Conversations with the little person

(Found this lying in the Drafts, from Dec 2014 apparently. Dammit, I miss this baby-talk and the baby! He’s growing up so fast and talking nine to the dozen these days.)

 

Lunch time. Son is watching some trucks hauling mud/stones in a nearby construction site.
Son: Amma! Baby dive matti lolly (drive lorry carrying mud).
Me: Haha..no, baby can’t drive yet. You need a license to drive, baby!
Son: Pease Amma. Baby dive. (Please Amma. Baby drive.)
Me: If you drive without a license, the police will come and catch you. You know what they’ll do right, the police?
Son: (Eyes wide open, eyebrows raised, in a loud whisper): Thaim-outh! (timeout!)

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The second snip

My son started nursery school 2 weeks ago. The first week was orientation and I was present with him throughout. He was fine. The second week he had to sit through 3 hours of school without me. He bawled his eyes out for the first 30 min every day. But he was ok. This week – yesterday was the same clinging-to-Amma’s-legs-and-crying routine. Today? Today he walked in like he owned the place, kept his bag in its place, looked at me and said, “Will you come back later, Ma?”. And when I said, “Yes, baby! I’ll come pick you up at 12!”, he turned and walked away to his friends and toys. Not another glance. His class teacher and I were gaping at each other wondering what the heck just happened.

And on the drive back home, I realized what just happened – the second snip on the umbilical cord. He’s spending a part of his time on his own, without me. Without his parents or his home. His first few tentative steps towards being himself.

Even though technically the cord is cut at birth, the way I see it, the first real snip was when I stopped nursing him. When my body no longer nourished his. When he had to eat and drink on his own, to nourish himself. His body and mine were no longer connected in any way. If I ate, that does not mean he got the nutrition anymore. The first few days I was actually apprehensive – is he getting enough food? Is that formula any good? What if he loses weight? You get the drift. But then I adapted (yes, me and not him). And before I knew it, there were a whole new bunch of challenges to face and milestones to celebrate. Like weaning him off the bottle. Like the first time he recited the entire Gruffalo book to an awestruck mother and father. And then came school.

After breaking our heads on a million different parameters and planning which banks to rob, we decided on a school and got the admission done. I was more nervous than him, trust me. Nervous mostly on how he would adjust without me. And then I looked at my husband and realized the poor man was even more terrified. The 5 minutes when a teacher took him to participate in an activity (while we listened to the Orientation demo), his attention was entirely on the son and I’m sure he would’ve sprained his neck trying to see where he was and what he was doing. It’s another story that the little guy came back in 5 min saying he wanted us. Yeah, well.

So now looks like he’s all set in school. Yes, there will be days when he still might cry and refuse to go. But I think he knows by now that school is going to be a big part of his life hereafter. Once he makes friends and finds activities he loves doing, he might actually love school.

Well, I hope he adjusts well and adjusts soon. I’m already all adjusted with the 4 hours of ‘freedom’ I’m getting, 5 days a week. I’m planning to catch up with all my friends over breakfast and if that’s not enough, I’m going to make new friends and catch up with THEM over breakfast. Yeah, baby. Because I can. Because I don’t have a toddler hanging off my legs anymore. Well, he does get home by 12, so I have a curfew after that, but still. 4 hours, yo. So many bookstores and supermarkets to get familiar with. So much ‘adult’ time. Please stop me before I sound too desperate and lame over 4 measly hours. What? Too late? Ok.

It’s 5 PM now. And he’s here, eating my brains with his ‘what’, ‘why’ and ‘where’. Another couple of years and there will be a change in the communication. I’ll probably be running to Google every hour to answer him then, but hey, it’s good progress! As before, there will be new challenges, new beginnings and a lot of more memories. I guess the next milestone I’m looking forward to is to have a diaper-less handbag for myself (yes, my bag will always always have a diaper – I might forget keys or even my phone, but good God, I won’t forget the damn diaper).

There will be many more after that, the little steps from being a baby to a little boy to a teenager to a grown man. Some good ones, some that will make you realize how fast time flies, some that might even break your heart a little bit. For now, I can probably take heart with the fact that there is still a long time for the third and final snip – when he flies the nest, armed with whatever we have taught him, chasing his dreams and all I am is a contact on his phone that says ‘Amma’.
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A dream coming true!

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My son loves books. He loves his books and he loves mine too. Yes, even the boring ones with no pictures – he just likes to riffle through the pages, turn it this side and that side and I even caught him smelling the pages once. If you know me, you’ll know that that moment was probably one of the most happiest moments of my life. See, I could never be sure he’ll take to books. Half of his genes vehemently detest books of any kind and there’s nothing I can do about it. But looks like the better half of his genes (yes, mine!) prevailed.

I’ve been asked how he does this. How is he so interested in books, at 2.5 years of age. Simple – he’s always been surrounded by books, right from the time he could crawl. Not before, though. I was not one of those women who read or sang to their unborn child. I wanted to, but I couldn’t afford to become attached to the baby before he/she was born and have my heart broken yet again. And I also had a distinct indifference to books when I was pregnant and during the first few months of motherhood – I’m going to blame the hormones and move on. So yeah, if you didn’t read to your pregnant belly, it’s ok dude – they can still like books, don’t worry! 😉

Right. So, when he was around a year old, he got his first picture books. Ironically, we didn’t buy it for him – it was a gift from my friend when we dropped by to visit her! It was a board book with no sharp edges (very important, when giving books to little children) and a touch and feel theme – the images were laid out in patterned paper/cloth/fur so the child can touch and learn. I lose count of the number of meals I have gotten him to eat with the help of these board books. Oh, that’s a great time to get them to see books, btw – when they are tied and bibbed up in their high chair, with a table in front of them.

The next few months he was getting more and more picture books (alphabets, numbers, animals, birds, vegetables, fruits, vehicles, etc.) thanks to his super-enthu Dad who couldn’t stop buying them for some reason. At some point, I might have actually asked him to stop buying so many books. So even though there was no active reading per se, books became as familiar to him as toys, if not more. He could sit by himself and run through all the books, sounding out the words he knew.

Then came nursery rhymes. First the audio and then the books. Nursery rhymes are a fun way to get a child to learn a language and introduce new words and actions into their vocabulary. Only thing is we need to try not to complicate things by looking at the inner meaning of some of these rhymes because, dude, they are downright mean! 😀 Just sing the damn rhyme and get it over with – don’t go around explaining the meaning to the child please! They have some time before reality hits them on their butt, before swinging a punch on their face.

We then gradually moved to stories – simple ones, with every day terms and themes. It need not be the actual classics, but a heavily watered down version is good. He has a version of Alice in Wonderland that’s about 8 pages, with 2 or 3 lines per page – THAT simple. The language lacks nuance and quality, of course, but I make it up when reading it to him (I correct the grammar before I read it aloud! Heh heh, old habits die hard mate!). In hindsight, check the language before buying the book – some of them are very badly written and it’s a pain (literally!) to read them.

When he was almost 1.5, I got him his first Dr.Seuss book – A wocket in my pocket. It is gold, trust me. The Blue Back series is for toddlers, so I just blindly bought a couple of them – result, he was already finished with the slightly complex ones before seeing the simpler ones! 😀 Example, The Foot Book is probably a good one to start with, instead of ABC or One Fish Two Fish. No harm done, just that they enjoy the simpler book a tad less than the others.

The latest additions in his library (yep, he has an ever-growing one!) are The Lion King, The Jungle Book and T.S.Eliot’s Old Possum’s book of practical cats. The last one was a gamble, but hey, he did like the poems and has some favorites too! These books are for me to read to him – they have comparatively less illustrations than his earlier story books and I was wondering if he would like them or not, but he did. It all comes down to how we read, btw – a monotonous reading will not help in getting the child interested, trust me. They need to feel the drama and the excitement! So I had to brush up on MY reading skills before picking up the books. And the other thing I do (rather, ended up doing without realizing) is to read each story the same way every time – the same cadence, pausing/stressing at the same place, etc. so now he’s able to complete the sentences in the book after reading it 3 or 4 times. This, I find, is a good way to improve their speech and vocabulary. I’ve heard him repeat those phrases to himself when he’s pretend-playing with his toys!

So, there. Even though I’m running out of space in the cupboard for all his books and even though there are times when I don’t really feel like reading but I HAVE to because he’s being all whiny and cranky, I’m completely thrilled that my boy loves books almost as much as me! I’ll never have to worry about him being bored or lonely as long as he has books around him. I can’t wait for him to grow up and discover the infinite pleasure that is reading, all those wondrous journeys to far away magical places, to let his imagination run riot at the mere sight of words.

His first Eric Carle is in the mail. And I’m buying him his first Enid Blyton shortly. That’s a milestone. The next would be when I thrust a copy of Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone into his hands and see him vanish into his room for a day and a half. All the Ruskin Bond. Calvin and Hobbes. I can’t wait to roll my eyes at him when he invariably tries out some of the Young-Adult junk and hates it just like I do. I can’t wait to see him inhale his food down so he can go back to the Jonathan Stroud or Neil Gaiman book, unmindful of my exasperation at yet another uneaten meal. And before you know it, he’ll be old enough to read Ayn Rand. And Gabriel Garcia Marquez, Murakami, David Mitchell and all my other favorite authors. And all the contemporary fiction of his time, 20 years from now.

I can’t wait for him to recommend a book to me, maybe even buy me one with the first bit of money he earns. And then we will have come full circle.

I can’t wait for him to read, even without food or water or sleep, as if his life depended on it.

Brothers-in-arms

(Wrote this a while ago and I thought I published it here…apparently not! )

A rainy day. Two little kids, forced to stay indoors. Not a good thing. So we struck a deal – sit on the doorstep, watch the downpour but not a step out, even for a little bit.

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So that’s what they did, the cousins. The 3 year old explaining the garden, the rain and the birds to the 2 year old. And the latter diligently repeating the main words, to summarise. Just then there was a loud burst of crackers and the younger one’s body gave a little frightened jerk. And his cousin quietly put his hand on the other’s shoulder, patted him and said it’s ok, nothing to be scared of..just some ‘pattaas’.

I have 13 first cousins. My son and my nephew just have each other.

I hope they grow up to be best friends. With each other, through thick and thin. Not just mere cousins. Be brothers. And more.

The Amazing Race

“You know X? His 1 year old son can eat almost 1.5 idlis, that too just dipped in water without any sambar or chutney!”

“You know what Y gave her barely year old daughter during that function? One big bowl of rasam rice and she ate it in no time.”

“Why is your son not eating well? He’s not putting on any weight.”

“You’re not giving him any fruits. Z’s son loves fruits, it seems. Can eat an entire apple in one go. When he came here last time, he ate an apple, some pieces of orange, 4 or 5 strawberries and even some papaya! Why doesn’t your son eat all that?”

Got tired just reading this? Imagine having to listen to this, not once, but every time you’re feeding the kid and he/she is already pissing you off by not eating properly. For every 15 fussy eaters out there, apparently there’s a superhero kid who will inhale his food, that too only the healthy type. Yeah, such children exist it seems. My mom never fails to tell me.

The proverbial rat race doesn’t begin at school (or pre-school), people. It begins when the child is conceived. “Does your baby kick a lot? Mine does somersaults already and it makes me so nauseous.” – what I heard when I was pregnant. If I were a naive recently-married girl who was pregnant, I would have freaked out and run to the Ob-gyn saying my baby is not kicking. But one is not. Thankfully. And then when the baby is born? Oh dear Lord. Color, hair, eyes open or not, smiling or not, drinking enough milk or not, sleeping well or not, colicky or not..the list is endless. The only comparison I haven’t heard yet is the APGAR score – probably because hospitals in India don’t make a big deal of this to the parents (even though its noted in the file), so the parents are probably not that aware of it.

If the baby is very quiet, the comparison is with another baby who’s like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush. If the baby IS like a 5 year old in Disneyland, on a sugar rush, then the comparison will be with one who’s Buddha’s long lost cousin, deep in meditation. I’m not kidding. Your baby can’t catch a break, is what it is. Of course, none of this is meant to be hurtful – everyone knows that all babies are not alike but that when did that mean there should be no comparisons, eh? :-\

Most of the time, I’m ok with the comments. The in-through-one-ear-out-through-the-other mechanism works beautifully in most cases. But there are days when I wish people would just let me and my son be. Yes, he’s not a great eater and no, he’s not putting on as much weight as I would have wanted him to. But you know what? He’s doing just fine. He’s active. He’s learning new things everyday. He’s social. He outgrows his pjs and shirts every 2 months. He’s not going to be 6’2″ when he grows up, but that’s not his fault – blame his genes. He’s learning to use his potty. He’s slightly obsessive-compulsive about things being clean and tidy, but hey, it’s cute and I’m not about to teach him to be ok with wallowing in filth.

So there. Let him be. Let ME be. We don’t want to be part of this amazing race. We’ll get there in our own sweet time. And you know what? It’s ok even if we don’t get there. We’re in this for the journey, not the destination. We’re doing just fine, him and me.

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