Category Archives: Mom’s the way to go!

Hindi hain hum!

My 20-month-old still just babbles, doesn’t speak much except a little bit of Mamma, Dada, Bua, Tata (for Papa), Didi, flawa (which is for flower) and lizza, for his favourite thing in the world — lizards! He also says, aao (come in Hindi), when he wants to call any of us. But I’m not here to bore you with my boy’s developmental stories (though as a mother, I think they’re far from boring!). I’m here to discuss one of those mothering dilemmas that come with our times. Should I tell my boy that the tree in the garden is a mango tree or an aam ka ped? Should I ask him if he’d like some cucumber or kheera? Would he like some milkie or doodhoo?

I’m essentially a bilingual now. Not by birth, but by education. My mother tongue is Hindi, so is my husband’s. And Hindi is still the language spoken at home. I take pride in the fact that I know my Devnagri as well as the English alphabet, though like everyone else from this part of the world, my Hindi is liberally peppered with Urdu. I also feel there’s nothing bright about not knowing your native tongue, given the right context. It’s quite another matter that years of English education has conditioned me to think in a language that wasn’t the first I spoke.

So where was I? Yes, about whether I should teach my son to say grass or ghaas, corn or bhutta… I have friends and cousins living in metros who converse with their children entirely in English, because that’s the language they also use to communicate with each other, and since there’s no one else at home, they feel no need to resort to Hindi, except while speaking to the helpers in the house. I’ve met those kids, and honestly, I’m mighty impressed at how they speak such good English at 3, 4, or 5 years! It’s the language of the educated in our country, and like any ordinary Indian still reeling under the belated effects of the Raj, my first reaction is to hope my son’s not going to look like an idiot for babbling in Hindi. But thankfully, I also know better than to let first reactions decide what’s right and not for us.  And here’s what I have decided: I’m not going to keep him away from knowing his mother tongue before he learns cat-bat-mat. I understand that I come from a culture that’s perishing in neglect, because we’ve not done enough to preserve it. But culture isn’t just about heritage buildings and folk songs. It’s so much about language. I have had the chance to meet a fair number of really successful people from UP, who’ve made it big in the entertainment world by the sheer dint of their language skills — the enunciation, the vocabulary, the diction, which still retains a certain degree of purity. It’s the kind of Hindi/Urdu that Mumbaikars can never speak. Why is that a skill I must not pass on to my son? I’m not saying he’d go on to be a wordsmith of  Hindi, or a singer, but it’s something he will take with him from the place he was born in.

I come from a completely Hindi speaking family, and I think my English speaking and writing skills are more than adequate. Yes, perhaps I wasn’t speaking fluent English when I was 4, 0r 5, or even 8. But it’s not a survival skill my life depended on. So, there’s no reason why my boy will not pick up another language, along with Hindi. And I understand children this young can pick up more than one language pretty well. But I don’t want him to be grappling for the right tenses in Hindi, and the correct syntax, and the proper word for an object, while he rattles off English without any problems. I just want him to take a little bit of his culture with him in the way he speaks. I like that idea.

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The simple life

…Should be fairly simply to live? But as a mother, I’ve begun to increasingly realise that it’s one of the toughest things to ensure I give my toddler. There are no two ways about whether I want him to live a simple life, I just do. But whether I can teach him how to, I don’t know. I don’t know how to teach him to live without the unnecessary trappings of this day and age, when I’m hooked to so many of them.

Like the cellphone. We made it out-of-bounds for him when he was a crawler, and it was easy then, but ever since he’s got a mind of his own, it’s become difficult to explain why we’re never seen without our phones, but he mustn’t lay his hands on one AT ALL. He still doesn’t get one to play with, but once in a while he wants to watch a song video or his own baby videos on it. Or the ipad, on which I downloaded tons of baby songs and nursery rhymes, and such other, which I played for him every night while I was weaning him off,  just to distract him so he would forget he had to nurse. He loves the songs and rhymes on the ipad. I hate it. Because I don’t think gadgets are for kids. But since they make life simpler for us, I think we’re using them to complicate our kids.  I console myself by saying he still loves books, that he can sit and browse through his board and peek-a-boo books for long periods and enjoys it. Or that he doesn’t watch TV, no, not even cartoons. But still, the ipad irks.

Till two days ago, my son had not set foot in a train, had only travelled by flight. It bothered me. It happened so because I was breastfeeding him till January this year, and despite doing it for 15 months straight, I couldn’t do it in public. No, I wasn’t squeamish about nursing in public, I just didn’t know how to do it the way it was to be done in public. I preferred travelling by air, because my son’s been a poor sleeper from the start, and I could not imagine long journeys with him waking up every hour to nurse! So well, I chose to fly with him till now, when I finally made up my mind I had to get out of this we-can’t-travel-by-train syndrome, and took a Delhi-Lucknow overnight train with him, and my family.

You know, those are the little things that I’m talking about… There’s a bit of fondness for the old life that we all harbour, and that part of us wants that our children should enjoy the same pleasures that we did as kids. Except that the same pleasures are no longer there for having. There’s too much at our easy disposal now. The smallest of things that were precious to us when we were kids, would mean nothing to my son, I realise, because he had it before he could ask for it. Also, our world view has changed, and we don’t think those things are a big deal now. It would be a bigger deal trying to keep those things away from him now, saying no, you’re not allowed to switch on the AC, because we grew up in air-cooled houses. Or to say, no flights for you because flights just are a whole lot easier for my husband and me because they save us a lot of time. Yet, a part of me hankers after that old life, even for my baby… is it too much to ask for in these times?

Easter craft

Ever since I became a mum, I’ve got this crazy idea in my head that I must be more creative than usual, because, well, I have a standard to set for the li’l brat. And I could fail at a lot else, but not at creativity, for that’s so high on my list of Things To Always Do/Be. It’s also one of those qualities I hope my son will have lots of, and not ignore because he’s too man to be creative.

So, I’ve been pinning DIY projects with a vengeance on Pinterest, my favouritest go-to site for everything these days! And I got down to executing one for Easter, though I’ve never celebrated Easter except during my school years in a convent when we would buy chocolate or coconut flavoured sugar Easter eggs that tasted horrible, but looked so pretty to us kids. Last year, a friend got very colourful and slightly better testing Easter eggs from Delhi as a gift for Arjun, who was too tiny then to even get attracted to how they looked. And we got invited, for the first time, to an Easter dinner. Anything that’s not part of your ordinary life becomes sort of exotic, so it was for us.

Anyway, I digress. Here’s what I saw on several Pinterest boards:

Egg

I loved that this was just a simple craft, and so cute. So on Saturday evening, I sat down with a packet of balloons, some embroidery threads and a bit of fabric stiffener (Revive). I followed this tutorial on how to, and here’s what I ended up with:

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I was pretty pleased with the results. Not bad, eh? My son loved these little Easter eggs, though I’m sure he couldn’t care less if they were eggs or balls, and carried the basket around the house for a good couple of hours, before he bored of them and turned his attention to more fun stuff!

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They’ll probably be flattened to putty soon enough, because I’m not trying to shield them from his curious hands — after all, I made them for him. Even then, I’ve inspired myself to try more stuff. For now, there’s the satisfaction of having spent one day less ordinary than usual.

Too much of a mother?

17 months. That much is the time I’ve allowed to let motherhood overwhelm me. There are days when I forget I’m anything else but a mother, I forget I have emotions other than those that my child begets. I forget most times that I have a life beyond mommyhood. Normal? Can’t say.

Sometimes I feel I’m overdoing it — the role of a mother. But that’s just the kind of mother I am. I do leave my baby behind when I go to work, but for all else, I have guilt the size of an immovable boulder weighing on me, and I can never seem to leave my 17 month old at home to step out for all the things I love. If I physically let him stay home while I step out in the evening, I still take him with me — in my head, and my heart.  So much so that I think I’m better off lugging him around with me.

I haven’t done a lot of things I used to love doing ever since my son was born, even when I apparently can. Unlike a lot of women who stay in nuclear families and do not have the option of leaving their kids behind, I do. Because I’ve got my parents here, and because I live in a joint family, with a very good support system. Yet, for the last 17 months, I have forgone visits to the salon (my ‘beautician’ comes home whenever I need her). I’ve skipped entire theatre festivals that I was hooked to before I had a baby. I’ve given up on late night parties. I haven’t gone to the best of music concerts happening in the city. I’ve watched all of one movie in this much time. And surprisingly, I don’t miss any of it! It’s like I said, I’ve stopped being much else but a mom.

I’m not sure if this is how it should be — if it’s alright to let motherhood become an all-consuming state of being, or if I should strive to be something of what I used to be. On most days, my only adult interaction is in office. Is that why I haven’t quit work? No, I go to work because I know no other way of being. I’ve worked for the last 11 years of my life, and now it’s not a choice, it’s something I must do to exist. That I have people to take care of my baby while I’m off at work, helps to let me persist in pursuing a passion/habit (?) I do realize that the 5-6 hours I stay away from home, define the rest of my day, and make me feel like I must be a mommy every spare second. But it’s a choice I’ve made, and probably if I were any different, I could have been easier on myself. So even though this holding on to my role so hard takes up most of my energy, it’s how I must be me.

Motherhood for beginners

4.5 months into this strangely exhilarating world of motherhood makes me feel I’m equipped to write about Motherhood 101. And even if you don’t think you need a guide to first time mommyhood, this will just tell about how I’ve been coping up with everything.

# There’s an umblical cord that connects the mom and the baby in the womb. The moment they snap that cord, it’s as if an invisible cord replaces it — one that connects your heart to the baby’s. In some ways, it’s more vital than the cord that they cut at birth… What else explains the instant emotional connect the mum and baby feel?

#The first one month, or 40 days, were like a rollercoaster ride, with highs and lows. And then life just became a joy ride!

# I was prepared for a lot of stuff that taking care of a newborn entails, but no one ever told me about what a challenge breastfeeding is. It’s the single most emotionally and physically daunting part of motherhood. For some, not so much, I believe, but definitely was for me in the initial months. Which is not to say I gave up. No, I didn’t. I wept and cried and scoured the internet for help and tried every conceivable trick to make it work. And after a harrowing first two months, ahem, it magically became all alright! Now, I can’t imagine weaning him off!

# Unsolicited advice is the mainstay of social interactions of new moms. Hyper moms will scare you, cool moms will tell you to relax, and some variety of men who’ve never reared kids will tell you what to eat, how to feed, blah blah! I’ve finally developed a selective absorption mechanism to keep my sanity.

# Guilt. How do you ever get rid of it once you’re a mom?

# Sleepless nights are not what they’re made out to be. My biggest fear before Arjun was born was that I’ll never be able to cope with sleepless nights. Because my 8-10hrs of sleep used to be sacrosanct. And admittedly, the first month was tiring to put it mildly. But it gets better: one, babies learn to sleep a tad longer after a while, but more importantly, your body learns to do without uninterrupted sleep. If I could manage, anyone can.

# There are just two kinds of moms: those who crib and those who don’t. I love being the latter 🙂 I hyperventilate, yes. I shed copious tears at the slightest sign of distress to my baby, I lose sleep over his whims, but I do not crib.

# The internet is a wonderful place for new moms. In fact, there’s a surfeit of information out there. But thankfully, most of it seems trustworthy, especially since it’s coming from real moms. It’s especially great since mother and childcare resources in our country are near pathetic, more so in cities like Lucknow. I mean, unlike in other places, there’s nothing like a lactation consultant here and the ‘good’ paediatricians are just super busy. Google seems like a God-sent saviour then.

# Mum’s the word when you’re a mum. If there’s one person in the world I can trust my baby with, it’s my mom. It could be something to do with how we think if we turned out ok, Mom can help my baby turn out right as well. Which does NOT mean you agree with everything your mom says and does… No, not at all. But if someone else was saying and doing those things, you’d have zero tolerance. With ma, it’s all ok in the end 🙂

# The baby’s first cold seemed like the end of the world to me. He woke up one night with a racking cough and I could do zilch to make it okay. I couldn’t hold back those tears after he’d spent half a day coughing and losing his appetite. After that first cold though, you realise it DOES get ok. Yes, the cough will go away and the baby will get his appetite back, all in good time.

# Babies are clever! Very. They ensnare their mothers into a ma ki mamta trap. How? They’ll be quiet in ma’s lap, and wailing in anyone else’s. They’ll look at you till your heart melts and begins to flow warm love. They’ll put their head on your shoulder and simply be at peace, like this was the place they’d been looking for. Oh yes, even if you think you’re not going to give in, you do! And so you know how it is for me trying to fathom how I’m ever going to return to work.