Come On Papa, You Can Do It: Father’s Day Promise

“Come On Papa, You Can Do It”. This is what I get to hear often from my twin daughters when we are on our outdoor immersions. Particularly so, when they find me huffing and puffing, on my haunches, perspiring heavily, trying to catch my breath and not being able to match pace with them.

I am a stay-at-home father to my three and a-half-year-old twin daughters, who do not go to pre-school or nursery or day-care. We indulge in umpteen numbers of outings to green spaces in the city or tag along with my wife, who runs an experiential rustic travel firm to villages.

Out there, the girls get going like they are in their second home. They love collecting twigs, leaves, feathers, seeds – you name it, and they have it in their little nature bags. Irrespective of the size, every rock, stone, pebble gets their attention. If it is big, they try to ascend on to it, if it is tiny; it goes into their personal stone collection. They chase squirrels till the time the squirrels run to the top of the tree. Armed with magnifying glasses, they love following the trails of insects and looking out for animal and bird droppings. They are still trying to get a hang of climbing trees and swinging from the tree branches and aerial roots. The girls have the liberty to visit the parks during non-peak, no crowd hours and it gives them the freedom to indulge in themselves to the core.

Just that, I have to keep an eye on them as they dash off in different directions. Run behind them, roll with them, and answer them as to why the squirrels and pigeons are not willing to play with them, help them get onto the rocks and trees. I end up losing tempo soon enough whilst the two bundles of energy would have just got started. I tell them to slow down and I get to hear “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

We accompany my wife on her village trails. Along the way, we get down in any place that the kids wish to explore. The girls get busy picking tomatoes or leafy vegetables or weeding or making farm bunds or checking out earthworms and I have to drag myself along with them. Under the sun, my energy levels dip right away and the girls continue as if they are on an awareness mission about the significance of Vitamin D. I tell them to slow down and I get to hear “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

In the current state of ‘no schooling‘, I am my girls’ go to playmate. They want me to not miss out on any of their playful exploits. But at times, they see that I am down and out. They ask me as to why I get tired. They get a bit upset that their father is not able to keep pace with them and they keep prodding me all the time.

I understand that their energy levels are only going to increase in the foreseeable future and I cannot let their enthusiasm to experience and experiment wither away just because I cannot match up to their liveliness. I realize that I have to be more fit and energetic to be there with my daughters. This is going to happen only if I take care of my health and improve on my physical stamina. A must if I have to ensure that my daughters do not miss out on any of their escapades.

While watching LittleBabyBum videos with my daughters, I came across this sweet message from Future Generali where a daughter is pondering over what to gift her father on Father’s Day (https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=l_yr_EUGD2E&feature=youtu.be%5C). She realizes that her father has everything but hasn’t really taken good care of himself. It resonated with me for my daughters keep telling me “Come On Papa, You Can Do It”.

This Father’s Day, I would want to promise to my daughters a physically fit and an energetic father who can accompany them in all their quests. This is #PromisetoMychild. They may not be able to say it as such but I know that they really mean #Aapkihealthmereliye for their father.

Yes Girls, Your Papa Will Do It.

A Grape Adventure – Grapes are not sour

Sometime back, my wife had come across a photograph in The Hindu of grapes being harvested at the Grape Research Centre, Rajendranagar. We figured out that they had opened their gates for the general public for harvesting. Too good an opportunity to let it go. So all excited, we headed to the centre to try our luck at getting some sweet yummy grapes fresh from the farm.

On reaching, a big hoarding with the pictures of different varieties of grapes grown at the farm welcomed us. The girls were intrigued by the varied hues of the grapes – green, black, red, purple, dark blue. Our energies were upped with the enticing prospects.

We made our way to a small stall set up at the centre to facilitate the process.  In response to all our enthusiastic queries, the person at the counter looked at us sympathetically and shared that the harvesting had begun more than a month ago. So, despite a bumper produce of 10,000 kgs, we may not be able to get even a kg of grapes from whatever was left at the vineyard.

The adults in us who need volumes for gratification were disheartened. Not the girls who were ready for action and fun. So there we were armed with two baskets, one for each of the girls to put their harvests and a knife. As we were about to enter the vineyard, the security personnel in charge of the place suggested that we begin our exploration from the far end columns of vines, just in case.

The entire vineyard had overhead bird netting in place – to prevent the birds from feasting on the produce. The net had to be lifted to enter the vinery and this act made the girls feel as if we were entering a special secret zone. As we walked through the grape climbers, the green leaves of the vines were pleasing to the eye. The girls were happy because they were able to touch and feel the plants, all by themselves. After running around a few columns, the girls finally chanced upon bunches of hanging grapes. Big, small, tiny, firm, soft, mushy, dried, green, black, purple, maroon – they described every fruit they picked. We helped them to figure out the difference between the raw and ripe ones and the care that they need to take whilst picking the ripe fruits.

Just as they were going about harvesting, the drip irrigation system was switched on to water the plants. There were pipes running along the grape climbers with holes for water to trickle drop by drop directly onto the plant’s roots. Seemed to be everything that we could ask for – each of the picked fruits started to get washed and gobbled. And that is when they realised that grapes also have seeds. I mean until then, all the market bought ones that they had been introduced to were all of the seedless variety. B +ve asked if they should eat the seeds like those of the watermelon or spit them out like those of the custard apples. I asked her to give it a try and she started crunching and munching.

O +ve had not been fond of fruits, grapes in particular until then. But she couldn’t resist the taste of her sweet labour. Unfortunately, all that she tasted was sour and had seeds much to her chagrin. Good enough for her to conclude that grapes are not worthy of her appetite. B +ve with her fondness for sour had her tummy full. The icing on the cake for her was when whilst reading out the names of the grapes, she figured out a variety of grapes which actually shared her name. O +ve searched in vain but couldn’t find her name etched on the sign poles.

In all our exploration, we managed to find only one variety of grapes that was sweet. The rest were sour to the core. But nothing deterred us. I mean the girls and they went on and on religiously walking through every column at the vineyard.

After a good two hours, we came out of the netted zone. A tractor in a corner caught the girls’ attention. They spent next 15-20 minutes in driving the stationary tractor. Finally, all our efforts were weighed at 300 grams and priced at Rs. 30/-.

Farm visits which tend to focus on picking and plucking give a great high. After all, who would not miss out on a chance of harvesting and savouring farm fresh produce? But such visits also tend to inadvertently not focus on the intensive and interesting facets and processes at the farm. It is often noted that kids, more so adults are on an accumulation spree/ on a race to fill baskets and sacks during harvest festivals. We are forever in a race and leave no chance of getting our kids inducted into it at the earliest, isn’t it?

Had there been more grapes, would we have missed out on getting acquainted with… The twists and bends of the grape vines? The smell of moistened earth? The number of nozzles between two sign poles? The textures and colours of the heart-shaped leaves? Intricately created spider webs?

We set out on our grape adventure in search of sweet grapes. At the end of it, all I can say is our grapes were not sour.

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?