Category Archives: parenting and me

Daughter Tales

So many of my friends are sending their kids to summer camps in the hope that the kids do not waste their time idling in front of the tv and learn something worthwhile, and spending dollars that would take care of my monthly mortgage bill. While I know some don’t have a choice with both parents working, the others think the camps teach so much that it’s an absolute must to send the kids to summer camps.

Daughter had started school when she was a little over 2 years. Of course with me being a stay-at-home-mom, she was in a half day program, that is until this summer. Her school being a daycare had no summer breaks, no vacations whatsoever except the 12 days of public holiday. Of course she had her breaks when we vacationed or took a day off here or there that is of course apart from the sick days. So this year with her starting kindergarten in the fall, the hubby and I decided to give her a break from the daily routine. Of course she is expected to wake up by a certain time and go to bed at her usual bed time, still has her swimming and gymnastic lessons and the one hour of study time. She is allowed just an hour of TV time and that too I must say she doesn’t watch regularly and is more often than not content in about 20 minutes other than the occasional days when nickelodeon or Disney characters seems to have camped on my living room.

So all in all I was a happy mom until some of my friends started raving about the summer camps their kids were going to. They were building jets with wooden blocks, going to science museum and zoo. Apparently the kids were learning so much while having so much fun. How exciting it all sounded. Made me wanting to be a kid again. But most importantly made me question my decision. Am I depriving her?? But then I told myself we go to the museum and zoo all the time. But is it the same ?? Again the mind started questioning. After all even I can’t deny that going to the zoo with your peers is more fun than going with your parents. Again the part of me that wanted to make myself feel better rationed in and calmed me down. I said to myself that it’s not every year that she will sit at home, it’s just this year that we are giving her a break. The whole new world of camps and school is just beginning to unfold in front of her. There is a lot of time for her to learn and enjoy with friends. But since I can afford to give her the time, why can’t we take advantage of the time spent together . After all we were also doing crafts, painting, baking and playing together. In between we were also having play dates and doing fun things. Most importantly we have been reading a lot of new books. The best part is she has been at home for a month now and I’am yet to hear ‘mommy I’am bored’. So we must be doing something right. After this talk with myself, I felt very good and was almost about to give myself ‘Mom of the Year’ crown.

Every thing was going fine till today morning. I had given her breakfast and was doing something in the kitchen when suddenly I see her blankly staring outside. Again my brain started to do overtime and I resigned myself thinking that keeping her home probably was not such a good idea. After all nothing interesting was going on in front of our house neither do we stay in a busy street where there is a lot of hustle and bustle that goes on for people to watch. While trying to finish my household chores I was making a mental note to call my friends and ask them about the upcoming camps. Suddenly I heard my Daughter, I had not realized that she had walked into the kitchen, “Sshhhh!!! Mama you are making too much noise. I am trying to figure out whether that is a cardinal or not and if you are so loud it’s going to fly away.” “A cardinal !!” was all I could come up with. “Yes mama, look carefully, up on that tree. Do you see the red bird ?”I saw her big bright eyes gleaming with excitement. I asked her is that what she was trying to figure for so long. She silently nodded, eyes still fixed on that tree.

After some time, I found her reading a book about birds. I asked her whether the bird that she had seen earlier was a cardinal or not and very indulgently she nodded saying indeed it was. She further went on to tell me about not only cardinals but about chickadees and robbins as well. That was a lot of info coming from a five year old.

So I thought to myself even though from next year she will also be going to summer camps if not for the whole summer but atleast a part of it, this year I can get a crash course in birds from my little 5 year old. So today once again I sleep in peace knowing that like the other kids she is also learning even if it’s just about birds. I think this time away from routined life is helping her develop some hobbies and interest. So when so many are spending their money, I get to have a crash course free 😉 . Isn’t that awesome ?? So till the time my brain springs another question on me, I’am at peace with my decision.

P.S : I have probably borrowed someone’s title but can’t remember whose. After much thinking, this is the best I could come up with.

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Going Out To Movies With Kids

This post is triggered after reading RM’s post on Frozen. Mine is not a review on the movie. On Christmas Day 2013 we went and watched the movie. It was the first time where Daughter went to the movies. Don’t get me wrong, she has watched most of the Disney and Barbie movies. These days often we let her pick, her own movie from Redbox but we really never felt the need to take her to the movies.

Actually we rarely go to the movies ourselves. Hubby and I actually have completely different taste when it comes to movies. In our 4 years of dating days we went to see 2 movies. And after getting married, the 7 years prior to having Daughter I guess we went to watch some odd 8 or 10 movies. After having Daughter, since we never had anybody to watch her, we ended up never going to the movies at all. Of course not going to movies never meant not watching them so it really never bothered us. We were fine waiting for the movies to be available in Netflix or Redbox or Youtube. There have often been times we have watched a so-called hit movie after a year or more of its release. So that’s how up to date we are with Hollywood or Bollywood movies.

Well this post is not really about our movie watching habit but more about watching movies with kids. I am strongly against taking little kids to the movies no matter what kind they are especially if they are little. I really don’t think kids miss out anything by not watching these Bollywood masala flicks with scenes with action/violence and the hot item songs. For our house it’s a strict no-no. And honestly we never felt we are sacrificing a lot by depriving ourselves from the little entertainment that they do provide. But what really horrifies me is how parents often bribe their kids with junk food and candy to make them sit quietly. Of course the other thing that does irritate the hell out of me when I do choose to go for a movie is a wailing infant. Trust me it’s not the baby so much but the parents who irritate me the most. They tend to think by buying tickets they are entitled to walk up and down the passage between the rows so that they can pacify the wailing infant while singing a lullaby. I don’t blame the baby who is petrified of the loud noise and the darkness.

So when Daughter was little we never took her to the movies. There were friends who gave us ideas about taking her and of course giving her candy. There were others who said so what if she cries once, she will get used to. I honestly don’t see the point in getting her used to things that really don’t make a difference. And my Daughter is generally a little scared of loud noise, so I didn’t see the point of putting her through the ordeal. And honestly I doubted whether she would want to sit through 90 minutes. Last year when we visited Disneyworld she enjoyed the 20/30 minutes 3D and 4D shows. So after she turned 5, hubby thought we should take her to the movies just so that she could experience it. I thought it would be a little too overwhelming and that she might be scared. When we talked to Daughter about going she took it in her stride and was pretty excited. So we knew she was ready. Hubby chose the movie Frozen and I researched it. After all its raving reviews, we took her for that one. She was super happy. She loved the movie. I was very happy with our choice as well cause it was one movie where ‘true love’s kiss’ didn’t mean kiss from a prince in shining armor.

I am glad we waited till she was ready to experience and enjoy the movie.I do not mean to offend anyone here nor am I in a position to be judgmental. To each his own is what I believe. I am merely sharing what works for us and what I agree or disagree to.

Learning to be a Parent – Day 19

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Motherhood has taught me quite a few things for sure and the most important thing is Patience. I was a very impatient person by nature. I used to lose my cool at the drop of a hat and would go on a yelling spree but things have changed for good after I had Daughter. It’s not that I have turned into a saint but my self-control has improved a lot from my previous days. Just after I had her, I remember I was very overwhelmed by the fact that this puny little baby will depend upon me for most of the things. Of course feeding, bathing and changing diapers were least of my worries. The thing that would scare me most was her future lay at stake on how hubby and I would bring her up. It literally frightened me. It was then that I realized how easy it was for us to blame/question other parents and how difficult it actually is to be in a parent’s shoe.  This is not a post to frighten those who are contemplating on becoming parents. It’s just about our family and what worked for us the best.

One thing I always did with her right from the very first days is talk. Yes I talked and talked and talked to her. For me it was no big deal because I love talking. Talking to her made me feel really good. I would talk to her, sing to her read her rhymes and stories. I remember hubby would get back from office and quickly freshen up and would lay next to her and talk to her about his day. Believe it or not, he would also ask her how her day was. Very early on we started getting rewards of our talking. She started to babble way before other infants and said her first word around four months. I always made it a point to explain everything to her. Each evening around 8 when the bell would ring, I would tell her ‘baba’ and one day without preamble she uttered her first word, ‘babba’ on hearing the doorbell in the evening. After that there was no looking back.

The other thing that we always did was fill our home with books and music. Both hubby and I love music. On any given time you will hear music in our home. We hear from Rabindrasangeet to Scorpions.  Be it a long road trip or sitting with a glass of wine on a cold winter evening Rafi, Mukesh, Kishore always manages to be a part our lives. And Daughter also loves music. We used to get a lot of toddler CDs for her since very early on. Nowadays she hears almost anything. Her taste in music is very versatile.  On the weekends if she is the first one to wake up, she goes to the living room and the voice of John Denver fills our house. Same thing with books, she loves reading and is an excellent reader.

I also strongly believe in the reward system. I don’t like calling it a bribe as to me, first she gets a job well done and then we reward her. They are mostly not expensive things and can be any regular stuff. Hubby and I generally decide and then we give her a few options and she can have the final say. I first started with the Reward system when we were getting her off the diaper. I told her each time she told me she had to go poop/pee and did the job in the bathroom, she would get a sticker. I started this when she was around 18months and believe me she was completely off diapers by the time she was 2. I remember that time our bathroom door was filled with stickers. I still do the sticker thing with her studies now. Each day that she does a few pages from her activity book, she gets a sticker on her room calendar. Each month she counts how many she got. When she does exceptionally well in something we buy her a gift. I think it helps her keep motivated.

The other thing is option vs force. As I said I am not a saint nor am I anywhere near being a perfect parent, the ropes of parenthood is something I am trying to learn as well, so I have my bad days too. There are days I do things wrong and make wrong choices. There are times when I am not particularly having a good day and end up being a little impatient or a little too hard. Those are the worst days of all. It is on such days that to get a job done, rather than being reasonable about it, I tend to pull my mommy-knows-it-all card and we get in a head lock situation. This is something that works 100% with Daughter, if I force her into something the outcome is crying/acting stubborn or a flat refusal but if I give her an option she almost always makes a good choice. And one thing that I am trying to work very hard is give her some space and freedom. Let her make some of her choices. If one day she refuses to have a fruit or a vegetable, just let it be. Nothing is lost in one day. I know sometimes I act a little too paranoid but I am getting better. If one day she refuses to have a banana then I try and coax her into eating an apple. If that doesn’t work either I tell her the importance of healthy eating and also tell her not eating a fruit is ok as long as she doesn’t do it every day. 9 out of 10 days she would end up telling me ‘ok mama I will eat my fruit now. Eating fruits are healthy.’ It’s a win-win situation. These days I try to give her various options be it during study time or dinner. I am often surprised at how much smoothly things sail if I handle things in a matured way.

One thing that we had decided very early on was never to scare her of the unknown. Just to save our breath we never told her ‘don’t go in the dark, there is a ghost’. Often we found people doing this so that the child would sit under their nose and not venture in any other part of the house. We always told Daughter not to touch any electrical socket and thankfully she listened. I always told her she is not allowed in the kitchen as there are hot stuffs but other than that she was allowed to venture everywhere in the home. So the transition to her own room happened very smoothly. We made sure she understood that she can come to our bed anytime she wishes and we are right in the next room. She took the concept very sportingly. Yes she still calls for us in the middle of the night and gets in our bed sometimes but that is mainly because she wants to snuggle with us not because she is scared. To her ghosts, monsters and vampires only exist in story books.

Another thing that does help me is a Time Out. Daughter is or has never really been very naughty or brattish. But on those rare occasion when she has acted out a time out has really helped calm things down a lot easily then a yelling. It actually gives her time to think about what she has done and gives me the much needed time to calm down and think of a way how I want to handle things. I honestly think it helps me more because from the moment I start to scream she automatically gets in her crying mode and nothing gets resolved.

Discipline is also something that is very much needed. We try to stick to a routine so that Daughter knows what to expect next. Generally discipline is something we try not to compromise upon. That way things run a little smoothly. Now that Daughter is also growing up she knows when to push us and when not and we too have learnt when to push her and when to let her off the hook easy.

It is a never ending learning process. I think all of us try to do the best we can and what works for us may not always work for you. But implementing little changes here and there has helped us in being better parents so much.  But no matter what we do it is so important to patiently deal with them. Be it in answering their innumerous queries as to when, why, what. Be it in gently pushing them to try new things. Be it easing their little minds to rest after a nightmare. Be it to reassure them that we will be there no matter what and its ok for them to tell us anything. After all the key to successful kids is a secure and happy childhood.

 

 

Raising a Reader – Day 4

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” Books are the quietest and most constant of friends; they are the most accessible and wisest of counselors, and the most patient of teachers.” – Charles William Eliot

If you know me now you wouldn’t know I was ever an avid reader once upon a time. I fantasized about working in a library. The month of January would get me all excited as that was the time for the Calcutta Book Fair.The bookstalls and their discount boards would have me eying them like a hawk. Oh what a treat it would be, when I would chance upon a  stall that would announce Buy 1 Get 50% off the other. I would be so lost in those stalls, trying to get the best picks. Parents would often get bored waiting in that crowd. Once I remember, my dad had accompanied me to the fair and after much waiting while I went through what seemed like every book, he wanted to help and spotted a couple of teenagers very excited about a particular book. I was in that same age group about 16 or so. The stall was crowded but we could see each other from two ends of the stall and suddenly I hear him scream “Do want this Jackie Collins novel?” and to make matters worse he points to those teenagers and says, “They seem to be very excited with these. I’m sure you will  like it too.” If only he had any idea what trashy novels they were and I didn’t know where to hide my face  🙂 . Like I said I loved reading. Books were my best friend. I always had a book with me. Staying late at night to read, reading a book when ideally I should be studying, hiding a book in my text book and reading; I’ve done it all. Friends, relatives, acquaintances or anyone who knew me for that matter, didn’t have any trouble buying me a gift because they knew nothing makes me more happy than a good book. Infact many of them gifted me books for my marriage 🙂 .

Books to me were a land of the unknown. I remember as a child Enid Blyton was my favorite and infact still is. Her writing took me to places which I wished were real. Even though I read from very early on but it was when I was introduced to Enid Blyton that my interest reached a different height. My first Enid Blyton’s book was The Magic Faraway Tree and believe me after that I never looked at a tree like before. Each tree made me wonder if there was a world inside it. How I loved that series. But then again, all her series have a special place in my heart and mind. Her Circus Series made me want to live in a caravan. Malory Towers and Naughtiest Girl series had me wishing for boarding school. Even the food at the boarding school had me drooling. Then came Famous Five, Secret Seven and the list is endless. Of course as I grew older the authors changed but the love for books always remained.

Then after I got married and moved to the US, you wouldn’t believe it if I said that I was literally in awe of the libraries here. I couldn’t believe we could borrow any number of books and they didn’t charge a dime for it. At last I had found heaven, it seemed. I remember whenever anybody asked me about life here the first thing I would describe in great detail were the libraries, to many of their dismay. Sometimes, I would walk in the children’s section and think to myself how deprived we were as kids. Reading still was very much a part of my life then, but as travel and changing locations; packing and unpacking took such a major part of our life that somewhere reading took a backseat.

Then I was pregnant with Daughter and I remember reading a lot during those days. I think I started reading to her even when she was in my tummy 🙂 . But seriously, very early on I started reading and buying her board books. I don’t think it was a conscious decision on my part but I could never think of childhood without books. We made a point to read her a bedtime story even before she started sleeping through the night. I still remember there were days when our eyes would get blurry due to sleep deprivation but still made an effort to read to her. Once we were so sleepy that while telling her the story of Little Red Riding Hood we told her the granny ate up the wolf 🙂 . But the point was, to read to her even if we got it wrong at times.

Very early on I could see that she really loved her books. Just after she started to talk we would often find her sitting in one corner and pretend reading. Then came a time she would want me to read anything and everything. I remember, she was just about 4 when she started to read. She would read the words by breaking the syllables but if given a story book she would be frustrated because she had not mastered reading and her reading would hinder the pace of the story which she didn’t really like. But that little girl kept up with it , reading toothpaste boxes, shampoo bottles and her favorite was sitting in the shopping cart and reading the cake mix boxes. By the time she was 4.5 years she had mastered the art of reading. Infact now at the age of 5 she can read as good as any of us. She reads books like crazy. The child who has never thrown a tantrum over anything has a long face if we refuse to buy her a book. Each year in her letter to Santa she makes sure that the guy at the north pole knows which books she wants.
Watching her read is such a bliss. She is so oblivious to her surroundings when she is reading. I love to watch her expressions. I can see she loves being in her imaginary world with the fictitious characters. They are more real to her than we are when she is reading. People often ask me what I did to make her such an avid reader but believe me I did nothing other than passing on my love for books, to her and probably keeping age appropriate books in handy always. Today I’m proud to say she is at a much advanced level in reading than her peers and even some seven year olds. Even though as a mother I feel proud of her reading skill but the knowledge that she is going to have so many adventures vicariously with her best friend gives me more happiness.