Sunday, November 26, 2017

Pumpkin Rayan and ramblings from the last couple of months...








It's quite amazing how time flies...

Our little pumpkin, Rayan, turns 2 tomorrow. Just before sitting down to write this post, as I browsed through the blog archives(and chuckled at/re-lived some beautiful memories, while  re-reading  posts from Raya's toddler years), I was momentarily hit by a pang of guilt...I realized I  had not put in as much effort to chronicle all the interesting milestones and moments of little Rayan's life with the amount of detail that I did for Raya. You could perhaps attribute it to the  'second child syndrome'. While milestone dates have been made note of religiously for entry into the baby book, I haven't really captured little Rayan's fun, growing up moments in as much
detail as I would have liked to...partly because I have become quite an irregular blogger, with blog posts becoming very sporadic...and then, of course, there is the 'second child syndrome' being at play. You know how it is...With your first child, every milestone is novel...every challenge is unique...the smallest of innocent sniffles from the baby is capable of bringing on bouts of paranoia...the most trivial of 'firsts' capable of setting off a parental jig...you love, cuddle ,chuckle at the antics, feel the pride of each accomplished milestone and the pain of each setback just as much for each of your kids, it's just that the way of handling and reacting to a situation/scenario evolves...the same kind of situations may not necessarily evoke as passionate or as excited a parental response as with the first child...good or bad...that's what I mean by the 'second child syndrome'  or more approriately the 'non-first child' syndrome :) ...my little brother, Ash, and my hubby, 'D' ...both will vouch for it. As we discussed this 'non- first child' syndrome, both of them were quick to point out that the parents' do not have as many baby pictures/memories captured of them as of the older siblings, sending the parents into a rampant, guilt ridden search of the archived albums, of course :)...Oh well...so that's that!

Let's get back to the primary subject of this post, our little pumpkin Rayan...he is now a toddler...loves 'nanas' (read bananas)…absolutely loves cuddles(and I am making the most of it while his love for cuddles lasts :))...adores his big sister (believe it or not, the first word he uttered was 'Raya')...he bosses all of us around(using a string of words that only he understands, but sure enough sound like  reprimands, prefixed or suffixed with a 'not nice Mama'/ 'not nice Baba', 'naughty Raya'), and we are told he behaves like the sheriff in his day care class...I have to mention this hilarious scenario at the breakfast table a couple of days back...

To provide some context, over the last few years, Raya has become a very fussy eater... this does mean that making sure she has had breakfast, on chaotic work day mornings, can be quite an ordeal...'D' and I have to invariably keep egging her on every couple of minutes...with 'Eat Raya'...'Drink your milk'...'Finish your breakfast'etc...So on this particular morning, I was putting away some dishes in the kitchen, while the kids were at the breakfast table and this is what I hear:

Rayan to Raya(pointing at her milk glass): " Raya eat...Raya eat...eat cheerios...eat your milkie"  (He, of course , doesn't know difference between eat and drink yet)

Raya to Rayan( in a semi- embarrased tone"): "Rayan, you don't have to tell me what to do!" ...LOL


At least, at the moment (I am saying this at the cost of jinxing it), little Rayan is pretty low maintenance and independent compared to his big sister...a lot of our attention, specially at bed time and meal time , is focussed on our first born (now, I guess that is a result of the pampering coming out of the 'first child syndrome' :))...And then, like a very typical 'Bong', Mr. Rayan has a sweet, sweet
tooth...there is a drive through 'Dunkin Donuts' on the way from his school to home...and invariably, as soon as we are close to that section of our routine drive, there will be a plea from pumpkin from the back seat..."Mama...doo nut...mama...doo nut...pleeeeasse"...ha ha...The other day, pleas for  a donut, at home, resulted in yours truly giving Rayan a donut with no frosting, since
that was all that was available at home...and guess what Mr. Rayan did...he scanned the donut carefully...gave mama dear  his signature 'tchh..tchh' look and then tossed the donut  aside with, "Mama ...no choco.. .Mama...no choco" (He was not too happy to be handed a non-chocolate frosted donut)...ha ha!

Pumpkin is beginning to develop a love for books...here again I have slacked a bit in terms of keeping up with a book reading bed time habit like I did for Raya, but I am doing my best to rectify it now that I observe him enjoying books…his favorite books are “Brown Bear Brown Bear" by Eric Carle… “My grandpa and I” by PK Hallilan…and "The Three Little Pigs" by Andrea Petrnik...he does believe he can read by himself ..ha ha.. as he snatches the books from me after I have read a few pages and then pretends to read in an incomprehensible monologue...

His favorite song is the Bollywood number,"Kaala Chasma"...this song invariably makes him  break into a jig…his favorite nursery rhyme is ‘Wheels on the Bus” and yes, the only colors he can identify, as of now  are black, yellow  and pink :). His favorite tv show character is 'Mika' (Mickey Mouse, of course)...and he absolutely loves his teddy bear and toy cars!! And when he got his first taste of a radio controlled toy car today, he was super excited to see it "walking"(like he said it) on its own...as the car zoomed past him triggered by the remote, Rayan shouted in excitement, "Mama look...Mama look...car is 'walking',...car is 'walking'",,,such are the simple pleasures of  toddler Rayan...

And then today, as the family got together to put up the christmas tree (that comes in parts), Mr. Rayan pointed at one of the three parts and shouted…."Mama…big broccoli…big broccoli"… and as I burst into a bout of uncontrollable laughter…I heard my little man reprimanding me in his, now signature, 'tchh, tchh' tone , “Not funny Mama!! Not funny”….LOL..

And not too forget, the Das household no longer needs an alarm...Mr. Rayan, like clockwork wakes up at 6:00-6:30AM in the morning...and after being taken off the crib by his Baba dear dutifully runs over to wake up the non-morning persons of the household with "Mama week(read wake) up...Raya week(wake) up"...

So that’s that…as far as his big sister goes, she is teaching her Mama piano these days. And every week, I am expected to get one of these…

I have been very clearly told that 6-7 days of practice would earn me this reward…4-5 days of practice would get me a stick face(whatever that is)! and 1-3 days of practice would get me a frown…oh well…that’s keeping me on my toes, for sure :)

On another note, this is what happened a couple of weeks back…RAya was asking me to get her a toy…something very similar to another toy she already had... I just told her, "Raya we will get it later.I don’t have the time to go to the store right now" (First of all, definitely not good parenting, in terms of the reason given by me…I should have probably simply said, “I don think you need this toy right now.You already have something similar" or at least something similar to that effect)…Pat came the reply,”Mama you don’t have to go to the store…order online…order online…order on Amazon…it will be here tomorrow”….That’s when I realized our kids were getting used to instant gratification in terms of what they want,need and get…A working parents' lack of patience and abundance of unwarranted guilt, along with the  convenience of online shopping, could in fact turn into a deadly combination in terms of unconsciously spoiling kids. So in order to provide Raya with a semblance of the value of money...this is what I did. I told Raya, "Next time we go out shopping, make sure you take out 10 dollars from one of your piggie banks and let’s see what you can get with that". So the following day, Ms. Raya set out with me with a purseful of coins…I , of course, should have given her a 10 dollar bill in place of the coins , in hind sight….but hind sight’s always 20-20, right…Ms. Raya, of course, initially thought she could buy the store with those coins in her purse…one after the other, she looked at toys, most of them, as I was already aware, were more than 10 dollars worth... the few that she found that were less than 10 dollars(7-8 dollars) worth, she refused to buy…and this is what she said,”Mama they are too expensive…I will have to pay with most of my coins"…LOL..believe it or, she ended up buying something teenie weenie for 2 dollars so that she could save her piggie bank money :)….Now to pay for that 2 dollar thingie, she unloaded a mountain of coins at the cash counter from her purse…Needless to say,I was a bit embarrased…fortunately we had a spirited cashier and the folks behind me  had a good sense of humor, giving RAya the time she needed to count her coins and pay the money she owed….Anyways, you may think this was a silly exercise….but I do have an important new year’s resolution for 2018 …to not give in to the absolutely unwarranted  working parents’ guilt and to come up with creative ways to teach the kids the value of what they are fortunate to have in life …to learn to cherish and value non-material possessions…to understand  the transience  of most material possessions…It is going to be a challenge, I have to admit, not to cave in and it will require an of abundance of patience (I am not sure I have enough of that, but that's a different problem)…but I do believe it’s about time…so we will see how that works out….absolutely welcome any ideas that I could adopt.

On that note, hope all of you have a fantastic holiday season…wish you the absolute best of health, love, laughter and happiness this coming year.




Thursday, August 10, 2017

From a girl who codes to all the girls who want to code...

                                                     Photo Credit, Times Inc

I have been in the tech industry for more than a decade in various roles. I have chosen to pursue my passion as a technologist, against all odds. Being in software and systems engineering/architecture centric roles in a man's world can sometimes get daunting. It can be pretty overwhelming when you fly across the country to attend a tech conference and as you enter the conference room, you see an ocean of  men with just one other woman in a corner.

Being talked over many a time and learning to re-assert the points to be made even after being talked over; having to work twice as hard to establish credibility specially when you are in a role which involves convincing a group of peers or junior technologists about a technical strategy or tactic; having to  consciously work on not starting any sentence with 'I may be wrong, but...' I have been there, done it and figured out ways of venturing out of my comfort zone, while continuing to learn new lessons everyday.

I have realized that as an engineer and technologist, and a woman technologist at that, who often has to speak louder, work harder, have more data to prove my points... one of the best ways in which I can subtly align a team to a strategy or tactic, I believe will work, is to lead by example. There is no better way a technologist can lead by example than to provide a preliminary tangible view of the end result/product. With all the advances in the technology sphere, turnaround time and inter-team
dependencies for building prototypes has reduced significantly. One person working on one computer, with a plethora of virtual computing resources and services available to her/him at her/his fingertips, can churn out prototypes to prove a concept much more easily than it was possible earlier in the decade. No matter what your role is in a team, a prototype built in a short amount of time or guiding a team member to build a prototype, can work wonders in terms of  aligning a team to a specific line of thought, which no number of meetings or discussions during that same period of time, can achieve. And that's the reason, even after all these years, as I have progressed through various roles in the technical ladder, in addition to keeping generally abreast of technology advances, I have made a conscious effort to keep my coding and software development skills as up to date as possible, along with all the other career  skills that I have fortunately managed to pick up over time.

In any sphere, being able to subtly align a team to one's strategic point of view, without rubbing anyone the wrong way, is the key to making sure a concept sees the light of day, in terms of a customer facing product/solution. There's no better way for a technical strategist to achieve this than by leading by example, getting his/her hands dirty in the product design and development and thus setting the pace for the team to get a jump start to meet a business need.

I have also been fortunate enough to be around technology leaders(both men and women) who genuinely believe that engineering technology as a discipline can work wonders only with collaboration, cooperation, empathy along with technical aptitude and passion (not genetic pre-disposition). These same folks also believe that with most corporations/industries attempting to transform themselves into digital/technology companies, being tech savvy and having an aptitude for technical skills is no longer an option, but a necessity if you are in one of these industries.

Most technology companies, and companies which aim to become technology companies, are moving towards an organization structure that promotes product based, self-organizing, self-contained, agile teams focussed on a building and maintaining products with state of the art technologies to meet business needs. This also means that this provides an opportunity for men and women with servant leadership qualities to thrive. Self organizing, agile product teams require a mix of collaborative, cooperative, empathetic team members who are skilled technologists. Irrespective of what a man and woman's  predisposition  may be, to succeed and thrive
in such teams, both men and women have to be able to come out of their comfort zones, re-train themselves, practice and pick up skills (social and technical), that they may not be naturally pre-disposed to. Whether you are a man or a woman, a good combination of social and technical skills  as well as a good combination of IQ and EQ, is required to thrive in such emerging technology organization structures. It will soon no longer just  suffice to be  a 'geek' or a 'strategist' or a 'visionary' or a 'people manager' or just a 'good communicator' to be able to survive and thrive in this fast evolving technical space.

So, no matter what anyone says, all of you girls who are passionate about technology, do not get disheartened. The future is yours to grab!

I am a strong believer that environmental factors(both at home and outside), passion and practice are the primary contributors of women succeeding as technologists.

But it has to start with the acceptance of certain facts:
- Gender stereotypes exist and will continue to exist in the near future
- We have to be prepared to find our way through this maze of stereotypes and get used to working outside our comfort zone, while the world adapts, transforms and finally achieves the utopian dream of being free of gender stereotypes.
- We have to look out for each other, and carry each other over obstacles.

For all the girls who want to code and be technology leaders, let me tell you this...there will be a time in your career when you will have to strategically guide/lead technical teams full of men towards a vision. You will see shadows of doubt in most of  their eyes as they try to convince themselves why they should listen to a woman about something they believe they probably know better . But there's nothing more rewarding than you getting your hands dirty in code to build a quick prototype that drives home the points you are trying to make, and in the process seeing  the shadows of doubt just as quickly disappear, as everyone aligns themselves to a shared belief and vision,  which then gradually begins to take shape. There's nothing more exhilarating than seeing a product/solution you have actually helped design and build see the light of day!

So keep coding, be resilient and keep rocking the tech world!


Wednesday, May 31, 2017

Of dinner table conversations…of courage and compassion…of the hare and the tortoise…

Today’s dinner table conversation comprised of the importance of standing up for oneself and for others around us…and for the need to show compassion to people around us...as ‘D’ and I put one hypothetical situation after another in front of  Raya, we were amazed to realize that the little Kindergartener was able to articulate quite clearly how she would stand up for herself and her friends and family, when needed…the only question she raised was, ‘Mama/Baba, what do I do if someone is being mean to a stranger?’…That quite stumped D and I…we tried our best to explain the need to be able to differentiate one situation from another, when dealing with strangers…trying to drive home the point of the need to be compassionate while looking out for oneself, when dealing with a stranger, who seems to need help...I am not quite sure we did the greatest of jobs explaining this point…but we gave the best explanation we could…parenting is after all an evolving art, ain't it?!…I am sure we will do better next time...

As we spoke to Raya about the need to show compassion to everyone around her, about being able to stand up for herself and others around her, I have to admit I said a little prayer in my heart…a prayer hoping that some other parent at some other dinner table was doing the same…so that as our children learn to stand up for themselves, and for their near and dear ones and strangers, alike…hopefully  there will be someone, someday who will be willing to stand up for them, if ever the need arises…well, we can only hope and pray…

On a lighter note, Raya always seems to take forever to finish dinner…
So today I told Raya: "Raya, Baba and I are almost done with dinner and you are not even half way through. You are so slow"
Raya, after a moment’s pause: "Mamaaaa(tcchh tchh tone), I am the tortoise…I am slow, steady and focussed! You are the hare because you are teasing me about being slow. That's not nice."

Oh well , I was obviously too stunned to respond…an embarrassed, flushed face and a tame,’That’s true! I am sorry’ was all I could manage...now who could argue the 'hare and the tortoise’  point after all…it was a classic case of Aesop’s fable staring right back at Raya’s mama :)…

That's that...

I however want to end this post on a much more sombre note, sharing  a belief and thought that I hope will let all of us sleep  at night whenever we get bogged down by the chaos, the pessimism, the shades of grey and black in the world around us…and that belief is that 'Side by side, with the worst of humanity, more often than not,  you will find the absolute best!’ 

Nothing drives this point across more eloquently than a most unfortunate series of events  on a train in Portland last weekend. Prayers for the families of the beautiful souls who stood up for strangers, at the cost of their  own lives. May their souls rest in peace! In death, they have spread love and reaffirmed the belief of many of us that indeed, 'Side by side, with the worst of humanity, more often than not, you will find the absolute best!’ So, Thank you!






Thursday, March 9, 2017

Woman...

Woman...Let's just say it's a loaded word...the origin of a child...the origin of mankind...yet more often than not, as history shows, sidestepped and pushed into a corner in the name of patriarchy.


The boldness, spunk and confidence little girls are born with is often eroded as they grow up, primarily due to environmental factors. I saw this video yesterday, and it is quite disturbing...



and then there was this report , http://services.google.com/fh/files/misc/computer-science-learning-closing-the-gap-girls-brief.pdf that a friend shared on Facebook that validated everything in the video with more statistics. We are in the 21st century and there are twice as many boys as girls in STEM professions...that's a sad, sad state of affairs...

That aside, I have spent a lot of time thinking about this and then realized we don't have to look too much outside our own inner circles to discover a few traits which prevent women from being the strong and impactful influence on society, that they can potentially be.

In the very literate and educated circles, we move around in, I notice a few very distinct traits among a lot of woman that make it more and more difficult for them to reach out to and accomplish what they are capable of achieving:
- Their sense of worth(financial and otherwise ) is very tightly coupled with those of their partners. I rarely see a situation where a husband's worth is tied to the wife's...often enough wives take pride in their worth being tied to the husband's ...not that I have a problem with that kind of love and the coupling part of it LOL...but if that sentiment was reciprocal, wouldn't that be such a great example for our little kids...
- A lot of women believe and spend their time wanting to be liked by everyone they know. It doesn't take too much to realize that this really is an impossible feat to accomplish. In an effort to be liked by the majority, these women never learn to make their voice heard, to stand up for their beliefs and  for those who they know in their heart of hearts, are right...they just follow the masses...sadly enough, in such situations, without realizing it, they are surrounded by a lot of people, yet alone since their voice is never reflected in the thoughts and voices of the people surrounding them...that doesn't bode too well on their level of confidence and security, for sure...
- A lot of women speak of equality, but are not ready to do their bit to support their partners. While they readily play victims at the drop of a hat, when the husband wants to take a break from work and the woman has to support the family, that becomes an absolute "no,no". If the situation were the other way around, that's of course the way it is supposed to be LOL
-Women don't realize the kind of power and influence they can wield by just having each other's back. That sense of camaraderie often starts and ends with hanging out with the girls and never extends to a meaningful social cause. I am not saying this doesn't apply to men. But I am talking about women here.

We all aim to be strong women...we all want to be around strong women... and we all want to raise strong women...but let us all remember that the lessons and traits of strong men and women and of gender equality start with the interactions at home...

I am a daughter, sister, wife, friend and mother...I am loving, caring, attached to my family and close friends...I am also bold, confident, fiesty, secure and very comfortable in my own skin...I speak my mind...I work at home and have a professional career outside...I am not a great cook...I am clumsy...I sleep in while 'D' makes breakfast...I make lunch instead...I chaffeur the kids around and give 'D' the space he needs to do the things he likes, when he needs it...I don't ever play victim...I don't need a man or another woman to validate my place in the world...and all that doesn't make me any less feminine...all that doesn't make any of the people who matter to me love me any less...

'D' is a son, brother, husband, friend and father...He is bold, confident, secure and very comfortable in his own skin...He works at home and has a professional career outside...he is a great cook...he is not clumsy...he makes breakfast...he speaks his mind...he doesn't ever play victim...he doesn't need a woman or another man to validate his his place in the world...he is loving, caring, attached to his family and close friends...and all that doesn't make him any less masculine...all that doesn't make any of the people who matter to him love him any less...

'D' and my worth(financially and otherwise) are not coupled to each other, but that doesn't make us any less in love :)

It's not an easy task maintaining this equilibrium...it requires a lot of work...flexibility and adaptability at both ends ...Life is not always easy...it has and always will have it's share of ups and downs...but this partnership of equals, I would like to believe, makes both us strong, secure, confident and ready to take on challenges...all that I can hope for is that all of us with partners are successful in seeking out ways to reach this equilibrium...we are able to be role models for our children...so that we can be examples of strong women and men, we can be around strong women and men and we can raise strong women and men....because a society needs rational and strong men and women to flourish and prosper...

So yes let's #BeBoldForChange!!!


Thursday, November 17, 2016

It's still a man's world out there...but it takes a woman to give hope...




Flawed she may be...tell me, who isn't?...change is what the rust belt working class voters may have wanted...even if it was based on a divisive rhetoric and undefined economic policies...but I still cannot wrap my head around the fact that millions of college educated women, went into polling booths on November 8th and probably prior to that, to cast a ballot against Hillary Clinton...to vote for a misogynist...or maybe for a third party...either way, against her ...their votes just could have made the difference...whether we want to accept it or not, sexism exists...and let us not fool ourselves by trying to make ourselves believe that sexism originates and ends with the men of the world...the fact that it is still a man's world today and something like what happened on November 8, is still possible has as much to do with  women's perception of their place in the world as it has to do with the inability of some(or maybe most) men to accept women as equals.

A lot was at stake in this election...all of us know that...and no amount of reiterating what those stakes were matters now...but the statistic associated with college educated women is pretty startling...I would have expected a statistic more in the lines of 75%-25% or even better in favor of Hillary Clinton among college educated women, but as shocking as it is , the support she got in this demographic was significantly lower...essentially a significant number  of the college educated women chose to vote for a misogynist, someone who has demeaned women in all possible ways throughout the campaign, or they  voted for a third party candidate (which almost made their vote meaningless in the big picture)...

At times throughout the campaign I had heard sound bites from some women(fortunately just a handful in the part of the world where I live)...'oh she needs to demonstrate her vulnerability', 'she should start by dressing like a woman', 'all I care about is lower taxes', 'everyone votes along party lines', 'she is too ambitious'(a women's place is in the kitchen kinds)...I cringed at all these moments...but fortunately for me, there were  many more women around me who cared about what matters to me...'decency','graciousness', 'experience', 'advocate for children','advocate for women', 'advocate for minorities',
'advocate of hope', 'advocate of the belief in the greatness and the goodness of the  United States of America and all it's people', 'advocate of a woman's right over her own body', 'advocate of education', 'advocate for LGBT rights', 'advocate for the disabled'...never in my wildest dreams had I imagined that the former category of women existed in big numbers or that they would vote in such huge numbers against her...sad, but true...there may have been many factors in play in the election ...but given the stakes for humanity and women, I really do feel let down by this first category of women...these are educated women, many of whom are probably raising little women of their own...most of them are eons away from any economic calamity...most of these educated women have been blessed with the intelligence to understand the stakes...to differentiate fake news from real news...to differentiate manipulation from reality...to differentiate truth from lies...yet they chose to use their vote to endorse fear over hope...to take a chance with change, knowing very well that it could potentially be very dangerous change...it's beyond what I can wrap my head around...

The day after the election, I woke up with a sinking feeling...I couldn't make myself watch the concession speech...knew I would tear up...so I read the transcript instead...I wept nevertheless...for those who haven't seen or read it...it's a must...and then yesterday, I listened to Hillary's first speech since her concession speech last Wednesday, where she spoke at a dinner for the Children's Defense Fund ...http://time.com/4575126/hillary-clinton-childrens-defense-fund-transcript/...

Whether you like her or you don't, whether you voted for her or you did not...listen to this and the part where she speaks about her mother...and I will quote here..."And then finally, as some of you heard me say during the campaign, I draw hope and sustenance from another person who influenced my life and still does every day, my mother. I have talked about her difficult childhood. She was abandoned by her parents when she was just 8 years old. They put her on a train to California all by herself in charge of her little sister, who was three years younger. She ended up in California, where she was mistreated by her grandparents, ended up on her own, working as a housemaid. She beat the odds. She found a way to offer me the boundless love and support she never received herself. I think about her every day and sometimes I think about her on that train. I wish I could walk down the aisle and find the little wooden seat where she sat, holding tight to her younger sister, all alone and terrified. She doesn’t yet know how much more she will have to face and even suffer. She doesn’t yet know she will find the strength to escape that suffering. That’s still years off. Her whole future is unknown, as it is for all of us, as she stares out at the vast country moving past her. And I dream of going up to her and sitting next to her and taking her in my arms and saying, “Look, look at me and listen. You will survive, you will have a family of your own, three children, and as hard as it might be to imagine, your daughter will grow up to be a United States Senator, represent our country as Secretary of State and win more than 62 million votes for President of the United States""...

I wish this gives you hope and the resilience to get back up  whenever you feel down and out...

Yes in her own words, "We haven't still shattered the highest/hardest glass ceiling. But someday, someone will. And hopefully it will be sooner than we may have imagined"...

To me, the mother of a 5 year old little girl, Hillary Clinton embodies resilience, graciousness and hope...and irrespective of what your political views may be, as flawed women of the 21st century, let's give her the respect she deserves for reaching as far as she did...for being the trailblazer for our little girls...

I am fortunate to have a husband who is a passionate advocate for women's rights...and as uncertainty prevails, basic human rights stay threatened, women's rights remain at stake...'H' inspires us to
choose hope over fear, love over hate...to never give up...to continue to fight for what seems right ...

We can only hope that in our lifetime, we will be able to see many more instances of people choosing love over hate, hope over fear, togetherness over divisiveness, facts over rhetoric...and choices like the one made on November 8 are anomalies rather than the norm...


Thursday, September 29, 2016

The pangs of growing up...

I started writing this as a comment to a blog post by a very dear friend of mine, and then realized, it may be worth pondering upon in this blog, so that I can come back to it at some point of time later in life, and validate/repudiate parenting decisions, as the children grow up...Am I not glad that the kids are years away from adolescence now!:)

What triggered this note is this article on ‘Girls and their frenemies'...I couldn't agree more that as kids grow up, both boys and girls, it is absolutely essential to educate them on how to protect themselves and help protect others in the context of all the things/scenarios the article mentions. Though the article focusses on the need to educate girls, I am sure most of us agree that it is equally important to educate our boys...we need to talk to them about being comfortable in their own skin... about respecting others and their beliefs, while learning to stand up for one's own ...about dignity of labor...help them develop empathy...help them develop honest communication mechanisms...teach them to be assertive when needed, help them develop self-compassion, a positive relationship with their body, talk to them about the importance of standing up to bullying and not  resorting to bullying...teach them the importance of being able to say no, the importance of not ending up being just people pleasers...talk to them about sex, paedophiles, good touch, bad touch, on-line grooming, sexting, the harm caused by drug use, alcohol use, pornography...and who knows what other demons may be added to this already long list of things to protect oneself from in the adolescent years of our children.

What got me thinking though is what the article mentions as the  more likely destructive influence on an adolescent girl’s day to day life(boys are really fortunate if they don't have to deal with this...I am not completely sure that's indeed the case, though ..but oh well)...Coming back to the article, it mentions that the  more likely destructive influence on an adolescent girl’s day to day life is the damage girls do to one another in their friendship/peer groups...the article calls it 'relational aggression'. I believe it requires a lot of caution when talking to adolescent children about this...for
there is a very thin line between teaching our children to protect themselves from relational aggression vs teaching  them  to learn to assert themselves, compromise and set boundaries in relationships/friendships...or are both these really the same thing...I, for one, am not sure..

As far as relational aggression, as defined by the article is concerned, I wonder what was really different when WE were growing up…looking back and when I think about it now, I am sure I have had a fair share of interactions with frenemies, upstanders, supporters and distractors(as defined in the article)...I have memories of myself standing up for friends, who I believed, were not being treated fairly...I have memories of not standing up for folks, whose ideals did not conform with my own ...funnily enough those ideals themselves have evolved over time...I also have memories of friends standing up for me...and those that didn't...I continue to learn in relationships and friendships in this 35+ years of life...

So here's the thing, even without being proactively talked to by teachers or parents about "relational aggression", I did eventually end up developing mechanisms to deal with different people, as I grew up, learning to minimize the hurt that one is capable of feeling in so many instances and maximizing the bliss that friendships can potentially bring in…you know what I mean ... I have to admit most of the lessons were learnt the tough way and the learning never really stops...sometimes there is just no easy way of learning these life lessons...but the point I am trying to make here is, by not being proactively made aware of concepts like "relational aggression"(as defined in the article),
when I was still an adolescent, cynicism stayed out from my life for the longest possible time...I feel I had a fair chance at building and developing  friendships, that go on to become parts of a lifelong support system...

Now coming to the generation, that has the privilege of growing up to become adolescents in this technology 'infested', fast moving, incredibly fast growing , competitive and increasingly complicated  21st century...I wonder, how important it  is for adolescents to learn these lessons(like "relational aggression") proactively...wouldn’t it make them cynical in relationships and friendships, that for all you know have the potential to become a part of a lifelong support system...or is it that the potential bruises of learning lessons the hard way and the repercussions thereafter, in this context, is a much, much bigger risk than potentially losing out on building a lifelong friendship/relationship?

I, for one, don't have an answer and  I am glad that our kids are years away from adolescence ...and that gives us the time to hopefully figure this out in time... to make a right decision for them. But...do you?

Something to ponder about...
Happy Thursday folks!


Monday, August 29, 2016

Our rising kindergartener and her 'village' of 4+ years...



This seems like a really significant week for me...Raya starts kindergarten early next week...and yes, it's time for some introspection...exactly 4 years and 4 months back to date, 'D' and I made and followed through one of the toughest decisions of our lives...it was to drop off our then only child, our little 7.5 month old munchkin, at the AOL child development center, while each of us headed out to work...to pursue professions that we are passionate about...work that keeps us sane and grounded...The month preceding that day and the month following that day were a couple of the toughest months of my life....the month preceding that day was full of deliberations...ifs...whats...whys...hows...about me going back to work and what would be the best caretaking option for Raya, with me being back at work...it didn't help when some friends and family questioned my choice to go back to work and what it would mean for Raya... the month following that day, was filled with monitoring our little one in the classroom, through video cameras(day in day out) and rationalizing our decision to send her in...and yes, today it's exactly 4 years and 4 months, since that day in April,2012...and let's just say we haven't looked back...

So we just got back from a trip to Miami...On our way in, on the flight, Raya was seated in the middle seat of a row...I was in the aisle seat of the same row with little Rayan in tow......a girl in  her late twenties had the window seat...she was apparently headed, on a work trip, to Miami and had to get into a meeting straight from the airport...she didn't seem very interested in small talk and I don't think she was looking forward to having an active 4+ year old sitting right next to her on a three hour flight...oh well...I tried to give Raya enough heads up about not going into the chit chat mode...but I guess that was too much to ask of her...5 minutes into the flight and she was actively engaged in trying to start a conversation with the lady next to her..."Are you going to the beach?"..."Do you live in Virginia?"...The lady answered in monosyllables and tried turning her head away...but nothing could stop the little munchkin..."Are you going straight to office?" LOL...Monosyllable responses followed...I was gettting fidgety and wanted Raya to stop trying to chit chat...and then..."Did you watch the Olympics?"...that got the lady's attention and she  suddenly turned her head to fully face Raya, "Yes, I did! Did you?"...That was enough to make Raya continue, "I watched gymnastics and swimming. I looove Simone and Gabby"...her tone almost made it seem Simone Biles and Gabby Williams were her childhood buddies...now the lady was completely engaged in an animated converstaion with Raya....Raya continued and among other things, told the lady how much she disliked onions and declared, " You know I want to swim like Michael Phelps and Lodecky"...I am guessing 'Lodecky' was supposed to refer to Katie Ledecky...In the very same breath, she continued, "When I grow up, I want to be a singer and soccer player"..."I want to sing like Adele"...The lady gave Raya a quick peck on the cheek...looked at me ...and both of us chuckled, as Raya steered the conversation back to the lady and asked, "Are you dressed for office?"...Before the conversation proceeded any further or got uncomfortable or even worse
got into the "Are you voting for Hillary? Donald Trump will build walls" zone, I gave Raya  the tablet and told her to watch a movie...The "Hillary/ Donald Trump " question was what she had asked her granddad a couple of weeks back...She reluctantly(for a change) took the tablet, with an "OK mamma". While I would have loved to see where the converstaion was headed and keep her away from screen time...I wanted to make sure we did not end up making our co-passenger uncomfortable...the rest of the flight was uneventful ...As I watched little Raya get immersed in the movie, I couldn't help but wonder...how these past 4+ years have whizzed past...how the baby babbles have transformed into full fledged conversations...and all I could do is cross my fingers and heart, be grateful and say a  little prayer...by God's grace, 'D' and I have 'managed' to manage this first phase of Raya's life reasonably well, without letting go of our own...who knows what life has in store for her...who knows what the future holds for Raya...like everything else in life, I am sure it will be full of ifs, buts, whys and whats...choices that will be made and shape her life...

But I believe, every once in a while, as life whizzes past, we should try to pause and celebrate what 'is', rather than what 'was' or 'will be'...

Raya is today 2 weeks short of her 5th birthday...she is one week away from starting kindergarten...she will be one of the youngest in her class...but we do believe that she is ready for the challenges of public school...she has grown up to be one of those who needs constant challenges to keep her going...She loves 'mac and cheese' and 'hot dogs'...she also loves 'butter rice'('makhon bhaat')...yes she is Indian American indeed :)...she wants to be a soccer player, when she grows up...she wants to be able to sing like Adele...she loves Bollywood...she wants to swim like Michael Phelps and Katie Ledecky... she loves reading...she wants everyone to vote for Hillary Clinton...she is scared of three headed monsters...she still makes her way into our bedroom in the wee hours of the morning, cuddles with her mamma and baba and then in her sleep pushes us to the edges of the bed while she takes over the entire king sized bed...and like all 4+ year olds, she throws her own share of tantrums...sometimes for reasons unknown...

Today I want to pause just for a moment to celebrate my little baby, before she starts a new phase of life in elementary school...a part of what Raya has grown up to become as a 4+ year old, is her inherent personality...a part of it is the effort 'D' and I put in as parents...iterating through a process of good and 'not so good' parenting choices, as we are constantly learning, ourselves...but a gynormous and very important part of Raya's development these 4+ years has to be attributed to the 'village' that has helped us through this process...our extended families...and the absolutely wonderful, loving, caring group of caregivers and teachers at the AOL child development center...I can't agree more with the fact that "it takes a village" to bring up a child...Today I want to pause to thank them all...today I want to celebrate the 'village' that has nurtured Raya and helped her  blossom these past 4+ years...for I would not have been able to stay sane, 'hungry' and 'foolish'(in a profession that requires me to stay 'hungry' and 'foolish') without this support system ...

Who knows what the future holds for Raya...like everything else in life, it will probably be full of ifs, buts, whys and whats...good and 'not so good' choices that will be made and will shape her life and destiny ...but today, I want to  celebrate what 'is'...a.k.a Raya and her little "village" of  4+ years...without thinking of what 'could have been' or 'will be'...

So, thank you!