Archive for the ‘Balance’ Category

Standing Up For Our Children

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K’s mom, I would do rebuttal posts only with a handful of people and do I need to mention that I feel comfortable enough to do it with you?

You have touched upon a couple of things that I have in my mind for the past six years. Let me go paragraph by paragraph. Any one else from the blog-mom-o-sphere, please participate. Comment, do a post, what ever works for you.

Chula has been fitting in a size or two bigger clothing since she was four. It is the hips that take the blame. Till I shopped in the ‘toddler’ section(US size 2 – 5) life was peachy. When I ventured in to the ‘girls’ section (US size 5 – 14) I vividly remember being alarmed. Many of the clothes were inappropriately designed. I mean who ever came with this low rise jeans idea?! Shouldn’t designers have some basic sense about hip size : crotch-to-waist length holy ratio? One moron comes up with a design that would fit stick figures and the all major departmental chains go ballistic and stock ONLY low rise hip huggers. I mean these are 5 and 6 year old children who run and climb things. I tried buying two sizes bigger and altering the length, but eventually gave up buying jeans for my children. Since 2008, all they wear are cotton pants with elastic at the hips that covers the butt crack. Yes, the clothing section is brimming, but if you are looking for non-pink, non-Disney characters, slightly loose, appropriate clothing, something that will withstand the running and climbing, something that is not a mini version of adult clothing  you might as well grow you own cotton and weave your own clothes.

Do I need to write anything about swim suits? Target has decided that if you are looking for 8+ size swim suit, it has to be three piece – a mini bra, a bottom that will fit inside a match box, a small match box that is, and a shirt. Mind you, none of these three pieces of clothing solve the purpose of covering your child’s body and it costs a about $50. If not, you can buy wet suits for double the prize. Finally after three months of searching I found swim shorts(low rise of course) and swim shirt at Old Navy, that too only because Feb is the time the stores stock swim wear.

Yes, that is the trend now good people. The thinking is no more, ‘This is current fashion’/‘this is swim season’ -> let us buy a little more in case there is a demand. The selling no longer caters to the different sets of people, with different shapes of bodies, buying a variety of things. For all that talk and noise about uniqueness, the only message clothing industry gives my children is to conform. Stores sell one standard thing at one standard time and you better stock up. If they sell low rise jeans, fit your body in to it. If they sell swim suits from Feb – July, buy at that time. If you think your child might grow out of the swim suit before, what stores perceive as, the next swim season, you stock up or you don’t get any. All in the name of popular demand!

Not exactly clothes, but while on the topic, I might as well spill my angst. If you are following this blog you will know that we just moved continents. Moving two children from one country to another, for good, is not fun. I wanted to cheer the children up and the bulb in my head switched on. ‘Hey, let me buy the children their own pull along suitcases.’ Again if you don’t endorse Disney or Barbie, then your choices are practically non existent. For boys it is easy, buy a pull along suitcase with Lightning McQueen and you are done. At least that is what it looks to me as a mother of two girls. What I buy is what I endorse to my girls. I do not want to endorse Disney Princesses, Bartz, Barbie and such.  I found that if I have certain principles, then I enter in to the exclusive realm and I need to shell out the money even if I am not ready. Finally this came home, with a hefty price tag, of course, the most I have ever spent on a piece of luggage and my heart bleeds a little bit every time the children pull it a little too hard.

Good teachers/guides(parents are the first teachers and guides of young children) have this philosophy, to balance out the classroom and to maintain harmony in the classroom, they pair up children with opposing qualities. It is purely trial and error and if it clicks, they compliment each other very well. Now a small diversion. Children are born with no clue what so ever about the XX and XY factor. Finally they figure out that there is a divide called girls and boys. They look in the society and look for external signs and qualities that define what is a boy and what is a girl. Unfortunately society tells that girls NEED to wear pink, wear dresses, must giggle, form sisterhood, like chocolates, must be super sensitive, swing between extreme emotions, be delicate, do art work, talk about their feelings, give up things for the greater good, be responsible, be gentle, be caring…… Back to good teachers/guides, these good adults must bear in mind that young children gravitate to pink and pretty because in their flexible minds, if they do not they are not girls. Unfortunately the adults, innocently endorse this thinking that it is a phase. Yes it is a phase, but if dealt blindly becomes a way of being, way of existence. All it takes -sensible adults to keep reassuring that sex is a biological thing and does not change no matter what. Just like good teachers, good parents must expose their children to both ‘boy stuff’ and ‘girlie stuff’.
Media, again like the departmental stores works with the sole principle of making money. Boys play rough/girls read books and do crafts -> publish more books for girls with girls as central characters and balls/blocks and video games for boys. Now come in the unsuspecting adults, who look at the choices available – ‘Make your own friendship bracelets kit with pictures of a pretty girl’, Cam Jansen, Fancy Nancy in full splendor, ‘Monopoly in pink – special girls edition with boutiques and malls instead of hotels and  houses’, designer edition pink Scrabble, Uno special pink edition… and end up thinking this is what girls need and inadvertently end up feeding the loop. Whose brilliant idea is it to sell Monopoly in pink? What is this message that girls must shop and spend money at the mall while boys get to do large motor activity, running around, playing regular Monopoly and developing their spacial skills? Why define pink is for girls and then sell pink board games and giving the message that girls play with girls and boy play with boys? Who exactly dictates that boys need to be powerful and play ball while girls need to be passive aggressive and shop?

Then this unique Indian message. The MIL switches the TV on and there is a lady lecturing that, the woman’s place is behind the man and by supporting the man she can better herself. She goes on telling the story of Valluvar’s wife Vasuki who defied gravity. At a point it gets to me, the mother of two girls and I end up buying Paper Bag Princess where the Princess not only saves the goofball of a prince but also ends up calling him a bum and walks out alone. Do I want to my daughters to end up alone? No, but I feel that is much better than being a Vasuki or a dainty princess. This is exactly how aggressive feminism grows. The past six years I have heard nothing but the roles and duties girls. Come on, my child is still pooping in her diapers and you tell me, ‘It is good to have a girl child first, she will be responsible and take care of the boy who will come next’?

That is why K’s mom, it is up to us, parents to stand up for our children, so that they can be well rounded individuals, have a full life, without any hatred for the opposite sex, choose professions that they are passionate about rather than to fit the bill and be sensitive. We as parents must put thought in to what we buy and what we endorse. Rather than picking the best of the worst, we must demand quality. If we let the advertising industry and corporates dictate what we need to buy for our children, we(men and women) might as well part ways, move to Mars and Venus and live happily ever after.

Reading suggestions: CINDERELLA ATE MY DAUGHTER by PEGGY ORENSTEIN. Words can’t tell how much I enjoyed and learned from this book. Five stars and a must read for all parents, irrespective of the sex of your child.

Previously blogged

Sexualization Of Young Children

Are men really from Mars and women from Venus?

XX vs XY

 




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Yesterday was Chula and Mieja’s first day taking swim lessons. I posted in the school’s parent yahoo groups, made couple of phone calls and registered them in a highly recommended swim school. They have classes once a week for 30 min. So I was fully aware that the money spent is for them to monkey around in water, which they did and had lots of fun. Well, I can dream that they freestyle across the Suez canal after these ten, once a week, thirty min classes, but again it will be just a dream.

Now I have to mention that of my M.A.N.Y pet peeves, one that will rank number one is my obsession towards maintaining a schedule and the other one that will be in the top ten is public water facilities.

My schedule goes like this:

– Swim class at 5.30PM = We have to leave home at 5.00PM.
-Leave home at 5.00PM = we must be ready dressed + kids’ back packs packed + their after swim snack ready + boots on + jackets on + customary potty round etc done by 4.55PM.
-Back pack ready at 4.55PM = start packing back pack at 4.30PM.
-They need to have a substantial snack before swim and it must be at least 90 min before the swim. So biggish snack/light early dinner at 4.00PM.
-Eat at 4.00PM = dinner, snack all done by 2.00PM. So I can go pick them up at 3.00PM. (Now if some one points out to me that we live exactly 1.8 miles away from school and it takes exactly 6 minutes one way even if all the four traffic lights are on, I will have to ask you to shut up and refer you to my pet peeve # 1. It has to be like this only.)
-I can hear the clock ticking, every second passes with an ominous thud, I am moving at warp speed, but the rest of family is not. So I feel this enormous pressure of carrying every one through my schedule in order to achieve the deliverable. Working on that folks…. might take a life time though.

Now to my next pet peeve about public water facilities. My most traumatic life experience so far, is that I had to dip in sea at Rameshwaram in order to ward off the ill effect of some planet in my husband’s birth chart. I consider it atrocious that I had to do it with him just because we are married. The very fact that I was forced to do it, created many ill effects for the husband that were not in his birth chart. Pity-huh?!

I see in water, things that no one can possibly see with their normal eye. I imagine one person swallowing water and coughing it out and their germs coming to me/my children crawling in slow motion with Jaws music playing inside my head.  The funny thing is that I am not your typical Purell worshipper. Water just seems to enhance my out of the box thinking.

So after the swim class, I washed, dried, dressed, blow dried the girls’ hair once at the pool side. Brought them home, dumped them directly in to the tub, shampooed their hair, scrubbed the top layer of skin off, rinse, repeat, ditto at home. Then the usual smahan after hair bath, churanam to clear sinus, blow dry their hair, moisturize etc etc ritual followed. Of course, I have a target bed time, so all this scrubbing activities have to be reverse engineered and timed accordingly. You all get a fair idea of how things roll right?

By 8.00PM, I was a wreck. I felt like eating murukku….. chewing the crispy, fried, oily snack seems to be the perfect solution to get rid of all that stress. Unfortunately there was no murukku at home and so the husband was collateral damage to the process of de-stressing.

The bigger point to all this is……. (yes, however pointless all this seems there is a point peeps) taking the children to an activity that I am not comfortable in is ‘this’ hard for me. I usually stick to my comfort zone of art, dance and dabble a little bit in music. The rest is like pulling a huge stone uphill by tying it to my hair. So hats off to the parents, Chinese and others, who are very sure about their choices for their kids and go through the hassle of taking them to various classes and putting in the grueling hours of practice and such. Amy Chua might call me lazy, but it is like that only. I just want to choose my battles.

PS: My opinion about Amy Chua’s article:
I didn’t like the stereotyping. For example, Asian kids play video games, do sleep overs and have extra curricular activities that Amy Chua may not approve of. She just translated what she did at home to all Asians.

I admire her guts for telling out in the open what she believes in.

I agree that Asian parents have high expectations on their children, while some non-Asian parents might be afraid to have any kind of expectations on their children. It is not wrong to have expectations.

I also agree that children need to be presented the same activity many many times before they master it and are very comfortable in it. But every parent does ‘the presentation’ in different ways. Not all Asian parents yell and go on a war path.

God give me strength to not call my children garbage, however testing their behavior is.

Whatever you do, do it with conviction. Example, the worst will be a ‘typical’ Asian parent parenting the ‘typical’ western way and expecting the result of ‘typical’ Asian parenting and vice versa.

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A Page From Our Lives

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Dear Mieja:

I have never written public blog letters to you and your sister. I had my reasons. Now, Mieja, this is my letter to you. My first public, blog letter to you. I have my reasons.

If I ever write your biography, the chapter that covers 3.5 years – 4 years of your life will certainly be titled HEART ACHE. To call the past six months as turbulent will be an understatement.

Your motto has always been Vini Vidi Vici – you came, you saw us all and you conquered us all with your laugh, love, expression and attitude. You make me laugh like there is no tomorrow. When I hug you, I feel this sense of contentment swell inside of me. You have multiple facets, all of which I enjoy. Heck, I enjoy even your ‘padagamani'( adamant and aggressive ) side. You have always gone by ‘naan oru mudivu pannital, appuram nane yen pechai ketka maten’ (Translates to: If I decide something, then I will not listen to me convincing myself to change my decision.) and in the past I have found it awfully cute. The thought that this child is my last child softens parents in many ways. It is an abstract feeling that  can only be experienced and cannot be explained.

Any thing goes is definitely not what flies in our house. Your appa and I believe that discipline is not a dirty word. We view it more as setting safe limits within which you and your akka can explore. It will be false to say that we do not have any expectations on you and your akka. Though the two of you are young, we do have expectations, age appropriate expectations on you both. We are not new, inexperienced parents any more. Tantrums neither scare us nor embarrass us. We are level headed to view it as mismatched expectations and  are willing to work through it.

Now, something happened. Or may be many things happened….. I am not sure, but I can only make educated guesses. May be you moved from what Dr.Montessori would call ‘just existing’ to ‘conscious existence’. May be you are trying to learn your limits by pushing our limits. May be you delicate digestive system is still in the process of maturing and you are suffering from the same lactose intolerance and acid reflux that made you scream in pain 24X7 the first two weeks after you were born. May be you are trying to define your niche in house and in school. May be you are trying to run with the top dogs too soon. May be you are competing with your sister. May be you are competing with your self. May be you found that by screaming you get my attention sooner that anything else and decided to take that short cut. May be you are feeling insecure…..

As a result of this, the past six months have been non stop crying and plain unhappiness – mostly for you. What shocked me was the rage, the anger that emanated from you and that you blamed me for your unhappiness. It was not just me, but your teachers also noticed it. What started as hugging my legs and refusing to say goodbye to me when I drop you off in your classroom, only worsened over the past three months. You regressed in certain areas I thought you had already mastered. Your teachers were surprised that you were having separation anxiety after being in same classroom, with the same teachers for the past two years.

We had a conference and discussed certain things that have been sending red flags right, left and center in my mind. Most of the red flags, your teachers said, were ‘preferences’. Strong, rigid and to some extent eccentric, but they did put my mind to ease by saying that there is no cognitive dissonance.

The real slap in the face came to me, when the head teacher of your classroom, the director of your school, a very patient, kind and nurturing soul called me aside and gave me ‘the note’. After an unhappy good bye in the morning, you were sitting with your teacher and she made conversation with you. After long probing you told her that you were MAD at me. Your teacher suggested that you write a letter to me. You dictated. She wrote. And I am holding the note that says, “To mommy, Mommy, I am having fights with you. That makes me sad.” Slap. End of story.

Since then, I have been trying to get a break. One thing I strongly believe is that, when you are desperate for something, the universe conspires to give you exactly what you ask for. It may not be packaged in the way we want it. But you get it. The challenge is to recognize it and make the most of it.

The break I have been asking for came as a real break…. in my tail bone. I fell on the stairs and broke my tail bone. The positive aspect of it is that I get to stay at home and spend some time with you. Real, quality time that is not measure in minutes but in love. I am able to slow down and give you the focus you need without cutting down on the time I spend with your sister.

You will be four in a week. Hoping that the chapter about your fourth year will be titled CONTENTMENT.

More love than you can ever imagine

Amma




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I Am Not Sharing My Appalam

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Out of the blue, the old Shaker song Chula and Mieja sing in the school during circle time comes in to my head.

‘Tis the gift to be simple,
’tis the gift to be free,
’tis the gift to come down to
where we ought to be,
and when we find ourselves in the place just right,
’twill be in the valley of love and delight.
When true simplicity is gained
to bow and to bend we shan’t be ashamed,
to turn, turn, will be our delight
till by turning, turning we come round right.

It IS a gift to be simple huh?! So coming down to where we are meant to be is a gift too? How absolutely right that it has to happen at the right time!?! Otherwise we wouldn’t have the capacity to recognize this gift. But how do we differentiate between coming down to a simpler level and lowering our aspirations and generally aiming for much lower than our capacity? In terms of life style, I understand the simpler we get, the harder it is at first. In today’s world simple is complicated. But in terms of aspirations, can doing our best and living a simple life co-exist? Are they mutually exclusive? At times is ‘simple’ an euphemism for ‘lazy’? By asking for both am I asking for too much? Or, just like lifestyle choices, simple aspirations are the most complicated? Are opposites the same?

In Eat, Pray, Love Elizabeth Gilbert talks about this balance. Wait a minute, I have read about something along these lines in the Swami Nithyananda newsletter. I have to put these down some where, but I realize that I am in the shower. So I quickly jot down hurried notes in the glass shower door that is misted with the vapor. Now the challenge is to get out and record the thought in something more definitive like a paper/voice memo in my phone or even better on the computer. The vapor notes are already beginning to streak with water.

But even before I open the bathroom door, Chula and Mieja come rolling in to the bathroom. Yes, they are rolling, fighting about something. Everything in my mind goes blank, there is a shift of priorities, I disentangle the children, help them resolve the conflict, realize that I have ten more minutes to get ready and leave home for work. Then it is run, run, run all day long and by 2.00PM there is some down time and I realize that the idea on the shower door has long vaporized.

It is not just one instance. For the past six years, everything, I realize, is a series of broken thoughts, interrupted processes. I have been on my feet constantly, improvising, abandoning one thing to pick up something that escalates, compromising, and postponing.

I am a visual person. The one thing that helps me is to see or to visualize with elaborate mental images. To remember numbers, I used to close my eyes and visualize myself writing the number on a paper and in the process come up with a code or a clue that will etch the number in my memory for E.V.E.R. Now I hear things and even before it reaches the brain I turn to catch the next thing and it is gone. My brain is like a sieve. I have become absolutely incapable of holding numbers.

When the uplink is happening, when the connection between the synapses is in process, to be jerked away from it and to be posed with something absolutely new that has to be dealt with….. Sometimes I can almost feel the pain from the synaptic connection that is ripped.

I badly needed time for myself and hence came up with the whole 4.00AM getting up thingy. For a while it was peaceful. At times, I would have nothing to do. I would sit with my steaming cup of ginger chai, with my devotional songs mp3 in the background and stare out through the dark window. There is nothing like hearing MS’s voice at 4.00AM. There is something deeply spiritual at that time of the day and in that voice. It was absolutely refreshing. Then one kid realized that I get up early and if they get up at more or less the same time, they can get my attention. So one started getting up to cuddle with me. Then slowly both started getting up at 4.00AM. I realize that they grow up and pretty soon they may not need me on this level. But, come on kids, be reasonable.

I truly believe that every object has a place. Even in the house, everything has a place. I wouldn’t say that everything is 100% organized, but for example, washed clothes go on in to the guest bedroom and wait to be folded. Even if it takes a while to be folded, even if it is in a pile for a week, that pile has to stay in a certain place. There is a place for newspaper. There is a place for mail. The mail mixes with the newspaper or if it is lying in the middle of the house, I just cannot think. I cannot take misplaced clutter. Oxymoronic huh? But, hey, that is me. Now, I have clutter in my brain and I don’t have time to organize the clutter. I can almost feel the corrosive clutter sitting in my head ever so slowly eroding my brain.

So with this in mind, I am trying to do some changes at home.

When kid 1 or kid 2 comes to me with another end of the world problem, I ask them if it is something they can solve by themselves. And the answer I get is always NO, no exceptions :) So, unless there is physical pain, I give them a choice, ‘You can either think and try solving it or wait till I am done with whatever I am doing.’ Works sometimes.

I also ask them, considering that it is going to take me a while to get to them, if they can think of another adult who can help them. I have stopped the blunt, ‘Go ask appa’ kind of blunt redirection. Because the kid1/kid2 when she approaches me, has already made a visual image of me helping her. (Apple does not fall far from the tree. Arrrrh.) So if I abruptly rewrite it, it leads to more drama. So I have to let her think and let her rewrite her own visual.

If I am starting something that needs to be done in one shot, no matter how trivial it is like transferring idli batter from grinder to vessel (The husband begs to differ. Under no circumstances he refuses to think of idli batter as trivial), I give them advance warning. I tell the kids that I am doing something and that I do not want to be pulled away from it till I am done. So they better behave themselves and not kill each other in that five minutes I am occupied.

Blackmail works wonders. I tell them, if there is a problem/conflict, then it means that they need to think about ways to solve/resolve it. Then I look straight at them and say, “This is what your teachers tell you in the peace lessons right? Can I call R/J and ask her how she feels about it?” They just scram when I mention teachers.

Thanks to a friend, I tried some empathy lessons last weekend. It was hilarious and I enjoyed doing it. Chula was sitting and watching her usual weekend end quota of TV. I sat next to her and pestered her to cuddle with me, get me some water from the kitchen, asked her if she can play with me, fell on her and in the process hiding the TV from the line of sight, every three seconds I whined ‘Are you done?’, when she will be done watching ‘her TV ‘ and if it is time for ‘my TV’ and demanded attention. She was just about to throw up her hands up in the air in frustration and I told her this is E.X.A.C.T.L.Y how I feel. Will work with Chula, but Mieja would probably think that this is how things are done, so I can’t do this with her.

Last but not the least, sharing. I am sick of being passed half eaten fruit, children usurping interesting food from my plate, once tasted and rejected cookies, cold soggy dosas, lukewarm idlis, left over cake with cream licked off, deflated pooris and the likes of it. Last Sun we were eating in a restaurant and I swatted hands away from the appalam that came with my thali lunch. I AM NOT SHARING MY APPALAM ANY MORE. So, deal with it kids.

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