Wednesday, November 19, 2008

Dilemma that I am facing.

About a year ago I told my older son that very soon he will be in his teens and therefore I would be looking forward to some help from him when he could go on his own on his cycle to foodworld or the nearby grocery store and get me stuff . He was very happy and proud to hear this huge responsibility that was being given to him. It made him feel very important too as he felt grown up. I felt quite happy just thinking that I could send him to buy things which would help me in not only making him independent, learn a little of money matter but I also could do with little bit of help now and then. I wanted to make my child responsible and independent.

Now this was a year ago and still I have not had the courage to let him go on his own. WHY? Because of the reckless way the traffic scenario is in our city. For the past seven years that we have been here we have dropped them every single day to the bus stop and picked them up every single day come rain,sun ,feeling ill or what ever may be the reason. The school bus picks the children from the main road and drops them on the main road. Yes justified as otherwise the last child will be reaching two hours after school if they go into all lanes to drop the children and the buses are huge so reversing would be a big problem. No complaints about that. What irritates me is that though the bus stop is about half a kilometer from home and children are ready to walk I feel so scared to let them go on their own for the single reason that they have to cross the road.

Sometimes I see such young children crossing the road on their own without any adult supervision or I see them going on a bicycle on the main road I marvel at the courage of those mothers who have let their children to be on their own and I feel may be I should also do so. But then just the other day we were waiting to pick up our children from the bus stop and I saw two children and a man crossing the road and all of a sudden an Innova appeared from nowhere at such killer speed that I thought I will be witnessing a gory accident right in front of my eyes. They just missed a crushing end by the breadth of a hair. But I saw the man was totally shaken. We sitting in the car were shaken then imagine the state of the children.

I know I have to overcome these fears. I feel motorists should show respect towards pedestrians and strictly follow rules. This is, but one issue among a plethora of several serious issues that I have discussed here. But I need to start at some point sooner or later. Any suggestions?

Tuesday, November 11, 2008

The Difficult Tween Years

Right now my older son is in his tween years. He is all of twelve and both of us are trying to come to terms with all the problems, dilemma's and mood swings that is taking place. My son N is a sweet kid. Anger was his only negative emotion right from the beginning, but one which I will attribute to our family genes!! Apart from that he is friendly, active,very playful and kind.

Off late though I find that he gets irritated very easily. His mood swings like the pendulum, he suddenly talks back to us, just bangs the door when angry, and so on and so forth, the list is never ending . Luckily one thing about him right from the beginning is that, just as a tornado his emotions sweeps over for a few minutes and then suddenly his anger or mood just disappears and he is back to his normal self within no time.

This then I know is tween years. He is neither a teenager nor a child anymore. His body is undergoing a lot of changes. His hormones are on overdrive and most of all he is confused. To top it all peer pressure and all the things that they are exposed to leads to this general state of emotional outbursts now and then.

I know what he is going through and I try and remember what mood changes I also used to undergo during those times, it still seems to take a lot out of me to handle the situation with my son. I feel I am more confused than him!

I am sure all mothers of tweens are going through the same situation and trying to grapple with these difficult years. There are a few things that I am trying to cope up. First of all empathising with him. Telling him that I have also gone through similar phase and how difficult it was for me too.
Second I want to curb my anger as far as possible. This if you remember was my resolution from a long time if you have read my previous blog. I am still consciously working towards this end. I find the more angry I get the worse it gets and in the bargain there are lots of angry retorts going to and fro. Hence I thought it will be better to let him just come out with all the pent up emotions . Once he cools down then I try to reason out with him. But believe me this is easier said than done. Many a time he knows what he is saying is not right but just that he needs to assert himself and has to have the last word.

Third I appreciate his efforts and try not to criticise his work after all I find he is quite a responsible child and knows what needs to be done,only thing being he prefers to do it taking his own sweet time which sometimes is the bone of contention between us. Again "Patience" is the keyword. Everytime, I think I come back to this point and find that is what makes a better mom - having patience in abundance.

I have given a lot of importance right from the beginning to physical demonstration of love. I really enjoy cuddling them, hugging them, kissing them . That special touch makes a lot of difference. Showing the child how very special he or she is and giving them the assurance that no matter what, we are there for them makes them feel special and protected.

Keeping the communication channels open always helps. As soon as they come from school I enjoy listening to all that has happened on that day. In the bargain I will also get to know what is happening in their life.

I have listed a few steps that I am following. Maybe you folks can tell me more on how you deal with your tweens?

Friday, October 31, 2008

Brand Value?

From a long time now my sons have been demanding reebok shoe for school. Their school had recommended reebok shoe or any other brand as long as they did not have deep treads. I felt that Bata shoe would do very well as - 1. it has been in the shoe business for ages now and we grew up in it, 2. it is inexpensive and 3. children grow faster at this age and therefore I can change the shoe every term without feeling the pinch of it. Every day I have my kids saying that their friends are all in reebok shoe and hence they also want it. Till now somehow I have convinced them into wearing Bata shoe. But it is a real uphill task. The other demand is for Arsenal football jersey. A whopping Rs. 3000-4000 ! Just imagine.

The other day when I went to my friend's house we got talking and the discussion turned towards how children demand these high value branded items. She said that she was also facing the same problem with her son . She was saying that when her son's friends had come to her place all of them had come dressed in branded shirts and wore branded footwear. She then felt that she could understand how much of a conflict her son must be facing. She said that her son must be feeling sandwhiched real tight between the parents and his friends.

These things give rise to lots of doubts in my mind. Are branded items really required ? Do they really help or is it just an issue of prestige? Can they not do with ordinary things and emphasise more on quality life? Does simple living not start from childhood? I feel money is not the issue but where are we leading our children?Aren't we making them more and more materialistic?Sometimes I feel sad that this generation has to go through so much of trauma. They are caught in conflicting situation.

Our upbringing was such that there was comfort in life but no extravagant expenses. We took the same bag to school for three to four years, wore the same shoe and took care of it so that it would last the whole year. Pencils, erasers were used until such time that they were down to their stubs. With our children too we try and use the same kind of prudence, though not to that extent . But sadly they are caught in two different extremes. From their point of view they are right to feel bad that we are'nt buying things that they want, because they find their friends parents buying expensive things for their children. I have seen children being given loads of money and they are given the freedom to spend it as they want at a very young age. I have seen groups of children in gaming centres all alone buying tickets with their friends , playing without any adult supervision. For me it is a shocking thing! Ofcourse each parent have their own viewpoint with regard to upbringing of their children.

Somehow I feel teaching them the value of money right from a tender age matters. This leads to more satisfaction. Because I tell my children the more you get, the more you want and there is no end to it. "Need" and "Want" should be defined clearly to them. But I do not know how long I can try before I end up making compromises on these principles.

Wednesday, October 29, 2008

Staying Connected Forever

Friendship is such a beautiful thing and every one of us at one time or the other have had a few close friends with whom we have shared all our dreams,aspirations, fears, future plans and so many more things. My school friends just vanished once I joined college. A set of new friends were again a part of my college life. After leaving college, to date I have only a couple of friends with whom I have kept in touch. But all the rest have just slowly faded away in this vast ocean of life.
Just the other day I was spring cleaning in preparation for Diwali festival when I suddenly came across my old college photograph and it brought back wonderful memories. I sat there trying to recollect all the forty or so names of my batch mates. So many funny incidents came rushing forth and it made me want to somehow try and contact all these friends to find out what they were doing right now, where they were and how they had fared in life? Friends who had been close at one time and promises that were made to keep in touch had somehow just disapppeared.
Recently I signed up on Facebook and that got me quite excited as I thought that here at last was my chance to I trace back all my friends. Well I was able to find one of my students and my friends sister through whom I was able to get my friend's id. This is just the beginning and hope I will get to hear from quite a few friends of mine. I thought it was a wonderful way of keeping in touch.

When I saw this a thought flashed in my mind , how lucky my children were. They will never have to wonder about their friends like we do now. Their friends will now literally be just a click away. Just imagine this current generation is already signing up on Facebook and other sites and that way they will always be connected. They will be able to know what is happening in their friend's life twenty years , from now. Is it not a wonderful way of staying connected? The world will really be a small place and they will never ever loose touch with their friends.

Monday, October 20, 2008

Positive Parenting

The other day me and my friends had attended a talk given by Swami Sukhabodhananda . This was the first time I heard him live. He speaks very well with examples from day to day life with which one can connect and identify easily. I thought that some of the points that he discussed could be good parenting tips .

He was saying how the state of our mind affects us and calls for unwarranted reaction from us towards a simple incident. He was quoting an example from Mahabharatha. Duryodhana goes to see the beautiful palace that had been built for the Pandavas. There he had a series of accidents, he walked into a mirror thinking it was the door, he fell into the water pond thinking it was floor and that was when he heard Draupadi giggle. He felt insulted. His state of mind at that point was also not right. He was full of jealousy just thinking how could the Pandavas have such a beautiful palace ? This then got aggravated by the small incident of Draupadi giggling and led to the fateful war of Kurukshetra. If he had just let go and if his state of mind was good at that particular moment there would not have been Mahabharath.

Many a time as a parent I find that I loose my temper with my children when I am disturbed mentally. I then tend to talk a little harshly to my kids, though later I feel where was the need for me to react in such a manner. Having immense patience and developing calmness is the first priority of a parent I feel and not let little things disturb.

Many a time I have my friends telling me parenting would be very easy for me as I have done Child Development. But it is not true at all. I have seen that theory is different from practically living it. Yes I definitely feel it has given me enough guidelines and has made me aware about different stages. But beyond that I feel that we have to go by instinct alone and depending on individual personality of our child. There is no set rule even for the same kind of situation. So going by the flow is the best way I feel.

Each stage presents it's own problems and dilemmas. I remember my older son when he was just three would have bouts of anger and roll on the floor and cry. Initially all of us would go hyper trying to pacify him and he would cry even louder. Later we found that the best way to deal was to just let him be without interfering until he calmed down and then try and reason it out. When the phase lasted though it was terrible and we used to feel rather embarrased to take him out to our friends place for fear of creating a scene. At that time it felt like a monstrous task but after some time it was a distant memory. Another phase would start bringing with it it's own share of problems. It is a balancing act. One thing I have found which I try my level best to follow is PATIENCE, PATIENCE and more of it. Anger never has solved anything anytime. Contemplation and a calm mind works best in parenting. At the same time I also have seen how difficult it is to be calm when my child is making unreasonable demands, is throwing tantrums, is getting angry at every small thing that I say, or not doing things that he is supposed to do. It is nerve wracking.

But however hard it is going to be I have decided that right now I have to work real hard in developing that magic within me the three things which should strengthen my parenting skills and that is 'Patience, calm mind and contemplation'. Let me keep you folks posted as to how I am faring in my resolve. I do not want Kurukshetra in my house.

Monday, August 4, 2008

Building Self Confidence In children

The other day I had gone to this shop to get a few papers xeroxed. I had gone to this shop once before this and there was a young man who had done it quite fast and so I went to this place again. This time I found a little girl of eleven behind the counter. Thinking that I had to wait for the man to come I enquired as to how long I had to wait? The little girl asked me for the papers and started xeroxing my papers. Her movements where so precise that I had no doubt that she had been doing this for a long time. She was efficiency personified.

Not only this she was handling other customers coming there to call as there was an STD booth attached and they were also selling SIM cards and other items. This little girl was handling everything with ease. I thought she would be the right kind of person to train some of the inefficient people that I had come across. For that matter I thought even I could not have done what this child was doing with such great efficiency. What struck me about her was her immense self confidence.

That set me wondering about how important it is to build up confidence in children. The dictionary meaning of self confidence is relying on one's own powers. It is something that we as parents need to inculcate in our children. Here are a few thoughts that I have as to what might lead to low confidence in children and what we as parents could do .

Some of the things that lead to low self confidence in children are, parents being over protective about their children. These parents feel that they have to protect their children all the time. They feel children are incapable of taking care of themselves. Such children cannot take decisions on their own. They look for their parents approval for every little thing.

Another thing would be when parents interfere in every little thing, whether during their child's play time or study time or eating time the parents are there behind them 24 x7. They also feel very satisfied that they are being around their children all the time and doing everything possible. But here again all the decisions are taken by the parents and the children are just supposed to toe the line.

I have come across children who are over confident too. Children expecting their parents to do evrything for them. They shout at their parents and demand things and parents give in to their children meekly. Sometimes I have seen parents feeling very proud about it too.Welcome to the world of over indulgent parents. The whims and fancies of the children are catered to in every possible way. We get to see these incidents specially when we visit malls.

Some parents I feel are indifferent. They let their child do whatever they want and are not involved in any thing. Hence the child is confused wondering whether what they are doing is right or wrong.There is no one to guide them. Self confidence is again at stake.

What can one do to boost the child's self confidence? First I feel their self esteem has to be high. Children are to be cherished like little flowers. Too much of water and sunlight will wilt the flowers. Too less will again lead to same result. The name of the game is "Balancing the Act".

Let the children take decisions on their own. This should start from their childhood. This can be as simple as what they would like to do, when, where and how. Respect their view points and Listen. If however we know for sure their decision is going to go wrong then we have to learn to put it across in such a way that at the end of the explanation say " don't you think so?" or" what do you feel?" instead of saying outright "I know for sure your decision is not right."

Allow the child to make mistakes. He will learn more out of this. Let the child take responsibility for his or her actions. If the child has done something wrong then do not criticise nor as we are habituated to say, do not say "I told you so". I am sure we have all made mistakes and are still making mistakes. Just because we feel we have this power over our children it does not give us any right to boss over them or lower their self esteem. Just accept and move over.

Entrust a few tasks to your child . Something which will make him feel grown up and big. When visiting the book store or buying grocery you can ask the child to choose fresh veggies for you or decide on a book..... ofcourse within a budget. The main thing here is they decide. Appreciate them for good work done .

Hats off to the little girls mother who has done her job of parenting so well.

Friday, July 25, 2008

Lost Childhood

The other day when I was watching BBC news channel I saw it was a report on some of the war ravaged countries. Some of the clippings were of little children with their mothers standing with dazed look on their face. Their eyes are staring vacantly at the horizon.In another clipping it was Children of twelve, thirteen running around corners with guns in their hands and enjoying shooting at the security personnel. I am sure you must have all seen this by now familiar sight on news channels.

This made me wonder how these children are getting affected by constantly getting exposed to war, shootouts and killings. Personaly many must have lost their near and dear ones in these senseless fights. this would mean a whole generation of children are getting exposed to these violent crimes and their psyche would be totally affected.

When our children would be playing with toys , children there would be playing deadly games with the guns. When our children are making a fuss about food little ones there must be suffering hunger pangs. School for them would be fight for day to day survival lessons and trying to save their lives. Bed time stories would be the days drama of life unfolding in front of their tender lives every day. Dreams would be of gory bodies everywhere.

I wonder what does life hold for them? What would their future be? Can they ever hope for a normal life and a normal childhood? Imagine a whole generation just losing out on their childhood. They might become cynical and be much more mature despite their tender age. They too might become part of the vicious circle of war and death. In the battle fought by the shrewd politicians and war mongers these little lives have been sacrificed .

When we do not have the power to create the world we do not have the right to destroy it. In what way would war help anyone? I wonder...

Just imagine a world of peaceful co-existence where there is love, joy and happiness. A world filled with the gurgles and laughter of children playing together , carefree and full of life and dreams. I hope these children will survive to see life in a whole new way.

Wednesday, July 23, 2008

Books Child's Best Friend

One thing that I was crazy about right from my childhood was reading books - specially fiction. Initially it started with small storybooks which my grandmothers sister used to give as gifts on birthdays. Later our very good old Amar chitra katha books and in teens it was Nancy Drew, Hardy boys, the forever exciting Enid Blyton books like Famous five, Mallory towers and the list was never ending. Oh! the sheer delight of reading these fantastic books.

I remember how I used to try and finish my studies fast ,complete all my home work and then I would start reading my favourite books. My mother and my sisters used to grumble as to why I had to read as though my life depended on completing it. But there I was just reading .... and most of the times refusing to go on a family outing, which really used to irritate them no end.

So it was no big surprise that I started planning and started my own library of books for my babies even before they were born. Both me and my husband who luckily also shares my passion in reading books would visit book exhibitions. Thus we started building up a good collection. It was my dream to pass on this passion of reading books to my children also, as I felt books are the best friends that a person could have.

I initially started with nice colourful picture books by pointing out pictures and talking about it.This was the beginning. Once he started talking, then we both would sit with books and I would point out and talk to him about the various animals, birds, vehicles and all the other pictures with which he could relate to and which he would see around him. We also bought a series of the excellent books by Time Life Series which I recommend all parents to buy. These books are amazing. Even to this day both my children have the habit of going through these books now and then.

So my first baby started slowly developing this love for books. When my second child was born we again went through the same process of introducing him to books This time I also had my first son participating in story telling along with me. Till recently I had to read a book for them and tell the story at dinner time and they really used to enjoy it. Now I find that both my sons enjoy reading and I really feel it is worth all the time spent in trying to make books their companion.

This might be the era of PSP or Xbox or WiFi but books can never ever be replaced. These give the child the power of imagination, flight to fantasy land , improves their vocabulary , and opens up a vast ocean of knowledge. When the child is not in a good mood then books will uplift his spirit. Who can forget the spirited Tom Sawyer and his adventures? How can one forget the famous lines "Elementary my dear Watson" from Sherlock Holmes? The thrilling adventures and sights that we all saw on the Coral Island, or the most beautiful and touching story where one travels along with the lives of "Little Women". The list is never ending.

So I feel the best gift that any parent could give to their children would be making them passionate about reading books and letting books be their best friends . Starting at a very early age is a must. It can also be a good bonding time when parents take their children to book stores and let them just sit and read or go through different books. I enjoy the time when we take the kids to Crossword and see them running to their favourite book section and picking up a book and sitting very seriously reading it. I see a lot of children there reading and it makes me glad that books are still part of childhood.

Infact the best holiday for me would be staying near a river side cottage with my husband and children, some good food, a hammock and lots and lots of books to read. Ideal wouldn't you say?

Friday, July 18, 2008

Lost Labour?

The other day the labour department people gave a surprise visit to our apartment. They went to all the flats to find out if there were any children below fifteen years being employed as house help.

We are all aware the goverment has banned child labour. When such children have been found they have been put into shelter homes and then they are enrolled into schools. This I really appreciate as I have always felt that education is the key towards development.

But at times doubt assails my mind. I just thought is this really working? Are children happy to be going to school? I mean if the child is say thirteen or fourteen then they have been working for a long time. Here I am talking only of househelp as I can associate with them more than children working in other sectors. Most of the time the story is the same. Children are forced to work to earn income for the family. Sometimes this would be the main source of income for the family. The man of the household generally does not contribute to the family's income. His money if at all he works goes into his liqour and gambling habits. Then a huge family needs to be looked after by the lady of the house.

Now if only the mother works it will not suffice considering the forever spiralling price. They will need as many hands as possible to earn for the family. So what happens when this source of income stops.
Is the government going to support such families till such time when these children finish atleast the minimum of tenth grade? Even then is there a guarantee that they will find jobs where they can help the family?
Also another thing I felt was, these children till now were used to a life with little or no rules . They would go and spend time after their work as they pleased. Now would it not be very difficult for them to sit in a class room and obey rules?The subjects that are taught in school might not interest most of them barring a few exceptions. They might feel how learning social studies , languages and science help them in future. A future which they can't comprehend on a long term basis. Theirs is a day to day sustenance.

The first step I feel is for the government to close down all the liquor shops. This I know they will not do as it is a big revenue stream for them. We have read in papers the women taking it upon themselves to forcibly close down these shops. They have understood the ill effects it is having on their family. Hopefully the man of the house would then start earning and contributing to the family income. This in turn might help them towards better living conditions. Only after this would they think of enrolling their children into schools. Once the little ones start going to school atleast that generation might have better awareness and slowly some of the schemes that the government plans for them, might help these children in future. Hope this shift happens soon.

Monday, July 14, 2008

Better life for underprivileged children through education

When I was doing my Masters in Human Development we had to submit our thesis. The topic that I chose was "Motivating The Ragpicking Children Towards Education Through Play-Way Method".

I had two groups. One a control group and the other the experimental group. Both the groups were asked certain questions , to find out their knowledge on various topics. After this, a specific programme was developed to teach the experimental group and a specific curriculum was planned. As part of this programme, they were taught various things about day-to-day happenings and things about their surrounding environment. They were also exposed to a number of creative activities. The activities used more of the audio visual medium i.e., charts, pictures, dramatisation, experiments etc., At the end of one month both the groups were again subjected to the same questions that were asked earlier. A profound change was found in the experimental group. They genuinely enjoyed all the learning excercise given to them. Some of the children, I noticed, were extremely intelligent and very active. The younger they were the better they responded.

Many of these ragpicking children had run away from home at a very young age due to various situations that they had to face on the home front. They led a nomadic life. They did not have one particular place to live in. Many small children I got to know had got addicted to drugs. As they could not obviously buy drugs, they would get a high by inhaling strong smelling chemicals. Many of them had sores and had contracted some form of disease. Overall, it painted a sad picture.

At the end of this thesis, I really felt that "Education" is definitely a key to a better life. The rag picking children need not be imparted education in the tradiational sense where they have to go through the rigours of an examination. Education for them would be more about how to deal with the practicalities of life. It would be about making these children 'world-ready' - something they can use to earn a living and be self-sufficient.

There are various individuals as well as some organisations which I came across who were doing a very commendable job in this field. It is therefore with great respect that I salute them for trying their best to rehabilitate these children into the mainstream. India can definitely progress if all her children are brought into the fold of education from the time they are young. As famous educationist Roussoue said "The mind of a young child is like Tabula Rasa" which means their mind is a clean slate which a good teacher fill with knowledge.

Wednesday, June 18, 2008

Little Anchors

The dictionary meaning of "anchor" is a heavy piece of metal lowered from a ship into the water in order to stop the ship from moving. In life sometimes we need strong anchors who steady the rocking boat of life. And as I found out, these anchors could belong to small hands as well.

The househelp who is working at my place lost her husband and she has four children to look after. Now the eldest daughter also works as house help at another place. She is dark yet very mature and attractive. I saw the way she takes decision for all matters of the family and how controlled and decisive she is in all the work that she does. I was really impressed. The mother listens to her and does things accordingly not because she is scared but she also has come to respect her daughter's decisions. This girl has studied only till the 5th standard but her siblings are going to school.

I do not know whether she was good at studies or whether she was interested in going to school and study further but all I can see is that she has sacrificed her interests in the whole interest of the family - to earn and ensure her brother and sisters are educated.

I was wondering about the maturity of this young girl. It would of course remain a mystery as to what she would have achieved in life and how her life would have shaped up, if she had the opportunity to be educated. Wouldn't she have had a dream for herself? Wouldn't she have aspired to be somebody, someday? But like she does on a daily basis, she took a decision - to keep her interests at bay and give her family the top priority.

This is a little salute to the millions of little anchors that dot our country.

Down Memory Lane......

The moment summer vacations approach, we see tension and worry written all over the face of the mother. In fact, I have heard parents complaining as to why schools give vacation at all? When I was working as a teacher, parents would request us to have some special classes for children during vacation time. This request was coming from home maker mothers. In such a case, one can imagine the plight of working mothers.

I totally empathise with the mothers, as keeping the children occupied for two whole months is not an easy task at all. Don't we all know this? Specially when children are so restless and so energetic that they need something or the other to keep them occupied.

In earlier days, when we were kids we really used to look forward to our summer vacations as that would be the time when we could visit our grand parents in the village. Even mom would look forward to this vacation as she would also get time to be with her parents and a good break from the routine work. I remember the thrill of getting up early in the morning at five and we all would get ready and go to the bus stop and leave by 7.30 am to reach only at 6.00 in the evening. My grand parents also would look forward to these times when they could pamper their grand children and their daughter!

I still remember the way the bath water would smell with water being heated in the large copper vessel, the aroma of food cooked by using firewood, the delicious laddoos that my grand mother would have already prepared along with whole lot of other yummy snacks. Imagine all painstakingly done at home with the major ingredient added for the food being love!!

Sometimes my cousins also would come and we would have some great adventure too! My daredevil cousin brothers would ask the auto driver and drive the auto themselves and take us to the government guest house which was right on top of a hill (luckily we have survived all these mad expeditions!) , going out at midnight when all the elders were sleeping and eating omlette from a roadside cart, climbing little hillocks and eating wild berries, getting chased by a mad bull and sliding down the mountain to escape... feels like Enid Blyton adventures now.

I should tell you about this incident which happened when we were all having dinner ; all of a sudden we heard a loud hiss and suddenly a huge rat fell from the roof right in front of us and a little later we saw a snake going behind it. We were so very terrified that we did not sleep a wink all night. There was also a time when we saw a two headed snake and a tree snake sliding down majestically from the tree where my grand father was plucking flowers .

There were also midnight excursions when we would take a torch light and go near the river bank and have fun. Lots of ice creams and fruit salads would really make our day.We also would visit temples and watch people dress up as tigers and lions and other animals during the festival time. Not to forget the mythological stories that my grand father would narrate at night to all his wide eyed grand children listening in rapt attention.

Now these were really unforgettable moments and I feel sad sometimes that my children can never experience all these joys. Villages no longer have that flavor and have become mini cities and hardly have the same serenity that they once had.

Now my kids' holidays would be to visit grand parents in Bangalore and still have fun listening to stories from grand father and eating yummy dish prepared with lot of love again by their grand mother. The similarity stops at that. Because instead of climbing hillocks they go up the escalators to malls. Sunsets and scenery are what they watch on T.V. In place of olden time games they now fancy PlayStation and Gameboy.

Well that is life now, as the proverb goes "That was happiness at that time, this is happiness now"

Wednesday, March 12, 2008

Is Death Such An Easy Option?

Every day when we open the news paper there is a scream for help from our children to reach out for them. We are turning a deaf ear to this plea. Yes I am talking about the suicides which our young children are resorting to. The headlines just pounce at you which says Child commited suicide as she or he feared failure in exams closer to or even before getting their results. I do not know whether I can say that these children were cowards because they had enough will power to commit such a drastic act. Did they feel that once they take their life then they will be free of all these tensions? Is it so easy to take one's own life I wonder?

It therefore brings our attention to two things. One, our education system and two, the pressure we exert as parents on our children. We say that we are now living in a very competitive world and if you are not well qualified then one cannot suceed in life. Is our education system geared towards helping in the all round development? Shouldn't education be not just about studies and grades but also about inculcating a good and strong value system?

In the earlier gurukul system, the little shishyas were given not just the bookish knowledge but also tutoring in the scriptures and vedas. If the students were kshatriyas, they were taught warfare, administration , political science, math, and various other aspects of life science skills. To prepare them for the world ahead. And the best part was the non-partisan attitude of those Gurus - the treatment was the same whether the shishya was a prince or a commoner.

Now, even though we have made so much of an advance in all fields, we are yet to develop a curriculum that is designed to help each child realise his or her potential to the . Just imagine a curriculum which is tailor made for each student based on his ability and one that goes to higher levels as and when he is ready for it. This would mean a one is to one ratio of a well trained teacher to a student. What an ideal situation isn't it?

During the earlier times, one wanted to become an engineer, a doctor or a lawyer because these jobs enhanced one's status in the social cricles. But today, a child has so many avenues to choose from for a career. Exceptional abilities in sports, arts (like painting or drama or creative writing) or technical ability are beginning to be recognised and children can dare to pursue their path of passion.

Next is the issue of parental pressure. Beyond a certain age, children like to take their own decisions and they also start believing in thier ability to judge between the right and the wrong. While there is no "one way" to do it, as we have noticed in other spheres of life, communication can resolve some seemingly impossible conflicts. Opening up the channels of parent-child communication is one's best bet to guide the children towards the right path. Beyond this, if the child wants to pursue arts (her choice) and not engineering (your choice), one should have a big enough heart to accept the truth that this was what was meant to be.

I would really appreciate your views on the subject. While it is great to have live our children's aspirations, one should look at the child's happiness quotient before taking a decision. Else, our children will keep addiing to the statistical number in this game of death.

Tuesday, March 4, 2008

Your Child Is Unique.

The other day when i was watching T.V I happened to see this ad on chicken pox vaccine where a little boy comes home and tells his family that he had got his report card and they immediately ask how much he has scored in math and the moment he says his mark they all say " Aur Rahul Ko?"and this continues for other subjects and finally he says Rahul got 0 in a subject as he was down with chicken pox and there is a look of sheer glee on all the family members. I am sure you would have seen this ad.

I wonder how many of us do this knowingly or unknowingly so many a time. During our childhood all of us have gone through this trauma of comparision be it between siblings or friends and we know how much it hurts isn't it?

We know that each child is unique with their own strengths and weaknesses. Even between identical twins there are differences. So why do we end up comparing ? Comparisions brings down the self esteem in our children. They become quite diffident show excessive shyness, will not be able to take initiative, will not be able to get their views accross though they know more, will hesitate to participate in school activities, and so on. on the other hand it might manifest in such children being more boisterous, rough, bully other weaker children will be very loud trying to show that he can also do what the other children can do but going overboard.
Both cases are harmful. So as parents I feel we must first and foremost realise that each child is unique and has some special quality which as parents we need to realise and try and encourage the child to nurture this aspect. We know how much of premium we give to studies and how much as parents we struggle along with our children so that they do well in their exams. But if the child is facing difficulty in understanding or is an average grader we need to stop forcing him.
So next time instead of asking how the child's friend did let us concentrate and ask our child how he did in his exams and ask him if he could have done it better and remember not to overburden our children when they are already stressed out so much at such a young age by this ugly monster called Comparision. Yes it is difficult for us but being aware I think will be the first step towards this.

Monday, February 25, 2008

Health Treasure It.

Every typical day for the mother starts with getting up early in the morning, starting with preparation of breakfast, waking up kids getting them ready to go to school, packing their lunch, getting lunch ready for the husband and if she is working then getting ready to go to work. Believe me very strenuous, back breaking and hectic best describes the work that a mother puts in. Yes fathers do help these days to a large extent but the onus still seems to be on the mother whether she is working or otherwise.

How much care does she take of herself with regard to her health is the question. There is awareness yes but not to that extent. Most of the time we are so wrapped in our world of doing and doing more things that we tend to neglect our health. Unlike Australians who are so health conscious we tend to overlook the little niggling health problems thinking that we do not have enough time.
These days women at a very young age face back pains, migrains, spondalosis and so on because of the nature of work and lack of excercise. This if neglected creates so much of havoc as the mother is the pivot of a family. The whole routine gets upset and even if we want to we cannot take care of our children as in most cases bed rest is adviced. You know how much disorganised the house gets if the mother is down with viral for a couple of days, then imagine what state will it be if she suffers from a recurrent problem like backache, frozen shoulder and so on. Here I am not talking about life threatening diseases or conditions.

That is why I feel even if it is for a few minutes she has to do excercise in some form or the other. Be it yoga, aerobics, going to the gym and so on. Most of the time we go in for excercise for weight reduction. We also expect to reduce within a few days of excercise the fat that we accumulated for almost decades!! Well excercise I feel is mainly to keep our body really flexible so that bending, leaning, running and other actions we mothers have to do day in and day out can be done with ease and alacrity. I have found that I feel quite good and more active on days that I excercise than when I don't.

Undoubtedly I would say that health is wealth as the old adage goes. It's high time we mothers looked after ourselves even if it means taking out half an hour from our busy schedule. As my yoga teacher says we spend most of our waking hours looking after or working for others can we not spend just a few minutes for ourselves? As they say in the magazine femina "YOU ARE WORTH IT". So go on and enjoy family life as well as your work life by giving a few minutes to yourself too.

Monday, February 18, 2008

Making Children Independent

When children are small, we as parents do everything for them. We feed them, clothe them, bathe them, wash their tush, clean them; in other words we do everything for them.

As they grow slightly older one must encourage the child to take care of his things. Beginning with his toys. At the end of the day they need to keep back all their toys in its place. Most mothers agree how difficult it is to get them to clear things and how we would still have to do this at the end of every day despite being tired. One can make it like a game for the children, like who is going to pick up most number of toys and keep it in the right place. We need to keep inventing innovative ideas to make this cumbersome job more interesting!

Teaching them how to make the bed, how to fold their clothes, how to bathe, and how to lay the table are some of the things which needs to be taught early on as later it will be difficult for us to get things done by them. When the maid doesn't turn up I ask my children to help me in wiping the dishes, sweeping the floor, mopping and so on. They enjoy these activities as long as we as parents make them understand that this is their house and these are their things and we need to keep it clean. Though my mother-in-law feels that these chores are not for boys I tell her that they have to learn these things so that they will be more independent. Slowly she is coming around and appreciating these things.

Now my children suddenly seem to have developed a penchant for cooking!! I am glad as this is also an art that they need to learn. So they can now light the gas, roll a nice chapathi and love to help me cut vegetables. I found that this was another way of bonding with my children and spending moments of joy.

Just yesterday I got a pleasant surprise when I found that both the kids had closed their room door and were inside for a long time. When I went inside I found that they had changed the entire layout of their bedroom and I felt so happy to see them planning and arranging their bookshelves according to the topics of the books. It was great.

So I feel that it is really worth starting out when they are young and enjoy some restful time as your child does things for himself and one fine day I wish to see my children preparing good breakfast on a Sunday morning all set and waiting for me to enjoy a sumptuous meal. What do you say - wanna join me?

Friday, February 15, 2008

Are We Overindulgent Parents?

Life these days is made more easy by means of mechanical gadgets that we use at home. Here in India we also have the luxury of having a maid to help us tho handling a maid is proving to be a more difficult task than managing a company. That is another story altogether. Well the thing is our children are growing in more luxurious circumstances than we grew up in and the same can be said about us compared to our parents and thus the cycle is going on.

But now I feel we indulge our children too much. Unlike earlier where children were admitted into nearby schools more so for the sake of convenience than the standard of the school, we would all walk in a big group and it was lots of fun. Unlike our parents who had to cross small lakes or little hillocks to reach their school we had relatively shorter distances to walk. Now I find in the case of my children it is car to school bus back to car and home. I feel that is some indulgence on my part. Also their taste for high end priced products is getting more evident. Here atleast we try and put our foot down and tell them why we would not like to buy these things though they draw comparisons and tell us that their friends have it so why can't they have it.

Later we tried out a new strategy wherein we told both of them that once in a while they can buy a few things and gave them a budget of Rs.50-100 and it was hilarious to see them scrambling here and there taking things and looking at the price and calculating. Then my little one comes and tells me in exasperation "Mamma there doesn't seem to be any thing available within that amount" much to the amusement of people shopping there. That was the right time to discuss about value of money and now they understand, though since they are still small they get tempted to ask for things. But we see a lot of maturity and I can see them looking at the price and trying to weigh whether it is worth that much.

I remember when I was a kid I had asked for a balloon and my dad refused to buy though I threw a huge tantrum. His philosophy was never buy things immediately when the child asks for it so that they can learn to take a NO. So this I is the principle that we also follow for our children and it really helps them later when they have to face lots of obstacles in life.

When a child is gratified the moment something is asked there will never be any value to it. They think that it is their right to get whatever they ask for. Hence in future they just can't take a simple NO. I remember reading in the newspaper that a boy commited suicide just because his father said no to buy a bike . It is quite shocking.

Many a parent have this thing of since I did not have these things during my childhood let me buy all these things for my children. Children are more happy to play with small items in the kitchen or they are imaginative to take a small box and use it like a car for hours together. They are not worried about branded items.

I still enjoy watching the children in the slum areas or the children of the construction site workers using a lot of creativity and enjoying their time playing with materials lying around. So don't you think that we as parents let children enjoy life with simple things which give them great joy?

Tuesday, February 12, 2008

Adoption is a viable alternative

This is one couple whom I admire. They have two children. The older one is adopted while the younger one is biological. They went through a lot of pain and lots of tension. But they had a lot of courage and decided to go ahead with adoption and this was in eighties!! And surprisingly enough they had a baby of their own after a few years. Now both children are grown up into young teenagers. It is a delight to see them. I really feel the parents need to be lauded for their courage.

Then I heard of another case where this woman adopted a baby and later when she found out that she was expecting she decided to undergo abortion fearing that in future they might discriminate against the adopted child. This is a different angle of thought.

But the point is these parents decided to take this step despite the stigma that many face when they can not have their own child and gave life to another child. Who does not hanker for a cute little baby of one's own after a few years of marriage? As it is, the age at which one gets married has increased and after that getting adjusted to a new life, work, and so many factors lead to couple planning their babies at a later stage. Working couple these days choose to have either one or no children policy. But of late we get to hear more and more cases where the couple is desperate to have babies but is finding it difficult to have one due to various factors.

One of my close friends could not concieve for a long time and she was telling me how painful and expensive the tests are when she went to the fertility clinic and finally wondered whether it was all worth the trauma that she finally decided to go in for adoption.

All the children whom I have come across who have been adopted are a delight to watch. They are so intelligent, loving, and make the couples life so very fulfilling that I feel that if they were not taken in, these childen would not have had an opportunity to shine in life. It would have been a national waste of talent.

After seeing these children, I felt may be if I had thought about this aspect at an earlier stage then I definitely feel I would have liked to adopt a baby and give the love and opportunity to atleast one little child.

I still feel our society needs to change their outlook towards adoption, because I have heard people saying things like whatever said and done our own flesh and blood is what matters how can someone elses child be like our own ? But I have read so many cases of our own so called flesh and blood abandoning their parents that I feel we definitely cannot go with this arguement.

Thursday, January 24, 2008

Teaching A Noble Profession ?

The word TEACHER still brings to my mind the picture of a person who is dignified, knowledgeable, kind and at the same time firm, one who is passionate about teaching and one who loves children. When we were studying pre-school paper in our college we had to describe the qualities of an ideal teacher and believe me there were many. Infact the qualities were so vast that finding such an ideal person I think is so very difficult.

When I read in the papers that a particular teacher has been awarded the "Best Teacher" of the year award it sets me thinking that maybe that person must have been one of the ideal teacher that we have, who must have made a lot of difference in atleast a few children's life.

On the other hand we also hear about the so called teachers who bring shame and disgrace to this noble profession by meting out unheard of punishments which snuffs the life out of a little child sometimes or they bear the scar for the rest of their lives.

Teachers are the soul of any school and only if they are respected in all ways will the school flourish. But every where that I see the story is the same. Teachers are paid pathetically and the school feels that they can let go of a good teacher and hire someone else if she or he demands more. There is such a shortage of good teachers that they have become a rare commodity now. Teachers are hired just to fill vacancy that arises which is very high these days irrespective of the fact that they are not qualified in any way and do not have any experience in the teaching field. Infact they cannot communicate or put their thoughts across in a way that children understand.

Every year as the new academic session starts don't we all parents hope and pray that our children should be lucky enough to get good teachers? Because believe me a teacher can make all the difference in our future decision making in a large way.

I have come across this lecturer who made what we thought were boring subjects like chemistry so interesting . Her love for the subject and her passion for a subject like chemistry had us also take interest and at the end of the academic session all of us scored so well and attendance was suddenly high. How I wish there were more teachers like Mrs. Shakuntala.

These days because of the call centres which have attracted a lot of youngsters what with attractive payscale that is offered (though it is bringing in a different culture which is altogether a different story) many graduates will ofcourse gravitate towards it. So now it is mostly a few of them who opt for teaching profession or it is left to those mothers who like to work or earn a little as it is convenient to get holidays along with the children as they cannot take up the regular nine to five job or the hectic pace of work in private sectors or MNCs.

I remember before I joined my college as a lecturer I was looking out for a job and someone told me that a person is opening a playschool. So me and my freind went there and I found this person did not have a clue about starting a school but had decided to open it for the lucrative business that education has become. I left wondering if these are the kind of people who are opening schools then god help all our future generation. We will not have any future C.V.Ramans,nor Jagadish Chandra Bose or for that matter our very dear Abdul Kalam.

As summer vacations approach we all get to see huge hoardings of different new schools claiming international education, or some such tall claims. Is it so easy to get permission to open educational institutes? Will the government just not think how sacred and how much of commitment is required. Do they even check if the person who is planning to open a school is aware of the kind of education we need to give children? Can they not increase the payscales and make it so attractive that more and more people will undergo teachers training programme which ofcourse should cater to today's situation? If only they upgrade the infrastructure of existing schools and pay their teachers well, i see some hope. Otherwise good teachers will be an extinct specie and teaching will no longer be a noble profession.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008

After School Hours.......

The other day I heard loud noises from our neighbouring house and was wondering what all that noise was . I saw our neighbours son whom I see everyday, shouting at his maid pointing fingers at her. He must be just about eleven or twelve.

I see him everyday in his school uniform even at six or seven in the evening, feeling bored not knowing what to do and whiling away his time talking to the watchman, maid or fighting with them. He does not have any body to play with as theirs is an independent house and he is the only child.

It is the usual story of mother working and the son does not have any one to monitor him. I really feel sad for him. I wonder atleast his parents could enroll him in some classes of his interest and the driver could take him so that he could spend his time in a constructive way.

I was reading that in the U.S. it has become a great concern for the working parents to see how they could keep their children occupied after school hours as studies have found that many children there indulge in harmful activities and the government is trying to work out by having centres which will cater to these children so that they could use their time constructively.

When I was teaching nursery children I found that almost all children knew all the soaps on T.V and knew who is who and would narrate the episodes as though they were narrating fairy tales. And you know what kind of soaps we have on T.V. In some cases where the mother was working the caretaker and the child would sit and watch T.V programmes the whole day . Then there was this particular child who would want to have bindis and dress as they would in the serials. She would also sing the title songs of the serials better than the nursery rhyme!!!!!!!!!

Another child that I know of has been given strict instruction by his working mother not to play outside with other children in the apartment. The child sits inside the house and plays on his playstation the whole evening.

In the above cases children are in the age group of three to nine . But then imagine a teenager who is left unsupervised what with T.V. and net (more on the net in my next blog) causing more harm. Parents who can afford can enroll their children in classes of their interest but what about those children whose parents cannot do so. I wish there was a system which would take care of these issues. Any ideas?

Wednesday, January 16, 2008

Chubby Cheeks?

Do you all remember the nursery rhyme

Chubby Cheeks, Dimple Chin;
Rosy Lips, Teeth Within;
Eye's So Blue, Lovely Two;
Curly Hair, Very Fair;
Mamma's Pet Is That You?
Yes, Yes, Yes.

I think when this rhyme was written the author had in mind the picture perfect child one who is all gol matol, chubby, and cute just like the calender baby.

This came to my mind because for sometime now when I go on out the mall or park or for that matter anywhere I have noticed that there seem to be lot of obese people around.

The most disturbing aspect is that I seem to notice many children are not just chubby cheek but too chubby all over. It made me think why it is so? Are the parents not aware or are they happy that their children look very healthy? Because in India many people equate size to wealth. But even in this era is it still there?

On one hand we get to hear that all of them are becoming more health concious; proof of this is the mushrooming of so many aerobic, yoga, gym, liposuction clinics and so on, but on the other hand we see so much of obesity .

When I visit some of kid's favourite joint as you all know Pizza Hut or Corner or KFC I find little one's devouring whole Pizzas or one whole bucket of chicken with the parents looking on very happily, I feel they should have this so called junk food once in a while as we all know that the forbidden fruit tastes sweetest right? But over indulgence should definitely be avoided.

My son comes home and tells me that his freind gets to order everyday from some Pizza joint or the other and told me how lucky his friend was, hinting that instead of taking them once a month or once in two months we could take them a little more often. So I explained to him why these are not so healthy as they felt that since it has got veg toppings it is healthy. Though they make sure that they remove all the veggies and keep it aside. Well that is besides the point.

Many young first time mothers are so very enthusistic in feeding their babies that they feel if the baby is fat then they have fed them well and sit and fret if they do not eat or just eat 1 tsp. less than they usually eat. I remember one of our neighbours feeding her 3 month old baby raw paneer that too one whole big cube that one buys at the store. Yuck. Imagine raw paneer and since the baby would obviously refuse such food she would carry her child go for walks with her plate of paneer, go in the lift just to distract the baby and keep on feeding the baby until he would finish. Poor Baby!!!!!!!!

Anyways I feel that Children are our future wealth and we need healthy citizens to move our country into further prosperity. We all know how much problem obesity could cause at such a young age if as parents we neglect our duty and over indulge our children in matters of food. So let us say Hi and Welcome some good home made Indian cuisine with ofcourse just the right amount of fats, carbs etc that is needed.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

Where Do You Stand?

Yesterday I saw this programme on Discovery channel called Wife Swap, curiosity aroused I watched that programme. It should actually have been Mom Swap. This is what it was; They select two families and show us how each family is raising their children. The first family had five children and both the parents had brought the children with a very militaristic kind of upbringing. All the chores was written out and duties delegated and they had to complete it and earn stars. If they were found to default in their duties then they would get their toy confiscated and towards the end of the week they would have an auction where the child with the highest number of stars could bid and have that if he wanted it. Also the maximum number of stars that the child got would get a privilege of one hour to spend with his Dad!!!!!!!!!!

The other family had three children and there the mother had to take care of everything and the children and dad would just sit around not helping her in single chore and were arrogant and the husband would infact join with the kids in humiliating his wife and also he would want his wife to be well groomed and dressed at all times of the day. the wife would bear all this as her attitude was that she would do anything for her family.

Then they had to swap places and live with the other family for two weeks. The first week they just have to follow the family rules and the second week the husband and children had to listen to the rules that the new mother imposed on them!!!!!

It was really good to see how both the families benifitted in different ways. The first family became more freindly and the father became more accesible to his children and the second family became much more disciplined and learnt to respect the woman of the family more. I really enjoyed this programme and please watch this programme if it ever is telecast.

This is were I feel how much of discipline and how much leeway can we give our children? Many a time I find parents are either too strict or too lenient in bringing up their children. Sometimes the children are pampered so much that later children find it difficult to listen to a NO from their parents. Infact did you hear a child commiting suicide just because the parents did'nt give in to his wish that one time! So shocking right?

Don't you think we should also refrain from saying you are grown up now and better behave yourselves to a five year old child just because he or she is the first born. Children even when they are ten ,eleven still need to be reminded gently of the rules that are laid. They forget and need to be reminded. At times we definitely I think need to be tough and stand by certain basic rules laid out for them. This would certainly go a long way when they go out into the world and when they are on their own.

So tell me as a parent or some of them who read this blog as young adults what is your opinion on discipline and how did your parents go about things which may or may not have helped you now in your present day. How and what kind of discipline do you use and how effective do you feel it is?

Being Sensitive Parent

"Kya mein itna bura hu maa?" when I listened to this line in the movie Taare Zameen Par I just couldn't control and shed buckets of tears. It was very moving and it sure must have touched every parents heart to the core did it not?

My younger son told me that he did not like the movie and then I heard some of my other freinds telling me that their children did not enjoy the movie infact one of them insisted that they stop watching the movie and go midway.

For the child it is very realistic and they must be going through this or seeing this happen that for them it gives no joy and infact they must be feeling the emotions too stongly than we could imagine. Hence the reaction.

As for the parents we got to see the problem through a child's world. As a parent it is so difficult for us to accept that our child is different. We are under such tremendous pressure to show to the world that each of our child is extra brilliant, that he excels in all the field, that we miss out on seeing our child's limitations, or the interest that he might show in other field other than education. When this is the case under normal circumstances then imagine the trauma that parents undergo when they discover that their child is an exceptional child.

Luckily these days help is available and teaching methods have been evolved making it easier for these special children. But there is a need to sensitise parents, teachers and society as whole to work together.

As parents I think we have to be really sensitive to each of our child's needs and accept them as they are. We can just provide them with whatever stimulation they need or try and just fire their imagination and interest, beyond that let us not push them .

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

A Simple Heartfelt Prayer

Hey another year has passed and we are moving on in life without noticing it. Life has a way of passing by us without our being aware of it.

I was in Bangalore and we started our New Year by praying to God and seeking his blessings to have a good year ahead of us.

I wish for a few things this year as well as years to come, let us all lead a happy, simple and harmonious life. Let everyone on this earth be happy. Let there be no sorrow and pain, even if it is there let it be bearable and pass with lord's blessings. Let everybody achieve all those goals that they had set. Let there be no violence and bloodshed.

Let us all be together and and lead a happy, contented life. Let our minds be as innocent as a little child without any other thoughts in our mind. Above all let us just follow the motto smaller needs, simple thoughts, higher thinking, and celebrate life by spreading joy to all the people around us.

I remember this prayer that we used to say in our nursery class,
Thank you lord for the world so sweet,
Thank you lord for the birds that sing,
Thank you lord for the peace within,
Thank you lord for everything.

Well at that time we used to say this prayer as a routine thing but now I see the beauty and simplicity in it and revel in this simplicity.