Category Archives: motherhood

Reflections of a almost five year old on Fairy Tales

I have recently introduced Migu to popular fairy tales and now our bed time reading as well as meal time stories are generally Cinderella, Rapunzel, Snow White and Sleeping Beauty.

As I have blogged in the past,here and here  Migu does not like to consume stories in a docile way. She has to constantly comment or critique a story. So this is how our story telling session on Snow White went.

Snow White had a step mother who had a magic mirror.

Migu : Wow step mother and magic. Is she like the fairy godmother? Will she wave her want?

Me : Well, no step mother and fairy godmother are different, sort of very opposite to each other. Will you let me continue?

As I continue we come to the bit about the mirror.

Me : The step mother asked the mirror, “Mirror, Mirror on the Wall, who is the fairest of them all?”

Migu : Wait, wait, I am the mirror, you are step mother, now ask me.

Me: Ok, Mirror Mirror on the wall, who is the fairest of them all?

Migu : Goldilocks

Me : Not Goldilocks, Snow White.

Migu : But that day you told me Golilocks was also beautiful.

Me : Never minds, its another story. Can we continue.

After some time, as we come to the bit about Snow White falling after eating the apple

Me : How do you think she revived?

Migu : How? How?

Me : A handsome prince came and saw Beautiful Snow Whites Body. When he kissed her, she revived.

Migu : Thats not fair. Thats what happened to Sleeping Beauty. You are simply saying this.

Me : No that is the story.

Migu : Why is it always the prince?

Me : I dont know, can I continue?

Migu : Ok

Me : The prince and Snow White got married and lived in a castle

Migu : No, that is what happened to Rapunzel

Me : So its a different prince, and it was perfectly OK for him to marry Snow White.

Migu : Getting irritated, there is always a prince (She said it in Tamil, so all who follow Tamil can truly understand the impact of a line like Eppopathalum Prince, Eppopathalum Prince.

After some time,

Migu : I dont like these stories, I only like Red Riding Hood.

Me : Why

Migu : There is no prince, only a wolf.

The Feminist in Me : You go girl, yes you dont need a prince.

Like I have written before, I didnt really question any story while growing up. I dont not always fantasize about a life similar to the one which I was reading about, but I accepted it and never thought to challenge their choices. I am glad Migu is growing up, questioning stories, and maybe unconsiously breaking stereotypes and challenging possibilities and choices.

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Yoga and Me

I recently had a rather startling realization that my public persona is very much defined by yoga. Our public life is now almost exclusively on social media, and around 80% of my posts on social media is about yoga with photos of me doing yoga.

And it is funny because none of the conventional yoga narratives seem to suit the relationship I have with yoga. I dont claim that yoga is both a physical and spiritual exercise (for me at least). I dont necessarily feel more at peace or connected with myself after doing yoga.  It is not even a social exercise any longer, because it has been more than two years since i stepped into a yoga class (or yoga studio, to use the new term which has even caught up in small town India), and for me yoga is largely a family exercise.

In fact I came into, and continued to practice yoga for probably all the conventionally wrong reasons. But here I am, with over five years of experience, so something must have worked for me.

To start with, I started practicing yoga based on the advice of a gynaecologist, who suggested that if I were trying to get pregnant yoga was a good way, since it generally keeps you relaxed and fit. I dont know why I latched on to this particular advice, since there were many other suggestions she gave which I ignored. A yoga class was happening very close to home, at times which were convenient for me (I never could stand early morning classes, so these evening classes suited me). So I signed on.

I know what I should have been doing was to focus on yoga and not worry about pregnancy. But that is exactly what I didnt do. I would constantly google about pregnancy related yoga, and try to learn and perfect all the poses which were supposed to aid in pregnancy. Yoga was simply a means to an end and I rather felt very self righteous that rather than go for any medical treatments, I was doing yoga to aid pregnancy.

This continued for many months. I did not invest in yoga for myself, but my body seemed to take to it very well. I used to slouch very obviously, and even though my posture now is not perfect, the slouch is much less pronounced (one friend remarked that I seemed to have grown taller). I felt good, even looked good.

I have never been a physically active person. As a child, I was pathetic at all games, and somewhere along the line I cultivated a self image that I never could not anything physically challenging. As an adult, I had had some forays into aerobics, hip hop dance and even swimming, but none of them lasted. Yoga seemed to be the only physical activity at which I was good. Yes, I know in yoga you are never good or bad, you just keep doing whatever your body permits you to do. But hey, we all have egos, and whenever my teacher praised a certain asana of mine or when I pulled off an asana, which other students could only gape at I preened like a peacock. Finally I was able to come out of the self image of being limited physically. Yes, I could be clumsy when it comes to certain activities, but hey, there were many at which I excelled as well.

This continued for a couple of years. I finally started enjoying yoga for itself and at one point even started wondering if I would miss yoga when I finally became pregnant and had a child. That was not to be, since we ended up having an alternate route to parenthood. Our daughter came into our lives at about a week’s notice, a wilful, independent 8 month old whom we adopted.

The adoption threw me off yoga for about a month. I think as a major life event, it threw me off life for almost a year. I had to suddenly cope with the needs of a totally different person, focus on her full time and in the initial days, I didnt have a moment for myself. Within a month, I had to return to yoga, and in that period, perhaps for the first time, I was doing yoga as it was meant to be. It gave me a space for myself, made me feel a bit relaxed and offered a temporary break from the hundred and one demands of motherhood which were suddenly on my head.

I continued to have anxieties and doubts about motherhood for a long time, even after I cracked the routine tasks associated with it. I was deeply insecure, kept wondering if my daughter would bond with me, and more importantly find me fun. To myself, I presented a dreary serious picture, hardly playing, hardly watching TV, hardly having fun. Why would a child ever like my presence, specially when I was also the stern disciplinarian in her life.

And then the answer came to me, and yes, once again it was yoga. Yoga was the one unique physical activity I could do which she could enjoy. Right from the beginning, when my yoga practice meant I could comfortably wriggle under tables and chairs and be with her and play with her, onto giving her rides on extraordinarily fit back, onto her being curious about the asana, looking at it from different perspectives, and trying to figure out their names (and yoga can be fun that way, crow asana, camel asana, lion asana, a veritable zoo of asanas), I was finally able to offer her something unique, something which we both could share.

My daughter is now 4, and we now have some brief daily yoga sessions, where she tries to match me. I like it that I am her role model in this one activity, and I like it that it is one activity we have taken to doing regularly as a family. Not because it is healthy (it certainly is), not because it is a symbol of glorious Indian civilization (it probably is, but I am not too concerned about it), but because it is a lot of Fun.

 

 

 

 

 

 

A to Z Blog : A is for Adhomukhashvanasana and doing yoga with a hyperactive two year old

A to Z Blogging Challenge : 1 April, A

I have spent much of the last year practicing yoga along with my two year old, and this has definitely been an interesting experience. I quit going to classes last year and decided to practice at home. The time I chose to do it was early in the morning, when I hoped Migu would be asleep. But just like Murphy’s laws would have predicted, she almost always woke up when she sensed me doing something. Gradually, I got so accustomed to doing yoga with her, that on the rare days when she sleeps when I am doing, I feel something is missing.

 

This has been my most special experience of the last year, so  I am starting off my A to Z blog with the name of a popular asana, which also happens to be the first asana which my daughter did.  I had promised myself when Migu came that no matter how demanding motherhood is, I would not give up yoga. I have pretty much cut down on most other hobbies, but yoga was not something I wanted to give up.

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Doing yoga with Migu is a challenge for all the reasons why doing anything which you are interested in along with a hyperactive child is a challenge. It exposes multiple flanks of mine for her to attack, and there are times when I seriously fear for my limbs. When I am doing balancing asanas which require concentration, she goes out of her way to disturb my concentration. When I am in inverted poses, I sometimes feel I am going to either injure her or me. Any bending forward asana is a horse asana for her, since she ends up trying to climb and ride on me. Even if I playfully try to throw her off, she enjoys it.

 

I wanted to expose her to yoga at a young age, because I read about a little child sharing that yoga helped her enjoy every other sensation in my life in a more profound way. I know it is common to say yoga is beyond just physical exercise. But I doubt if I have given my child any profound understanding of yoga. Right now, it is a game for her. Maybe that is the most profound understanding of all.

 

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30 Day Blogging Challenge : Day 13 : How comfortable am I in my body

Either I am very comfortable or I don’t really care.

I suppose I have a decent figure (above average height and fairly in shape, in fact, downright thin in recent months, the effects of running behind a toddler). I have very short hair, which I maintain with no great style. I am adamant about not wanting to grow my hair, because its easier to maintain this way, and at some level I like the way I look like this. I do have body hair which I dont particularly try to hide. In fact, I dont even do regular threading for facial hair, which I get, as a result of some hormone issues.

Like I said in the beginning, I don’t have the energy to motivate myself to make extra efforts to look good. Most of the clothes I wear are baggy and shapeless, because I cant be bothered to wear fitting clothes, which I need to keep altering every time I lose or gain weight.

Yet, paradoxically, despite my avowed lack of interest in my looks, its in small details relating to routines of dressing up that I see a proxy indicator of how much time I am giving to myself. I have shared before about how becoming a mother with a preparation time of less than one week really threw me off balance, and made me lose my sense of self. It was in my grooming that it was most obvious. I was never perfectly groomed, and now I even did not seem to brush my hair regularly. Worse, if my husband used to take time off from parenting responsibilities to focus on grooming, I would get irritated, wondering why is he so focused on himself, while I care nothing about how I look. As I struggled to cope and gradually grew comfortable with the role of a mother, there we little changes in behavior which suggested I had reasserted control over my life.

The first, more than three months after my daughter arrived, I started wearing a watch again. I dont know why I stopped. I am terribly attached to my watch, but somehow, while coping with a child, I almost never seemed to remember to wear it. I was always stuck trying to figure out the time, but the watch was never there. THen one day, I consciously decided to wear it. That act had an internal symbolism for me, which I find it hard to explain. From that day on, I always try to ensure that I have the watch on. I have ruined a few watches, because I forget to take it off while bathing the child. But thats ok. The watch stays, because it is an integral part of me.

The second, this winter, I decided, I will not tolerate dry skin on my face. I bought some aloe vera gel, which I wanted to use twice daily. For more than one month now, I have stuck to it. I do it, no matter what office, household or mothering responsibilities I have. And it makes me feel good. The result of this activity is not for everyone to see, only I can see/feel the difference it makes. And it makes me feel good, not because my skin is better, but because I proved to myself that no matter how much your role demands, no matter how much you are drowned in different responsibilities, you can always find time to do small things which matter only to you.

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30 Day Blogging Challenge : Day 1 : Five ways to your heart

I have accepted the thirty day blogging challenge, and so this blog will be busy for the next thirty days, and I will be writing on stuff, which I would never otherwise write about, definitely not on a blog.

This is going to be a random blogging vacation for me, where I push the boundaries of what I allow myself to write. Readers who will start wondering if the old Divya will be back, hold on, she will. Or possibly, this vacation will alter me so significantly that she wont.

 

Five ways into my heart

I think I have been married for so long, that I have forgotten how or why I fell in love with my husband in the first place 🙂 I remember long conversations, many cups of coffee and a shared tendency to continuously analyse things. And things have changed so much these days, we have no time for long conversations, neither of us have stepped into a coffee day for years and years, and the analysis paralysis frame of mind we get into is the trigger for some of our most intense fights. Yeah, things which seemed romantic to a young girl of 24 can seem like a waste of time for a harried mother of 31. But anyway here is a list of five things, which my husband can do to get into my heart. With a few variations this is probably a list which every harried mother will make.

 

1. Plan and execute a weekend outing, with no inputs or prompting from me, which is simultaneously interesting for two adults and a child of one and a half, and plan it in such a way that the child’s eating and sleeping schedule is not significantly disrupted.

2.  Coming up with ways to engage a child while eating, for long enough to ensure that she completes the meal (TV not allowed. The toys should be such that they are easy to play with while the child sits in one place and eats).

3. Random post dinner snacks, an ice cream, masala coke, frozen paan or anything unexpected

4. Willingness to spend sundays in a random way, playing in the garden with my child and the birds. Finding a way to overcome the sunday evening blues, which being anticipatory in nature are even worse than monday morning blues.

 

5.  Conversation on yoga and appreciation for the new asanas I am picking up 🙂

I thought when I started writing this list that almost all the things will now be about my daughter rather than me. But I realize that almost all the items on the list is actually about me and what I continue to enjoy. So yes, while motherhood has consumed me, I am still retaining a sense of self, of things which I enjoy. Three cheers to myself.

 

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You dont need to be correct all the time

Mrignayanee’s (my daughter)  adventures  with her shape sorter toy has been quite interesting.

For those of you who dont know what a shape sorter is, it consists of different pieces in different shapes (cube, pyramid etc) along with a receptacle with a lid which has shapes to match the pieces. The kid is supposed to figure out where to put which piece.

Now, Mirgnayanee tried doing it the conventional way a couple of times. Her trials were random. Then she decided there was no need for a lid to be on the receptacle at all. She removed it, freely put the pieces in and out, and was very happy with herself. The point that the rule of the game did not allow her to remove the lid was immaterial to her. She probably saw no need to adhere to a rule, when her primary purpose was to simply put and remove things from the receptacle.

There are two ways I can take this. I can feel happy that my daughter is a lateral thinker who sets her own rules. Or I can feel bothered that she is not paying attention and not getting it right, like other kids her age. I have now chosen to do the former, but  I think my natural inclination was to do the latter. I had to fight hard not to force her to play it the right way. I had to fight hard not to manipulate her into putting it in the ‘right’ way. I was so anxious she should get it right, I almost made sure she would put it in the right hole, by placing the correct hole at the most accessible location.  I had to  let go of my anxiety that my daughter is not doing something ‘correct’.

Similarly with her vocabulary. She is now at a babbling stage. SHe loves dogs and animals, and in general she chooses to call all animals ‘bow wow’. Her logic I presume is, if there are four feet and a tail, its a bow wow. She uses this consistently. In a friends house, she picked up a soft toy of a tiger, called it ‘bow wow’ and petted it. The other day, I pointed a camel to her, she stared at it for two minutes, before turning around and confirming this was also a ‘bow wow’. I had to tell myself for her to have made this abstract thinking that creatures with four legs and a tail is a bow wow is itself a great feat, and I dont need her to recognize every animal in the planet ‘correctly’.

I was greatly influenced by some of the thoughts of John Holt and read his work extensively, before Mrignayanee came. I really appreciate his point that children are largely self taught, and if we resist from hurrying up and trying to teach them things, they will learn from their natural curiosity. I decided this is how I will be as a parent. But trust me its easier said than done. We are each of us and so obsessed with getting things right that we cant help but pass on this anxiety to our children. Trying to let go of this anxiety may be the hardest thing I do as a mother. And yet, it may be the best present I can give my daughter, because I set her free to figure things out her own way.

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Cultures and Parenting : How India offers freedom to its kids

Recently, my seven year old NRI nephew, who visited me, made a very pertinent remark. We were at a  restaurant, and my boisterous one year old daughter was running around and making merry. She was curious about the place and saw no reason to be confined to a chair. And all the waiters paused a minute to let her pass, did not reprimand us, and even made sure she was safe, when she went too close to a swinging door. One of them even volunteered to mind her as we ate. My nephew remarked, ” Its really nice to see waiters in this city seem to like children”

My nephew was born and raised in the US, a place where kids are expected to be in their best behavior while out. He has probably been shushed and reprimanded by waiters before. For him to see waiters volunteering to mind a naughty child was a revelation. 

Its not just hotels. When I take my daughter shopping, shop attendants dont really seem to mind her mischief. One of them even told me, this is the age when children are curious, dont stop her from pulling the kurtas out, we can always rearrange them later.

This in sharp contrast to an experience which my aunt narrated about her daughter, another NRI. Apparently when her kid did some mischief in a shop in the US, the shopkeeper told her she ought to be training kids better. 

I am not saying every shopkeeper or waiter in the US is a terror and everyone in India is an adorable person. And I agree that a certain amount of disciplining is needed, so that the child does not get unmanageable. But what I have realized is that in India, we are much more happy dealing with randomness and disturbances when it comes to children. We dont really expect our children to be automatons. Our education system may be placing importance on rote learning, but I feel, otherwise, to learn life’s lessons, we give our kids a lot more space. 

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