Tuesday, April 21, 2015

The 'technology' dilemma...

As I was browsing through some of my blog posts last evening, I came across this from six years ago,  http://www.sliceoflife-priyanka.blogspot.com/2009/08/lost-and-found.html. In the past six years, since I wrote this piece some things have changed further, while some things have stayed the same. I am glad for the things that have changed as well as for those that haven't. In the context of this post, I have realized the changes, more often than not, push us more towards a technology indulgent world. While the constants stop us from getting carried away in the waves of technology and keep us grounded by keeping the social/interactive element of being a human, alive! But both are equally important-the changes and the constants. Striking the right balance perhaps is what's the toughest part.

In this context, let me narrate an incident that happened a couple of weeks back. Raya was busy with some coloring activity at home, when suddenly she jumped up and said, "Mama, mama...I am done...look it (pulling up the  sheet of paper, she had just splashed colors on)...is this pretty?" I said, "Yes Raya good job...give me a high five". She happily jumped up and gave me a high five and then said, "I want to show this to Ma, Koka and Ata". I replied, "Ok you can show it to them when you Skype with them tomorrow". What Raya told me next, came as a real surprise. She said, "Mama, email...email...email it "! I was completely taken aback. 'D' and 'I' probably use the word email often with our parents. She has heard us telling our parents that we'll email the pictures to them and  I am assuming Raya probably picked the word,'email'  up from our conversations and used the word, the first time she got a chance, being completely oblivious to the fact that she was actually using the word in the right context. I then told her there are multiple ways she can send her painting to her grandparents. "You can show your drawing to them on skype, you can email it to them or you can write a note on it ...maybe draw a heart, write your name and post it, so that the postman delivers the actual piece of paper to them...They will love it". I really don't know how much of it made sense to her. I did feel rather silly, asking her to 'snail mail' it, given that she wanted to show the painting to her grandparents immediately...not practical...but it just stemmed from my need to help her understand the emotion associated with receiving a hand written note from someone far away...this incident and a set of similar others made me realize that a great responsibility lies on our shoulders, as a very important realization dawned on me...

...the realization that our generation ,is perhaps the last generation of people to have had a complete taste of the world and it's workings before the prevalence of the world wide web and after. We are probably the last generation of  people who, as adolescents and teenagers, have known the joy of rummaging through encyclopaedias and "Tell me Why's" to get the answers to the 'why, what, when, how' of our questions, in an era when thick encyclopaedias and word of mouth were the
most conclusive ways of satiating our curiosity, and then, as adults, have gotten  used to getting some of those same answers through the search of a few words on wikipedia or a search engine on the world wide web via a phone or laptop. We are probably the last generation of people, who, as teenagers, were used to print on paper being the only mode of reading content and then, as
adults, progressed to the convenient use of audio books, kindles and other electronic devices to read content in conjunction with print on paper. We may, for all you know, be the last generation of people, who will ever completely understand the lure of reading a printed book on paper, with a cup of coffee in hand, with rain pit patting on the roof vs reading the same content on an electronic device. We are probably the last generation of people who will understand both the charm of handwritten journals and the convenience and lure of blogging. We are probably the last generation of people, who cherish the handwritten note, thought about and posted weeks in advance to reach you on your special day, while also being uplifted by social media messages, triggered by automated notifications. To say the least, we are a rather unique generation to have had the opportunity to have seen and been a part of this big transition.
Having gotten this unique opportunity comes with it's fair share of responsibility. It's on our shoulders to try and demonstrate the benefits and pitfalls of all the options that children have, in every sphere of life, with or without technology. The choice has to be finally made by them, though. I am inclined to believe that being on either extreme of the parenting spectrum as far as technology
is concerned, isn't going to help our children. In a world where technology proliferates, not providing kids with sufficient guided exposure to technological capabilities and gadgets, may end up being a big disservice to them, in the long run. And of course, we all know the effects of too much exposure.

As I see it now, my little 3.5 year old daughter wouldn't have been able to establish and maintain the kind of connection she has with her grandparents and extended family, who live thousands and thousands of miles away, without all the technology that is available to us. She does learn a lot of good things from educational apps as well as tv programs. As long as this level of exposure
does not impede her ability to interact and gain knowledge through direct social interactions as well, I think it's a win-win situation! However like a lot of other things related to bringing up kids, being able to keep this a win- win situation is a responsibility that we parents bear. It doesn't take long for a win win situation to take a down hill plunge.

'D' and 'I' are taking small steps to keep up the 'technology' balance at home. We love technology and the benefits it offers. We also love living and experiencing life through people to people, people to nature interactions. I, for one, am starting with a very, very small step. A month or so back, I realized, when I was not at work, sometimes there was an impulsive need to just pick up the phone if it was in front of me and spend a few minutes browsing through messages, news articles, blogs, social media. Absolutely not needed during family time or when you are around people, but an impulse. This meant sometimes it, unwittingly infringed upon family time and potentially sent the wrong signals to my little daughter about social interactions. So for now, my very small step at contributing to the 'technology' balance at home  is to resist such impluses  specially when around family/friends and involved in interactions...news/blog browsing, texting, social media access are limited to twice a day...once in the AM...once in the PM...if someone needs to get in touch with me urgently, they will call me anyways! It may sound a silly thing to do to many of you but I am working hard at this for the past month...it's working and believe me, it can be really uplifting, as weird as it may sound!:)

So here's to many more months and years of discipline in maintaining the "technology" balance at home and ensuring that the use of technology is always a win-win situation for us and our little ones!

Life's little moments...toddler hair dressing tips...

(Via Facebook Timeline on April 16,2015)

In the middle of the weekday morning madness that's typical in the Das household, while I am busy trying to do Raya's hair and 'perfect' those teeny weeny pig tails, madam Raya decides to dole out her own hair dressing fundas.

Raya: Mama, if you don't put the bands on my pig tails and roll my hair like this ( accompanies it with some hilarious hair 'rolling' or rather 'folding' gestures), I will not be Raya anymore.

Yours truly: If you won't be Raya, who will you become?

Raya: Hmmm...( Ponders for a couple of seconds ) and then asks in a thoughtful mood, "What is the name of the girl who sings the 'Roar' song ?"

Yours truly: Ahhh...Katy Perry?

Raya: Yes, Katy Perry. If you roll my hair like this( again follows it up   with the same funny hair 'rolling'/'folding' gestures), I will not be Raya. I will be Katy Perry!

Oh well , of course LOL. Katy Perry or not , this was enough to make the home reverberate with 'roars' of laughter on a chaotic Thursday morning!

Monday, April 6, 2015

Being comfortable in one's own skin...

I believe , the most important lesson that a parent can possibly try to imbibe in a child is to be comfortable in his/her own skin. It's a really tough lesson to impart, but if, as parents, we succeed in achieving that, I believe it's the first and most important lesson in enabling a child to lead a life unfettered by complexes and insecurities...it is the one and only ingredient that will enable our little ones to truly bask in the joy of living.

To keep it very simple, from what it appears to me, the very basic trait of a person who is comfortable in his/her own skin is the ability to have a hearty laugh at himself/herself! It may sound odd that I say it, but without this very basic sense of humor, it is really not possible to be comfortable in one's own skin. In addition to this quality, such a person generally:
- Has the ability to embrace his/her uniqueness and associated quirks
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical  notions of body image...You know the drill, "Thin is good...fat is bad.".   That of course doesn't imply that the person is not aware of the benefits of generally being healthy.  What it does mean is that being a size '0' and having a thin waist or a good physique is not the primary driver in his/her life. A few pounds here and there need not result in bouts of anorexia.
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical notions of culture or indulge in prejudices...You know the drill..."Asians do this, so that... African Americans do this, so that...White Americans do this, so that" etc. etc. This doesn't mean the person  does not attempt to understand differences in culture, what it does mean is that the person accepts the 'good'  and 'bad' of different cultures and basks in the glory of diversity rather than spending time slotting people, being prejudiced and giving preferential treatment.
- Doesn't nurture stereotypical notions of social, economic and intellectual disparities. Such a person is very comfortable   interacting with people belonging to different sections of society without  being arrogant/insecure about one's own pre-conceived notion of 'superiority'/'inferiority'. Such people are able to absorb life lessons like a sponge through interactions with people across diverse sections of the society.
- Has the confidence to stand up for himself/herself and others when the need arises, if that seems to be the right thing to do, without unduly weighing gains and losses to oneself. Can fight 'his/her' own battles and  make 'his/her' point without using anyone else as a shield.

Essentially a person comfortable in his/her own skin is secure, content, is able to bask in the glory of life experiences and is confident of making the most of what life has to give him/her....which in turn, I am assuming translates to happiness?! Such a person is tolerant and easy-going and doesn't feel the need to indulge in pettiness to fit into stereotypical moulds or to please people.

What about the traits of people who don't seem comfortable in their own skin:
-Inability to laugh at oneself.  Not to say there is a complete lack of a sense of humour. It's just that often times the inability to laugh at oneself is accompanied by a sense of humour that is furtive and sneaky...you know the kinds who get  huge kicks out of  laughing behind people's backs, without having the guts to laugh on anyone's face!
-Driven by stereotypical notions of body image
-Driven by stereotypical notions of culture and hence often indulge in prejudices.
-Driven by stereotypical notions of social, economic and intellectual disparities. And hence find it very difficult to adapt to sections of society where 'he/she' doesn't think 'he/she' belongs. More often than not 'arrogant/insecure' in interactions. More often than not, very judgemental.
-Often fiercely competitive about every aspect of life. Not to say, these folks are not good at what they do, but are extremely  competitive nevertheless and have an inherent urge to be one up on others, all the time. Some may say, that's needed to survive in today's world. Killer instinct, it is called. Oh well!
-People pleasers. They often do anything that's needed to please the people/section of the society they think they will benefit from or they want to fit into. Change colors as often as needed
-Never content with what they have. Always in search of something more. A 'better' house...a 'better' car...a 'better' dress ...a 'better' friend...maybe even a 'better' husband/wife:). Some may say, it's motivation to 'do'/'achieve' something 'better'.Oh well!! :)
-Never able to stand up for oneself or for others, without having something "major" to gain from it. Oh well, isn't that the way the world rolls!!Perhaps!

Either way, for a person not comfortable in his/her own skin , it is a life-long search for the next 'better' thing to fit into a 'stereotype' and life often ends up being full of complexes and insecurities.

Being comfortable in one's own skin isn't easy, but if you are , you are one of the really fortunate ones! It is also something that cannot be consciously taught to a child, without living and breathing it in your own day to day life. So here's to bringing up children who are comfortable in their own skin and enabling them to bask in the glory of all that life has to offer!