Thursday, March 29, 2012

I'm not your friend!

Abhay resents being told to stop doing anything he is engaged in – to stop playing, or stop watching TV or stop drawing or stop whining or stop shouting or stop holding me tight! The minute we utter the dreaded STOP word, Abhay gets upset and declares that he would stop talking to us instead!  All kids resist transitioning from one activity to another, especially when it comes moving from something they like to something they spike and the only difference being the mode of resistance chosen. How does your little one act when you inform him that it’s time for homework, dinner or bedtime? Does he whine or sulk, or create a fit, or take to satyagraha and refuse to heed to your orders, or does he go on the offensive declaring you as persona non grata?!!:-)

Last night, we read about one such fox who was angry with his mom for not letting him continue s play! “Im not your friend” by Sam McBratney and illustrated by Kim Lewis is a charming little story that sounds too familiar to be in a book! Once upon a time, there was a little fox who loved playing with his mother in the fields. They play running games, sneak-up and pounce games and stand-completely-still games and many other games until the sun goes down. The mother fox feels that it is  getting late and tells the little fox to stop playing and get ready for the night. As every kid does, little fox protests and continues playing hide and seek. When mother fox assures him that they would continue tomorrow, the impatient little fox is not ready to wait until tomorrow. He plonks himself on the grass and asks her to go home without him and that he is not her friend and will never be her friend again! Soon it is dusk, and everything turns quiet when the little fox senses somebody watching him. When he realizes that it is his mother after all, he persists on being miffed with mom and says “I wont be your friend for a long long time” when his mother asks how long is a long time, the little fox indignantly replies “until I’m big”! His mother then gives up and heads home leaving little fox alone in the woods. As he hears the eerie sound of wind blowing the meadow grass, little fox is scared and feels its time to soften his stand against his mom. He shouts “I can be your friend tomorrow” and hopes that his mom has heard them! When there is no response, the little fox begins to wonder if his mother has after all left him. As he gets up to look for his mother, he sees strange shadows everywhere and he decides to run and runs as fast as he can to find his mother waiting for him in the last of the daylight. Secure in the presence of his mom, he no longer feels intimidated by the dark. Delighted that her little one has come around, the mother says “I hope you will be my friend tomorrow” to which the little fox stretches up to whisper into his mother’s ears “You don’t have to wait until tomorrow. I am your friend now”! His mother is relieved and says “Im your friend too and do you know what? I’ll always be your friend!” Both Abhay and me loved the book and in fact I felt that the dialogues of the little fox may as well have been Abhay’s words when angry!  A great read when your little one no longer wants to be your friend! :-)

Monday, March 26, 2012

Bored Abhay!

It has been hardly been a day since his summer vacations started and Abhay has already begun to feel bored! God help me as I try to find ways in which I can engage my five year old for the next 75 days of summer! God help my in-laws who’ll have a hyper active five year old at home all day for the first half of his summer vacation. God help my parents who’ll have an excited five year old turning their farm house into a mad house for the second half of his vacations! God help my husband who has been trying hard to fit in a vacation amidst his busy schedule, only to find every resort, train or bus already booked!  God help my co-workers who’ll have to bear with one of their colleagues leaving office earlier than usual as her son has summer holidays and God help Abhay from his holiday boredom!

Anyway, in order to tackle his so called first day boredom and to pre-empt any more such declarations, today's bedtime book is  “Bored Bill” by Liz Pichon. This is a story about a bored dog named Bill who was really really bored. Bill’s owner Mrs. Pickle, however was never bored and liked to keep busy all day. Whatever Mrs. Pickle loved to do – reading, gardening, kung-fu, cooking and cleaning – Bill thought it was boring. On a cold and windy day, Mrs. Pickle took bored Bill out for a walk when a huge gust of wind swept down and lifted them both off their feet. Bill was spun into the air and flew high up into space to land on a purple planet. Suddenly Bill was excited to live amongst the aliens on the purple planet. When he asked the aliens to show him around, he got a taste of his own medicine – the aliens seem even more bored than he was on earth! When it was dinner time, Bill was hoping for some delicious alien food, but found their squidgy green stuff revolting and what was worse is that they had the same food every day! Bill then started to miss Mrs. Pickle and all the interesting things she had him do instead of sitting around all day doing absolutely nothing, which was how the aliens spent their day. Bill decided to take matter into his own hands and engaged the aliens in various activities that kept them busy all day. Bill showed the aliens how to cook a delicious meal, just like the one cooked by Mrs. Pickle and showed them some of her top kung fu moves and played some games that they enjoyed so much that nobody was bored any more. But Bill still missed Mrs. Pickle and so the aliens took him back to earth on their spaceship. When Bill landed back on earth, he found that he had become famous as having been the only one on the earth to meet aliens. Everyone wanted to talk to Bill about the aliens, but the only person Bill wanted to see was Mrs. Pickle, whom he gave a big hug and promised never to be bored again. From that day on, Bill always kept himself busy, with books, kung-fu, gardening and helping out Mrs. Pickle when she hosted a tea party for his alien friends! Well,  the message of this book is that the only way to keep Abhay from boredom is to keep him busy. So it's destination summer camps for us!  For Abhay though, this book was another way to avoiding going to bed, when he said " Amma …it is boring to go to sleep….let’s play!”

Friday, March 23, 2012

Summer is here

It was my son’s last day of school yesterday before he starts his 76 days of summer vacation!!!!!! I remember how excited we were at the fag-end of the academic year with two long months of summer holidays ahead of us! But as a parent, I’m afraid I don’t share the same sentiment, at least not with the same intensity. Although I’m excited to see him excited, I don’t see the point of schools being closed for two whole months! I mean seriously, isn’t a month’s break enough? Or worse still, smaller classes have over two and half months of vacation! How do you engage a five year old during that time when it’s business as usual at work for us? That said, I wonder if our parents thought the same way too….weren’t they just as happy as we were…..or were they really good actors? Anyway, one of the best things about childhood is to be able to have unabashed fun during summer vacations…….something you’ll never be able to have when you grow up…for various reasons. So you may try to squeeze in some vacation time with your little one, or enroll him into a summer camp or pack him off to grandma’s house, but he deserves to enjoy his summer just as we enjoyed in ours!

With sunny days ahead, I read “Summer” by Leela Kirloskar and Arvind Passi and illustrated by Amit Adhikari, part of the Read India series from Pratham Publications. Seated under the blazing sun, a puppy complains to his friend, the yellow chick of how hot the weather has become when his friend explains that it is summertime and summer is indeed hot. The yellow chick then goes on to explain what is summer – she points out to a couple boys seen sitting on mango tree savouring sweet and juicy mangoes; then they spot three ducklings swimming in a pond into which the puppy jumps in to find the water nice and cool. Summer is also a time to bite into watery water melons and when the puppy digs into a slice of water melon, flies swarm around him and instead they decide to taste the mangoes in the orchard when they get chased away by the watchman. So summer is the time for mangoes, watermelons, flies and watchmen! Not much of a story, but the book does tell you ……what to expect in summer or what your little one expects you to do for him this summer! Happy Holidays!

Wednesday, March 21, 2012

Memories.....from the sea!

Last weekend was a nostalgic one, spent reminiscing about our days in Portland while relaxing on a beach resort at Karwar with close friends from Portland. When you live abroad for some time, your friends are your family and when you meet them here in India, it indeed feels like a family reunion! Just like there is no awkwardness when catching up with our extended family after a while, we were at ease picking up where we left off……even after over eight months! We met them in Kumta, a small town in North Kanara from where we drove to Devbagh Beach Resort in Karwar. Well….what can I say…it was truly one of the most memorable weekends in recent years! Thank you Shwetha and Srini for making the time to meet us during your hectic two week visit to India! Cheers… good times with friends!

Abhay has always been fond of Shwetha aunty and Srinimas uncle who always had a pack of cookies up their sleeves, wherever he met them, be at home or outside. Abhay was thrilled to meet them in Kumta and had a whale of a time playing in the Karwar beach. Since we just returned from a trip to the beach, last night I read “A gift from the Beach” a bilingual book from Tulika publications by Melanie Kunz and illustrations by Srivi. Rani is heading to the city next week and she excited to learn that the city situated by the sea as she can play in sand the whole day (Just like Abhay!). Rani plans to pick out a gift for her grandmother who is not able to join her on her jaunt. On the beach she first spots a feather and wonders which bird is it from? She then sights a green slipper and wonders where the other slipper is and if it belongs to a boy or a girl! Throughout the beach, she finds odd little things - strings of flowers, coconuts, dried star fish, a cloth bag and a smooth bottle all of which intrigues her but none of them seem good enough to be a gift for her grandma. Finally, she stumbles upon a large conch shaped shell as the waves retreat, and she knows what do to do. She picks up the bottle and fills it with sea water and fills the cloth bag with sand and drops the shell into it. When she returns home, her grandma opens the bag to feel grains of sand, wets her lips with sea water stored in the bottle and holds her ears close to the sea shell to listen to sound of the sea waves ….she experiences the sea like no one does as Rani’s grandma is blind! As touching as the story is for adults, it was not an ending I expected Abhay to comprehend fully and he was bursting with more questions on the grandma’s condition, rather than Rani’s experience on the beach. But besides a beautiful montage of photographs of the seashore, this book carries an important message – even the most common things in nature can be special, provided you have a mindset to enjoy it! Having enjoyed the pristine shores of Devbagh with the company of great friends, we take back our gift from the sea – memories forever with friends forever!!

Thursday, March 15, 2012

The Sharing Business!

We all know sharing is the most admirable thing to do and harangue our kids into doing it, but how many of us actually do it ourselves? Do we share the narrow road with the oncoming vehicles when it is possible to do so or do we assert our right of way? Do we offer to share a seat with a fellow attendee at an event with limited seating capacity or do we hold on our seat as a right? Similarly do we let our kid get away with wanting to hide a toy in order to avoid sharing the same at a play date? If you’ve answered No to the first part of each of the above questions, I have to further ask you if your answer is No all the time. I for one believe that sharing is not practical all the time and there is always a distinction between sharing your toy or lunch and sharing something that results in the pains taken to gain that something go in vain! While it is more practical to flash your headlights to signal the oncoming vehicle to wait, or try to safeguard a particularly expensive toy, the value of which none of the kids realize in their game of tug-of-war, it also true that kids are not circumspect enough to understand this difference. What may start as not wanting to share a toy may grow into not wanting to share anything at all!  Finally….I  admit that  I have never been great with sharing (Confessions of an only child!) and in this aspect, I hope that my son doesn’t turn out like me!

I discovered a wonderful story in Last Friday’s Open Sesame,  a children’s supplement of Deccan Herald that will probably assist me in my endeavor. "Care to share" by Leela Ramaswamy  is a story of a little girl who loves chocolates; Ranjini loves chocolates so much that she cannot bear to share them! Ranjini wins a prize in a word game at a friend’s birthday party and to her chocolaty delight, the prize happens to be a big box of shell shaped chocolates. She pops  one into her mouth and finds that it tastes heavenly. She couldn’t wait to get home to show her mom. On her way home, she suddenly realizes that her cousins Ajay and Rinku are visiting and her amma would insist on sharing her prize with them! She feels it’s unfair to expect her to share her prize with her cousins as she had worked hard to earn it! So as soon as she gets home, she tucks the box deep into the lower shelf of her cupboard away from the prying eyes of her cousins. After a few days, her cousins leave and Ranjini rushes to her secret hiding spot to retrieve her prized possession. She is shocked to find her entire shelf covered in melted chocolate and all her dresses smudged with brown. She bursts into tears as her mother comes in asking what happened. When Ranjini lets Amma into her secret, amma observes that Ranjini has already been punished for the wrong she has done that will help her  remember that it does not pay to be selfish and dishonest. So it’s not just about sharing chocolates but it’s about caring enough to share! Lets hope we all learn from Ranjini's experience.   

Friday, March 9, 2012

Women's Day!

Yesterday was International Women’s day, we had the whole world right from the newspapers and RJs on radio shows to the male colleagues at work wishing us “Happy Women’s day”! But as women …did we wish each other? Or did we get so caught in our mundane chores that the day went by just like any other day. It is of course another busy day for us women….but it is also a day to celebrate womanhood with the women who touch our everyday lives. Let me start with the woman who brought me into this world, my mom who is and will always be my friend, philosopher and guide! My mother-in-law who is an epitome of patience and tolerance and in many ways my go-to person at home! My 95 year old great-grand mother at home who is an institution by herself – her amazing willpower and resilience is inspiring and something to aspire for! Our beloved aunt Geetha, a 59 year old special child whose child-like enthusiasm lightens our mood even in most tense moments! My sis-in-law who is more like a sister I never had! To my boss, a woman herself who allows me enough flexibility at work that makes me believe that it is possible to achieve the perfect balance. To my other lady colleagues, my partners in crime…..and chai time!  Last but not the least to my all girlfriends, the long lost ones and the ones I’m still in touch with – what’s the point in life without some girlie chatter! Cheers to womanhood!

So last night we took some of these women to dinner which I must say could not have happened without my husband managing the logistics of getting all of us together! While we women should feel proud to be who we are, we also need not shy away from acknowledging the fact that we need our men too…just like they need us! Anyway, being women’s day, I read “Cloudette” by Tom Lichtenheld, a story of a little cloud, narrated from the perspective of a girl. Abhay quite liked the story and could somehow relate to it. Although this is a book for just about anyone who lacks the confidence to do what they want to do, I found this book to be ideal for today, as we try to shed the image of women as the weaker sex. Cloudette was a small could who didn’t mind being small at all as she was considered cute by all her fellow clouds in the sky. Because of her size, she could always sneak through tight spaces and hide in small places. She always found a good spot for fireworks, no matter how crowded it was! But at times, she wished to do something important like the big clouds. She wanted to make a difference – like rain enough to make a garden grow or fill up the brook or make a waterfall fall. So Cloudette looked for something important for a small cloud to do – she checked if she could work in the fire department or at the garden centre or at the car wash, but no one seemed to want her. Feeling dejected, she sails aimlessly in the sky only to be caught in a giant storm that displaces her. She gets blown miles away from her neighborhood where she spots a lone frog in what is supposed to be a pond but is now only a mud puddle. So decides to do something about it – she holds her breadth until she starts to puff up and grows into a humungous cloud waiting to burst! Finally she does what she’d wanted to do for ages – she rains cats and dogs! She rains so hard that the mud puddle grows into a perfect pond. As soon as she stops, frogs from everywhere come jumping into the pond and all of them let out a loud RIBBIT in unison to thank their rainmaker! So Cloudette realized that no matter what your size is, there are big and important things a little cloud can do! So this is a message for everyone, be it women or any one deemed too insignificant to make a difference, you are as important as you think you are! Although I’m a day late – Happy Women’s day!

Wednesday, March 7, 2012

Our very own Elephant and Piggie!

After a hectic day at work and jostling through peak hour traffic, there is nothing better than cuddling with your little one with a bedtime story….and what can be better than a book by Mo Willems….that is guaranteed to make you laugh!:-) All thanks to our friends from Portland whom we met today, our bedtime story proved to be a laugh riot with Mo Willem’s famous friends Elephant and Piggie.  In fact, Abhay happened to meet his best friend Suhas from Portland today and it may as well have been our very own Elephant and Piggie reunion across seven seas!

We are in a Bookby Mo Willems needs no introduction and is a part of the famous Early Reader series that revolves around two friends – Elephant and Piggie. Unfortunately, this series is not readily available in India as it is in the West and so I had to have this one specially brought in from the US. So if you are travelling to the US, dont forget to pick up one of these gems that have been awarded the Theodore Seuss Geisel Honor.  Abhay loved it and managed to read this particular title much better than he read the previous book a couple of months ago. One day, Elephant suspects that there is someone looking at them. On a close examination, Piggie agrees with Elephant's  observation that there is indeed someone looking at them! As your little one guesses who might that be, the Elephant makes a wild guess as to whether that someone is a monster! But Piggie makes an informed guess – she concludes that it is a “Reader” who is reading them! That’s when the two friends realize that they are, after all in a book!  When Elephant can’t seem to contain his excitement that they are being read, Piggie seems to take it a step forward – he wants to make it an interactive book with reader being asked to read aloud! Piggie spells out the word ‘Banana’ and as your little one is coaxed into reading it aloud, the two friends cannot stop laughing! As your little one says “Banana” again, you turn the page to find both Elephant and Piggie rolling with laughter! As Piggie asks if the Elephant wants to take turns before the book ends, the Elephant looks flabbergasted at the prospect of the book coming to an end. Then Piggie comes up with an excellent idea to get the readers to keep on reading their book, all because they are in the book! So our very own Elephant and Piggie friends can proudly say “if not a book…we are in a blog’! :-)

Saturday, March 3, 2012

Not Now!

Ever wondered why our kids have such a bad sense of timing? I’m sure most parents of young children are familiar with at least one of the following situations - wanting a cookie just before dinner; Going out to play in sand just when they are dressed in their best clothes; Emptying their entire toy chest into the living area just before a party at home; Insisting on reading a bedtime book after a late night dinner; Wanting to watch their favorite children’s show when there’s an interesting game on TV; rendering a full-on Bollywood version of “Chamak Challo” just when you have an important conference call to take in the car; or throwing a tantrum just when you would do anything to have them behave well; In most situations, if it weren’t for the timing, you would probably give in to their demand! It’s not only the kids, but we parents aren’t crazy about using “not now” all the time. But parenting is all about how to say “not now” without making it sound like “not now”!:-)

Recently, I’ve noticed that my tendency to say ‘not now’ has gone up ever since I got back to work and I cant help feeling guilty about it (there goes the guilt again!) So when I found a book titled “Not now Not now”, by Noni and Ruchi Shah, I had to pick it up! A level 1 Early Reader from Pratham publications, this is a story about an eager little boy who is always told “not now” by his elders – when asked if he can eat laddoos, his ajji says ‘not now’ and asks him to wait till tomorrow; when he wants to play with his friends, ‘not now’ says his ajja and asks him to nap before play. Noticing his brand new clothes, he checks with his mom if he can wear them right away; He then comes across a nice little box and is seen  eager to open it, ‘not now’, his parents say, but he is asked to wait till tomorrow.  Little does everyone realize that their little one is not in a mood to wait until tomorrow to do what he wants to do.  So he goes to bed feeling angry and dejected at the same time. The next morning, he wakes and decides to try his luck. To his pleasant surprise, he discovers that not one of his family members hang on to saying “not now”. Instead his ajji goads him into eating laddoos, ajja offers to play with him, amma asks him to wear his new clothes, and Papa encourages him to open the nice little box which happens to be his birthday cake…..everyone then wishes him happy birthday! On reading this, Abhay asked me if he has long way to go before his birthday! I then realized how important it is have a no-“not-now” day, every now and then! So you don’t have to wait for your birthday Abhay…how about this Sunday?!!