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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.

16 June 2011

Win-win Situation

When B got home from work last night, C1 showed him the stamp she got on her wrist at ballet. “I was an excellent dancer, Daddy!” she exclaimed. There was B, with dreams of seeing his daughter’s name up in lights, perhaps as Odette in Swan Lake. I felt compelled to burst his bubble. “You do realise that every single child at that dance class got an ‘excellent’ stamp, don’t you?”

I’m all for positive parenting – but I reckon we’re overdoing the admiration and accolades a tad bit with our kids today. Notice how every child gets a merit award in school? How every kid gets a token gift when 'Pass the Parcel' is played at parties? There’s always a “Well done!” or a “Good job!” even when a child’s performance is just plain mediocre. We’re too afraid to let our kids get hurt, make mistakes, or *gasp* fail at something. No wonder they have meltdowns and breakdowns when reality bites them in the bum.

I’m guilty too. Ever so often, B and C1 have a race from the car to the front door. I’m always chiding B to let C1 win. “Let her come first,” I persuade B in Hindi so that C1 can’t understand what we’re saying. It gives her so much enjoyment. But Caitlyn is pretty cued in and methinks she will soon reason that if Daddy’s not bringing his A-game to the table, so why should she make the effort?

So from now on, I’m going to teach the kids the truth behind the adage: ‘It’s not whether you win or lose, but how you play the game.’ The importance of learning from your mistakes, trying your best, and, if it comes to it, being a graceful loser. In the words of basketball legend Michael Jordan, “I have failed many times, and that’s why I am a success”.

In ten years, I’m sure C1 will be beating the pants off B in that race to the front door – and she’ll be winning fair and square. In the meanwhile, I better look into enrolling her for some team sport. Basketball, perhaps?

What are your views on teaching children about winning and losing?

08 June 2011

One Task at a Time

If it’s Tuesday evening, it must be yoga class for me. Last night, our teacher explained the concept of “Ekagratha”, Sanskrit for “focusing on one thing”. It took a whole lot of concentration to stop my mind from galloping at its usual 100 miles a minute and live in the moment.

Multi-tasking. It’s something that’s hard-wired into my brain. Take this scenario: yesterday I caught myself answering my phone while picking up the kids’ toys on the floor with my toes while sorting out the laundry into piles of ‘whites’, ‘coloured’ and ‘darks’. Sounds familiar? I suspect it’s what most mums do to survive the daily grind.

C1 is all concentration on the cookies

We’ve deluded ourselves into thinking that we NEED to do a million things a minute in order to be productive, efficient beings. We feel that if we control and schedule every second of our lives, it will be problem-proof. It’s a modern-day malaise. In the words of W.H. Davies:

What is this life if full of care
We have no time to stop and stare?

The irony of it all is that research has proven that we’re better off picking and sticking to one task at a time. Paradoxically, when we multi-task, our productivity actually drops instead of increasing! We interrupt one thing to switch to another, losing time and train of thought in the process. Quantity overrides quality.

So today, I’d decided to do one chore at a time. I refused to sweat the small stuff. I didn’t have to go very far to learn how to enjoy the little things in life; I just had to watch my kids. The way C2 ‘brum-brum-brummed’ his car on our windowsill with single-minded devotion, and the way C1 carefully dotted each cookie we made with Smarties...

Try it with your kids or partner – resist the urge to check your phone or laptop for messages when you’re around them. Give them your undivided attention. Live in the present and enjoy their presence.

What are your views on multi-tasking? How do you cope with the stress and strain of that everyday, modern life brings?

03 June 2011

Come Fly with Me

Just booked our tickets to Perth for mum-in-law’s 70th birthday. Excitedly told C1 and C2 they would be going on an aeroplane. C1’s response? “Okay.” Just another mode of transport. At three-and-a-half, she has been on a fair few flights right from the time I was pregnant with her, so I guess her response is warranted.

But I still remember my first plane journey like it happened yesterday. I was nine, my brother Jason, six. Mum, Dad, Jase and I had gone to Goa (by steamer, no less) during our school holidays in October. After a susegad ten days there, it was time to return home. Instead of long faces and letdowns, we were super-excited - because we were getting to go home on an AEROPLANE!!!

At that time (mid-1980s), you could only fly Indian Airlines. Air India (remember its Maharaja?) was for international flights. Anyone would tell you that the dress-code for Goa reads swimsuits and shorts. But Mum and Dad ensured we were dressed in our Sunday best. We were boarding a plane, after all. A certain sense of decorum needed to be maintained.

Flight duration? A scant 45 minutes. So we had to make every second count. From waiting in the domestic airport lounge welllll before time, to boarding the plane, to figuring out how to do up our seat-belts, to listening to the air safety instructions...

The plane taxied the runway and my stomach did a somersault as the plane took off. I was flying! Keeping in mind the information my “well-travelled” older cousins had given us, we waited patiently for the air hostess to come around. Then Jase grabbed a handful of hard-boiled sweets and we dutifully drank our juice. Because that’s all we were going to get.

Before you know it, the plane had touched down in bustling Bombay. Palm feni, dodol and bebinca, black Mapusa market bags, roasted cashewnuts and Goan sausages intact, we found ourselves back home. But I was walking on air for weeks after...