Today, N created a big scene at the school bus stop. He clinged on to his Dad and refused to let go when he tried to put N in the bus. He kept insisting that it is not his bus. Dad showed him his usual bus friends and teachers and the driver and said this is indeed his bus, but no use. After trying to calm him down and make him get into the bus, Dad gave up and got him back home.
Since this was the first ever time N plainly refused to get in the bus, I sensed something was wrong. I let him calm down for some time and asked him why he didn’t want to go to school. He then revealed he is scared by the big pumpkin picture that has been put up on his classroom wall. On the one hand, I was happy that my not yet 3-year-old can so vividly describe his feelings, but was also sad that he was entering into the scared-by-anything-everything phase. I had read somewhere that fear is a necessary emotion for brain development. Should I take this as a positive sign and be happy that his brain is developing?
I did not want to brush away his fear as something silly. Ridiculing his fear was never the plan, so I had to find something to allay his fear. First step was of course to respect his feelings which we all did. We came up with a plan on the spot and told him pumpkin is a vegetable which we eat. I told him we will take a knife and chop the pumpkin upto pieces. And that we will pack his toy knife in your bag the next day so that if the pumpkin at school troubles him again, he will be ready with his knife to chop it up. When the pumpkin sees him, it will cower and run away and this brought giggles! He found it so funny that a pumpkin can get scared of him. Luckily, this plan worked. He went to school the next day and did not mention any pumpkin or such. All is well!
When I learnt about the unfortunate incident of my sister-in-law burning my nephew’s skin, I reacted with horror and shock. I confronted her as to how she could do it and when I realized she didn’t mean to do it and it was an accident, I still could not fathom how she could do it, even accidentally. Until I did the same to my kid.
It was one of the horrible days when N was hyper-active and I had to keep an eye on him every second. I and my husband were busy with preparations for the festival and we already had too many things on our plate and N was intruding in every step. My patience was already running low and the straw broke when he bit the maid so hard that her finger bled. I lost all my cool and threatened to give a burn unless he behaved. N was at his worst and he mocked me and said ‘Do it, ma, I will bite her again, so do it’. I kept the ladle on the flame for a second (I swear it was a second) and threatened him again, hoping he will calm down, but he kept on insisting what he did was okay and he would repeat it again. I put the spoon on my skin to ensure it wasn’t really hot and then gently put it on his leg. The spoon probably touched his skin for a fraction of a second. N got scared that the spoon actually made contact with the skin and immediately changed his tone. He didn’t cry, so I assumed he wasn’t hurt. He apologized to the maid and went on his way and continued with his terrible toddler behavior the rest of the day.
I didn’t think much about the incident and realized the damage I had done only in the evening. I realized, to my horror, that I had given a nasty burn wound to my son. The moment I saw what I had done, I felt so guilty for everything: for losing patience, for thinking of such a nasty punishment, for actually doing it and worse, not feeling bad about it until I realized what happened.
It doesn’t matter that I felt extremely guilty and cried for an hour, doesn’t matter I punished myself for this, doesn’t matter that my eyes welled up every time I saw the wound, doesn’t matter that I felt and still feel like the worst mother on earth – all it matters is I hurt my own kid. All the promises I had made to myself and my kid that I will protect him from being hurt flew out the window. I am deeply worried that this incident doesn’t scar my kid for ever and that he doesn’t start hating me for this. He has all the rights to hate me, though. Will he remember this and ask me ‘Mom, how could you do this to me? You brought me into the world for this?’
Nothing I do can change the horrible crime I have committed, but I tell myself this is my waking up moment. I need to rethink on how I am bringing up my kid and whether I am worthy of being a mother at all. If I had a genie granting me a wish, I would wish for that horrible moment to be erased from my life. I wish I could go back in time and stop myself from doing what I did. But, I know there are no genies, and I have to live with this guilt.
I had always read and heard of parents experiencing meltdowns at malls and grocery stores. Every parenting book has a section on how to handle public meltdowns, but it was something that I had not experienced myself. This fact changed sometime after the tyke turned two.
We went to one of his favorite hangouts – a mall, where he likes to sit near the fountain enjoying his sweet corn. We usually add some minimal shopping before this activity and it goes well every time. Apparently, not this time. There is a big floor dedicated to toys and when we were passing through this section, N decided he wants a new toy. A humongous teddy bear at that. He could barely lift it, but he managed to pull it down from the rack and asked me to buy it. I tried telling him we can’t buy it and when that did not work, I tried the only weapon remaining – distraction. He is smart enough to realize that I am distracting him (sometimes, not always, thank god) and when he did, it was full throttled crying. No amount of cajoling, convincing, distracting worked and he had a classic meltdown – threw himself on the ground, arms and legs flailing, face turning red and screaming until his lungs gave out. All I could do was stare in disbelief and ask myself ‘Is this really happening?’. Since there was nothing much I could do, I sat next to him and watched him. After what seemed like an eternity, his anger turned to grief and he wanted some love and sympathy and came to me, arms wide open. I picked him up, held and rocked him and he soon was back to normal again.
Every parenting book asks the parent not to be embarrassed when the kid has a public meltdown. I have watched kids and parents with pity whenever I witnessed a meltdown and that was the best I could do. I wondered how I would behave when I was in their position. When I look back, I don’t remember feeling embarrassed. All the while I was sitting next to my screaming kid, the only thing that was on my mind was how do I calm him down? How do I get him out of this tantrum phase and make him feel better?
BTW, do you know what is the worst thing you can tell someone who is angry, hyper and not under control: ‘Calm down’. Seriously, I used to try this with N and that would make him scream even more. Then I discovered FFR: Fast Food Rule by Dr. Karp and life with a toddler has been never been the same. That deserves a post of its own. I have some really good things to say about Dr. Karp’s book, a post is coming soon.
Since the time N started school, it has been a big task for me to find different ideas for his lunch box. The usual roti-subzi, boiled eggs, upma, bread-jam choices ran out in the first few days and now that the items are repeating, N is bored and so am I. Naturally, the hunt for recipes began and I spotted this little book in my library the other day: Tiffin Treats for Kids by Tarla Dalal. It was exactly what I was looking for: kid-friendly recipes which can be packed.
I read the book cover to cover and noted down some recipes and had to try one at that very moment. ‘Moong Dal Cricpies’ is what Madam Dalal likes to call it. It is made of moong dal and aata, how more nutritious can it get! One could add vegetables or leafy vegetables to make it even more nutritious. It does not take much time, not considering the soaking time of 30 minutes. This recipe uses very few, easily available ingredients, it is easy to customize and quick to make.
There are many recipes like this which caught my attention. Bread Pakoda, Khakra, Vegetable Pancake, Pasta, Sandwich, Fried Rice and what not. N is not much into spicy food, so most of these wouldn’t suit him, but I can always alter the recipe to suit N. The only thing pending is to plan and try out all these recipes and surprise N with a new item in box everyday.
Apart from the tasty recipes, what I really liked about the book is its layout. A full page picture of the food item on the left side and the recipe for the same on the right, so that when you are reading or making the recipe, you know how the end product should look like. I hate it when I see recipes and there is a footnote at the end which says photo on Page blah-blah. You can involve your kids in making some of these recipes, which is a double bonanza for mothers like me, whose kids are very much into cooking. There is another book by the same author Cooking With Kids which would be great for N. I am waiting until he grows a bit older before trying out this book.
I was hesitant to introduce chocolates in N’s diet. I knew he would love it and want more of it. I didn’t buy chocolates until he was over a year old and kept him away from it for as long as I could. Well, what do you know! Where do you think he got the first taste of chocolate? At the pediatrician’s clinic. I kid you not. Every time we visit N’s doctor, N gets a toffee. It is like a ritual and N looks forward to visiting the doctor. He is the only kid I know who is all excited about visiting his doctor.
I know I can request the doctor not to give him a chocolate, but what really bothers me is the fact that people give chocolates as gifts for every occasion. My colleague decided to drop by to collect something and he got a packet full of chocolates for N. My cousin came over for a stay and she had a box of chocolates. We visited an aunt of mine and she promptly gave some toffees to N. I know their intentions are all good, but chocolates are not really the best choice for a gift. N loves chocolates and it breaks my heart to refuse him a chocolate, so I don’t buy any. The only chocolates we have at home are all gifts and I have a big box full of them. N knows this and keeps digging into it every now and then.
I am guilty of this very mistake before I stood on this side of the court. I would have a handful of chocolates in my bag and would offer it to anyone and everyone. Never bothered about whether the parents were okay with it. Now that I am a mother myself, I understand people have opinions and chocolates may not be that welcome in every household.
I think fruits will make a better gift. Most of the kids love fruits and they are much more nutritious and filling than chocolates! Any other better gift ideas?
N turned two recently. His second year was eventful and memorable, in a good way and in a bad way. His language skills developed really quickly and his vocabulary has been growing exponentially ever since. Here are some memorable moments in pictures.
Some good moments and some not so good… a memorable year, nevertheless. Wishing you a very happy birthday my dear and hope you have a wonderful year ahead!
N starts school tomorrow and I am really nervous. Wish me luck, please!
You pick up any parenting book and you will see a chapter on respecting your child as a person. I took this in without much thought and kept telling myself, “Of course, I respect my kid as a person”. I and my kid (and my family) are struggling through a bad phase right now and only now I realize what respecting your kid really means.
My son is 22 months young, which means he is in his terrible twos. He sees himself as an individual now – no longer a part of mommy. He has realized he has likes, wants, dislikes, needs and whims and fancies. He has suddenly woken up to this wonderful world around where there so many exciting new things and objects and he wants to touch every one of them and play with them. He is learning new things everyday – words, colors, shapes, names and improving his skills – grasping, climbing, jumping, kicking, rolling and what not. He looks at people around and wants to do similar things. He sees his dad touching the calendar to turn a page and he wants to do it too. He sees his mom cutting vegetables and cooking and he wants to do the same.
He is this bundle of energy, ready to take on the world and when he hears someone say ‘No’, that’s when all hell breaks loose. He sees me using the knife and cutting the potatoes. All he asks for is to let him do the same. I promptly say no and he just doesn’t understand why. He asks again and gets a negative response. He cries, I still say no. He stomps his feet, flails his arms and rolls on the ground and that’s when he is given a time-out. He stands in a corner wondering what on earth did he do to be treated like this. And I wonder why he can’t play with things that he is allowed to and why he throws tantrums like this. Why don’t I realize that he is only doing what he is expected to do. He has to explore his world, ask questions, demand things and learn new things. I complain when he is doing exactly that! After some retrospection, I no longer say no to him. It doesn’t mean I let him play with the knife. I don’t use the word ‘No’. I tell him that it’s too dangerous to play with the knife. I show him how sharp it is and how he can get cut. I offer him his toy knife and it sometimes works. If things are really bad, I give him something else in the kitchen, say a spoon. Most of the time, he refuses to take it. I tell him again, “Are you sure you don’t want the spoon? I am keeping it back”. That’s when he takes the spoon and goes on to play.
Dinner time. I am feeding him chapati. Things are going smoothly. We are almost down to the last two bites and he refuses to open his mouth. I tell him nicely to finish it up because it’s only two bites. He refuses. I lose my patience and get upset that my kid is so disobedient – he can’t finish what’s in his plate. He is upset because his mom forces him to eat one more bite even when he is full. Why can’t I respect his opinion and let him go? Why do I insist that he finish his plate? Do I really need to be so strict in disciplining him? Now that I have changed, I no longer insist anything. The moment he says enough, I stop feeding him.
The real lesson on respect came to me at the swimming pool. We have this inflatable pool which N loves to play in. I fill it up with warm water, throw in his bath toys and garden toys and N plays in it for hours together. The natural thing to do next was to introduce him to a real pool. I and my husband took him to the toddler pool and made him stand in it. The next moment, N is out of the pool and crying like made. We both were so shocked. I tried to coax him to get in again but he flatly refused. He insisted that we get back home. We just sat by the pool side, looking at other kids and hoping that N would change his mind. I was disappointed that my son was scared of the pool. All I wanted was for him to play. I kept asking him, begging him, threatening him and nothing worked. We finally came back home dejected. If I look back now, I feel I was so wrong. I should have respected his choice and brought him back home. He is not yet 2 and there is plenty of time for him to play and swim. I should have told him, ‘It’s okay son. We will come to the pool when you are ready’. Which is what I did the next time. I just let him wet his feet and hands. He splashed water here and there and he was mighty happy. And so was I. I asked him once if he wants to get into the pool and when he said no, I didn’t ask him again.
He is not as tall and not as strong as us. He is frustrated that he can’t do the same things that we do. We all sit on the dining chair so easily, while he has to make an effort and climb. We all eat and drink whenever we want. I just have to reach the cookie box on the top shelf and munch away. If N wants a cookie, he needs someone to help him. We all can touch anything we want. For most of the things that he wants, he has to hear no for an answer. And he can’t understand why we say no. If we are in the middle of something, we often ignore his requests. This, for me, is a big no-no. I have made it a point to not ignore him no matter what and have told the same thing to everyone at home. Even if he is asking for something outside his limits, acknowledge his request and then give justification.
I have been following this simple thing for a few days now and I already see a change in N’s behavior. There are fewer tantrums and melt-downs. All it took was a realization that ‘respecting your kid’ is easier said than done.