Sunday, August 26, 2007

Of tantrums and coconuts

I am getting to know the meaning of the phrase "Terrible Twos". The past few weeks, DD's energies seem to be focussed on testing her limits and our patience, throwing tantrums at the drop of a hat, and then whining and protesting when she is chided or admonished for her doings. Into her second month in playschool, she has been picking up infections quite often these days. She has a runny nose most of the time and has had a severe throat infection and an ear infection over the past 2 months. Her pediatrician assures me that all kids go through this phase till their immunity kicks in. So initially, when she started throwing tantrums and was crying/scowling for small things, I thought it was because of her poor health. It took me a while to realize that this is the TT (Terrible Twos/ Terrible Tantrums) that has arrived with a bang. All the internet time spent on Dr.Spock and Babycenter did not prepare me enough for this.

The tantrums can erupt any time and come without warning. When I bring DD out of the bath, she is all smiling and giggly. She even kisses me lovingly on my cheek and I am thanking God for such a wonderful child. And then, when I try to put her dress on, she suddenly decides that she doesn't want to wear it. So off she goes, flitting around the entire place, running away from me with evil glee on her face. I let her do this for some time, but ultimately, I am an old-fashioned mom and I decide that she needs to wear something. So I catch hold of her and then... all hell breaks loose. She thrashes her arms and legs about and bawls her lungs out. That, with a look on her face that asks "How could you be so undemocratic and use brute-force on me?"
This is okay, but there are some times when DD demands something totally unacceptable. She has this habit of trying to use her kerchief (which we of course use to wipe her runny nose) to pretend-clean the furniture. Detour: I can hear some of you saying "Awwww.. do you need to actually give us the gory details?". All I can say is that you kind of become desensitized to such stuff when you have and raise kids. If your kids haven't done anything like this, sing Hallelujah and praise the lord, for it is indeed a miracle. End of detour.
Having read enough child-rearing stuff, I brightly pull out a different cloth and hand it to DD, saying "You can use this cloth to clean the furniture, please give the kerchief back to Amma". She takes the new one, and I beam with motherly pride at DH. And then as I try to take the kerchief from her hand, a pierce and deafening shrill emanates from her as she refuses to let go of it. The look on her face this time is "O so you were actually trying to cheat on me, how could you?". I feel rage simmering inside me and the only decision I need to make is whether to direct it to DD or to DH, who is rolling on the floor laughing.
The latest thing that DD enjoys is throwing stuff out of our balcony. There are small openings in the wall through which she can throw fairly large objects. These objects would, most of the times, be retrieved by her nanny from the garden below. I have explained to her about a 100 times so far that she shouldn't be doing this, without any effect whatsoever. So this Sunday, she threw a cup out of the balcony, I totally lost my cool. I told her that since she had been disobeying me, I would punish her. And I left her in a room and closed the door from outside. Now, before you shout at me, I was sure that she wouldn't get herself in danger and I was planning for this punishment to last only a minute or two, depending on her reaction. Predictably, DD howled and wailed and knocked at the door, trying to twist the knob open. I was standing just outside the door, holding the knob, and feeling most wretched. A minute (oh I really think it was only 40 seconds) later, I opened the door.
DD came to me, tears streaming down her face, and I told her again that what she did was not right. And I also asked her to say "Sorry". "Sorrreeee" she said, tears starting to flow again. And then says in a confused voice, "Ummachhikku thengaa pottu" (I was giving coconuts to the God). I couldn't move for a few seconds. We often take DD to the temple and a few weeks back, she had witnessed DH offering coconuts to Lord Ganesha, which is done by hurling the coconuts down on to a stone pit. And her little brain had picked it up, imagined a lot of objects to be coconuts, and they were hurled down from the balcony in offering to Ganesha. And I had punished her for that!!! I told her that coconuts are to be offered only in temples or something of that sort. I don't remember what I said, I only remember that I hugged her and was crying silently. What a roller coaster ride motherhood is.

Thursday, August 02, 2007

Gender Matters

I have wanted to post on this issue for a long time, but never got down to it. This is something many of you may not agree with. Feel free to make your comments, but I had to say what I felt.
Living in Chennai, where we are sweltering in heat for 9 out of 12 months, I ensure that DD wears only airy, cotton clothes. And I don't believe in the girls-wear-pink-frocks-with-satin-bows theory. So I go for all colors, and all sorts of clothes - by which I mean that she wears trousers, pyjamas, shorts, Capri's, frocks, skirts and whatever else there is. Whenever I take her to the park or for open door activity, I make sure she is wearing shorts or capri's, more for convenience. Because a frock or skirt is more restrictive of movements and I don't want her to be hindered by her dress. And DD also has this short summer crop, which, combined with her attire, makes her look like a little boy.
So most people whom we meet at the park or the roads say "Oh, look at that little boy.." to their kid(s). Initially I used to feel upset, but now I have gotten so used to it that I give them a hearty grin and point out that I have a girl. I even add cheekily "See, her ears are pierced". While some of them just carry on with the conversation, there are a few that trail off saying "Oh she was wearing shorts, so I thought...".
But nothing can beat the remarks made by this neighbor of mine. She seemed to be a friendly lady and we had always been nice to each other. One day, she asks me in a conspiratorial whisper "Do you dress your daughter in shorts, because you always wanted a son?" I was so angry I didn't trust myself to open my mouth. Thankfully DD was perched on my arms, or I might have slapped her.
Now, is this something to do with Chennai, with its so-called conservative outlook? I don't know. I see quite a few girls (school-going and college) wearing shorts. But when I go shopping for DD, I have to go to the "boys section" to pick up shorts ! In fact, I have seen very little gender-neutral clothes at this age, where actually there is plenty of scope for such. Does that mean it is okay to wear shorts only after you grow up, when people can figure out your gender?
Years ago, I went to a toy store and told the guy that I needed to buy a gift for a 2 year old. "Boy or Girl?" he asked. At that point, I didn't think much about it. But now I get irritated when I think of it. Oh yeah.. we need to get dressed-up Barbie dolls and kitchen-sets for girls, and nice shining cars for the boys. Why do we need to start the stereotyping so young? Let the kids wear what is comfortable, and play with toys that are sensible. DD continues to wear shorts and whatever toys DH & I have got her are all gender-neutral. She has a couple of dolls that were gifted by others, and at this age, she seems no more interested in her dolls than in any other toy. If, at a later age, due to peer-influence, she wants to wear frilly frocks and play with Barbies, I am fine with that. But I don't want to try and force her into the gender mould.