I take Lil General out for a walk every evening for 20-30 mins anytime between 5:30 p.m. - 7:00 p.m. Now the timing when we go out has become critical for it depends on a lot of factors such as if LG is up after his nap, if I've showered in the evening, if LG has been fed and can enjoy the walk for another 30 mins without his hunger pangs and if the weather is pleasant. None of these are more important than seeing to it my neighbour aunty is not out, standing on the road.

Unsolicited parenting advice comes free of cost and in loads. Initially, I appreciated her care and would thank her. Now, I dread my evening walks. Just the day before when I was on the verge of breaking down because of physical exhaustion and taking care of a kid who has been having dysentery for the past 10 days with no medication having any effect on him, not to mention the alternate day trips to the doctor and a no-water,no-power for 48 hours situation at home, the last thing I needed to hear was "You didn't take good care of your baby. He was so healthy and chubby when he came. Look at him now." I simply muttered, "yes, aunty" and walked away with the excuse that LG needed to be fed. I took it in my stride.

Last evening, the weather was pleasant outside and quite humid inside so LG enjoyed his walk. Just as we were returning, the aunty emerged out of nowhere and commented, "Don't you know, you got to put on a cap for him. Don't take him out this way."

I'm still not the kind who would be utterly rude to strangers and tell them to mind their business. The best part of the situation is a lot of advice from her 17 year old daughter. I know LG is my first kid. I'm not a lot experienced here. LG did not come with an instruction manual but I think I am doing a fairly decent job of parenting even if I've never done it before.

And this unsolicited advice comes in abundance from all quarters who have kids. I, for one, would consciously not want to do this to another woman in a similar situation.

Wednesday, May 30, 2007

Let's give our kids their childhood

My son is 5 months old, my cousin's daughter is 8 months old and that of my friend's daughter is 13 months old. We are already discussing when to put them in playschool, daycare or whatever you call it - I'm not quite familiar with what comes first yet. The question is what is the right age - 18 months, 24 months or not until 4 years old? Is 4 years too late to being and would my child lose THE EDGE as compared to other kids? This EDGE thing and comparison 24*7 is killing and it is time for a reality check.

I'm wondering what has become of us ..are we concerned parents or ones who want our kids to become SUPER KIDS. Goes without saying that Indians and Chinese are considered the most fussiest of all the parents in the world, according to a Discovery Channel report on child rearing practices across the world. Some questions/instances that came to my mind and guess about it is time for introspection :

  1. How many of us DON'T plan any activities for kids during summer vacation - as in enrolling them in a summer camp or an activity of some kind - such as learning skates/playing piano etc that the kid might not necessarily enjoy?

  2. How many of you have this schedule for your kids?
    Monday - Drawing/Painting
    Tuesday - Singing/Dancing
    Wednesday - Abacus
    Thursday - Chess/Swimming
    Friday - Skating
    Saturday - none, mommy couldn't come up with anything.
    Sunday -Cricket coaching, mind you not street cricket with other kids. It is COACHING. or some abracadabra class.

    Oh and don't forget the tuition's after these classes are over every evening.
    I think every mommy has checklist to ensure all areas are covered - studying, extra curricular, etc etc
    Thank you mommy for giving a day's break on Saturday. I feel like a kid.
    I have seen instances where there are some classes even in the mornings.

  3. Oh, I forget the foreign vacation. This was natural kid's talk in the apartment we used to live in Bangalore. When one kid said, "I got this ball from London", the other said, "So what, this cap is from SFO."

  4. If you live abroad, I am sure your kid must be in the top 3 of his/her class. Indians forever have been obsessive about rank. No wonder it is an Indian American kid who bagged the NGC's spelling bee contest last year.

  5. Does your kid know all the thirukurals when she is 5 years old?

  6. Does your kid know the names of all the countries/capitals in the world by the time she is 4 years old?

  7. Oh and how about the Sudoku contest going on in town this Saturday?

  8. How many of your kids spend Sunday mornings reading tinkle or archies or chandamama or for that matter Harry Potter? IS "Harry Potter and the deathly hallows" a must-read because it is the talk of the town or does your son enjoy that?

Sadly, these are the parameters by which we judge our children today - by the number of things they do and the number of classes they go to.

Maybe I am overreacting but I can't for once remember going to tuition even in my 12th Std. and I did fairly well for that. Nor did I go to any class. Don't get me wrong. I had a happy childhood that I will fondly remember forever. Those were days when we played some games that didn't have any thinking to do like stapo, ghar ghar with my brother where we would pluck flowers and leaves from our garden and set up fake houses on the bed on Sunday afternoons. Oh and I forget that chor sipahi and hide and seek which was amazing fun. What has happened to all of them?

And sure I knew all the countries and capitals in Africa but it was a fun thing I did with dad every night at the dining table.I started school late, at 5, and didn't know alphabet in the right order till I completed my 1st Std though I stood first in my class so it made my teacher wonder if I copied every time in the exam. She made me stand outside the whole day for that. I'm not suggesting that we send our kids to school at 5 but isn't 18 months too early? I may not have too many talents but I can do a decent sketch and most important I enjoy doing that. And we haven't turned out any bad in our professional lives either.

Of all the classes that you send your kid to, how many does he/she really enjoy?
Its a different thing that kids are quick learners and will excel with a little encouragement. But is it too many for them?

I don't know if it is our competitiveness or the me-too mania that forces one to enrol their kids in 2 additional classes than the one the neighbour has put their kid in. Or if it is the obsession to flaunt your child does this and that in your kitty parties and social circle? Or as it has happened for generations with Indians, are you living your dreams through your children - the guitarist that you wanted to be always but couldn't because your dad decided you had to be an engineer?

Is it too much to ask if you can let your infant enjoy her infancy, kid live her childhood and play the game she wants to and not the one you want her to? Your child becoming a prodigy might make you happy and will get all the media attention but what about your her? A happy childhood will make her a better person.

I would like to hear from you all...

Music has a very soothing effect on babies and that it is good to play devotional and instrumental music even when they are asleep, I was told. Our experimentation with music for Lil General started when he was only a few weeks old. There was no choice then - either Rhymes or the shlokas that played over and over again until the DVD player could cry. Shlokas - a set of 20 comprising all the Sahasranamams, ashtakams, sashti kavacham etc calmed him down and put him to sleep every time I played it. So I know what to play when I have to put him to sleep..

He would see with eye wide open for the rhymes DVD. And I also know what to play to distract him from everything and not feel my absence in the room.

When we moved to Pune, The Seniol started playing his blues collection. The boy went bonkers and would beat his hands and legs in excitement for a good 30 mins until it totally drained him. Every morning, we played a different CD. B.B. King's "Reflections" has by far been his favorite one.

A strange thing happened today. With the diarrhoea episode still continuing, I was trying to feed him Electral and I gave up after 10 mins with not even 1 ml gone in. Took him for a walk and tried again on return. Then a thought struck me. With the laptop within reach, I opened the songs collection folder and by default went to the Kishore Kumar one. Almost as an afterthought, I switched over to the English collection and spontaneously chose Nancy Sinatra's Bang Bang (My baby shot me down).
Believe it or not, the boy got so excited that he finished 75% of the solution within minutes that left me wide-eyed. I couldn't believe it.

The next song in the play list was "Neele neele ambar" - another of The Seniol's all time favorites. As soon as the song started, LG pushed the bottle with his hand and looked away. I wanted to see if the Kill Bill song had an effect so I played it again. Needless to say, he went on to finish the bottle. Would The Seniol be impressed with his son?

This one is for you The Seniol -

I was five and he was six
We rode on horses made of sticks
He wore black and I wore white
He would always win the fight

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down.

Seasons came and changed the time
When I grew up, I called him mine
He would always laugh and say
"Remember when we used to play?"

Bang bang, I shot you down
Bang bang, you hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, I used to shoot you down.

Music played, and people sang
Just for me, the church bells rang.

Now he's gone, I don't know why
And till this day, sometimes I cry
He didn't even say goodbye
He didn't take the time to lie.

Bang bang, he shot me down
Bang bang, I hit the ground
Bang bang, that awful sound
Bang bang, my baby shot me down...

I missed The Simple Life during pregnancy. Glad to have got it back.

  1. Sleeping on my back without anyone waking me up at the middle of the night asking me to sleep on my left

  2. No vomiting at midnight for another zillion years

  3. Be able to tie my shoe laces and wax my legs

  4. Fit in my favorite pair of jeans again..haven't tried yet. Difficult to outgrow thos ematernity clothes

  5. Not be sent back by the parlour lady when I go for threading..al because I was 38 weeks pregnant then.

  6. Go up and down the stairs

  7. Eat anything without that damn heartburn

  8. Walk in the middle of the road without attracting attention and sympathy

  9. Run upto the next door grocery store to pick something after 7:00 p.m. alone

  10. Go in my scooty again and not be forced into THE car everytime

Lil General, all of 70 cms, has kept the whole family on vigil for five days in a row now. It all started on Monday with a loose watery stool that I thought must be because of apple juice. Before I knew it, he ad already done it 9 times since morning and it was alarming. I had started on the medication and spoken to his Paed in Pune but it wasn't having any effect. She told me to wait a good 48 hours and then get back if it wasn't working. It kind of put me off.

Having just moved to Pune after LG's birth, finding a good Paediatrician for him was a job half done since we knew this lady to whom all our friend's kids have been going to. I was not too happy with her when I went last time as she prescribed drugs without asking what diet the baby was on, if he was being breastfed etc etc..I don't know, maybe it doesn't matter but to me it did as he has been lactose intolerant before and I would expect any new Doc to go into the history of a baby..But friends reassured she was good so I went back.

Left with no option I called up his old Paed from my hometown who has been seeing him since hours after he was born and prescribed Darolac and ORS-224. He asked me to stop Cerelac and NaN and put him on Nestum alone. Rice cereal during diarrhoea helps. It is a different issue now that many baby medicines I have come across are available only locally. ORS-224 is not available in Pune and so was another one he prescribed.

I was in constant touch and 2 days later, the frequency was reducing but it hadn't completely stopped. On his advice and a little research locally, we took him to another Paediatrician and this has helped. I was apprehensive of showing to too many Docs simultaneously and changing treatment in between and putting him on too many antibiotics. But this worked for good and I am finally relieved Lil General is back on his feet now.

From my experience, tips on when you need to visit the Doctor during a Diarrhoea episode:

  1. If the stools are watery, more than 7 times in a day and is foul smelling

  2. If the baby is cranky and loses appetite all of a sudden

  3. If he has fever and doesn't sleep well

  4. Is dehydrated - reduction in the frequency of urine

What you can immediately do to prevent dehydration :

  1. Give the baby enough sugar/salt water solution such as Electral or ORS. ORS is sold under different brand names and you might want to check with your Doctor. I was advised to give 50 ml of Electrobion 4 times a day.

  2. Tender coconut

Updated on 26th May
Related sources : Infectious Diarrhea
Another great resource on Diarrhoea is this one
More info on green stools
Green stools caused by mother's diet

Breastfeeding is one of the topics I have written about on and on again, sometimes painfully repeating what I have said before. Thankfully, it is stressed and encouraged by Doctors to breastfeed your baby exclusively for 6 months or at least for a minimum of 13 weeks. For whatever reasons, I partly started using formula when Lil General was 8 weeks and haven't been able to get over the guilt factor to this day. It had become so painful and the bleeding just got worse by the day but Formula is like drug addiction. Once you start using it, it is difficult to switch over to exclusive feeding. My Doc would repeatedly say that going to formula so early would lead to a number of problems like diarrhoea for the baby but at that point in time, we didn't have an option. Even expressing milk had gotten difficult.

Here are two things that will help you in breastfeeding successfully :

  1. The first and foremost is motivation from someone in the family. Above all, I consider this the most important thing. If you are not self-motivated and if there is someone who constantly encourages you in a positive way to breastfeed then it is job half done. It drains the new mom physically to be feeding every hour that makes you wonder sometimes if you should subscribe to the local milk supplier and get a tube fitted to the baby's mouth. With a colic baby it gets all the more difficult between 5 and 8 weeks.

  2. The second most important thing is mastering the latching technique. Whether or not your nipples are damaged by biting is largely dependent on the latching of the baby. If you master how to latch on your baby well, then it is highly unlikely you should ever have a problem.

Babies that are not breast fed suffer from gastroenteritis, I was told. And I am experiencing that quite often because their immune system is not well equipped to handle it.

After the first wave of excitement, celebration and happiness about the impending arrival of the child is over, starts the big debate. The one on where to have the delivery - at mom's place, in-law's or in the city where you live. A lot of factors are involved and a lot of people have to be pleased while arriving at this decision. Many a times what people forget is what matters the most - the comfort and convenience of the mother-to-be. Her opinion matters the most. Our big debate started as soon as we knew that LG was conceived. My opinion was what mattered to everybody. Let me tell you there will be circumstances along the way such as an emergency (God Forbid there is none) that might prevent the mother-to-be from traveling etc in which case you might have to have it where you are. Nothing is sure in a pregnancy so be prepared for surprises along the way. Here are a few questions that helped us decide and something that might help you as well :

Factors to consider while planning where to have your delivery:

  1. If all of you reside in the same city, then the hassles of traveling do not arise at all. The only decision to be taken then is where you want to be post-delivery. And similarly if your in-laws or parents live with you, I guess the decision would be made much simpler there as well. This topic requires a debate only if all of you live in different cities/countries and you are pondering whether to manage the show by yourself or thinking of traveling over or pondering to call one of them over.

  2. If you are working, then from when can you be away from work. It is said that it is safe to travel until the 34th week by air. But this is something you might want to discuss with your gynaec in case you are considering having your delivery in a different city.

  3. If you are working and would like to work sometime until your due date, then you are probably thinking of calling over either your in-laws or parents. In this case be sure of all the infrastructure you need and plan ahead - well before the due date. Set up the nursery, have the emergency numbers handy, pack your hospital bag, have the tickets booked for your parents/in-laws. Its a good idea to have these done by the 34th week. In addition to this if you would be employing domestic help , then train the person ahead of time and fix a lady who would bathe the child for the first few months, if you are planning to manage the show by yourself.

  4. Parents or in-laws : Now this might be a tricky and a controversial one for many. This one might require a little support from husbands to decide as well. Mine were angels who understood perfectly that a girl will be the most comfortable at her parents' during this time. You might have gem of an in-law's but even in a lifetime a girl might (?) never feel free as she would be to her mother. And nothing can beat the support system and the care she would get at her mother's. There will always be that hesitation and a moment's thought before asking for anything if in-law's are around..simply put you can't feel free and be yourself right from dressing to behaving to being sloppy and to food habits to just being yourself. There would be a lot of off-days often termed as post-partum depression and you can beat the blues with that little encouragement from mom. I would highly recommend the mother-to-be's mom being around if it is going to be the first child. Anyone disagrees?

  5. Now if you plan to have the delivery in the city where you live and plan to call over the mother-to-be's parents, it is good but I have seen quite a few instances where the parents are extremely uncomfortable about the thought of staying over at the daughter's place. Some go to the extent of feeling stifled and not use facilities such as phone and are for ever waiting to go back after a month. Now this doesn't put the new mother at ease as virtually she is running the show from giving directions to the maid, the domestic help, cook etc as they are used to her and not her mother.

  6. Plan well ahead of when you want to take off from work. A good 8 week break before delivery will do good if you can afford it. If you are working from home, then there is nothing to fret about at all.

  7. If you are moving to another city for your delivery, then enquire about the hospital and the gynaec and set up an appointment well ahead in time. Carry all your reports with you and discuss with your current gyanec to make a concise report for the new doc as well. They do it themselves but it helps being open with them. You might also want to check the reputation of gynaec in normal deliveries. I have heard of a lot of Doctors who prefer to do only Cesareans.

I am not sure how much it helped but my delivery was a breeze because of the amazing support system and I owe every bit to my mom's exemplary management of the show.

As LG grows older, so are his antics. Blowing raspberries in the air is his favorite pastime now. He removes his mouth from the bottle, blows in the air and smiles naughtily. He prefers the fingers of his legs to the bottle. Holding both his legs with his hands and making a motion amuses him. He looks for encouragement and then repeats the same. Cause and effect is becoming clear to him now.

While feeding, he bites me and when I stare angrily at him, he looks away and then giggles so loudly that amazes me. Feeding for moms after the baby is 3 months old is an enjoyable experience. LG plays with me all the time while feeding, holds a fistful of my hair, runs his fingers down my face, holds my bangles and generally gives an affectionate sweet smile that makes you forget everything.

I've been so upset since yesterday with LG's bowel movements that have resulted in dysentery - watery motion about 9 times yesterday followed by a vomit ting session late night. No medication worked - Reflora /Walomycin. Switched over to Darolac this morning with no effect. I had this instinct of something white in his mouth for the past 3 days but it never struck me it could be his teeth. At about 11:00 a.m. when the whole family was pondering over the next step and if we needed to see a different paediatrician etc, I discovered two white pearls in his bottom jaw - 2 little teeth just emerging out. No wonder the boy is in so much trouble.

I was upset about the fact that his new Paediatrician asked me to wait out 48 hours for her medication for dysentery to work. I found that a lil strange as it can dehydrate and make little ones extremely tired.

I feel so stupid about having not discovered his teeth before. Maybe they weren't there and just appeared today. The signs of the same have been there for a week. He puts anything he can get hold of in his mouth - his finger, my finger, rug, rubber sheet, bed sheet, my dress, toys and just about anything. For the past week or so, he had shifted from his thumb to putting the entire hand. And not to forget the fact that he was drawing extreme pleasure from biting me while feeding. How did I not figure out then...guess that's why I am a first time mom. Despite having seen so many episodes of LG not being well, I never get used to the fact that I can handle it all well. I get so sad and worried every time he undergoes something...and the fact that to a mother's eye the child gets leaner every time he is sick..

But I am happy to see this teeth - teeny weeny white ones :)

Some symptoms that I discovered:

  1. Sucking on his finger and just about anything

  2. Loose motions : as widely believed teething does not cause fever or loose motion. Teething just causes teeth to appear. Loose motion, cold all happen because of infection due to virus and germs.

  3. Potty smells a lot during teething

  4. A drastic change in appetite and refusal to eat anything. From being a non-fussy eater, he has become extremely fussy.

What has helped during teething?

  1. Teether - teething ring that is washed in normal water and refrigerated (not in the freezer). Biting the teether seems to soothe him.

  2. Cup and spoon feeding has become next to impossible. I know it is probably infectious but I am left with no resort and I fed him with my finger (with nails cut and thoroughly washing before feeding him) today because the boy wasn't eating anything at all. And he seemed to enjoy sucking on my finger. Have stopped lactose based food such as NaN, Lactogen, Cerelac etc. Giving him only Nestum Rice.

  3. Electral - ORS to take care of dehydration

  4. Cold apple juice. Apparently anything cold is supposed to help the baby.

I don't know what I did last summer. It is still a nightmare to me, for that's when I was pregnant with our first child - Lil General and neither of us knew what to expect. It was living through hell the first trimester for everyone that made my husband wonder, "If this is the woman I knew for almost half a decade and married." But eventually everyone cooperated to put me at ease and "tolerated" all my tantrums for 8 months and let me tell you that's a LONG period. Everyday just seems SO long. All is well that ends well and a year later we realize it was just the hormones at work. Here are a few tips for husbands whose spouses work and who live in a nuclear family to cope through this difficult period and make it fun:

  1. First Rule: Once you know your wife is pregnant, let her be herself. Overdoing the "congratulations" part just put me off at times though it was a very much planned pregnancy. It often made me think, here I'm going through this tiredness and nauseating feeling and everyone is thinking of celebrating. To hell with all that, I'm just going to crash. So if you get a hint that your wife isn't very appreciative of it, then please wait till the first trimester gets over to announce it to everyone. There is a reason why elders advice you to wait it out before you can announce. She will feel better and will not be overwhelmed as much in the second trimester. You can have all the celebration you want then.

  2. If she's not in the mood to talk to anyone, do not force her to be social. It can be stressful on you and your family, but remind yourself "Its the hormones at work".

  3. If there is a smell that doesn't suit her, avoid if possible at home. Most mild smells can cause irritation and she will be highly sensitive to smells. I could smell urine by the miles and would almost throw up every time someone used the toilet.

  4. Little gestures make a big difference. Even if you area late sleeper, go to bed with her and put her to sleep a like a baby at least 3 nights in a week. It will make her feel good and not feel alone.

  5. If you can afford a domestic help who cooks the food she is used to, then great. Else if you can make her breakfast once in a while, please do so. Women generally like the food they used to have as a kid. I had grown accustomed to eating North Indian food for the past 7 years but strangely when I got pregnant all i craved for was food that my granny made when I was a kid.

  6. Listening to good music : Good music soothes the soul and is good for the baby. Listening to shlokas in the mornings can do wonders. But even switching on that music player can be an effort for your wife, so go that extra mile and play the music for her. As months progress, sleepless nights will haunt her frequently. Friday nights were "World Space" nights for me. I would go to sleep listening to Hindi oldies.

  7. Keep the volume low : Avoid actions that can irritate your wife like long hours on your cellphone after getting back home. Keep the volume low that will help her sleep and make her feel important and good.

  8. Good Mornings: For many women, morning sickness is high though it was a breeze for me. Help her get up in the morning with what makes her feel better like biscuits etc. A good start to the day will pave the way for a good day ahead.

  9. If you were one of those couples that did everything together like shopping for grocery, paying the telephone bill, visiting the dentist or running to the next door kirana shop to get a packet of milk, then be prepared for times when your wife will not feel up to it to accompany you. This will also prepare you for the coming years when the baby comes and your wife may not accompany you on all the household chores.

  10. Give the formality a break: There may be times when she may not feel up to it to talk to everyone that calls you. For instance, your parents or her parents may be on the phone so if she doesn't feel up to it, you play her part as well.

  11. Weights : Offer to fill water in the kitchen and let her not lift any weights like groceries or that huge pack of vegetables. It is better to be safe than sorry. I know there are a lot of women who have managed the show themselves well and would call me as a pampered pregnant woman, but it is better to be safe than sorry. For I know quite a few instances where weights have been harmful for the mother and the baby resulting in miscarriages.

  12. Its not personal, baby : There might a lot of things that she might say in a fit of rage. Don't take them personally for it was never meant to be. She is just not herself.

  13. Encourage her not to eat out if that doesn't suit her : A lot of food cravings will be there but if it makes her feel awful later, encourage her not to eat out and prepare the same at home if possible. I once ate Gobi Manchurian and felt awful for a week afterward and I had it knowing fully well it wouldn't suit me.

  14. Visits to the doctor : I know woman these days can manage the whole show by themselves but it will just make them feel good if you go together for your monthly visits to see the development fo the baby. Plan your visits for Saturdays if thats an off day for both of you.

  15. Get used to your wife walking like a zombie (or should I say sleep walking?) at or after midnight looking for food/water. I did that a lot and scared the hell out of my husband on many nights when he was up working and I would just appear out of nowhere and disappear into the night again.

I know you are not a super man either. But with a little love and effort you can be. The woman is doing her part in bringing the baby to this world :) Most of these points have been written over and over again. It takes an effort on the husband's part to do all of these without losing one's cool and there are times when it will physically , emotionally and mentally drain you to manage work , home and your wife.

  1. Instruction to milk man, newspaper boy, maid, iron-wala: Knock on the door. Please don't ring the bell. Mom was just short of putting up a poster on the door that read "Don't ring the bell." Thank God no one suggested switching it off.

  2. Dad has a high pitched voice, like the one who is used to working in a high-noise manufacturing environment for a good part of their lives. So whenever dad would come down, we would be motioning our hands just like the scene in F.R.I.E.N.D.S where Ross asks his buddies Chandler and Joey to keep it down.And believe me dad would be equally annoyed as those guys were.

  3. Hell would break lose if the phone rang at 3:00 p.m. What on earth was one thinking to call at that unearthly hour I would think while mom would answer the call patiently?

  4. Lets not even get started on TV's volume. It was struggle and constant reminder to everyone to keep it low.

  5. No washing machine, no mixie.

And all these so that LG could sleep uninterrupted. Come to think of it now, maybe we stretched it too far. Maybe, not. So tired were our bodies that I could have traded in anything in the world for an hour of uninterrupted sleep. Thinking of the first 8 weeks is a nightmare even now when the colic days were at its peak and putting to sleep took 2 hours while he slept for a max of 40 mins.

As LG is close to completing 5 months this Friday, he has developed a need for The Seniol and me to be around him all the time he is awake. His acknowledgment of us is the greatest joy we've got. The way he greets us is distinctive - me with a cheerful and loving smile that says "I love you momma" and his dad all enthusiastically by beating his legs and hands up in the air that says, "I'm ready ,buddy. Lets rock". The boys start their morning by listening to blues specifically James Brown,B.B. King and such. When the boy gets tired, we put on devotional music such as Vishnu Sahasranamam, Lalitha Sahasranamam and such. He gets quiet and dozes off soon after. Experimenting with music is fun and interesting. The responses are encouraging as he shouts and smiles and rolls over and it is a daily activity that we wouldn't want to miss for the world and an opportunity to play all those CDs collected over the years but never listened to much. To our amazement, there were some that were not opened and listened to even once.

There is one thing that is beyond my comprehension. Every time he sees his dad, he looks at him with so much awe without blinking an eye scanning him from top to bottom as though The Seniol were the eighth wonder of the world. And he does this everyday, every time.

Five months post pregnancy, my wardrobe is still filled with over sized clothes. I wonder if I have gone comfortable wearing loose clothes. No doubt, it is easier to manage the Lil General wearing comfortable clothing rather than fitting ones that makes conscious all the time if it looks good or is something leaking somewhere. I wish there were easily available maternity clothes in India apart from those ridiculously expensive ones in upscale stores/malls. Even places such as Fabindia don't have maternity clothing so I resorted to over sized clothing last summer that made me look like clothes on a hanger with tummy fitting and everything else that was at least 3 sizes big.

I hate to admit but none of my pre-pregnancy clothes fit me anymore. Ever since I have come back, I have been donning on each one of my older clothes every evening only to put them away in a "clothes-to-be-given" closet which is growing bigger to the point of overflowing by the day. It is sad because so many of them are brand new Gap and Ralph Lauren trousers with no scope for loosening. Not that I was 26 size before pregnancy but even a size 30 will be a dream come true now. Time for some yoga and getting back in shape.

Wednesday, May 16, 2007

Guilt and motherhood

Guilt and motherhood go hand in hand. No amount of time, effort and sleepless nights is ever going to satisfy a mother like me to feel, "I have been a good mother and I'm doing fine with bringing up the baby." And all this when the going is good. On tough days, the feeling is miserable for not being able to hand LG well enough.

When LG was about 12 weeks old, a client I had worked for in my pre-delivery days approached me and asked if I was available to finish a project for him. Having given up my full time job, I had been contemplating of doing freelancing again. This seemed like a good start to work for someone you already share a good rapport with. LG was behaving himself and had formed a daily feeding-sleep routine, so I had a rough idea of how much spare time I would be able to get in a day. In addition to this, the excellent support system at home then and encouragement from mom made me say "yes" to this gentleman.

More than the money, I was looking forward to a break from nappy changing, midnight feeds and thinking just about the baby all day. It was also a test for me to see how quickly I could finish a job and if the anxiety and restlessness to deliver quality work was still intact in me after months of idling.

Having a baby in the same room as where you work doesn't make for a good work environment. The minute I would start working, he would wake up and for some reason, he had gotten back to his cranky self. I CURSED myself for having accepted this work and felt miserable everyday. It was no more than 2 day's work but the code was so messy that it took me 4 days'. Those were the days, when LG had begun turning. He would turn and look up to me and smile to draw attention. I would just ignore his sounds and concentrate on finishing the job so that I can get to the boy faster. There was one evening when he did cute things and mom said, "Look here. These moments won't ever come back in your life. You can earn all that you want later." And minutes later he had done potty and kept cooing to tell me he had done it. Without turning at him to see what was happening, I let him smear it for a good 5 minutes. This was it. I felt like the meanest mom on earth. I was struggling to find a balance between work and my duty as a mom.

It had reached a point beyond which I couldn't continue sanely when I caved in and wrote to the gentleman minutes after the potty episode, "Hey, Its ok if you don't wish to pay me for I didn't meet some of your requirements but this as far as I can go." The minute I sent that e-mail out with half -finished work, I felt relieved for not being a under a pressure to deliver. The gentleman on the contrary was happy with what I delivered and paid me and acknowledged that what remained was too complex to achieve. Its a different story that I worked at my leisure the following week and delivered that as well.

So goes my first freelancing saga..

"Please teach Lil General (LG) how to talk in Tamil" was numero uno in the list of advice on child rearing given by the old and wise at home. Just a little background the lingual environment that LG will be exposed to:

  1. My mother tongue : Tamil

  2. LG's dad's (The Seniol) mother tongue : Bengali

  3. LG's dad speaks with his dad in : Punjabi (as he grew up in Punjab)

  4. I talk with LG's dad in : English and Hindi

  5. Language of the environment : Marathi (we live in Pune)

That makes it 6 languages which I think is too much for a kid and am scared he would end up conversing fluently in none, let alone mastering the language. The problem gets compounded as LG's parents can't both talk in either of the their mother tongues. It would have been much simpler then to say one language at home. I am intimidated by thoughts of he talking with me in Marathi, Bengali and Tamil all in one sentence or what if he asks "Pa's language or ma's?".

Close to five months, his cooing is slowly giving way to imitating sounds. Whoever sees him comments that the boy would learn how to talk faster, of course, that's one thing he ought to have got from his dad who talks non-stop and when there's an opportunity chance his momma is quick to jump in too.

"Multilingual environment affects a child's IQ."
"He will not learn how talk properly even in one language and get confused all the time".
"He is going to make a khichdi of all the languages".
"Talk to him in just one language".

Enough unsolicited advice from neighbors and friends alike has put me on a war footing to find the facts associated with raising children in a multilingual environment. The only fact I know is "Kids learn fast and you can train them like a doggy." This has put me further on a edge and instead of confusing the child anymore by talking in umpteen languages at home, I decided to do a little research on how cognitive abilities are affected or improved when they grow up in a bilingual and multilingual environment.

My idea was to draw up an action plan and stick to it that will help LG learn and converse with his parents and other family members comfortably.

  1. One person, one language. From the day LG was born, I've been talking to him in Tamil. So that leaves The Seniol to decide which one he would opt for - Hindi, Punjabi or Bengali. Since LG's exposure to Punjabi is going to be very limited and a language cannot be learnt unless and until it is spoken to the kid at least 30% of his waking time, Hindi becomes an imminent choice as The Seniol's lingual skills in Bengali can be contested :). His paternal grandparents will speak to him only in Bengali. Family agreement is the essential ingredient as one language becomes the secret language for the other and fear of exclusion in certain circumstances sets in. You are left wondering if you are being discussed. That will never happen in our case so we'll do what's beneficial for the child.

  2. Language of his vacation : LG's exposure to Tamil will be only through me. So it becomes imperative that I use other mediums to teach him the language such as videos, audios, books, rhymes etc etc. This will also be a language that he will get to hear a lot during his vacation.

  3. Minority language: I'm not too concerned about if and when he learns Marathi for that is an involuntary process that will happen with his exposure to the outside world - when friends and neighbors talk in the languages, kids will pick it up. And that's going to happen when he is at least 2-3 years old. Who knows if we would still be around in Pune?

  4. Language his ma/pa talk in : Kids observe and correlate in what language their parents talk. So it is important for The Seniol and I to decide that we always talk in Hindi. Mixing English and Hindi in the initial years will not do any good, is my opinion. That way the languages he will get exposed to the most will be Tamil, Hindi and Bengali in that order.

  5. English comes naturally to kids and should not be matter of concern.

  6. No more gibberish and kunju stuff for him. Only words that make sense until I feel totally invulnerable when he smiles sweetly at me or paints his cerelac all over his face and still smiles as if he doesn't know a thing. That's when I can't control calling him kunju and talking words that make absolutely no sense.

Multilingual households in today's times is not an uncommon phenomenon. I would like to hear of your success stories that will help me teach LG better.

Related resources:
Bilingual and Multilingual Children
Bilingual Children: The Secret of Their Intelligence

Tuesday, May 15, 2007

Why do kids potty when parents eat?

Pranav sleeps like the baby he is when he does. Be it 11:00 a.m. or 1:30 p.m. I have lunch only when he sleeps. But he will wake up from his slumber the minute he knows I'm at the dining table for lunch. Irrespective of the number of bowel movements he has had until then, he will one more - the lunchtime special - just for his dear mom. Things have improved now, at least he doesn't scream after doing it but he'll let me know with his special potty wink and a little sound that says it all - "I've done it momma. Whenever you are ready, clean me up."

Lil General started sucking his right thumb a day after we returned from his ever road trip - the one to Madurai, when he was just 14 weeks old. I passed it off as a momentary thing he had resorted to because of the tiredness from the journey, the heat and all the sudden changes he had been subjected to. I was proved wrong with time.

Initially his thumb sucking habit was a blessing to me. Since the day he was born, he didn't know how to sleep. He would cry, beat his own self, toss and turn, rub his eyes, bang his head but not sleep. Eventually I would have to pick him up and walk him and put him to sleep. When he started thumb sucking, he slept by himself and the crying for various reasons also gradually dropped. This was indeed a pleasurable activity for him. Though it worked well for both of us, I discouraged it from the beginning sleeping next to him, holding his finger. The adamant boy didn't cave in.

With time, the habit intensified so much so that he was sucking all the time, even while lying on his tummy, he still does. It got difficult to find out when he was hungry. The height of this was when he started slipping his thumb while nursing and giving that sheepish smile from the corner of his mouth knowing fully well what he is doing.

It has reached a point now one thumb is not enough, he actually slips in both his thumbs and those of the feet as well. And in the middle of thee night too. And even while I bathe him. If I take out his, then he reaches out for mine.

I'm concerned that this will be a difficult habit to forget for him and something that would interfere with his teething ? He is still too young to apply something bitter to his finger that would prevent him from doing it. So far distraction and talking to him works in keeping him from doing it. Lets see how successful I get.

Friday, May 11, 2007

Are you a good mother?

Lil General completes five months next week. As I see him thumb sucking, lying down showing his bum and holding a fistful of hair in his other hand and sheepishly smiling at me half asleep, I'm retrospecting if I have been a good mother to this kid? I don't know if all mothers think if they have done a good job ....

As I ponder on this, I can only think of the numerous instances when I have been negligent towards Lil General ---

- the first one being, when I let him smear his potty all over his lower half of the body while I fixed some really messy Javascript code - my first freelance job post Pregnancy. He made sounds to let me know that he had done his job but I was so engrossed and frustrated with work that I didn't look at him. That evening I swore never to take up work again until I felt comfortable handling LG and work.

- the second one when I first fed him Nusobee and let my milk waste away as I was bleeding from his sucking. Not exclusively breastfeeding him for the first 6 months has been my biggest guilt.

- the few times he has woken up form sleep and cried in hunger while it took me minutes to prepare and cool the formula. Do I even need to say how it feels to see tears rolling down his eyes ..

- maybe I did something wrong or didn't eat enough during my pregnancy that caused him calcium deficiency a day after he was born. Soon after he was taken to the ICU and given drips in those teeny-weeny hands and feet and the numerous punctures to find a suitable vein?

- ah and the one time when I was so tired that I let him sleep in wetness and he caught cold and fever.

and the list goes on and I feel awful how I have not been able to meet the standards of a good mother or as good my mom was.

There are umpteen reasons for why I failed in each of the above like being tired for holding him for 6 hours at a stretch or feeding until my nipples bled during his colic days. But at the end no reason is good enough.

Lil General was introduced to his first solid food - Cerelac's Stage 1 Rice cereal yesterday. His bowel movements have since reduced considerably and he has been straining a lot causing him extreme discomfort and wanting him not to feed anything. Earlier, when there was constipation he used to bite the bottle that would help him relieve himself. I'm slowly weaning him away from the bottle for fear of infection, so that has aggravated the problem.

Seeing the little kid strain so much, I decided to give him dried grape water mixed with saunf. It did wonders. Within a an hour of having it, he had a good bowel movement and the boy is happy and playing again.

Related sources: Baby Constipation - Causes and Helping Relieve Constipation in Baby

Wednesday, May 09, 2007

Carrot juice causes dysentery

When you are in doubt, it is best to avoid that food for kids. I went against my instincts and I hate myself for that. For 2 weeks now, I have been giving carrot juice to Lil General. Unable to shop for veggies on a daily basis, there was a half carrot left that I decided to give him. Seeing something white in the center portion of the carrot, I removed it, cut the good part and prepared his juice. Though it all looked good, something didn't feel quite right. The boy was hungry and it was his juice time. The Seniol had said just that morning that I overreact for everything. So reassuring myself all was good, I fed him the juice. It took only a few hours for it to react. He started passing stools that looked exactly like the carrot juice I fed him. He did that 3 times before evening - all orange in color. I got shit scared, worried and gave him Darolac.

The dysentery continued until the next day till all the bad carrot came out. Thank god, he wasn't dehydrated. I took him to the Doc who thought it wasn't the carrot but the bottle feeding habit. Now I have to wean him off the bottle and get used to cup feeding.

Related sources: Can fruit juice give my baby diarrhea?

Sometimes when you see a thing too often and when you are so close to it, you don't realise its value. A kid's smile is one such for a mom like me. Having been with the Lil General for over 4 months day in day out through his crying (sorry screaming) colic days to happy days of turning and cooing, whatever he does now seems natural to me and I don't look at it with so much awe as The Seniol (Lil General's dad) does.

We got back to Pune last week and this has been the first continuous week for The Seniol with his son since he was born. And the first week for me without the amazing support system I had at my parents' through my delivery until now. So all that the Ll General does makes The Seniol very happy - how he sleeps on is tummy, how he attracts attention when two adults are talking, how he plays with water while bathing, how he listens to the blues etc etc..

After his first work day last Friday, The Seniol got back home tired and sat next to the Lil General who was busy banging his head to the floor trying to crawl and push himself forward. Realising a creature next to him, he turned his head slowly, weighed in The Seniol's presence and after a quick assessment that he posed no danger, flashed this big smile that made The Seniol say, "Aah...the biggest stress buster of all. Thank you. All my day's tiredness and madness at work has gone off my mind." And they played and played until both of them were exhausted. Now this is a happy family and a moment to remember.