Last evening I was talking to my mother citing examples of how my ex-colleagues were continuing with their jobs after the birth of their kids - much younger than LG. She asked me who was taking care of the kid while the mothers worked. "In most cases, it's the maids from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. The mothers strive hard to leave work by 6 p.m.", I replied. "Are you ready to leave LG to go back to work?" asked my mother. I surprised myself when I didn't blurt out an instant "yes". Sensing my silence she continued, "It was your decision to quit while we stood by it, respected and were supportive. It is you who has to come to terms with how you want to handle the baby and if you are OK leaving him in the hands of a maid. It's a temperamental thing. You cannot interfere and question every act of the nanny as you do currently expecting everything to be done by the minute, by the hour and most importantly, your way. Such a temperament will provoke them to take advantage of your situation and you will feel helpless than ever before because you ought to work. It's a knack - to handle them. There maybe times when they might not feed the way you did ..all babies in the company of nannies too grow..don't they?", she continued. I knew what she meant.

She wasn't discouraging me; she only spoke things as they were without sugarcoating them. She continued, "You need a change too now that LG has grown up. Sooner than later, he wouldn't need you to be around all day. This is the time to explore other options - see if you want to go back working full time. I suggest you start working part time - either from home or otherwise. See how it goes before taking a full plunge. Diverting your attention elsewhere for a little while during the day will make you look forward to the time you spend with LG. Get someone to look after him for about 3-4 hours to begin with."

That's when it struck me that staying home with kids is a mindset thing. The longer you stay, the more addicted you get to the situation that it takes so much longer to get out of it. It'll be a good two years this September since I quit working. Long enough to lose confidence and get back into the workforce. As I scratch my brains to see what I was good at so that I can apply for a job again, I find it all the more difficult to come up with a satisfying answer. If I don't sound convincing to myself, it's unlikely I would be convincing to my prospective employer. Babies have this about them - the longer you stay with them, the more attached you get about everything they do. This is not to say working moms don't have so much affection. It's just that it's tough to give up your part of their daily routine like feeding them, putting them to sleep, giving a bath to someone else. I feel as if someone is encroaching in my space which was my right till now. Despite how much a toddler troubles his mother and you entertain deserting thoughts at times, you can't hate someone so small so innocent for too long, can you? This is what I call the mindset thing. I have to get over it and I'm struggling hard to find how. In my opinion, it would have probably been much easier on both of us if I had tried this while he was six months old rather at 18 months. Anyways, so long as I don't do it, I will not know how it feels - will I? Maybe I wouldn't miss the routine so much.

Sunday, June 29, 2008

Sleep patterns of my 18 month old

Establishing good sleep habits is usually the most challenging part of a baby's day-to-day routine, I'm often told. This has never been a big challenge for me right from the start. The first eight weeks was tough on me and LG because he was a colic baby which made it difficult to sleep at night. Once the colicky phase was over, he was fast asleep anywhere between 8:30 p.m. and 9:00 p.m. every night. I can count the number of days he has been awake past 9:30 p.m. in the past year and half.

Night routine has never been a big problem. His number of naps during the day and the duration of each have varied over the months as he grew older. However, it has all changed over the past 4-5 weeks. Around the time he turned 18 months old, brought about a big change in his daytime naps. From two naps each spanning anywhere between 1 hour and 2 hours, it came down to just one nap. Earlier, he would wake up at 6:30 a.m. and then take a nap for an hour and half around 9:30 a.m. Afternoon nap for about the same duration would be around 2:30 p.m. This worked well for him and me as it gave me two breaks of roughly an hour and half each. He was full of energy when he got up too in time to go to the park in the evenings, comes back have dinner, play a bit and then go to bed.

Over the past few weeks, he has postponed his morning nap to around 11:30 a.m. /noon and wakes up at an odd hour of 1:00 p.m. for lunch and then stays awake through the afternoon only to get cranky by early evening. He understands that it is time to go to the park but his body is just not up to it. If I try to put him to sleep, he wakes up in twenty minutes getting further cranky which gets in the way of he getting a good dinner. I'm struggling hard in this phase trying to establish a long afternoon nap by postponing his morning nap by an hour or so; so that he has his lunch and sleeps comfortably.

Children this age need about 12-13 hours of sleep which he is anyway getting. The whole problem is with the timing. With the night sleep timing (9:00 p.m. - 7:00 p.m.) working fine, it's left to me to keep him engaged and get him into the rhythm of afternoon naps which most children his age are habituated to.

Related Reading:
Sleep patterns of my 17 month old toddler
Sleep patterns of a baby in the first 6 months
Changing sleep patterns of my baby - six months to 1 year
Establishing good sleep habits: 18 to 24 months

Thursday, June 26, 2008

One hell of a day..

Days like yesterday will be hard to forget even twenty years later. For days such as these are the ones that will make up our share of tales to narrate to LG's kids.

I was down and out yesterday. I've been unwell for the past week or so and wasn't at my best since morning. It is then that Lil' General loves to test my patience stretching my patience to the limits until I finally give up letting him do what he wishes to because it would have reached a point when nothing works. It was one of those moments...the day began with him throwing my cellphone on the parapet wall. I struggled for a good 27 minutes attempting to reach it with a broom in one hand and a long mop on the other. I would almost get it - with the cellphone barely hanging in there in the support of two sticks - and then it would fall back when barely a feet away. It was so damn frustrating to repeat this a dozen times while the phone was getting wet in the rain. But for Lil' General, it was funny like a game his momma was playing. I gave up and pushed the phone down somehow on the lawn after failing dozen times again. If this wasn't enough, he decided food tastes better from the dust bin. While getting his lunch ready, he pulled the dust bin out ..was i Lucky to put it back in place before he could rip it apart?

In the few seconds he got while I went to the dining room to place his lunch on the table, he decided to fling all the plastic containers in the kitchen racks as if it were a ball. I come back to see the floor littered with all the containers and pans. This is a daily routine but it hadn't gotten so worse ever before. I said I could deal with this and fixed everything. Well fed, he was charged up to do more damage through the afternoon. The house looked like a war zone by evening.

I gave up and sat to read the new edition of Business Week. He climbed on the sofa, slipped and fell back hitting his head hard on the floor. He cried so loud for a good 40 minutes that the whole neighborhood heard. We live in a bungalow so it is indeed a big deal if his scream could be heard as far as it was heard. By late evening, I had people coming over to inquire what went wrong with their hero. People find LG charming for some reason and he has more friends than I have had in a whole lifetime. During his evening walks, he makes it a point to call people in the balconies and wave at them which is very fondly reciprocated.

LG is pro in climbing the sofa and getting down. With months of experience behind him, I felt he would handle. If I went closer, he was more likely to persist longer so I stayed behind while watching what he was up to. But could I have been more wrong? His PJ's were slippery and he slipped without getting a good grip. More often than not, he sits on the headrest of the sofa and not on the base like normal people do. I never ever take chances with that one and always get him back.

Anyways, so the scream continued with the people downstairs - his best buddies coming over to take charge. Comforting, rubbing, ice pack - nothing worked. On one of those really bad nights, hen he wakes up in the middle of the night and lets out a scream what always works is a walk outside and let him play a bit in the puja room. But nothing worked yesterday because he was in PAIN. He puked on her. So she suggested I take him to the Doc. I called the Doc for his opinion. He suggested I bring him in. An usually cool Doc - infact the coolest I've seen so far, he said it's better if he looked at him. Puking after falling is not a good sign. But LG had actually put his fingers in his mouth to puke so it was not automatic in a way. He does that very regularly (not that I encourage it). While she changed and handled him, I got ready with his stuff, cleaned him up and we were out in 10 mins. The Seniol was informed too. He was on his way who was otherwise going to be back late that night because of scheduled calls.

One other thing I love about LG's Paed is his clinic is never crowded. That's like a dream. No wait time absolutely. The max I've ever waited is for 10 mins in all these months. I was startled by the first question he asked me "Do you work?" I replied in the negative. This made me think harder - we'll come to that later. One touch at the bump, he let out a big shriek. LG had calmed in the auto on the way to the clinic - which was a good 30 minutes after he had fallen. The Paed said he was 99% sure nothing was wrong but he still had a 1% doubt. I was to observe him for the next 3-4 hours. If there were any signs of unforced vomiting, fits or bouts of unconsciousness I was to call the doctor and then go in for a CT Scan - Brain at the hospital in my neighborhood. He prescribed a paracetamol/painkiller syrup to be administered every 4-6 hours for 3-4 days. In such cases, it is the fear that results in a fever overnight.

We observed him and thank god, he was slowly limping back to normal. Not his usual naughty self - a little subdued. But he was OK. Trouble started after giving him dinner when we put him to sleep. It hurt him so badly that he couldn't lie down even for a second. He started screaming again and went on till about 10:00 p.m. This phase was the worst for he was feeling sleepy because of the medicine but just couldn't go to sleep. When he was totally exhausted and the painkiller took effect, he slept and slept and slept until 8:00 this morning waking briefly in the night.

He has been doing alright today. How soon kids forgot what happened? He was up
to the sofa trick all over again today but I've been keeping a close watch.

Coming back to the "If I worked?" question, I feel doubly guilty for not taking good care of him while staying home. Maybe he meant, the kid was under the supervision of a maid that lead to this fall. Should I get someone to help me with LG or such accidents common with all kids? I guess not common .... there are times when I so wish he would sit at one place with his toys atleast for 10 minutes in a row. Maybe that's too much to ask of a toddler? Is this how it is with you all too?

In the recent weeks, I've come to know a lady who lives in an adjoining building. She has a five year old son who I rarely see outside together. The kid never goes to the park or comes downstairs to play with other kids. It's all about school and classes in the evenings. There's no dearth of classes for kids these days from the time they are in the womb. No comments on why she doesn't want the kid to play or take him out to the park every evening. It's her choice, and I'm no one to offer an opinion. It bothered me just a teeny bit the few occasions I've dropped by at their place and the kid is all curdled on the sofa cranky - the reason for which was cited as "being bored". The few times he has come over to our place, I saw a stark contrast in his behavior - all chirpy, happily playing with LG - sometimes even very aggressively paying absolutely no heed to what his mother had to say.

What happened last evening disturbed me a bit. I met this lady at the tailor's and asked her where the son was - hadn't seen him for over a month. She mentioned he was sleeping at home. I assumed she must have had relatives visiting or that someone must be home. For some reason, she mentioned a few minutes later that she got about two hours everyday while the kid slept when she went about doing her stuff. She was confident he never woke up before two or three hours and slept deeply. At first, I didn't believe what I heard. But it slowly sank in as an eccentricity. About half an hour later, I reached home. While LG was playing in the car park, I suddenly heard loud screams of a child crying. When it persisted, for some strange reason it occurred that it could be the child in the next building. Just to make sure it was him, I shouted out his name. He barely got his head above the balcony - another mistake. I've no idea what the lady was thinking to leave the balcony door for a kid his age. He cried again...I felt helpless not knowing what to do. We looked around the neighborhood to see if his mom was coming but there was no sight of her.

I can never imagine doing such a thing with LG until he is grown up to handle himself even if I am doubly sure he'll be fast asleep for a while. As a child, neither me nor my brother had been left unsupervised at home until I was eight years old. Is this just me being paranoid or is this a common practice?

The first set of teeth appeared when LG was barely five months old. Over the next eight months he had another twelve. By 15 months, he had sixteen teeth. As a child who was diagnosed with calcium deficiency at birth and kept in ICU for treatment, this was a big deal.

I started cleaning his teeth when he got the first pair of lower incisors. I tried brushing a few times with the finger brush with little success. Over the past few weeks, I've started using the baby tooth brush from Johnson's and it is very good. Even Colgate has one I guess but I liked the structure of Johnson's better. The brush is available in all pharmacies in India. The bristles are soft - doesn't hurt the teeth or the gums. The question of whether or not to use a toothpaste is debatable amongst the pediatrician fraternity. While his birth Pediatrician told me, kids do not know how to spit, they tend to swallow the toothpaste so it's best to refrain using one until they are atleast two and half years old. On the other hand, the one I've been going to to since LG was five months old told I could use any tooth paste that we adults use - preferably Colgate though. He didn't strongly recommend a baby toothpaste. I like this Doc because of his cool attitude. His only advice to me always has been "Don't over protect your child. Let him grow naturally so that he develops a natural immunity to everything."

The Johnson's baby toothbrush is good. For one, he no longer bites my fingers. Seeing us brush everyday, he has taken to the concept of brushing every morning like adults and actually looks forward to it. He even imitates the act while the rhyme "Here we go round the mulberry bush ..brush your teeth, wash your face, comb your hair" plays. As far as the toothpaste goes, I will start in another week or so. I didn't want to put him off with the whole package right in the beginning.

Related Reading:
How to Get Your Toddler to Brush His Teeth
How to Teach Toddlers to Brush Their Teeth
How to care for your baby's gums and emerging teeth - BabyCenter

Monday, June 23, 2008

How to kill the source of a problem

It was vaccination time on Saturday - LG got two shots on his bum and cried just a little. He has taken after me when it comes to injections - doesn't fuss much. But when it comes to having tablets or gulping syrups, he screams so hard the entire town can hear. I resisted giving him the fever medicine until lat Saturday as he wasn't running temperature. When he woke up in the middle of the night because of exhaustion over lack of sleep the whole day, he was running a slight fever. Already in a very cranky mood, we didn't know how to calm him. So we took him for a walk which cheered him up a bit. after forcibly giving a dose of his medicines, he settled down. Three more does followed yesterday. What I wasn't aware I'm told is, he was looking for the bottle the whole day that contained his syrup. After taking the required dose in his dropper, I carelessly kept the bottle on his counter and went to get him. He had been noticing what I was up to the whole time and ran away to The Seniol. Then tried distracting me and played with me a bit before discreetly making his way to the kitchen. I saw him getting the bottle and ran but it was too late. He had this huge grin while he dropped the bottle - now this was one hell of a trick - to kill the problem at its source. Anyways, I had the required dosage to be given so he couldn't escape that one. Just a year and half and gosh! how they think. I don't know what lies ahead ... gets me worried at times.

Sunday, June 22, 2008

Get me the ball!

Lil' General is over a year and half and he had never been to McDonald's. Not that he missed something big in his life. We've been to the place that houses McD's but never went inside. I've never been a big fan of McD's ever except a little bit for the fries maybe (occasionally). Somehow it always occurred they were overdoing it in India and the huge queues at any time of the day was such a turnoff. Anyways, it was Friday evening and the place seemed empty so we thought let's go in. A birthday party was on and Lg was happy to see a lot of kids around. He took a liking to the red balloon but wasn't very appreciative of the cap. He likes ketchup/tomato sauce in any form. It was funny to watch him imitate dipping the fries in ketchup and hogging the lot. We didn't hang around the place and left quickly.

Stopping over at Crossword, I made the mistake of pointing a basket full of smiley balls to LG. Hell broke loose as he wanted to get down and play with the balls. Shrieks soon followed as The Seniol tried to hold him on his shoulder. We marched out sensing his shrieks would disturb the otherwise quiet atmosphere inside the book store and let him walk. After moving on to the far end of the street, LG refused to walk ahead and retraced his way back to Crossword. I was surprised he could identify the shop among others. Tapped on the door and the guard let him in. He ran inside to the basket full of balls while we struggled to keep pace with him. The Seniol finally relented and got him the ball that lasted just two days.

We were there at the same place the next day to run an errand. I didn't imagine he would remember. But the next day despite being in a cranky mood after his vaccination, he got down, ran to the book store and started shouting "". I was impressed with the memory but definitely not his stubbornness and more importantly The Seniol relenting to his demands. The ball being his favorite object always gets his attention at every shop on our daily walking route.

How is one expected to react on finding the cellphone with the dishes in the kitchen sink - Confused? Amused? Enraged? Proud? Shocked? I think my reaction was a mix of all of these - changing from confused to slowly figuring out how it landed there as I reconstructed the scene and played back the images sequentially in my mind. About three hours back LG had made a quick trip to the kitchen while The Seniol and I were perched on the sofa. As LG returned quietly a mischievous grin on his face, I told The Seniol he was upto something there - I can see it on his face - and I heard a thud too. The Seniol returned from the kitchen with two balls from the sink dismissing the matter. It was later that night when I was tidying the kitchen did I find my mobile in the sink immersed in dirty water with the dishes. I was shocked at the ease with which LG flings things off into the sink - a habit he has caught on in the recent weeks. Experience taught me not to switch on the phone immediately and let it dry. To my surprise the phone was fine the next morning - it's the cheapest that Nokia has to offer and I'm all praise for making waterproof phones. I was determined to buy the cheapest one in the Nokia family when I went shopping for a new phone a few months back - so long it served the basic purpose of taking/answering calls it was good enough. Now, I know it was definitely worth spending a fortune with a toddler at home. The phone has found a new place now - atop the fridge.

Often after searching for a while, I find the things I was looking for either in the sink, in the balcony or in the lawn downstairs. He finds it amusing to throw balls, utensils, stuffed toys, wires, adapters and just about anything. The other day TV remote had found its way to the sink and how I wished it had a ringer so that I could locate it.

Lil' General is not an exceptional toddler in whatever he does. He does what every other kid his age does - it's all a part of their growing up. But to some parents I know their kids seem like prodigies when they narrate stories such as throwing things off or tantrum tales emphasizing on the part that the kid is hyperactive and quite out of the ordinary. Fact is for first time parents the experience is new and you are just as much in the learning phase as your kids. You grow with them. The second time around, it just seems like the natural thing to do, isn't it?

As children, we are told that by our respective parents that The Seniol and I constantly threw things off the balcony. My mother expresses her grief to this day over the loss of her numerous sets of precious china. apparently I would just walk over to the balcony, wait for someone to pass over downstairs and then throw with perfection the cups and saucers. At times they were accompanied by pairs of sandals and bathroom slippers too. Ditto with The Seniol. After all, LG has got over genes. If I sound like I'm taking pride in the habit, I'm not. I'm doing all I can so that no one gets hurt. It has become a game of fun for the kids who live downstairs - the first thing after they return from school is to check out their lawn for any strange thing that might have landed in one corner. They duly gather it all and in the pretext of returning it to LG and escaping homework for a while, they have fun with him :)

Related reading:
Why toddlers throw things
Why Your Toddler Loves to Throw Things
How do I stop my toddler from throwing things?

Monday, June 16, 2008

Every evening in the park

If there's one routine that I've not missed this past year, it has to be our evening walk and daily trip to the park. I enjoy my time out in the park as much as Lil' General does. There have been a few exceptions like the days when LG has been unwell or I've been sick. But we've made it on all others - festivals, guests at home, slight drizzle and through all seasons.

That's one thing I totally love about this neighborhood. There's a small temple and children's park for every Km or so fully equipped with slides, swings, see-saws, merry-go-rounds, walking pathways, manicured lawns and a beautiful garden. At this time of the year, the garden looks clean and beautiful. Unlike parks in many cities, these are not littered and cleaned on a daily basis. Neither are they home to anti-social elements. It's the perfect setting for a family to hang out with kids.

With the weather being pleasant during monsoon and autumn, The Seniol took him out every morning. So it was double bonanza for LG. Once at the park, LG enjoys watching kids, throwing stones, eating pebbles and walking around the pathways more than the swings or slides. Kids love the company of other kids. He likes sitting on the ground picking on stones, feeding stones to another friend his age while I have to keep a close watch so that both of them don't put it in their mouth. Before I realize he is off running full steam to the temple - the pandit that he has become. Taking him back to the garden after the visit to the temple is a difficult task for me. He keeps walking back and does everything in such a sequence - praying, ringing bells, pradakshanam, namaskaram - that it sometimes amazes me.

Sunday, June 15, 2008

My son locks me out

It was Wednesday evening last week. With the monsoon setting in, it has disrupted our evening schedule - our walk and park time. Staying indoors is something that both and Lil' General don't really look forward to. So we just make up for it by watching mindlessly the grazing cows, goats, horses and camels (oh yes, every evening these animals pass by) from our balcony. All along singing "Rain rain go away. Come again another day" in the hope the rain gods would listen to us and give us a break.

Lil' General got bored of this and he wanted to play a little game with me. He went in and shut the door to balcony refusing to let me in. I didn't want to press hard and make him further cranky. So I just let him shut and open the door. Before I realized, he locked it from inside. Generally good at latching and opening, something went wrong. He tried hard but couldn't open and I was stranded at the balcony. With the power going off at that very minute, it just took a worse turn. He couldn't see the latch properly and started shrieking. We were fortunate to have our neighbors down at home that evening who are usually out. So I yelled for her from the balcony hoping they would hear me. They did and found their way up. Thank god, the drawing room was open so they could get in easily, comfort LG and let me in.

It was all over in a span of 10 minutes. But it could have taken a worse turn. This taught me a lesson to be more careful with LG which means not even a break for 5 seconds.

Saturday, June 14, 2008

How long can your toddler stay quiet?

The Seniol and I played a game yesterday to see how long Lil' General can stay quiet in one place. The Seniol said not more than 15 seconds. For once, I didn't beg to differ on this one.

We timed it as LG quite lovingly walked up to me, climbed the sofa and placed himself on my lap touching my face and played nosy-nosy. Fifteen seconds and he was done to attend to the next job which was climbing on the headrest of the sofa to unplug the adapter. Once that was over, he climbed down to reach the TV cabinet - opening and closing the DVD player and soon followed his activities in the kitchen. No wonder the house is so quiet when h sleeps. We at times feel as if the entire house walks when he is awake dashing with him from room to room either fixing things or cleaning his damage.

Tuesday, June 03, 2008

Rhymes all day ....

There was a time a few weeks ago when all we saw on TV started with "Jingle bells jingle bells jingle all the way" and ended with "Two little hands to clap clap clap, two little feet to tap, tap, tap". It was a crazy time - no adult TV just rhymes rhymes and more of the same thing for breakfast, lunch and dinner. We were going through a difficult eating phase with Lil' General and what magically worked for every meal time was playing his favorite nursery rhymes CD. What began out of desperation slowly turned into a habit.

Learning rhymes was a new experience for me. My exposure to one as a child started with "Twinkle, twinkle little star" and stopped with the same. Don't be surprised when I see I didn't know even the common ones such as "baba baba black sheep" or "Humpty dumpty sat on the wall." I never went to nursery or pre-school or for that matter did my Kindergarten. A few years later I learnt one or two when my younger brother started nursery but that was as far as it went. Funny but years later I feel complete and satisfied now being able to sing a jingle or two. It's weird how some of the lyrics don't make any sense at all and kids sing and sway happily to these such as the
Lady bird, lady bird your house is on fire. All children gone except one and that's little Ann. She's buried under some sand" so it goes... or "It's raining. It's pouring and the old man is snoring"...

LG's favorite one is "Two little hands to clap clap clap, two little feet to tap, tap ,tap". Usually by the time we reach this part of the CD, he is done with his food and he loves clapping and pointing to my eyes and repeating "eye eye". "Here we round the mulberry bush" rhyme is followed by his imaginary act of combing my hair. The first few times I failed to understand what he wanted to do which just added to his frustration. Now Id uly bend my head and he combs it. I don't know what's so funny about the huge guy in Hot cross buns that he jumps in his high chair all excited. The clock in our living room is close to the fan if you see it linearly. When the "Hickory Dickory dock, the mouse ran up the clock" rhyme played I would point at the clock and he always understood the fan for the clock and happily pointed at the fan in all the rooms when the song played. As always unlearning a certain thing is tougher than teaching them. So repeated pointing at the clock finally did it. The Seniol loves falling down to Ringa ringa roses and ouching ...Lil' General loves the antics and the way he enacts each rhyme ..

The dependence on rhymes has gone down over the past week drastically but it never fails to put a huge grin on his face when I switch on the CD.