Tag Archives: toddlers

Winning isn’t everything

I’ve often wondered where our urge to win stems from. What prompts us to want to come first? Why is coming second or third not good enough?

As a kid, I was always taught that winning isn’t everything and yet when it came to class tests or sports meets, my parents would set the bar so high that, sometimes, it was almost impossible to reach.

As an abstract concept it worked well, but in reality, not so much.

When the report card came, instead of congratulating me on scoring 92 percent in the finals, my dad would ask, “Who came first?” followed by “How could she score 95 percent and you couldn’t?”

Dejected and teary-eyed I’d head to my room.

Later I would be taken out to dinner as a “treat” and mom and dad would look proudly at me, encouraging me to study harder, nudging me to go that extra mile.

I was a bright kid — they didn’t want to see my talent go waste. And they knew that out in the world, coming first was going to get me places. No one cared if you were one of the top three, let alone the top five, they reasoned.

Some children cheated — took little “chits” to class, had their art projects completed by their moms, indirectly bribed the teachers.

Because winning meant too much.

And since everyone was doing it, it was somehow justified.

So much for the mandatory moral science classes all of us attended.

I was too self-righteous. And my mom was too busy.

Most of all, I couldn’t lie to myself.

Because at the end of the day, all said and done, you might have good grades on paper, but in your heart you know you’re a failure. You may have it but you know you didn’t deserve it.

I didn’t want sleepless nights.

I knew my parents had a lot of expectations from me, but I had decided early on that my best is all I could give it. And if it wasn’t good enough to earn me the best spot then so be it.

Even today I see my friends urge their toddlers to out run each other, to come first, to be better … nay, to be the best.

Because what good is second-best?

And every time someone says, “it’s all about participation,” or “it’s all about having fun” — they’re perceived as talking to the losers’ club.

But isn’t that really the essence of competitions? The ability to show one’s mastery over a subject or a sport with the help of an opponent? About enjoying yourself?

It’s not about showing the world that you’re the best, it’s about being the best you can be. There’s a distinct difference between the two.

That’s not how the world works, though.

Winning and cheating go hand-in-hand. We learn that there are moral, social, economic repercussions for those who cheat; that those people pay somehow, some time, somewhere…but when we look around us we find them getting better grades, more money, more power.

The hunger to win feeds corruption. It brings out not only the best, but also the worst in us.

Think about it the next time you feel dejected about your (or your children’s) less-than-desirable performance report.

If you gave it your best shot, be content.

This is an abstraction that when applied in reality will serve you well.

Read David’s well-written post on the same subject, especially the study [PDF] he refers to about bronze medal winners in the Olympics who were “simply happy to have received any honors at all (instead of no medal for fourth place).”

In the end it’s all about perception — the one you have of your self outweighs what anyone else thinks of you.

Go get ’em, tiger!

 

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To let: a healthy womb

Two recent cases on surrogate adoptions have had me thinking the last couple of days.

I’ve learned from the experiences of two very close friends that motherhood is almost like a rebirth for a woman.

It’s more than just a physical rollercoaster ride – it’s an emotional voyage that springs new life.

For the better part of a year, a woman nurtures a new being within her womb – thinking about, speaking to, and bonding with this unseen fusion of sperm and egg … her child. Her flesh and blood. Her own creation.

For nine months, she waits in anticipation for that one moment when she will be able to see her baby, feel the infant’s breath, touch those little fingers – make that connection come alive in a very real sense. That one precious moment that surpasses everything else she has experienced thus far.

And then she has to give it away. To immediately render all that she’s experienced for three-quarters of a year, a memory. To give “her” child to someone else.

Of course, it’s an arrangement she entered knowing full well the implications of the transaction. But did she really know? For a first-time mom, could she have anticipated the emotions she would go through? Could she have guessed what it would really mean to separate herself from her newborn?

I have no maternal inclinations except for the general fact that I like kids — the kind who go back to their parents after two hours of play time. Despite that objective stance, I cannot entertain the thought of giving away “my” child to somebody else.

Difficult doesn’t even begin to describe the emotional toll something like this would take.

Yet some people would rather take this route than consider adoption. As much as it commodifies children.

Most people deep down would rather pass on their genes than adopt as they simply don’t know the background of children they adopt. Plus there are so many tests you have to go through, to prove you are a decent parent, it is enough to put anyone off adoption or fostering. Going for surrogacy suddenly appears appealing in comparison…..

Naomi Canton, Expat on the Edge

To me, it just seems a lot to ask for — just for the sake of passing down your genes. Or for the sake of “convenience.”

Whether she does it for money or as a gesture of love for a relative or friend, I don’t think any woman can be ever thanked adequately for first nurturing a life and then disowning it.

Thoughts?

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Gift for your baby girl: a breastfeeding doll

Yesterday, a friend forwarded a Huffington Post slideshow of the seven most inappropriate toys for children.

I was appalled, needless to say, but one that had me going “No way!” at the top of my lungs was this particular product: The Bebé Glotón breastfeeding doll.

Who in their right minds would buy a four-year-old girl a toy that teaches her to breastfeed??????? It’s absolutely atrocious!

And wait till you hear the tagline: “Because you shouldn’t have to wait until you have breasts before you start breastfeeding your baby!”

Really?

And just as soon as you develop those mammary glands, go ahead — have a baby. So what if you’re a teenager? You already know how to breastfeed if nothing else!

Is that what we want to teach our little girls? Have babies, breastfeed them and fulfill your mission on earth!!!??!!

I don’t understand how or why the manufacturers can get away with something like this.

Growing up, I never played with utensils or Barbie dolls — instead I got board games and Lego building blocks, but I saw the gender stereotyping where other girls my age would play a nurse or housewife and the boys would play doctors or engineers.

But this takes it to whole new level of ridiculous!

I don’t know if it’s advertised to be an “educational” toy but even if it is, isn’t four years a bit too young to be focusing on having kids and what your yet-to-be-developed breasts can biologically do? And it assumes that the little girl will grow up and want kids! And then breastfeed them!

What kind of education is that?

According to the comments in this San Francisco Chronicle report, these dolls were a huge success with sales hitting the roof and the supplies going out-of-stock within a month.

I really don’t see how this is appropriate, especially for this target age group. Do you?

Thoughts? Comments? Reactions? Outrage?

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More in sickness than in health

As I lie in bed coughing, battling body ache, and trying to kill that monster playing ping-pong in my head with Advil, I think of mom and dad.Twenty years ago, I’d be smothered with care and affection. Soup, fruit, hot meals, sponge baths, loving fingers caressing my messy hair … needs met before I even had the chance to articulate them.

It was good to be a child. Even better being an only child. Not that I was pampered … but I could revel in undivided attention. I was the queen of the house. Mom would deny me the title by saying “little princess” instead, but both of us knew.

I wasn’t one of those sturdy,healthy, bouncing babies. More of the wimpy, frail, sickly bambino requiring a lot of nurturing. From what I remember of my childhood, I was sick every time the weather changed 15 degrees; every time we came back from vacation; every time I was around other sick kids. My immunity was always taking a beating from an assortment of viruses and bacteria. I was used to downing pills and syrups, sticking the thermometer in my armpit or mouth depending on the age, and called our family physician, “Dr. Uncle.” Still do.

Teenage years were a tad better, although they were fraught with their own set of mental anguish.

And then came those two years in Iowa City where it hit me for the first time what being sick by oneself really meant. If I needed food, I had to get up myself and make it. Water? Plan ahead. Keep a bottle next to the sleeping bag I called my bed. Medicine? Trudge slowly to the bus stop, haul myself on the bus, go to the clinic, then the pharmacy, and drag my sorry feet back home.

Amid classes, midterms, a foreign country, and many acquaintances but no real friends, falling sick in the first semester was a real eye-opener. I missed my parents a LOT then.

And I miss them today — despite my loving, caring husband, who makes the best daal-chaaval when I’m sick; and friends whom I can count on for anything … I miss my parents’ devoted caregiving. And even though I say this, I know that if they were here today, I’d be acting all grown up and adult-like refusing to be taken care of. “It’s just a sore throat and some body ache, ma,” I’d say refusing her repeated requests to stay still in bed and keep the laptop away. “Stop treating me like a baby!”

If only that were true…

Sigh.

Better will my “adult” body into going downstairs and fixing some lunch now.

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Dear New Parents

As I mentioned in one of my earlier blog posts, I am surrounded by children under the age of two these days. It also means, being around frenzied, sleep-deprived adults. They’re reading books, visiting sites online, getting (sought or unsought) advice from parents in India, craving time with and away from their kid, consolidating trips to the grocery store, doctor, and Toys “R” Us, and in general waiting for this phase to be done and over with.

Even though I don’t experience the craziness of the 24/7 “demands” that newborns thrust on their parents, I hear about it enough to make it real for me. And I find myself doling out advice to my harried friends every time we talk. Most of it is stuff they’d realize themselves were they not this stressed out. Their acceptance of my counsel gives me the confidence today to share some pointers with the world at large.

So, here are some tips for (relatively) new parents from the vantage point of a person who can still see things objectively:

  1. You are only one person — more often than not, I have to tell my friends to stop being the supermom or superdad. You can’t possibly do the laundry, cook five meals, constantly wash dishes, do the groceries, run other errands, vacuum the house, mow the lawn, and take care of a child all in one day. And if you have full-time professional demands — aaiyyaaiyyaaii! Schedule. Prioritize. Share responsibilities. Create a to-do list for the week and stick with it.
  2. Don’t overthink — What will other parents say? Can I dress my little girl in blue? Should I feed him eight times a day like the neighbors suggested? You know your child best and as long as he/she is happy and healthy what’s there to worry about? Listen to your instincts and focus on what really matters.
  3. YOU are important, too — For your child to be happy and for you to be happy with your li’l one, you need to make sure you devote some time to your own well-being, both mental and physical. Somewhere in that to-do list, put down 15 minutes of me time every day. When the kid’s asleep in the afternoon, watch TV, flip through a magazine, do your nails, play a little Wii golf, just sit and breathe. Yes, there are dishes to clean and clothes to be folded, but if you’re running around taking care of business all the time, you’ll drive yourself crazy. 15 minutes isn’t a lot to ask for, is it? And yet, it is just enough to bring back some sanity in your life. Those dishes aren’t going anywhere.
  4. Every bump on the head isn’t a medical emergency — They are kids. They will fall. They will hurt themselves. And they will be either obsessed with bandaids, or pull them out. As scary as it might be when your kid starts wailing each time he/she hits himself, every injury doesn’t merit a run to the emergency room. Not even 2 percent of such incidences (in my experience with my limited sample set of friends) merit a call to the emergency nurse line. Calm down. Think back to the time you were a kid — remember all those bruises you got speeding down the gravel road on your spanking new tricycle? Yeah. Your kid will survive, too.
  5. This is 2010 — These kids start swiping the moment they get their hands on an iPhone. They “get” video chat. They eat only when YouTube’s on. They dance to iPod tunes. They pull out keyboard keys before they learn how to hold a pencil. They are the most photographed generation of all time. This is the world they know. This is the world you’re exposing them to. So, stop fretting about their lost “innocence.” They’re still going to be as curious about eating mud or squishing snails.
  6. Stop apologizing for the mess — We get it. Kids want to play with adults. They seek attention. They will bring their toys one by one for adults to partake. And they might leave them sprawled all over. They will eat and spit out whatever they don’t like. They will wipe gooey hands on our clothes because they don’t know any better. They will periodically throw up. As they grow, they will learn. For the time being, stop saying sorry all the time for the mess they create. And clean up! 🙂
  7. Be disciplined — This is a big one! You have to be the role model here. Start a routine and stick with it. Kids catch on fast and if they see you’re slacking, they won’t care either. Be consistent with their food, their play time, their nap time, their discipline — it’s hard (who said it was going to be easy?) but once you’ve set the rules and stuck to them, life becomes so much easier to manage.
  8. Be a spouse — In all the work that goes into being a parent, folks forget they have responsibilities toward each other as well. You aren’t just mummy and daddy — you’re also husband and wife. Steal a moment to hug, to kiss, to be together. Talk — and not just about the kid. Listen — and not just for updates. Kids tend to bring spouses closer together but sometimes also drive them further apart. Remember to keep working on your marriage. Nurture each other.
  9. Take a break — As much as you love your kid, sometimes you just need to get away. Ask friends you trust to babysit (but remember not to impose), get a nanny, call your parents/in-laws, inquire with the playgroup, ask your spouse to take over for a day. Get out of the house for a while … go to a park, the mall, the library … wherever. Come back renewed. You’ll love being smothered with hugs and sloppy kisses when you enter the house.
  10. Enjoy it while it lasts — When they were three months old, you wanted them to start crawling. When they started crawling, you wished they’d start walking. When they started walking, you wished they’d talk. Now that they’ve started talking, you want them to say full coherent sentences. Before you know it, they’ll be all grown up and out of your nest. Cherish this time. Live in the moment. Even if it means 40 back-to-back iterations of Ba-ba-black sheep, sing it with them. It fills their heart with joy. It teaches you life is simple and happiness easily attained.

Got other tips for relatively new parents?

Please share.

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Return to the age of innocence

I have been spending a lot of time with toddlers recently. Almost 95 percent of our Indian friend circle in the Bay Area have kids in the age range of 0-24 months and I, inadvertently, end up being the “entertainer” for their little ones. I choose that role because it allows me to experience unabridged, uncomplicated, uninhibited joy. Their curious eyes, their playfulness, and their squeaks of glee remind me of what I have lost in my journey to becoming an adult.

They are right at the precipice of learning language — the kind that we adults can understand — but despite their evident verbal “handicap” they’re pretty good communicators. They go around in circles when happy, cry in pain/to seek attention/when they can’t get their way, squeal in surprise, and say long sentences in gibberish when they’re trying to make a point.  They live in the moment.

It’s almost like attending a free seminar when I’m with these kids. They know how to live life king size. And they offer their “wisdom” to anyone willing to partake. I find our friends too overwhelmed by day-to-day challenges of feeding, cleaning, and keeping up to appreciate the wealth of insights to be had from these high-energy laughter-balls. And I don’t blame them. Parenting is no easy task. It’s difficult to gaze in wonderment when you’re cleaning poop.

As an outsider, though, who gets an inside peek into their kids’ Barney-enriched utopian worlds, I am grateful. They continually teach me to be free; to have an open mind where anything is possible; to question; to get amazed at the simplest things; and most importantly, to be me. They help peel away the layers of sophistication, knowledge, and suave and revel in the rawness of the human spirit. To experience happiness in its purest form. To feel satiated within.

I’ll feel a tinge of sadness as, in time, we’ll welcome these children into the adult world, but for now I shall  make the most of their wonder years and enjoy my return to the age of innocence.

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