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The Google Mom

While pregnant with my first one, I convinced myself that my belly rash was PEP (earlier called PUPPP). When I confronted my gynecologist with the symptoms and suggested the diagnosis, I was dismissed. “Oh, it’s just a rash” she said nonchalantly. I was indignant, how could she dismiss the hours I spent on the Internet self-diagnosing! Resolute on being vindicated, for my next consultation I took prints of research papers, pictures of symptoms and all sort of material to prove myself. Clearly my few hours on Google University were as good as her years in medical school. Faintly amused, she was still insisted that it was nothing to worry about. Of course, it was nothing but rash, but in my defense… Ah well, who am I kidding, I have no defense!

We are living in a world where there is more information than our brains are designed to process. A lot of it is just noise, but even sifting through this barrage of information to find relevant pieces takes up our bandwidth. As moms in this new digital age we have benefited immensely from our ability to connect to and feel a sense of camaraderie with an online tribe who is suffering from the same poop/puke filled days and sleepless nights. We use the Internet to get good deals on products, read reviews, get recommendations and to find humour even! But all this infobesity comes with a price. While the Internet helps in giving us new perspectives and insights, it can also concretise your biases by offering affirmations for any belief that you might hold. For some of us not gifted with a strong in-built mommy compass, this non-stop online chatter can sway our principles, make us feel inadequate and question ourselves as parents.

With my first child, I compulsively researched everything online. Starting from the weekly foetus growth photos to birth stories, baby poop, vaccinations, feeding, weaning, sleep issues, growth spurts, the list is endless! I came across a ton of material, sometimes conflicting. In this new age, it has become a trend to define your parenting style and build your Mom brand. There are extreme camps of AP/crunchy moms and the mainstream moms, and many different parenting styles in between. These days it’s common to have a Mom Statement, something you live by. Before the age of modern medicine, structured education and economic surplus, motherhood involved keeping the child healthy, providing basic learning and keeping him fed. Having moved beyond that, we are still struggling to really understand our roles. I digress.

None of us would fit exactly into any of these defined molds of 21st century parenting. We all have unique styles of navigating this maze of motherhood with the help of our friends, our family, and our village. Technology is meant to make our lives easier, not complicate it further. With so much information just a finger swipe way, we have to show as much discretion in our use of it as our contribution to it. The Internet is also responsible for giving us a false sense of having the smarts, as I learned with the experience with my Gynae. The speed at which I can source information and become an ‘expert’ is limited only to speed of my internet access. What actually gets retained is a matter open for debate. While I still enjoy a variety on online content, stepping off the information hamster wheel, for me involved a balanced diet to combat Infobesity by cutting down on the junk food equivalent of needless time spent on Twitter, Pinterest and Houzz, limiting empty calories from FB pages and parenting forum boards. I do occasionally binge, but there’s always the digital detox program to counter that!

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What does a 5 year old boy want?

A 5-year-old wants to be hilarious, he likes to laugh and be laughed at.
A 5-year-old wants to fit in, wants to be cool, be liked by his friends, appreciated by his teachers and loved by his siblings.
A 5-year-old wants dignity, wants to be treated as a person
A 5-year-old wants power, power to be his own person, power to command respect
A 5-year-old wants to cooperate because he sees the benefit of it
A 5-year-old wants to defy and challenge because he sees the limitations of it
A 5-year-old wants to grow up and confront this seemingly complicated world
A 5-year-old wants to slow down and be little once in a while.
A 5-year-old needs control, he needs to know what’s ahead, where is the next stop
A 5-year-old wants to know what it feels like to blatantly lie
A 5-year-old wants to dig his nose without inhibitions
A 5-year-old wants adults to know, that in his world promises (even a ‘maybe’ or a ‘We’ll see’ or a ‘hmmm’ is a promise!) are never forgotten
A 5-year-old wants juice – all times of the day!
A 5-year-old wants to never be asked ‘what did you do in school today?’
A 5-year-old wants to know about his past and thinks about his future
A 5-year-old wants to fix without asking for help

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Happy 3rd Birthday Rehan!

Source: freeallimages.com

Source: freeallimages.com

Rehan, Rehan, Rehan! Happy birthday baby! What a year this has been, full of contradictions! You’ve been carefree yet so attached. Dramatic yet so calm. Loud yet so serene. Energetic yet so blasé. Difficult yet so compliant. Secure yet so vulnerable. Shy yet so cheeky. Relishing life with your contagious exuberance, you are a picture of joie de vivre, taking absolute delight in just being.

Puss in Boots cute expressionThis year you graduated from the College of Utmost Cuteness with Honors! Oh how you can charm the pants of anyone, talking so earnestly in that cute lispy baby way. You can pull of the Puss in Boots look faultlessly to your advantage, leaving us feeling warm and fuzzy but always with a nagging feeling that we are in some way being manipulated by this charm. You negotiate an extra cookie with simple but heart-warming comments like ‘but you’re my favourite girl!’, how can I say no to anything after that!

You’re allergic to taking showers, loud noises and snotty-nosed babies. You are very single-minded and willful about your notions of how things should and shouldn’t be. Pajamas should be worn precisely 5 minutes before bedtime. Toothbrush should be placed in the right holder. Broken crackers shouldn’t be handed to kids. Sometimes I wonder where you get these qualities that make you so stubborn and unyielding. Who am I kidding, of course it’s your dad’s genes! Just to detail how much effort goes into keeping you happy here is a sample of your dislikes – t-shirts with pockets, sand in shoes (interestingly sand in hair, nose and mouth is OK), other people’s towels, yellow cups, a single drop of water on your shorts, warm food, jam sandwich folded up, jam sandwich not folded up, bruised bananas, waiting for food at the restaurant, cold swimming pools, the list goes on and on.

Despite all this need of a sense of order and cleanliness, you are awfully clumsy. This clumsiness however, for reasons unknown, is solely for my benefit and I can’t say I am flattered. Playing with you means having to regularly shield myself from your unintended blows, head-butts, elbow jabs, knee rams and eye pokes. It seems being around me has a magical effect on your spine, it becomes all squidgy with your body just flopping over me. I have suspicion you think of yourself as being lighter than air. Either that or you see me as invincible, someone who has successfully birth two babies can’t possible get hurt right?

You have a favourite everything – number, letter, animal, part of the body, side of the bed, corner for pooping, planet, superhero, song, book. For the better part of the year, your favourite colour was orange. You granted yourself exclusive rights over it. Not only did we have to deal with you only wearing orange t-shirts, eating only orange-looking fruits with orange cutlery but also with random orange objects mysteriously appearing in the house. It took a long time for the understanding that the ‘if it’s my favourite it’s mine’ rule is not a socially acceptable norm, but we’re finally there!

official-age-warning-logoYou have intermittent love affairs with your toys, devoting yourself completely to one for days only to ruthlessly dump it in favour of another. With so many exciting toys, how can you be expected to stay committed to one? Like a true blue playboy (a boy who plays!) you sleep with whatever toy you fancy on any particular day. You’ve also laugh in the face of this sign here, almost exclusively choosing toys with lethal levels of choking hazards. What can I say, you are thrill seeker like that.

Occasionally, you get so involved in play that you go on an acknowledgement strike, combined with selective mutism. I would have mistaken your lack of response to assume you have mastered the Buddhist Zen state of awareness of the present moment, if you hadn’t so miserably failed the keyword test. This ingenious test involves throwing in some keywords while trying to have a conversation with your toddler – nothing fancy, just simple words like ‘ice cream’, ‘lollipop’, ‘candy’, etc. Yeah, that was no Zen state!

Self-preservation is very high on your agenda. You’re not one to get into trouble, test gravity or expend too much energy. The tiniest bruise will be a cause of much distress and also an excuse to not shower for days! If given a choice, you’d rather spend all your time at home just being silly with your brother or playing with your Legos or Octonaut toys, than go out. Is it any surprise then that you belong to the I-don’t-want-to-go-to-school club?

You don’t like the idea of growing up and vehemently deny being a ‘big boy’. I don’t like it either and sometimes find myself wishing I had the power to freeze time just for a bit. For what it’s worth, you will always be the baby of the house.

PS- Sorry about the terrible haircuts I gave you this year! And yes sweetheart, bread and chocolate bread rhymes 🙂

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Where’s the Magic?

“Dad, there’s no real magic in the world, right? Like, this second, there’s no elves in the world, right?” a young boy named Mason asks his father in Boyhood, a lovely heart-warming movie about relationships and discovering yourself. The movie was filmed over 12 years with the same cast, and follows the journey of 7-year old Mason into adulthood. His father reluctantly says no to his question, and you can see that moment as a significant turning point in Mason’s life. It’s as if the magic of the boy’s childhood just evaporated and was lost forever. I was deeply touched by this scene as by the whole movie. It’s a movie without any real plot, but it doesn’t really need one as it’s not trying to make a point; it is just a one that is.

Curious, I asked my 5-year old the next day if he thought there is magic in the world. His answer? An empathic no! I persisted, asking him why he didn’t believe in fairies or elves or witches. Or why Harry Potter or superheroes were not real. He insisted they weren’t and simply stated ‘because I know’ and when pushed more, reluctantly went on to explain “I have been to so many countries mom but I haven’t seen any magic”. The boy had a point! Not to discount my little travellers theory but there is another reason why my child doesn’t believe in magic.

Ever since he could talk, and being precocious that started very early, he would ask if something existed or not, if it was real or made-up. It seemed like his life mission was to find out what really existed and what was just stories. Contrast this with my 3-year-old who is blissfully unaware (or at least pretends to be) about the realness of things and doesn’t seems to care much about it – his world as I see it is full of endless possibilities. What fun to be able to imagine a man on the moon or Batman fighting crime in Gotham City or a planet full of transformers.

Kids these days have a lot of exposure to and knowledge about completely unimportant and irrelevant things, thanks to the YouTube phenomenon. By the time my son reached 5 he had seen videos of space shuttle launches, car factories, scuba diving, garbage collection in action, flash mobs, toy reviews, construction trucks, clips teaching baking, sewing, tap dancing, taekwondo and even sofa making, all of these on request.

There is definitely a price to pay for all this passive visual stimulation. The knowledge of preliterate kids in the era long gone was limited to the knowledge of their parents. And given the average intelligence levels, it also means the there was a lot more room for imagination. At 5 if I wanted to know how a space shuttle takes off, I would probably have got a visual demonstration of it using props (Read: hands) or if my parents were feeling indulgent maybe a picture in the dusty old encyclopaedia.

The other day the older kid approached me, with the 153rd question of the day “What did hulk look like when he was a kid?” Me, distracted “Umm, not sure”. Without hesitation “Can you check the internet?” Scene re-enacted with the 3-year-old – I told him about the time I got hurt when I was a kid. He asked to see a picture, and upon being told there is none, he promptly states “Can you check the internet?” *facepalm*

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The 9-point Manifesto

20140729_080355_1It’s that time of the year again, when we head back home for our customary visit to family and friends during the kids summer vacation. It’s more of a workation for me, considering it’s India and that we’re travelling with two young kids. This is our first long holiday since my older one turned five and finally seems to have grown out of throwing fits on days that he’s tired or hungry and all the days in between. That’s more than I can say for my younger boy, but one out of two is a pretty good score.

I have a strong but unsubstantiated hunch that my kids got together and passed a secret manifesto for the holiday. It went something like this –

1. We shall appoint mom as an honorary trash can, for all intents and purposes. We will henceforth hand her all pieces of trash – banana peels, candy wrappers, ice cream sticks, snot-filled tissues – all waste that needs disposing.

2. We shall maintain a steady flow of background chatter. At no point shall we deprive the people around us of our constant tomfoolery and loud goofiness. We shall take uncoordinated naps so one can of us can pick up the baton while the other sleeps.

3. We shall pointedly refuse to be a part of the tots road show that the adults so wittingly subject us to. We shall refuse to perpetuate cutisism by ignoring requests for performances including singing, dancing and elaborate gymnastics. We will give blank looks and dry smiles to further indicate our apathy towards these moronic demands.

4. We shall constantly interrupt adult conversations. Surely, there can’t be anything more important than immediately helping us retrieve the Lego piece from behind the couch for the nth time.

5. We shall whenever possible walk into doors, walls, cabinets, table corners and all places capable of potential harm, making a grand display of our lack of spacial awareness in new environments. Extra points for walking into them when adults are on the phone or seem to be involved in important discussions.

6. We shall use jet-lag as our weapon of choice – waking up at ungodly hours, napping at meal times and pushing bedtime to the point where moms blows a proverbial fuse.

7. We shall maintain a distance of a metre or more from the deadly Indian curries, activating our survival instincts against these spice laden sauces of evil.

8. We shall be at our best behaviour only when no one is looking, stockpiling our reserves of tantrums and meltdowns for times when inane social interactions are forced upon us.

9. We shall squabble over toys but when mom offers an alternative to either one of us, we will both pine for it, conveniently abandoning the original toy that we were arguing about.

Of course, by now I’m trained to counter this constant barrage of schemes from the little rascals. For that I use my exclusive monopoly over the distribution of resources, more specifically food! My advice for moms to boys is to stock up on food and let the feasting never stop.

Oh you want to play with the same toy as your brother? Here, why don’t you have a banana first. Crisis averted! Can’t sit still in the car? Offer nuts. Rioting in the airplane? Chips and bars will work. The chewier the snack the better!

Food can buy you time, diffuse tantrums or just give you a 5-10 minute break to reorganize your thoughts. And since drastic situations call for drastic measures, I’m always stocked up on the good ol’ candy. Yeah, I’m crafty like that 🙂

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One word: Bottles!

Bottles galore!

Bottles galore!

Mr. McGuire famously said to young Benjamin Braddock in “The Graduate”, “I just want to say one word to you … plastics.” I would add another word to that ‘bottles’.

No, plastic bottles don’t excite me and I do not enjoy writing about them. They were not on my radar when I belonged to the DINKdom, fast-forward a few years to two kids in school and its a different story. My preoccupation with bottles is matched only by my obsession with kid poop!

They say raising a child is expensive, but no one really gets down to specifics now, do they? Well, here I am baring it all for those of you who are planning to have kids. As a parent you will spend a mini-fortune on these things designed to do nothing but hold water and in the process most likely end up as a contender in the mass-bottle-buyer championship!

It all started rather innocuously with baby bottles, used mainly for pumping and feeding the baby, one of those things that feature regularly in the new moms ‘must do’ criterion. Then came the sippy cups, and as any devoted mother would, I scrounged the internet for advice on the best transition leak-proof sippy cup (spout or straw, central nozzle or side, with or without a wrist/neck-band, bang-proof and chew-friendly). What followed was an island-wide hunt for the perfect bottle. In my naivety I didn’t realise that I would be repeating this exercise every few months for the next hundered few years at least until the bottles miraculously start lasting longer than a life span of a caterpillar.

In the last 5 years, my brood has collectively lost/broken/annihilated more bottles than there are rows in Excel! Slight exaggeration there, but you get the point. Apart from some of them simply disappearing, no two bottles suffered the same fate – some broke after being unceremoniously thrown against the wall/ground, many started sporting unexplainable cracks, some came back all battered and dented from school, some didnt come back at all (and yes, I have considered dog-tags), some just shriveled into a shapeless blobs after a hot water wash, some lost during travel/holidays, etc. The most recent one started mysteriously wobbling around like a Fisher Price toy penguin, just a month after use.

I have a little theory on these bottles which simply don’t last a few full moons – planned obsolescence. In short, planned obsolescence is when manufacturers stimulate demand for their products by designing ones that wear out after limited use. I can picture the bosses of these bottle company cartels huddling together in some dilapidated abandoned warehouse in the outskirts of some old city, in Hollywood mafia-style and strategizing on how to best degrade their product quality.

To appease the environmentally conscious part of my brain, I tried steel/metal bottles but decided the eco-payoff (the heavy metal bottle smashing down on the little toe) wasn’t worth it. We do try our best to recycle these bottles, or whatever is left of them. Considering I’ve been buying these at the rate second only to diapers, I’ve got bottle hunting down to a T – Color. Check. Right plastic number. Check. BPA-free. Check. Lightweight and easy to clean. Check.

With any luck the kids will get through highschool without spending their entire college fund on water bottles, but I’m not putting my money on it (pun intended).

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Happy 5th birthday Ayaan!

Happy Birthday!

Happy Birthday!

Happy birthday big boy!

Wow, what a whirlwind year it has been, you loved being four, didn’t you? How can I describe you this year in a few words – energetic, crazy, untrammelled and occasionally cantankerous!

You have made me proud at what you have achieved in this small span of half a decade. You do everything a 5-year-old boy should – pulling silly faces, inventing daft languages, naming and occasionally ‘fighting’ inanimate objects, being socially inappropriate, waggling your bits about in the shower – you are a complete goofball at heart!

Your sense of wonder and boundless energy brightens up the lives of all around you. Not only are your questions innumerable, a lot of times they are unanswerable – What can I say to “How many days are there?”, your question was exactly what it sounded like, but unless I can predict judgment day, I have no idea how many days are there in the world. And what can I say to ‘what number is infinity + 10’ or ‘what is at the end of space’.

You are the King of Silly and have taken it upon yourself to singlehandedly entertain the pants of anyone who is a willing subject! Of course I use the word ‘entertain’ loosely as most of it involves jokes about the bottom, poo or farts. ‘Poopooface’ has been the phrase du jour of our house for the better part of this whole year. Not to mention ‘sillybumbum’, usually accompanied with a visual demonstration. All of these shenanigans are met delightful cheers and cacophony of laughter from you No.1 fan, your little brother!

Talking about your brother, isn’t he the luckiest? You absolutely dote on him, more than once I have caught you looking at him with a warm look of brotherly affection. You will go out-of-the-way to cheer him up if he is grumpy. Of course, you boys have an occasional spat, but the companionship and the bond between you’ll has been a pleasure to witness. You are the self-appointed minder for your brother too, constantly watching out for him when we are out and about.

When you’re not being silly, you spend most part of your day making comparisons about who or what is biggest/strongest/most popular/deepest/widest/longest, etc. You wonder about the stars and the moon, about time and numbers, about being rich or poor, about being nice or mean, about being vegetarian or not, about the food chain and wild weather, being older or younger, taller or shorter. You talk about death and have rather unsettling questions, but have accepted very matter of factly that people go away after they are old. You have questions about your past, “How did they take me out of you?”, “Did someone put medicine in you to start making me in your tummy?” You have questions about the future “Will we always live together?”

Your current favorite song is ‘Bad’, it pleases you immensely that Michael Jackson is very famous. I haven’t yet told you that he is no more, to avoid a myriad set of questions relating to his death! And is it really a surprise that songs like ‘Make ‘Em Laugh‘ have you rolling on the floor with hysterical laughter.

Most of this year you have been fascinated with volcanoes and caves (it was space last year). You unquestioningly accept Bill Nye as the foremost authority on all things science!

This year you had to cope with me going back to work, and you were such a champ about it! With your wiser beyond your years talk, you gave me great confidence in my decision, which in turn helped your little brother contend with the change in circumstances.

I love your fierce loyalty towards me, even if it is at the expense of neglecting everyone else! I love how you want to take up my middle name just so our names sound similar! I love when you come back from school with all sorts of gifts for me, from rocks to sticks to random paper crafts.

Here’s looking forward to another year of lots of fun, more questions, endless laughter, crazier play and more connection and hopefully less toilet humour!