Of Travelling with Kids and other Ambiguities

 

Strutting her high heels, she sashayed her way up in the aircraft holding Kafka on the Shore and a Starbuck coffee. On her head not a single hair was out of place. I saw her enter because I was given a special privilege— family with kids first. I dream of travelling like that someday—kids-free and holding a tiny LV bag. But for now reality bites.

Recently, I took my first flight alone with the kids (10 months and 4 year) and I am happy that we made it in one piece. Most parents stress over travelling with kids and I’ve had my share of nervous moments. Primarily, I had three concerns: how will I use the washroom, handling unfriendly passengers, and a possibility of a tantrum (this was freaking me out) at 30’000 feet.

The bad news is all the three happened, and I survived to tell-the-tale. So here’s my two cents worth of advice for surviving an airplane with two-kid:

1. Of Pockets, spare tee, and easy-to pull down pants 

Stop enviously looking at that woman reading Kafka on the Shore and sipping on a coffee, looking all relaxed. You too, will travel in style someday. But for now, you need an easy-to pull down pants because baby wearing in tight-fitting jeans is too-hard to shimmy down. Plus, you need pockets to carry your mobile (can’t miss Instagram now, can we), a bottle, boarding pass or whatever. Also, don’t forget to carry a spare tee for you and kids, coz you don’t want be smelling the puke in your entire journey.

2. Of using a little imagination

Kids don’t need toy when they are trying to make your life miserable at 30’000 feet. Also, babies usually don’t want the toys you are carrying. Instead of fretting over what they may or may not love, give them anything that’s handy—security leaflet, plastic cups, tissues, air-sickness bag whatever. When nothing seems to be working, I gave the baby an empty juice can and its jingling sound worked like magic, much to the distress of my neighbor. For the boy I carried a thin Pixar Cars (he is obsessed with Lightening McQueen) sticking book.

3. Of crabby uncles and nosy aunties

I totally get it why people don’t want kids around on an airplane. But I am mommy now, and I strongly believe in karma. So you may not understand why I am not able to discipline my 10-months old. I say—do-what-you-gotta-do—nurse, walk, distract, whatever! If nothing works, remember this too shall pass. That crabby business men giving you stinky eye is probably tired of travelling with hysterical kids, and that nosy aunty has already been in your shoe but has short memory. So do your mama-things, and then put on an umbrella to let the snide “tuts and sign” fall in the ground. BTW, do you have any other choice? No. So go find your Zen!

4. Of keeping your hands free

If you are planning a trip with younger kids— go buy a backpack as hand luggage so that you have both hands free. I have a sturdy small backpack that I am using since the boy was a baby. It makes it easier to carry your child or hold their hand or show your passports or help a potty-trained kindergartner in the loo— or whatever else you need to do at the airport.

5. Of sweating over small stuffs

Now the pressure of the airplane taking off drives most kids crazy and they don’t understand why their ears are suddenly hurting. So carry some chewy finger food—small box of fruits, lollypop, nuggets, chocolate cookies. For small babies nursing helps, but only if they are game for it.

 

Now that you have successfully gotten the children settled in-flight and they look somewhat quiet, happy or even asleep. Look over to that woman reading Kafka on Shore with perfect manicured nails, and call in a drink (I mean coffee) for a treat.

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Have no picture of three of us together as my attempt at taking selfies sucks. Period.

Tags: #travellingwithkids #travelogue #travelstory #parenting #mommytraveller #mommyblogger

6 Books to Pick this Summer for Your Kindergartner

We are going to the hills next weekend. The idea is to just soak in the Mountain View, take a hike through forest, dip our feet in pristine streams, read good books and come back rejuvenated. This would be our first family vacation after the birth of our girl (she is 6-month old now). Although, we’ve been traveling since her birth, but that was more work than vacation.

For me vacation means unplugging, it means spending quality time with your loved ones, communicating, reading, watching the sunset together, and just absorbing the sight and sound of Mother Nature. I usually carry a book while traveling or end up buying some as a souvenir. Actually books make a perfect souvenir, it reminds you of places you have touched upon, cafes you have visited, views that made you pause and ponder.

I have compiled a list of story books for the child to indulge in this summer and I am definitely packing few of them in our upcoming trip to the hills.

Take a peek at these essential summer-reads for under-five year old

Where the Wild Things Are By Maurice Sendak

This one’s GOLD. If you haven’t yet bought this book for your kid, you are doing him/her a great disservice. The book narrates the elegant simplicity of the childhood fantasy. The illustrations are beautiful. Aurko and I are literally reading it every night. So Max goes off into his own world to escape his parents and explores “wild things” but ends up missing his loved ones and decides to come back to the real world. I guess both kids and adults will relate to this story. This one’s for keeps.

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David Series by David Shannon

“No, David!” is David Shannon’s first book of the “David” series. This is Aurko’s current favorite. The book details the adventures of David being bad while his mother continually tells him: “NO, DAVID”. Shannon writes in a simple preschool format that makes reading easier for young readers. This book has won the Caldecott Honor Book Award. We can’t wait to read the other book in this series.

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The Usborne Baby and Toddler Treasury

I bought this book when Aurko was a baby and apart from few torn pages, this book has survived 3 years. Aurko still can’t get enough of it, especially the stories—The Goldilocks and the Three Bears, The 3 Little Pigs story. It also has an art & craft section. This book is also serving my little girl, talk about killing two birds with same stone.

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My Dinosaur Backpack

Aurko recently picked this book from his school library. It’s a sticker activity book full of themed activities and fun dinosaur stickers. With over 250 stickers to use in the book or anywhere else, this is my go-to book this summer to keep my boy all tamed, as I run errands or enjoy a cuppa overlooking the mountains.

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Folk Tales Around the World

We picked this one from Kolkata International Book Fair. It is a compilation of short stories from around the world, such as, The Sun and The Moon (Siberia), The Woodcutter from Gura (Ethiopia), Water Lilies (Wales), The Bright Pearl (China). This one is for older kids; although, we have read The Sun and The Moon and Aurko thoroughly enjoyed it. But he never really asked for a repeat. I am sure he will come around in a few years.

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Little Spider and Geeta by Parthasarathi Chakraborty

I bought this one as I was a little fed-up with Aurko’s obsession with Spiderman, and wanted to show him the real deal. This book narrates the life history of spiders in the form of storytelling. Observing a spider make a web makes for a fascinating read and with my boy anything involving spiders always work.

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Have you read any of the books mentioned above? Do you have any other book to add to this summer special list? Do write in the comment section.

 

 

 

Comparison, You Bitch!

The other day at the grocery store, I looked over at this woman next to me, and heard her fixing a work-meeting with a client. She looked like one of those corporate high-flyers. Neatly dressed. Driving a sedan. Basically, she seems to have everything – brain, beauty, money, dressing-sense, poise.

“Ugh, you suck. You are still caught up in this silly job,” I thought to myself.

Then of course, I continued with some self-shaming:

“You’ve been working for 5-years, you should have reached X figure salary.” “Look at your unkempt hair, worn-out jean. You suck.”

You are not good enough (as compared to her).

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The other day I was talking to my cousin on phone, and she was telling me how her daughter (who is of the same age as my son) is already counting till 100. 100 already?

“OMG, we’re so behind,” I thought so.

Then of course, I continued the self-shaming:

“Am I doing it RIGHT? Everyone is so conscious about education nowadays. Look at the competition. Why am I not putting more efforts with him? I’m failing him.”

I am not a good mom (as compared to her).

*************

COMPARISON — you make me miserable!

Yes. Miserable, frustrated, discouraged, unhappy….. !

I hate myself when I do that, and still can’t seem to shake it off. This creepy crawly feeling keeps invading my peace of mind time after time. However, I also know for sure that I don’t want to live with that kind of negativity in my life. Happy people are seldom hopeless and discouraged.

After coming back from the store, I sat looking at the horizon thinking about the hopelessness of my situation. Will I ever be able to reach that level? Seems like a distant dream now that I’ve two kids. After my cousin’s call, I thought of drilling my son to count till 100, so that we can “catch up”.

See, the chain of thoughts? How it’s creating self-doubt.

If I am evaluating my worth by comparing myself to others, I will always be losing. Because in this game of life I will never reach a point where I am better than others in every possible way.

Comparison will only spin me into a tail-chasing frenzy of self-doubt.

So, trying to “catch up” to others is clearly not a solution.

Social psychologists and authors Adam Galinsky and Maurice Schweitzer believes, “we are hardwired to engage in comparisons, that is, we can’t get away from it, and we’re doing it to try to make sense of our world. Do I make enough money? Do I need to update my kitchen? Do I need a new car? Are my kids doing well? It’s almost impossible to make those assessments objectively. So instead, we turn to comparisons.”

The authors believe, comparison can be motivating, and it can and do co-exist within the same person, and neither feeling is necessarily superior. It’s learning when to use each feeling that counts.

Makes sense, isn’t it?

I especially loved this thought-provoking example that they’ve shared in their recent book.

In Olympics, silver medalists tend to be miserable because they’re comparing themselves to the gold medalists; bronze medalists, on the other hand, are comparing their outcome to those who came in fourth and beyond, and so they tend to be more pleased with themselves than the silver medalists — even though the silver-winners technically beat them.

WOW.

So next time when you find yourself comparing, seek favorable comparisons if you want to feel happier, and seek unfavorable comparisons if you want to push yourself harder.

Steve Furtick said it best, “The reason we struggle with insecurity is because we compare our behind-the-scenes with everyone else’s highlight reel.”

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Pic courtesy Google

#lifelessons #loveyourself #selflove #comparisons #lifetips #Ibetterstoppreaching

Train Trips and Summer Vacation

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Image courtesy ClipArtBest.com

So, the new session has started, the son has joined a new school, the baby is napping on my lap, and summer vacation is around the corner. How exciting? When we were young, this was the time when Baba use to book the train tickets for our month-long annual trip to Siliguri. Journey always meant trains, and the anticipated train journey use to make April hard to pass.

Our parents use to accumulate all their work-leaves so that we can travel to their native place, and spend time with the extended family. During nights in April, me and my sister use to lie down next to Baba and count down the days of journey and make long list—orange or elaichi crème biscuits, cake, chana chur, Koolkit with ice, air-filled pillows, chicken & roti for dinner. Maa always use to pack in some rice, as she’s never too fond of ruti.

Maa also use to carry a Kujo (an earthen pot) to keep the water cool throughout the journey. This was long before Bisleri and Neer days; people use to get down in the station to fill their bottles with tap water. “The ice would melt but the Kujo will keep the water cool” she used to argue. Baba’s “it’s too big for journey” retort and our embarrassment standing no chance in front of her. I remember, once when our train was running 18-hours late that Kujo came to rescue. The train was stranded in the middle of some barren land, with no station nearby, and my mother started offering water to those who had none. Our effort of carrying a kujo over the years finally paid off that day. Incidentally, she never carried a Kujo again, and we never asked her why.

I also have indelible food memories of train trips— what we ate, what we packed, what all we bought. Jainagarer Mua, orange and black lozenges, shosha (cucumber) with beat nun, jhaal muri, and how the taste of tea changes as you near Bengal— passing through, Madhya Pradesh, Orissa, Jharkhand and Bihar. Those smell of frying samosas wafting from the pantry and— naa, pet kharab hobe, from my mother.

Our train trips also inevitable featured some fights with the sibling. Who will sit next to the window? Where will we sleep at night? Will I get the middle birth? The fights would inevitably be accompanied by a phase of sulking, followed by long conversation and antakshari.

Though, summers were mostly about bonding with the cousins, grandparents, and relatives. The most exciting part was the train journey, and stories they brought. Like, waking up in the middle of the night to the sound of the train passing over a bridge “this is Farakka Barrage, we are passing over Ganga”— Maa would say. “Throw in a coin and take her blessings”.

No matter how rough the ride there were plenty of stories we carried in our bags from our train journeys. Stories that remained etched in my mind.

That’s how it’s supposed to be, right?

At the end of the day, all that matters is love and memories!

Pre-mama: Lost in Translation

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Illustration credit: Jo Gay

When I was 18, I made my initial no-marriage-ever-under-any-circumstances declaration. I would tell this to anyone who would care to listen in a self-righteousness of someone who believes she’s the first person in the history to make that statement.

The thought continued through college, however, in a twist of fate I was the first one to marry among my friends. Soon after I made another declaration no-kids-until-I-finish…blah-blah-blah, and somewhere along the years no-kids turned into when-we-have kids, and now we have two under our nook.

Now, if I met my 18-year-old self, I wouldn’t recognize me even if I dance with a pom pom in front of her. At 18, I was full of energy making plans for future. I imagined myself playing Badminton nationals, singing in a concert, or traveling around the world. I would picture myself sitting in a quaint café reading Proust or studying some language. Of course, I’d always have a bank full of money and spare time to indulge in whatever takes my fancy. They were plans after all and planning is comforting. No wonder they never lasted more than a month. Although, I do not relate to my 18-year old self anymore but I hate to think that my kids would never get to know that side of me–the carefree, rebellious side.

I feel I owe my 18-year-old self some recognition, so here you go kid’s, your mama wasn’t a born bore. There was a time when she could sit through an entire movie without snoozing off.

  • My self-righteous tone while scolding you for eating chips is a SHAM. Because while growing up I use to survive on it. There were takeaway packets in the drawers, spoons between books, and cans under the bed. However, I must mention that made mommy FAT, and she had no boyfriends when she should have.Trust me, I still rather eat nachos and watch CARS-2 on repeat with you but I want you to grow up healthy and have fun chasing the sun. So for next several years, it’s going to be like this. Sorry.
  • The other day I brought the house down because you didn’t do your homework. Did I tell you I was a backbencher all my life? I hated being under the supervision of teachers. I bunked class, flunked subjects, and was even debarred twice in college. I know you will call me a hypocrite, but God has made me responsible for teaching you the life lessons, give you a decent education and make you a better human being. Hence, please bear the banshee screaming.
  • “We grew up on books”–haven’t I used that line a million times with you? Books hah! They weren’t always children’s fiction. I started reading Mills and Boons at age 12 and I didn’t stop there— much to the chagrin of your Didun (Grand Mother).They were bad literature that did not peel a potato for me.  I am always picking books for you now, telling you what-to-read and what-not-to, but I know soon you will learn to disguise your parents, and I am dreading that secretly.
  • Family, they were always important, but there was a time when I hated them. They call it the teenage year. I was perpetually angry with the world and not listen to anybody. I am worried about you reaching that phase. Can you do me a favor; do not indulge in stupid daring or take the pressure of education. Just make it to 24, life seems much better after that.

Rest you will survive. The way Mommy did.

 

TAGS: #parenting #parentinghumor
#whilegrowingup #motherhood #lifebeforebabies

This post was also published by Women’s Web and Buzzing Bubs as my column, check it

How Do You Talk About Your Teenage Self To Your Children, The Pre-Mama Phase As I Call It?

&

http://www.buzzingbubs.com/articles/5-confessions-of-a-mom-my-carefree-youth

What The IKEA Play Report 2015 Tells Us About Indian Kids

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Upside Down

I grew up in a small town where playtime used to be the highlight of our day. After school, we couldn’t wait to get home and get outside to play—be it racing the bicycles with friends, chasing the fireflies, or playing hide-and-seek—the memories are still pretty vivid in my imagination. Every day our parents had to fetch us back in the evening with a good amount of scolding, as the rule in the house was to come back once the street lights are on.

We grew up being physically active—much more than the current generation. Though, I don’t recall our parents taking any real apart in our play activity—barring those rare occasions when dad taught us backhand shots in badminton or how to fly kites; essentially, we (me and my sister) used to play on our own or with the neighbourhood kids.

Also, the notion of spending quality time with kids did not exist in those days; as adults were too busy running errands and making ends meet. My mom being a working lady in a time when it was not a norm, we even used to go to the library –some 5-8 km away from our home—all alone.

Sadly, the world is not as safe as it used to be.

As we are working parents, the nanny takes our son to the neighbourhood park every day in the evening, however, there are hardly any kids of his age-group there. So oftentimes, he wanders on his own with the nanny trailing right behind him, and after spending some time swinging and sliding, kicking the ball towards random strangers (usually retired-old guys), and making faces at whosoever indulges him, he returns back for his supper.

Sad, isn’t it? I know, but I would say it’s still better than him watching Mickey Mouse Clubhouse at home with grandparents to fuss over him. In a recently conducted survey by IKEA— the Swedish furnishing company— calls India a “time-poor” country. They interviewed over 30,000 parents and children online across 12 countries, to learn about playing and how people spend their time together around the world.

India tops the charts on three fronts:

  1. Spending Quality Time with Children:

60 per cent of Indian parents feel guilty about not spending enough time with their children — followed by China at 57 per cent. They not only feel stressed when playing with children but the children too feel their parents are always in a rush.

  1. Safety Quotient:

75 per cent parents feel they are over-protective and don’t let their children play outside for fear of strangers or traffic. The US comes second with 62 per cent.

  1. Digital Devices:

38 per cent parents say that playing on the smartphone or I pads qualifies as family time— China comes a close second with 31 per cent.

There is no news of IKEA Play Report 2015 anywhere in the Indian media. I guess, parenting and playtime doesn’t garner that much attention, nor does it do anything for the TRPs. I read about it in Indian Express the other day, apparently the only newspaper to cover it.

In the light of this study, what it means for us parents? We live in a time when houses don’t have a backyard and being outside the house doesn’t necessarily mean playtime. What is the answer to our nature-deprived modern lives? The answer is, we need to get outside more often. We need to pick a sport, play in the park, lie-down in the grass, plant trees, and pack a picnic; instead of teaching kid how to play Subway Surfer on I Pad, we need to show them how to kick a ball or do a cartwheel. Times are changing, if we want our kids to stop being a “couch potato”, we have to give play a chance!

“…Step with care and great tact and remember that Life’s a Great Balancing Act. Just never forget to be dexterous and deft. And never mix up your right foot with your left.”— Dr Seuss.

Tags: #playmatters #playtime #parenting #IKEAPlayReport2015

Unsolicited Parenting Advice from Know-It-Alls

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Oh wow! You are a baby expert as well?

So David Beckham is facing the wrath of trolls for allowing their baby girl Harper to use a dummy (pacifier) even at 4. What’s new in that for a parent, I say. From the moment you turn pregnant you will find “mom experts”, “baby experts”, and “parenting expert” crawling out of the woods from all corners.

You know what I mean? All the unsolicited parenting advice that is vomited on you once you are a parent, and it doesn’t matter if it’s your first baby or 5th …these people still know more than you. And expect you to listen.

OK! So I have nothing against the well-intentioned advice; I am not the sort who will roll eyes on some good motherly tips. But if I just met you on a lift…I don’t need you to tell me what to do and what not to do with my 3 year old.

Here I’ve listed some of the common sages (unsolicited of course); all parents must have come across in their parenting days.

  1. Back in our days….

Brace yourself, mama! If you have anywhere to hide, better start running now, because when a sentence starts with THAT—you are in a sticky situation. Be prepared to be bombarded with outdated parenting tips from a generation who has never heard of Google.

How to handle?

A polite nod of head, and “Thank You”, because you cannot really argue with an old hump; you just have to grin and bear.

2. Isn’t he too old to be—?

This always makes me defensive and hurtful. My son still uses milk bottle (did I just hear you shriek). Yes, he does. He is obsessed with it and we are trying our best to wean him out. He uses his milk cup as well but when he is sleepy he prefers a bottle. I’ve faced a lot of wrath and gasp from strangers and relative but I’ve realized most of the time they may genuinely wonder if the behavior that they’re commenting on is age-appropriate.

How to handle?

Swallow the bitter pill. If they are offering an advice on what to-do than you might learn something. But if they are just boasting about their super-efficiency, put your hands over your ears and start singing..Wheels on the bus go round and round…..

3. My kids never did that…

I bet you have chanced upon that “middle-aged Mrs-know-it-all” with kids in college witnessing your child throwing a tantrum, and uttering that golden line.

Excuse me! But I barely remember what I did last week let alone what I did 20 years ago, Mam. What’s the secret of your super-memory?

How to handle?

Defuse your anger with a pinch of humor. Congratulate her on raising wonderful robots. Ask her if you can call her next time the child throws a fit.

The world is full of critics. There is always going to be information coming from parent, non parent, and everyone in between. Filter out what advice to listen to and what to blow off. Eventually, a funny thing happens—you become a “baby expert” in the process, and when your best friend has a baby, you will know exactly what to tell her.

This post is also published in Women’s Web as my article, go check it

http://www.womensweb.in/2015/09/deal-unsolicited-parenting-advice/