2

Dear TV, I’m just not that into you (and I’m not sorry)

I don’t own a TV. Well, there is a flat screen television that came with our apartment but we have never bothered to switch it on. Along its edges hangs bunting with our little girl’s name on it, something children were being encouraged to make at one of her classmate’s birthday parties. This was before we moved, when Delhi wasn’t sure if it wanted to rain on a Toy Story themed party in a school-that-rents-out-space-for-birthdays. That was in August, barely weeks before the flight to a new life, or at least that’s what the postcard in my head said.

In 2011, while our girl was growing from the pea sized spec on the monitor in the ultra sound clinic to the thing with hands and feet I went everywhere with, I was glued to what had become urban India’s prime time fetish – Masterchef Australia. I don’t know what everyone else’s excuse was, but I was then a bloated vegetarian cow who wanted to eat a horse and the frenzy of the competitive kitchen coupled with all the food flying around was enough to satisfy all visual cravings. When the calf arrived and began moving her head around, I banned television in the house. People had to choose what they wanted more, baby gurgles or insipid television laughter, which was the enemy of my child’s brain and eyes according to an article that suggested no screen time of any sort (phone, television, tablets), till two years. I had liked television, sure, but I liked sleep more and after heading back to work in six months, anytime I had left was happily spent away from the box. This meant of course that I didn’t know Mad Men from The Good Wife and was none the worse for it. I caught up with and completed the former in entirety last December, in two weeks really. It brought back memories of student life – late night binge watching and days filled with remorse over approaching deadlines. Then I sulked for two days because it was all over. There was nothing to treat myself with when I’d been a good girl at work and all else.

I have little memory of television growing up. I know we had one, because there is a picture of me dancing in front of it with the late Shammi Kapoor’s face plastered on the screen. I’m wearing ghungroos, highly inappropriate for the sort of music I guess must have been playing. Then came boarding school for four years where I kept busy reading library books inside texts during study hours and spent the remainder bouncing ‘crazy’ balls off the boundary wall and into a stream that purportedly led to the lake below. My real television moment, that I have a recollection of, was as a teenager when we had moved to Delhi. It was with Blossom, the quirky teenager growing up in a house full of men – her divorced father and two older brothers. I couldn’t exactly relate to her but she made me smile, sometimes laugh, and that has been my checklist for a lot of programs and films thereon. Then came Friends, again not in tandem with how it was playing on Indian screens. I watched it much later in entirety with borrowed DVDs, followed by others like Sex and the City and Grey’s Anatomy, and more recently True Detective (Season 1 only please) and Narcos.

As fate would have it, my first job right out of college was in television production. Any starry-eyed ideas I may have held about the screen, which I didn’t to begin with, were lost in that time seeing the clockwork up close. It was days of hard labor, little rest and lots of sparks, the sort of thing that will outlive any human being’s enthusiasm for an adrenaline rush. I appreciated people who could make their lives in the field, but knew that it wasn’t for me, just as the act of putting my feet up and watching the telly for hours wasn’t for me when I had my mojo on. That perhaps made it easier to let it fade into the background, even more so with things like You Tube and now oh-how-I-love-you Netflix, which I would like to believe was built for mothers with little time and even less patience. Get-to-the-point is all that we wish for and get.

My parents speak of the early days when only one person in the neighborhood would have a television, and everyone would gather around to watch news or cricket or a sitcom. When cable television hit our shores it was often banned for children stuck with dreaded board exams in Grade 10 and 12. Looking back it feels like much ado about nothing. All the advertisements and shows with stories that didn’t go anywhere were better missed. But there were some gems, like detective Vyomkesh Bakshi, which thanks to You Tube we can enjoy today too. While stories still rule and make even people like me turn into nefarious gluttons once in a while, the television set itself is now discarded furniture. It’s there because no one will take it and because we think someday we might use it, which is never going to happen because we’ve lost that loving feelin’ and it’s not coming back.

0

Parents Say ‘What!’: Q and A with Neha Singh (Co-Founder, Confettish) & Mommy to 3 yr. old Janya)

This Thursday I’m back to asking parents to sleep a little less, think a little more and answer some questions about their almost always fun and never ever dull lives. Joining me today is Gurgaon, India based Neha Singh, entrepreneur (Co-Founder, Confettish) and mother to three year old Janya.

Neha and daughter JanyaNeha says she was an unprepared mother, never having held a baby in her hand. “Let me admit, I never really liked kids.” Her daughter Janya was her first ‘baby’ experience.

After a short break from work (six months), Janya became a daycare baby while Neha continued to work as a full-time Management Consultant. “Our evenings were our sacred parent-kiddo time when we played games, talked about our days (ya really! In Baby language!), discovered how the tiniest of things could make this blob of flesh to gurgle and laugh endlessly and explored crawling/rolling over/standing/dancing and finally climbing onto the couch.” Neha feels her motherhood journey has been spontaneous, honest and fulfilling because everyday she focuses on being herself first and then a mother. “I don’t allow negativities, judgements and ‘good to do’ advice guide me – I would rather look inwards for finding the best way to deal with any situation”. From traveling with her daughter (over 6 countries and 14 flights) to taking her for almost every party/movie/social gathering, she feels the two of them have grown together. From being a woman who really didn’t know what does one ever do to entertain kids – to being a mum who enjoys playing with her & her friends in the sand pit, Neha admits that her daughter has made her feel loved like she had never known.

As mom and daughter continue discovering new things together, I’m curious to know what makes their relationship tick and what Neha feels she could do without! Here’s how things look:

In one word, life as a parent is

Adventurous

The easiest thing about parenting

 Feeding, Bathing, Changing – these are the basics and a very very small part of parenting

3 things that make you want to pull your hair out

1) Judgmental Aunties – someone please tell them the world changed since 1955!

2) My daughter growing up to have an opinion of her own (already!) – she is just 3 yrs old! Its makes me mad but it also makes me happy that she is finding her own feet

3) The Constant Mess in my House!

Something you’ve lied about to your kid(s)

Small lies aren’t lies really – are they? Something funny though is that since she is used to my morning tea routine and ‘dipping’ her biscuits/rusk in it every morning – I have recently started getting her to dip it in chocolate milk faking it as ‘her own cup of tea’ – lets see how far this goes!

Most embarrassing moment as a parent

I think I left the word ’embarrass’ back at the delivery room – there have been so many moments since, that I’ve lost count.
Most recently, when she decided to constantly stay in her own make believe world (which is made up of Doreamon, Chotta Bheem and Princess Sofia) while I had an interaction session for her school admissions with the Academic Head. Now you see this was embarrassing because she is usually a quiet and shy kid – and I wanted to let this gentleman know that I need the school to pay special attention to this. Of course, he calmly told me – “I don’t think shyness is a problem here, ma’am!”

One thing you’ve learned from your kid(s)

Questioning everything – I think adults forget to ask! We just tend to follow now..

A pre-parenting thing you miss the most

My extremely social calendar – while I do a lot of home parties now, I’m always suffering from mommy guilt.

I’m also quite a workaholic – I worked hours on end even till month 8 of my pregnancy – I continue to work as much as I can, but mommy guilt never leaves me.

An unforgettable thing your child said or did

We have a good morning and good night hug and kiss routine in our house. On night just after doing the Good Night hug – Janya flings here arms around me and says, ‘Mumma I love you – main aapko kabhi chodh ke nahi jaungi” (I will never leave you) I swear I could have cried with joy!

You laugh out loud when

Janya breaks into her dance routine as soon as she hears the latest Bollywood number – lets just say, she has her own ‘style’ 🙂

A tip (or two) for new parents

Follow your heart and not anyone else’s words.

Really Listen to your kid(s) – its not about the number of hours we spend but how intently we try to understand our kid in the hours we spend with them.

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a friend, holler on Twitter or leave a message below and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

 

0

Parents Say ‘What!’: Q and A with Me

Beginning with me, the empress of the Eggfacemomhead kingdom, we’re going to ask parents to sleep a little less, think a little more and answer some questions about their almost always fun and never ever dull lives. Stay right here will you.

#mom #sketch #toddler #art

A post shared by Manika Dhama (@manikadhama) on

 

In one word, life as a parent is

Irreparable

The easiest thing about parenting

Nap Time

3 things that make you want to pull your hair out

The Amazing Race at meal time

Strangers telling you what’s what about YOUR kid

“When are you having the second?”

Something you’ve lied about to your kid(s)

How she was born. “We wanted a baby, we had a baby.”

Most embarrassing moment as a parent

Calling up room service during vacation to report room keys thrown inside toilet

One thing you’ve learnt from your kid(s)

Dogged determination

A pre-parenting thing you miss the most

Tuesdays with Morrie. Wait, “pre-parenting”? I thought we were born this way.

An unforgettable thing your child said or did

“No F*** That” at two. I blame the other parent.

You laugh out loud when

(Laugh inside my head) when I’m presented with a seemingly logical argument for something that was broken, spilled, done to the cat.

A tip (or two) for new parents

Scarlett O’Hara was right. ‘Tomorrow is another day’. You’ll get better with time

All kids tell everyone about everything. Speak less, listen more.

If you’d like to participate in this series or nominate a friend, holler on Twitter or Facebook and I’ll be saying ‘Hi’ very soon!

1

When I Grow Up…

ny cartoon

It is past 11:30pm, the room is dark from the curtains being drawn all the way to the end, the lights have been switched off for over half an hour, we’ve been silent all this time. And then she says this, without turning towards me.

“When I grow up, I want to be a journalist.”

Frankly, I’m surprised, and a little miffed. Ever since she learned the concept of growing-up-to-be-something, my now three year old girl has wanted to be a doctor. We have all played the hapless patient, had our blood tests done, received express instructions on when and how many medicines to take, even received change for the consultation fee. So we harbored dreams of Harvard educated at-home health care in our old age.

But it all ended last night.

“I want to be a journalist, like Baba.”

It wasn’t the worst thing she could have chosen. From one set of grandparents who had charmed her into following them into a medical calling, she was now leaning towards the other. No freebies to be had but surely we can live with that.

“Why do you want to be a journalist?”

I waited, while acknowledging (silently) that it was wonderful she had learned a new word, had pronounced it perfectly, was curious about things, was going to…

“Because then I will come on TV.”

No. No. No. No. No. No. NO.

This was all going downhill, and nearing midnight, which is never a good sign on weekdays.

“But you always wanted to be a doctor.”

“No! I want to be a journalist.”

Hello, I’m the adult here. I can win this.

“You can be what you want honey. No matter what you choose, you will have to study very hard for it.”

That settled it.

She was quiet after that, with dreams of TV stardom I presume. Meanwhile I wondered why she hadn’t taken a fancy to following in Mamma or Papa’s footsteps. Though she thinks adulthood is one giant party with free-flowing makeup and coffee or wine (depending on what Mamma is caught drinking), her ‘job’ choices so far are grandparent stamped.

Who can blame her. Mamma and Papa just go to ‘office’, take two whole paragraphs to explain what they ‘really’ do, are not ballet dancers and are never on TV.

Advantage: Toddler

5

One Love, Two (and more) Questions Asked

Peppa and George from Peppa PigPeppa Pig, my daughter’s many-a-dinner-time cartoon friend has a little brother George who’s answer to “What do you want?” is always “A Dinosaur”. He has a green toy dinosaur that accompanies him everywhere. This among other things, is the usual playground conversation between the little brother and sister.

After having seen several episodes of their harmlessly sweet adventures for months, my little girl turned to me a few days ago and asked, “Mamma, Peppa and George are two babies. But you have only one baby. Why is that?”

She’s three and I’m not stupid, so I knew this question was going to come soon. I smiled and told her that people could choose the number of babies they wanted, this could range from zero to four (it’s 2015, lets get real) and I had chosen to have one special little her.

Nothing happened for a few days. Then, there it was again, yesterday, hiding beside the conversation of a party invitation from a friend with twin girls.

“Mamma, A_ & A_ are two babies and you have only one baby. When you were getting me, couldn’t you ask for one more?”

“Honey, I didn’t exactly buy you at the supermarket.”

“Yes I know. But when I was a shiny star and you chose me, you could have picked one more.”

That children are curious and ask countless questions is common knowledge. That you must be prepared with ingenious retorts is a given. That you can lie through your teeth is just parenting privilege.

So why didn’t I pick two stars? (“we”? There is the husband and his wishes & whatnot to be acknowledged, not necessarily considered).

Well, we’re just about getting used to being adults, with jobs and school fees and drastically reduced frequency of sex in our lives. And then there’s this little person who joins all our couple (+1) hugs, berates the arguing party in couple-only heated conversations and makes us laugh silly…at her antics, at the wild, white skirt moves that made her, at our neat little party of three. And it ‘feels’ complete, in defiance of the sibling childhoods we come from and the “but two are perfect” noise around us. If there is a second child ‘star’ somewhere, the hubby and I aren’t looking for it right now. Perhaps we never will. Making her a playmate or a true blood companion after we croak, aren’t good enough reasons to have a second one.

In our own little, possibly flawed way, we try and teach her what ‘sharing’ means when she’s around friends, cousins or even little things like giving away balloons to stranger babies coming after her. The night activities are incomplete without wild jostling and pushing her down on padded bedding. Uncontrollable peals of laughter accompany the hubby’s “She doesn’t have a sibling, someone needs to push her around” in explanation to wild throw-offs.

Most children in my daughter’s class are already part of a pair and as the years go by, she will continue to question us on this point. Many of our friends are single children and are glowing examples of all that’s ‘normal’ and ‘well-adjusted’, the epitome of accepted adult behavior (for the most part). There will never be a right answer or the perfect number, but the ‘not-somethings’ will have to explain their choice that strays from the ‘norm’, established though it is by people whose lives have no bearing on that of others.The zeros and ones will come under the scanner and their lives will be used as examples for or against the motion.

Like all ‘good’ parents, we probably will not admit to our girl just yet that we don’t have all the answers. We will continue to believe, and tell her that we’re capable of crafting a well-functioning adult without a sibling partner (there’s no harm trying). And we won’t let her in to the big parenting secret (until it’s time to spill it): we learn as we go, build our own rules, stumble and rise. Somewhere along the way we will have built our version of an (im)perfect everything.

1

Finding (Digitally Enhanced) Mojo and then some

There is never a dull moment when you’re living with a toddler. For the most part you are juggling the ball, trying not to get a bloody nose (like Daddy did earlier this week) and mostly attempting to keep things on your turf. Basically to not play like Brazil against your German-inspired toddler.

At other times you just sit back and marvel at the things she says and does, knowing well enough that in time her eyes may not light up at describing the things she did at school or when you were not around.

As part of our customary rhyme/cartoon viewing at dinner (because it’s easier to hold a child down with that and 20 minutes isn’t killing anyone and go feed a two year old before you go judging) we get on YouTube (no TV since that always plays the wrong things when you’re watching), I ask what she wants to watch, she points it out on the screen and then we sit back and have dinner in quasi-peace. Usually we end up with the Famous Five, not the children’s book series but either the Five Little Monkeys that continue to jump on the bed and bump their heads or the Five Little Ducks that disappear for a bit only to resurface towards the end.

But yesterday, thanks to search result algorithms powered by the Google Gods, the screen showed up a new item, a series called ‘Peppa Pig’. It was new and looked harmless enough so we gave it a shot. Within five minutes of watching, I felt elated at having discovered something wonderful. Peppa Pig is a little girl pig living in Britain with her younger brother George (what else could he possibly be called) and her parents. They go about their happy routines like visiting the amusement park, taking a holiday or getting lost in the fog, with Daddy Pig always managing to do something stupid that is made nicer still with the narrator stating the goof up in a nonchalant manner. I love it.

British comedies have always been super special. Peppa Pig is a pre-school series but heck no one does sardonic better than the Brits. Look at Outnumbered, if you haven’t already; a sitcom on a middle class family in London with the parents being ‘outnumbered’ by their three delightfully unruly offspring. The beauty of the show is that the dialogues of the children are not written by 30 year old TV writers. Instead, these are improvised. While the scene and the setting are discussed with everyone, the kids are left to being themselves and what a crazy bunch they obviously are.

Or spend a rainy afternoon with Withnail and I. The adventures of two unemployed (and decidedly unemployable) actors makes for perfect alone time viewing. From the squalor of their city apartment to the marsh madness at the country cottage, this acerbic tale of two men performing the sacred art of ‘resting’ before taking a holiday by accident is enough to make you smile years after you first discover it.

And then perhaps you can walk up to a barman and delight him thus (quoting Withnail):

“We want the finest wines available to humanity. And we want them here, and we want them now!”

Mommy said TV was bad for you, and it probably is. But there are delights that it could throw up without turning anyone into gun toting villains or broccoli hating dimwits. And it is for these delectable treats that one should (under adult supervision after ensuring the said adult is wine-proof) indulge in audio-visual activities, with the hope of compressing a little bit of sunshine in deftly produced tales meant for joyous merrymaking.

3

10 Things They Don’t Teach You in Pregnancy School

Knowledge sharing on Motherhood is unfairly tilted on the side of pregnancy-related information (maybe because there’s a giant woman on that side of the scale). Very little is said about what really goes on behind unbolted doors and open parking lots. Here’s my contribution to the What-To-Expect-When-The-Baby-Is-Outside-Your-Body section of the library.

1. There is no such thing as ‘private space’.

Prepare to be watched (touched, kissed even) while you’re trying to unload body junk in YOUR bathroom. No you cannot lock the door. Yes it’ll happen everyday.

2. Remember the days when you slept without a care in the world.

History, in this case, will not repeat itself. And there’s a new alarm to boot. Foot-in-mouth.

3. Put on your thinking caps, all the time.

You have to say something when your little girl points to a bra (or even what-lies-beneath) and asks “Mommy, what’s that?” Undergarment. Chest. In case you’re wondering.

4. Learn to say “Fudge”.

Its a 5 letter replacement for an oft needed 4 letter word.

5. Bid Adieu to Moaning Rights

Sex, at the odd chance that you get to indulge in it, must be carried out in stealth, like teenagers sneaking a smoke break. You could say there’s a unique adventure in that. Many wouldn’t agree. But you could say it.

6. Master the Deep Breath

Projectile Vomit on your face, Nosy Strangers telling you how to hold your baby, Chocolate hands on your linen pants. A deep breath tells you there’s a good life across the river.

7. Hide the Caffeine

If you love coffee (you don’t? seriously? let’s pretend this never happened) then you must consume it like sex (#5 above). A toddler will take to coffee like a cat jumping off the ledge chasing a pigeon. Them cuckoo. And with caffeine in their system, them the sort of young-wild-free you don’t want in your house. No Ma’am.

8. Watch the Baby Talk

Male colleagues, Twenty-something juniors, Unmarried friends might smile but frankly no one wants to hear what your little one said or did or ate or spilled. Everyday. That conversation is best had with always eager grandparents, the other parent of aforementioned baby and the baby.

9. Forget Television (or Beer/or Beer in front on the Television)

You can’t enforce No-TV rules and then put your feet up and watch Suits. If you must, there’s humping tigers on Discovery. And who needs television when life with a child resembles most features on ‘America’s Funniest Videos’. Go make your own TV. Better still, READ.

10. Get Flexible

You must have seen the cute little picture of a baby in a mother’s lap as she works from the comfort of her home.

And you thought, “Aww. I want that!”

Well, that picture is a lie.

Reality looks more like a toddler dancing in your lap pressing random keys on your laptop. As long as she doesn’t hit send, we’re safe. Learn magic maneuvers that involve arms (and legs) going around said toddler. Practice hard. Also, Proust must now be devoured under lamp-light after baby is asleep. So, (10a) Get a lamp.

2

Pitiful forms of Ignorance

The Parents - Laura BaratI realised these were all the snapshots which our children would look at someday with wonder, thinking their parents had lived smooth, well-ordered, stabilised-within-the-photo lives and got up in the morning to walk proudly on the sidewalks of life, never dreaming of the raggedy madness and riot of our actual lives, our actual night, the hell of it, the senseless nightmare road. all of it inside endless and beginningless emptiness.

Sal Paradise (On the Road)
2

We Don’t Need No (Sex) Education

sex-ed-graphicIn high school, around the turn of the millennium, I attended a very heated debate.

The topic: No sex education please, we’re Indians

I can’t for the life of me remember what people who spoke for the motion had to say. They of course had to prove not just that we don’t need sex education, but that we don’t need it because we’re Indians.

We’re almost a decade past that day but the debate continues.

So what makes sex so un-Indian?

Some people will tell you that talking about sex to teenagers is not in line with our culture and traditions. That is a very valid point in a country where child marriage and female-feticide is apparently more in line with our ‘heritage’.

The debate should have never been about whether we should educate youngsters about sex but about what is the best way to do it. Parents often argue that sex-ed classes make no sense as children then start ‘thinking’ about something they shouldn’t be. Wake up mamas and papas, teenagers are anyway thinking about it, but its about whether you want their information to be from Google or you.

I remember the sex-ed class during my penultimate year in school. Girls and boys were segregated and two women from a local NGO came in to tell us all we wanted and needed to know. I faintly recollect certain diagrams being drawn, a classmate asking about why virginity was tested the way it was when we could very well ‘lose’ it while cycling and much ado about contraceptives. I also recall that when the boys were having their ‘session’ we had to go in and get our bags and there was a lot of giggling and awkwardness around the whole deal. I got back home that day and related the whole thing to my folks, sounding all wise about it…made easier by the fact that they’re doctors and I was talking in medical terms.

As it turns out sex-ed classes aimed at teenagers are not a crash course in Vatsyana’s Kama Sutra. Nobody is telling them that sex is great or how it should be practiced for a pleasure-filled life. The argument runs that teaching teenagers about safe sex means giving them the green signal to ‘experiment’ since it’s all safe. Fears emanating from the idea that sex education leads to promiscuity are not well founded.

Adults can’t continue to be prudes all the way. Teenagers across decades have commonalities. But the differences are just as obvious. It doesn’t work to get all nostalgic and think “we got along just fine without our parents telling us anything about sex”. While controversies around this concept continue, so do the increase in stimuli in a teenager’s world. Gone are the days when the first main encounter with giggle inducing topics was the biology class on human reproduction. Television is passé. The world wide web is the answer to all questions, innocuous and otherwise. And controlling access to the same is that much more difficult.

Teen-age continues to be tricky business. So the question really is, are we going to lay out the right information from a trusted source or have them shoot in the dark till they hurt themselves too bad. And teenagers aren’t the only ones who need educating. Parents and teachers require some lessons in dealing with boys and girls who’re too young to vote but old enough to be opinionated about all else.

We certainly can’t turn condom toting sex educators in a day.

In this country where sex is still a dirty little three letter word, getting past pre-conceived notions of adults is going to take much more than prescribed sex education school textbooks for their children.

0

No boxing about

Six months, ten extra kilos and (relatively few) sleepless nights after I gave birth two years ago, I had become accustomed to being told that I don’t look like a mother. I’m not sure if that translates to my being too young, too in-control or too fond of strumming air guitars.

In a nation whose collective consciousness defines a mother as a self-sacrificing creature with oodles of pity to dish out, there is no room for funky mamas. Lose the hair, gain the weight and perfect the hassled look. Do not fit into old jeans, sing zeppelin to the baby and have a post-delivery glow.

Also prepare for everyone and their neighbours giving you advice about this and that. Especially take the shield out for the “I’ve raised two kids” and “in our time…” attacks. They’re flung by possibly well meaning oldies, all of whom think it’s either their way or juvenile delinquency as far as child rearing is concerned. Smiling politely gets you off easy. Doing your thing in the end makes it better.

Some people will tell you motherhood is a test of tolerance. Yes. A test of how much of adults-gone-berserk-over-baby you can tolerate…looks like this one, talks like that one, sleeps like god knows who. From finger length to laughing style, everything is up for grabs and everyone has an opinion on it. Nobody’s listening to “but all babies do that”.

Meanwhile, the baby in question is not mama-glued. She is a global citizen who enjoys the company of disparate folks of the family variety, loves outings of any kind and does things her way (no like papa, like mama for her).

If looking the part is half the job done, I’m getting no medals (who made people in charge of these anyway?). I hope to never wear the sentimental-schmuck-meets-hassled-mother cloak and fit into a box marked ‘best mums’.

What I will happily do is tell stories, go places, write diaries, pass on sexy black dress, give ash-dispersing instructions (at exciting enough holiday-place) and train her ears to stay the hell away from the likes of Justin Bieber.