Monday, November 26, 2007
Sunday afternoon: Tyke has finished siesta and is in a very playful mood. I have just taken off her diaper, so I ask her “Tyke, shall we go and do su-su?” She resolutely says “Nooooo”. “Are you sure?”, I ask. She lets out a deep-throated wail, points out the window and says she wants to climb up there. Not wanting to start another battle of wills, I lift her and put her on the bedroom window-sill. She holds on tightly to the bars. I am not actually holding Tyke, since she is balanced nicely on the window sill, but I am standing right behind her, to catch her in case she loses balance. She is smiling to herself, and points out to the squirrel scampering on the neighboring terrace. A nice dreamy moment, and I feel content, happy to be a mother, happy to be with her.. and then, ssssssssssssssss…… the sound of water sprinkling on metal. I look down to see a fountain of pee falling directly on the metal box of the window A/C jutting outside the window. I could only hope there was no one standing right below that window at that point.
The Parrot phase
Tyke is now in “the parrot” phase in evolution. Which means that she repeats anything we say – well, attempts to repeat, at least. And most of what she talks in any given situation comprises of what DH or I would have said in that situation.
Like she goes and slips on my sandals, and then says “chappal thodaathe. Adi kittum” (Note the combination, first sentence in Tamil and next in Malayalam). Once she was calling out to me from another room, I called back and said “Amma itho irukken” (meaning “Amma is here”). So now, when she calls for me, and she finds out I am in another room, she comes running there saying “Amma itho irukken”.
Tenacious little Tyke
Each time Tyke cries/howls/throws a tantrum for something, she stops crying after the first few minutes. She then says in a singy-songy semi-crying tune, “Ethukku azhuthaai?” if I am around or “Enthinaa karayunnathu” if DH is around – both meaning “Why did you cry?” Now, we never make the mistake of asking her that question, because 99 times out of 100, we know why she is throwing the tantrum and don’t need to ask this question. So she asks this question and then she answers her own question by giving the reason - “TV off panna azhuthen” (I cried because the TV was switched off). And she does this E.V.E.R.Y time she cries – She must be thinking “Maybe these dumbos didn’t actually understand that I cried because they switched off the TV, so I might as well tell them that. Maybe then they will get it into their thick skulls and switch it on again”. These days, we start laughing out loud (yes, cruel parents!) when she starts off “Ethukku azhuthaai?” much to her irritation – that sends her back howling again. She must be thinking “How can they? – Here I am, going great lengths to explain to these duds what I want – and they have the sheer gumption to laugh at my attempts”.
Of late, whenever Tyke’s (unreasonable) demands are not met and she is in a rage, she goes off running to our smallest bedroom, climbs on the bed and perches herself in a particular spot facing the mirror. She is of course howling loudly and has indignant tears streaming down her face. So she sits there rocking to and fro, and watching herself cry in the mirror, all the while waiting for someone to come and console her/give her the desired object/ give in to her demand! What a Drama Queen!
Now, I know Tyke loves routines and believes that every thing has a place– she doesn’t yet put her toys back in place, but expects to find them in the same place everyday (yeah, dad’s gene I guess). So now I think she has identified this room and spot as her “Anger Spot” – the place she runs to every time she is angry or upset.
And the many joys…
Tyke is such sheer delight to be with (when she is not at her difficult worst) and I just love being with her and watching her and interacting with her. Sometimes she spontaneously comes and hugs me.. and makes my day. She is always watching, trying to mimic and learn. And she is always following me around – it’s like having a shadow. It is trying at times, but nothing is so good to your self-esteem as having someone love you so much .
I have these moments when I feel that she is a grown-up – She knows when I am under the cloud and tries to kiss me and hug me to happiness. We even share jokes and have a laugh. I mean we actually share jokes - how cool is that! Here is one of the “jokes”:
Background: There was a time not long back when Tyke would pronounce “Baby Bop” as “Beee Baaap”. Nowadays she pronounces it right, but she also knows that she used to do it wrong J
I point to a picture of Baby Bop and say (semi-mockingly in a thrilled voice) “Tyke, here is Beee-Baaap”.
She grins in embarrassment (yes!) and says “Baby Bopppp.”, the last syllable resounding to show that she can pronounce it right. And she is proud of it.
So I say “Oh I see. So who says “Beeee Baaaap’?”
A twinkle in her eyes, Tyke promptly replies “Achaaa”. And we giggle away to glory.
It is of course very convenient that Acha (DH) is not around at the time of this conversation.
At the end of a long day, there is no better way to unwind than spending time with my precious little Tyke. Nothing I would be rather doing.. well… not yet, at least.
Ironically, it turned out that most of my posts are about my daughter, or my experiences as a parent and such. I discovered that I enjoyed writing about her better than anything else, because I am passionate about this topic. So all the intentions of my blog being something ‘away from work and parenting’ flew out of the window. It took a blog, among other things, to teach me that being a mother is the most important part of being myself.. And there is no running away from it.
And then came the realization that I had been shortsighted in referring to my daughter as plain-vanilla “DD” in my blog. Nothing wrong with it, but the hitch is that when I write and refer to her as DD, I don’t really get the feeling that I am writing about her.
So better late than never, I have decided to give her a name for my blog – especially since I write so much about her. This name has to be “personal” for me so that I feel I am writing about her. And obviously I don’t want to use her real name. So, I have come up with this name that DH and I use to refer to her in some of our conversations – especially when we discuss with exasperation, her rambunctious behavior – “Tyke”. So there – after more than a year of blogging, I have woken up to the central character in my blogs, and christened her too!
DH will remain DH – I am rolling on the floor laughing thinking of all the nick-names I can use for him. Most, no, all of them will seriously dent his public persona - And if I do that, being the proud Leo that he is, he might just chop me into pieces and dump me into the Cooum :-). So he continues to be the impersonal and respectable DH.
Friday, November 09, 2007
When I was young, I remember eagerly waiting for the festive season to start, for the obvious reasons - I knew that each festival meant a lot of goodies and snacks ("palaharams"), not to mention new dresses. Onam meant "Ada prathaman" and some other payasam, Krishnashtami meant soft, fluffy, golden-brown appam (unniyappam) and crisp, round "cheedai". Navarathri was always great - one got to wear pattu pavadai and deck up in finery, eat "sundal" and also got "thamboolam" from different houses. The star attraction was, of course, the token amount of 1Re or 2 Rs coin that was given along with the thamboolam, which went straight into the piggy bank. One even got told not to touch books or study on the Mahanavami Day. That definitely was the cream. Deepavali meant new dresses, bursting crackers, having fun and eating loads of stuff - the most special ukkarai, mixture and a variety of sweets. Now you get the picture of the sort of person I used to be as a child.. well, I haven't changed much :-)
Somewhere along the late teens, I lost interest in most of the festivals. Probably it was part of the eternal "question and rebel" teenage-state. Perhaps, in that strange way that only a teenager can think of, I thought myself too grown-up to burst crackers or go around to all neighbours' houses for thamboolam. And I thought I had better things to do with my life and my time. It was a period when I questioned everything - the need to celebrate festivals was also one of them. And then I left home and started working. For the next 6 years, I hardly remember celebrating any festival in a proper way. Yes, I did visit temples on some of the festivals and I did end up making a sweet for Diwali once. But it never felt like celebration. I was too busy with work most of the time and more often than not, I remembered the festival only when my family called up to wish me. Life was a whirlwind, and career was the centre-piece. An average work day was 12 hour long, there was no time to pause,no time to even prepare healthy dinner or get laundry done and so celebrating festivals was the last on my list.
Actually speaking, marriage did not make a huge difference to this lifestyle - in fact, it worsened it I think, because DH and I made a completely career-oriented couple, he being a greater workaholic than me. And his family is not big on festivals. So for him, a festival day or even an anniversary day is not much special (yeah.. totally unromantic... tell me about it!). If I ever felt gulity about not doing anything special on a festival day, he would remind me of his "Every day is special" theory. Even on the year that Onam fell on a weekend, I remember that I was so wiped-out tired after a long week at work, and we had "Ona Sadya" at a nice restaurant in Chennai. So in essence, we were like a couple who largely stuck to a "bachelor lifestyle". The fridge would sometimes become empty mid-week, and since I worked late on week days, I would wait till weekend to stock it again. Till then, we would eat out or live on Maggi noodles and milk. So where was the time for festivals?
And then DD came along. That small yet powerful presence in our lives, helpless by itself but all-controlling. I made it a point to come home from work before she slept. And I also preferred to give her dinner myself. And that meant I got back at the latest by 7 PM daily. And that was just the beginning. My priorities did a U-turn, and I began spending more time at home, and consequentially, less time at work. I cannot say that life slowed down, because daily life is still a whirlwind of tasks to be completed and things to be done. But we now have a home and live like a family - I find time to shop mid-week for vegetables, fruits and essentials, because I cannot think of feeding DD junk food for a day, even if the weekend is temptingly only a day away. The laundry gets done, the sheets and curtains changed regularly and the rooms are dusted everyday because I, like any responsible mother, want to provide a clean and warm home to my child.
And as she started her second year, I caught myself planning to celebrate festivals!!. It was not something I had consciously decided to do, but it just started off so naturally, like it was an instinct. Like you come back to a place you knew long before, and you know your way around, without needing to ask for it. Of course I don't go all the way and make all the goodies for each festival, but I try to do something special for the ones I consider important. So this Onam, we had a proper "Sadya" (as proper as it can be, with my skills and knowledge). My cook being a Tamilian, was sure to mess up the Kerala dishes. So I made her do the groundwork of cutting and scraping coconut, and astonished myself by spending 3 hrs straight in the kitchen to dish out the sadya. Last Karthigai, I brought out lamps that had not seen the sunlight in the last decade or so, cleaned and polished them, and lit them at our doorstep. This Navarathri, I invited friends over for Thamboolam. And this Diwali, we had crackers (a brand that does not use child labour) and sweets and new dresses for everyone.
It is not that I have suddenly become a stickler for traditions. And I don't know if this is a one-year wonder where I managed to find time for all this. I really hope not, because I want DD to have special memories of festivals, and gro up to associate them with the warmth of love, the smell of comfort food and the happiness of celebrating as a family.
Sunday, October 28, 2007
Wednesday, October 24, 2007
Monday, October 15, 2007
These are the ten commandments that form the basis of my life these days. The Ten Commandments of the great, all-encompassing force in my life.....namely DD :-)
- Thou Shalt have no other priorities before me. I don’t care if you are hungry or haven’t slept well in 4 days – I want my whims to be catered to and shall have no excuses whatsoever.
- Thou shalt not watch a movie or dine in peace. The moment you let down your guard and relax a wee tiny bit, I will call for attention - I will be hungry, thirsty, have a call of nature or at least want to be scratched in my toes for an imaginary mosquito bite.
- Thou shalt learn to respect Murphy and his laws. If you think I will sleep off early on a certain day (so you can make your wily plans), I will bound around with unending energy and make sure that you don’t have your way.
- Thou shalt learn that “Silence = Trouble”, the hard way. Sudden spells of calm and silence from me are always followed by broken glass/toys, toys thrown out of the balcony or other such damages.
- Thou shalt not have things easy, even with the use of brute force. You may be able to forcefully brush my teeth, but I will make sure that I scream my lungs out EVERY SINGLE morning and make all the neighbors cast dirty looks when you step out.
- Thou shalt not force me to eat or drink anything against my will. On a good day, I will respond by puking on your hair and dress and on other days, I will throw a tantrum – the blood-curdling kind that will make you want to jump off the balcony and end it all for some peace and quiet.
- Thou shalt not forbid me from doing anything. I will do it all the same, probably with more vigor, since the Forbidden Fruit is always more enticing.
- Thou shalt not make smug statements to thy friends/hosts - “She never eats//drinks/does …..” – I will set out immediately to prove you wrong and make you eat humble pie.
- Thou shalt not underestimate my powers of manipulation. I know exactly how to play on emotions and make you feel like the lowest form of life that ever crawled on this planet. I am also learning how to play you against dad and vice-versa.
- Thou shalt, at all times, remember who calls the final shots in this game. And that, if you have any doubt, is ME. Size does not matter.
Sunday, October 07, 2007
When I started working, DD was only 5 months old. And I knew I had my MIL staying with me for a couple of months at least. So I decided to go with a nanny and registered with some agencies that are known to provide reliable nannies. The process of hunting for a nanny and the problems that I had with the succession of nannies that DD had (the current one is Nanny #3) are fodder for a separate post - or maybe even a series of posts. But things were chugging along and there was nothing major to complain of. So far, so good... till a few months ago, a time came when I had no family at home - no one from my side and no MIL. Since I knew this situation would arise, I had started DD on daycare for 3 hrs a day. And then, the nanny had to bring her home and take care of her till I came back from work.
The current nanny (I will call her N3) is quite good in terms of taking care of DD, cleanliness and all the basic criteria. And yet, I have nagging fears at the back of my mind. And so I opted for a few months of work-from-home and then some flexible timings, all because I couldn't convince myself to leave DD alone with N3 for long durations of time. Whenever I come home from work, I always find DD playing happily, well-fed and in clean clothes.. and I sometimes really think I am raving mad. N3 is good with DD, DD adores her, and things are fine.. and here I am, trying to obsess about problems that do not exist.
Apart from her official days off, N3 bunks at least a day or two each month. She has taken week-long sick leaves, calling in sick once with chikungunya, and another time with viral fever (Luckily both when MIL was around, so I didn't end up taking lots of leave myself). She has abysmal standards of punctuality. If I expected her to come in at 9.30 AM, she has always arrived 20 mts late , never on time. But I have always managed to get a hold on my temper and put up with her, for the single reason that she is good with my child, and that, to me, mattered the most.
2 weeks back, N3 called me one day and told me she was down with Malaria and would not be in for a couple of days. This time, I had to take leave from work to care for DD till she came back, which was 10 days later. And these 10 days gave me a lot of time to think. I tried to compare a reasonably good nanny (N3, in this context) to a good daycare system, seeing which provides better benefits to me and DD. And here is my comparison summary for anyone who cares to read thru:
1) Having a nanny is better in that the child gets personalized care, as against the "institution care" provided by a daycare center. I feel that the personalized care is probably quite important early in childhood (below age 1). The daycare is kind of "institutional-care" and obviously has the merits and demerits of that.
2) As the child grows, one has to be aware of the influences that the nanny has on the child, in terms of language, behavior and many other aspects. For eg, currently DD spends 3 hrs in daycare and 6 hrs in her nanny's care, so obviously she picks up more words/gestures from her nanny. And while it is possible to filter the market for reasonably well-groomed and well-mannered nannies, this can be no comparison to the quality of exposure at the daycare. Unless some of those Victorian governesses are still around :)
3) In my experience, nannies tend to get extremely complacent once they know that the child adores them
and their employer depends fully on them. Now this is a major problem since this upsets the equation, and often, leads to a situation where the employer is scared to rake up an issue with the nanny, lest she leaves. (yeah.. I sometimes maintain stoic silence if the issue is not directly related to DD). A well-run daycare centre normally incorporates valid feedback from parents, being a professionally-run institution.
4) Reliability - Unless one has a live-in nanny, there will ALWAYS be problems related to punctuality, not turning up when expected, undeclared days-off and all the rest of it. I don't know if this is true for countries outside India, or even cities like Mumbai, where domestic help is supposed to be more professional in their approach. But this is what I have seen in Chennai, and largely South India. The daycare obviously is more reliable. Having a live-in nanny would probably solve a lot of day-to-day issues, but if one lives in an apartment, this invariably means a compromise on your family's privacy.
5) How much routine? - Most daycare centres have a routine and the kids in daycare follow the routine, with some variations allowed. Most pareting material says that a child NEEDS a routine. I don't know if this is true for most kids, but it is certainly true for DD. She LOVES routines and seems to have an internal clock to go by schedule! To the extent that 95% of her days are routine-driven. The other 5%, she decides to vary her routine, for whatever reason. These 5% days will not be feasible if she is in a daycare full-time. And I found that when she was around a year old, the non-routine days were closer to 10-15%, but has come down now, due to a number of factors - one of which is that she has only one nap in a day. Which is why I feel that personalized care is needed at smaller ages.
6) Food- the daycare that I have chosen for DD, with all other criteria, insists that the kids should not bring food from home. While this is good from their perspective, since all kids get to eat the same food at the same time, this will probably force the kid to eat something that he/she does not like so much. Individual tastes are not catered to. While this may help the kids adapt better, one is always left with the question of whether they need to start adapting so young
7) Behavior and Discipline - The nanny is less likely to discipline a child, and the child gets the message that throwing a tantrum is the best way to get something he/she wants. In a day-care the child's energies are better spent and of course, better discipline is instilled. In addition, there is the definite advantage of having a peer-group around and learning from each other easily.
8) Health - It is true that if you have a clean and well-trained nanny, it is certainly better for your child's health than a daycare, where the child is exposed to viruses doing the rounds in peer-groups. So in the short run, this may present health problems, which also result in at least one of the parents taking leave from work to take care of the child frequently. But in the long run, this may be better because a child has to develop immunity and doctors opine that this is the only way their body learns.
9) Finally,the parent has to be comfortable with the arrangement. DD seems quite comfortable with being with N3 alone. But I am not, at least not fully. What works for one parent, doesn't for another.
So I am now closer to believing that DD is ready for longer durations at daycare - and so I am planning to extend her timings soon. For me, this reduces the dependence on N3 and also frees my mind from the nagging inhibitions that I have when DD is alone home with N3. But I know she is going to have eating and sleeping troubles initially, and probably going to fall sick more often(if that is possible!). I am promising that I will chant the mantra "Short term pains will lead to long term gains" and hang in there, and wait for her to settle down soon. Fingers Crossed.