Wednesday, August 15, 2012

Back to School


“Can I wear this right now, Mom?” My seven year old son asked me at the checkout counter, fully expecting me to say no. He had a brand new back pack in one hand and a big bag full of folders and pencils and supplies in the other. I started to say no, out of habit but I stopped myself. His enthusiasm and genuine excitement rubbed off on me and we walked out of the store with him wearing a new jacket and an empty backpack on his back.
In case you missed all the advertisements, it is Back to School season! With just a week left to go before school starts, we braved the pouring rain and similarly motivated families to go shopping for clothes and school supplies. The atmosphere in the store was akin to Christmas. Bright signs and flags marked the way to a large section of the store dedicated to Back to School items. Some frequently bought items were packaged together into convenient bundles for hassle free shopping. There were three or four rows of shelves for just binders and folders. Pencils, crayons, markers and sharpeners were spilling out of cleverly placed end caps. Overall there was a mood of gaiety and celebration all around. 
This made me think about my back to school routine. I spent most of my childhood in a small south Indian town which had one hospital, four churches, two temples, a small vegetable market, one bakery and one stationary/book store. Summer vacation ended around the last week of May and we made that first trip to the school, before the school began, to get our school uniforms. That was the beginning of the week long ritual to get ready for the new school year.  A list of textbooks and notebooks was provided by the school but everything else was optional and left entirely to the financial ability of one’s parents. Pencils were mandatory till the third grade and after that; we could only use fountain pens. That meant bottles of nasty smelling Camel brand blue ink also made their way into the shopping bags. Backpacks were made of durable canvas and were available in basic colors such as black, blue, beige etc.  Pencil boxes were fashion accessories. In the higher grades, we had to buy the geometry box with a compass, divider, ruler, Set Square, protractor, eraser and a pencil sharpener. Mechanical pencils were a big deal, available in bright colors and usually “imported”.  Being that the highly anticipated southwest monsoon usually made its entrance around the same time as the school started, raincoats and umbrellas were a necessary purchase. A stop at the local Bata store for a pair of black lace shoes and white socks completed the shopping trip.
The second part of the ritual was a family affair. We would lay out the books to be covered and labeled. Rolls of brown paper were taken out along with sheets of name labels. My parents would cut out the brown paper needed for covering each book and meticulously cover and tape that book. Warnings on keeping the books neat and organized ensued. When they thought I was old enough, I was trusted to cover my own books and a few of my younger brother’s. There were single lined notebooks for Social Studies and Science, four-lined books for English and two-lined books for the two local languages, Hindi and Malayalam.  While my parents worked hard to make them look academically dignified, I would open up textbooks and browse through lessons on the Human Body, Differentiation, Robert Frost and the vast maze of newsprint that was to be my companion for the new year. The final touch was the label. Very basic in form, this was a rectangular piece of paper with pre-printed lines for Name, Std., Section, School and Subject. With each passing year, new and exciting innovations occurred in the field of the labels. One year it was sticker labels while another was all about Mickey and Minnie and Donald Duck or bright floral prints or cute animal themes. My father would then write our names, proudly and neatly, on these labels, with more instructions and warnings to keep the covers and labels on the books at least till the first Terminal examination. Then all the books and the pencil boxes were put away in the respective schoolbags, awaiting the start of yet another exciting year.
The school lists have changed, the supplies options have upgraded significantly but the excitement and anticipation of going to a new class with some old and some new friends, is still the same. For my children, at this age when getting the right pencil grips, erasers and sharpeners is as critical as finding out who will sit with you in the class and on the school bus, which kid you will have to avoid and what the new teacher will be like, back to school shopping is an important event, as it was for me. I am looking forward to this new school year and I smile as we join this last minute frenzy of back-to-school celebration. 

Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Subversive manual for kids

Kids, you’re only going to be reading this when you’re 18, not before!!! So, I feel I can pass on some words of subversive wisdom from my experience as a teenager and beyond, though as the parent of an 18 year old, I may not be that happy at you following through!

At 18, the country thinks you’re old enough to decide its future, by voting. And that you’re old enough and mature enough, physically and emotionally, to be legally married. I’m assuming that by the time you’ve spent 18 years under my roof, I’ll have done as good a job as I’m ever going to do in terms of teaching you the right values – respect for others, tolerance, integrity, being sensible, not drinking and driving, not doing drugs, safe sex…I also hope I’ll have taught you enough about thinking for yourself by then.

So, if there’s a conflict that comes up between us from here on, be it in terms of what you should study, how you should dress, whom you should fall in love with, what kind of career you should choose, whom you should marry, where to live…listen to my opinion – as someone who loves you beyond belief, I deserve that respect – but make up your own mind on what’s important to you. Make your own decisions. I hope I’ll have become mature enough to let you go and not try to force you into obedience, but in case I haven’t, ignore me. And yes, you can refer to this blog post and hoist me with my own petard at that point.

Here’s why I think it’s important that you should make your own decisions:
1. It’s your life. You have to own it. It’s better you take responsibility for it sooner rather than later and shape it as per your dreams…I’d hate for you to turn that around at some ripe old age when you feel you haven’t lived it as per your dreams and hold me responsible for ruining it.
2. As a parent, it’s possible I might be over-protective, like my parents were of me. I might want to spare you from the consequences of your choices, emotional, mental or physical. But here’s the thing. Experience is something that can’t be passed on, it can only be personally bought, and usually at the cost of some pain. If I try and spare you that pain in a misguided effort to keep you safe, you may never learn how to deal with pain that comes at a time that I can’t protect you from it. The only way you’ll learn to survive in life is by taking risks, emotional and physical, and dealing with the fallout.
3. Your life and your growing years are in a completely different milieu than the one I grew up in, and the world you live in is very different. Try as I might, while I may understand some parts of it, I can never comprehend the whole of it. In a way, that’s what the generation gap is all about right? Firstly that I can’t be 18 again and feel the same emotions again, and that therefore my perspective on what you’re going through is different. And secondly that society and the world have changed from the time I was 18. Therefore if I try to guide you based on my past experience, my point of view is bound to be either outdated or unrealistic on many things. You really think Sergei Brin’s mum told him to start Google? Or Amelia Earhart’s dad told her to go fly a plane?

And here’s some advice for me:
1. Be proud of your kids not for achieving things that you wished for them but for achieving their dreams
2. Be happy when your kids are happy, not when they are following your wishes
3. Don't feel hurt if they decide to do something contrary to your advice - they're doing what they need to do
4. Be grateful that your kids can think for themselves and that they dare to counter your point of view. It’s going to be critical for them as they grow up and go out into the world that they be able to challenge the establishment and have independent ways of thinking.
5. Remember to have Band-Aids(physical and emotional) and champagne, both handy at all times


Cross-posted at rainbow-days.blogspot.com

Wednesday, July 20, 2011

the F word (previously posted on my blog)

Finance and budgeting -for most of us, these words manage to produce  a few butterflies in the stomach . Give your child a head start in managing money with these simple tips.
  • Introduce her to the concept of taking responsibility for money. Give her a piggy bank to 'save up' the money that you give her, and allow her  to buy something with it when it when it fills up.
  • Along with responsibility comes freedom. Let her decide how she wants to use the money(as long as it is not something which she cannot afford)
  • Introduce her  to the various ways of managing money. for instance you could give her two piggy banks -one for "immediate" or "current" needs and another for long term needs ..that could be like a fixed deposit. She can decide how to allocate the money that you give her between her two "accounts" So the "current account" takes care of those chocolates and small trinkets, while the "fixed deposit" can be used for bigger buys like that expensive doll or dress.
  • Have realistic expectations when you hand out the money. For example, you cannot expect the child to buy the daily lunch from the canteen with her pocket money but if she feels like having something "special" then she has to dip into his pocket money.
  • If she regularly demands more pocket money don't give into to her demand(unless its reasonable). this will teach her to operate within a 'budget' and make good choices.
           
       

Saturday, July 16, 2011

A letter to my son (previously posted on my blog mom-of-all-trades)

Dearest  Kanna,
                     Next month you turn six.I am writing this little note for you to  read, when you are old enough to understand what I have written..may be its in a years time maybe ten..the time really doesn't matter...
I want you to understand and hopefully remember, the lovely relationship we had for these past 6 years. Isn't it ironic that we humans can remember very little of the first few years of our life when we our most loved and cherished!!!!                  

We will never be as close to each other as we have been these last six years...we've had a lot of lovely moments together. Now as you enter a new phase of life I can see your baby features melt into some thing more mature..but every bit as adorable. You are growing into a sensitive and loving person and for that I''m thankful to god....for there is only so much a mother can do; the rest of it she just has to keep her fingers crossed!!!
Your occasional temper tantrums still continue to worry me ...well I guess we'll have to just work harder on that one.
 I know we may opt for different paths in our journey together, but I  promise to let you choose your own path.(though I will be following at a safe distance..I'm still your mother!!!!) I also know that having to let go of your hand from my safe clasp, will be more difficult for me than for you..but I promise to try my best, for your sake.
What are my dreams for you? My dream is that you be able to
                                                                   " think deeply, speak gently
                                                                     love much, laugh often
                                                                     work hard , give freely
                                                                     pay promptly and be kind"       
My dream is to see you grow into a happy, healthy contented person..happy at "just being Nachikaet"..exactly as your are on your sixth  birthday!!!!
I feel truly blessed to have you in my life...may god bless you always.
For amma, you will always be that little bundle of unimaginable joy that the doctor placed in my arms..six years ago.
Love and love always,
Amma 
                                 



Tuesday, June 14, 2011

Hi! Finally i am a member.

Hi everybody,
I am Sapna .I feel great to be a part of the Desimomz family. A BIG thanks to Ceekay for helping me out with this- God bless you. I am a mum of two lovely daughters- four yrs and one yr old. I look forward to sharing views and thoughts with fellow Desimomz.
I also blog at  34andnotcounting@blogspot.com

Take care.

Tuesday, May 17, 2011

Summer holidays

I remember my summer holidays, like they were yesterday. The long, fun train rides down south, for close to 2 or more days. Lying on the hot upper berth, with the fan throwing more hot air around, in a languid daze. Making friends with ramdon people in the compartment, teaming up with new kids and becoming instant best friends, chasing each other up and down the bogie and playing card games. Looking out of the window at the passing procession of India, state after state, tunnels, rivers, forests and towns...Sharing food with people from across the country, eating a variety that one never got at home...

And then, getting to our destination, the sense of growing anticipation as we got closet to the station. Peering out of the window to see which of the relatives had come to receive us and take us home. Hanging out at my grandparents' house in Bangalore, reading my way through Oliver Twist and other classics, and years of issues of Reader's Digests from the '50s onwards.

Then Mysore, where my favourite cousins lived. We spent the whole day doing God-knows-what, with little or no adult supervision or interference. Our 'park' was a tiny temple opposite our house, and we spent the day swinging on the vines of the Banyan tree that grew there. We spent hours chatting and giggling over each meal, so much so that the adults would finish their meal and only then serve us, so that they could be done fast. At night, dad and uncle would get ready for the invasion of their myriad cousins and friends, who'd drop by to supposedly say Hi, then stay on for a meal, then drinks and endless games of 28 interspersed with airings of many old skeletons. Family gossip sessions were another highlight, and we kids would desperately rub the sleep out of our eyes and stay awake to hear all the anecdotes.

I'm a working mom, and though my parents live just down the road from us, they have eben away almost every summer since I had kids, visiting my sister in the US. So my kids, starting with Chubbocks, have been enrolled in summer camps. They have been great fun, from dramatic activities to an 'Around the world' series last year, arts and crafts, games and so on. And they have helped my kids stay busy and occupied at least for part of the day, given that both A and I would be out most of the day.

But I've always felt a little bit guilty and somewhat sad thinking of their summers. To think that they'll never understand the concept of unstructured time that they get to decide what to do with. To think that they'll never figure out what's it's like to create their own amusements and occupations, from fighting with each other to playing, getting up to mischief, gossipping, reading and all the rets of it. To imagine that they'll never have a time to remember when all the kids crowded into one room and slept huddled up together on mattresses on the floor, giggling helplessly at silly jokes and staying up late to play pranks on each other.

And so this summer. My parents are here until a week before the kids school reopens. A and I have to go to France and decided to go solo, sans kids, so they'll get a real experience of 'staying at grandma's, rather than visiting back and forth as they do everyday. I have consciously not enrolled them into any summer activities, hoping that they'll soon get into the rhythm of keeping themselves busy on their own. And later when my sister comes over, we're doing a weeklong family vacation, starting with a train trip to Bangalore with my parents and then a visit down memory lane to Mysore, where we all plan to stay together.

I guess the cousins will have many differences, from age-group to disciplines and schedules. But I'm hoping that we parents can find it in ourselves to let it go and chill, and let the, find their own levels. I want to give them a slice of my childhood summers to remember.

Wednesday, May 4, 2011

Hi

I am planning to host 5th birthday party for my daughter. I have been thinking on having art n craft, drawing based party - where the kids are taught one kind of art / craft which doubles as giveaway including the usual return gifts. A game or two would definitely be there. There are few things I would like to know:

  1. Would kids in the age group of 4-6 years enjoy a party like this?
  2. Is the routine DJ-dance-game the best kind of party? I bounced this idea to a good frnd of mine who recently hosted her son's party DJ-dance-game party. She felt that kids come to the party with such great energy that making them art n craft activity beats their dance, game purpose.
  3. I am clueless on the budget on such kind of party. The cost would include hiring of the person(s) teaching art n craft + materials required for the activity.
  4. Have any of the moms hosted such a kind of party? If yes, what activity(es) did you conduct, did the kids enjoy it or did they preferred the usual dance-game routine.
  5. Should I talk to people who hold summer-camps for kids to conduct these kinds of parties.

Would appreciate ideas from DMC moms and names of people who organize such kind of parties based in mumbai only.

I can be reached at batul.poonawala@gmail.com and you can also leave your comments on the post too.

Regards
Batul