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 Lessons Kids Learn At Indian Wedding

Our five years old twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve, attended a wedding last month at Chennai. The kids were excited about the travel, meeting new people – fellow kids and relatives, attending the wedding, the ceremonies and what all and whatnot. We are not sure what excited them the most. Though, does it matter when it comes to Indian Wedding?

It was an experience for the girls – the wedding and the paraphernalia. I am sure they learnt a few lessons from their interactions and the happenings around them.

The Relatives

The kids learnt to nod to all the relatives who asked if the girls remembered them, when they met earlier, when they were in their nappies.

The kids learnt to get their cheeks, their head, their back patted from various directions by dotting relatives. At times, simultaneously.

The girls were bombarded with the same question – Which school do you go to, by all and sundry. The girls beamed and answered to all that they do not go to any because they are young children.

The Food

Getting hold of two chairs is a pain for us in any of the buffets we have gone till now. How does one expect to feed children standing all the time?

Here, it was a pleasant surprise. The breakfast and dinner were served on a banana leaf. Now, one cannot stand and hold a banana leaf with food inside. So, we had tables and chairs. The girls learnt to have their food in banana leaves.

Our children have a mix of Telugu and Gujarati food. In this wedding, the girls learnt to have loads of Tamil pickles, podi, curry and a different taste to rasam and sambhar.

More importantly, the girls fed themselves for all the meals, without a fuss. Not sure, what clicked. The banana leaves, the Tamil food, the people sitting around them; whatever.

The Dress

The girls learnt to put on 3 different dresses in a day, with all the paraphernalia for their ears, neck, hands, legs. Kudos to their mother for the patience she has in changing 6 pairs through the day.

The girls tried out various colour combinations and they went on and on. I felt blessed that I cannot identify any colours other than primary colours.

Trying to put clothes to the age-group of 3-6-year-olds, which they are not used to, is one crazy exercise. They drive us nuts with their antics and tantrums, and this was no different. They learnt to add new tricks to their armoury in this dressing up and dressing down episodes.

The Children

In the earlier marriages that we attended, we went around the food time and never noticed it. However, this time when we were present for two full days for all the ceremonies, it was starkly visible. With two hyperactive kids, we had to bear the maximum brunt of it.

Our daughters learnt and we also learnt that there are hardly any children around in Indian weddings. Gone long are the days when the kids would be running around in the wedding ceremonies and creating a ruckus. Few of them turned up during meal times, but that is it. Our daughters did not find any play-mates for them, that we promised before the travel.

Wonder where the children have gone to vanish from the scenes of the Indian wedding?

The Ceremony

We had told the girls that marriage is a ceremony. Now, the ever-inquisitive five years olds wanted to know – When/How/What is the ceremony? There are a few things that we learn only when we experience it first-hand. This was one of it.

We had no answers to satisfy the curiosity of young minds. They wanted to know what was happening and why it was happening. I realized that I was clueless about their queries. I also realized that there was no way in which I could answer their questions. Apart from the priest, who would have known what was going on, I do not think there was an informed soul around.

As the girls kept asking – Is the ceremony over during both the days, their initiation to dumbing down the curiosity about the religious ceremonies had started.

The parents’ perspective

Attending an Indian Wedding is an important part of the child’s learning and growing up process. They get used to the attack on the sensory organs – eyes (bright lighting), ears (deafening music), nose (strong perfumes), skin (pinch and pat) and get only chocolates for their taste buds.

The arrangement for Indian weddings hardly leaves any space, time and resources for children to do what they do – play or try and involve them in the proceedings.

Indian weddings ensure that the child’s journey to the impending adulthood gets initiated at the earliest.

5 Tips To Get Kids To Drink Milk

Our almost five years old twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, eat all the vegetables. Likewise, they also drink their milk. Daily. Without a fuss. I cannot believe our luck in this context. Fingers crossed that they continue this in future also.

I was wondering what could have lead to the girls drinking milk. To be honest, the points mentioned below are what we feel as parents that have contributed. Though, it is very much possible that we can be wrong and that our daughters would have anyways had milk or they are having it for some other reasons.

Set an example as a parent

This is the fundamental step in getting kids to do anything. A parent is a role model for her/his child. The parent has to set an example by drinking milk in front of the kid. And, of course, everybody knows that children love to imitate.

I love milk myself. I suppose our daughters when they were not on animal milk, would have seen me having my daily glass of milk. Once they started on to the regular milk, it was a given that all three of us will have milk together. This continues even today.

When the child sees the parent doing a certain act, there is no doubt in her mind about doing that act herself.

No health drinks/sugar

Earlier, when our daughters initiated their milk drinking, they were having health drinks along with. Soon, I realized that almost all the health drinks are chocolate flavoured. I felt that something is wrong somewhere. Our daughters were getting used to the chocolate flavour and not milk. This was not done. We stopped health drinks immediately without any major damage done. Same for sugar.

I feel that when a flavour – chocolate or sugar is added, the child is having that flavour and taste and not the milk. As the child grows up, s/he is anyways going to be offered a lot of chocolates/sweets, why should a child have milk to get that flavour/taste?

We want the taste of the milk to stand out and have our children drink milk for the sake of milk and not for added flavours/tastes. This also means that no smoothies, no essence, no milkshakes, no cereals; no sugar, please.

Hot / Cold, Mugs / Cups

There have been times when one of the girls or both of them refused to have milk. They also happen to say at those times that the temperature of the milk was not to their liking. We realized that serving the milk at an appropriate temperature can help a lot. Both the girls like their milk at room temperature; neither hot nor cold.

The girls like to have options in mugs and cups to have their milk. They have 2 / 3 different sets in which they have their milk. They choose the cups/mugs daily to have their drink.

As long as they are having milk, I am fine with the hassle of bringing the milk to room temperature and letting them decide the crockery.

Bring on the milk products

Both the girls love all the milk products – curd, buttermilk, butter, cheese, paneer, yoghurt and their favourite – ghee.  They have malai – cream daily, as soon as the milk is cooled.

I suggest, to ensure that a child does have milk, it is better to introduce milk products first, rather than the milk. Once the child takes the liking to the milk products, introducing milk should be relatively easy.

Milk as a routine

I suppose the statements like “you have if you want to”, “it is ok if you do not like”, or a forceful statement like “you must drink milk” would make children defensive and create a doubt in their minds about what is being fed to them.

Rather, it is always a routine to have milk and a sense that it is expected of them to drink. And, they do. There is neither a reward nor a punishment for drinking milk; it is a way of life.

To repeat, we do not know for sure what has led to both the girls having their milk daily. The above-mentioned reasons are what we have come up in hindsight – may be true or completely off the mark.

I hope if any of the above points can be of help to you. Do share your experiences and views.

PS: Our paediatrician doubted that one of the girls was lactose intolerant. She was tested and the results were negative. The above-mentioned points do not apply to lactose-intolerant children.

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?