Tuesday, October 10, 2017

October

So, the other day, we were eating dinner at home and everyone had a place to sit around the table but me. Sammy found some humor in the situation, so she teased me saying “Haaaa Haaa…you don’t have a spot to sit.” To which Rehan responded “Sammy, this isn’t a kind thing to say.” And Sammy said pointing to another chair, “Oh, sorry. Mumma, you can pull that chair and sit.”

Samaira is a funny girl. She legit has a sense of humor and she knows it. She will often do something funny or crack a joke and will have that smile when you are trying not to smile. Because in her head she shouldn’t be laughing at her own jokes, but she can’t help it, because come on 😊.
Samaira and Kabir share a very special bond. Kabir needs his own space, doesn’t like hugs and kisses. Sammy, on the other hand, is all about hugs and kisses. Kabir is the first to tell her “Sammy, no thank you!” when he disapproves. But if Sammy isn’t around, Kabir gets extremely anxious and is constantly looking for her. Sammy’s face lights up when she sees Kabir. While she doesn’t like when Kabir is constantly meddling with her lego blocks or puzzle pieces and has his own agenda, she makes sure she drags him around whenever she is playing.
Samaira wants to be a teacher when she grows up. Apparently, she loves to discipline.
These are teeny tiny anecdotes of our lives. If you are at all curious, or have questions about down syndrome and our family life, Siddharth and I will be more than glad to talk to you. We clearly don’t know it all, but we are happy to share our journey so far. If your kids have question about down syndrome, or Samaira, the best way to talk about it would be through facts. The fact that our body is made of chromosomes. Every person is born with a fixed number of chromosomes that determines the make up of their body – hair, eyes, nails, nose, height, feet, you name it. People with down syndrome have an extra copy of the 21st chromosome. It just means that people with this extra chromosome have different traits. Sometimes they learn differently, they talk differently, or look different. And differences are ok. Our differences are what makes us unique. If there are things that make you different and unique, wear it on your sleeve. Encourage others to do the same. Be yourself. Help others be themselves. Celebrate these differences!  
THIS is LIFE!
Alright, off my soapbox now.

October is down syndrome awareness month. While raising awareness doesn’t have to be restricted to a month, this still makes it a very special month!
In fact, first Sunday of every October is Buddy Walk day in our county. We have been attending this buddy walk since 2012 with our friends and family. It is a very important day for our family. For the most part, it is a celebration of individuals with down syndrome and that makes it special. More importantly though, it is a chance for us, our friends and family to see and meet other families who have a kid who has down syndrome. This year too, our friends and their families came to support us and share this journey with us. Sammy was super thrilled because she likes that she gets her own buddy walk! Plus, all the kids get a medal at the end of this walk.
On a separate note, 2017 has been a very important year for us. Gone are the days when your kid going to college, or getting their first paycheck, or getting married, or having a kid were the only big milestones. In the 21st century, this esteemed league of milestones is joined by your kid going to kindergarten!
Samaira started kindergarten in September and I was so nervous in all the months leading up to September. I couldn’t explain it because I am used to sending Samaira to day care and school and this wouldn’t be the first time she would leave home. But I was a wreck. I did think about all the things that could go wrong. Siddharth tried to balance it by reminding me that Sammy has done well so far, her day care and preschools have been very good and receptive, and I don’t have very much to worry about. But I wasn’t convinced. I kept telling him that we have been living in a bubble for the last 5.5 years in which our friends, family and schools have been so supportive. This isn’t how the world operates. Clearly, you can see who the glass half-full and half-empty in our relationship is!
We created Samaira’s Individualized Education Plan (IEP), something all kids with disabilities (should) have in public schools in the US. Our focus was making sure that Samaira was getting in an inclusive environment, which is what she has been in so far. I was nervous about it because it isn’t necessarily how everyone thinks today. Some believe inclusion is good, and others think that it is in a child’s best interest if they spend time in a contained, protected environment, where they can thrive and learn. One of the many challenges of the “contained” approach is that such an environment doesn’t teach a child with disability about “real life”. It also doesn’t teach typical kids about the part of the society that, for lack of a better word, isn’t “like them”. An inclusive environment is better for all. Some kids need individual attention, but the attempt should to balance individualized needs with the fact that we are all social beings and ultimately need to learn to live in a society, and learn to deal with the good and the bad of it.
Our IEP meeting was good. We talked about what we want for Sammy and worked along with the school principal and Sammy’s team to draft a plan that will help us achieve that. To be honest, my worries for Sammy aren’t around how or when she will learn to read, or be able to do 7+12, or learn her spellings. My worries were more around how her classmates will receive her and accept her, and vice versa.
A couple of days before school started, we had a chance to visit the school and meet the teachers. We met with Ms. Thompson, who is now Sammy’s class teacher. Our 5-minute conversation with her washed away any worries I had about Sammy and inclusion. Sammy’s teacher is so supportive, so positive, so amazing – that I am finding myself looking at the synonym feature of Word to sufficiently express how I feel about her. But I won’t go there. After home, school is the place where characters are built. Especially in the formative years. Kids learn from their peers more than they learn from books. A teacher sets the tone of the class, grows a mini-culture in the class, creates a garden in the class in which each kid can bloom at their own pace. We love this mini-garden that Sammy is in this year.
So, this has been a big year for us. We continue to explore and learn more. But for the most part, we are thankful for our environment and the people we are surrounded with.
In so many words, the point I am trying to make is that our bubble is getting bigger!

Tuesday, March 21, 2017

Celebrating 3.21

Siddharth and I are celebrating this special day by flying to New Zealand for a 2ish week vacation while Samaira, Rehan and Kabir enjoy an extended party in India with Nani (my mum), Nanu (my dad), Masi (my sister), and “P & A” (my nieces). Sammy & Rehan can’t get enough of their cousins & love spending time with them. Kabir has developed a special bond with Nani that even I can’t compete with. Here is the conversation that happened as Siddharth and I were heading to the airport to catch our flight to New Zealand.

Me: Sammy - Mumma & Daddy are going to New Zealand now and you are going to have a lot of fun with Rehan, Kabir, Nani, Nanu, Masi, ‘P’ didi & ‘A’ didi.
Samaira (whispering softly): Mumma – Maybe I can come with you to New Zealand. Is that a good idea?
Me: It is just Daddy and I who are going to New Zealand this time. How about you party with everyone at Nani’s home and go eat some ice cream now?
Samaira: Ice cream. Woohoo! I love ice cream. My favorite flavor is chocolate. But I will have vanilla, just like you. (I had told her at some point that my favorite ice cream flavor is vanilla.)

…and she ran off to find her ‘P’ didi and “A’ didi so she could drag them to eat ice cream…

---***---

Siddharth, Sammy and Rehan spent a week in Seattle without me because I flew to India with Kabir one week earlier. We co-sleep, and at night Siddharth would put Sammy and Rehan to sleep. In this one week, Rehan somehow always ended up sleeping in the middle as he likes to get sandwiched between Samaira & Siddharth. Here is what happened in this week:

Siddharth: Sammy – Can I give you a hug?
Samaira: No. I don’t want to be touched. (we have told kids to be unhesitantly vocal if they don’t feel like giving a hug to someone at any time)
Next day…
Siddharth: Sammy – Can I give you a hug now?
Samaira: No. I don’t want to be touched. (And she ran off to play with Rehan)
Next day…
Siddharth: Sammy – Can I give you a hug please?
Samaira: No, Daddy.
Siddharth: But Sammy, I want to give you a hug.
Samaira: If you want to give me a hug, then you can sleep in the middle and give me a hug! Otherwise you cannot give me a hug.
Siddharth: ??##!!??!! (Speechless)

Both of us were amazed at two things. (a) She is like me in that if she isn’t happy with something then she shuts down on that topic (I understand it is neither advisable and nor desirable). And (b), With a little bit of coaxing, she could articulate the outcome she expected in a situation. While a lot about this situation is non-ideal and it would be great if both Sammy and I articulate our issues as opposed to shut-down, we were excited to see Samaira transfer her emotions into words.

---***---

Samaira tends to avoid doing anything that is hard for her to do. Her strategy is to get other people to do it for her. For example: If her hand does not reach a switch and she wants to turn on the light, she asks Rehan to get a chair so he can climb on it and turn on the light. If Sammy refuses to do something because it is hard, often this is the conversation that happens:

Rehan: You can do this, Sammy. You are very strong!
Samaira: (Whining) Noooooo. I can’t.
Rehan: You can, Sammy. Let me show you how (Followed by a demonstration). Now, you try Sammy.
Samaira: Noooo. Stop it.

While Samaira needs time to warm up to new challenges, it is heartwarming to see Rehan encourage Samaira to explore her abilities.

---***---

I am convinced that half of Sammy’s heart lives in Kabir. She is always baby’ing him. Not something Kabir is a fan of though. But he has got to deal with the all the extra care and affection that Sammy showers on him. Also, Samaira is convinced that she takes better care of Kabir than we do, and he is her responsibility.

She will often check his diaper to make sure he hasn’t done pee-pee or poo-poo. If she suspects anything, she comes to us and tells us, “Can you please change Kabir’s diaper? He has done poo-poo.”

She is also the first to point out “Kabir is crying. Can you please give him some milk?”

 ---***---

If you are curious about what everyday life with T21 as an integral part of our family looks like, this is what I’ve got for you. This is our Sammy at 5.


The next challenge we are bracing for is around inclusion. Meaningful inclusion.

Sammy wouldn’t be top of mind if you are looking for a kid who is good at following instructions or protocol. She is a rebel. Anti-establishment of sorts. If we tell her not to do something, then we can say with a fair bit of certainty that she will do it. If kids want to play a game that flows a certain way, then she will be sure to not follow it. It worries me because I don’t know what’s in store for her as she enters kindergarten later this year. I don’t know how many instructors will accept Samaira as she is and accommodate her needs, versus prefer sending her to another environment where her needs could be more conveniently met.

I don’t know how many of her classmates will accept her even though she will not play Hide & Seek, Whisper Challenge, or Snake & Ladder per the rules of the game. How many of her friends will still include her?

One aspect of inclusion is ‘awareness’. Knowing that there are differences and understanding what they are. Another aspect of inclusion is ‘acceptance’. Knowing that there are differences and it is ok! It really is ok.

So, as Sammy will begin her Big 5 transition to kindergarten this Fall, I am more insecure than ever. Siddharth does not share my insecurity. He has more faith in the system, people, us, and above all – Sammy. I am insecure because we will truly be stepping out of our little bubble in which everyone sees Sammy for who she is, and not for what she has or what she can do. I can only hope that the new wave of people in her life will encourage her, include her and accept her.

Something I have heard since Samaira was born was that we shouldn’t overthink putting Samaira in schools that are highly ranked. It is probably better for her to be in schools that are average in rank, because she will have a sense of accomplishment in the things she can do as the environment will not be super competitive. To be honest, it isn’t something we have internalized, yet. So far, our circle of family, close friends (more like family), schools, day cares, teachers – have all celebrated Samaira. Included Samaira. Accepted Samaira. This encourages her to do more and be more.

At the same time, I also realize that 5 year olds are like little adults. They are intelligent. They are sharp. They understand the differences in skin color, language, and abilities. And while they are innocent and naïve, without appropriate guidance from grown-ups, they may not always know how to treat these differences. Some kids will not let these differences come in the way of their friendship. They might even provide encouragement & help as needed. But there could be kids who don’t know how to process and deal with these differences. Their reactions may range from confusion, to mockery, to non-inclusion. While I wouldn’t blame kids for their behavior, it for sure will hurt when it happens. And that’s when I hope, we the adults can play a role in creating awareness and acceptance about differences and disabilities.

In the first 5 years of our journey with Samaira, we haven’t felt the need to have the “talk” with other kids and parents. We have gone with the flow and let everyone discover who Sammy is and everything she can do. I am not sure we can continue to go with the flow much longer. I think we will need to have deliberate conversations and engagements that make the upcoming generation more sensitive and accepting of disabilities.

Down syndrome does not define Samaira. It is an integral part of her. But there is a lot more to her than down syndrome. Her abilities surpass any label that could be associated with her. So, this year, on 3/21, I want to talk about being inclusive. In schools. In activities. In play. In society. It wouldn’t benefit just Samaira, but also folks who are being inclusive. It makes society more open and tolerant to differences. Something we could all use a little extra dose of given everything that’s happening in the world.


Imagine this society: Different skin color, different language, different religion, different god, different faith, any disability, different clothing, different values….no problem. Let kindness and friendship prevail. Everyone is welcome! This is the essence of being human.

If you are curious about down syndrome, I encourage questions, conversations, and discussions. We will be happy to share our experiences and whatever we know so far. We will do our best to find out what we don’t know to answer your questions. Talking and asking questions is the first step to building awareness and acceptance.

Happy 3.21, folks!

PS: 3.21 = March 21st = World Down Syndrome Day. Medically, down syndrome is defined by 3 copies of the 21st chromosome. That’s all there is to it. An extra copy of a chromosome. It only means there is more of Sammy to love! Lucky us!

Thursday, June 16, 2016

I don’t know your story

Almost 13 years back I was coaxed into attending a 2-3 day Art of Living course by my roommate, who was (and probably still is) an ardent follower. I was reluctant because at a time when I was still a student, earning negligible and had a lot of student debt to pay, I didn’t want to shell out close to $200 for a workshop I didn’t care much about. But I couldn’t figure out a way to say no. So I said yes. I attended the course and was surprised to see the wide demographics of attendees. There were men and women all the way from their early twenties to late fifties. There were students, working professionals and home makers. 13 years later, there is only one thing I remember from that entire session. It was an activity that we did in which everybody sat face to face with another person for, I think, a minute and then switched partners. We essentially got to sit opposite most of the people in the group. While sitting opposite each other, all we had to do was hold hands and look into the other person’s eyes. Yes. That was the exercise. I am giggling like a teenager as I am typing this. And I had a similar reaction back then as well. Well, this is an awkward exercise. Once we got over the initial awkwardness, something magical happened. There was this guy in the group and I had totally judged him the minute I saw him, for no particular reason. When I got a chance to sit opposite him and hold his hands and look into his eyes, I realized that all my judgement washed away. Looking into people’s eyes is powerful. It is probably the most honest part of our body. Our eyes tell our story. And more often than not, we don't pause to look into people’s eyes and take a moment to see them. Really see them. I think I have told this story before. But it is by far one of the most important experiences of my life. Because it taught me to try to understand people before judging them. 

The most powerful way, I have learned, of not judging people is to know their story. Everyone has a story. It is so easy to look at everything and everyone with one single lens and assume them to be good or bad. Until, of course, we know their story. Stories help us understand why people behave a certain way, or eat certain things, or spend on a certain item, or read a certain book, or play a certain sport, or wear certain outfits. 

Our story conveys the reason why we do what we do. Our story conveys how we got to this point. It makes us, even if for an instant, think about somebody else’s point of view. It makes our heart bigger. It makes our actions kinder. It makes our mind broader. It makes us love more. You will find out there is always more to people than meets the eye. You will understand people even when you don't agree with them. You will pass fewer judgements on people once you know their angle, their story. Especially when they are people who don't look, or eat, or dress, or think, or act like you. It will make us a better human.

Stories are important, people. Let us make time to find out someone’s story.

Thursday, June 9, 2016

Rules, Who?

Have you ever seen anything great happen when people follow rules? By great I mean out-of-this-world, or path-breaking, or crazy-innovative. Following rules can definitely result in excellence. In fact, to some extent excellence maybe a result of following some set of rules. But I highly doubt it can result in something that would change my life as I live it today. Changing lives means bending or breaking rules. It means taking a different path than the rest of everybody else. It means saying bye-bye to the crowd. It means having the courage to stand up when you stand out.

The thought itself makes me cringe. The thought of breaking rules. Not that I have never broken any rules. I totally have. But not enough. And there is a reason why this thought makes me cringe. It makes me extremely uncomfortable and reach out to my mind-space that I am not used to reaching out to. The discomfort in merely articulating this thought process is indicative of how deep-rooted our notion of following rules is.
I think I am no exception. I think that most of us would believe in following rules, give or take. We are taught this as kids. We are conditioned to believe that is the way. We are rewarded for following rules. We are punished for breaking rules. We are awarded for being like everybody else – in actions, thoughts, ideas, appearance, you name it. We are laughed at when we don’t blend. In fact, I am now doing the same with my kids now. I am establishing rules for them. All day every day I am trying to make sure they function within a set of rules. And I am beginning to question myself.
I am in no way trying to encourage the state of absolute entropy. I am not trying to encourage anarchy either.
My limited point is, why rules? Why so many rules? Why rules about what we do, what we don’t do, what we wear, how we dress, how we eat, how we talk, how we look, how we react? I mean there are obvious reasons. Most of the reasons will be hard to argue with. We follow rules for safety, coherence, sanity, civility. But there is something fundamentally wrong if the unfamiliar makes us cringe and uncomfortable and sometimes adversarial. I want my kids to be safe. I don’t want them to break rules that will hurt them. I want to be protective about them. I want everybody to like them. I want the world for them. Anyway, that’s not the point. It doesn’t matter, pretty much at all, what I want for them.
But how will they grow if they don’t break rules?
None of the innovations would have happened if we all followed the rules. Innovations happen because people challenge, because people are curious, because people question, and most importantly because somebody decided to follow a path not chosen by the rest of us. Our lives change because somebody decided to break the rules.
So while I don’t do it myself, just yet, I hugely admire people who do. The breaking rules part. Unless of course, it is my kids. Then I get mad because they broke “the rules.” I mean how can I not yell at them for eating from the counter top as opposed to their plates. Because, you know, those are the rules. I have tried hard to figure this out about myself. Figure out my line. The line I can cross, and the line I can’t cross. When is it ok for my kids to break my rules? And when is it not ok? I do know that one of my lines in this regard is pertaining to health and safety. Anything that hurts them or others and makes them unsafe is off limits. But what about the rest of the rules? How do I deal with that? Should I want my children to conform to the norms? Or should I encourage revolt? This question can get really hairy and controversial in about 5 seconds. And I don’t have a good response for that. But at the end of a rule breaking day, when it is dark and all the kids are tucked in, I can chuckle to myself. And maybe feel a little proud. Feel proud that they broke a rule today. Is that bizarre? Honestly though, with two toddlers and infant, I have those moments often. They break rules. All. Day. Long. It is exhausting. It drives me nuts. It makes me shout. So it doesn’t take much effort for them to break the rules. But this kind of rule breaking as a silver lining. This kind of rule breaking takes the face of innocence, that most of us lack. The naivety of belief, of faith, that most of us lost long time ago. I look for that silver lining, while I struggle with this decision for my kids. Because for most my rules, my kids react with “Rules, Who?”

Thursday, May 26, 2016

What do you want?

When we hear a child cry 
Our first instinct is to try
To try to find out
What this fuss is all about
To try to understand what he needs
Maybe it is time for his feed
To figure out what else it could be
Our next step is to plea
What is it that you want my child
I wish you would speak so I don't go wild
Is it a toy that you want to hold
Of course not, even if it is made of gold
Maybe you need a new diaper
But then maybe not, because you are still so hyper
I am pretty sure it is time for a nap
I really wish all the kids came with a map
A map of all their possible moods
Why you cry or sulk or brood
I tried everything I possibly could 
But I still couldn't figure it out and there you stood
You stood with your eyes fixed on me
What could it possibly be
And then it occurred to me
I felt so blind as I could not see
It was not a toy or food
It wasn't even about his mood
All this while it was right in front of my eyes
All you needed was a smile for a smile
And me right by your side
All you needed was my attention
It wasn't as if you were asking for a fourth dimension
All you needed was my time
It isn't some crazy novelty or a new paradigm
I am sorry if you felt a bit alone
I should have been with you all along



Thursday, May 19, 2016

Where am I?

Hidden in this simple three-word question is a far deeper question of “where exactly am I?” at any given point. Unfortunately, the probability of the answer being “not here” is very high.

There were just a handful of people who owned a smartphone about 10 years ago, I think. The rest of us were naively and happily carrying our flip phones or the non-smart phones. Without the slightest inkling of what the streets and the subways and the homes and the restaurants would look like in the very near future. Not to mention the humans. You know what has changed in us humans over the last 10 years? Most of us spend a lot more time looking not at our eyesight level, but a little below. A lot more time. While walking. While eating. While waking. While waiting. While playing. While watching. Nobody looks up anymore. Everybody is busy looking down. Most of us don’t even know who or what passed us by.
To be honest, it is not just the phones. It is a more generic human tendency. To not be in the present. To brood over the past. To worry about the future. To think about the unthinkable that may never happen anyway. And fear endlessly. It is so easy and ubiquitous to distract us from the “now” that it has become our second nature.
We live in this beautiful Pacific Northwest. It truly is drop dead gorgeous. The colors that compete with each other are all different shades of green. In the most beautiful way possible. There are mountains covered with tall, green trees. There are mountains covered in snow. Every single neighborhood has its own gem. A simple drive from home to the supermarket can be filled with beautiful picturesque views. We had to go someplace the other day and it just took us a little over 30 minutes to get all three kids settled in the car before we could leave. I was thinking about the dinner and the meals and the ride and don’t-even-ask-me-what and its almost as if I was doing all of this with my eyes closed. I know I had my eyes closed because I opened my eyes for one tiny moment. I mean, really truly opened my eyes. I noticed. I exhaled. To my right was a beautiful lake overlooking these beautiful peaks covered in beautiful shades of green, except for the top, which had a shade of white as if wearing a hat. It was a sunny day. The sky was blue. There was not a single cotton ball to be seen in the sky. Not even one that could resemble a sheep without legs. It was almost perfect. Except that I was not there. I was too busy to notice it.
All of us are so busy running around, trying to finish chores, cooking, feeding, missing appointments – that we don’t have time to pause. To take a reverse gear for once. To bask in the glory of absolute nothingness. To be free. To look into someone’s eyes and say “what’s up?” and genuinely be interested in a real response to this worst question ever.
I hereby promise. To be in the moment. To pay attention to the surroundings. To look around. To soak it in. To pause. At least once a day. Well, to begin with anyway. I promise to bring this once-a-day count higher and higher each time. You know why I am trying so hard to achieve this goal? Because that is the point. “Pause” is the point. “Break” is the point. “Nothingness” is the point. “Non-goal” is the point. Everything else that happens in between – chores, laundry, meals, work, deadlines, appointments, you-name-it, are fillers in these pauses.
The meaning of life is the pause that we forget to take. That break. That blank. That nothing.
You see what I did there? Very conveniently and smoothly I snuck the “meaning of life” in this seemingly banal post. Boom. I may have exaggerated a tad bit. Let’s bring it back. So, maybe not the meaning of life. But seriously. We live so we can take these pauses. We don’t take pauses so we can live. As long as I remind myself of this golden rule, I think I will be fine. At least I would have made a solid attempt at being fine.
This. Right Here. The tree. The flowers. The yellow. The purple. The blue. The mountains. The field. It is all here. Right here.
And that man on the phone...the irony is not lost on me.

Thursday, May 12, 2016

Peppa Pig and her magical spell

For the uninitiated, where have you been? Peppa Pig is the sassy, curious pig. She has a brother, George. She also has a Mumma Pig and a Daddy Pig. And they are British. Most importantly, she rules the world. Peppa, that is. The toddler world anyway. She has a certain power over my kids that even I don't have. 

Oh, and those muddy puddles. One of the most important aspects of Peppa's life is the muddy puddles. And now, it is a very important part of Sammy and Rehan's life as well. These two words can shine bright light on their faces like they have been promised one chocolate ice cream a day for the rest of their lives. Sammy may be crying her lungs out for whatever reason, and I will have her attention if I merely utter the words "muddy puddle." Those two words are enough for her to stop crying for 30 seconds, until she figures that it is a trap and I just used those words to stop her from crying. Rehan could be having a horrible tantrum, and his tantrums will melt away as soon as I ask him "Do you wan to watch Peppa Pig?"

We all know what good parenting involves. It involves not giving into your kid's tantrums. Not enabling them. Not fulfilling the very request they have been throwing a fuss about, because otherwise they use that as a strategy to get what they want, all the time. It involves being consistent and following through. I could go on. Most of us know these golden rules of raising a disciplined child. But I can promise you, there will be days, and more than you would like to admit, when you will knowingly throw these golden rules out the window. Simple because you are too tired, either mentally or physically. Or just because. I keep telling  myself, "It is ok. It happens." I console myself before anyone else can condemn or console. 

We have this rule of permitting screen time for kids only on weekends. They could cry and request all they want but they don't get any screen the rest of the week. Unless of course, it is not our day. A day when Parents = 0, and Toddler = 1.  When all three kids are wailing at the same time. For no good reason. Or maybe, perfectly legitimate reasons. They have still not had their dinner even though they are starving. You know, because it is so much more important to throw a fit than to eat. And it is just Monday! They just had their screen time over the weekend. And the rest of the week seems so so long. So in the middle of our crying, screaming kids, I whisper the words "Do you want to watch Peppa Pig?" Suddenly, two out of three kids stop crying. "Yes," in unison they say. In my head I say "Victory." I know we have a rule. But today is not the day to feel married to it. Today is not the day to follow that rule. I need these little people to stop screeching at a 100 decibels. So I take out the evil-iPad and start the one and only, Peppa Pig. Magically, these kids turn into the most well behaved beings you may witness on this earth. They finish their dinner. Even ask for a second helping. They wipe their faces and drink their water. They clean their hands. Almost as if they are not my kids and were switched during the meal. So here we are. Watching Peppa Pig on a weekday.

Last month we were traveling and I noticed this super cool dad-mom duo traveling with their toddler and infant. They sat in front of us outside the boarding area. Eating their home cooked meal. Feeding broccoli to their toddler. Carrying a jogging stroller. Super fit. I was so inspired that I was borderline jealous. "If only I could be like them." I could hardly understand what they were saying to each other at a distance. But suddenly I saw the dad pull out his phone from his pocket and say something to his son. The only words I understood were "Peppa" and "Pig." Boom. Just like that. They became so much more relatable. My first thought was "I knew it! There had to be a catch!" My second thought was "Thank God it is not just us! That makes me a tad bit relieved." My third thought was "Parent, I hear ya! We all give in from time to time. Perfectly understandable."


Parents all over the world, coming from various different cultures, religions, regions, ethos, philosophy, race, etc., need a Peppa in their life. It is a magic spell that works no matter where we are from. 




Thursday, May 5, 2016

Keeping it real

Long time no post. I figured I will start with what happened since the last post. So we are 5 now. Two vs Three. Four Hands vs Six Hands. And I have to admit the struggle is real. All of me wanted to debunk the myth around three-under-four. Not that I wanted to prove it is easy. Just prove that we were able to glide this phase with a little bit of dignity. Grace. Or something like that. But boy oh boy! Is it hard or is it hard!?  

I sometimes get transported to the time when I wasn't a mom yet. But being a mom was still on my mind. All the things I said to myself. 

I will never let my kids eat fries, junk food and unhealthy food.

I will never say “no” to my kids. 

I will not shout at my kids. Ever.

I will never punish my kids. I will not give time out to my kids.

I will never let my kids cry, and pick him/her immediately to console.

My kids will be the most disciplined kids out there.

I will always cook fresh meals for my kids.

My kids won’t be those screaming, shouting, yelling kids you see on the streets and restaurants. 

I will never lie to my kids to get them to do stuff. 

I will be the best mom out there. Basically.

Because you know, all this modern parenting and attachment parenting and stuff. I was such a good parent until I actually became a parent. 

Fast forward now. 

My kids eat all the junk food known to mankind. Fries are their absolute favorite. Rehan could survive on sweets alone. Until some time back, Sammy was repulsed by any green and nutritious looking food. So much so that she refused a cake this one time because it had green icing on it. Rehan now refuses to eat anything that’s not sweet. We won’t tell his dentist.

Every other word coming out of my mouth is a synonym of “no.” I try to be creative and look for other words so I can convince myself that at least I am not saying “no.” But who am I kidding? As much as I try to talk about the consequences and tell them “It’s not a good choice,” I resort to the regular negatives. Don’t. Stop. Never. Don't you dare. Don't even. These words are very typical in my vocabulary now. On top of that, these kids have the why mania. I try to be a good mom and respond to all their whys in the most respectful and intelligent way possible. But I have my limits. Depending of their questions, my mood and the time of the day I respond with a “just” or “I don’t know” or a shrug. Although Rehan is quick to reciprocate with “But mumma, I asked you why.” But how do I respond to “Why is this a couch, mumma ?!” 

And do you even want to guess whether or not I shout at my kids. Heck yes, I do.

I do try to punish my kids. While some people believe in “talking it out” with their kids, others believe in straightening them with shouting-screaming-scorching words. I haven't figured out a punishment for my kids yet. What I mean is, I haven't figured out what my kids consider a punishment yet. Most time outs are fun exercises for them and they actually enjoy it. If I stop talking to them for some time then they go to each other for more fun. So as it turns out, what I consider punishment for them is actually way more fun. Its almost like they are showing me the middle finger in their own playful way. 

I remember someone telling me “I can’t imagine putting my kids in day care. What if they are crying and the teacher can’t pick him/her up because she is busy caring for another kid.“ In my mind I was like “How did I not think of this concern before enrolling my first kid in the day care!?” And now that we have three, of course our kids cry. And we let them. In fact when Rehan is crying for what we think is no-reason-whatsoever, we tell him to go to another room to settle down before coming back to the room until he is ready to talk. I had someone visit us recently and witness the spectacle that we are during dinner times. It was one step short of food flying around like it would in a space shuttle or in a gravity defying area. To top it, Kabir was screaming and was almost about to fall off his rocker because I forgot to buckle him. That did not stop me from finishing all the vegetable chopping I had to, because I knew I would be done chopping and be there to pick up Kabir before he could fall. And because secretly I know I am a super mom. But our guest did not know this, clearly. So they are staring at me in disbelief with their eyes saying “Lady, if your hands are full, do you need me to lift your infant so he doesn't injure himself?” My eyes communicated back to them “I got this…kind of.

Don’t even get me started on discipline. Our kids are not disciplined. At least not with us. They are slightly better behaved when we are not around. But ever so slightly. I have some folks give me advice based on their expertise because their kids are so well behaved and sorted. But none of that advice works on my kids. Or maybe it is me. Oh, well! I haven't given up. But my way of disciplining could look a lot different from your way of disciplining, to the point that it may look the opposite of disciplining. But believe me, I am trying to discipline my kids.

I am not a firm believer in fresh meals. I believe in left overs. I could almost call it my religion. I love left overs. Fresh food is over rated anyway. In fact my attitude towards kids’ meals is so unsettling for some folks that I almost suppress my natural instincts around people when it comes to feeding my kids. I try my best to let my kids eat on their own. And on the days they don't eat on their own, I let them be. I don’t wait for them to eat before I eat. I don’t cook any special ultra-nutritious food for them and just feed them whatever we are eating, which, let’s be honest, has questionable nutrition content to begin with. It bothers me to sit around waiting for kids to finish their meals, and spoon feed them if they aren't eating. Does that make me a bad mom? God, I hope not. But maybe it does.

Oh, I forgot. Let me introduce you to my kids. Their middle names are screaming, shouting and yelling. Respectively. Or in no particular order. Who cares? But wait. Those are their first names. Because I don't believe in middle names. Point is, they shout. They shout when they want something, they shout when they don't want something, they shout when they get what they want, they shout when they don't get what they want. You get the idea. They shout. Especially, Rehan. He is an angry shouter. Sammy is an experimental shouter. And then I shout back “Stop shouting!!!” You are probably wondering if it works. And the answer is - no. It absolutely does not. Being patient works sometimes. But I don't always have time for patience, you see.

Lying is a touchy topic with me. I can tolerate almost anything in my life but for lies. I have been honest to the point of being stupid. I used to either not speak, or speak my mind. But not lie. The worst thing for me in a relationship was lying. I have always hated being lied to. If I did not like you, chances are you would have known it. I am now getting better at this whole lying thing, because, well, life. But in this context, I lie to my kids. All the time. I tell Rehan, “Wear your shoes otherwise bugs will take it away.” When I am all out of patience, and time, and motivation, and energy, and he still has plenty of all of the above, I use his pretend-fear of bugs to get s**t done. He doesn't like bugs. So if he needs to eat his dinner but he wants to eat an apple instead, I tell him it has bugs so he can eat his dinner. I don't think it will last long though. Because off late he has started picking on what I am doing here. And he insist on eating the buggy-apple because he thinks he will like it more than dinner. 

So. Do I get mom of the year award? I am so bummed I don’t. But I think it is more important to live. So I will do without the award and the accolades for now. As much as I wanted to pretend to be modest, yet boast about my perfect family of five, all the struggles are so very real. I don’t need other people to judge me because I am constantly judging myself as a mom. Am I breaking my kids? Are they going to be ok? I could be doing so much more with them! I am in awe of and am surprised by parents who can’t stop talking about how awesome their kids are and what a great job of parenting they have done! That kind of confidence in themselves as parents is mind blowing. 

In fact, I often wonder how Prince William and Duchess Kate Middleton deal with their toddler Prince George. I think he is roughly the same age as Rehan. When I saw Prince George greet President Obama, I wondered what Rehan would have done if he were to meet the President. First, I wouldn't let that happen. Because, toddler tantrums. Doesn't Prince George throw any fits? Doesn't he cry and yell when he meets strangers? Or when he doesn't get that one candy he probably needs for survival? How can a toddler be graceful when he is a threenager! Doesn't he embarrass his parents? Doesn't he make the Duke and the Duchess hide their faces behind the curtains and pretend like he is not their son. How do they do it? That will always be a mystery to me. A mystery I probably don’t want to solve anyway. 

While there are days when unicorns don't feel real anymore. Wait, did you just say they aren't real anyway?! While there are also days when I am trying to remind myself of the rainbows and the baby feet and the chubby cheeks to get by. While I oscillate somewhere between trying really really hard to be patient, and wanting to kill the next person who wants to give me advice on how to feed, or raise, or treat, or discipline my child. I do get some very real rewards. 

It is rewarding to see Kabir being a panacea for Sammy and Rehan. Kabir is their life line. They are majorly obsessed with him. It is almost scary because ever since Kabir was a month or two old, Sammy wanted to lift him and run with him in case she saw us coming in her direction. She still wants to hold him. She has understood that running with him is not a good choice. <Wink>. Rehan comes to Kabir and talks all about his sorrows because he didn't get the ice cream he so badly wanted. Tough life. The point is that it is heart melting to see them laugh and cry together. It is lovely to see Kabir being so loved by his (barely) older siblings. 

It is rewarding to see Sammy and Rehan be excited for each other. To see them play with each other for the 10 minutes in the 24 hours that they are not fighting (of course there is just a pinch of exaggeration) is my absolute favorite. I take Rehan to pick up Sammy at the bus stop every day and that’s one of the happiest times for Rehan. As soon as he sees Sammy’s bus in the horizon, he starts jumping until the bus stops in front of us. It involves about 20-25 seconds of continuous jumping. But he is beyond excited to see Sammy. In fact he can’t stop talking to her as soon as he sees her. “Sammy, I got hurt here. See. That’s right, Sammy. I got hurt here. I fell down over there. I was running and I got hurt. Do you want to play with me Sammy?” He goes on and on and on.

These rewards manage to bring all the mushy gooey feelings in my liver. Because my heart is too full. 

Her Expressions: "I will play nice for the next 2 seconds". His Expressions: "Get me out of here". My Expressions: "Hurry! You have the next 2 secs before they run in opposite direction".
His Expressions: "Lady, do you even know what you are doing?"