Tuesday, March 11, 2014

Why boredom must be a necessary part of childhood

"I am bored....I AM BORED...." - And that is a sentence most often used by children and one that terrorizes almost all parents. Come summer and every parent, working or non-working, draw a big face, sighing how hard their lives are going to turn. I am not judging anyone for I find myself on the very same boat.

My son wakes by 7:00 a.m and by 9:30 he has done painting, played with his play-doh, blocks and lego set are scattered, the toy train-set has been assembled, played with and now thrown in disarray. He promptly comes to me saying, "I am bored!".
And I watch in dismay thinking my morning has just started! The maids are yet to come, breakfast has just been made, the kitchen counter has to be cleared, laundry is stacking and am yet to enjoy a peaceful cup of coffee. Add siblings into the picture and you can be assured of further chaos, screams and squabbles. Screaming - mostly yours.

Most parents find a quick and easy solution to this - Summer Camps. Pack them off to summer camps where there's singing, dancing, and a lot of other stuff to do. Children come by noon, their energy expended ready for quick meal and a nap, giving the moms some much needed respite. There are friends of my 6 year old who have already enrolled in summer camps, art classes, karate classes twice a week, music lessons on Fridays and swim lessons during the weekend. And I kid you not.
To each their own - specially parenting style - but I have been pondering if this is the right way to deal with children and their summer holidays.

I don't remember going to any camps, but summer holidays meant chatting endlessly with friends, cycling around the neighbourhood, playing hop-scotch, hunting for some multi-colored weird looking insects, pleading mom for ice-creams and flavoured bottled milkshake treats and an occasional movie outing. All this not a day's event but dispersed over two months.

Summer holidays also meant getting bored. Yes, we got bored out of one's wits as we were not allowed to slouch before the television, we did not have iPADs and Temple Run's. So we had to devise our own ways to deal with spending the time on hand. I remember making up stories of our own, playing Name-Place-Animal-Thing game without using a paper and pen, creatively making toys of beads, leaves, sticks, ribbons, and what-not. We did not have an art teacher hovering over us and yet we made some wonderful pen stands out of old boxes, photo frames, scrap books filled with drawings etc. I remember writing my first Enid Blyton inspired short mystery novel during my 5th standard holidays.

In this age of instant gratification and sense of entitlement, most children are losing the virtue of patience, being creative without being told how to, and learning to think for themselves. Parents are also in a hurry to fulfill the smallest whims and fancies of their children in the fear of creating any unpleasant childhood memories. All this over eagerness is making life more complicated for both of us.

Penning all this down has made my resolve more clear. I am not going to take the easy route and send my children to any summer camp. Yes, they might be bored but out of boredom they will learn patience, to think for themselves and learn to creatively use their time. One day at a time. It's going to be hard on them and on me, especially with so many temptations in the form of TV and technology but I am going to try.

Wish me luck. :)

Friday, May 10, 2013

Wayanad - A Dreamy Paradise

Wayanad needs no fancy introduction. It is one of the popular holiday destinations of South India. A paradise of lush green tea plantations, old-styled cottages, winding roads, smiling locals, and a Malabar cuisine that shouldn't be missed. Also it makes for a great place to vacation around Bangalore for young parents with infants or toddlers in tow.

Travelling with children, especially toddlers, is a little tedious and needs some planning. However, a little research will throw open a lot of ideas and options. While we wanted something exotic (read rustic living) for our older son to experience, we didn't want to compromise on simple comforts for the sake of our younger one. After a little search we settled for the tree house model at Coffee County Resorts, Wayanad and we returned quite glad with the choice made.

Route we took from Bangalore -

Bangalore > Mysore > Nanjangud > Gundulupet > Sulthan Bathery > Kalpetta > Meppadi

It took us close to 7-8 hours including a few stops we made for the 310 kms. Roads are good and very scenic.


The main attraction for our kid was the tree house itself. While it is not an actual tree house, the resort cottages are situated pretty much high above a mountain amidst a grove of trees below. Thus giving it a very real feel of being in a tree house. Small consolation that we managed to keep up our word with a very-hard-to-convince 5 year old!

Secondly there is a very inviting plunge pool, just outside the cottage. The kids and hubby went straight and plonked themselves in the pool and hours later had to be dragged out of it. The pool is a great idea but is also a major distraction for stubborn toddlers who can't be left unattended. Moreover the water is at times icy cold with no provision of hot water. However, fun it is. :)

If the kids are slightly older or if you are upto it, you can take walks around the tea plantations, or go for the wild safari (7-9:00 a.m. or the 3-4:00 p.m.), visit the Edakkal caves, local temples etc.

Thursday, March 21, 2013

Do We Have Gender Diversity Among Teachers in Schools?

I had been to a science fair recently at my son's preschool. Yes, they have science fairs for 4-5 year old's these days with exhibits/charts and the tots also explain concepts like rain-water harvesting or the water movement in plants with elan.
A group of parents got around discussing the dedication of teachers that was apparent and their commitment in educating our little ones. And we observed how there were no male teachers except for the Physical Fitness Trainer. A small impromptu questioning also made us realize that this was true to smaller niche playschools and day care centers. Am not sure if this stands true in a wider cross-section of the Indian society but I am also unable to recollect seeing any male teacher in any of the preschool chains I visited.
Interestingly there were a set of parents who expressed that it would not be possible for men to display this level of patience in managing preschoolers, while yet some parents outright said they would not be comfortable with a male teacher for their toddlers. Few also opined on how a male teacher in a preschool will be a risk or a big liability to the management.
Has the present climate of harassment's, sexual incidents, and rape cases created more distrust among the two genders and creating a wider gulf? Why are there so few men who come out to teach pre-schoolers, while there are many math & science teachers and lecturers for higher classes? 
Has it been accepted as a fact that teaching young ones has to be the prerogative of a woman alone? Or could it simply be a case of such professional roles not being lucrative enough monetarily for a primary (needless to add male) wage earner?

Tuesday, May 22, 2012

Miracle Moments

Ask a mother of six, and she will have a unique story related to the birth of each of her child. Guaranteed. The experience of pregnancy and motherhood is so dramatic and life-changing that simple moments could remain eteched in your memory. I have this two unique tangible memories, associated with my the birth of my children, that I cherish like no other. Am making an effort here to paint them as true as possible to the sweetest memories I carry with me.

Push — One sunny afternoon, while I was close to 8 months pregnant with my first son, I was travelling by car. I remember my, otherwise overactive, baby would remain still everytime the car was in motion. Our car stopped at a traffic signal and we were waiting for the light to turn green. Suddenly I could feel two tiny feet pressed against my belly and it was pushing me very hard. It seemed as though my baby was impatiently willing the car to move forward. It was so surprising I just kept staring stupidly at my large tummy with a huge perplexed smile. Hubby, noticing me grinning ear-to-ear, asked "What is it?" With wild gesticulations I tried to explain him the feeling of having two tiny feet pushing me from inside. The car moved on and the pushing stopped. I got an inkling then of how impatient my boy is going to turn out to be. :)

Sweet silence —  It was a few minutes after the birth of my second son. My morning had been witness to a short but very painful labour. My little wonder boy had entered this world screaming, kicking, and holding on to the umblical chord. My gyn-obst laughed and called him little tarzan. While lying on the delivery bed, exhausted, and in a daze, I could hear him crying non-stop as he was being cleaned. In sometime, I saw them bring him to me, wrapped in a clean and soft blue cloth. He was crying his lungs out and I had no strength left in me to hold him. The nurse gently touched his face to my cheek and all of a sudden his howling stopped. He simply stopped crying. Silence. I did not know how to react, except to smile, in those few seconds. Soon the doctors descended to complete their work and he started to cry as they took him away to the neo-natal care center. But that one moment made me realize that he recognized me. He knew me from the different hands that handled him. It was one magical moment that I will never forget all my life.

Just re-living those memories makes me smile. What is that one moment that has moved you so much? Something that will remain etched in your memory, like carvings on a rock?


Tuesday, April 03, 2012

The Second Arrival

With the arrival of the second baby life changes beyond recognition. Here are a few home truths that comes from experience:

#1 You have already experienced pregnancy with your first born. So your growing frame is not going to make you wonder-struck again. That does not mean you would love your second child any less. And yes, every pregnancy is different.

#2. Guilt - thy other name is motherhood. You start living a life of guilt- you feel guilty of robbing your first-born of his exclusive status, you feel guilt towards your second one for not adequately loving it, you feel guilty of renegading your husband to some obscure corner in your life, your guilty of not maintaining a spick and span house..etc The list is practically endless. Having an extended family makes life a lot easier.

#3. You will forever be exhausted. Children right from inception are a drain on your energy. You will be depleted of all your patience, sleep, life source and will still have to be up on your feet. The little task masters are very demanding and what can ever stand against a tiny non-stop wailing baby?

#4. You cannot please the world. Everyone and their cousin will have suggestions of what will help you lose those pounds and what to feed your babies so they can gain more weight. Ask them to take a walk. The world as such pretends to understand or empathise with mothers only to snigger at their back. Give them the middle finger.

#5  Husbands turn into full-time fathers only after the second one arrives. Till then they oscillate between being a very bewildered new dad and a sulking you-have-no-time-for-me husband. Once the second one arrives they transform into hands-on dads. They grow more responsible and so much more endurable. Ok, lets make that adorable. :)