Monday, November 30, 2015

Bedtime Interrupted!

Ever since I moved back home with my little one, we’re suffering through disturbed sleep every other night….not because of our six month old (touchwood!) but all thanks to our nine year old!  While Abhay had been sleeping in his own room on and off before (more off than on!), neither did we (read father) have the mind nor the energy to insist on it every single time he came cuddling up to us during bedtime. Moreover, with my absence at home, Abhay found many more champions (read grandparents) ready to take up cudgels on his behalf and thus Abhay happily abandoned his own bed for the cozy comfort of co-sleeping with his daddy!  Well…all good things must come to an end….and so did Abhay’s sojourn in our room!  Though Abhay reluctantly gave up his place for his little sister, he is still going through some adjustment issues that range from mosquitoes buzzing in his ears to Lord Voldemont (from Harry Potter) appearing in his dreams and interrupting his and in turn  our sleep!

In the light of this unexpected sleep deprivation …we had to go back to a book that we had read many moons ago… “Good night, Anokhi!” a story from Finland by Tove Appelgren, illustrated by Salla Savolainen  and translated by Arundhati Deosthale as brought out by A & A publications as a part of “Celebrating the Girl child” picture books project. Young Anokhi has a similar problem as Abhay…she cant sleep by herself at night and as she supposedly has terrible nightmares that drives her to her mother’s bed almost every other night! The similarity does not end there as co-sleeping with her parents is out of the question as her mother too has her younger siblings to take care of.  As Anokhi literally gives her parents sleepless nights, her mother tries to explain how everyone including herself needs their sleep in order to be able to function the next day. They try everything to get Anokhi to sleep through the night in her own room, but Anokhi seemed to have developed a habit of waking up in the middle of the night that only has her yawning through the day.  Left with no choice, Anokhi is given a stern warning not to leave her room……come what may! Relentless as she is, ( I guess as every kid is!) Anokhi is yet again bothered by a strange and scary dream, and she heads towards her mother’s room only to remember her mother’s warning. The next morning, Anokhi’s mother wakes up to find her older daughter asleep at her bedroom door, mumbling in her sleep that she is not to wake up Mama. Of course as any mother, Anokhi’s mother feels guilty and wonders if she has been too harsh with her daughter. Finally, Anokhi and her mother choose the middle ground and while there is no compromise on Anokhi sleeping on her own, she is allowed to wake them up should she have a terrible nightmare she can’t cope with!  This story of Anokhi is something most parents can relate to and is surely for keeps…not only for our older one but also for our little one when she is ready to move into her own bed! That’s how it should be with kids, isn’t it?  …allow them to grow independent while you’ve got their back! 

Sunday, November 15, 2015

Children's day Special - Reignite...!

Yesterday was celebrated as Children’s day across the country, and for most kids like Abhay, it was a class-free and a uniform-free school day, with many fun activities and events organized to make them feel special, including customized cards from his class teacher. While all this is sweet and admirable on the part of the school, it is also true that the present generation of urban children is a pampered lot and seems to have everything that they want and we parents seem to be more than eager to let them have everything they want! Well, it’s not as if we were a deprived lot, but growing up in the eighties and nineties meant measured expenditure and expectations whereas today’s kids seem to have wish lists that don’t end at all! So much so that they even develop a sense of entitlement over anything and everything they set their eyes on! It is the same sense of entitlement that prompted Abhay to ask for a children’s day gift from his maternal grandma, when just a day ago she got a bagful of gifts and knick-knacks from her recent Himachal Pradesh trip! Of course, a gentle reminder of the same is all it took to make him understand, but it made me wonder if we are overdoing it as parents. In our effort to provide the best for our kids, we may run the risk of having them fail to realize that nothing comes easy.  So, just as we question the need to celebrate Mothers' day and Fathers' day……do we need a Children’s day and with our lives revolving around our children every day ....Children’s day is every other day...isn't it?? J

Every year during Children’s day, Abhay somehow manages to extract a gift out of us (read his father!). This time however, anticipating that his request may not be honoured, our nine year old cleverly hinted at a card or a handmade present. As incorrigible as parents (read father!) that we are and as crazy about scrap-booking that we are ( well..both of us!), we put together a little handcrafted piece of memory file on the lines of a scrapbook ……that is more for us to cherish this gift-greedy phase of Abhay's childhood (which we hope he will soon outgrow!)

Abhay of course was super thrilled to receive it and here’s hoping he realizes the value and sentiment behind it and understands that life is more than just gifts and treats! What better way to spend Children’s day than to begin reading “Reignite - Scientific Pathways to a Brighter Future” by the former President of India, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam, whose life is a true inspiration. It is no secret that the People’s President, as he was popularly known, was extremely fond of interacting with children and the youth and this book can be called as his parting gift to children!  Of course, we have only embarked on this reading adventure as it can be a lot for young reader to take in at one go. 

Co-written with Srijan Pal Singh, Late Dr.A.P.J Abdul Kalam renders a unique “insider” perspective to various cutting edge fields in science and technology like robotics, aeronautics, neurosciences, pathology and material sciences to children, should they desire to pursue the same as careers. The book not only offers exhaustive information on diverse niche career opportunities opening up in the field of science and technology, but is presented in an interesting format packed with “anecdotes, conversations, experiments, exercises and even helpful tips and inputs from leading scientists in the field and a note to parents in each section. Narrated in a style characteristic to the late former President, including an oath to be taken by aspiring palaeontologist, or neuroscientist, or pathologist, etc, the book goes on  to explain these new and developing areas to children and adults alike, without oversimplifying the same. However, the book does not just stop with enlightening the readers about science, but seeks to inspire young minds into realizing what it takes to become a scientist or pursue a passion or tirelessly work towards a goal. Whether one intends to pursue a career in science or not, this is a great book for kids and young adults to learn and reflect on the choices ahead of them, the ideals and values that will help achieve them and ignite not only their future but the future of our world! 

Tuesday, November 10, 2015

Amma, tell me about Diwali!

First published on Parent Edge blog 

No matter which part of India you are in, it’s hard to ignore the festive spirit this season brings in! Whether it’s bursting crackers, or attending numerous religious or cultural events lined up in the neighbourhood temples, or the shopping frenzy and lightening Diwali sales put by all retailers, off-line or online, or enjoying the extended Dusshera-Diwali vacations with the kids, holiday cheer is everywhere!

While it’s our second cracker-free Diwali, it’s the first Diwali experience for the little one at home, which for a five month old, it would mean more than anything else noise emanating from the crackers!!  While bursting fire crackers, gorging on sweets and treats is fun, there’s more to Diwali than just the merrymaking, how do we get our children to realize the importance of the same? Here’s a delightful series that does just that and what’s more …it’s presented in a format that combines the power of story-telling with rich imagery to engage and educate our kids on Indian tradition and values.  Here comes the “Amma, tell me” series by Bhakti Mathur and illustrations by Maulshree Somani brought out by Hong Kong based Anjana publications. Comprising of a series of picture books on Indian festivals and Indian mythology for children between the age group of 3 to 9 years, these books are a great way to enlighten the kids on the stories and sentiments behind the observance and celebrations of our festivals. Besides many titles on festivals such as “Amma, tell me about Holi” or  “Amma, tell me about Ganesha” or the series on Mythology such as “Amma, tell me about Ramayan”,  this vibrantly illustrated series also presents interesting tales from the Hindu epics in a trilogy format such as the trilogy series on Krishna and Hanuman. 

For this festive season, however, we picked out “Amma, tell me about Diwali!”  which believe me, will have you and your little one feeling festive on the first reading itself!  As most titles in the series, it starts off with the little boy named Klaka excitedly waking up to a typical Diwali morning characterized by new clothes and gifts followed by the lighting of Diyas, fire crackers in the evening, and the family offering prayers to God for good fortune, prosperity and health. As the children wonder about the story behind the celebrations, whom do they approach? Amma…of course, who at bedtime regales them with stories that explain the significance of the festival of lights. While elaborating on the meaning of Diwali, Amma in the story also delves into the multiple dimensions to festivities that includes remembering Lord Rama and his triumphant return to Ayodhya on Diwali day, while also encapsulating a brief account of Ramayana.  Of course, Diwali is not only all dazzle and fun, but the children are subtly reminded of the value of honesty, hard work and dedication through the story of Goddess Lakshmi and the poor seamstress. The beauty of this book not only lies in free-flowing narrative and engagingly rhyming text, but also in the simple message that the author attempts to convey to today’s kids brought up in a consumerist world that we live in.  The colouful illustrations are not only striking, but also present an authentic setting of Diwali celebrations in a typical Indian household, and not to forget the amiable images of Hindu Gods and Goddesses, particularly when Klaka is shown seated beside Goddess Lakshmi, the Goddess of wealth! As this series also caters to the Western audience, each story ends with a Glossary on Hindu names and symbols, which is quite educative to the Indian audience as well. Though a little pricy as compared to some of the Indian children’s publications, “Amma, tell me” series, is a wonderful “Mythology made simple and meaningful” that is sure to capture the imagination of young minds and will have them begging for ‘Amma, tell me more’!! Enjoy the festive season and happy Diwali everyone!