Nature Appreciation: My Inadequacy As A Parent

A child asks interesting questions. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, are no different. They are inquisitive and curious to know about whatever they observe, feel, hear, smell and eat. This involves a lot of questions about nature.

Unlike a child, I, as an adult, take it for granted about the nature that surrounds me. However, for my children, everything is worth exploring, knowing and befriending.

I have to admit that I have no answers for their questions related to nature. I know zilch. My educational qualification says that I have completed 18 years of formal education. However, when it comes to identifying a tree, a flower, an insect, a stone, a leaf, a seed, whatever my daughters bring/show me – I am clueless to the core.

Leave aside appreciation of nature or knowing about it. I realize that I am unaware of the existence of nature herself.

The girls are just five years old. Their questions are no rocket science. They just want to know the basics of things around and I have no answers for them. I do take help of Google but the pace at which I am thrown the questions, I cannot match it. At times, I cannot even figure out how to phrase the question.

Come to think of it, unless for the questions of my children, I would not have even realized what I am missing out on and what I do not know. I see all these around me daily, I breathe around them, they breathe around me and I do not know anything about them.

I have realized that it is not just about answering the questions, my inadequacy goes even further. The girls collect a lot of stuff – fallen leaves and flowers, fallen buds and petals, feathers, stones, twigs, seedpods, dead insects; what all and whatnot, and I have no idea what to do with them. I know that each one of them can serve an educational purpose. Leave aside education; we can have lots of fun with them. I do not know that also.

I am trying to change and learn about my surroundings. However, I am not able to find any reference material. Whatever I find, limits itself to identification, that too is not at all user-friendly. Also, help for the identification of trees, insects, seeds and rudimentary details about them are very hard to come by.

I do not know how and why all the teaching material of children talks about maths, language and some weird thing called the environment. This environment has information on names of animals and birds, vegetables and fruits, vehicles and service providers. However, this environment is completely silent about what surrounds us – nature. There is no mention of what children encounter and experience around them for every second of their living.

I know where all the above is leading my children to. They are destined to become like their father – oblivious to their surroundings and ungrateful for the rewards of nature.

What would be your inputs on and about nature for my children and me?

5 Ideas To Get Kids To Take Medicine

Kids fall ill. When kids are sick, parents’ lives also turns upside down, if not already. In addition to the pain of seeing the child unwell, parents also have the onerous task of giving them their medicine. I had seen my wife struggling to give medicine to our twin daughters. When I became a stay-at-home father, I wondered what would be my fate to get kids to take medicine.

Surprise. Surprise. There was no struggle at all. The girls, both of them, readily took the medicine, whenever they were ill. This trend continues till date. Now, I am trying to decipher what went right for me and the twins to get them to take medicine.

 Explain and the child understands

First and foremost, what worked, I suppose was that the girls were two and a half-years-old when I had the task to get them to take medicine. They had started developing the understanding of whats, hows and whys of any and every task.

Even when they were not ill, I kept telling them about the importance of medicine, how we fall ill and taking medicine makes us healthy again. When they were sick, we went to the paediatrician and always had a discussion that the doctor shall check them, give medicine and it will make them strong, again. Provided, medicine is taken.

I have a strong belief in the child and his/her application when explained to them with logic. Either it was pure luck or whatever, but in this particular case of taking medicine, it clicked 100%.

I would strongly propose that even when a child is fine, s/he needs to be explained about taking medicine and not just when s/he is unhealthy. There is no point in explaining to even an adult when s/he is unwell and cranky, why expect the child to be sane when unwell. Rather, take advantage of the time when the child can grasp, absorb and follow.

Involve the child in adult taking their medicine

My wife has to take her thyroid tablet daily. The girls’ grandparents, both sides, have their daily medication routine. The girls’ have the task of giving medicine to in-house patients every day. If anyone of us has our share of cold/cough/fever, the girls very happily take up the additional responsibility of dispensing further medication.

I suppose, this also helps. It registers somewhere in their minds that adults also fall ill and when they do, they take medicine. And, that they do so without creating a ruckus.

A child will realize that s/he is not being singled out for the unfair treatment of medicine. Rather, when needed, everybody needs to have their fair share.

Let the child take medicine on his/her own

A child has to take a dosage from 1-2 ml to 6 ml. It has to be taken in a dosage cap. A child can very well hold the cap and drink the medicine independently. There is hardly any chance of spilling. And, even if it does spill, it does not matter.

What matters is that the child gets the feeling that s/he is being trusted to his/her own medicines. Once the parent tries to give the medication, it has the impact of something being forceful, something against the wishes, something that is not to be trusted. And, the endless tussle ensues.

Rather, make taking medicines a mundane task to be done at a given frequency. No brouhaha about it. Just pour the medicine, measure and hand over. Of course, a word of appreciation helps when the dosage is finished.

Do NOT add flavours, distract or hide

Both the girls have their fair share of illness. I have smelled and at times, tasted all their medication. Each and every medicine that they have taken, including the anti-biotics – the dreaded Amoxicillin, is all sugary and has varied flavours of their own. I feel that Crocin is the most sugary.

With so much of sugar and flavours, already there, I do not suppose there is any more scope for further sweetening. I am yet to come across a bitter medicine doled out to my daughters. Though, I am certain that they will show the same enthusiasm for that too.

I would not recommend distraction by screen time or hiding the medicine in juice/food to be given. Medicine is for real. Let us face it. And, let the child also face reality. What’s more – If the child feels that his/her juice/food tastes weird, s/he may stop taking that also.

The Cause and the Effect

I feel that the pain, if at all, is in giving the initial doses to the child. Once a child takes few doses, s/he is bound to feel better. And, once it happens, outline to the child that this is the result of his/her taking the medication.

It surely helps. The children understand much better than we credit them for. They might forget this learning in the next illness, but a couple of repetitions of this and the child will keep taking medicine for time to come, whenever needed.

Summing Up

As mentioned earlier, I am not sure what clicked for our daughters that they started taking their medication without breaking a sweat. Maybe all of the above, or some points or none of the above.

What are your experiences to get kids to take medicine?

Birthday Celebrations Without A Cake. Some Ideas.

I have written about birthday celebrations without a cake, some reasons. Consequently, I also need to come up with options to put into action what I am proposing. So, here go the alternatives to the dollops of refined flour, vegetable oil, sugar, chocolate and cream.

These alternatives are healthy, have a surprise element, lots of excitement can be built around them, and are varied. They are waiting to be explored and tried out. These options have all the capabilities of a blockbuster, build frenzy around them and make a loyal fan base.

Vegetables

On their own, vegetables lack the excitement and do not pack the punch to attract children towards them. The situation is further worsened when vegetables are also banished from the excitement of the birthday celebrations. Who would want to hang around with such a bunch of losers?

Now, let us turn the table. Welcome the fellow party-goers with a glass of juice, spinach/carrot/ beetroot. Even better, a veritable riot of colours and tastes – mix all vegetable juices. This can be followed by munching of raw vegetables. It is an absolute delight to munch – carrots, cucumber, beetroot, cabbage, radish, capsicum, green peas etc.

This is the first course served.

Fruits

We no longer have a cake. So, what do we cut for birthday celebrations? Fruits come up with a long list of options – watermelon, papaya, guava, custard apple or just an apple. There is also an option of jack fruit for more adventurous types or even a sugar cane (though, it is a grass, not a fruit).

There are no more pieces of cake – slices to be passed around. No worries. Watermelon slices can serve the purpose very well. If individual fruits are to be cut, coconut serves the bill. For every occasion, there is a fruit and its serving.

This is the main course served.

Local Savouries

We have no deep-fried potato chips to go along with the cake. They can be ably replaced by the local savouries. The children can easily warm up to the charms of chikkis, ragi mudde, til laddu, mamra laddu, puffed jowar and the long list, as per the region.

Yes, this part of the celebration will have some oil as a part of it. However, the main ingredient will continue to have all the characteristics mentioned above.

This is the accompaniments served.

Dry Fruits

On the face of it, this seems to be an expensive proposition. Dry Fruits? Well, we are put up against a formidable foe, right. Have you seen the cost of a cake? And how much of the slice each person end up getting? In comparison, dry fruits will turn out to be a value for money option.

With vegetables, fruits and local savouries; birthday celebration organiser might be told that s/he is trying to cut the expenses and not, necessarily, the cake. With the inclusion of dry fruits, this point will be taken care of and add a novelty factor to the proceedings.

This is the cake topping served.

An affair to remember

My wife and I have decided that we are going to celebrate the birthday of our twin daughters without a cake. The above is what I could come up with. Let us see, how things pan out. How the response of our daughters will be? What is the feedback from their invitees? Nonetheless, we will keep improvising and learn with each passing year.

What would be your suggestions to make birthday celebrations – an affair to remember, without a cake?

Birthday Celebrations Without A Cake. Some Reasons.

What is a birthday celebration without a cake? Can anyone actually celebrate a birthday without a cake? A cake has become so much synonymous with the birthday celebrations in India that it is impossible to think about the latter without the former.

Our twin daughters have been to a number of birthday celebrations in the neighbourhood. Without an exception, cakes have been a common element across all the celebrations.  I do not suppose, it would be any different for adults either. It is a universally accepted norm across sections in India.

In such a scenario, what is the need to re-invent the wheel? Why come up with a counter-narrative that birthday celebrations are better off without cakes?

Celebration with Healthy and Not Un-Healthy

I am in for celebrations of all kinds. Just a small niggle, though. Why should celebrations that too, of a birthday, entail un-healthy cakes? A birthday celebration is an occasion to cherish, an event to treasure and how do we celebrate it? We do so by consuming mounds of refined flour, sugar, chocolate, cream, vegetable oil – also popularly known as cake.

Somewhere, somehow, I feel, my daughters are making a connection in their formative minds that the celebrations mean to eat un-healthy stuff – cakes, deep-fried chips, canned juices etc. This is what they get to eat at all the birthday celebrations, anyways.

I find it difficult to believe that we, humans, actually celebrate by eating what is detrimental to our own health. If anyone believes that deep-fried chips, canned juices in general and cakes, in particular, are healthy, then it is a different case altogether.

A celebration is just a one-off instance to indulge

It can be said that a birthday comes once a year. So, if a person parties with a cake, what is the big deal? Can’t a person just enjoy even once a year? It surely does not make a big issue if a person wants to indulge once in a while.

I cannot comment about the adults, but I know a bit about the children around. How many times would they be consuming chocolates, canned juices and deep-fried chips in a week? Take a wild guess. If this the status of indulgence on a regular basis, why the case for an indulgence once in a while?

Similarly, what would be the frequency for a child to be consuming raw vegetables, fruits, sprouts etc. What would be the relative frequency of these eatables in comparison? What should actually register for a one-off chance to get included in a birthday celebration? You can take your pick.

Anti-cake is being a kill-joy

What has got a cake to do with a celebration? Is it the only way to enjoy and make an event worth-while? Come on, it is not the cake but the people who attend that counts. Everybody knows it. Yet, the cake is the first to make a reservation at the birthday party.

The size of the cake is not the measure of fun. One can argue that in that case, why have anything to eat? Well, that is not the point. We do require stuff to eat. Just that, this particular stuff can be healthy, as well.

I refuse to equate cake with having fun at the birthday celebration.

Cakes are monotonous, Yet

People get bored. People want change. It is difficult to tie down people with the same set of norms. We as human beings evolve and crave for change. Yet, in this particular instance, cakes have no challenger whatsoever.

I mean, how can anyone and everyone conjure up celebration in the same repetitive manner year after year? That too, when everyone around, also do their own celebrations in the same manner. We end up eating cakes all year round.

Yet, we do not find it boring. This is really fascinating. There is some lesson which I cannot decipher.

 My daughters will have cake, nonetheless

I know this. There is not much of a chance, no chance actually, against the all-round onslaught of consumerism. The cake is a manifestation of what we are told to do and we do so unflinchingly.

It is difficult to stand up against the might of chocolate and sugar. The popular culture worships them, and I know we are the devotees.

What would be your views on this subject?

I am trying to come up with some options to celebrate a birthday without a cake. Let us see, how it unfolds.

PS: The above is my personal opinion basis the dietary and nutritional issues I have with cake. It has got nothing to do with religion, culture and whatsoever else.

5 Questions To Ask Kids To Get Them Talking

In the post Why Do You Go To School? Why Children Are Asked This Question? I have expressed my views that children should not be asked about their school as a first question of the conversation. Now, if that is ruled out, then what does an adult speak to a child about? What are the questions to ask kids to get them talking?

I am referring to kids in the age-group of four-six years. I realized that barring schools and chocolates, there are not many things that adults get comfortable about talking to kids in this age-group. Our soon-to-be five-year-old twin daughters are a chatter-box, but they also need an ice-breaker to get them going with relatives/strangers.

I have come up with a list of 5 questions to ask kids to get them started. The list has been arrived at keeping in mind the ease of the adult initiating the interaction. Also, the children in this age-group cannot be asked targeted/specific questions for they may not have the exposure to what the adult is referring to / know how to express themselves in as many words.

The list of questions to ask kids is broad-based and depending on the interest levels of the adult/child, the questions can be worded/modified. Of course, it is not at all necessary that a child will reply to any of these questions. They are their individuals and with their own preferences/likes/moods. Like any other relationship, it depends on the rapport that an adult can build with the kid that s/he will respond.

Play

What does a child do? Play. This is an activity that a child does all the time. At least, that is what I have come to believe based on my experience.

Just ask the child – what does s/he like playing? If the child does not respond, say that you would want to play with her/him. Even now the child does not respond, you can suggest the games to the child. This is sure to get the kid going.

There are a lot of games that do not require any material. They can be played anywhere and anytime, by any number of players.

What’s more? It will enliven the child in the adult.

Food

Eating is something that everybody does. Ask the child what the food s/he had in the earlier meal, going to have in the next meal and so on. Speak to the child about the food you had/going to have.

Food brings people together, and children are no different. The conversation can be about meals, vegetables, fruits, milk, spices, cooking, buying, cleaning, portions, colour, source and what all you and the child can think about.

Just, keep the chocolates out. Chocolates are not food for it is no good.

Transport

The simple assumption is that either the kid or you have travelled for the get-together to happen. Children are fascinated with modes of transport.

Speak to children about how you/they travelled to come to the place. What did you/they do during the travel to engage? What all was seen and experienced during the travel?

One of my daughters love to talk about to how uncles driving two-wheelers do not wear helmets, taxi uncles do not wear seat-belts and auto uncles do not ply on meters. She can go on and on about the inefficacy of Hyderabad traffic police uncles if somebody brings her onto this topic.

Stories/Songs

This is another activity that all the children would do. They love to hear stories/songs and also to tell/sing themselves. Just give them the opportunity.

There is no need for the adult to know any fairies and demons stories, we do not know ourselves. Tell the children any make-believe imaginary story of 2-3 minutes, and that is enough for them. For time to come, they will keep asking questions about the story or even extend the story themselves.

By songs, I mean actual songs and not rhymes, though that will also do if adults happen to remember their rhymes. Children are very good at remembering the tune/rhythm and can pick it up fast.

Nature – Animals/Birds/Insects/Trees/Flowers/Sky

For children, anything and everything under the sky, including the sky, fascinates. I would want to believe that that is how it should be for adults too.

Just see anything and speak to children. Even if you do not see a thing, it is fine, speak about it. It will suffice to a child.

Summing Up

Children are innately curious, creative and imaginative. Majority of us adults have lost it as we grow up to be worldly-wise.

When the majority of us ask the same question – “Which School Do You Go To?” to children all the time, we are making them adults sooner, than later. Beyond the name of the school and grade/class, there is no other discussion point to continue the conversation, leave aside building the rapport and knowing the child.

What would be your questions to ask kids to get them talking?

Which School Do You Go To? Why Children Are Asked This Question?

I have written Why I Stopped Asking What Do You Do. I realized that this question has an equivalent for children also. Similar to adults equating their life with what they do for a living and not with life per se, adults also equate a child’s childhood with schools. Rather they equate not childhood, but children themselves.

You do not believe me / agree with me? Witness any conversation that an adult is initiating with a child. What will be the first question of the interaction? I bet, the child will be asked – “Which School Do You Go To?”

The life as a stay-at-home father has revealed quite a few societal stereotypes to me, which otherwise were a part of my own life and I never realized it. This is one of those.

Our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment, not as yet. They continue to be at home. Any conversation, (at times, it is not a conversation at all), with anyone and everyone, relatives / friends / strangers / people who meet us on the road / shop / park / public transport / lift / anywhere – our daughters are asked the first question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

By the way, as on date, our daughters are not even five years old.

Education / School

I have never questioned back anyone who asks “Which School Do You Go To?” If I would have done so / do now, I am sure I would be answered back – what is wrong with the question?

Well, I suppose, the school is a means to an end – Education. If the people are so concerned about education, why not ask children about what they know / what they are learning and what they are not. Why the question about school?

The contra argument to the above would be that the adult does not have the time or the energy to go in detail about a child’s learning. So, the easy question about the school. In that case, if the adult does not have the time/energy to engage in a meaningful conversation, why to ask a question in the first place? And that too, only about school?

Schools are, of course, an important element of education. However, I am not able to understand, how / when / where / why, the schools have got a sole proprietorship on education? That, people, ask only about which school and not education, per se.

School – A status symbol

I realized that the girls are not getting asked much about their grade/class (leave aside their learning), but only which school do they go to. I am getting a feeling that this question has become a measure of at what level of social/economic hierarchy a family exists / lives.

People have a fair idea about schools and their fees/infrastructure/claims/lineage and what not. I suppose nobody will ever share their income, but knowing about where their children study, people, at large, can figure out where to place the family in the societal pecking order.

Schools are, I suppose, means to education, for a just and fair society. Then, why would I equate the schools with a status symbol? Why would I raise suspicion on a simple question – “Which School Do You Go To?” Because, right from Government schools, Hyderabad (a city where we currently live) has schools having fees up to 7 lacs per annum and more. Welcome to India’s economic disparity and a defunct educational system, rather a redundant state. But let us not digress.

If people want to know whether the children are going to school, the question to be asked is – “Do You Go To School?” However, people ask – “Which School Do You Go To?” and hence, as mentioned above, I have reservations about the underlying objective.

A Ruined / Missed Childhood

The girls are playing in the park. They are in a zoo. They are in the shop for buying groceries. The girls are having their nature walk – collecting twigs, leaves and flowers and their all-time favourite stones. They are jumping in the rain puddles. They are shopping vegetables in the Sunday Market. The girls are making their mud mounds in the court-yard. Anywhere and everywhere, the aforementioned question pops us – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Give the girls a break. Give me a break. And the person asking this question should also take a break. The girls are not even five years old. They are enjoying what they are doing and also learning in the process, I suppose. It does not matter even if they are not learning. They are children and they are not going to get their childhood ever again. Let them have it.

Why do we limit the child and childhood only to schools?

What are your thoughts on this question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Why I Stopped Asking What Do You Do

“What do you do?” This is as innocuous a question as one can ask. This is as innocuous a question as one can be asked. We are trained/used to this question when we meet strangers, when we meet our people after a long time, when we meet a person whom we have known ever since. This is the first question to start a conversation.

The above were my thoughts. Earlier. Not now. I have realized, for myself, that there is no more a repulsive a question for a human being to ask / to be asked – “What do you do?”

I wish to share my journey on this change.

When I was working – “What do you do”

I have worked a corporate life for more than a decade. All along, I was asked “What do you do” by many people. Every time I replied, it was followed up with questions about my designation, the geographical area I handled, the quantum of business I looked after, the team that I managed etc.

Of course, my corporate job did not define me as a person. However, I never realized at that point of time that I was never asked anything more than “What do you do?” Nothing was asked about me as a person. I also never realized then that I never asked anyone more than “What do you do?” I asked nothing about anyone as a person.

But for the current phase of my life, I would have never realized this anomaly.

When I am a stay-at-home father – “What do you do”

I became a stay-at-home father in April 2017, leaving my job, to my then two and half-years-old twin daughters. My wife re-joined her enterprise – Dirty Feet.  This decision signified what she and I were as individuals, what our passion was, how we perceived life and what it meant to us.

Now, wherever/whenever, again I get asked the question – what do you do? Enthusiastically, I reply to what I am doing. What I get back is a stare. That is it. No follow-up questions. Nothing. Rather, I get cut off from any further conversation. As if I have ceased to exist.

Busy and engaged with my twin daughters, I never realized what was going on and why. It is now after almost two and a half years, I am figuring out what is going on and why.

Self and work as one unit

I realize that we have started equating our existence in terms of the job we hold and the work we do. Of course, human beings need to work to earn a livelihood. Somewhere, this livelihood has got equated with life itself.

We are obsessed with our work. We consider our existence in terms of work we do and that is it. Seemingly, we wish to believe that our job defines our worth, our value, our happiness and what we are or rather, we only believe this, nothing else.

We see ourselves as a rat-racer for life and the others as well and are fine with it (though we would not admit it publicly). There does not seem to be any other way for a human being to exist.

The passion and one’s identity

As stated earlier, I have been guilty myself of asking “What do you do?” This has been a recent eye-opener for me. I am the same person, rather a shade better, as I would like myself to believe after spending more than two years with my twin daughters. But, when I would want to speak/share about this journey, I find no listeners.

I refuse to believe that people find their self-worth only in pursuit of their KRAs and target achievements. I refuse to believe that people do not find it worth-while to spend time with their family on a full-time basis. We cannot be a ten to six animal, almost on the job 24*7 with all-pervasive technological presence.

Then, what is it? Where is the passion? What is it that drives us a person? What defines us as a human being? Is it just a presentable reply to a question – What do you do?

My response

I cannot stop people from getting switched off once I say I am a stay-at-home father. So, my only response has been to stop asking in return – What do you do?

I would want to ask the person what is her/his passion? What is that she/he likes doing and cares about? What is that makes her/him happy and her/his thoughts as a distinct individual human being?

If this resonated with you, please let me know. It will motivate me in my journey further and feel happy that there are fellow travellers in this quest to be an individual.