10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad Part – II

In the first part of 10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad, I mentioned about cleaning the poop, potty training, feeding and putting to sleep – the basics.

Here goes the second part of 10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad.

Tidy Up: The girls haven’t still gotten the hang of tidying up the mess that they create every day. They like to play with everything they can lay their hands on and that’s about it. They do not care much about returning the stuff to their respective places. So, after they sleep, I have to pick up the pieces of the day and put them back so that the girls can start afresh the next day. I am gently and at times vehemently being pushed by the wife to get the girls into this habit. So hopefully, sometime soon.

Grocery, vegetable shopping: A task that has to be done with the girls in tow. In the hypermarket, both of them want independent trolleys and even if they sat in one, there would not be any place left.  So, we end up providing ample entertainment to fellow shoppers as I try to navigate the two trolleys in the busy aisles, trying to pick up stuff from the shelves and explaining to the girls what it is all about. In the road-side markets, it is even more difficult. To navigate the traffic and the dogs, bargain with the vendors and make payments and hold the stuff and the girls. So far we have struggled and survived.

Giving bath: As I show no inclination for the girls’ breakfast, their mother feeds them whenever she is at home, but it also means that she never has the time to give them their bath. So, 30-40 minutes spent daily to convince them to come inside the bath, clean them up and again convince them to come outside the bath. It is also the time that we have un-disturbed peaceful conversations about many a topic that get left out in the rush time of play hours.

I hardly have an appreciation of colours and designs. So when it comes to dressing them up, I have worked out the easy way. The girls get to choose what they want to wear depending on whether we are staying at home or going out.  I only help them don their respective stuff as they are yet to do this task independently.

Waking up in the night: This is again one task, which I took on once the girls were born. Throughout the day putting up with them, my wife and my parents/in-laws (whoever available) would be dead-tired by the night and I would come back energized from my office. Whenever there was a requirement – they were ill, they over-slept in the day, they were plain cranky, I could do the night-out with the girls. And this aspect remains with me, even now.

Staying away from the internet: I have never owned a smart-phone, but do have an I-pad at home. I have realized that if I want some peace around, it is better to have my eyes and mind on the girls than wandering on the internet. Even when India is playing a cricket match or election results are getting declared – whatever. I am glad that I was never hooked to Whatsapp and Facebook.

Putting up with tantrums: The list, of course, would not be complete without putting up with the tantrums. A day going on just fine, and one melt-down and it makes a complete mess out of everything.  I have realized that I can do as much as I can to prevent but if it has to happen, it will happen. All in a day’s work.

To be honest, these are the tasks that their mother once did when I used to go to the office. And now that she does and I am at home, I do these tasks. Just that, she was not asked, as often, and I do get asked, almost all the times, on what I am up to for the whole day.

Believe me, spend 24 hours, even 12 hours with three and a half year old, single-handedly, and it will be an eye-opener on the work done by the mother in the upbringing of the child, along with all the household chores.

Though meant for stay-at-home-dads, fathers who have full-time jobs can also always pitch in and do the above-mentioned tasks whilst they are at home to experience the uncensored joys/bliss of hands-on parenting. None of these is earth shattering and mind you, there is no MOM science in any of these.

What are the activities on your list?

10 must-do activities of stay-at-home-dad

What do you do for the whole day? Don’t you get bored? Don’t you feel like getting back to your corporate job? As a stay-at-home-dad, I am often asked these questions. My wife did not have to face such probes when she left her full-time vocation to be with our daughters for the first 2.5 years of their life. I suppose mothers are not asked such questions at every occasion.

Let me give you a peek into my day, what all I do on a daily basis with my daughters.

(Though these are named as must-do activities of a stay-at-home-dad, all types of fathers can do all these activities. There is nothing earth-shattering, no rocket science in any of these).

Cleaning the poop: Since the birth of my daughters, I have been doing this; so nothing new as such as a stay-at-home-dad. I realized soon enough that my wife is busy nursing the girls and if there is one task wherein I can be of any help to her is to clean the potty of the girls. As on date, the girls associate this task with me so much that whenever they have to go potty, they come to me and not to their mother. Needless to say, I am very proud of this achievement.

In fact, I have become quite an expert in understanding my daughters’ health based on the colour, texture and frequency of their potty, having discussed potty issues with the paediatrician a number of times. After the initial days, the guilt of contributing heavily to environmental degradation encouraged me to do the clean-up with my bare hands.  No wet wipes, no tissues, no newspapers, and no other aids.  I have so much to say on this subject, I might as well write a separate blog on this.

Cleaning the vomits, cleaning up after bedwetting episodes – all of these also belong to the same genre, and for small babies, there is quite a bit of this and I am always available for operation clean-up.

Potty training: I spend the maximum time with the girls during the day. Hence, it is but natural that I have the onus of potty training them. I keenly watch their water intake and food and keep reminding them about the need to go to the washroom. To be honest, it is much easier to clean up inside than anywhere else in the house. So better to keep reminding them rather than forgetting and then spending 10-15 minutes on the clean-up. The girls have age appropriate potty training and I should share due credit with them for this achievement.

Feeding: This is a task that I shy away from as much as I can. I am highly enthusiastic about all the tasks listed here, but not this one. Both the girls are finicky – one with the quantity and the other with the variety, enough to drive both of us crazy. When my wife is in town, I feed them only lunch. When she is travelling, I feed them all meals; otherwise, I pass on the buck to her.

A good meal means some peace around for at least a couple of hours. After a while, the girls will again get hungry and then, the running behind them to feed will have to start again so that they can continue their running around. And this cycle just goes on and on.

Putting the girls to sleep: This is another task of paramount importance without which a stay-at-home-dad cannot survive. When I was working, girls had the habit of sleeping with their mother in the afternoon and with both of us in the night. In the current scenario, my wife is not available for their afternoon nap and at times, for their night sleeps as well.  Fortunately, the girls have had a peaceful transition in terms of letting me put them to sleep on all occasions. So, some peace prevails.

This is the first part of the blog, the second part coming soon with the remaining activities.

No Adjectives Please

In almost all the social conversations, we get asked about our twin daughters – their well-being and the regular stuff. We reply with whatever the general status, as on date. So far, so good.

The issue started propping up for me whenever the queries were a bit more than general, which needed to be answered in specifics. I somehow was getting uncomfortable with these pointed questions. It was not about the need to hide anything about the girls, or about the questions in particular or the persons raising it. I was feeling awkward about my choice of words to answer the questions.

As a reply to the question I go on and on, rather than answering in a single word and describe the entire process when the person is actually interested in only knowing the output. I answer in various scenarios and not the occurrence of a single incident. I try to ensure that nothing – behaviour, action, mannerism etc get branded to either of the girls. Something like what I am writing in this paragraph.

I realized that I am uneasy about using adjectives for my daughters. I am not so sure about my approach to being anxious about using adjectives, be it either in the presence or even absence of my daughters.

For me, using adjectives amount to labelling/branding of the child. The child is just growing up, there is no way to know if the current trait is going to continue or a new attribute is going to pop up at any point of time, why to put the child in the shackle of a word?

I feel that putting the word for a child becomes a self-fulfilling prophecy. The child understands the meaning of the word, what it means and tries to come true to it. There can also be a contrary view that once the child understands the word, the child might show opposing behaviour. Or actually, nothing happens.

It is also something like the person asking the question expects the answer to be in a word – specific. Something like, till the time we are unable to bracket the child we get restless. Something like, we are averse to free-spirited individuals and it extends to the child too. We would not want to explore the unknown, and hence better to put a tag on the child.

I have noted that whenever the adjectives get used for any of the girls, the listener tends to remember better than the whole verbose long-winded reply given by me. And the next time, the girl gets referred to by that very word, easy to remember – the label. And to add to my irritation, the person in the spotlight will call the girl using that very adjective, which I have kept her away from.

I feel that it becomes a tad easier for the child too to refer to each other if they have a specific word on hand for the other children in the group – to name them, to call them by that word, it sticks and becomes simplistic.

It also becomes like the child starts referring to herself/himself by the adjectives used for her/him.

Or maybe nothing of the above happens. It is just that I am being paranoid and trying to be too much of a nit-picker.

It is not like I am not going to teach them adjectives. They will be taught but currently, I see no hurry, as such.

What would be your take on this subject?

My daughters do not go to preschool

The first conversation with anybody and everybody, be it relatives, friends, cashier at the departmental store, security guard at the park etc entails one question for sure – which school do they go to? Twins get confused when the question, at times, gets aimed at them directly. After the answer from either of us the parents, we are given the ceremonial advice that maybe they are a bit young for this year, but next year surely they have to be at school, and we are let off the hook temporarily.

To be honest, we did sort of primary research about the preschools and we ended up with the following statements:

A high-quality preschool designed to set up young scholars for future academic, emotional, and social success.

Preschool provides a foundation for learning both socially and academically that will help your child succeed in the primary school.

Preschool is an opportunity for growth. One of the best things about preschool is that your children learn to learn.

Seemingly, there is nothing wrong at all in the above statements. They are all full of great purpose and intention. Along with these, there would also be preschools that would allow children to be children and not focus on learning, as such. We as parents are not totally convinced about the need for a formal environment for our three and a half-year-olds. We understand that not putting our daughters in the preschool/nursery, which seems to be the norm nowadays, will have consequences – mostly negative, as we are being told, and maybe some positive, just maybe.

Twins began identifying numbers around a year ago and they were doing it pretty well. After a couple of months, their mother got back to full-time work and I joined my daughters at home. As on date, the twins are still learning to count. I am sure that going to a preschool would have guaranteed the continuity of what they had already learnt and there wouldn’t have been any moving back in time.

We have melt-downs by any one of the girls or both of them quite frequently. I feel that if they were attending a preschool they would have learnt to keep their temper tantrums under control, as their environment would not have entertained their whims beyond a point.

Girls are free to get up at any time and hence, to sleep at any time; with no particular schedule for food and sleep. Is this a part of accepted parenting norms?

Whenever they get a chance to play with kids either of their age or any age for that matter, they fall head over heels as they do not get such chances often. They really enjoy playing with companions. Are we taking away their enjoyment by not sending them to preschool?

As and when they ever go to school, they may not be equipped with the requisite social or school etiquette. Their foundation may not be in sync with the requirements of the formal education system.

When we get to interact with parents of other children of the similar age-group, they proudly announce that their prodigies have mastered the alphabets and numbers, not just reciting but writing as well and moving on to two letter to three letter words and our daughters’ are nowhere near their achievements.

B +ve and O +ve are able to comprehend instructions and guidelines. But their will to follow them is all over the place. They are wild and untamed. So far, they have not been required to fall in line, to remain silent, to hush up their emotions,

My wife and I have no training or background in working with kids. We simply follow our instincts and our emotions, as well.

Most importantly, are we obsessive parents that we cannot let go of our children for the limited hours of the preschool?

With all of the above, still, our daughters do not go to preschool/nursery till now.

Why? Will present the other side of the story in the next blog.

A little chocolate now and then does hurt

Very recently, I realized that there is a certain phenomenon happening with the girls. It looked so innocuous that somehow I missed it completely. It was just off the radar for me and now when I look back at all these incidents, I realize that these happenings have become so ingrained in our lives that we do not even notice it.

I am not referring to any top-notch event. Just that every now and then, with quite a bit of eerie frequency, girls are being gifted chocolates. It is not just the relatives or the friends who keep showering their love and affection through the brown thing, but the medical store guy, the security guard, neighbours, parents of children whom we meet at the park, why even the shopkeeper from whom we bought the feed for the pigeons; all of them keep giving the girls the chocolates / the lollypops (once a neighbour gave a giant-sized lollypop which was made in china with an expiry of 3 years, girls had to finally throw it off after 10  minutes).

This may sound like a bit of a kill-joy from my side as to why I won’t let my daughters enjoy. Well, read on, and let me know your views at the end of the blog.

Nutrition:

As I type this, I am having the ingredients and nutrition information of Cadbury Gems in front of me. Per 100 gm of Gems, we have 75.1 gm of sugar and 13.8 gm of saturated fat, with a 0.1 gm of trans fat added, we already reach 89 gm of the 100 g of Gems. It is made of hydrogenated vegetable fat, I don’t understand this ingredient, but surely does not sound/look good. (There might be a debate about milk chocolates and all imported ones. Let me know if you find one with sugar and saturated fats below 50%, at any point in time).

Pricing:

Paying Rs. 5/- for 8.9 gm of Gems, meaning it is Rs. 562/- per kg. Another way of looking at this is that raisins and dates are way cheaper than chocolates and almonds and cashews are just about 50% more expensive. Yet, none of these is anywhere seen as gifting options to children.

Options:

Talking of options, girls have a great liking for carrots, they can have cucumber and beetroot (which is currently Rs. 12/- per kg) as well – raw. I am sure that barring some exotic fruits that have been imported from Antarctica, all the fruits will be cheaper than these chocolates. But, none of these gets considered when it comes to pampering the children.

Pampering:

All the people who do gift chocolates get looked upon as favourites. We, the parents, who ask them to share/have it later in parts are considered as villains of the piece. Come on people, chocolates cannot be the sole way of getting yourself popular with the kids. Use your imagination, please.

Imagination:

A whole lot of marketing around chocolates has ensured that we lack imagination beyond them for options as gifts to children or ways of pampering them. Leave aside, fruits and dry fruits, there are no options of chikki, til laddu, puffed jowar, ragi mudde, coconut laddu for the children, as either it is not available in the first place or if present, it will be in such shabby form that children used to glossy covers will gloss over them.

I am in no favour of processed food loaded with sugar and fats to start the dietary journey of my children. For that matter, anywhere as the part of the food journey.

#NoChocolateForMyChildren. What’s your say?

Credit: Have adapted the title of this blog from a Charles M. Schulz quotation.

A Day Out with my daughters

India is not a place for the comfort of the very elderly, infirm, differently abled when it comes to travelling in public alone; though surely there are exceptions. So, when I whine about the issues faced by me as a father who wants to travel around with my twin daughters of 3 years and 6 months, I know that I come at the end of the priority order for the convenience expected.

Washroom for the Girls:

I cannot take my daughters to the washroom in a public place. Finding a functional washroom is a task in itself. Even if I find one, I realize that it isn’t of any use for me. I can request women to take my daughters to relieve them, but the girls would just not go with strangers. And that is how I want it to be as well.

Washroom for me:

I cannot use the washroom in a public place. Where do I leave my daughters?

As a result of the above two reasons, we welcome ourselves only in parks and gardens where we can find good enough number of trees to hide behind, whenever required, for obvious reasons. Sorry Modiji, but we have not been able to contribute to Swachh Bharat.

Public transport:

The RTC buses in Hyderabad have back-door ear-marked for men and front-door for women. The seating is also demarcated – women in the front seats and men in the rear ones. With my 2 daughters, I fit nowhere. We did try to travel in non-peak hours on relatively empty buses. I realized that the steps are very high for the girls to manage by themselves. So getting in and out of the bus for us takes too much of time for the driver’s comfort and we just get honked out.

With people hanging out of the local trains, there is no way that we can even think of sneaking in.

Crossing the road:

I have my heart in my mouth if we have to cross the road at all. Roads have become too wide and the time allotted at the traffic signal has gotten way too less for crossing unless you are a 100 m sprinter, which we are not. And whilst we are racing across to cross and save our lives, there have hardly been occasions without a two / four wheeler jumping the signal and coming straight for us.

Walking on the road:

Whenever we are out, the girls prefer to hold my hand whilst walking. This means that I have to keep them on my either side. Not having footpaths all across means that one of the girls is always on the side of the traffic and let me tell you that it is just so scary.

 Auto drivers taking us for a ride:

Due to the difficulties we face in travelling by buses and trains, autos are our go-to option. Hyderabad autos don’t work on a meter. If they do, you wouldn’t want them to as you realize pretty soon that the tampered meters are doing their job pretty well by overcharging. When the auto drivers see a man with 2 young girls, they see a victim very vulnerable, who can be taken for a ride – figuratively and literally, as they understand that the option less situation that we are in.

Metro:

Hyderabad Metro started functioning some time back. We tried a couple of times but found ourselves not fitting in. Both the girls do not require a ticket to travel and with my one token, I can cross over in/out only once, lifting one of the girls and the other girl gets left behind, needing to be picked up from sideways and they do not like such treatment. The timing at the in/out token gates does not allow all three of us simultaneously. Even the timing for the train gates – opening/closing is a bit too much for us to cope up with. Better to leave Metro alone, till the girls grow up a bit more.

We have refused to buy a vehicle. Conscious of our carbon footprint and also not wanting to add to the traffic chaos, we have always been ardent believers and users of public transport. And now, I as a father of twin daughters find it way too difficult to exercise my freedom of movement, in a safe – secure way.

Anyways, as mentioned in the beginning, we are the last priority and if our nation does manage to make roads, footpaths, public transport services, toilets truly accessible to the old and the differently abled people, then we will surely suit ourselves in.

What do you say? How to better the moving around?

10 things my daughters are growing up with

After the things that O +ve and B +ve are growing up without, now it is time for what they are growing up with. Again, some planned, some unplanned, some voluntary, some involuntary, basis the situation. Never sure, what is good parenting, what is not. Let’s see.

Father at home: O +ve and B +ve see me at home 24 hours, in my shorts and t-shirt with uncombed hair and unshaven face. They see me doing household chores, getting involved in all the action along with them, always consulting their mother before taking the final decision. Yes, they do want their mother around all the time, but they have never suggested that I should start going to the office again – I take solace in this and suppose that I am hanging in pretty ok.  Wondering what impression they are going to have about Men as they grow up.

Free time: With no playschool, no daycare centre, ever so imaginative mother away for work; daughters have only their clueless father as a company for the major part of the day. I have no idea about the concept of no schooling leave aside homeschooling; I suppose that is what I end up doing unintentionally.  Girls have loads of free time during the day with no structured activities, but 2 tasks – be a child and have fun.

Weekly Outing: With no parks, no accessible green spaces in the near vicinity that we can walk to, I take them out a couple of times every week ; to parks, gardens, grocery stores,  by lanes in our neighbourhood, metro station, villages in which their mother works and of course, to their grand parents’ house where they get to immerse in their granny’s  roof-top kitchen garden – watering the plants, digging soil, checking out insects and birds, collecting dry leaves and plucking tomatoes  to their heart’s content.

Maggi: No Lays, no soft drinks but, we love our Maggi. The 2-minute convenience when the mother is down and out (you guessed it right – I am a stay-at-home father, but I don’t cook; yet to get over all the so-called man-hood qualities), Maggi has been the only saviour. I get over my guilt with the thought that it might have Lead, but if it has gone around for so long, once a fortnight will not hurt much. Sorry Girls, your father just refuses to learn cooking.

Sharing and Ownership: They shared their living space before they came into this world, and it continues and will continue. They have their dedicated sets of tooth-brushes, shoes, water bottles; the rest of the stuff is all shared. They eat food from the same plate, wear clothes interchangeably and when one falls ill, the second shares the medicine also (she will anyways require it in next 48 hours). Being a single child, I haven’t had to share most of the times. And even now, I don’t always get it right on that front. But I am glad my daughters have to experience the sharing bit right from their birth.

Sharing also leads to understanding the concept of ownership. The twins understand colour coding, so whenever there are two sets, they pretty much stick to their own. And for anything that is one, we have a concept of 80:20, 80% of the time young ladies ask, wait for their turn, give and take. For the rest 20% of the time, they push and pull.

Bi-lingual: With a Telugu mother and a Gujarati father, we were warned by many, including a top-notch paediatrician that the girls might get confused between languages and might be late-learners when it comes to speaking. Well, the opposite has happened. They speak both the languages fluently for their age, can translate instantaneously for our benefit and go on and on in the language of their audience. Hindi and English are currently waiting for their turn.

I-pad: Yes, we do not have a TV at home and I do not use a smartphone, but we do have an I-pad, that was bought a year before the girls were born. It was hardly used even until the girls turned one. After that, the I-pad just sprung to life. One of the girls is extremely finicky about the quantity of food, and the other one with the taste of food, enough to drive us crazy all the time. We needed help to get them started for their meal times and Little Baby Bum videos have been a life-line. Also, they are just the kind of exposure we want for our daughters. If not having girls interested in TV and smartphone meant that they will not have any screen time at all, then that has not been the case. They are currently outgrowing this need as well.

Sweet & Sour: They love their sugar, their sweetmeats. They adore their lemons and all other tangy stuff that they can pop into their mouths. Another advantage/disadvantage of having parents from two different regions of the country. I just cannot handle anything sour, my wife does not have a great liking for sweet, and the two girls have developed a fondness for both.

Hands-On: My wife runs an experiential travel firm for kids (https://www.facebook.com/Travelwithdirtyfeet). It is what we believe in totally. So, hands-on is what defines our parenting as well as our daughters’ childhood. They are involved along with us in everything that we do – dusting, cooking, doing laundry, shopping for groceries, fixing and repairing household stuff, running errands, whatever it is including tidying up their own clutter. In other words, doing things together is what describes us.

Thumb sucking: Both the girls have a habit of sucking their thumb and couple of fingers respectively when they are nearing their sleep-time or are tired and want to rest on their parents. Have seen complete strangers walking up to us and giving us home remedies to cure our children of this. Whereas the paediatrician says that it does not require any kind of intervention till they turn four. We are of course fine with what the doctor tells us and hence with our daughters’ sucking, but quite a few people around us just want us to pull their fingers out from the mouth. Another of our free advice syndrome.

What is your must-have growing up list for your child?