Life Skills For Children: Vegetable Shopping

Vegetable shopping is a favourite activity for B +ve and O +ve that they look forward to every week.

Earlier, we used to go to the supermarket for vegetable shopping. I realized that it was not working out with the girls. They liked to touch and pick the vegetables. However, the crates arrangement in the supermarket was not conducive for the girls to get to work. So, we switched over to the weekly market that gets organized on the roads.

It has been a revelation for the girls and for the last two years, we have been doing this every week. The girls get their cloth shopping bags, the shopping list made by their mother and we are ready for the adventure.

I realized that it is not just the experience of vegetable shopping that O +ve and B +ve get in the weekly market; they also learn a number of life skills in the process.

Experiencing the real India

Weekly market happens on the arterial roads with vehicular traffic in full swing. The hawkers and the vendors put their vegetables on the road or on the pushcart – in the open. The girls experience the real markets with dust, dirt, heat, smoke, dogs, puddles, vehicles, people and everything else.

With the supermarket, they were seeing the sanitized environments. Now, they see the real India and they interact with ease.

I do not know how India will be when they grow up to be an adult. However, I feel that the transition from the road-side market to the sterile surroundings of the supermarket is relatively easy than the other way round. Navigating the maze of the weekly market as compared to the aisles of the supermarket may hold them in good stead when they grow up.

Talking to strangers

Due to the very nature of the weekly market on the road in the open, there are actually not many children out shopping. So, when the hawkers, vendors and the fellow buyers see two girls moving from one push-cart to another, they ask their names and what they are doing.

As the girls stay-at-home and do not go to formal learning environment, the weekly market serves as a good mechanism for them to get introduced to people and speak to them.

Understanding the concept of money

The girls pick their vegetables and also pay for their buy each time, taking turns.

In the weekly market, nobody accepts digital payments. So, we have to pay in cash. The girls understand that there are Rs. 50/-, Rs. 100/-, Rs. 200/- and Rs. 500/- notes. These are to be paid to the vegetable uncles and vegetable aunties and we get the change in return.

I understand that the girls are missing out on knowing about card payments and mobile wallets. But I suppose they will pick up along the way.

Knowing real vegetables

The girls did learn about vegetables from their books. However, they are all neatly coloured and of uniform shape and size. The supermarket sells graded and sorted vegetables, many a time. Going to the weekly market, the girls know how to pick tomatoes – red and medium-sized, and to avoid tomatoes with holes, that are green and soft. They know how potatoes and onions can be really out of shape and huge and tiny. They know how to pick brinjals, they know how arvi comes with so much of soil attached to it.

I felt that supermarkets, though they sold exotics, were weaker when it compared to stocking local leafy vegetables and gourds. The weekly market does not sell exotic vegetables. But they have all the local leafy vegetables and gourds – based on the season.

This has ensured that the girls know pretty well about the local vegetables basis their vegetable shopping experience.

Working at home with their buy

Coming back from the weekly market, the girls know that all the vegetables have to put in their respective baskets and bags. They practise their counting while putting the vegetables in their place. Having the ownership of their buys, the girls help their mother in the kitchen with all the cleaning, chopping, cutting and preparing the curries.

I suppose this has really helped in ensuring that B +ve and O +ve eat all the vegetables.

Going to the weekly market has another advantage that the girls do not get distracted by the processed food – chips and chocolates and the likes that the supermarket tries hard to sell to children.

Conclusion

Vegetable shopping can be a chore and difficult to get children excited about this task. However, for some reason, this has turned out to be an exciting weekly mission for O +ve and B + ve, till now.

I suppose they are not just learning vegetable shopping, they are learning a number of life skills along with.

How I am learning to deal with my parental anxiety

B +ve and O +ve were born pre-term at 33 weeks. They both weighed around 1.8 kg at their birth and went down to 1.5 kg before starting to gain weight. The doctor told us that till the girls turn 2 years, they will be considered 2 months younger to their birth-date to adjust for their pre-term birth.

I still remember how they looked at 1.5 kgs. I also remember the reactions of some of the people on seeing them, who had only seen babies born full term with normal weights. One of my wife’s friends, who has 2 children of her own, commented that our girls look like aliens.

Even after leaving the hospital, our visits to the doctor continued on a regular basis. The girls used to fall ill quite regularly with their immunity being on the lower side. And when one fell ill, her sister invariably followed her. It was very frustrating that whatever weight gain they had in a month’s time used to get almost wiped out in a week.

Till the time the girls turned 6 months, we could visit the doctor only during designated hours that the hospital called “high-risk children clinic”. The doctor told us that we should visit him every 6 months so that he could check on the developmental milestones of the girls.

All these led to lots of lots of parental anxiety. It is easier to look back now, rather even forget those days, given that their development has been normal, so far.

However, I suppose, each phase has learning attached to it. And it is always better to keep a tab on the learning so that history does not repeat itself.

The first year

The girls learnt how to neck control, turn around, sit, crawl, walk and the assorted. Each development milestone was a celebration for us, just like any other parents. Just that, we moved from one stage of parental anxiety to the next.

I read in the hospital lobby from the numerous leaflets that whatever growth issues the child has will manifest in the second year. I kept waiting for the second year to arrive.

The second year

The girls started learning to speak, their initiation to solid foods, potty training and exploration of the world around them.

We kept visiting the doctor every 6 months to check on their development milestones. Sometimes, one girl was lacking in some aspect, whereas at times, the second girl was missing out somewhere. The doctor kept giving us feedback for the correctional measures.

At the end of the second year, the doctor told us that our twin daughters were growing normally. Now, their age had to be considered as per their birth-date.

I thought that it was the end of parental anxiety about the child’s growth. How mistaken I was?

Each thought/question about the child leads to parental anxiety

As the girls started going out more often and met more and more people, the questions came flying thick and fast. Most of these questions were on a set pattern. Which school the girls go to? Do they know their ABC? How many nursery rhymes they know? Have they learnt how to write? What are they doing in a park during school hours?

I suppose all these questions are well-intentioned. When we do not have positive answers to most of these questions, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety.

When we see children around the same age strutting around in school uniforms and going to the school for 6 hours, the thought that our children are going to lag behind does lead to sleepless nights.

Even though it has been a conscious decision of on our part as parents to keep the girls out of the formal learning environment, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety if we are doing the right thing.

I was thinking on these lines quite a lot. Suddenly, I got some questions. When did B +ve speak her first word? When did O +ve learn to crawl? Which date did B +ve had her first solid food? When did O +ve learn to jump? I, of course, do not remember any of these dates. Just that both the girls do these things as on date and more. That is it. I got my answer.

The answer to parental anxiety

The answer that I got is that there is no end to parental anxiety till the time a parent keeps expecting more and more out of the child.

Once O +ve and B +ve did a certain task, immediately I expected them to go to the next level. They learnt how to pick blocks, I expected them to connect the blocks. They learnt how to connect the blocks, I expected them to make a building out of it. Once they learnt how to make a building, I expected them to make vehicles and other objects. Now that they know how to do it, I expect them to make a real building out of cement and concrete. There is no end to it.

Once the girls learn a certain task, I do not even care to remember how and when and where they picked up. I do not even stop to cherish the moment rather I rush to the next level of the game of pushing the girls furthermore. I treat them as an object of giving shapes and making adults when they are actually four and a half years old.

The answer I am getting to my parental anxiety is that the question is not what a four-year-old should know, but what the parent of a four-year-old should know. Am I letting my child enjoy her childhood? Am I letting my child be a child?

Conclusion

O +ve and B +ve may learn their ABCs and nursery rhyme a bit late, it has to be fine with me. Once the girls enter the rat race, they are not going to find their way out of the maze soon; but if I can delay their entry for some time for that they are children and not rats; I have to learn to be fine with it.

I have to learn to manage the parental anxiety for that it is mine and I cannot pass it to my children.

Paternity Bill in India: Patriarchy At Best

Indian State is expected to botch up any of the well-meaning intentions in its execution. The only comforting factor can be that at least the Indian State did mean well, leave aside the results. Though, the proposed Paternity Bill in India spectacularly fails even this base-level expectation.

I read about the introduction of Paternity Bill in Parliament. I felt happy that India’s politicians seem to be thinking finally about some fruitful actions concerning India’s children and their upbringing.

A cursory read into the clauses of the Paternity Bill and it is sure to bring down any expectations whatsoever.

Period of Paternity Leave

The maximum period of Paternity Leave shall be fifteen days, as per this proposed legislation. This has to be a joke. This cannot be serious. The men of India want to contribute to child upbringing. And what do they think should be sufficient? 15 days, that’s it.

If there was any doubt that there is some seriousness to this thought, the proposal of 15 days of paternity leaves surely ensures that a father’s duty is not to be considered worth-while.

What is the father expected to be doing in these 15 days? More importantly, what is the mother supposed to be doing after these 15 days?

Creation of a dedicated fund for Paternal benefit

The proposed bill reads “The government should constitute a Parental Benefit Scheme Fund in which all employees (irrespective of gender), employers and the Central government shall contribute in a pre-defined ratio”. That’s it.

There is no mention of what’s to be done with this money, who is going to withdraw, why, when, where? No details whatsoever.

Attitudinal changes

The proposed Paternity Bill states that this bill could act as a precursor to incremental attitudinal changes and the blurring of gender role distinctions.

Well, I must say that starting with 15 days of paternity leave is going to ensure that the incremental changes will go into the 23rd century, if not the 25th century.

What Could Have Been

The proposed Paternity Bill could have sparked a debate on the missing role of Indian father in upbringing of India’s future, work-family conflicts, deep-rooted gender stereotypes in Indian families, complete lack of role models to set an example for Indian fathers, public commitment to caregiving, contribution to housework, what constitutes child care and how it evolves over a period of time, role of the State in facilitating change, country’s cultural ideals about work and parenthood, social benefits, gender equality, paid work and child-rearing, having successful careers and fulfilling family lives, shared parenting leaves, dual earner-carer model that features women and men sharing breadwinning and child-rearing roles, help more people in more meaningful manner, do more to change society for the better etc.

But nothing of these sorts can be expected in India.

Conclusion

I suppose this subject of Paternity Bill is something like whoever speaks on it can present him to be a torch-bearer for women’s rights, someone who thinks about gender equality, someone who can be considered refined and suave, someone who is forward-looking and so, someone gets the bright idea and presents the paternity bill legislation in India. It is just that this is nothing but patriarchy at best. This is no way to raise a child.

Given the track record of Indian politicians, at least the lip service to the cause should be expected. Alas, the 15 days of paternity leave adds up to a mighty nothing. And there is nothing beyond this.

There is no participation of women in this proposed ground-breaking legislation. They would have felt that men are better left alone rather than needling them for a royal period of 15 days at home.

The proposed Paternity Bill has lapsed in the Indian parliament without any discussion, though it was introduced on July 21, 2017, in Loksabha. We shall see if there is any further movement on this subject in the newly elected Parliament after 6 months.

In the meanwhile, Indian men continue to be busy doing what they do best (!). The future generation of the country is of course blissfully unaware of all these and will go on to become the present generation of the country and perpetuate the problem.

My Stand

I have been very clear that for the man to have any meaningful role in the upbringing of the child, he has to contribute on a daily basis, starting with the household work right after marriage. I propose a paternal leave of 2 months per year. This has been detailed out in How to be a man – Raise a child.

Interesting questions asked by children

I wrote about the questions children ask. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, ask us continuously about everything under the sun and the sun, itself. Here is the list of their interesting questions, that stand out for the periodicity and the intensity that they get asked.

Death

The girls ask us – what we are to them. We answer – we are their parents. They ask – where are your parents. We identify them to our daughters. Again we get asked – where are the parents of our parents? Of the 8 people, only 2 are alive now. So, the question – where are the remaining 6?

Earlier, we told them that they have gone to a far-off place. This led to a barrage of questions. How far is the far-off place? Why cannot we go there? How did they go to this far-off place?

Unable to bear further, now we tell them that they have gone to God. My wife and I are agnostic but other than invoking God, I am not aware of any other option. This also raises further questions. Why have they gone to God? Have they gone on their own or have they been called? What are they doing there?

From somewhere, somehow; they have understood that elder people die. So, they want to know at what age one goes to God. We have been asked when we will die. We get asked whether we will be around when they grow up. I have warned my parents and in-laws that they might get asked about their demise, out of nowhere, so that they do not lose their balance.

There would hardly be 2-3 days gone-by without the question on the inevitable. I suppose they care about their own security and safety as to what will happen to them if their parents are not around.

We tell them that either of their parents will be there, if one dies, to take care of them. If both the parents die, they will have their grandparents and my wife’s elder sister to take care of them. Other than this, I do not know how to deal with this topic further.

Money

This has been an inadvertent addition to their questioning repertoire. The girls see that men are travelling on the roads. So, they ask what they are doing. I answer them that they are going to work. So, they ask why they work. I tell them that I suppose, they like to work, and they get paid money for that.

Now, comes the trick question from them. They ask me why I do not go to work. I tell them that being with them is my work. So, they ask me if I get paid for being with them. I answer no. So, a follow-up question – If I do not get paid, it means that I do not have money. I am stuck on how to deal with this.

In the meanwhile, they drop the sentence around that their father does not have enough money. I do want to stop this. However, it is also a reality that we are going to run out of money and I will be searching for a job soon. I cannot tell them that their father has good money. My wife disagrees with me that what is the use in telling it to children who will not understand this.

While we debate, the message is gone. I keep getting asked on a repeated basis if I have enough money.

My blogs

This is a result of my being unnecessarily over-smart. Whenever I am sitting idle or not doing anything worthwhile, according to them, I get asked what I am up to. I told them once-twice that I am thinking about my blogs. They asked me what I was thinking. I told them about how to make people read my blogs and that I do not know marketing. That did it.

Now, whenever, wherever, they see me sitting silently even for a moment, they start discussing with each other that I am thinking about my blogs.

They come around to me and tell me that someday, somebody will read my blogs. They are our little bundles of sunshine which keeps my wife and me going.

Poop, Action of strangers on the road, Mythology

Why is my poop pink in colour? Need I write more?

Raising children and being responsible citizens

Introducing Hindu mythology to children

Questions related to nature

This has been a recent addition to their questioning. B +ve asked that if animals and birds can drink dirty water on the roads and do not fall ill, why we cannot drink. O +ve asked that we can drink the water that falls from the sky, the rain, but once it falls down on to the ground, why does it become dirty? The question that both of them asks – The trees are so good, so helpful, why do humans cut them?

There is so much more to write about their questions. I will cover it in another post.

Conclusion

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to raise interesting questions for everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked?

The questions children ask

There is complete silence. Both the girls are looking at me expectantly. I look completely lost, ready to tear my hair apart, breathing heavily and speechless.

What is going on? What has happened? You guessed it right.

It is another of those questions that B +ve and O +ve have come up with at the spur of the moment and I have no answer to satiate the curiosity of the two ignited minds.

I have understood that the two most used words by children are WHY and HOW. At times, it almost feels like, both the girls are non-stop questions floating in the environment. They will not stop battering me till they feel that they have received a convincing answer to what they feel is their right to know.

Normally, neither of the two girls is in a mood to yield to her sister. So we always have thin ice to walk on. However, when any one of them comes up with a question, which is often, the other girl always seems to join forces with the questioner to force an answer from their miserable father.

There is no guarantee that once an answer is given, the Q&A session will stop. The answer will be followed up by another question. Again, once answered, there will be another bomb dropped. It will continue until they find another set of questions to ask. And if God forbid, I do not answer, the same question will be asked incessantly till the time I feel that anyone else listening to the conversation / the wall in the room will also ask me the same question.

It is, of course, great that our two daughters have innate inquisitiveness. As a parent, it is our duty to answer them. I understand that this process plays a major role in their learning and building conversation skills. Given that they are still not a part of a formal learning environment, raising questions is a key avenue for them to make sense of the world around them. Just that, at times, I see question marks in my dreams.

The girls have understood long back that their father is not a knowledgeable person. So, if they feel that I am silent for more time than acceptable to them / I am giving evasive answer / I reply that I do not know and that I will have to check, they themselves advise me to check Google. I wonder how parents of non-Google generations would have dealt with this in their times.

The intriguing part of these persistent innocent questions is that the same set of questions will keep getting repeated. I have tried questioning them back but now it is not working as a satisfactory response any more. They have told me that when they ask questions, it is my job to give answers and not theirs.

I have tried giving philosophical answers to their questions, using words and principles that they would not be aware of. I got ripped apart for this strategy when the girls kept stretching it to a point which was unbearable. To make matters worse, they started using these philosophical answers in front of an unsuspecting audience and my wife would stare at me to confirm the adage that looks can kill. I have stopped being over smart with my answers, now.

There have been a number of instances when we have provided enough entertainment to on-lookers and passers-by with our back and forth questions and answers. I have seen people nodding at me, looking at me mercifully, commenting internally about us. However, no good Samaritan has stepped up till now to answer the two little girls.

It has happened a number of times when after the girls’ sleep, my wife / I go on an exploratory spree over the internet to figure out what we have been asked during the day. It is fascinating to be asked about something where we felt no questions existed.

I came across this article that the study discovered girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day – averaging a question every 1 minute 56 seconds of their waking day.

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to question everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked? How do you deal with incessant questions every minute of the day?

My daughters do not wear pink

My wife and I were trying to recollect the memorable incidents involving B +ve and O +ve. One event that certainly happens whenever we are out is a query about the girls – Are they twins? It would be followed by another question – Are they both boys? When answered in negative and even before we clarify further, one of the girls would be pointed at and asked – he is surely a boy. To the dismay of the person, we have to answer that both are girls.

We were recalling numerous instances when this situation would have repeated itself, anywhere and everywhere, with most of the people. It does not happen anymore. After the girls turned three years, they have started having long hair. Hence, their gender gets identified with the prevalent societal norms of girls having long hair.

I was trying to come up with reasoning as to why, earlier, the majority of the people got the gender of our twin daughters wrong. I do not suppose anybody would intentionally state the incorrect gender of a child. Why would this keep happening so frequently?

The simple answer, I suppose, is that the girls did not wear PINK.

Seemingly, for whatever reason, the colour pink has got associated with the girls; similar to colour blue for the boys. There is no ingenuity about this colour-coding, but it seems to be universal.

The way the products get marketed and show-cased clearly demarcate in our minds as to which gender should be wearing what colour.

There is of course nothing wrong with the colour pink. Our daughters look adorable in the pink coloured clothing. But, they look equally adorable in any other coloured clothes. Why should their gender identification be limited to seeing the colour pink around them?

It is as if the society, at a sub-conscious level, has got it ingrained in our minds about how to dress a girl and how to dress a boy. The gender stereotypes are so deep-rooted in our culture and it gets entrenched further with the marketing ploys of the companies wanting to sell their products to the children. They want the girls to be defined as girls in the manner in which it suits their sales.

We get restless when we come across a child not adhering to the norms of the colour of a dress. And the child mercifully is not even aware of it.

Why cannot a girl wear blue and a boy wear pink? They obviously can. But we as a society would not want it to happen for it fails our ability to straitjacket a child.

I understand that B +ve and O +ve might as well take a liking for the colour pink when they grow-up as they get influenced by their peers. From my side, I am going to do whatever I can to ensure that the girls know that there is no right way or wrong way to dress as a girl.

Our girls have a right to all the colours of the rainbow. If it means getting clothes tailored and customised for them, then so be it. They are not going to be dependent on any colour for the identity of their gender. They can choose their own way, what they are happy with and identify themselves with.

It is not to make them a tom-boy or a girly girl, but a girl, nothing more, nothing less.

What is your view of labelling of a child as a girl / a boy basis the colour of their clothes?

Thumb sucking and finger sucking: The advice abound

As parents, we have had a number of inquisitive experiences, when we are in public places with our twin daughters. None beats all the kind of possible advice given to us by a few family members and a number of complete strangers, regarding the thumb sucking and the finger sucking by the girls.

The context

Like many of the infants and the toddlers, both the girls were into thumb sucking and finger sucking, respectively. I do not remember when the habit started for them. However, I distinctly remember asking the paediatrician about this and the answer he gave. As per the paediatrician, it was a question that he will not take till the girls turned four years. He told us to disregard their thumb sucking and finger sucking and let our daughters live in peace.

He is the person who took care of them for the first ten days of their life in NICU. There is every reason for us to believe and follow whatever he says and this was no different.

Both the girls merrily continued their respective thumb sucking and finger sucking with no disturbance from our side. It so happened that both the girls took up their respective thumb and finger in the mouth only at the time of falling asleep – which meant at the night and during their day-time naps.

The advice and advice and advice

I remember a number of instances when I would be walking on the road with either of my infant daughters putting her thumb/finger in the mouth and sleeping in my arms. Suddenly, I would get a tap on my shoulder from someone whom I had never met and will never again meet in my life.

The stranger would tell me that I should not allow the finger sucking/thumb sucking of my daughter. I would be told that there is an ayurvedic medicine that can be applied to the finger/thumb which ensured that someone in his family lost her/his habit. There were a number of advice listed down  – juice of some roots, bitter gourd juice, bandages, tattoos, nail paints, tying up the fingers etc and all of them were found to be effective in their respective cases.

My wife also had similar experiences, getting advice from the women she did not know.

We would go to social functions. I do not think we were noticed much, till the time the girls were awake. Once, either of the girls slept or even better, when both of them slept, suddenly we would become the centre of attraction. Some family members would walk down to us and start rattling off what we should be doing to rid our daughters of their thumb sucking and finger sucking. Few other attendees whom we would not know would descend down to us and start giving their piece of mind.

Once we would say to these benevolent, unasked for, advice givers that we, as parents, were perfectly fine with our daughters’ thumb sucking and finger sucking; long gazes would follow. We would be stared at and looked down upon at as unbeing of a worthy parent.

The current scenario

One girl left her thumb sucking at two and a half years on her own. The other girl continues her finger sucking nonetheless. We asked the paediatrician on the next steps to dissuade her from her sleep-time routine. He said that the only way was to talk her out of the habit. He instructed us not to experiment with any kind of juices, tattoos, bandages, nail paints etc on the finger of the young girl. We are following his advice and will update basis our experiences.

Disclaimer: To clarify, I am not promoting or supporting thumb sucking/finger sucking in any manner. We have been following the paediatrician advice all along and will continue to do so.

Any memories you have of your child’s thumb sucking/finger sucking?

Last week, we had gone to a relative’s place for an overnight stay. The girl invariably put her finger in the mouth while sleeping at the night. The relatives noticed. We were told about the experience with the relative’s daughter. She was given a tattoo on her fingers so that she would not take them in her mouth. When we did not show any enthusiasm for this solution, we were given the option of ayurvedic medicine. We changed the topic of discussion. It reminded me of all the past experiences as regards the thumb sucking and finger sucking of the girls and the torrent of advice, we got.

PS:

Once, we had gone to a restaurant for dinner, the four of us. The girls were about one year old. It had got a bit late; we fed the girls and started our dinner. One of the girls slept in her mother’s arms with the thumb in her mouth. Suddenly, she started crying and to our utter horror, we noticed that the waiter who had taken our order was trying to remove the thumb from our daughter’s mouth. We asked him to stop and even before we could ask him what he was trying to do; he told us that we should not let our daughter suck her thumb and that we are setting a bad example.

Needless to say, we have not visited the restaurant again.