Tag 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.

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Can we gift a kitchen set to a boy?

I was stocking up some birthday presents recently, expecting a slew of birthdays in the coming months. One of the items I purchased was a kitchen set. As I was packing it away, I suddenly wondered, most of the upcoming birthdays are for young boys. Will I be able to give a kitchen set to a boy as a present??

There has been a million discussions on gender stereotypes in toys before, and as for myself, I am very determined that my daughters toys will not reflect these stereotypes. If I had a son, I would welcome somebody giving him a kitchen set. Better still, I would have bought it myself. But still, I hesitate to actually hand it over to a boy. I feel that it warrants an explanation from me to the parent as to why I am giving that particular gift, when I would actually give it unthinkingly to a girl. Handing an item like that to a boy seems like a political statement, whereas to a girl, it is perfectly normal, even desirable.

There has been extensive debates on gender equality in India in the recent past, and one of the major themes which emerge is that until we start teaching the boys that it is also their responsibility to share in what is perceived as ‘women’s work’, nay, that it is desirable to do this work, then gender equality is a myth. The slogan of teach your daughter it is good to go out and play is meaningless, if it is not accompanied by teach your son it is ok to cook. So why can boys not play with kitchen sets?

My daughter, is, to use a stereotype, quite ‘tomboyish’, and I am somehow confident that she will find a space for herself. We are definitely encouraging a lot of girls to break gender stereotypes, and girls wear jeans, trousers etc. Many young girls I know are going to football, tennis and whatever classes, as well as traditional song and dance (which they were earlier expected to attend). But where are boys ever expected to break their stereotypes. Do they have any role models for cooking. Yeah superchefs like Sanjeev Kapoor are great, but these men cook for the world. It is part of their business, they earn money through cooking.  DO they ever see a man doing their daily breakfast and agonizing over what to pack in their school dabbas.

It is an extremely problematic way of breaking stereotypes if only one group is encouraged to do what the other group is always doing. By saying that, we are essentially saying, it is great to be outdoorsy and adventurous. Yes, but it is also great to be homely and play with dolls. Neither is better than the other, and I should have the right to choose what I want to do, when I want to do it, irrespective of whether I am a little boy or little girl.

So yeah, back to my earlier question? Can I give the kitchen set to a boy. I think  I will now. And I endeavor to give it, not as a statement, but as a perfectly normal gift. Will any of you think of giving this gift now?

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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.

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A to Z Blogging Challenge G is for Gadgets, children and discipline

A to Z Blogging Challenge April 8 G


I guess this is definitely the biggest challenge of parenthood. How to control your child’s time with gadgets. I have seen plenty of kids pretty addicted to gadgets. I mean I even saw a little girl continuing to stare at her i pad in an icecream parlour. She was least interested in what was being ordered for her, just wanted to be left alone to continue what she was playing/seeing.


In the beginning, with my daughter, we decided, absolutely no gadgets at all. So although we owned two laptops, two kindles, two smartphones as well as a Samsung Galaxy tab, we tried to keep her away from everything. We wanted her to interact with the real world and not get lost in the virtual.


I also read a lot of articles which spoke of the need to protect children from too many gadgets. It was supposed to lead to all kinds of repercussions. ONe article even earnestly urged to you to forbid use of any gadgets and get the child out to play, no matter how much she hates you for it. For a little while, I thought that was the way to go.


The problem with that was that what we perceived was virtual, was still a part of her reality. How could we really deny gadgets to her, when we were ourselves so immersed in them. And it was not realistic to expect her to not look at them, since her world is very much about gadgets. It would be unrealistic to expect that she would not pay attention to them.


And so slowly and surely, the tablet became one of the instruments of daily play. And it does have its uses. It does engage her attention for a decent length of time. When you want her to sit quietly when the aircraft takes off or take a breather in a long train journey, the gadgets are useful.


And it is not like Migu is overly addicted to it. Yes, she expects to use it while having her evening fruit, but that is a routine we got used to because it was convenient for both of us. Sometimes when she wants to use it, she pretends she is hungry and wants to eat fruit so that she has a legitimate excuse to use it. And most times, when we tell her to put it away, she does put it away.


I think the problem with gadget addiction is not for the child but for the parent. There are times when she is so bothersome that giving her the tablet seems to be the best way to manage her. And when she has that, then she does not demand attention, which leaves you to do what you want to do. There are days when I have managed to finish a story I was reading or catch up on some other work, after handing over the tablet to her. And I realize I am getting into a bad habit here. Like I said it is not her getting addicted to it, it is me getting used to her getting dependent on it.

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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.



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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How does one punish a girl who thinks every punishment is a new game

Before I became a parent, I used to think any form of punishment is a strict no no, and I would never punish my child but reason with her and show her the right way. Yeah, I know, what a fool I am!!

I am not saying punishment is necessary, but I realized I lacked the patience of a saint, and I had to use punishments to draw limits, to keep my own sanity and equanimity. For sometime I told myself to never hit the child, but there are times when I just lost my temper and gave her a whack. Initially I used to feel really bad about it, but now I have learnt to handle this. I don’t mean to say hitting children is good, just that, if sometimes in the heat of the moment you do it, its ok, dont beat yourself too much about it. Try not to do it again, but just because you have done it does not make you a bad person.

But now I have come across a far more difficult problem. How does one punish a child who refuses to feel punished, who thinks every punishment is a joke. It is not that she does not understand cause and effect, she understands very well, but as far as she is concerned, the punishment is a logical effect of the cause, and that is not reason enough to stop the behavior which provoked the punishment in the first place.

Sample some of these interactions

I receive a complaint that she has hit another child in school.

Me. I am giving your ball to xyz because you hit her. She willl have it for a day and return it.

Migu : Cries and protests but has no choice.

Three weeks later

Migu : We can give this chalk and slate to xyz tomorrow.

Me (surprised and not making the connection) : Why

Migu : I will hit her tomorrow.

Migu refuses to eat and keeps spitting her food out.

Me : If you keep doing this, I am going to take this toy and give it away to ……. (a famous person who was imprisoned briefly, I will not name her, for fear of political backlash). She is in jail and needs this toy to play with.

Two days later,

Migu : After doing the same behavior again, haan, you can hand this chair over to ….. today.

After her father gave her a time out in the bathroom for biting me.

The next time she bit me, without any prompting, she walked into the bathroom and said, Ask appa to come inside, we will close the door for some time.

The most recent attempt after another hitting incident in school

I told her I would not talk to her and for half an hour did not respond to any of her questions. She really grew distressed and I thought finally I have found something to punish her with. Well, thought too soon I guess.

This is what happened two days later, on our way back from school.

Me : Were you good girl today.

Migu : Yes, you can talk to me today, I did not hit anybody.

Me : That is good, I am proud of you.

Migu : Dont talk to me tomorrow

Me: Why

Migu : I am going to push abc tomorrow.

At a very impersonal level, I find this ability awesome. She disarms you completely by refusing to feel punished by anything, and she has made me realize that there is no punishment in itself, and any act is a punishment only if the person chooses to look at it as such. There is probably a strength and emotional resilience in her, which will stand her in good stead in future. But at a very immediate level, how the hell am I ever going to discipline her.

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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.

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