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Sydney, Australia
My musings and meanderings on childhood - mine juxtaposed with that of my kids'. Everyday incidents and images from our life in Sydney turn my thoughts towards my own wonder years growing up in Bandra, Bombay, India.

26 May 2011

Guess How Much I Love You

From the time C1turned three, she has been saying, “I love you, Daddy!” when B tucks her in for the night. And, of course, he replies, “I love you too, my darling.” My heart always does a little skippity-skip when I overhear this.

Some strawberry & chocolate love-hearts we ate recently

What’s the big deal, you wonder. Don’t all parents and kids tell each other they love them??? Er, *hand going up tentatively* not mine. I can’t recall either of my parents saying ‘I love you’ to me. Not on a daily basis. Not when I reached important milestones. Not ever.

I must state that there is not the slightest trace of self-pity as I write this; it was just the way things were. Of course, I knew in every fibre of my being that they loved me unconditionally – and that they always will. But those three ‘big’ little words were never spoken out loud; it was just understood.

With my parents, their love was apparent from their everyday actions: Dad would sometimes do the bunk from work so that he could pick me up from school on his motorbike. Now, he calls (Bombay to Sydney) me at least once a week, just for a chat. Mum was my sounding board during my teens – always listening, never berating – and still is. That’s love in deed, indeed!

I’m not sure if it was a cultural thing or a generational thing... Maybe after 33 years if they decided to profess their love, it would just sound weird or too corny. They know that I know that they love me. So does it need to be verbalised? I would say Yes. Bringing up my own kids, I realise the importance of saying "I love you" to them – plainly yet profoundly. And backing it up with my actions.

Did your parents say "I love you" to you when you were growing up? Do you have your own special way of saying it to your children? Rubbing noses? In sign language? A big sloppy kiss?

22 May 2011

Sleep Tight, Goodnight!

C2 (4 months) catches 40 winks

We’ve been playing ‘Musical Beds’ at the Rodericks’ residence for the past few weeks. This is how it pans out: C1 sleeps in her room; C2, in his cot; B and I on our bed. Some time around 2am, C1slinks into our bed. By 3am, C2 cries. I sleep-walk to his cot to soothe him. After about half-an-hour of trying, I plonk him into our bed. His tiny hands encircle my neck in a vice-like grip while his sister’s fingers run feathery-light touches on my face – constantly. By 4am, we’re four in the bed and I’ve had enough. I resign myself to sleeping in C1’s bed – again.

Even their stalling tactics are getting better and better. “Water. Water! Wattttttttter!!!” screams C2 from his cot, his two-year-old brain realising fully well that if he calls for “Mummy” or “Daddy”, we’re not budging. Meanwhile, C1trills out, “Daddy, I want somethingggg...” “What is it?” asks B. “A drink of water.” Two minutes later... “Toilet.” Ten minutes. “My teddy”. Fifteen minutes. “The nightlight”. Her last resort? “A kiss and a cuddle.” Like we can say 'No' to that!

You know why Adam Mansbach’s 'Go the F&#k to Sleep' has gone viral? He’s captured what sooooo many parents think (but hopefully, never say out loud) every night when bedtime battles are waged. Here are the first two verses: **Warning: coarse language, as the title suggests.

The cats nestle close to their kittens now.
The lambs have laid down with the sheep.
You’re cozy and warm in your bed, my dear.
Please go the f&#k to sleep.

The windows are dark in the town, child.
The whales huddle down in the deep.
I’ll read you one very last book if you swear
You’ll go the f&#k to sleep.

To read it in its entirety, click here.

Only since I’ve had kids do I realise why sleep-deprivation is used as a form of torture during war. Ask any new mum what she craves and I can bet you she’ll say “uninterrupted sleep”.  But when I was growing up in Bombay, I don’t recall sleep being such a hotly-debated issue. There was no tension or trauma attached to bedtime. For one, we didn’t have to go to sleep alone. Parents and kids all retired around the same time; more often than not, in the same room and, perhaps, in the same bed. Yes, co-sleeping. We just didn’t have a term for it.

The concept of control-crying or making your kids sleep in their own room was alien to most non-Western societies. It was all about creating a comfortable environment for your child. I’m not sure if my parents got a proper night’s rest. Heck, the only way my brother went to sleep was by tugging on my dad’s ears!

But I do realise that my parents (like most parents in India and around Asia) had a very good support-system: grand-parents and maids to look after the kids while they went off to work. For me, life couldn’t be more different. I’m far away from family and, as a stay-at-home mum, I spend every minute of every day wholly and solely with my kids. So by the time it’s 7pm, you bet I want them in bed – their own, that is.

How do you resolve bedtime battles in your home? What’s your opinion on co-sleeping or control-crying or any sleep-related issue for that matter?

12 May 2011

Power Struggle

It’s the height of summer in Bombay at the moment. So I’m thinking back to 35-degree days and still, sultry nights. Luscious Aphoos mangoes and fiery-red May flowers. School holidays and summer camps. Sweat-drenching humidity and soul-sapping heat. Oh, and power cuts...

With a flick of a switch the powers that be decided your power must go. A necessary step to cope with the electricity overload on the power grids. Often done after nightfall to make it more bearable, it was a part and parcel of any Bombay summer.

Suddenly, our ceiling fans (no middle-class family had aircon in the 1980s; today, everyone does) that were whirling at full speed, would grind to a halt. Drenched in sweat, we were awakened from our sleep.

On auto-pilot, we would light the taper candles that kept in a fixed spot for such emergencies, while Mum rummaged round for her pretty bamboo fan. For my brother, Jason and I, fans folded concertina-style from paper would have to do. But if these endeavours failed, an old newspaper or a Readers’ Digest were always handy. Dad would phone the electricity company to lodge a complaint and then wander down the street to have a chat with the other men from the neighbourhood – all of them milling around in their gunjis (singlets) and shorts.

In the dead of night, your ears perked up to sounds all around: infants crying, the clock going tick-tock, dogs barking, neighbours conversing. While the ladies perspired and the men sweated, the children grew listless. When would the electricity be restored??? Time s-t-r-e-t-c-h-e-d on and on and on.

So we distracted ourselves by making shadows dance on the wall in the light of our candles taken from the altar – a dog, a bird flying, a duck... Mum would go down memory lane, recounting stories of how her generation grew up without electricity – school homework and general housework all done by the light of Petromax lamps – unfathomable to my brother and me.

And, all at once, our prayers for the power to be restored sooner rather than later were answered. A collective “Oooooh!” echoed through the neighbourhood as fans and lights came to life. And we gladly returned to our sweet dreams and slumber...

To read more about my month of May musings, click here.

Did you experience power cuts as a child? What did you do to pass the time?

07 May 2011

Happy Mothers' Day!

A 21-‘hug’-salute to all MOTHERS everywhere!!!

To mums who are doing it tough: single mums, teenage mums; to mums struggling financially and emotionally; to mums with troubled kids; to women who want to be mums (for the first time or second – or fifth) but are having a tough time with fertility issues; to foster mums and adoptive mums; to everyday mums who go that extra mile to do the toughest yet most rewarding job there is...

                 THREE'S COMPANY: My mum Cynthia, my daughter Caitlyn, and Me (Dec 2008)
Multi-talented, multi-tasking: Mummies, hands up if you’ve worn more than five of these hats in the past week: chef, psychologist, counsellor, sports fan, treat negotiator, personal assistant, courier, maid, teacher, referee... Somebody’s got to get the job done and that “somebody” is usually mummy dearest. So we don our imaginary SuperMom suits and blitz through all those mundane/maddening/mind-numbing tasks. Sometimes they get done with mediocrity, sometimes with flashes of brilliance – but they always get done. So give yourselves a pat on the back – and take the rest of the day off! It’s Mother’s Day; you deserve it.

Open-hearted: No one can love you the way your mum does. Her heart is as wide as the sky. That says it all.

Touch: Your mum’s hug can say so many things. Hug: I am so proud of you. Hug: Don’t worry – things will get better. Hug: I’ve missed you. Hug: I am here no matter what you’ve done. Hug: I love you.

Heart-to-heart: A vivid memory from my teen years was of me sitting on the kitchen floor after dinner, having a yak with my mum – sharing secrets about my latest crush, confidences about my future plans, niggling worries on my mind. And mum was always there to listen and offer advice. I miss those days; an email across the miles doesn’t quite cut it.

Eyes at the back of her head: Mother’s intuition? A sixth sense? Part of every mum's DNA? Call it what you want. From baby bloopers (throwing the car keys in the toilet) to teenage trickery (sneaking your boyfriend into your room thinking mum was oblivious), Mother always knows best.

Resilience: Have faith that your mum will never give up on you – even if you do. Your mum loves you fo what you are – warts, worries, whinging and all. She has super-human resolve to do whatever it takes for her children to be happy.

Space to grow: For me, it’s hard to let go of my children; they’re still my babies – an intrinsic part of my being. So how do I give them the space they need to grow and develop their own individuality? How do I make sure protectiveness doesn’t morph into mollycoddling? How will I find the strength to set them free when it's time? Only time will tell. For now, I'll follow my godmother Charmaine's advice and "enjoy every moment of this wonderful time with your children."

What are the best adjectives you would use to describe your own Mum?

04 May 2011

I Want My TV!

My kids have hijacked our lovely 55-inch LED TV. There's always something on ABC 4 Kids or their Wiggles DVDs. The only time I get to watch something half-way decent is when they are asleep (thank God for Masterchef!). If 'normal' TV is on when they’re around, it’s a constant challenge to find something suitable.

Last Sunday, B switched on the TV (as one might do on a Sunday). Osama bin Laden's death was all over the news – change the channel. The movie channel had a couple in tight lip-lock – change the channel. Video Hits had the GreenDay video ‘Holiday’. Should be alright, we thought. “Look at those cheeky girls,” remarked Caitlyn, “They are slapping their bottoms when they dance!” Change the channel.

When we became parents, B and I decided that our kids would not be sitting in front of the idiot box until they were two. But Caleb came along when Caitlyn was just 20 months. The only way I could feed Caleb without Caitlyn getting in the way was to turn on the TV, the very same idiot box we swore we wouldn’t use, for every feed, every three hours! TV became my saviour. Today, I console myself saying they're watching children’s programs – surely it can't be all bad?! Last week, Caitlyn said, “Caleb’s made a humungous poo!” You guessed it – “humungous” was the Word on the Street on Sesame Street that day.

But when I was a kid, television didn’t hold sway over our lives. Kids definitely did not wield control over the remote control. If mum and dad were watching a movie “cassette” on the VCR and a romantic or *gasp* remotely sexy scene came on, we had strict rules: “Close your eyes,” we were reminded. Not even a kiss was allowed. Of course, we tried to sneak a peek through our spread-out fingers that were supposed to be shielding our eyes from 'the pleasure of the flesh' – gahhh! Watching an A-movie – where the 'A' stood for all things Adult: adultery, avarice, alcohol, anarchy – was unheard of...

And what about on-screen violence? And my brother and I overdosed on Tom & Jerry cartoons when we were growing up. In fact, when we were in India last Christmas, he gifted Caitlyn and Caleb a boxed set of their finest chases and capers. Almost 25 years on, I watched transfixed – this time, with one (anxious) eye on my kids as they reacted in glee to Tom getting out-foxed by Jerry again and again – graphically getting bashed to bits by the bulldog (Spike), a frying pan, TNT, an anvil, a rake, and even facing the guillotine...

Did this make us maladjusted misanthropes? Aggressive adolescents? Not by a long shot. You can't blame TV for all the sex-drugs-violence issues our kids face. It's what happens after the TV is switched off that makes a difference. I’m all for actively choosing what my children can and cannot watch on TV (while I still can!). But I’m also aware that as modern-day parents we can often try to be too “PC”.

So let’s take a step back and give our kids the credit they deserve. Let them ask questions and make up their own minds. They do know the difference between the real world and animated make-believe, between exaggerated, comic violence and the hatred and hysteria that populate our reality. They understand without us parents having to explain every nitty-gritty detail. So stop wrapping them up in cotton-wool – and take back your control over the remote control!

What programs did you watch on TV while you were growing up? How do you regulate what your kids watch on TV?