Thursday, July 16, 2015

The laughter, joy, frustration ,exhaustion...and everything in between...

I started writing this as a comment to a related post by Indian American Mom, a fellow mommy blogger, but then realized maybe it deserved a post of it's own, after all...a post that I could come back to when I am dealing with teenage tantrums, or when I feel that what I wrote here doesn't hold true anymore, or perhaps even later in life, when I am old and wobbly(if I end up living that long enough:)) and have nothing much to keep me company other than these printed words on this web journal, to help re live life's little moments!

So in her post, what Indian American Mom, essentially says is that the phase in which her two kids currently are(ages 7 and 9 respectively), seem to be the best phase of parenting, with reference to her experiences and life. That got me thinking. While I don't have as much parenting experience as her to correlate and compare with, nevertheless how do I feel really about the different phases of parenting
our little munchkin, who is turning 4 in a couple of months and who is the cause of all the chaos as well as laughter in the household. Well let' see...

When Raya was a baby, her baby rolls, chubbiness and cuddliness made me feel 'that' was the best phase of parenting, despite all the frustration that zillions of dirty diapers and lack of sleep, would often bring on. Oh tell me about baby tummy rolls, thigh rolls and chubby cheeks. All those little babies of  family and friends have been at the receiving end of cheeks being pulled, many a time by yours truly, of course...Needless to say, much to the consternation of the little ones and parents alike, now, I always have to be know what I mean avoid those rolling eyes:)...But, of course, there was no one to roll their eyes at me as far as my own little baby was I pulled her cheeks, huddled and cuddled my little one to absolutely my hearts content! Other than the travails of pumping breast milk in lieu of nursing, 'this'(1-6 month) phase was great, given that we could still do a lot of the things that we did as family...dine out, a bit of travel etc. etc....all that we needed was a handy 'pacifier' to continue doing all the things we, now...don't roll your eyes again...yes, I am indeed a 'pacifier giving' kind of mom...only by a miracle of God,  did we manage to wean Raya off the pacifier at age 1. So all is well :)

The phase between 6 months and 2 years, when the smiles came on galore and the interaction increased significantly, I felt 'that' was the best phase of parenting, despite all the fatigue and exhaustion that her increased level of crawling/walking and other activities entailed.

The phase between 2  to 3 years was a mixed bag indeed...the intermittent tantrums...potty training exercises...and so much more...but nevertheless, the increased level of interaction/chattiness/toddler insights and just the excitement of seeing little munchkin grow, made everything worthwhile.

Now that she is a chatty 'almost' 4 year old, I feel ' this' is the best phase of parenting...there is entertainment galore at home with non-stop's a different thing that 'D' and I often feel the need to put on ear plugs/turn a deaf ear to all the 'why/where/ how?' questions. Also while she is semi-independent in keeping herself entertained, we more often than not have to be a part of her games and, of course, read the same book for the zillionth time. But that's that. There has been many a time, when stress at home has been dissipated by roars of laughter brought on by Raya 'lingo'. Among others, here are some recent tid bits:

Raya: (While playing a board game) "Mamma, baba doesn't follow the rules of the game. Can you ask him to read the construction on the box?" LOL...'construction', of course, is meant to translate to 'instruction':)

Raya:(Looking at the pictures of a mythological tale) "Baba, what is Krishna's dad wearing?"
Raya's Baba: "It's called a 'dhoti', Raya, in Hindi"
Raya: "Oh alright, he is wearing a 'dhotty'"

Yours truly:"Raya, what are you and Baba making for breakfast today?"
Raya:"We are making egg 'rotty', mamma" ...egg 'rotty' is of course supposed to mean egg roti...the Indian equivalent of a French toast.

Raya: (Wrapping up a pretend conversation on the phone)..."Ok ok...that's fine...teek hai...teek hai...bye!"...('Teek hai' is meant to mean 'Theek hain' in Hindi and translates to 'OK' in English. And for all those, who are aware of my skill with the Hindi lingo also  know how many times in a conversation I use 'theek hain') now, we know where she gets that from LOL.

So essentially entertainment galore and  she is fortunately still at the stage when she still cares to listen to what we have to say, despite having extremely strong 'toddler' opinions about everything on the planet, that she has happened to hear about!

I guess it is really wishful thinking that I will feel the same during her teenage years(as in teenage years being the 'best' phase of parenting...never heard any parent say that, have you?)... can only hope, pray and just wait for time to tell...But at the very least, every phase of parenting is indeed that complex, overwhelming and exhilarating combination of joy, love, frustration, exhaustion and everything in between, that I think probably very few things in the world can match, if there is anything at all out there that can come close to matching it!:)

Happy Thursday folks. The weekend is almost here!

Tuesday, July 14, 2015

Board games and toddler lessons...

I have never been a big fan of any specific board game other than scrabble and chess...the love for scrabble and chess being primarily due to  nostalgia associated with the times spent with grandparents and extended family, playing these on many a Sunday afternoon. The dislike for the broader genre of board games has been primarily due to the fact that as an adult, in a social environment, I have often observed that the competition and aggressiveness associated with the desire to win a game, specifically the so called 'strategy' games often takes the charm away from a perfectly enjoyable social evening. I have also often noticed that  the lure of these games, socially, results in folks being more interested in knowing about  the strategies a specific person used in a game in the past few  meetings, rather than  the more important and real things going on in their lives, at a personal level. That's a big turn off for me sometimes . I would much rather spend an evening chatting with a friend about the going ons in life and learn a few life lessons from shared and individual experiences rather than sitting at a table, playing a  strategy board game, manipulating or getting manipulated by another player :). Sometimes the line between strategy and manipulation in these 'big kid/adult' board games seems too thin for my liking. But that's just me being me:).To each his own, of course! Either way, I will have  to caveat this with the fact that I do acknowledge that, when played in the right spirit, there are a lot of skills that we can consciously and subconsciously imbibe from playing board games...diplomacy, goal setting, creative problem solving, the habit of abiding by rules, judicious risk management and just the simple fact of life that you win some and you lose name just a few!

I have also realized that the benefits of board games and the skills that one can imbibe from playing board games are particularly magnified in the context of what some of the games meant for kids, can potentially teach them...number and shape recognition, grouping, counting, letter recognition and reading, visual perception and color recognition, eye-hand coordination and manual dexterity, verbal communication, sharing, patience, taking turns, and just enjoying interaction with others. Board games for kids can foster the ability to focus, and lengthen a child's attention span by encouraging the completion of an exciting, enjoyable game. Even simple board games like 'Chutes and Ladders' offer meta-messages and life skills aka the simple message : your luck can change in an instant...for the better or for the worse. So never give up. Just when you feel despondent, you might hit the jackpot and ascend up high, if you stay in the game for just a few more moves. Small lessons, big lessons, life lessons.

So essentially what I am trying to get at is the fact that the notion of parenting and just the presence of my little munchkin in our lives, has made me look at board games from a completely different perspective, like so many other things in life :)

In this context, here's a specific bitter-sweet incident that happened at home. So last time my parents were here, they got Raya a board game involving alphabets and numbers. The rules of the game are pretty simple. 52 cards with a little or big alphabet written on it with a picture of an associated object that starts with the alphabet. A board with 52 blocks/squares again with alternate little and big alphabets. A spinner that that would make the needle land in any number from 1 to 4 to determine the number of moves a player needs to make towards the final goal. Each time a player lands on a block/square, the player gets the corresponding alphabet card, unless another player already has the card in his/her possession by virtue of having landed on the block earlier. As soon as one player crosses the finish line, the player with the maximum number of cards is declared the winner.

'D' and Raya first started playing this game. Initially, playfully, whenever 'D' would land on a block/square , the card for which already belonged to Raya, 'D' would get a bit melodramatic in front of Raya, pretending to be  sad and tearful and little munchkin would immediately feel sorry for him and hand over her card to him with, "Ok, Baba...I am sharing my card with you". This went on for a while, and at the end of the game, when it was time to count the cards, 'D' did not volunteer to give the cards he had gotten from Raya, back. He just waited to see if she would just forget about those, which would be sad since it would mean she was accepting defeat after being playfully 'cheated'. The 'hooray' moment was when she began counting her own cards and soon enough told 'D', 'Baba, I gave you 3 cards. Give them back to me!' :)

So that's that. On the flip side, Raya thought the way 'D' was playing the game was a rule in the game. So when she started playing the board game with me, she would do the same. She would give me her cards, when I landed on a block/square, the alphabet card for which, she already possessed. She would voluntarily give the cards to me, because that's how she played with her 'Baba' and expect me to do the same. When I resisted taking her cards, saying that that was not the rule , she just said, 'But mama, you will give me back the cards at the end.I am sharing with you'. Involuntarily, my immediate response to that was, 'Raya, I will give your cards back to you. Not everyone will'. As soon as I uttered the sentence, I literally bit my tongue. I can only hope that she didn't get a vibe of that inherent adult cynicism in that statement...that inherent lack of trust, which I rarely exhibit, being the optimist that I am .I was quite upset at having uttered that cynical statement to my innocent, completely moldable pre-schooler. But that's that. There was nothing that I could do to take it back. So I just let the statement brush over, gave her the cards that belonged to her and moved on. There was nothing more to do. On another note, the concept of 'You win some, you lose some', of course, is  still quite alien to my little  toddler LOL. As of now, she always wants to win board games and get a surprise at the end of the game from 'Mamma' or 'Baba'. There is invariably a fit thrown when that doesn't happen. Oh well, we are working towards getting over that small step at a time...sometime soon, sometime soon... the magic will manifest itself!:)

Happy Tuesday folks! Enjoy the rest of the week.