Thursday, January 21, 2010

What is with these children committing suicide?

Crossposting this here:
Everyday I open the newspaper with a fair amount of dread. Sure enough, every day emblazoned across the front page will be the news about some child somewhere killing themselves. The puzzled grieving parents saying we had no clue why they would want to take their lives. The reasons as ridiculous as losing a percentage point in exams, dread of examination results or worse, being reprimanded by a parent for whatever reason.It puts a knife into my guts and twists it around till I feel physically sick. I have a son. It would kill me. I cant even imagine being in their situation. I pray no one has to. But it seems to be an epidemic. Children are committing suicide every single day, in droves. In the last three months, over a hundred students have committed suicide across Maharashtra.Why? What could be so terrible that they feel they cant face life anymore? Is it, as the articles go, the pressure of studies and the feeling of inadequacy? Is it the terrible competition for a few seats in reputed colleges (therefore the lack of a balance between supply and demand in our educational institutions)? Is it the social stigma? What sort of a society are we morphing into if a child feels that life is not worth living if he flunks an exam? Or is suspended for bunking?And then I read a story like this. And this. And it gives me hope.And I wonder why can we not teach our children to focus on the positives. I wonder how I can do that. I wonder how I can make my child understand that education is only one part of who he is, and even if he does not fare well in his exams, he is still my child and I love him more than I love myself.I wonder where we are going wrong. We are bringing up a generation of children who are completely focussed only on education. Children are drilled with the concept of getting the best marks they can. Parents too transfer all their hopes and aspirations onto their children and consciously or unconsciously pile on the pressure to the child to fulfil their dreams. The child has to yet find and realise his or her own dreams, how can a child fulfil another's dreams. And yet, there are some cases where there is no external pressure from the parents but yet the child feels compelled to end his or her life. How gut wrenching would this be, not knowing why a child you have given birth to and nurtured would not consider the life you gave him or her worth living? Is this making parents terrified of overstepping an imaginary line while asking their children to study? Are parents handling their children with cottonwool for fear that they might just take their lives in reaction to a harsh word?Are we bringing up a generation of weak willed children? Children who cannot deal with failure? Children who are terrified of tackling challenges? Children who have everything handed to them on a plate that they do not know how to tackle rejection and failure? Placing too much pressure on children to perform well academically, and neglecting to teach them that life is not all about academics and career success?I am guilty of this too. The brat struggles to cope with the syllabus at school. I work with him. He has a tuition teacher to help him. He is in grade 1. I temper it by being laid back. If he doesnt feel like doing his work, I let him be. But I do worry. I do know that my heart beats faster when I go for his PTM meetings. That I sigh in relief when I see he's made it beyond the red line in most subjects. I would be happy if he just moves up class to class. And if he doesnt too, well, I'm okay with it. But I still worry for him. Maybe the person who needs to change is me.Maybe it is me who needs to change my expectations from my child. Maybe it is me who needs to have faith that my child will survive and earn a living in this world even if he doesnt top his class, or make it to IIM or IIT. Maybe we really need those reforms Kapil Sibal was talking about.Maybe it is us as parents who need to accept that if our child is averagely intelligent, we find another option that the child shows talent and promise in and nurture that. It could be art, music, dance, any skill. A sport. Maybe we parents are the ones who need counselling.Maybe we need to propagate the concept of suicide as the last refuge of cowards, and not as the glorified end to an unfulfilled life. Perhaps that might work. We need more stories of those who stuck it out and achieved their goals. We need more stories of high school failures and dropouts who made it big, as motivational and inspirational stories for children to read and know about. We need children to realise that suicide is cowardice and sticking it out in the long run is the courage they need. And we need parents the children can turn to for support. I want to be that kind of a parent. I want my child to be able to come to me and tell me he has flunked an exam with no fear. And I pray I am able to accept his failure as his own, and not mine. And that I can give him the courage to get up and go on to attempt it again and again till he succeeds. And not give up midway. I pray all our children get this courage. I pray we as parents are able to give it to them.Links:

(Posted by karmickids)

Monday, January 18, 2010

Time for me

As you have kids and life becomes ever more hectic, it's so easy to forget about making time for the things you want or like. After a while, as a mom, it almost becomes second nature to deny yourself what you want and opt for what the kids want instead - trips to the park instead of to an art gallery or museum, eating at the McDs instead of a restaurant, skipping movies, opting for family time instead of time as a couple...

For me somehow, right from the beginning, it's been important to have time for A and I as a couple. We've had good help at home, and my parents living close by so we've managed to go out for movies, out for meals or parties once in a while. But time to myself has been something I've been pretty stingy about, maybe also because I work fulltime.

In the beginning it was so bad that I would put off nature breaks if the kids wanted something, not realising I was hopping uneasily from one foot to the other while getting whatever they needed. Now it's a rare occurrence for me to go out for so much as a mani-pedi, a once in 3-4 months thing. Haircuts have become an annual event. (Of course, the mani-pedi-haircut thing may also be because I'm naturally lazy about things like that - have been even before I had kids.) Reading is once the kids are in bed or while I'm getting ready or commuting. Writing tends to happen late at night or during occasional breaks at work. Worst of all is that I've fallen off the fitness wagon.

I used to work out thrice a week with a trainer when Chubbocks was small. But that was a time I felt I could permit myself since I worked only halfdays. Then, after Puddi came, I started really rationing my me-time so I began working out with the trainer at 5:30 in the morning, as that one hour was a spell during which the kids and A were fast asleep, so I wasn't 'robbing' anyone of that time. And after Bojjandi came along, I just didn't have the bandwidth or the energy, between breast-feeding, pumping, working and making time for the other two and A.

It's only when I took a break from work, starting July, that I felt I could make a commitment to one hour of working out, and enrolled in a nearby gym. It's been a great thing for me, because I'm not a do-it-yourself yoga type, I either need a tape/ DVD or the energy of other people that bounces off the wall at a gym, to push me. I also have always loved weight-training and working out on machines and the gym has more than enough for my needs so I love working out there.

More than everything, though, when I was doing some thinking about life directions as one tends to do at the end of every year, it hit me that being fit and healthy and energetic went beyond just going back to my original size - before the hypo-thyroid and baby-making caught up on me. It was to do with the sense of empowerment I felt just by taking action against something I saw as an issue. And also, it was about becoming healthier, having more energy to do things for myself and for others. That's when it hit me that one of the few changes I feel called upon to make this year onwards in my attitude towards my own health and fitness, and me-time in general.

I have to start thinking of it as an investment in the family, rather than something I'm robbing them of. Just like I try and think of working as something that builds assets for the family - more money, yes, but also a more patient me. My being fit and having more energy to hang with the kids and being more healthy is likely to keep paying off longterm dividends for the family. I'll be around longer, for one thing. And healthier more of that time. And happier, with a better self image and more positivity and a better attitude about how to cope with life's troubles, big and small.

I think a lot of women make this mistake of treating anything they do for themselves as an indulgence and therefore either of secondary importance or 'robbing' their family. Sometimes it is, let's face it. But a lot of times, it is something that's necessary for their physical and mental wellbeing, so let's stop Nirupa-Roying ourselves!

Cross-posted at Rainbow Days

Saturday, January 16, 2010

Kids Art: Rubber Cement Masking

kids art watercolor masking with rubber cement

Thanks to Winter Break, we had a lot of time to try different art projects. My primary aim has always been to expose my 4½ year old to the tools and techniques available these days and to allow for her creative energy to find a release.

Continuing our study of masking, we tried the Rubber Cement masking technique.

Rubber Cement comes in a nice little container with its own brush. Its gummy texture is such that it can be dribbled over the paper by holding the loaded brush in the air and swirling it about. Of course, it can also be 'painted on' with the brush. Ana tried both techniques to understand that whereas one requires more control but forms nice curly lines, the other creates blobs.

I like rubber cement for certain applications. It's texture and the fact that it can be removed easily after it dries makes it an interesting material to play with.

Items Used: Watercolor paper, Rubber Cement, Tempera paints diluted in water (we were running low on watercolors), paint brush.

rubber cement masking with watercolors kids art

  1. Apply the rubber cement on the watercolor paper in any arbitrary pattern.
  2. Allow to dry. We placed it by the heating vent to speed it up - took about 5 to 10 minutes depending on how thick the application is.
  3. Then, paint over the dried rubber cement using favorite watercolors or diluted tempera paints. Allow to dry completely.
  4. Then, either using the fingers or a pencil eraser simply rub the rubber cement off. It peels off easily, leaving the white of the paper that it masked.

As always, my 4½ yr-old decided to make a few as she experimented with the technique and tried it to her satisfaction.

rubber cement masking with watercolors kids art

[cross-posted at The Joy Of My Life]

Thursday, January 14, 2010

Kids Art: Waterecolor and Cling Wrap

watercolors and saran cling  wrap

Continuing the theme of art projects we did recently, here is another.

I was browsing for simple activities with stunning results that can be easily done at home during the Winter Holidays and came across this. I had to try it with Ana.

Items Used: Watercolor paper, Acrylic paper, diluted tempera paints or watercolors, large paint brush, and plastic cling wrap.

kids art watercolor and cling wrap

  1. Simply apply blobs of color on heavy-weight paper.
  2. Place a Cling Wrap sheet on top while still wet, and crinkle it to form patterns.
  3. Allow to dry.
  4. Remove the cling wrap.
  5. VoilĂ !

We left it by the heating vent, of course, to speed up drying. And proudly showed it to Appa when he got home!

Heavy-weight paper works best, and, the nature and quality of the paper makes a difference, as we would expect. Acrylic paper had a more smooth finish with fractal-like formations.

Watercolor and Cling Wrap

Whereas, Watercolor paper had a coarse textured look with an interesting cracked crystalline pattern.

Usually, I talk about interesting things we could try with materials at home to gauge Ana's interest on any particular day. And, when she zooms in on one, I try to describe the steps first. Typically, I keep it to 4 or 5 steps. Ask her what she thinks the result of such a process would be.

When she expresses readiness to try it out, I assemble the materials, describing them, repeating the names of materials that are new to her. Sometimes I demo the technique/method that she seems to have trouble with. If possible, I show her pictures of the process and finished results to help her work independently.

I showed her the finished results from the web for this project early in the day and talked about it to her and told her that when she is ready to choose that activity, she can help me assemble the materials. It worked like a charm. I didn't have to wait too long before she put away Enid Paapaa and her clothes and was ready to start.

And, as usual, we weren't satisfied with doing just one, so we created a few, playing with colors and textures, some of which weren't as stunning as the others as we found out. But then, 'stunning' is quite subjective anyway :)

[cross-posted at The Joy Of My Life]

Wednesday, January 13, 2010

Today's Child!

Some (no make that a lot) colorful language. Be forewarned.

Wasn't that liberating?