Category Archives: parenting

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.

Tagged , , ,

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 Blogging Challenge : Q is for questioning from children and losing your omnipotence in their eyes

 

Before I became a mother, the one thing I really dreaded was answering the constant questions which I knew a child was bound to start asking at some stage. I had faced those stages with my young cousins, nieces and nephews and I shuddered to think that I could hardly cope with them for a few days at a time, and how could I cope with my own child 24/7.

 

One of the reasons I probably felt so uncomfortable with questions was the fact that it revealed to me my own profound lack of curiosity in the world. I dont recall a time when I was that curious, and somehow getting to understand my own ‘non-curiosity’ made me feel rather ‘less alive’ than those kids.

 

Now of course there is less need to feel hassled about childrens questions. The internet is a ready resource to answer the most curious childs questions. Considering most kids internet savviness you dont even need to make the effort to find the answer, let the kid search for it on her own.

 

And perhaps that is going to be the most challenging thing for parents of my generation. I mean no matter what we felt as children, we always looked up to our parents because they seemed to know more than us. Now, it is very obvious to our children that they have the potential to know much more than us. Will they then continue to look upto us the way we did to our parents, or how will the relationship change?

Tagged , , , ,

A To Z Blogging Challenge : P is for play and learning

A to Z Blogging Challenge Apr 18 P

 

Just today I visited my daughters’ soon to be school (she will start in two months) and was stuck by a chart out there. I cant remember the exact words, but it said something like Trust me I was not made to sit still and listen to someone, I need to engage with the world with all my body and trust me I am learning. SO let me play.

 

I really appreciate the sentiments of the school, because trust me some parents concerns about how kindergarten children are performing in school and what they have learnt is quite disconcerting. Today morning, within the school itself I heard two parents swap notes on whether the child was identifying fruits, vegetables and colors. I mean why does it even matter.

 

But when I thought of play, I started wondering about how we have ended up instrumentalizing even play for a larger learning agenda. Any toy shop you go to, toys come labelled with what skills they help the child develop. I know children are supposed to learn while playing, but can we actually sort of not think about the learning all the time while playing. John Holt says it is dishonest to think of teaching the child while playing, because play must always have its inherent value, and an adult cannot impose a larger learning agenda and rob the child’s right to play. I am paraphrasing, but that is pretty much what he meant. When I read it, I thought he was overreacting and there is nothing wrong with us using play as a learning tool. But now when I see schools go out of their way to emphasize that we teach through playing and parents continue to swap stories about how well their three year old can identify fruits and vegetables, I really wonder.

Tagged , ,

A to Z Blogging Challenge : O is for Obedience from Children

A to Z Blogging Challenge Apr 17 O

 

I guess every ones model parent is someone who does not demand blind obedience from the child but is always patient and reasonable and expects the child to buy into an argument. While this is perhaps feasible with a slightly older child, having a toddler means there are times when you just want some obedience and to hell with reasons. There are times when I just want to tell her, you need to do that because I say so. Well of course, when I did try telling her that, she replied serenely, “I will say no.”

 

I know it is wrong to compare kids, but somehow whenever I am in company I used to compare my daughters obedience levels with the other kids, and she pretty much came out in the bottom all the time. I realized even then that if I wanted more obedience, I may have to trade it in with certain other traits of hers which I admire, her independence, her sportiness and general non fussy behavior.

 

Things did go bad enough that I almost used to publicly declare her disobedience, and every time something went wrong suspected that she was at fault. Probably at three Migu is too young to resent me for that, but I realized very soon that other kids started using my behavior to gang up against her. Thus I would hear constant complaints about her even if I was standing right there, and knew she hadnt done anything wrong. I even started having other kids suggesting how I should punish her for her behavior.

 

While this got me to at least stop publicly berating her, I still worried about the lack of obedience. I wondered what she would do in school.  Untill I saw her in football class. That is an activity she enjoys and in that class, I see a distinct attempt to obey what the coach says. She is proud of the stars she gets there, she is proud of her football skills and though she is not a model of obedience, I can see that the coach enjoys having an interested, if slightly aggressive child on board among the other younger children who barely pay attention to football for more than five minutes.

 

These classes are a week old and I dont even want to mention her obedience sometimes wondering if it will jinx it. But I am glad that I witnessed her obedience. It kind of tells me all hope is not lost.

Tagged , , ,

A to Z Blogging challenge B for Body image and what to do when your two year old demands lipstick

A to Z Blogging Challenge 2015 April 2 B

I have generally hardly cared about dressing well or even looking decent. Most times I walk around with oversized clothes and rumpled hair. I dont know if it is because I am supremely comfortable with my body image. I think it is more that I have a certain inertia when it comes to making an effort to look good. Ocassionally I try, but mostly I am not bothered.

 

So I pretty much have no beauty products at home. Some moisturizer, old dried up llip stick and nail polish from around the time of my wedding eight years ago. I thought that was nothing at all to influence my almost three year old to start thinking about these things. I thought she would think about herself just like I did, and while this is not exactly healthy body image, at least it is not troublesome body image.

 

But I underestimated the impact of peer pressure even at such a young age. Migu spends about 3 hours in her day care everyday. There are slightly older girls there and she has picked up stuff like nail polish and lip stick from them. SHe uses her crayons to color her nails, she pretends to be applying lipstick with her finger. She demands that perfume be sprayed on her.

 

Now this really puts me in a dilemma. I dont want to intrinsically judge these things as bad. I choose not to use them, but to each their own. And a woman who uses any of these accessories is not necessarily less empowered than me. So yeah, ideally, I would not have any problem with my daughter doing these things. No problem, except that no matter how much you believe your child is different, you want t

hem to have similar intersts and values as you.

 

And on a more practical level,  I have no lipstick at home. I dont know what brands are considered good, if at all there is a child friendly brand. And frankly, no matter how much I have prioritized my child’s interests in my life, I can’t be bothered to do this research now. But does it mean giving up and letting her find her own friend who shares these interests at age 3. Somehow the thought that they have a life which you cant witness at such a young age is quite daunting.

Tagged , , ,

Teaching social responsibility to children : What do we teach them and how?

We are school hunting for Migu now, and one of the things which stuck me in my exhaustive research was how schools were trying to promote social responsibility among children. There are definitely good attempts now, compared to when I was a kid, but again, why are most of these attempts focusing on fundraising.

I have nothing against fundraising. It is one of my core responsibilities in my organization and I would dearly love these children to adopt my cause and raise funds for us. And ways of raising funds have definitely changed in recent years. Kids train for runs, go out on cycles, sell tickets for events or even make something themselves and sell them to raise money for other children who are under privileged. All very nice and worthy.

But as I said, is that all? Do we teach our kids to be socially responsible consumers. Do we teach them about conserving natural resources. It is not just about crackers and diwali. It is about being careful in our expenditure of any form of resources.

There was an exercise which I was part of during a child rights workshop. I experienced it almost as an adult, but it still had a very profound effect on me. I am sure it will impact children. It was a fairly simple one.

THe trainer drew a big circle. He then handed lots of balls to the first few participants, and said anything they threw within the big circle was theirs. Predictably, participants made the maximum out of it.

Next round, he drew a smaller circle and fewer balls left which went to the next lot of participants. Same rules, and the participants got some balls, though it was fewer than the first lot.

Next round, circle becomes really small and balls also very few. Predictably, this group had the fewest number of balls.

What did this exercise teach me. That with limited resources, there were some of us who had a disproportionate right over the resources, compared to others.

This is a lesson which has stayed with me. I dont claim that I never do wasteful expenditure, but I am at least cautious about it, and reflect for a moment about the use of any resource.

Isn’t this caution a primary aspect of being socially responsible? And where are we teaching our kids this? Instead we are focusing endlessly on fundraising, which is in itself part of a endlessly consumerist cycle.

Dear kids, dont get me wrong. I totally appreciate all the efforts you are making on behalf of people who may not have the things you take as necessities. But your role is not just about collecting resources so that these kids can get these resources, your role is also about being judicious in your utilization of the opportunities given to you, so that many other kids can also use the opportunities.

Tagged , , , , ,