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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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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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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.

pg-diy-toddler-toys-intro-01-full

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!

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Discipline and the Hapless Parents

My personal three word horror story – “Strong Willed Child”. Boy, is T strong willed or what. It really is a euphemistic phrase since calling your own child names may seem demented. Her will must have been left for a whole extra hour in the foundry during manufacturing. Absolute statesman standard hardening!

Long story short, we have never been able to make T do anything that she has not signed up for on her own accord. Add to that, the sanctimonious positive parenting lectures and then fathom our absolute haplessness.

After many episodes of complete meltdown for baby and us, here are a few approaches we are beta testing:

#Choose the battles: The sharp little thing has grave opinions, on important things like clothes and schedules, that often contradict mine. But mere difference from my personal standard of perfection is no reason to start the war. It has really been our journey of learning to let go on issues that would not shake the earth.

#Give her choices: When the horns are locked, one thing that often helps with T is to give her a choice between ‘our way’ and ‘our way’ – if you know what I mean. It gives her the freedom of making a decision and she often signs up peacefully. Every time she takes this bait, I do an inaudible Scooby Doo whoop!

#Time-outs: Yups, good old fashioned deprivation sometimes helps. The hardest thing here is to decide the timeline and stick to it like we mean business. Any softening of stance from any member of the adult brigade (grandparents cave easy), can literally turn the tables on this one.

#Proverbial Carrots: The promise of a gift is not my favorite move. It feels too close to bribing to be morally acceptable. But then, some might argue that the idea is to make the kid ‘goal-oriented’. Wonder whether politicians put it like that to rationalize.

#Spanking: Yes, we do it. There are times when nothing else is strong enough. It’s either the bum or the palm. And it makes us feel like shit.

To my utter relief, the first three are starting to work on most occasions!

 

 

 

 

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‘Sursuri’ and other Idiosyncrasies…

Baby T has seldom been exposed to the upbringing quintessential to her Punjabi-Bengali lineage. The culture she has been inured to is a freewheeling mélange of topographical and contemporary influences. She speaks English (absorbed from media) and her habits are a manifestation of lazy (often exempted as corporate) parenting.

The two-and-a-half-year old is now literally sponging everything around her. So, when she got to spend considerable time among more proficient Bongs than I, this is what she picked up:

Bhaat-ghum: The Kolkata Siesta has found an ardent fan in T. The idea has influenced her so deeply that she doesn’t even need the ‘Bhaat’ to initiate the process. Give her a bit of heat and a soporific environment and she would doze off to the deepest day-time slumber known to the history of mankind. For some weird reason, she sleeps neither so readily nor so peacefully at night.

Kol-balish: Speaking of sleeping habits, T took to the kol-balish like a Bong to fish.  If you are not a Bong, you probably do not know this critical sleep accessory. It is a bolster, custom made to suit an individual’s height and weight. In fact, I suspect that Nolan’s idea of handling a personalized totem before lunging into deep dreams is heavily inspired by the Bengali Kol-balish. T has always struggled with channelizing her limbic energy during sleep – kicking the hell out of us. The kol-balish has come to a wondrous rescue.

Jol-khabar: Bongs are always munching. We owe our voluptuous, callipygian bodies to the extra work we enforce on our teeth. The obsession spills beyond the customary meals of the day to varied meals in between that keep the gastronomic process ceaseless. These undefined and obscure meals are termed jol-khabar. T’s otherwise lukewarm response to food took a backseat in the face of ‘muri-makha’ and ‘beguni’

Sursuri: I was very confused when early in my marriage, I cozied up to my husband and asked him romantically to give ‘sursuri’ and got nothing in response. I was confident all I lacked was an apt word for the action. But to my utter surprise, despite many demonstrations, what I got was a weird scratching that is not acceptable in the elevated altar of ‘Sursuri’. In fact, according to him, there is no word in Hindi to define this soft, lulling stroking of the skin that can put a rhinoceros to sleep. Appalling! Well, T has taken a fancy to it, which means – “welcome daddy to the world of learning how to give great sursuri”.

Three cheers to Bong idiosyncrasies. Can’t wait to explore T’s innate Punjabi side (besides the expressed love for ‘Doodh’ and ‘Palatha’) as we gear up for our trip to the north of India!

 

 

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The “Have What I Like” plan

I am at home this week caring for my child and largely ‘unhooked’.  I am not working from home or finishing up a presentation while she watches television. At best, I am stealing hours of her naptime to be on my computer. She is unwell and clingy. I am exhausted and terrified of my beefy inbox. But amidst all this, I just discovered that she has started identifying the alphabets. She is singing a couple of rhymes I did not know she knew. She is more fond of Goofy than Donald. And she loves the Airforce planes that fly by my place in the afternoon. Glad to be updated!

We have all heard so many sides of the ‘have it all’ argument – including the one that disses the phrase itself as the problem. When many intelligent and thoughtful people debate on a topic across the globe without agreeing on a way forward, it is vain to try and figure out which side is right. But, I am planning to work on an operative model for self and see if I feel less pressurized. I call it the “Have what you like” model.

A few key elements of the model (Notes to Self):

1. There is no ‘All’. It is like the “Yeti”. Either forget it, or watch a Polar Bear after a few tequilla shots and convince yourself that you saw it. Don’t go too close – they are lethal despite the apparent cuteness.

2. You love your job – keep it. You hate the friggin’ guts of it – dump and run. Whoever told you there was a prize at the end was lying. Nobody has seen the end. Just ensure you will not starve – that could turn out to be the ‘Have nothing’ model, not pretty!

3. Look put together on the days you want to. Wear pajamas to the grocery store when you care two hoots. Nobody is keeping score. Unless you are a Kardashian. Then you will be out of business unless you wear what the producer tells you.

4. No ‘Before-After’ because there are no ‘ever after’s. One second you are not watching and you are ‘Before’ again. How embarassing! Have a threshold instead. An alarm system of sorts – any more/less, correct the situation.

5. Exchange notes all you want. Make a day of it – cozy up with all the notebooks you have picked up and read in solitude. Only, don’t start measuring yourself against each protagonist. There’s a reason someone else’s story is called fiction.

So that’s my ‘smell the roses, slow down, have what you like’ operative plan. A happy Have What you Like to you too!

 

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That Nurse Station Duty..

I bet kids are on a Virus Testing secret service mission of some sort. When I am up at 3am checking baby’s temperature for the five hundredth time, my mind often wanders to possible conversations in Babyverse:Time

This batch here is a total wimp. Maybe a mild cough and snotty mornings. Worth max one sleepless parenting night. This other one, found hidden in my nails, though, is a knock-out, dude. At least a week worth of high temperatures and work from home parenting.”

Regular parenting is no cake walk – there is the feeding and the sleep training. There is potty business and throw up party. But that Nurse Station duty is a straight out killer. It is like the last level in the super-gore video game where all the villains unite forces.

I am not a germaphobe by any stretch of imagination. I feel like I have a live-and-let-live pact with most mildly harmful germs. I am that parent that advises moderate exposure to dirt ‘to strengthen baby’s immunity’. I have mastered the skill of wiping the snot before it is out for public viewing. But, every once in a while, that super batch comes visiting to knock the air out of my smug being.

After three straight sleepless nights, with immediate remediation not in sight, I am at the brink of full stretch OCD approach. I am considering creating a sterile field at home and forbidding entry without a strip search and antibiotic scrub. I am also contemplating home schooling and then a lifetime of counselling to counter the social awkwardness.

While Baby T recovers her health and I, my sanity, do stay safe and germ free!