Thursday, September 27, 2007

On religion - II

There were so many thought-provoking comments to my last post on religion, that I thought I would respond in a follow up post.

I agree that it's hard to teach children to question at such a young age - and probably not even appropriate. This is an age where they need structure, and religion is nothing if not structured.

I think I will probably end up exposing Moppet to a shallow version of religion - telling her stories from the Bible, celebrating festivals - and when she is old enough to ask questions, I will try and answer them as honestly as I can.

But the last word on this for me is my dad's. He wrote me an email in response to the post, and with his permission, I'm quoting some parts from it here because I think it's really worth sharing:
You're right, "Parents are such enormous influences on their children." That's why the question of parents' responsibilities in their children's development is so important. Are we doing the right thing for our children when we put them through certain experiences and prevent them from others?

My answer is simple. There is no right way to bring up children. In spite of the mountains of parenting wisdom all around us, every parent has to go through the trial and error method to bring up their kids. One is never sure one is right. One has to do what one believes is right, and leave it there. Fortunately for children, parents are not the only influencers. In fact, the tendency of adolescents to rebel against their parents is one of the most beautiful things in life. So parents should not take full credit or blame for the way their children come up.

While there is no one right way to bring up children, I believe there is one wrong way. That is being too sure of oneself and being rigid about it.


Be yourself. Be honest with yourself and with Moppet. You will influence her thinking, but don't for a moment think that it will be so deep that there will be no room for other influences.

Tuesday, September 25, 2007

Mayil for me, baby

Rows and rows of little shops selling bits and pieces of hardware is probably very close to what my husband imagines heaven is like. Rarely have I seen such a gleam in his eye or such a smile on his face as when he was wandering through that crowded IT Mall, drooling over the latest and greatest in hardware, exclaiming over prices, and pointing out specs to me.

I was along for translation and deal-making services that were required only intermittently during the 3 hours that we were there. So while he pottered around happily in some little store, I plonked myself down on a bench outside to give my aching back a break.

That's when I saw them, a mom and daughter sitting in a hair salon. (Remember, this is Thailand, there are beauty salons everywhere - even in IT malls.) The little girl was about Moppet's age, and her mom was amusing her by throwing a small towel over a stuffed toy and then flicking it off to reveal the toy. The girl burst into loud laughter every time the towel came off and she saw the toy. It was a cute sight, and I watched them with a smile.

But it was a wistful smile, because it's been a long time since it was that easy to make Moppet laugh. A simple trick like the stuffed toy and the towel would earn me nothing more than an inquiring 'how-dumb-do-you-think-I-am' look from her. I remember when she was just a couple of months old, putting her hands together and clapping them would bring on the most gorgeous wide smiles. Peekaboo, funny faces, silly sounds - easy enough, but they only worked for a few more months.

It's not that she doesn't laugh, just that the things that make her laugh are far more elaborate. So when Ally the Aligator strolls along the bathroom platform, falls into Lake Washbasin and screams for help in a shrill falsetto, I get a giggle. And then when Wally the Walrus arrives to rescue Ally and falls in himself, I get another one. When the jug I'm balancing on my head falls off and I just barely manage to catch it, I'm rewarded with an appreciative laugh. And it's even louder if I don't manage to catch it and it bounces off my foot. More laughter when she slips out of my grasp while being lotioned up after her bath and streaks through the house in her birthday suit, with me in hot pursuit. Laughter when she pinches me and says 'AAARGH' herself.

Two days ago,she found these swim goggles and cracked up looking at herself in the mirror. It was just wonderful to watch, for me in particular because although she's taken after her more serious father, my secret (well, not so secret any more now!) wish is that if she could have just one of my traits, it would be the ability to laugh at oneself.

The world is not always a happy place, and life can be hard. Finding humour in every day life helps me stay positive, and I like to think that I'm confident enough in who I am to be able to laugh at myself on occasion. I hope I can give my daughter the same confidence in herself.

But for now I'll settle for another one of those delicious giggles. Time for the tickle monster, I think!

Monday, September 24, 2007

Where have you been?

No less than 3 loyal readers have asked me some variation of this question this weekend. Of course, 2 of them also followed it up with complaints about my last post - 'serious doesn't suit you', 'don't think too much, you'll hurt your little brain' - but I'm an expert selective listener, so that's just background noise to me.

What's important to remember is that they were clamouring - literally begging - for my next post. I have them enthralled! Ooh, the power! I hope it doesn't go to my head! :-D

Sorry, I'm being ridiculous, but last week has been one of those tiring weeks that you can't legitimately complain about because it's no big deal, and you know it, but you still want sympathy and no one will give it to you. Because it really is no big deal. But still...

For most of the last week, Moppet has had a cough and a stuffy nose that's been keeping her up at night. But does the silly creature sleep during the day to make up for the sleepless nights - hers and mine? Of course not, that would make my life too easy, and we most certainly can't have that. Oh no! She insists on gluing her little butt to my lap and whining and cranking and generally using me as a giant snot-wipe.

She is much better now, as she should be, seeing as she has been determinedly transferring her germs to me all week. And with Aunt Flo making a particularly ill-timed visit, let's just say that I'm not going to win any congeniality contests even if the only other participant is a female grizzly bear.

So anyway, this post is just to tell you that yes, all is quite ok, and no, the last post where I actually had to think did not overload my brain, and yes, there will be more posts, and no, they are not likely to be very serious ones. Happy?

Monday, September 17, 2007

On religion

When we meet new people and I mention Moppet's name, something I often hear is 'Oh, but that's not a Hindu name, is it?' No, it's not, I reply and wait for the inevitable follow up question: So you're Indian but not Hindu? What are you then?

For simplicity's sake I say we're Christian, and while it is factually correct, I often feel like a hypocrite saying it. Moppet's Papa and I are Christians simply because of the families we were born into but neither of us practice the religion. Sure, we got married in a church, and Moppet has been baptized, but that was more for our extended families than for us. Christmas and Easter are celebrated, but as social events, not religious ones.

I'm still finding my own way through this, but the clearest way in which I can explain my position is that I believe in God (or some sort of a higher power) and not in any religion. It never really worried me until Moppet arrived. Because I don't know how I'm going to explain this to Moppet. I would like her to understand the religion she is born into, but I want her to choose the religion she follows, if at all. And I don't want my own beliefs, or lack of them, to influence her choice.

But is that possible? Parents are such enormous influences on their children. And aren't we really, at some level, bringing up our children to be stronger, faster, smarter, more successful versions of ourselves?

In my own family, my father is agnostic and my mother, a believer. My dad ensured that I went to Sunday school and got religious instruction, but he also encouraged me to question, think for myself and make my own choices. While this has been his guiding parenting principle across all things in life, in the matter of religion in particular, I think his own beliefs have influenced mine greatly. I remember the long discussions we have had on religion, some when I was just 10 or 11 years old. I remember his honest explanation of his agnostic position, and today I wonder if my experience of religion and spirituality as a child might have been different if it hadn't been seen through my dad's agnostic lens.

As an adult, I have no regrets about that. But as a mother, I wonder if I can be involved in my daughter's understanding and experience of religion without colouring it with my own.

I wish I knew.

Edited to add: I realise that the post does not quite explain why I want Moppet to experience and understand religion, if I don't believe myself.

One, as Kiran mentioned in the comments, religion does bring a sense of identity. There is a sense of community and belonging that I do not want to deprive Moppet of. Growing up, we went to church as a family every Sunday, my dad included. He believed his obligation to our church community was a social one, and fulfilled it religiously [sorry, just couldn't resist ;-)] I owe Moppet the opportunity to belong, and should she later choose not to, that is her decision to make, not mine.

Two, faith also brings hope, strength, and a sense of purpose. Especially as a child, when life can be so confusing and overwhelming, I think it is nice to be able to believe in a guardian angel, to know that miracles can happen. For all my feelings about religion being man-made, and rituals designed for an earlier time that have no relevance in today's world, there is certainly much human wisdom in religious texts that I would like Moppet to learn.

Thank you all for your comments. I know there are no easy answers, but your support and understanding gives me hope.

Thursday, September 13, 2007

He turns in his grave, the Bard

Ok guys, if after this post you don't hear from me anymore, it probably means that my husband has murdered me and thrown my body into the Chaao Phraya river.

Tharini, this is all your fault! :-)

In the early months of Moppet's life, her Papa came up with the accurate, if unoriginal nickname of 'Poopy'. He'd go nose to nose with her and say 'Hi PooOOoopy', and about half the time she would respond with a grimace and live up to her name.

That wore off by the time she was about 5 or 6 months old and a new nick was created - 'Bumboola'. This one is still used on occasion, usually when she's done something naughty (Come here, Bumboola, you!)

But by and large, he has been wonderfully restrained in the matter of nicknames. He usually calls her by her name or the very innocuous 'Kiddo'.

So if it hadn't been for the fact that poor Moppet has an absolute loon for a mother, she would probably have gone through her childhood unscarred by any over the top monikers.

But alas, that was not to be. I mostly call her Kunji which translates to 'little one'. Variations are Kunjoos, Kunjubaba, Kunjubobs, and sometimes even K-bob, as in 'Whatcha upto K-bob?'

Kuttaapoo, Kuttaapi, and Kuttapai have also been employed at one time or another. Even Kunjukundi, which means 'little butt' (Oh dear, I have so got to take down this post before she learns how to read!)

But worst of all is our song. The last syllable of Moppet's name rhymes with 'me', so our song goes like this:

Mama: Who's Mama's cuddlebunny?
Moppet: Me, me, (her name)!
Mama: Who's Mama's chocolate puddin'?
Moppet: Me, me, (her name)!

You get the idea.

Moppet can't pronounce her name yet, so she only does the 'me, me' part - but she recognises the sing-song tone and usually answers 'me, me' to almost anything I choose to put into the song.

Therefore we have her enthusiastically saying 'me, me' in answer to 'potty queen', 'coconut head', and 'gudlugooba' (which means owl in Telugu), and pretty much anything that pops into my head. Umm, at what age do kids start consciously remembering this stuff? I had better stop before she gets scarred for life!

Now to diffuse the embarrassment by spreading it around a bit. Tagging NM, Cantaloupe's Amma, Rbdans (or DDMom), Mystic Margarita, Sunita, and Choxbox (although you're allowed to decline it if you think n3 might find it too embarrassing).

Wednesday, September 12, 2007

Quirky? Me?

Tagged by not one, but two funny ladies (and I mean that in a nice way). Y and Kiran have ordered me to list my quirks, and five no less!

Here goes:

1. I'm a nitpickomaniac. I sweat the small stuff. Which is weird, because I'm generally pretty calm about the big stuff. My life can be crumbling about my ears and I will be worrying about whether my slippers need washing.

2. You won't like watching movies with me. I'm always looking for and pointing out logic flaws and mistakes of continuity. I also ask a lot of questions during the movie - Why did he do that? Where did she come from? But how can that be? It drives Moppet's Papa crazy and I understand why, but (so?) I still do it.

3. I need to wave my hands around when I talk. And I'm a chatterbox. As result, talking to me in confined spaces can be a dangerous undertaking. My grandfather used to say that the only way to shut me up was to tie my hands behind my back and I think he was right. I recall now that when Moppet was younger, I didn't talk as much as is normal for me and I guess it was because my hands were full of baby and my mouth was unable to work solo.

4. When I'm reading or watching TV, I chew my lower lip. I mean really, really chew, often to the point of bleeding. I acquired this disgusting habit in my early teens and it has reached a point where I'm not even aware I'm doing it. My mom tried everything - yelling, cajoling, shaming - until she gave up in the hope that when I acquired a boyfriend / husband, he would be able to stop me. But I don't think Moppet's Papa even notices it, so her hopes have now turned to Moppet. I think it will eventually be Moppet who will force me to stop, but she's not old enough to notice yet, so I have a few more years to eat my lower lip in peace.

5. I'm ticklish beyond belief. I have been known to squeal and giggle uncontrollably when Moppet's Papa lets his hand hover (not touch mind you, just hover) over the sole of my foot and says, 'I'm thinking about tickling you'. He, of course, has buffalo hide for skin and is not ticklish at all. So unfair.

So there you have it. What do you think, how high do I rate on the quirkometer? Here's the scale, eleven being the least quirky and fourty-four being the most quirky (Why those numbers, you ask? It's a quirkometer, silly!)

11. Duh?
22. Look, it's alive!
33. A perfect specimen.
44. Excuse me, which planet are you from?

Tagging JLT, Fuzzy, Something To Say, DotMom, Gauri and anyone else who'd like to do this tag.

Monday, September 10, 2007

Holiday tales

Back home, after a whirlwind weekend in beautiful Singapore. Having travelled plenty with Moppet, I have long since ceased to expect anything but the unexpected. Moppet's Papa however, was rather surprised because the holiday was nothing like the holiday we planned. It was better.

We ended up doing very little sightseeing, but got to meet up with several friends, many of whom we had not met in more than 5 years. It was a bit strange - all these folks we knew at B-school, now moms and dads, dealing with the madness that is life with young children. It took some getting used to, but it was really nice to be able to talk about babies, parenting survival tips, and spousal quirks and not feel too old, too frumpy, too out of it, or simply weird :-)

Squiggles and her parents graciously hosted us and took us around town. Contrary to my fears, Moppet was rather well-behaved, with only a few minor episodes - repeatedly decapitating one of poor little Squiggles' dolls, objecting vigorously if I carried Squiggles (which I didn't do much of anyway since Squiggles also made it clear that I was not a preferred carrier), running amok at the Borders bookstore, and attempting to poke a waitress in the butt with her spoon while waiting for her dinner - all quite tame by Moppet's standards.

For all that Squiggles is only 3 months old, she gamely came with us as we drove around the city, despite not being a fan of the car seat. She's a strong-minded little creature who knows exactly what she wants and reminds me so much, temperament-wise, of Moppet at that age. She protested strenuously, but once she realised that it wasn't working, settled in and treated us all to some lovely cooing and gurgling.

We also celebrated Squiggles' 3rd month birthday. Please observe the lip-smacking Moppet hovering around the fresh-cream pastry and Squiggles' wary what's-she-doing-to-MY-cake look. After which, Squiggles Mom demonstrated to Moppet the best way to eat cake - stick your finger into the fresh cream and lick it off. Moppet gave it a tentative try, and then went wild! Some of the cake managed to find its way into her mouth, the rest was on her face, hair, arms, and the furniture. Not to mention what all that sugar did to her later in the evening as she whooped and spun around the room until she finally collapsed in exhaustion sometime near midnight.

Just like our holiday, actually. We got a lovely little taste of Singapore and whooped and spun around until we were beat. A big, big thank you to Squiggles' Mom and Dad for making the whole trip such fun!

Thursday, September 6, 2007

Whims and fancies

God knows I've complained enough about being unemployed, but it does have its advantages. Like tomorrow, Moppet and I are going to Singapore - just like that! Moppet's Papa is already there, and we'll be joining him for the weekend. Not the kind of almost spur of the moment thingy a working mom could do, eh?

We'll be staying with a brave (some would say foolhardy) friend who I haven't seen in over 6 years. Naturally, I would like to make a fabulous impression, but there's something about the glint in Moppet's eye when I beg her to be good and not embarrass Mama that tells me I had better go and practice my abject apology speech.

Ah well, que sera sera. Leaving you with a picture of Moppet and her current fancies in life:

1. A book called Bright Start, which has lots of photographs of children. Moppet loves flipping through this book, pointing out which kid is crying and showing me how, which one is drinking waatha or joos, which one is sleeping, and so on.

2. Our old digicam. She takes it all over the house and every so often, squints into the lens and says maayil. Since the object being ordered to maayil is usually unable to comply on account of being inanimate, she goes ahead and does it for them.

3. The top obsession of the moment is her pair of hot pink flip-flops. I have a pair of pink slippers that I wear around the house, and Moppet is always yanking them off my feet and attempting to wade around the house in them. So when I saw these slippers, I just had to buy them for her, even though the smallest size they had was too big for her.

She hasn't quite mastered the art of walking in them yet; they fly off her feet as she trots around and I keep hearing exasperated yells of 'chooooooz!' as she runs to pick them up and put them on again. But for all the trouble they're giving her, seeing as she spends more time on her butt, trying to fit them on her feet than actually walking around in them, she absolutely adores them.

I'm going to have to hide them away tonight or she will insist on wearing them to the airport tomorrow, which will be an absolute disaster.

See y'all Monday, folks! Have a nice weekend!

Monday, September 3, 2007

Why Barney NEVER wears pants

Far, far away, in an ancient land once called Siam, there lived a little girl. Sixteen moons after she was born, a google-eyed oracle sent warning that the child was a small yet potent version of an erstwhile dark lord, but her parents paid no heed.

Indeed, it seemed that they might be right, for apart from a single unfortunate incident involving a blue elephant, the little girl showed no signs of any predisposition to evil.

And so it was that they all lived happily together, the little girl, her mother, father, and her best friend - a purple dinosaur called Baani.

It was but an innocent game that started it all. As night drew near, the little girl was preparing to retire to her bedchamber with the assistance of her father. All went well until the little girl decided she did not wish to wear her pantaloons.

Her father, that noble squire, blessed with every virtue but patience, did not take kindly to his daughter's refusal. A quick chase around the bedchamber led to her capture, but his attempts to restrain her and put the pantaloons on her met with resistance so fierce that in exasperation he made a thunderous declaration. Should the she refuse to wear her pantaloons, they would be given to Baani. Seeing that the declaration had no effect, he proceeded to stuff the hapless dinosaur into the little girl's pantaloons even as she watched in horror.

Then all hell broke loose.

It was at this moment that the mother entered the bedchamber. Oh, has ever a mother witnessed a more wretched spectacle?! Her only child, in the throes of a mad rage, screaming and wrestling with a dinosaur in an attempt to tear off his pants!

'Tis true, gentlefolk, and you are right to be shocked. But the wickedness does not end there.

For the mother, far from being horrified, as any gentlewoman ought to be, collapsed in unseemly mirth next to her husband, who was already rolling on the bed, tears of laughter streaming from his eyes.

It was some minutes before either of them thought to rescue Baani from being completely ravaged at the hands of their child. The little girl soon fell into a deep and happy slumber, proudly wearing the retrieved pantaloons.

Baani, however, carries the memory like a scar on his heart to this day. Which is why you will NEVER see him wearing pants of any sort. Ever.