My Most Beautiful Thing

Well, not a thing, but a person, daughter.

It is not very often that I take part in contests or events in the blog world, mainly because I find it difficult to write on demand, but when I saw this event – My Most Beautiful Thing Blogsplash, to be held on the 24th of April, it felt right – just apt to do a post on someone who means everything in the world to me. Especially as she came into my arms, six years ago, on the 24th of April.

I still remember my first sight of her. That squealing baby, is now my six year old, who thinks she knows the answer to everything. I can’t even playfully ask her, ‘where did my little baby go, when did she become so big?’ she has the answer, ‘Amma, you were a tiny baby once too, look how giant you are now!’. Well, at least someone thinks I am not a midget!

Looking back, I can’t even imagine a time without her in our lives. Her infectious laughter, her optimism, her bubbly excitement, her nonstop chatter, and her ability to find ways to entertain herself. It would do me a world of good, to take a few a pages out of her book.

I’ve not written letters to my daughter on the blog, but here’s what I would want to tell her.

My darling girl, you brighten up my(and your Dad’s) days in more ways than you know.

You  are a truly morning person, who wakes up with a smile, and wakes up with one blink of your eyes. Those eyes, which once once open, don’t close. Of course, I am delighted about it now, but a few years back, all I wished was for you to go back to sleep so that I could catch a few extra winks. Now, of course, you entertain yourself with a book, much to our delight(and relief, if I am honest).

You’ve made me proud in so many ways, with your impeccable behaviour(well, most of the time), with your consideration for others, and your sense of fairness. You strive to be fair to even those who might not have been exactly fair to you. You even try to hide your disappointment when your parents give you a dictionary as a birthday present, and actually tried to use it immediately. Of course, it made your delight at your actual present(a set of your favourite book series even more interesting to watch). Every time I have a parents consultation with your teacher, I come back with a huge, huge smile The one time, Daddy managed to get time off to attend, he came away teary-eyed with happiness too. Both of us wish we could record the meetings and show them to you when you are older.

My precious blessing, I can’t describe how much pleasure it gives me when you come running out of school, hurl yourself into my arms, give me a massive hug, and then go on to tell me about your day. Some days, of course, are extra special, because you’ve discovered that wobbly tooth, you’ve been waiting for, for ages. It is another story that I feel queasy when I see you wobbling that tooth.

You can’t sit still, not even while reading, you change positions, even almost turn upside down, engrossed in your books, lost to the world. I can’t tell you what makes me happier, seeing you reading like there is no tomorrow, or looking up from the book, and telling, ‘I feel like there’s a thunderstorm around me, because I’ve been reading about it in the book’! I can’t tell you how happy I am that you’ve discovered the magical world of reading. May you always enjoy reading the way you do now.

You’re six years old, a big girl, according to you. It’s been six years since you came into our lives, and nothing has been the same since.You’ve changed me, the way I do things, the way I look at things. Makes me so proud to be your mother. Here’s wishing you a lovely birthday, doing what you wanted to do (play Monopoly the whole evening after school, you are easy to please, I have to give you that :). Hopefully, we will be the kind of parents you would be proud of, as well. Hopefully, we will bring you up with the kind of support, and love you that need.

May you stay blessed and the cheerful, sunny person that you are. May you continue to find joy in the smallest of things. May you be reach for the stars and beyond, and may you be happy in whatever you do.

With all the love in the world,

Amma

My most beautiful thing…

This is my contribution to the My Most Beautiful Thing event, inspired by Fiona Robyn’s Book –My Most Beautiful Thing. Fiona has made the book free on Kindle and PCs for today and tomorrow. I’m off to read it, what about you?

Gyan from a five-yr-old

Poohi: ‘Why are pink, red, purple called ‘girlish colours’. What if some boys want to wear pink? That is not fair,Amma!’

Me:(Open-mouthed, and delighted)! I can direct her to IHM’s page as soon as she is old enough to see how men can carry off pink beautifully 🙂

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I cuddle her sometimes and call her ‘my baby’. One day, she extricates herself from my arms and says,’ You can call me a baby at home but NEVER in school’.

I pretended to be crestfallen,so she concedes, ‘OK, you can call me a ‘baby’ at school, very softly, but only when nobody is around’.

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Poohi:’ We think God is everywhere, but some people think that God only lives in the sky’.

Before I could say anything, she goes one to say, ‘But that is ok, because everybody thinks differently, and that is ok, because everybody is different’.

Am I glad or what 🙂

Onam Greetings!

Happy Onam everyone!

Hope you all had a more festive Onam than we did – thanks to my laziness. We did make the Pookalam, and the payasam is in progress – I decided to go for the easier, quicker Semiya Payasam. Daughter loves it and had specially requested for it, and I can’t deny her everything festive about Onam, can I?

Not that she minds – after all she got to do what she most wanted  – to make the pookalam. We made the Pookalam on the first two days of Onam – we were in India then, and I had promised her that we would do it here, if we have enough flowers. One look at my garden told us that we were hoping for too much. So we saved all the flowers for Thiruvonam, and this is what we made. Just a make-shift, simple pookalam, but enough to satisfy daughter.

Deeps’ post on Onam, recounting Namnam’s interest in the background to Onam, reminds me of some Maveli related stories that I keep forgetting to jot down. Daughter got interested in Onam last year. We were in Kerala, and she was fascinated by everything. Most of all by Maveli. All she wanted was for Maveli to come home and meet her. Finally her wish came true(well, partially), when she met Maveli at a shop, when we were out shopping. I actually thought she would be terrified, but she was just delighted.

This year, she has been analyzing the story, and is not too pleased with it. Surely, it was sneaky of Lord Vishnu to do something like this to Mahabali. After all he was a wonderful king. Why did Lord Vishnu do it? If Asuras were bad people, how come Mahabali was good? And other important issues like how did Mahabali get pushed into Patala? Was there a hole in the earth ? And more importantly, how does he come out every year? Does the earth open up?

Can someone please help me with these questions?

So wishing you all a very Happy Onam, and hoping that Maveli visits you, in one form or the other 🙂

Letting go..

Letting go, is probably the most difficult thing for a parent to do. The sweet-sour taste of experiencing your child becoming more and more independent is such a mixed feeling.

Poohi has gone her first sleepover, and I am feeling all happy and sad. She was so excited that she has been counting minutes. This is the first time she will be staying away from us. She has stayed with my parents back home, when I had to go to Bangalore, but never with anybody else. So I was a little apprehensive about it. Poohi on the other hand, was emphatic, ‘ Amma, I will be fiiine, I will brush my teeth and go to sleep, and don’t pick me up early in the morning, I want to play with M’.

So off she went, without a backward glance. I had a hard time trying to give her a quick cuddle. She was way too busy with her friend.

Yesterday, we had the school visit for Poohi’s ‘Big school’. She is going to start at a new school for reception, and is super excited about going to the ‘big school’. I was wondering how she would feel, at a new place, with new classmates. Luckily for her, there was one other child who she knew from her previous school.  We got introduced to her class teachers and the kids were off, playing, beading, drawing.. It was such a treat watching her, knowing that she was comfortable in the new environment, knowing that her teachers seemed really nice. The best part for me was to see that she was not put off by new things. She was quite happy with change.

It also gave me an insight to what is in store for me.  It is such a wonderful feeling when one’s child has the confidence to face the world without us. I am just grateful that she has that confidence and just pray that she continues to be as confident and happy. It is difficult to believe that the little baby that came to us, over 4 years ago, is now so independent and grown up(almost).

How am I going to manage when she goes to university 🙂

Now, that I have ranted, we are off to enjoy the childless evening by going for movie 🙂

Happy Memories are made of these…

I know I have no business writing a post, when I have not answered the comments to the previous one(s) and have not even reached half way on my packing, but some moments need to be recorded, don’t they? It is not everyday that one’s only child participates in her very first public appearance, after all!

Yesterday was Poohi’s Christmas concert. She had been away from school for the last 2 weeks and I was a bit worried if her part would be taken off or given to another child since she went missing. Thankfully, it was not. Each class puts together a nativity concert and every child had a line to say or a song to sing. I was amazed at the wonderful way it was all put together. Getting all the little 3/4 year olds to say their lines in perfect coordination and sing and clap where-ever required. Even the set was gorgeous! The amount of effort the staff had put in getting all this together was evident. As the play progressed, I was all overcome and teary-eyed and feeling a wee bit foolish at the rush of emotions when I saw another dad, wiping away a tear from his eye. I was not the only parent feeling all emotional at the sight of her 3.5 year old in the play.

If that was not enough, after the play, they played a little compilation of photographs taken at the nursery of the children during various activities. It was so well put together, with lovely songs in the back ground, so very touching. The teachers love and dedication was so visible in the way they had put it all together. I think there was not a single dry-eyed parent in that room at the end of it.

For the children, the fact that their parents were there watching them perform, I think, was great. Each little one’s excitement at seeing his mum/dad in the audience was so sweet. It brought back memories of my own childhood in so many ways. It also made me thankful that I was able to experience all these milestones with her.

The enthusiasm, love and concern, the staff showed to each child made me so very grateful that Poohi was lucky enough to have such lovely, considerate and caring teachers. After parents, it is after all, the teachers who play a huge part in the lives of little children. A teacher could single-handedly make or break a child. I just pray that she continues to get such lovely teachers all her student life.

Separation pangs

Today, daughter had a ‘settling in session’ at a nursery.

We decided to start her 2 mornings a week at a day care nursery, until she starts nursery school in September.  I needed those 2 mornings to get my driving lessons sorted out and to help me get some time to start applying for jobs (excuses,excuses,  I have so many excuses:). Plus there was the fact that she really wants to go – she knows that she starts nursery in September and asks me almost every morning if it is September yet 🙂

The couple of nurseries we visited – she almost refused to come home with me – they must think that I am a horrible parent 😦 Despite all her enthusism, I was a little apprehensive about how she would be, when left all alone. She used to go to a daycare nursery, when she was little – but that was almost 2 years ago, will she be alright, now, after being with me the whole time? Today, was her first ‘settling in session’. Day nurseries have settling in sessions where the child is allowed to get used to the new environment. The first day, the parent stays on the premises but away from the child. Then the next day, the parent leaves the child for a longer time, and steps outside.And this goes on until the child is comfortable in the nursery. Most children have separation anxiety on the first day. My daughter, was an exception, she did not spare me a glance. Off she went and joined the other children. Not even a look to see if her mother was anywhere! The staff was quite delighted to see her so happy to join them and asked told me that it is up to me – to stay there or step outside. So off I went – window shopping.

Mobile in one hand – incase they call me and I don’t hear it ring in my handbag – that happens a lot to me, one eye on the time – don’t want her waiting for me. It felt so odd! It was ages since I went shopping without a buggy to push or a little hand to hold. With nobody pulling me towards anything pink or into the pet shop to see rabbits and guinea pigs.. It was very strange indeed. There have been days when I wished that I could shop in peace – and now, when I could, all I could do is go to that section of the shop – where everything is pink and buy a craft kit  – which she certainly does not need 😦

Finally, 45 minutes passed by and I walked back to the nursery – reaching around 7 minutes early. They asked me to go in and watch daughter play. Apparently she took to it, like a duck takes to water.  As I saw her, happily singing, all my worries melted away. Until she saw me. A little wobble came over her lower lip, I was worried, instantly, is she alright, has something upset her, did I make the wrong decision?

She ran to me,wobbling lip and all,  hugged me, and said, ‘Amma, can I play for some more time, please?’

A little imagination..

.. is all that is needed to convert a flight of stairs into a boat. And for daughter to be the ‘fishing man’ and for me to carefully, row the boat while she fishes.

A child’s imagination is so vibrant!  Building tents with bedsheets, having a ‘party’ with the teddies , pretending to be a ‘hairdryer‘ :), find ‘magic wands’ in discarded card board pieces, make trumpets out of paper and pretend drums out of thin air…Switching between characters out of her books, people she meets around her, pretending to be a ‘chechi’ one time, an ‘aunty’ another time, a ‘doctor’ , the list endless, and never, ever gets boring for her. I find it amazing, how much my daughter is able to imagine.. How much more she enjoys with her imaginative play than with all the toys that she has!

Where does all that imagination go as we grow up?  Why do we lose that fantastic ability to imagine, to let our creativity flow.. to let go.. How I wish that my daughter never loses this ability .. to let her imagination run riot..

For as Albert Einstein says,

Imagination is more important than knowledge. For knowledge is limited to all we now know and understand, while imagination embraces the entire world, and all there ever will be to know and understand.

And I am sure, he knew what he was talking about!  I wish I were a writer – I am amazed by the imagination of some writers! Look at J K Rowling, for example.. the things that she must have imagined to come up with Harry Potter! We would have never enjoyed books so much, if it had not been for the imagination of the authors!

Amazing stuff, isn’t it ? Imagination..

What we learn with pleasure we never forget.

What we learn with pleasure we never forget.
-Alfred Mercier

Scene 1

Friend 1: The syllabus here is so bad. My daughter is learning nothing in school

Me : Is it? She is in nursery, isn’t she?

Friend 1: Yes, and in India, she would be learning spelling and writing and everything.

Me:  But, she is quite young isn’t she? She is not even 4.

Friend 1: All they do is sing and play.. Take them on farm visits – no proper studies! I have brought the syllabus books from India and I teach her in the evenings.

Scene 2

Friend 2 : My daughter is enjoying school a lot here. She used to be terrified of school in India(They just relocated to UK).

Me:  ‘She was just in KG wasn’t she?’

Friend 2: ‘Yes, but they had started teaching them properly. They expected them to start writing and there was a lot of criticism if the children could not do spellings. I find that my daughter picks up things much faster here because she is not under any pressure.’

Me: ‘Oh – that’s a different view. Most people I have spoken to talk about how little is taught here.’

Friend 2:  ‘That was what I used to think too.. Until I saw the difference. Here they encourage imaginative play, let them think, let them grow into their personalities, instead of a fixed syllabus. I think the initial years here are quite good.’

I had been having a lot of discussion earlier, to figure out how much of a difference there is , between the school systems in UK and India. Since we are clear that we do want to go back and live in India – the question just was ‘what was the right time to do so’ . And to be honest, even after all the conversations that I have had, it is still quite a confusing subject for me.

The Advantages of the system here that I hear of is,

  • It is a more relaxed way of learning.
  • Children learn important life skills through the structured ‘play’
  • Children are allowed to develop at their own pace.
  • No tests

And these very points translate into disadvantages

  • It is too relaxed. There is no pressure on the children to excel, no homework
  • Not enough ‘teaching’
  • Children are not ‘pushed enough’
  • no tests – so we can never be sure of how the child is actually performing.

All this just adds to my confusion. I want my daughter to enjoy her childhood. I am not quite sure if forcing her to study is the best way. Isn’t it better for her to get interested in subjects that be forced to ‘learn’ stuff. I hear parents talk about -‘which child likes to study? No child will study unless they are forced to!’ But is that really true? Do we need to be forced to study? Is that getting an education or just learning by rote? Are we missing the point somewhere? Isn’t it better to get the child to actually enjoy studies than make it something to dread and worry about?

It all just makes me wonder about what is the perfect balance? How do we ensure that children get the best possible education, they understand the value of education and at the same time are not under undue pressure to perform and remain competitive in a healthy way?  It is so important to get the balance right, isn’t it? I have heard about children here who get no encouragement from parents though they are brilliant in studies. Apparently teachers sometimes have to convince parents to encourage their children to take up exams. That is another end of the spectrum, I guess. I always hear people saying that children studying in UK  are not ‘pushed’ enough, not forced to study.

When I was growing up, I remember that until I was in Class 3, my mother used to keep an eye on my studies. Then, my brother developed some medical complications so both my parents could not really concentrate on my studies. Surprisingly, that year, I performed so well, that I was given an award for exceptional improvement – an Enid Blyton book which totally made my day – but that is another story for another day 🙂 From an average student, I jumped to being a good student. So I used to joke with my parents that I do better without supervision – and they left me to my devices since then. I was always told that they were around if I needed them for any clarifications – but they wouldn’t check if I did my homework or stuff like that.  And I think I liked it that way. I remember visiting a friend once to find her flanked by both her parents – busy teaching her. And I remember even at that age thinking -‘ I am so lucky that I am allowed to be independant’. And I did well all through.

That did not mean that  I was not competitive. I was fairly competitive. I knew what I wanted. I knew that I had to get into engineering , so I think I had my goals set out – without it anybody pushing me to things. Again, that might have been because of the environment that I was brought up in. Maybe, somebody from a different background might need more active guidance from teachers or parents.

What really worries my these days is how much more parents are competitive about studying, and education, extra curricular activities.. etc. One of my friends was relating to me about how, when she took up Abacus instructor training in India, she found parents forcing children to take up Abacus simply because it had become a ‘status symbol’! They wanted their children to do it – simply because all their relatives and friend’s children were doing it too! Apparently the teachers had talked to the parents quite a few times that their children were not interested in it – but they just refused to listen! While I hope that parents like these are exceptions, isn’t it horrible, that they exist at all? Isn’t it better to put our children in classes or extra-curricular activities that they actually enjoy? And is not perfectly alright, if for some reason the child is not interested in any such activities?

‘Why , why, is there, this big pressure to conform’

Is conforming to what society expects all that important? I wonder how I will react if my daughter comes up and says that she wants to take up something obscure. Something that might not draw the big bucks? Will I then get off my high horse and tell her that all her dreams mean nothing? That what she wants, has no future at all? I certainly hope not.

I have hopes that by the time she grows up, things will change. We will have more opportunities in India, which is beyond performing extremely well in academics. I have hope that performing well in academics is not linked to rote learning. That everything is not judged by parameters of failure or non failure. That the ‘so-called’ professional degrees lose their importance- that they become just another career. That a degree is not assumed to be an ‘education’.

Which is why, Kapil Sibal’s ideas for education – makes me glad. For a change, we have an education minister who is actually talking about policies that make sense, instead of just changing the syllabus to suit their ideology or changing symbols, left right and centre . He talks of having common entrance exam should determine college admissions, plans of getting rid of exams totally, eventually, he talks about foreign investment in education and of increasing opportunities. I am not sure how much will happen in this term – but it makes me happy that somebody has taken notice of children committing suicides because of exam results and the huge pressure that Indian children seem to be under. He talks like someone who has analysed the issues with our education system and wants to make it better!

Education is not the filling of a pail,
but the lighting of a fire.
Wiliam Butler Yeats

I think, that is what we need to remember – to light the fire, not just fill the pail!

PS : Kapil Sibal’s interview in which he details out his plans.

http://www.ndtv.com/news/videos/video_player.php?id=1129905

A green haired monster..

… is what I would be if daughter had her way. Here’s how the conversation goes

Daughter : ‘Hello, I’m the hair dryer’ (She means the hairdresser)

Me: ‘Hello, Hairdresser’

Daughter : ‘You want to paint your hair?’

Me : ‘Yes, please, what colour are you going to colour my hair ?’

Daughter: ‘ umm, green! Pretty green!  Look in the mirror, pretty green hair!’ (After a lot of pretend colouring)

I can only thank my stars that she is not my real hairdryer hairdresser! And I guess hairdressing can safely be knocked off her list of future careers 🙂

Out of the mouth of babes

Daddy’s getting dressed on a Saturday morning to go do some errands..

Poohi : Daddy, going to work?

Daddy: No, today’s a Saturday..

Poohi : Oh , going to garbage? (She meant going to ‘throw garbage’ )

That just establishes the 2 things she sees Daddy doing 🙂 going to work and going to garbage 🙂

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Daughter is punished disciplined by us, by being made to sit on the ‘naughty chair’ whenever she is naughty…

The other day, I managed to spill orange juice all over the kitchen and madam comes running and says

‘Go sit on naughty chair, Amma’

Taste of my own medicine?

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I was talking to my parents, right after her birthday, when she demanded to talk to them and demanded

‘Ammama, why not come to mine birthday party???’

Ammama says that she will – the next time.

‘ok, nalla birthday party come, ok?’ translated to read -come for my birthday party tomorrow! She speaks English most of the time, with sprinkings of Malayalam words here and there.

To think that there was a time, when we were waiting for her to start talking, these days, we wish she came with a ‘mute’ button.. According to husband – its constant noise pollution 🙂 And the days that husband comes home after she sleeps, he finds the unusual silence almost eerie 🙂