vacation” might be the only way to convince your better half. Whatever your reasons might be to put in the effort of planning for kid-friendly (see, there’s that phrase again) holiday, the twinkling in your little one’s eye and the smile on your partner’s face, will be enough reward and motivation to make you keep doing it again…. and again…and again.
NB: This post was originally written for Parentous, the parenting community. You can read the original here : Parentous
I don’t know about you, but even today, there is something about those words that entices me to listen on. Even now, it rarely fails to bring a smile on my otherwise worried and age-lined face; probably because I’ve always loved reading those fairy tales. These stories reinforce in me, a sense of community, comfort and togetherness, sort of like friends huddled around a roaring fire on a cold winter’s night, with a cup of hot chocolate. Being between jobs currently, I often have the luxury of sitting down with Little Ri and watching some amazing Disney & Pixar versions of classic fairy tales. Since he isn't all of 2 years yet, I spend time explaining the story out to him, one scene at a time. Not quite sure what he understands but his babbles sure sound promising. This motivated me to get out some classic illustrated fairy tale books and read-act them out to him. After some initial minutes of feigned interest, he quickly went back to his other toys. Deflated I sat back upset. This got me thinking - Are fairy tales important to us? Do they teach us anything? Is it even worth reading out these classics, that we've grown up with to our little ones?
Note: This post is part of my bi-monthly article at the parenting website "Parentous". The original version can be view here:
After a fair bit of research and numerous illustrated pages later, I’ve come to the conclusion that it's a world of catch-22 out there. As children, a fairy tale seems beautiful, straightforward, fascinating and even mesmerizing. As adults, with our inevitable need to over analyze everything, some of these fairy tales appear remarkably grim, misconstrued and have questionable ethical foundations.
Now, I'm a fairly optimistic and positive person. So for the purpose of this post, I've decided to only touch on the helpful aspects of these tales and the potential values that we can instill in our beloved off springs:
Most, if not all, fairy tales portray numerous difficulties and challenges that a protagonist faces in their quest for the ultimate goal, be it saving a princess, wining back a kingdom or just getting back home after being lost. They somehow find the emotional resilience to persevere on, overcome these obstacles and march ahead, come what may. They are able to laugh off their difficulties. Definitely a must-need in today’s stressful age.
Lessons in love, caring and togetherness:
It should come as no surprise that almost all fairy tales have varying shades of the element of love. From the romantic love in Cinderella, which leads her to Prince Charming to sibling love in Hansel & Gretel, which gets them out of the witch's clutches. Clichéd as it may sound, it is this sense of love that instills feelings of brotherhood (or sisterhood), family, caring for each other and overly that sense of togetherness.
Lessons in diversity:
Probably one of the interesting things about fairy tales is their diversity in stories. You get a varied range of tales from outsmarting an evil witch to spectacular dragon fights. And as different cultures adapt these stories, they take on different flavors and tones, which further diversifies the story to new heights. It helps children develop their cultural literacy and appreciate the similarities and differences of other people, from another part of the world.
Lessons in Morality:
I'm probably treading on dangerous territory here, as I've often heard adults complain about "negative morals being installed in kids by the world of fantasy”. True as it may be, I am a staunch believer in the fact that most fairy tales and their spin-off Disney / Pixar versions do enable kids to nurture a moral compass. They encompass tales of honor, sacrifice and justice. They empower kids to identify right and wrong, well at least most times.
Unleashing the power of imagination:
This is single handedly the most important lesson that fairy tales provide. Like most other folklore, fairy tales are also usually works of fiction. Though the commercial worlds of Disney and Pixar have succeeded in "illustrating" some of these famous fictional characters, reading these fantasy tales or even hearing them being narrated, enable and empower kids to think out of the box. It lets them paint an imaginary sketch of the characters, by giving them an empty canvas, where the images can be as vivid as their imagination lets them. The narrative helps them form their own perceptions about these pivotal characters, rather than following the crowd. I've even read that in certain countries, some schools encourage kids to draw or paint an illustration of a character from just a narration. As you can imagine, each one of them could potentially come with a unique version. Let their imagination soar I say :)
Lessons in "the real world":
In every children’s fairy tale, as in life, there are always two sides to the coin. You have the good, brave, determined, resilient protagonist. And then you have the bad, slightly crazy, occasionally sadistic evil antagonist. Whilst the books may portray the antagonist as a "person", the biggest takeaway kids can have from these stories is the idea of balance in real life. The "evil" in the real world exists not just as people, but also manifests it as challenges and obstacles. It is unrealistic of us as parents, to expect our kids to grow up in a world where everything is right. Fantasy tales as they may be, these stories can help parents introduce their kids to the realities of the big bad world. After all, preparation is key.
Lessons of Hope & Optimism:
Almost every fantasy tale (except for the actual Original Grimm brothers version) ends with the humble "Mr (or Ms.Good or even collectively The GOODs)” beating the crap (pardon my language) out of the baddies. And of course, it almost always ends with “…..happily ever after”. Now along with being an optimist, I am also a bit of a realist at times, and I agree completely that not everything always ends well. But don't you think it is possible that secretly we all have loved these timeless stories simply because we know everything turns out hunky dory at the end? I believe so. The realist in all of us wakes up every day to face the harsh realities of the brutal world, but its our hope and optimism that helps us see past those barricades and persevere to get to our happily every after. And surely that can't be a bad quality at all :)
Now for a bit of a disclaimer of sorts:
- As a yang to a yin, these fictional tales do have their many shortcomings. Depending on the version, era and sometimes country of origin, they may be at times racist, sexist and absolutely inconsiderate of minorities.
- Fairy tales are an un-regulated territory. You know your kids; ensure they read suitable tales customized for their age group.
Finally, I appreciate that not all of you might share my opinions on these weird, wacky, and wonderful fantasy tales. I'd love to hear your comments. And to sign off, in the words of the brilliant yet eccentric Albert Einstein :
“If you want your children to be intelligent, read them fairy tales.
If you want them to be more intelligent, read them more fairy tales.”
Note: This post is part of my bi-monthly article at the parenting website "Parentous". The original version can be view here:
Image courtesy : http://www.morguefile.com/creative/kakisky
It is often said that the road to your parenthood becoming a fruitful reality is approximately 40 weeks long. Try as you may, you just cannot go above the nature-regulated speed limit - doesn't matter if you have a brand new Ferrari or a decade old Toyota Supra. Me, I say it's more like a board game - more often than not, you go from starting point to the winner's circle on a set path, and lady luck occasionally throws you a few lucky rolls of the dice, the outcomes of which are anybody's guess.
Though others may choose to disagree, I would broadly split out this 40 week path into 5 complex yet beautiful phases.
Phase 1: Wonderful beginnings
From a man's point of view, this stage almost always starts with either a "Yay, we're pregnant" or a "I'm pregnant with YOUR child" phrase. Since I am a staunch believer in the institution of marriage and/or any kind of serious relationship, I am going to use the former statement as the basis going forward. (Another reason is that mostly the latter statement has a 50% chance of going either ways - i.e could be good or bad news.)
Great, you're expecting! This has to be amazing news. Your partner (for this example, I am going to go ahead and assume it's a woman - to ensure biological accuracy) and you are excited beyond words, and suddenly everywhere you turn, you can't help but notice expectant couples everywhere. You personally want to shout out the news from the top of a very high building - however your sensibilities make you understand that only immediate family / friends need to know. You dote on your partner and are available at her beck and call. Their every little "ooh and aah" are a cause for concern for you. If you are a couple that enjoy the occasional drink, you voluntarily solemnly vow to take a detox till the little one(s) is/are out. This phase usually lasts till the first proper scan - say for about 12 weeks from conception, or possibly 6 weeks from when you discover you are expecting
Phase 2: Ups & Downs
You've just accompanied your "expectant partner" for her first scan. As much as you'd hate to admit it, you would have been jittery for the past couple of days - after all, this scan is black and white proof of your impending parenthood. The scan goes well, and your excitement (or fear) is confirmed, and you've now officially got an ultrasound image of something that resembles a cross between a reasonable sized squashed coffee bean and a baby chimp. Though you are vividly aware of both the scan technician and your better half squealing in delight at the "apparent features of your baby", you probably are squinting at the screen, unable to differentiate the baby's head from its feet. Fear not - research has shown that more men struggle with inkblot tests, which would probably go some way to explain our lack of skill in this field. Having said that, more often than not, you'd tend to play along and try to imagine what the baby should look like.
Once the confirmation of the scan is done, you'd most likely be ready to let your close friends and acquaintances know about this momentous event that is now slowly taking over your life. However phase 2 is not entirely stress-free. As your baby grows, so does your partner, albeit very slowly. And invariably so does your partner's pregnancy related syndromes - Nausea, tiredness, an absolute aversion to some previously well-liked aromas etc. just to name a few. To add to your misery, your partner now starts to show signs of weight gain; Unfortunately the worst part of this, is that she now starts to look more fat than pregnant. So be prepared for a lot of "Do I look fat in this?" and plenty more "I don't fit into those jeans anymore". Be patient - she deserves to whinge. However this is where the luck of the dice starts to come into play for the first time in this board game of pregnancy. Your partner could have all, some or none of these symptoms at all. This phase also sets off a round of maternity related purchases - maternity clothes, baby toys etc. Though fear not, these are the occasional spur-of-the-moment purchases.
Phase 3: Calm before the storm
You as a couple, are now approximately 7 months into your pregnancy. More than likely, your partner has now either been set free from the vicious holds of the initial pregnancy related symptoms, or both of you have made peace with it, so much so that you've accepted it as part and parcel of this wonderful journey. By now, the signs of pregnancy are really starting to show on the both of you - Her with her cute round bump and you with those monstrous dark circles under your eyes as well as your overall unkempt dishevelled state. Personally this is one of the best stages of the pregnancy - your partner gets a lot of attention from everyone, loads of congratulatory messages and plenty of " You look so beautiful / You're glowing" messages; It's great because these feed her good ego, and hence you are invariably much more relaxed.
Through the midst of all this, you can't secretly help but wonder if you should invest in a larger king-size bed, in the hope that this might stop you from being kicked out at night. Have fun while this lasts - which is for about a week or two.
Phase 4 : " I hate you …and everything else" phase
At approximately 8-and-odd months, starts the penultimate leg of this "lovely" journey. Be prepared to hear this phrase, at least once a day : " I hate you!". She finds it difficult to breathe, and everything that can swell, will start to swell. Maternity clothes stop fitting and she even finds it an arduous task to wear any kind of footwear that involves straps or a pair of laces. And you….you find yourself at the receiving end of every single outburst. You're torn between wanting to take care of her, and secretly wanting to stay a bit longer at work, till she possibly goes to bed. But at this stage, even a simple thing like a nap is excruciatingly difficult for her to come by. Once again, be patient - we men can whine and whinge all we want, when we are able to reciprocate with the production of life inside of us. Until then, be as loving and kind as you can be. At this point, you're very likely starting to regret the whole " I vow to detox and restrain from having any kind of alcoholic beverage" episode from Phase 1. Also get set to hear a lot of " Haven't you guys had the baby yet?" from the rest of the world. Phase 4 culminates with both of you secretly harbouring the same thoughts - " I don't care if that baby needs to be pulled out through the ears, I just wish it'd hurry up!"
Phase 5: The miracle of birth
This phase often starts off with a long resounding "aaah" from your better half, which progressively gets repeated every 10 minutes or so. So you do the best thing possible - call the Maternity suite/wing and let them know you think the bun's had enough cooking in the oven. Depending on your luck, you'd either be asked to come in straight away, or the duty nurse will insist on speaking to the mother-to-be to assess the situation. For the sake of simplicity, and sanity, let's assume that both of you have been advised to come to the labour suite. This sets the stage for "Let's wait and see.."; Your partner is now "comfortably" (yeah, right!) settled on the hospital bed, dressed in their traditional maternity gown, bed at a half-elevated position. As for you, you're just sitting around by the bed waiting for the inevitable push to come through. Apart form the occasional visits from the maternity nurse and the doctor-on-call, the both of you have some quality time to pass. Unfortunately, neither of you are in the mood to have lengthy philosophical or romantic talks. Sooner or later, the fated push will materialise, and riding on these waves of pushes and deep breaths, shall arrive the answer to the age-old travel question " Are we there yet?" - your little bundle of joy!
Sounds simple, doesn't it ?
Image Courtesy : RGBstock.com/johnnyberg