3 Factors In Selecting A House For Children

We had to vacate our home for the last 10 years. It was a place where O +ve and B +ve had stayed ever since they were born. This house was on the third floor of the apartment, with no play area, on a 24*7 busy main-road, right opposite a metro station. It served our requirements, that we had 10 years back, very well.

Now, we had to choose a house that suits the requirements of our twin daughters, currently four and a half-years-old. We listed down the factors important to us.

Nature

We know that in a city like Hyderabad, first-hand interaction with nature comes at a premium. With this constraint, our prerequisite was that our daughters can spend as much time as possible outside the four walls of the house.

A place to play, run and jump under an open sky with the accompaniment of sunlight and wind. It had to be a place where they can splash around in puddles and bath in rains. A place where they can do nature hunt as and when they like, as much as they want. It had to be a place where they can see insects inside/outside the home and also the stray animals. A place with trees around where they can hear the chirping of the birds in the morning. All these, without the paraphernalia of getting outside the home and with the main door of the house open for their safety.

Our former house was 3 km away from the nearest possible park. Now, we wanted a park within the walking distance. And yes, we wanted to be away from the traffic, for nature and vehicles do not go together.

People

Given that our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment until now, we wanted a place where children come out to play. In our earlier house, though there were 30 flats in the apartment, there was no play area and children hardly got an opportunity to play together.

We selected the house with this criterion and I must say that we got it wrong. I realized that theĀ weight of school bags is not going to reduce in India.

Another criterion for us in house selection was that the girls get to see and interact with all different kind of people that co-habit our country. Our daughters have now made friends with garbage collectors; they speak to sweepers and see all the types of street-vendors that throng the locality. They see diversity and try to understand that everyone is different.

Of course, in people, the most important criterion was that Dirty Feet‘s office is within a walking distance of 5 minutes. So, their mother does not have to spend time in a conveyance from home to office and back.

Space

Our previous house, with all its limitations, had one thing – it was spacious. The girls had a gala time running, hopping, skipping, jumping, climbing, cycling inside the home. We wanted it to continue, within the house as well as outside the house. A place where they can play peek-a-boo and keep finding new hiding places. All these without making nuisance to our neighbours, which we did a number of times, in the earlier house.

We wanted a place ample enough for their activities, arts and crafts and where they can make a mess to their heart’s content. The house needed space so that all their stuff – clothes, toys, games, books are kept within their reach, where they can take and put it back.

The above was our criteria for renting the house for children. We are sure that we are not going to buy a house for we feel that our requirements keep changing and we do not want to be tied down to a place.

Summing Up

Fortunately, we did find a house which we now call home meeting the above criteria. A ground floor house with a good enough court-yard. Yes, we did lose out on the high-rises and the perks of the gated community. Win some, lose some.

The girls are liking their space, sun, wind, insects, street vendors, stray dogs and cats, parks, trees, jumping around and more.

We do not know how it will contribute to their growing up and what will be its impact. We shall see. I will keep you updated.

What would be your factors in selecting a house for children?

False Sense of Urgency and Service Providers for Children

I have written about a small accident that one of our twin daughters had and what it taught us. Along with our learning, what has also remained with me is the behaviour of the paediatric surgeon whom we met first and the false sense of urgency she created.

False Sense of Urgency

The paediatric surgeon described the condition of our daughter in a medical language that both the doctors, whom we spoke to later, did not agree. She told us that there are only two options for our daughter’s treatment. Out of these two options, one did not even exist for a child of our daughter’s age, as per the later discussions with other doctors.

The above divergence can be attributed to the subjective difference of opinion among doctors, maybe. However, what stood out is the urgency with which the paediatric surgeon wanted us to act. It almost seemed like our daughter would be in dire trouble if we do not agree on the medical procedure to be performed on her. The paediatric surgeon spoke so confidently to us that we thought there cannot be any other way out other than what she is saying.

As time passed by we realized that, whatever she told us, as a super-specialist of paediatric surgery, turned out to be false. Our daughter healed without any medical procedures, which according to her was not an option at all.

Why did she create a false sense of urgency for us, as parents? Why did she want us to act immediately? How and what gave her the confidence to hard-sell a treatment which was not required / non-existent?

More of the Same False Sense of Urgency

As I think more about this, I realize that this is not a stand-alone situation. It exists with most of the service providers for children. Seemingly, the parents are the most gullible lot.

We see so many schools that promise so many things for children and they do it so confidently. The parents think that if they do not opt for it, they are going to miss out on a golden opportunity for their children. The same is applicable for coaching classes, summer camps, training classes. You name it and I do not think the narrative will be any different from the paediatric surgeon, I mentioned above.

The context will of course change, but the content of the discussion will remain the same. We are best suited for your children. There is no other option. You have to act now. And the confidence with which it will be told to the parents.

Why this sense of urgency gets created for parents by these service providers? It happens so fast and with so much of high frequency that parents hardly gets any time to ponder over what they are being told and what they are getting into. It is almost like decisions are taken on an auto-mode. Rather the service-providers themselves decide on the behalf of the parents.

There is no mention at all of any of the options that could exist beyond what the service-providers tell us. I suppose, bringing up other alternatives would be met with utter disdain. They are the subject experts, and how could we, as parents, question them and their ways and means? Do we want our children to do well or not? If yes, fall in line with what they say.

Summing Up

I think we were lucky that we spoke to Dr. Adithi, who told us not to panic and that we could afford to wait. The other paediatric surgeon told us that letting it be is a decision in itself and also a worthwhile option. Nature heals best.

I wonder if we could come across more such service providers for children who could give their inputs with the child as a primary beneficiary and not their own business interests.

I hope that we, as parents, do not fall in this trap of false sense of urgency created by the service providers, for their self-serving benefits.

What are your views on this subject?

Bravery Lessons From My Child And Doctors

It was just another day in the house. B +ve and O +ve were up to their usual selves – jumping, running and dancing around.

Suddenly, one of the girls fell on the floor. It is a usual occurrence, it happens a number of times during the day, so no alarm as such. She got picked up by a family friend sitting next to her fall. The girl, who fell down, was not crying and was not in any pain either. A minute later, the family friend got up in alarm, her dress was getting wet with the blood dripping from the chin of my daughter.

We cleaned up the wound with water and applied turmeric. The girl was not complaining. We asked about any pain. She replied in the negative and continued with playing around.

After 3-4 hours, the turmeric fell off. The wound was visible now and we had a shock. She actually had a deep cut, it was looking like a pit dug on her chin.

Lesson 1: The child is intrinsically brave. We instil fear in the child.

We immediately rushed her to a children’s hospital, close-by to our home. The nurse cleaned the wound and did the dressing. The duty doctor told us to visit a paediatric surgeon immediately. We went to the see the surgeon and she scared the life out of us.

All through this, the girl who had the wound was just being her own self. She was not crying or complaining. She was asking questions about the surroundings, the hospital, what the people were doing all around. Her sister was also normal, doing the same thing.

After what the doctor told us, my wife and I were worried a lot. It was visible on our faces. Now, the girl realized that something was wrong with her. She wanted to be picked up and comforted. Fortunately, my wife had the presence of mind to show the pretence of normalcy. And, that was it. Again, the girl was back to being normal, her own self.

This reminded us of an earlier incident. The same girl had fallen, 2 years back, and twisted her ankle. She had to get an X-ray done and had to put a crepe bandage for about 10 days. At that time also, there was no crying or complaining, just playing, whatever her limited mobility allowed.

I realized that children are intrinsically brave, irrespective of their situation and the situation around them. This is the first bravery lesson. We tell them about the consequences of what has transpired with them and they get afraid, as a result. If she would have cried, there is no way that we could have maintained our sanity. But actually, she through her behaviour, made us brave.

For the child, who are we teach to them bravery? For, they are the really fearless souls.

Lesson 2: Do not panic.

The paediatric surgeon had scared us about the well-being of our daughter. We wanted to follow her advice immediately. Somehow, it occurred to us, to speak to Adithi, our in-house doctor, who has now moved to the Netherlands.

Adithi heard us out. She could not see the wound over the phone which was dressed up. She told us that she would not believe a word of what the paediatric surgeon told us. Adithi explained to us about a couple of things that the surgeon had spoken to us and informed that that is not how medical procedures happen.

She wanted us to get a second opinion from our regular paediatric doctor who has been seeing the girls since they were born. She assured us that our daughter would be fine and there is no need for immediate action within one-two hours itself.

This was the second bravery lesson – Not to panic. The most common-sensical, but never occurs at the moment when required the most.

Lesson – 3: Letting it be is also a worthwhile option.

The next day we went to see the paediatric doctor, who sent us to the paediatric surgeon. He repeated whatever Adithi had told us the previous day, a complete contrast to what the paediatric surgeon in the previous hospital had said.

We were told that we could either get stitches for our daughter’s wound or just leave it to heal naturally. We told the doctor that we were unable to decide and he replied that letting it be is also a decision in itself.

As parents, we want to do the best for our children. And if we do not do or are not able to do, which goes against the conventional wisdom, we feel guilty about the same. Here we were told that, no matter what the others say, letting our child be was also a good decision.

This does not occur to us at all – letting it be, allowing nature to take its own course. This was the third bravery lesson. There are multiple ways of doing the right thing and there are also the wrong things, which abound in advice.

Summing Up

Our daughter is healing fine, naturally. She continues to be her own self, aware of her injury but oblivious to all other paraphernalia.

For us, there has been a number of bravery lessons learned, we hope to remember for the future. Trust the child’s instincts, not to panic and let it be.

PS: Adithi told us that we should apply organic turmeric powder on the wounds, and not the regular turmeric powder. Another learning worth sharing.

How A Child Learns Fear From Parents And Society

I believe that a child is inherently unaware of fear. Why / what should a child fear? The child has caring and comforting parents. As the child grows up, innately, s/he knows how to take care of one’s own self and seek refuge with parents, when necessary.

So, how is it that the child learns to fear? When is it that the child loses the intrinsic capability to take a risk? Where is it that the child learns to be afraid? How a child ceases to be fearless?

I, as a parent, do not trust the child’s instincts

I have seen often enough that my daughters know what they are capable of. They have their own sense of what they can climb, how far they can jump, what speed they can run and so forth.

It is not necessary that they will be 100% right in their predictions about themselves. At times, they need prodding and pushing. If they err at all, they err on the defensive side and not at a level where they end up hurting themselves needlessly.

At an overall level, they will do what they are comfortable doing. And, if they really want to do something even though they are not comfortable, they will actually get comfortable with it, simply because they want to do it.

Just that, as a parent, I am uncomfortable with the whole idea that a child can actually take care of one’s own self. So, what do I do? I instil fear.

I am learning to trust my daughters to take care of themselves for what they are capable of.

The focus is on falling down and not on getting up

One of my twin daughters has fallen down and is crying. What is my reaction? I rush, pick up the child and tell her to be careful.

What I do not do is tell my daughter that it was fun to fall down. I do not tell her that it was great to try out the jump/climb/run/whatever she was up to and falling down is a part of it. More importantly, I do not tell her that what is most significant is getting up after falling down. When my priorities are misplaced, what is my daughter going to learn? Fear.

I am consciously telling myself not to rush when I see my daughter falling down. She is learning to get up on her own.

When imaginary fear is a primary tool to discipline a child

The child is not going to imagine a monster below the bed on his / her own. It is just not possible. Someone, for whatever reason, has put it in the child’s mind that there is a monster.

Let’s face it. Why has the child been told about the monster or the police uncle who will punish/take away the child? Invariably, it is an easy ploy to bring order with a child who wants to have his / her way. What does it teach the child? Fear.

We have not done this with our daughters ourselves, but have seen numerous instances wherein they get spoken to about this by someone in the family, and at times, even by strangers.

Fear from Nature

I have seen it from the experience with my own daughters that they are not afraid of darkness. Why should they be? They walk into a room with no lights and are perfectly fine with it.

They were afraid of lightning and thunder. We explained to them that it is fun to watch the lightning and hear thunder, and they invariably bring rain, their favourite, they more than welcome it.

We have a huge peepal tree next to our house. The leaves make rustling sound in the night, bats fly around and our daughters are fine with all these. Rather, they stretch their eyes in the night to find a non-existent owl in the tree.

The girls have touched snake skin (they would have touched a live snake but for my own fear). They have pet cockroaches and earth-worms. They run behind lizards and chameleons calling them cute.

All these are natural and nature herself. If this is not properly explained, what will children learn? Fear.

Medicines and injections are of course not natural, but they are a necessary part of a child’s growing up. Both the girls actually look forward to both these, as they get explained in advance, that too without rewards and bribes. Surely, no fear.

The society does not trust the parent’s instincts

O +ve and B +ve are our daughters. As a parent, we know what they are capable of and even if they are not capable of, it is fine with us. So what, if they fall? So what, if they cry? Even if they bleed? We are learning to trust their instincts.

Not just in the park / any external environment, even in our own home; we are fine with what our daughters are doing; but they will be told by family members, friends and even strangers not to indulge in what they are doing. I tell them that it is fine what the girls are doing, but to no avail.

What is the resultant output with children? Fear.

Summing Up

As I write this, both the girls are climbing on to the sofa. They are going to jump together. What should I do?

I tell myself, I want my children to be fearless the way they have always been, I will not tell them the two words – “BE CAREFUL”.

My Daughter is Dark Skinned. I Fear for Her in Fair & Lovely Obsessed India

We have twin daughters – B +ve and O +ve, they are non-identical. It so happens that one of them is dark skinned and one of them has a lighter complexion.

The girl who is dark is getting darker by the day and I fear for her, fear for her self-belief, fear for her confidence, fear for her capacity to stand for what she is / will be, fear for her own self. I fear for her for I know the obsession with Fair & Lovely in India.

The first attention

I have seen this happening. I have seen this happening time and again. And, I know that I will keep seeing this happening time and again.

Be it family members or strangers, not all though, the attention first goes to the girl with a fair complexion. This cannot be an occurrence of chance. Of course, the girl with a dark complexion also gets noticed and gets spoken to, but with a time lag vis-a-vis her sister.

Both the girls are equally active, energetic and talkative. Yet the perceptible difference in getting the first attention from people around. It is something similar to gender stereotypes, intrinsic to us.

Both the girls are unaware of this at their age. I dread the moment when they will understand who is getting noticed and spoken to first.

The story books, toys, TV

My wife and I used to be big fans of Amar Chitra Katha. While reading the mythological stories, one of the daughters raised a query – Why are demons all dark skinned? Why are devas all fair skinned?

My wife and I never liked any dolls and the perception that girls play with dolls. Our daughters have been a gifted number of Barbie and other dolls, all fair. I read that Barbie also happens to be dark, never saw it in real life, though.

The protagonists in Indian TV serials and series are all fair skinned – women, men and children. Additionally, we never know when the advertisement for Fair & Lovely will pop up.

The result – the story books which differentiate between the skin colour, the toys which are not skin colour agnostic and the TV have been banished from our home.

The formal environment

Our daughters do not go to any formal environment of learning – not yet. There are a host of reasons why they do not go. One of the most inconsequential reasons on why they do not go is that one of my daughters has dark skin.

This is an utterly crazy reason and I know it. For, I know that once the girls start going to a formal setting, someone, somewhere, somehow, is going to say that one of the girls is dark – “kali” and I dread this moment.

Even as I write this, it brings tears to my eyes how I am going to face my daughter who has been commented on about her dark skin.

The positive advice

I am in doldrums on how to deal with this myself. So, I was searching on the internet about self-help. I found advice like – place images of beautiful dark-skinned women prominently in one’s home, buy black dolls, for 3 to 6-year-olds: Make frequent remarks, such as “my beautiful baby,” and create stories about beautiful dark children who are smart, kind, etc. (These points are from this site).

On the face of it, there is nothing wrong with any of these suggestions. They are well-meaning. I should actually be doing it myself.

Just that I am not able to. It is my inability to accept that I need to mention/get into a discussion with my daughter who is four and a-half-year-old about her skin colour.

I am a coward

I have never been able to call any family member, friend, acquaintance, stranger who I feel is differentiating between my daughters basis their skin colour.

I am running away from the reality of the need to tell my daughter that she is dark skinned and that she will be biased against.

I am unable to prepare my daughter for the country she is going to face even after knowing that I need to do it.

I hate the society which discriminates and I know that I have been and am a part of the same society.

I do not know how to deal with this. I am failing my daughter.

Indian Mythological Stories for Kids and Hard Lessons

We have faced challenges to find resources to better introduce Indian mythological stories to our twin daughters. I have written about this in introducing Hindu mythology to children.

It occurred to us that Surendrapuri could be a nice option for familiarizing Indian mythological stories to B +ve and O +ve. Surendrapuri terms itself as India’s first mythological theme park. It is a complete spiritual and mythological museum, where one can relive the ancient Indian epics. (Source: Surendrapuri Website).

We visited Surendrapuri on 22nd March 2019. It was a good experience for the girls to see the beautiful sculptures and statues depicting the stories that they love listening about. However, for us, the questions persisted that have been lingering in our minds and became even more puzzling.

Violence

This has been a troubling factor for my wife and me in Indian mythological stories. Invariably, there will be demons and there will be Gods and Goddesses going after these demons and killing them. I understand that the concept of Good wins over Evil has to be explained to children. However, there can be different ways to interpret and present this aspect rather than the gory visual depiction.

Surendrapuri was no different in this aspect. There were a number of statues showing Goddesses holding a skull of the demon in one of their multiple hands. Invariably, the girls would ask about the statue and what the Goddess was holding in one of her hands and the other hands, which would predominantly be an assortment of weapons.

At least for me, it is a complicated affair to explain these portrayals to four and half-year-olds.

Representation of women in Indian mythological stories

Either a woman will be a Goddess hunting down demons or it will be Goddess Lakshmi sitting at the feet of Lord Vishnu. There is nowhere in between for the women in Indian mythological stories.

Girls know about the childhood stories of Rama and Krishna. However, apart from her birth, there are no stories available for Sita. Similarly, after Krishna leaves Vrindavan, Radha gets left out from the narrative. All the Goddesses – Kali, Durga, Saraswati, Lakshmi have no childhood stories and they directly enter the story as adults. The same goes for Draupadi, apart from her birth story.

Girls wanted to know more about the female characters at Surendrapuri. It was not possible as Surendrapuri, of course, made no changes to the age-old narrative of Indian mythological stories.

Girls get introduced to gender stereotypes in the Indian context as an add-on to Indian mythological stories. Their initiation to this impression continued at Surendrapuri.

Mahabharata

We skipped the entire portion at Surendrapuri for Mahabharata. I agree that Mahabharata has lots of application in our practical life but I am unable to decide on the age to introduce it to our daughters.

Right from the birth of Dhritarashtra, Pandu and Vidur to birth of Kauravas and Pandavas to Duryodhana trying to poison Bhima even as kids, I am not able to understand how to introduce it to children. For that matter, even the story of Ekalavya.

Surendrapuri presents all the events of Mahabharata, but we were not up to the mark to do justice to it.

The flowing Ganga, Bakasura, Aghasura

This was one aspect of experiential mythology that got the imagination of O +ve and B +ve going full steam at Surendrapuri.

They have put clean water in a closed space to depict Ganga originating from Kailas. The girls had a grand time splashing in the water pool and they understood the concept of Ganga.

Similarly, Surendrapuri has walk-in sculptures of Bakasura, Aghasura, the Snake Kingdom of Vasuki and few others. This was nice to experience first-hand for the girls. It is clear that whenever the girls have a sensorial experience with their own selves, they tend to remember for a long time.

The missing personal bond / connect with the Gods and Goddesses

For whatever reason, the Indian Gods and Goddesses are not allowed to mingle freely with their worshippers, leave aside taking a snap with their deities. Surendrapuri is no exception in this regard.

I felt that along with larger than life sculptures and statues of Gods and Goddesses if Surendrapuri could have some statues with whom the children could have their snaps and touch them, it would have been a memory of extended time for them.

Sum Up

Surendrapuri, as a concept, has been nicely executed. It is a worthwhile experience to see the stories in a visual form of sculptures and statues.

Surendrapuri did not answer our conceptual doubts, some of them mentioned above, about introducing Indian mythological stories to our daughters.

The search continues for another account of Indian mythological stories.

5 Steps Guide to Parenting Without Rewards And Punishments

I have written about our belief in parenting without rewards and punishments. This post is about how we translate the belief to day-to-day behaviour and routine. Here, I have listed down the 5 steps that we follow to walk our talk.

If / Then conditional sentences

Rewards and punishments will invariably have conditions attached. IF you do / do not do, THEN you will get / will not get. Even without thinking about rewards and punishments, if / then sentences are ingrained into our minds. After all, we are the so-called rational human beings.

I have taken a simple rule to avoid the If / Then combination in my conversation with my daughters. I do end up using conditionality in my statements even now, though I do feel that the usage has reduced drastically.

Self-behaviour as an example

This is one aspect that I kept dithering about even though the consequences were very much visible. I, as a parent, would want a well-behaved, well-mannered child; just that I refuse to be a well-behaved, well-mannered adult.

My wife, my parents, my in-laws kept pointing out to me that my daughters were adept at learning undesired things from me. Even then, I would not stop.

When I could not hide myself from the proof, I had to admit that I was in the wrong. It was evident that no amount of rewards and punishments would have deterred my daughters from the behaviour that their father was himself practising.

I understand that rewards and punishments are no supplement for self-behaviour to set an example for my daughters. (Bad habits die hard; I am trying harder to get rid of them). Parental anxiety is better dealt with by parents without involving the children.

Be patient. What is there to hurry for? Explain.

I have come to understand that both the girls are amenable to what they are told to, provided they are given a rational/logical explanation. I do not remember how and when it started, but it has been a recurrent phenomenon that the girls are not listening, they are up to their own doing, however, they are explained the what we are trying to do, why we are trying to do, how we are trying to do and bingo, they agree.

It does sound and looks silly that what would a three or a four-year-old understand about logic? Believe me, they do. It is beyond logic also to an extent. I suppose, the girls understand somewhere that their views are being respected and they are getting answered to.

The practical outcome is that we are invariably late for whatever / wherever. Though, now I start off early to ensure that we are on time. We get looked as non-stop chatterbox. I cannot help it.

Identify and eliminate the triggers

What would lead to the application of rewards and punishments for children? A parental requirement of desirable/acceptable behaviour from children.

I suppose a child on her own would not indulge in undesirable / unacceptable behaviour. There has to be action from someone / somewhere / somehow that would initiate the friction. It is surely not possible to keep the tab on all the goings around, but the active observation of child’s behaviour can lead to diffusing the situation before it goes out of control. And before the use of rewards and punishments is warranted.

There is not much of rocket science to observe a child’s interactions with her surroundings. A well fed and well-rested child will not throw a temper tantrum needlessly. It is my task as a parent to ensure that the need for the outburst from my daughters is addressed before it goes out of control. Their needs are not much to ask for and can be settled either way without getting into rewards and punishments arena.

The public meltdown will happen

We are dealing with children, remember. No matter, how much I try to nip the trigger in the bud, keep explaining, keep them away from If / Then statements, the girls do have some residual effect of their fathers’ unwarranted behaviour. So, a public meltdown does happen.

It is fine. I just keep telling myself that it is fine. There are hard moments, difficult moments, publicly.

I treat it as a passing phase. I am sure that we will get over and I do not need the bait of rewards and punishments to deal with it.

Conclusion

These five steps have been the beginning for me to walk the talk of parenting without rewards and punishments.

I am realizing more and more action points for me as the girls expand their horizon and I try to keep up, building a long-term relationship with them going beyond the short-term behaviour management.

I tell my daughters that I believe in them.