We need real’er cartoons!

Until I had Berry, I’d always tell myself that I would not resort to letting the kid watch cartoons/ videos to make him/ her eat, but then, when you actually have a kid, your priorities change. I have mostly been optimising for my time and also getting everything done, which means I have resorted to cartoons just because it means I can prepare Berry’s dinner without her being stuck to my leg like a leech. But I have been quite picky on the cartoons I let her watch since I have to like watching them too.

By that metric, Peppa Pig had been a clear winner for us. I am personally more addicted to it than Berry, who honestly couldn’t care less about it. What I love about it is how relatable it is from a kid’s perspective. Compare it to a cartoon like Popeye from my times. It was about two men being in love with one woman, and one of them popping a can of spinach to beat up the other guy to win over the woman. I mean, why would you even care about this as a 4-5 year old?! Or take Perils of Penelope Pitstop – about this dainty little car racing chick who is always putting on make-up while this shady guy (with a cute dog, Mutley) is always trying to de-rail her path while he ends up sabotaging his own life – this doesn’t even make any sense.

On the other hand, Peppa pig is all about everyday stuff. Peppa Pig has several other animal friends who are all a different shape and colour, which accurately represents life in London which is such an amalgamation of diversity. I think it’s important to see and acknowledge the difference early on, else we have difficulty appreciating diversity of thought as adults. Apart from such big learnings, there is also little stuff like understanding what parents do at work in this episode where Peppa and George go to their Daddy’s office – There’s a cat that prints shapes (read makes presentations), there’s another person that looks at “very important” number (read the finance guy) and there’s daddy pig who does some analytics. So all everyday regular stuff that makes it easier for kids to understand the present life around them.

So you can imagine why I love Peppa pig as a practical guide to growing up. But it all changed last evening when I watched the episode “Sun Sea and Snow” in which Peppa’s family is supposed to go the beach the following day. It snows all night and the whole city including their house is kind of buried in snow by the next morning, so Peppa and George go jump on Mummy and Daddy pig while they are still in bed, asking them to wake up to come see the snow. And the next scene is all 4 of them going down the stairs fully dressed.

I mean, how could they all be ready that quickly? This can’t be real life. Getting ready and stepping out of the house with little kids is like a military expedition. You can’t skip the getting ready to go out bit, just like that. I was completely thrown off by how easy they made stepping out seem.

Who was going to pack George’s diaper bag (he’s 2!!), snacks and drinks for both Peppa and George, change of clothes just in case one of them gets messy, raincoats for everyone (because it’s Britain and the weather is so erratic), sanitisers, tissues and what not. How are kids ever going to understand what it really takes to step out, so they be more helpful in getting ready? I can’t wait till Berry becomes a parent to realise this. We need some real’er cartoons!!!

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Letters to my Berry#12

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Berry boo! Happy Birthday, big girl! At first, I thought this would be a 12 part series to capture the 1st one year of your life and then it would be an annual feature, except I recently learnt that babies have several milestones over the first 2 years of their lives which means I have now decided to extend it to a 24 part series. Now, does that mean I am going to be telling people your age in months despite you being over a year? No, I find that weird, although I get why people do that. So I will round down your age to the previous quarter and I hope that’s okay with you.

This has been a month of several milestones, yet again. You started walking beginning of September, all of a sudden. Appa and I were watching TV and you were standing right next to us and then suddenly you took two steps forward. I didn’t even realise but Appa was quick to notice and we were so excited for you. For a long time, people had been asking us to buy you a walker to help you start walking but we wanted you to be able to do it on your own at your own pace and so, we never bought you one (although you eventually ended up getting a walker as a birthday present from Rehaan). Your carers at the nursery also played a big role in encouraging you to continue walking every time you fell, so you wouldn’t resort to crawling as that’s obviously easier for you. Now, you love to walk and as you come closer to something you can hold on to, you try to run. It’s damn cute to watch you try to finish.

Talking about finishing, may be you are not a big fan of finishing. While feeding you dinner, you always find a way to not eat the last spoon and we want to do all sorts of drama to get you to finish. Maybe we are not instinctively designed to be finishers and probably it only comes out of practice, but this is a hard decision as a parent – should we make you a finisher or not, because being able to finish is a painfully acquired skill. While you may value this trait in the future, there is no way to know this for sure looking forward.

Personally for me, the biggest milestone of this month has to be the fact that you are able to sleep on your own. In the first half of August, you were going through a growth spurt and in the process, had ended up becoming damn clingy, would wake up several times through the night and feed constantly. I’d given into your needs 100% despite being told by a health inspector just a month before that it’s not a good idea to be feeding you through the night since your digestive system needs a break. Of course, I had my selfish reasons to do this since giving into your needs meant that you would cry less and I could lay in bed with my eyes closed through the night while you sucked endlessly.

I happened to read an article last week about how it is important for kids between 12-18 months to learn how to soothe themselves through the night and sleep well, failing which you might end up not learning this till quite late. So, last weekend, I decided to put you in your crib after dinner and let you sleep on your own. I dimmed the lights, tucked you into your blanket, left your favourite monkey with you and closed the door and left. You screamed and howled for about 5 minutes and soon after, you’d managed to fall asleep probably because you were tired and had figured you had no choice.

I felt bad as I heard you cry but I knew it was a small price I had to pay to make you learn to sleep on your own. I did this the next day as well and by the day after, you had learnt. When we put you in the crib now, you just wail a bit but hold on to your monkey and just fall asleep. Even through the night, you don’t wake up more than once or twice, but even when you do, you soothe yourself on your own and sleep back. Most of the time, we don’t try to pick you up except if you are trying to jump out of the crib and are really really upset. This has also meant that I have finally been able to rest better through the night after almost a year and a half now.

You still don’t talk much, apart from saying “amma”, “appa” or “mum-mum” but that’s not really in relation to anything specific. But you have now learnt to associate words/ sounds with their actual meaning. When I say mum-mum or ji-ji, you know I am about to feed you or give you water. When I say haala, you instinctively pull my shirt up or down (which has been a bit embarrassing on the train sometimes). You also say tuh-tuh and give a flying kiss when either you are leaving or someone else is, and you learnt this from Barbie chikki. You also know how to pick up the phone on talk on it, and apparently you learnt how to do this at the nursery, which is damn cute. While it’s interesting to see you are learning so quickly, sometimes its scary to know that we don’t have full control  of what you learn. I sound like a typical parent now, don’t it?

Anyway, you are a big girl now and I have to start embracing that you will learn lots and from everyone and everything you see around you and that’s okay. On the occasion of you turning one, we bought you a lot of presents (a house, a gaadi, a globe and some books) and a cup cake. We kept it all in the living room and so when you came from the room in the morning, you were damn excited to see all this. You slammed the cake and ate all the icing and opened all the presents. We took you to the London zoo (one of the oldest in the world) where you thoroughly enjoyed watching all the animals, especially the Indonesian monkeys and camels. Funnily enough, you got scared by goats, when we tried to make you pet them (haha!). We have recorded all this so we can show you when you grow up and laugh with you.

Talking about showing you videos, you are now able to comprehend videos and you find it so fascinating and exciting to see yourself in a video. We’ve shot videos of you watching a video, and a video of that and a video of that and so on. Yeah, we are a little bit strange like that, but guess what you just have to learn to live with that, like everything else.

Cheers to many more years of learning and discovering yourself. Remember that there are going to be several years in your life where it feels like you might be on a learning plateau but that’s only because you are not acknowledging everything you learn, and not because you aren’t learning.

Too deep for a one year old? Maybe. Haha, okay I’ll stop.

P.S – Here’s a list of presents you got for your birthday – A greeting card from your godparents, A tea party set and intelligence blocks from Avani and Advay, a walker from Rehaan, a house, a lady bug scooter, an inflatable globe and books from appa amma and lots and lots of wishes/ blessings from everyone else.

 

 

 

Adulthood, ants and social cohesion

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Ever since I moved to London, I have been spoilt with the generosity of random Londoners who smile at me as they watch me lug a little monkey on my chest. Watching babies makes people smile, and so when I catch people smiling at us, I smile back. Yesterday, while I was walking back home with Berry from Sam’s house, two women walked past me and I was all ready to smile back but they never smiled at me. It was the first time someone had not smiled at me in London, while I was carrying Berry. Then I started to wonder why this would have not been strange at all if Berry hadn’t been with me. And that, I thought was even stranger.

Why aren’t we more like ants, who greet everyone they bump into? We look at animals with love and curiosity that we don’t reserve for fellow humans. Why? Why did humans evolve in a way as to not acknowledge another person from the same species? On the one hand, people in India examine everyone that passes by from top to bottom and that’s rude. Whereas, somewhere else, people don’t even acknowledge your existence because they respect your privacy.

As a society, respecting each others’ privacy is a sign of evolution. That’s why you wouldn’t go to someone’s house unannounced in the west, whereas someone randomly turning up at your doorstep is perfectly normal in India. When you look at kids who haven’t evolved culturally/ socially, you can see that they are a lot more uninhibited and are very cognisant of others of their own species (aka other babies). It’s funny how evolution for a society means abandoning spontaneity and embracing being unnatural.

This probably also explains why some of us have difficulty making friends as adults. As adults, we are far more cautious, inhibited and judgemental, preventing us from opening ourselves to meaningful friendships. If you are able to get beyond this, it’s still not enough because the other person must be in the same place as you in order to forge a friendship. Well, this can be artificially curated by using social lubricants such as alcohol but it’s not sustainable. So how do we make way for strong meaningful friendships that last longer?

Honestly, I don’t have an answer but i have my own personal experience to share, which might give you some insight into what type of friendships live and which ones die. I have seen 2 types of friendships (oversimplifying of course) through my adultlife – one where I like to feel needed and another where someone else does.
Personally, relationships where someone else likes to feel needed works better for me – this means I can keep ranting about my life and the other person will revel in my emotional dependence on them. But too much of anything is bad and so after a while, people who like to feel needed might stop seeking validation leaving me hanging and hence, it doesn’t seem like a sustainable choice. On the other hand, if I am constantly trying to be there for someone, there’s a good chance people will bulldoze you with their needs and sooner or later, I’ll snap and stop being there for them.
Now, this is very different from how friendships are growing up where you equally share roles of being the needy and the needed. Strangely, we start becoming quite obsessed with our individual agendas as we become adults that hinder making collective progress. Suddenly becoming conscious and receptive to another person’s agenda doesn’t result in stronger friendships – unfortunately it only helps you make the transition from being needy to being needed.
I know so few people who have forged thick friendships as adults (say 30+) and that’s why I’d love to hear from someone who can critique my cynicism with real life experiences.

Letters to my Berry#11

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Happy 11th month birthday, my love! You are growing up so fast, I wish I could just hold onto you tight and the world around us could continue spinning while you and I could escape into a warp zone where time would just stand still. While I miss the littler you, I am so excited to see what’s in store for you next and more than everything else, I love the present you and I always will. I remember showing off to ajji about how I wouldn’t get attached to you as much as she got attached to me, but I might be miserably failing at that because you are that adorable and I am just mostly too scared to admit it.

Ok enough with the mush now, let’s get down to business. I just realised today that you are a master pattern recogniser. You have learnt so well and also conditioned me to provide you with anything you want just by crying. You know I have hardly any time with you outside of my work and I optimise my life to get you to bed at the earliest, and so you will not let anyone else put you to sleep except me. But guess what, I have learnt too. I love spending “quality” time with you to make sure you go to bed as early as possible because (1) that gives me time to finish off all my office work and house work and (2) you wake up less frequently through the night when you sleep early leaving me less tired in the mornings.

The one very interesting thing that happened this month is how you were so conscious of ajji thatha heading back to Bangalore that you were upset the entire day, not making much conversation (babbles of course) with them. It was so evident that you were aware of them leaving. It is strange though. It makes me wonder if you figure out based on the vibe or if you actually understand what we say. If you don’t believe me, look at that face in the picture.

Even today, you have been upset all day and I wonder if you know somehow that I will be going away to Poland for a work trip tomorrow. Seeing this really breaks my heart because I have purposely not been thinking about how you or appa will manage without me and seeing you upset makes me imagine everything that could go wrong. I have never left you overnight and I don’t know what’s going to happen especially because you are still breastfed (it’s mostly just comforted and that’s the worst part)! I tried getting you a babysitter, a Spanish one that too, but you cried your lungs out all evening till the babysitter left. Anna felt so bad for not being able to help but I can promise you she really tried but you were being damn picky. Well, if you don’t want a babysitter, so be it. We’ll just have to find a better way to make your dinner, give you a bath and play with you all at the same time. phew!

You can also stand for quite some time on your own now. You can sit chakkambatla. You can climb up and down, all over the world now. You can even comfortably climb stairs now all on your own. The one thing you still need support with is walking, which you can do just by holding one hand. We have been very conscious of not buying you a walker since I want you to pick it up naturally at your own pace. Similarly with talking, we’re letting you find your own pace. You can now say “atta” for appa and “anda” for amma and thatha for thatha, which is a great start. At least we know you can parrot speech, even if it’s in your own way.

This is not new information, but we have collected more evidence to believe that you love to sing and dance, and so, if at some point we push you to pursue any of this seriously, don’t blame us. You automatically start shaking your bum to any tune that you enjoy. I wonder if ajji thatha taught you this, since you seem to have a ritual with them even over FaceTime now. I continue to use carnatic music to distract you or quieten you down on the tube whenever you decide to make my train ride more enjoyable by screaming all the way.

You have 4 teeth now, one crooked that too. Maybe it’s like Barbie and thatha, who knows. You bite pretty hard, especially when I make you lick coffee every morning. Did I tell you already that you love coffee? Well, you do. Every time you have a little bit of it, you click your tongue in approval. In fact, one day you picked up a tumbler with 2-3 drops of coffee and downed it all by yourself. Apparently you even eat by yourself at the nursery, so you are fairly independent.

While you aren’t too much of a fussy eater, you hadn’t been putting on much weight until ajji thatha took over feeding you. Well, atleast that’s what the people at the nursery deduced. I try my best ok, but sometimes there are days like today, when I have a ton of office work to complete, make dinner for appa and me, make dinner for you, prep for the next day’s breakfast and dinner (while carrying you), give you a bath, feed you, take care of a sick husband, clean up the kitchen after and pack for the Poland trip, that I don’t go overboard trying to force feed you. I let you play with water in the kitchen sink while I fed you but you seemed to not want to eat today (usually this trick works) and then I just gave up, breast fed you and put you to bed. Now does this make me a horrible mum? Maybe. But I think making time to write this for you on time more than makes up for it, doesn’t it? 🙂

Well, I’ll let you be the judge. For now, just enjoy being 11 months old and still having your way around everything at home. Muahh!

 

 

Exclusivity and taking joy out of love

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Woke up this morning to some happy news. A close friend who’s been single for a very long time, sent me a text saying he and this girl he’d been meeting on and off over the last several months decided to be exclusive. While I was overjoyed, I also thought it was a funny way of saying it. Maybe because I fell in love in another era where people would say I love you instead.

Do we now assume that people are in an open relationship by default, that there is a need to explicitly clarify? There have always been people who didn’t subscribe to monogamy but in general, we are less likely to take monogamy for granted today. We live in the world of Tinder where you can go from one person to the next in just a swipe. Before your relationship with one person has ended, another has already begun and so we find ourselves being fairly non-commital to either relationship, just to be safe. There’s no incentive to stick it out and make it work with anyone because choice is infinite.

So, when people explicitly state that they want to be exclusive, it’s a big step. Even if it is for a limited duration, it’s huge because then you become accountable to upholding your word through the life of that relationship – be it physical, emotional, intellectual or social exclusivity. Accountability takes the joy out of love, or atleast love as we know it. Love as we know it (thanks to media) is about uncertainty, that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness and it’s about being young and irresponsible. Love as we like it isn’t about being accountable – because you know, love makes us do stupid things.

Most people don’t make it past this first step of establishing accountability because it’s hard to stay exclusive. Strangely, we embrace uncertainty in love better than certainty in a stable relationship. We are so used to going from one stage to the next – being single to getting into a relationship to make it exclusive that we don’t know how to cope with the stability exclusivity brings in our lives. The few of us who brave the exclusivity, stay on in the memory of that ever fleeting feeling of elusiveness that preceded this life of accountability because it’s what makes the mature aftertaste worth it.

 

Letters to my Berry#10

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The very fact that I am wring this post 8 days after you turned 10 months old shows how useless a mother I have been this month. Blaming it on my job could be an easy way out, but I want to set a better example than that. I am late, and I am sorry. But, hopefully, my memory will make up for being this late.

You made your first trip to a children’s park this month and enjoyed several rides with Tank. You guys ran around Walpole park and enjoyed ice cream. We should probably take you to a park more often given your obsessions with bubbas. You are ever ready to step out. The moment you hear the keys jingle, you race to the lobby so the person with the keys picks you up to take you out. It’s a game we like to play with you now, we jiggle the keys when we want you to come away from some crazy thing you are up to like putting your hand into a socket (mean I know, but still!).

The highlight of this month has to be the time you have spent with Ajji thatha. They got here on 5th July. You woke up feeling strangely excited that morning even before we went to the airport to pick them up, as if you somehow knew that they were coming to visit you. You so happily went to ajji thatha without an inkling of stranger anxiety, that you normally have with others. Wonder if you made the FaceTime connection? You took to them unexpectedly well since you spent the whole day with them on Day 2 and didn’t cry for us one bit. They also surprisingly handled you quite well (surprising given how many years it had been since they took care of us as babies).

Voice modulation is probably the highlight of this month. Although “ta” is the only sound you can make, you modulate your voice quite effectively to communicate. While “tuh-tuh” is for bye, taataa is for grandpa. The reason you probably started communicating a lot more is because ajji thatha have been around and talking to you constantly. Another benefit of them being around is that you are always well fed and have probably gotten gundu’r. I am a little nervous about not being able to feed you as well once they leave. I’ve never been quite good at these stereotypical motherly things.

You had a health visitor check on you this month and it turns out you are on the same growth trajectory that you were on when you were born, which means we have been doing quite well in terms of maintaining status quo if not having done worse. You are 7.2Kgs and 70cms now (in case you were curious?). Although built quite small, you are fully capable of pushing dustbins or buckets from one room to another, and it’s almost impossible to pull anything out of your grasp.

I know I have said this before, but you clearly have a special relationship with music. It calms you down like nothing else. Whenever you scream endlessly on the tube back home, I keep singing swara of varnas and geetes and you listen to it mesmerised. Thanks to your thatha you have learnt to even sway to music and clearly show your appreciation for it. You enjoy listening to rhymes when thatha sings them for you, you keep bringing him your sheet of rhymes so he can keep singing the same old thing all the time. But it’s incredible how close you’ve gotten to both ajji and thatha. How I wish you could grow up with them around just like Barbie and I did around ours. Sigh.

There’s been a step change in your ability to comprehend what we are saying – you give us things when we ask for it, you come when we call you, etc. You are very adventurous at home, you keep crawling off under everything at home, climbing up and down from everywhere and as appa says, you have figured out edge detection since you now know how to carefully get off a bed/ sofa. You are even training well to becoming a hand-slave as the other day you were picking up clothes from the bucket and giving it to appa and me as we were hanging clothes on the clothes line.

You can now stand up on your own without much support, although you haven’t mustered enough courage to walk. You are pretty happy crawling on all fours, especially to ajji thatha’s room to go hide behind the door to play Berry Kalla with thatha. You keep trying to bulldoze into the wall behind the door because you think it’s some sort of Platform 9-3/4th and you can escape into some hogwarts level place but the point is, you are really dumb. Haha. Fine, I know twenty years hence you’ll think I’m dumb, but it’s okay, it’s my turn now.

I soooo don’t want you to grow up, my 4 teethed monkey (You keep gritting those pearls, use them effectively to bite into things like your carrot/ cheese sticks and also randomly bite me. You’ve even started brushing your teeth occasionally (whenever we remember to. Lol)). Mwuuah my babbeshwari!

 

Letters to my Berry#9

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If I had observed you too closely this month, I probably wouldn’t have realised this because this change in you is so subtle that it’s easy to miss. No, you haven’t learnt to walk on your own yet. Neither have you learnt to talk. But what you have learnt is to disobey your parents. Yes, apparently, it does start this early. So you see, children disobeying their parents has very little to do with parents and there’s no reason for us to be hard on ourselves for not “discipling” you. You clearly have a mind of your own and I highly doubt I can control it too much, so I’ll remember not to try too hard as you grow up and be more difficult.

Ever since you started crawling, you have been too busy exploring the world on your own terms. You go from one room to another in the house in pursuit of everything dangerous – be it to lick the sockets, eat the ends of chargers, fiddle with the heaters, eat chappals, pull out drawers, hang onto the floor lamp as if you are a pole dancer, drum on the dustbin, try to get into the dishwasher or washing machine or try to open the kitchen cabinets to pull out everything inside. You won’t stop if we asked you to, you won’t stop if we pulled you back and in fact, that only makes you go back to it faster. The only weapon I still have is to attract you with some food. Mwuahah. You love the sound of opening a packet (of food!).

Yet another step change we have seen this month is your ability to communicate. You know how to ask for more food. You scream and signal for us to continue feeding you. You also understand what we tell you, although you conveniently act like you don’t since there is no way for us to verify either way. When we try to show you different animals in your animal book and make noises that animals make, you laugh because the sounds are strange and something we don’t make normally. This is the only way to keep you quiet or sane on the tube everyday. Sometimes I even swing the swara of all the geetes I can remember and when all else fails, I stand up in the corner and pretend like we are getting off at the next station.

You have learnt this really funny fake laugh (very much like your dad’s) that you keep using to act cute so we pick you up. This reminds me of what Ajit had told me about Arhita being a master manipulator even though she didn’t talk yet. Ahem. But I’m not complaining because I love your laugh, even the fake one because it shows how happy a child you are. I remember ajji always telling me that you’ll turn out to be a grumpy baby because I was always so grumpy/ deep in thought through the pregnancy that I might pass off some of that energy to you. I know it’s too early to say, but let’s hope that you keep this happy spirit about you.

You are super friendly, you like to extend your hand to anyone who says hello to you. You like touching their face or maybe even plucking their nose. You like kids who are slightly older than you. You wanted to play with Vasu (Appa’s friend ID’s son) when we visited their house but he was so into his own younger sister, Anika that I felt a bit sad for you. But you have Rehan (Amma’s friend Sam’s son) and he absolutely loves playing with you. You like hugging him and following him everywhere whenever we visit his house. Sometimes I secretly wish I could buy you an older sibling (Yeah, I used to think you can buy them in a shop when I was a little girl). Sigh.

Another big achievement of the month is that you have two teeth (I can attest for it because I have been bitten!!!) and you can eat on your own. In order to make sure we feed you healthy food everyday, we have a fairly standardised non-creative eating routine for you which includes feeding you a small portion of our breakfast, mashed vegetables (carrots, potato, tomato, spinach) with salt, pepper, ghee and cheese for lunch and a portion of our dinner as your mummum. Most days we let you eat your own breakfast and feed you the other meals. Check it out.

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That’s Rehan’s highchair btw. He is probably the first kid I have seen till date who happily shares all his toys with you, in fact, he even lets you take some of them home with you. I am still a bit unsure about if this is a trait I want to actively nurture or not because I think you shouldn’t share if you don’t want to and if you want to, you should absolutely do so. Ok, I am on the fence but I know I don’t want to force you just to seem like I’m doing the right thing as a parent. So, I will allow you to beat me if I shove some random parenting gyaan on you that I don’t truly believe in.

I can’t believe as of this month, you have lived longer outside of me than inside of me. Happy 3/4th Year Berry!!

P.S – Here’s a list of all the random names I call you (some are super mental, sorry!) – Berry mumma, tinamma gundu, gundamma, halka laudi (you are super light!), gundamma bitheth, missklaudi, Berima, mumma, billi, tinamms, chinnamma, smileypaaps, smellypaaps, baeripaapa. Ok the list goes on..