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In Babyverse Last Week: One of Many Firsts

We had a week of firsts! The first (much dreaded) Parent-Teacher Meeting and the first movie at the theater. I was psyched – innately nervous about the first and absolutely hopeless about the second.

First, about the PTM. I feel for the teacher, no really, I do. I literally look forward to the 4 hours in the morning, when I parcel T off to school. And there she is at the other end, accepting 20 such parcels – talk about misery multiplied. She sounded a bit like Sukumar Ray in “Sat Patra”. She rattled off a long list of areas of improvement, whispering intermittently, that all is well. Might be a coping mechanism. The 3 week report card suggests that Baby T is a doer with no patience for instructions or concepts (not unlike Papa Darling), hyperactive (yups, Pops), takes time to befriend (definitely Papa’s girl) and competitive (okay, that’s a bit like me, maybe). But “baki sab thik hai”! I, being I, researched on all possible syndromes that can define this category of child behavior. I found an answer too – it’s called Toddlerhood.

Now about the movie, I have a memo for Disney and whoever makes these calls. Make your lovely, animated motion pictures available in 2D, please. Unless, your target audience doesn’t include kids. It’s possible – I am only checking. But if you decide to make a ‘fishy movie’ that T must see, please ensure I have an option where I do not have to continuously fish for fragile, plastic glasses on filthy multiplex floors, in pitch dark! Also, Finding Dory was boring and plotless. Nothing like Nemo. T held her patience till the interval after which she asked us to ‘switch off the big TV and go home’. She did find her retractable seat entertaining enough to finish the movie and only screamed that once when Dory found her parents – “Mumma Pappa”!

All in all, average firsts both. Thank God for small mercies.

 

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Waking up to a Crime Scene

Have you ever been super annoyed with the parenting magazines/websites/advertisements that show the parents with their toddler(s) on pristine white sheets, in idyllically decorated houses? Get real, Marketing, please! What kind of a parent manages that? Do they come from a different planet with toddlers that behave better or parents that can Super-clean or something?

That family apparently exists, while I am mastering the art of rag picking at home. I find myself constantly picking stuff from the floor, the couch, the bed, the kitchen sink. And I often wonder aloud, with mild use of cuss words that CBFC would have banned I believe, where so much stuff comes from?

One night I went off to sleep before the rest of the family and this is what I woke up to:

Exhibit 1: A cup of chocolate milk, half filled (see, I can be optimistic), that baby and daddy had considerately laid out on the kid’s table for the ants that I did not know co-existed

Exhibit 2: A carefully strewn biscuit crumb trail, that I understand baby made, to ensure she can find her way back to the TV when she woke up

Exhibit 3: A stack of books adorning the floor that seems to have been used in lieu of carpet

Exhibit 4: An overturned tricycle, in whatever space was left in the living area, decorated tastefully (yups, baby’s got class) with ribbons and headbands of varied hues

Exhibit 5: Get this – laundered, clean clothes, strung together for fun and lying in dumps in the couches and around it.

Crime scene

From every angle that I saw the masterpiece, it looked like a scene from that hidden objects Crime Scene  game that keeps popping on FB. I wanted to shake the two up from what looked like peaceful slumber (how can you sleep like that knowing that your house is destroyed!) and ask them what exploded. But, you know what, they would probably think they did a great job of keeping it from burning down and go back to sleep anyhow.

So, yeah, advertisements that show a toddler (her smiling dad) and perfect linen in the same frame are lying!

 

 

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I wish I had a son!

Until my teens, the inequity of the genders was a hushed possibility. My parents provided me the same opportunities and resources that they did my brother. I had the freedom to choose the important things in life and make my own opinions. But, the undercurrent simmered, revealed through intermittent, patronizing compliments like “you are sharp for a girl” or more blatant diktats like “don’t sit like a man”.

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I formally read about feminism in my teens and decided that I am going to adopt it as a guiding principle in life. Like all other philosophies, that tend to get elevated to a religion, Feminism is often presented as a caricature of itself. I believe that the gendered nomenclature of the philosophy gets in the way of understanding it well. A ‘Feminist’ need not be a shark in a pant-suit who loathes men and children and rules half the world. She can be, if she so chooses, but she doesn’t have to be, to qualify as a feminist. She shouldn’t be entitled to more because she is a woman – just the same. I am not a feminist who believes in quotas, only in mutual respect. In fact, a feminist can very well be a man, who believes that lives of all kinds matter equally!

Long story short, my husband and I are practicing feminists. We try actively, in every way possible, to provide T with an environment where she grows up having compassion for and feeling equal to other genders, races or communities. And I am proud to say that I know a whole load of couples around me who are exactly the same, trying in every way possible to erase the unfair gap.

And I do wish I had a son. Or have one in the future. I wish this for each one of the Feminists who is out there. I wish that, in time, we are able to replace the likes of Brock Turner and his father with men who have been fostered believing that all lives are equally important.

 

 

 

 

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In Babyverse Yesterday: The Reluctant Pre-Schooler

I had imagined it differently in my head. You cannot blame me, T gave all kinds of false signals. She had been a darling at the daycare I left her at, when she was all of 5 months. She shouted excitedly every single time we passed her ‘new’ school building. She selected her accessories with spectacular care and even packed her own bag the night before the big day.

Trisha 1

So, I walked in to her class yesterday morning, with the camera ready, to capture her indifferent smile at achieving the milestone – first day at ‘Big’ school! All hell broke loose. She was uncomfortable and clingy, started bawling as soon as I left the room and needed a lot of consoling to calm down. She made some tidy negotiations that I am proud of – “will eat without crying”, “will not be stubborn”, “will work at your office” etc. – all in exchange of being taken home.

I gave her some cock-n-bull and left, with a very heavy heart, might I add. I spent the next four hours whiling my time away at new makeup fads and internet crap, just to distract myself. My husband watched the drama in silent disapproval – talk about being passive-aggressive!

In the evening, when we were celebrating her achievement in the local mall, she declared that she had made the decision to drop out of school. She was vehement that there was nothing nourishing or entertaining there and that she can learn more from the internet. I should have expected this from a hyper-millenial. It took us some major scare tactics to get her ready today. I am possibly scarring her for life!

I have decided to enjoy her reluctance, keeping in mind the throw-forward to the day,  when she would be all too eager to leave home. Happy Schooling, reluctant camper!

 

 

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Equal Parenting, please!

I have married a mutant, like one of the X-Men. At least, that is what it appears to be, judging by the gasps, when he is seen publicly attending to a parenting chore. He has figured out basic skills of parenting – he can bathe T, feed her, play with her or put her to sleep. Let us stand up and give him an ovation! I have been congratulated that I have found a man that ‘babysits’ so well – even if the child is, well, his own. (Psst, it is called parenting.)

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My husband is a wonderful man and I am proud of him. He is loving, supportive and honest. But, let’s get real, OK. He is SUPPOSED to take care of his child, at least as much as I am supposed to. So, let’s say when he is busy with a conference or is chilling with his friends in a pub, it is my duty to take care of T. Likewise! Simple, isn’t it? Nope, let’s complicate it with gender priorities and archaic bullshit until it seems like good, attentive fathers are to be revered, just for existing! How is it that (more) men are not disgusted by this automatic assumption of their incompetence as a parent?

I belong to an educated and evolved circle. Therefore, it is all the more surprising, that well into the 21st century, I hear amazement and even a hint of sneer, when my husband proudly proclaims that he is an equal parent. Truth is that we have still not managed to wrap our heads around the idea of an equal parent. Men are supposed to take their kids on long drives, teach them fishing and play football with them. If they can manage to put a dress on their son (think of a new Vodafone ad), they are SuperDads!

We need more role models – men who proudly come forward as equal parents. Men who are proud to change diapers, not sleep nights, sit down at tea parties with dolls, put on makeup because kiddo wants. And that is why I think it is cool that Zuckerberg posted a snap while changing nappy or that many countries are now considering shifting from the concept of Maternity leaves to Parental leaves. I hope the culture of equal parenting pervades for the sake of equal careers and equal lives.

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Child-free Vacation, check!

I took off to the nearby hills, sans hubby and baby, last weekend, despite the guilt trip. I traveled with my friend to an obscure place on the Western Ghats, that offered very limited connectivity to the outside world. The trip deserves a separate post, which I plan to dish out shortly on my other blog (https://hungryfeetsite.wordpress.com/). On this one, let me relay to you, the plight of a parent caught between the lust for personal time and the helpless addiction to baby.

Let me begin by saying, I recommend the experience for all parents. It is the proverbial ‘cord-cutting’, that the parent needs leagues more than the baby does. But, the journey to being this evolved parent, with optimum time for baby and self, is much harder than I imagined.

For starters, I kept seeing kids, who looked remarkably like T, everywhere I went – in the airport, coffee shop, sunset point, the stinky public toilets, with their fading ‘Swachh Bharat’ graffiti – everywhere. All of them were calling out to their mums, endearingly. It took me a while to realize that some of the parents were creeping out at my unblinking stare at their darlings. So, that had to stop.

I had to remind myself to look cool and unaffected, so that the sissy mommy, who wanted nothing more than to cuddle up to baby at home, was not exposed. I tried hard to keep the conversation neutral and diverse – but baby came up ever so often. There was a couple of times I caught myself beaming with pride as I described her prodigious skills in scribbling or crapping. I am not so sure non-parents share the same enthusiasm about stories that involve shit and such!

Of course, I slept at my baby’s bedtime, despite my friend’s gallant efforts to keep me alive. That must have been fun for her, trying to coddle me to stay awake for just another fifteen minutes, at half past nine! But then, I had too much of the bed to myself. I have forgotten, clearly, how to sleep without being kicked in the gut. Because, I kept thrashing around in sleep and struggling with my pillow, almost smothering my friend one night. Ya, what a vacay for her!

My hubby was glad that the network was flimsy. Every time we spoke, I kept prodding him for more on her whereabouts. He got vaguer and vaguer with each passing conversation. After about the fifth time, he refused to send any further pics of her taking a bath or digging mud. He told me I could have saved a ton by just staying put, instead of living the same day in a different state.

That was that. I have checked an item off the bucket list – travel without baby, for fun. It was a thoroughly enjoyable trip. But next time, she’s coming along!

Child free vac

Pic Courtesy: Ray Sawhill, Flikr, http://bit.ly/1TtwLUF

 

 

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At Home with Myself

 

Home

I got a message from a dear friend recently. She mentioned that she reads my blogs (thanks a ton mate!) and appreciates how I have managed to balance baby and work. She took a break post the baby and is now in two minds about getting back on the wagon. She asked my advice on how I manage it. I have possibly misled my readers to believe I understand what I am doing.

Anyhow, here’s why that question caught me off-guard. After having straddled the worlds of motherhood and the corporate for 2.5 years, I have taken a break from work earlier this year. I have tried to explain that the decision is not triggered by motherhood. T is fairly comfortable seeing her parents in the evenings and is ready to join school this year. I am interested in taking some time to explore an area of interest that life had gotten in the way of. And after about ten minutes of explaining this to those who asked, these are the reactions I have heard:

  • Shit, just when we thought someone had it together! You were the last person we thought would quit.”

Wait, what? I am only exploring another…No, listen, I mean it. Don’t you sigh at me! Don’t shake your head…

  • This is the best thing you could have done, ever. The baby really needs a mother at home

I am planning to lock myself up in a room and peer into books and the laptop for a large part of the day. Does it work if we are not in the same room?

Only my granny can get away with saying this, by the way. I am only smiling coyly when she brings this up.

  • Your hubby got promoted! So that’s why, huh?”

Of course, now that the hunter/gatherer has brought home a bigger kill, he has clobbered me back inside the cave and forced me to skin and grill the meat

  • Congrats! When’s the second one due?”

Second what? No, I am just fat.

I am blessed. I have always been surrounded by very strong women. My mom, a homemaker, run our worlds from her couch, that was no less than the Iron Throne. I dare anyone to call her a quitter and live to see another day. I have seen grand moms, aunts, sisters rock their domains – as mothers, homemakers, academicians, corporate leaders. Therefore, my idea of a strong, successful woman is not limited to the one that wears a suit, although a good one does notch up the glamour quotient a tad.

The point is that if any person, man or woman, chooses a homeward lifestyle, it should be for reasons that serve to improve their selves and lives. The children, I have discovered, are surprisingly adaptable as long as their environments are healthy and loving. So to my friend I say, if you want to get back to work, do it for yourself. If you want to stay at home, it better be because you are loving the work of improving the home front. You are good, as long as your locus is internal.

As far as my decision goes, since a certain Obama has made ‘gap year’ fashionable, that’s what I am calling this now. I plan to read, study, write, travel, volunteer and do the things that I have always wanted to do. Of course, this means that I am going to spend a whole lot more time with T than I did in the past. That’s a bonus! She speaks more human than gibberish now, so there’s more communication than there would have been, had I taken this break earlier. Carpe Diem, amigos!

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Shifting Base,Toddler and All

The Parentrics family was completely out of online action for some time and we have a very reasonable explanation. We survived moving base from one end of our congested city to another, toddler and all. Oh yes, we are all in one piece – thanks for asking!

There is something about an empty apartment that awakens the dormant housekeeper in me. So when we decided to move back to our own place, out came the design apps and housekeeping magazines. Photos were ‘hearted’ and ideas were ‘pinned’. In my head, I was Lady Suri, floating weightlessly (fantastic!) around my picture-perfect abode, smiling radiantly at the imaginary compliments. I had planned for all eventualities, except for one jarring reality – the toddler in the house.

I thought I had packed that!

Remember those mind-numbing maths puzzles were one tap fills a well and another empties it – leaving you with a very dry pit, despite herculean efforts? It was surreal being part of a live problem where boxes of toys were emptying faster than they could be packed off. I suggested issuing a restraining order on the little brat but apparently it is not legal to keep your own ward at bay!

The Imperfect World

There is nothing like a shifting exercise to showcase the imperfect lives of tired parents. The stark evidences of our lackadaisical parenting lay around us after the packing was done – unmatched socks, incomplete toy sets, limbless dolls, <shudder>.

Décor, Toys, Filth what’s the difference?

My fantasyland turned quickly into an amusement park for the three feet man cub. Decorative pebbles, ceramic curios, cutlery, crockery – aaaargh, what was I thinking! After couple of hours of trying and negotiating, I resigned to the idea of living in a pig sty.

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Pic Courtesy: whattoexpect.com

This is what I learned…

#1 Pack your kids off to someplace safe before shifting – summer camp, grandparents’, daycare – doesn’t matter, as long as they are far, far away from your boxes.  If that is not possible, pack them off in cartons. If someone objects (unfair), at least keep them in room arrest of some sort with abundant resources and entertainment

#2 The word you are looking for is ‘minimalist’. Buy nothing – no furniture, no books, no bedding, no linen. Trust me – one day you would have to move. And then they would rise against you in mutiny and drown you in wood and cotton. Be safe, live like a hermit!

#3 What you have from your ambitiously settled past is most probably not going to survive the journey. Take time to say your goodbyes to those lovely china sets, photo frames and vases. Also, to prevent future heartbreak, buy everything you must in disposable plastic – hang the environment! (convenience over life – right?)

#4 You will have no routine for at least a month – get used to anarchy. Remember, all we need is a little push.

#5 You will not have that house from House magazine ever! At least not until your kids have moved to a different postal code. Might as well get in a relationship with endearing mess.

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Schooled!

Interviews make me sweaty and nervous, even when I am actually sitting on the safer side of the table. I imagine and re-imagine the plight in my head till I blank out. Obviously, I had been ninja training T for the school interviews. I got edgier as the day came closer, pressing for sharper pronunciations and milder etiquette. And till the very last moment, T toyed with my nerves, nonchalantly addressing me with ‘Oye’ instead of ‘Good Morning’ and flippantly refusing to mouth a single rhyme with a dismissive “Mujhe nahi pata” (I don’t know). I compensated by roting 54 rhymes myself and reading up Economist, ready to showcase my above average ability to guide and nourish my ward at varied levels of intellectual prowess.

Education interviews

What unfolded within the hallowed portals of multiple reputed institutions this morning was such a disappointing anti-climax! The buildings were all smiles and sunshine – absolutely nothing like the dark, grim isolation chamber I had imagined in my head. The interviewers were young, vibrant and eager to put the child, or in our case, me, at ease. They explained their pedagogy patiently and gave us pleasant tours of their fabulous facilities. They even joked about the weather! The more I tried to goad them towards testing T’s extraordinary readiness for school, the lesser inclined they seemed to grill her.

Such a shame, especially because T put on her charming best. She said “Good Morning”s and “Thank you”s with flourish. She broke into songs and flipped books with deep (feigned) interest. I am sure she would have chanted all kinds of nursery rhymes on the slightest provocation. I swear I saw a little smirk on her face on our way back, as if pulling a massive April Fool’s prank on me.

If you are wondering what the catch was, it came in the form of printed sheets. If this is what nursery education costs, I am confident that I would have to sell internal organs for middle school. So, to anyone who is stressing about school interviews, your stress starts where the successful interview ends, my dear friend!