March 28, 2013

The preschooling dilemma

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Growing up, I always felt that school was very uninspiring and not challenging enough. My school years were fun, but the Indian curriculum was burdensome and left little room for creativity. Whatever 'useful' knowledge I picked up during that time was from reading tonnes of books and watching documentaries. I'm also not in favour of burdening children with loads of schoolwork from a young age. Little Dude is only 17 months, but I have already thought about delaying his formal schooling as long as I can.

That's why, this blog post in the Huffington Post caught my eye. I don't want to put my child through
preschool if I can help it. Now, this post weighs the pros and cons of preschooling in the American context, but it is relevant everywhere. For a stay-at-home parent, there is the option of skipping preschool altogether, but that's where the dilemma comes in. If I do that, will I be doing enough to educate my child and provide enough resources for building all the necessary skill sets? I say it is possible, but social interaction and skill-building exercises play an important role here. The parent should be willing to spend enough time in 'educating' the child and that time should be exclusive. It's not so important, in my opinion, to spend money on expensive 'classes' but they must make efforts to teach them through a variety of techniques, especially play.

In the Dubai context, I'm already having nightmares after reading this news article about how tough it is to get children admitted in local schools. I'm bracing for what will come but I don't like the idea of 'interviewing' preschoolers and unnecessarily creating pressure situations for them. I would like to skip the whole playschool/nursery part and move on straight to kindergarten after my kid is at least four years old. There's some hope there as the minimum schooling age is probably going to be raised next year. Fingers crossed!

(Pic: By daveparker (Flickr: [1]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons) 

March 25, 2013

Toddler Tales (6): The Runaway

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It's been a couple of months since Little Dude started walking and now all he wants to do is run! As a result, it has become very challenging to go anywhere. We can't have a meal out or even do grocery shopping without having to run every few minutes after him. I understand that it's a whole new world out there from his eyes, but boy, does he throw caution to the wind! From observation, I'm led to believe that this is the way it is going to be for the next two or three years. Good thing is, I'll probably remain in shape from all that running around myself!

(Toddler Tales are snippets of what I'm learning every day from my little one.)

March 21, 2013

Situation Vacant: Mother

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It's Mother's Day in this part of the world and though I'm not a fan of commercial holidays, I like this one because mothers often go under-appreciated and it's good to be thought of and given some pampering! As a special post, I thought it would be fun to write a job ad for a mother - it's my tribute to moms everywhere.

__________________________________________________________________________________
SITUATION VACANT: MOTHER


Position: Primary caregiver to human child

Job Title: Mother/Mom/Mummy/Mama

Job Description:
Primarily responsible for raising and caring for a child from a infant to adolescent stage. Duties will differ depending on the age and developmental stage of the child. Initial duties will include feeding, cleaning and looking after every need of a child who would be entirely dependent on you for assistance with sleeping, burping, bathing, turning over and everything else. You will also have to play the role of entertainer, nurse and guardian to the child. As the child's developmental skills improve, you will be responsible for assisting them with walking, eating, talking and playing. Further along, you will have to play the role of counselor, judge, driver, teacher and friend.

Requirements: 
  • Candidate should be willing to survive on very little sleep (less than five hours a day), especially in the beginning.
  • She should be willing to learn on the job as no formal training is provided.
  • She should be ready to face challenges of all types such as unexplained crying, tantrums, indiscipline and illnesses.
  • Often, the candidate will have to function alone as no team will be provided. She can enlist the help of a 'partner' or 'assistant', but on her own initiative.
  • The candidate will often come across some co-workers and other individuals who may be judgmental and rude. Tackling them is her responsibility though she may team up with other co-workers for help.
Working Hours: Candidate will be on-call 24/7 (even if she is moonlighting on another job).

Payment: Mostly in kind. You will receive unconditional love from the child.

Benefits: Lifelong benefits of love and appreciation from those around you.

Please Note: Selection of candidates may take up to nine months.

__________________________________________________________________________________

Happy Mother's Day!

Would you apply for this job if you knew what it would entail?

(Pic: Mother And Baby by Anna Langova)

March 18, 2013

5 things I wish I had back from my childhood

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Another year has gone by from my life today. On birthdays, I always end up reminiscing about my childhood. I must say I had a good one, and I thank God for that. I don't remember a lot of what I 'had' but I remember being happy and carefree and that's what counts, right? I was a bit of a loner though I had some special friends I'm still in touch with today. So, I was happy being by myself and doing something creative in the absence of a laptop, smartphone and tablet. I don't remember being bored too often.

As I think of those early years, I've compiled a list of things I wish I could bring back from my childhood:

Writing letters: It was such a thrill to receive letters addressed to you. I didn't have a 'pen pal', but I used to write to my cousin a lot. It was fun and I tried to continue the letter-writing tradition as far into my life as I could. But now, it just doesn't make sense anymore. I also miss writing by hand...with a pencil.

Exploring outside: Those were times of unstructured play, where we made up games as we went along. Where there was no set agenda or a playdate. Where we just went around the neighbourhood and kids joined in and dropped off as they desired. Even on my own, I loved exploring everything around me (stayed close to home). I don't I will ever wander aimlessly anymore because there will always be something to do.

New school year: This was a really exciting time. I was a good student and really had fun going to school. I loved the new school year when there was the smell of fresh print in the air as we got new books, notebooks and supplies. Nothing quite compares with the anticipation of learning new things from the new textbooks (yes, I was that boring!), doing new activities and being a year senior in school!

Non-branded stuff: This came to my mind when I saw Disney's branded toilet seats for children the other day. Has it come to this? I love the cute stuff with Cars and Winnie the Pooh and all, because you can't help buying anything else. But I miss the time when you bought a t-shirt because you liked it, and the decision was not complicated by your being loyal to a certain cartoon character. I think this whole merchandising thing has gotten way out of hand.

Atari: I am a technology lover but I just can't get my head around all the games that are available today. I loved my classic Atari games which were simple and logical. There was no storyline to think of or fantastic graphics to marvel at. It was simple, gaming fun. Mario was the most complex it got and I didn't even play that game!

At times, you do want to go back to being a child. But you do get an opportunity to do that when you have a child of your own. I'm looking forward to doing lots of fun activities like colouring books and school projects and water play with Little Dude as he grows up!


(Pics: Katy Xyz, Eike (The english Wikipedia, File:Atari 2600 2.jpeg) [GFDL (http://www.gnu.org/copyleft/fdl.html) or CC-BY-SA-3.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by-sa/3.0/)], via Wikimedia Commons)

March 14, 2013

Life lessons I want my child to know

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I came upon a question on one of my favourite websites, Quora, about what the the most dangerous trends in parenting are. Interestingly, most people answered that being over-protective of children is the biggest failing of parents. As I've written before, I don't think there's a specific right or wrong way of raising kids. Heck, today's environment is so dangerous that I don't think we can be protective enough of our kids. I mean, who would have thought that they would be selling bullet-proof backpacks in the USA? And did you know that children 44,475 go missing in India every year? Yes, we have every right to be over-protective. But I also understand why people think this is a 'dangerous trend'. It is, after all, important to let kids be kids. To not rob them of their childhood pleasures by being too cautious.



I can't comment on what we shouldn't be doing, but there are certain life lessons I want my child to know. Because for the next couple of years, I'm his window to the world. These are the things I want to teach Little Dude:
  • Honesty is best: Lying is just so easy nowadays because we don't even have to say it, just type it somewhere and no one is going to question us. But I've learned that being honest always pays off in the long run, and leads to healthier relationships.
  • Take only what you deserve: It's easy to take credit for someone else's work, but credit should only be taken when you deserve it. Or anything else for that matter. Don't take advantage of generosity. But graciously accept praise or reward when you've worked hard for it.
  • Don't over-indulge, especially on credit: We have become such a materialistic society that labels have become everything. My parents taught me that you don't always have to 'have' everything. I think it's dangerous that we can so easily buy on impulse, because we have credit readily available to take. But it has to be paid back, and it's better to just stay within your means.
  • Learn to give back, even if you don't receive: No person is completely a part of society until he/she gives back to it. Whenever opportunity arises, do something to help someone in need. More importantly, don't expect anything back because this world is full of selfish people. I think being selfish can only make us unhappy, while helping others leads to an inner peace.
  • Stand by your beliefs: Once you know what you stand for, stand your ground. But remember to respect the beliefs of others too. Otherwise, you will end up being intolerant and arrogant.
  • Don't clamor for popularity: I am realizing more with each passing day that what is popular is not always the best. I don't think one should blindly do or adopt something just because everyone is doing it. Pick only what you are comfortable adopting and be happy with your choice.
  • You can't always win: There is so much emphasis on being the fastest that we forget that life is the race itself. We have the same destination and it really doesn't matter how soon we get there. We must teach our children that they will lose sometimes, and it's really okay.
  • Violence is never the answer: Never, ever. It's a dilemma for parents to teach their children to respond to the overwhelming violence around us today. Worse still, how do they respond to violence aimed at them? This is a tough one, and something I'm still pondering, but I know that I will teach my child to avoid violence and find an alternative solution.
(Pic: By daveparker (Flickr: [1]) [CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0) or CC-BY-2.0 (http://creativecommons.org/licenses/by/2.0)], via Wikimedia Commons)

March 11, 2013

Toddler Tales (5): Bouncing Back

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After a long vacation with his grandparents, Little Dude returned to Dubai with a flu. Poor baby had a tough time with it. But what I like about young kids is that they are so eager to get back to normal. They seem to be saying, "Enough with this sickness stuff already! I want to get back to playing!". With adults, we go through that additional stage of self-pity where we want everyone to sympathize with us because we are 'so sick'. With little children, who don't have the complaining ability yet, there's the psychological advantage of not knowing they are sick and therefore, feeling better. I guess it actually helps them heal too. Like my boy, who's back to running around the house despite a nagging cough and runny nose!

(Toddler Tales are snippets of what I'm learning every day from my little one.)

March 6, 2013

The curse of the mom-guilt

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It's hard enough being a parent than having to deal with all the guilt that comes attached with it. Why is it that I automatically feel guilty about anything I do only for myself since I became a mother? The degrees may vary, but every parent feels it. Especially those who cannot spend enough time with their kids due to work or other factors. But even the littlest things can trigger guilt in me. I stay at home and am there with Little Dude all day, but that doesn't stop me from constantly questioning myself. Am I giving him enough attention? Should I play with him all day or let him play independently? Are we doing enough productive/creative/skill-building activities? Most of the time I end up feel guilty for doing it 'wrong', as I convince myself.

The mom-guilt factor is probably a gift from Mother Nature to ensure that we will always place our child's well-being before our own. But something must be wrong when one feels guilty for silly things, like I do. Spending any amount of time by myself is a very hard thing for me. I can't even take a nap without wondering what I should really be doing. Or has the guilt been compounded by the images of 'perfect parenting' we see across social media (read 'Parenting in the age of Pinterest')? Since we have access to so much information about how others are raising their kids (like this blog, ironically!), we end up feeling guilty about every little thing. I mean, it's okay if you haven't potty trained your toddler yet. Or given your kids a sugary breakfast. Right?

I also think that this has something to do with being a first-time mom. Since you're the only one around, you are the caregiver-cum-playmate-cum-entertainer. With subsequent kids, I imagine, there's less to worry about and feel guilty as they'll at least play with each other.

I haven't figured out how to avoid the curse of the guilt, but when I see my happy kiddo, I know I must be doing something right.

This post has been linked to The Prompt.

(Pic: Happy Boy And Mum by Peter Griffin)