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.

The Mud Magic: All-Weather Play For Children

Bond with mud, the source of oodles of activity, creativity, joy and sensory fun.

Engage with mud in its various avatars – powder, gooey, sticky, liquidy.

Let mud stimulate your creativity by making and your sense of adventure by playing.

So said Dirty Feet‘s mail announcing the ‘Magic of Mud’ activity under its NATURE SCHOOL programme.

My wife and I swear by the immense power of mud. A material with many textures and forms, it offers tremendous scope for all rounded play.  It is rather unfortunate that it is one of the most under-rated play-mate for children. And in the increasing concrete jungles of India, opportunities for kids to revel in it are on the wane.

So, when we saw the opportunity to be a part of the above activity, we enrolled immediately. The morning of Friday was meaningfully spent making MASTI with MUD:)

Bonding

Kids accompanied by parents and in some cases, even grandparents came from different parts of the city to revel in this activity. After a round of quick introductions, Dirty Feet’s team welcomed all the kids by handing them cookies… yummy… just that the cookies were all made with mud. The kids’ disappointment at being handed over such cookies gave way when they realised that the cookies were packed with surprises for the kids – Dirty Feet badges – the kids yipped with glee and the day began.

Dirty Feet’s first activity was all about overcoming fears and inhibitions. It was pretty much effective in fuelling the wild curious side of the kids by giving them a free hand to dig in and to explore nature’s treasures from mud mounds, slush-filled tubs and muddy waters.  Some eager to get messy, some reticent and reluctant to even touch – but nonetheless, the mudhunt was well planned to get all the kids going.

From muddy waters to sticky to powdered mud and back again to where they began, the kids moved among different stations and enjoyed each of these textures.  They were all totally involved in picking up natural treasures – stones, pebbles, seeds, seed pods, shells, flowers, sticks, feathers and of course comparing their stuff with that of the others. Those who were initially unsure about taking part in the entire exercise were now unmindful of the mud dripping from their elbows and fingers!

Creating

In the next session, kids got to do a whole lot of stuff with mud – pounding, sieving, mixing with water and making doh. They drew shapes in mud powder, wrote their names and used it as a filler in designs. They filled bottles with it and made rattles. What followed were balls, towers, puppets and sculptures too. It was interesting to watch mud take the shape of each their imaginations.

It was then time for painting. Large white papers were kept ready with mud paint in plates. Children started painting on white paper with their fingers as paint brushes. What next? The children dipped their palms and started creating their hand imprints. What next? The Dirty Feet team showed that hand imprints can be created on clothes worn by them as well. Immediately, the children went gung ho giving each other memories of the day. What next? Footprints, of course.

In the end, children were dripping with mud and making/drawing/painting, whatever and where ever they wanted to.

Playing

Pithoo, marble shots – the children focused on getting their targets right with mud. In the tub game, kids were required to throw stones in a tub filled with gooey muddy water. It was a sight to see it splashing out of the tub as children threw stones into it. They loved it and just wouldn’t have enough of it. They went on and on.

This was followed by a game of mud musical plates. Children went around them and when the music stopped, they had to put their hands into it. For the last round of the game, the tub filled with gooey muddy water was brought forth and then the kids jumped into it for a mud bath.

Magic of mud

The morning spent in the company of mud was a reaffirmation of our belief that children enjoy the simple pleasures of life the most, if only they are given an opportunity and exposure to.

Children are a happy lot when they are left to being their own selves sans the paraphernalia of adult life. It is the right of every child to get messy with mud and make mudful memories:)

What’s your take?

PS: The girls did not fall ill after all that exposure to mud. I agree that it would have virus/bacteria/disease inducing germs. However, I also believe that it is sterile and sanitised environments that lead to reduced levels of immunity in children and not just the other way round.

My prescription for a well-rounded childhood – loads of outdoor play with mud and water!

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”.

Rangoli Making With Kids: Fun and Learning

Rangoli making has been an all-time favourite activity for O +ve and B +ve. They were introduced to this activity when they were about 15 months old. Even today, their fascination with it continues unabated. When I see them involved in rangoli making today and look back at how they have always been engrossed in the past, I realize how important this activity has been for them.

For both fun and learning, this colourful activity has been a regular in the everyday activities of our twin daughters.

Material

The girls were first introduced to making rangolis with a variety of flours, pulses, grains, semolina and rock salt. Since then we have explored making rangoli with a range of material including powder colours readily available in the market.

They enjoy making rangolis with mud, sand and gerua. Who doesn’t like messy muddy art, isn’t it? Their collections of petals, leaves, twigs, branches from their nature walks and park trips have been put to good use by making rangolis. The pebbles and stones from their stones collection have been arranged creatively to make interesting patterns. They have also used vegetable and fruit peels, bits of paper and pieces cut from cardboard boxes for rangoli making.

Both the girls have understood that it is their own imagination which when applied to any material that makes their rangolis. They absolutely take delight in this simple art form.

Motor skills

Rangoli making has had a significant role to play in the development of gross motor, fine motor and hand-eye coordination of the girls. One of the girls had an issue with her pincer grip. The doctor advised a number of exercises. We realized that making rangolis also offered similar opportunities to work on the same.

Takeaways

We realized that rangoli gives a live, interactive and experiential three-dimensional learning environment. It is pretty much cost effective and also a very inclusive art form.

Be it colours, shapes, sizes, alphabets, numbers, counting, comparison, proportions – most of these are amenable to learning from rangoli making. Mixing colours, colour combinations, powder colours, wet colours, characteristics of various colouring/filling materials, canvases and accessories – there is so much to a humble rangoli. We have been making efforts to introduce festivals, celebrations, region-specific attributes and related cultural aspects through rangolis.

Colourful Imagination

The girls love their colouring and painting. Along with these, they also love bringing to life their imaginations through their rangolis.

An open-ended rangoli making exercise really stretches them hard. They know what they want to make and to convert their ideas into a three-dimensional canvass is an interesting challenge for their age.

It is only the space that is a finite and regulated attribute when they begin making their rangolis. Once into it, they know no restrictions or limitations, no specific set patterns too. They have tried their hand at making everything – clouds, sun, moon, stars, plants, flowers, mountains, hills, grass, sea, beach, fruits, vegetables, body parts, vehicles, roads, house, deer, butterfly, caterpillar, eggs, even the regular muggus and kolams.

The output – the big picture is for all to see. We cannot make out much of their abstract art but they patiently take us through their works of art. It is this detailing that we love to hear from our girls. In their rangoli, a cloud is not just a cloud, it is either a black coloured cloud which is just about to burst into rain or a cloud which is very big and is hiding the sun behind it. B +ve drew a flower with four petals with some space left out which could have easily fit another petal. When asked as to why space was empty, she said with all seriousness that it is a flower which is getting dried up and one of its petals has just fallen down. O +ve made an apple, complete with worms and all.

Tidying up

This facet is also as important as all the other aspects. Rangoli making with children will invariably lead to lots and lots of mess and chaos.

The girls have understood that they also need to pick after themselves courtesy this activity. They surely do not do it all the time, given their age. However, they know that all the things that come out for their rangoli making have to also go back to their respective places.

Summing Up

To be honest, none of the above things occurred to us or were done in a planned manner with a given purpose. Just that today, when I see my daughters engaged in rangoli making, I realize how important it has been to their growing up years.

Maybe, it could have been more helpful to get the full benefits of rangoli making to our daughters if we were more structured in our approach. There are just too many benefits of rangoli making for children without any apparent downsides.

Our children are enjoying their rangoli making. Do share your views about this often overlooked and unnoticed activity and its practical application for children.

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.