Pilots, Dinosaur Princesses and other Fairy Tales

I remember, while growing up, the one thing that got me really upset was unfairness! So, every year, when my grandmom would ask my younger brothers to do the Diwali Pooja before me, I got really angry! Shouldn’t it have been by age?

I’ve always been a feminist, even when I didn’t know what it meant. It’s easy to be a feminist wife, or a feminist daughter-in-law when you’re married in a pretty fair family to begin with. The only time I have been struggling with myself is during this experience of being a feminist mom. I’m not a radical as I believe men suffer due to patriarchy too but as a mother, I’m starting to get a glimpse at my own hypocrisies, and they startle me!

I grew up hearing Fairy Tales about Princesses and loving Barbies, but I don’t want my daughter to! I read the stories to my daughter but with disclaimers: letting her know that life isn’t perfect and that fairy tale princesses are dumb! All they do is traipse about, curtsy and debut at balls so they can find their Prince Charming. I do this because I think Fairy Tales have ruined more lives than drugs (Ok- so I’m a tad radical about this!) But children will do what they want to do. Or maybe I have to lead by example more than by preaching.

My daughter isn’t great at sports. Everytime we play ball (with the princess ball she was once gifted, I may add), she throws and then I throw, and then she talks to me about throwing for 5 minutes. In between every ball exchange, she needs a talking break for 5 minutes before we can start again. Is it that she’s sports- challenged like me or that she doesn’t see me doing anything sporty: only telling her to be sporty?

When we see a female pilot, I tell her, “You can be a pilot if you like. If you work hard, you can be anything you want to be”, to which, pat comes the reply, “Really Mamma? Then I want to be a Princess or a Dinosaur”. *Sigh!* I’m tempted to say that I’d rather she were a dinosaur but that would make her extinct, so I’m left exasperated at the choices she has put in front of me. But I guess she looks at her mom, and wants to be like me! She probably views me as being some sort of a Dinosaur Princess who is as old as the hills, but lives a comfy life with a nanny, cook and mommy lunches (at which point she also assumes that taking care of her is a bed of roses that I joyfully lie in every day, and she’s unable to imagine that to be hard work).

For the longest time, I would keep telling my best friend that she should get her son more “feminine” toys but then someone gifted Baby A a dump truck, and my first primal reaction was to dump it on her head? A boy-toy?

And then I wonder why BabyA wants to spend hours setting out picnics for people, or putting fake nail polish in front of her pink dresser? The truth is that she’s like I was at her age. And as she grows up, she will be whoever she is destined to be, and I will have to accept it! All I can do is to teach her what I think I know, and besides that, I have to accept that she is a separate entity than me with her own, evolving identity.

Eventually, I must cut the umbilical cord and let her be whoever she wants to be, whether it be a Pilot, a Dinosaur Princess or a Fashion Diva! I can grit my teeth if she becomes a serial selfie-taking, bubble-headed, self-proclaimed, new-age Princess (images of a giggling Sonam Kapoor float into my head. *Brrrr!*) but I guess if narcissism keeps her light-headed and happy, then I will have to be happy that at least she’s happy!

No Fight: Confessions of a Tired Mommy

I scream, “No..don’t drink that” as my only born slurps the water from her bathtub. “BabyA, that water is not for drinking. Yuck! Look at that! There’s a dead spider in it.”

She is unphased by my drama. She takes a bored look at the mangled spider floating, and bends down to start slurping the soapy water making its way down the drain; licking it like the kitty cats she so admires. She doesn’t even hear me shouting any more.

As an expectant mom, you assume that the time when you start losing control will be around the teenage years, or maybe the Tweens for this generation, but somewhere you believe that you will have a say till then. The truth is that every day I feel powerless in front of my tiny toddler.

Now don’t go mommy-judging me: of course she gets time out when she tries hitting me or does something completely unacceptable, but for all the things that hang in between the segregated realms of wrong and right; for the behavioral patterns that lurk in limbo land, I find myself not-in-control in front of my three year old.

I have never been overly fond of children, except the home-grown variety, and that’s why I had a thousand and one opinions on other people’s upbringing and their progeny. That was until I had BabyA, and since then, God has made me eat my words over and over again.

I used to find some kids extremely rude, like the kind who didn’t greet uncles and aunties “hello” and “ta-ta” or the variety who had nervous breakdowns if someone so much as smiled (at their cuteness), crying, “Why is she laughing at me?” I was sure my kid was going to be nothing like that! I would set her straight if she even tried!

But my kid is exactly like that. She never greets anyone that she doesn’t meet more than once-a-week and when she was younger, would flip out when people smiled in her presence as she would suspiciously shriek, “Why are you/they laughing?”

These are extremely uncomfortable situations for me as I was brought up by a dad who wasn’t fascist about anything but the “5 golden words” of politeness (and doing “chap chap” while eating but that’s a whole other story). So I grew up to be an extremely polite person. I thought that I could discipline my child into being polite, or doing things that I viewed as important (albeit not integral) to one’s character. Short answer: not possible! It’s a classic case of no longer being able to control the (little) monster you created.

And as a parent, you start realizing that you don’t have the fight in you to battle everything. Most of the time, you’re just too damn tired to disagree:
“Mamma, can I jump hard on your tummy and booboos alternatively and pretend you’re a horsie?”
“Mamma, can I blow germ-infested spit bubbles into your milkshake?”
“Go ahead”
“Mamma, can I walk all over you wearing Mami’s 9 inch heels?”
“Be my guest!”

I’m going down! After all, I got no fight!

Potty Training for Mummies & Dummies

When A was just a tiny babe, the two moms in my life (my mother by biology and my mother by marriage), broached the subject of toilet training. My mom in law extolled the benefits of classical conditioning her right away- making “shushing” sounds which would eventually be associated, in the infant’s mind, with urinating so that every time it was made, it would excite the bladder muscles, and relax them– much like chanting “Om” does to the senses. Being a Psych Major, the idea of using my child to replace the famous Pavlovian dogs in this psychological experiment appealed greatly!

My mom had an equal but opposite opinion. Having participated in the bringing up of my sister’s two kids, in the recent past, my mom believed in New Age theories that starting toilet training too early would cause psychological problems like insecurity within the child. She had heard this from my sister, who is just short of being a certified child psychologist since she runs several play schools.

Both arguments were strong, and I started having nightmares about Potty Training; getting dreams of a grown up BabyA running from chemist to chemist, trying to find an XXXXXXXL size to fit her 34 year old big butt, because she just wouldn’t sit on a potty!

My mom held her ground, while my mom in law pointed out the frivolousness of the idea that a child would become insecure based on something so insignificant, and unconnected! Was the human mind really so fragile?

I just buried myself a little further into the blanket every time this topic came up, and when I came out of my blanket, BabyA was two years old. I had been an ostrich for so long, that by the time I emerged, both moms were on the same page, and glaring at me. The words were on the wall: “Potty Train her Now!”

This time also coincided with A’s school holidays and so my pockets were emptied of their excuses. I googled and read, and YouTubed and watched, and got a whole lot more confused. There was the “Train Your Kid in 3 days Flat” lady who guaranteed a potty trained baby if you were willing to give up your life (also sanity, and possibly your marriage) for 3 days. You had to tent out in one plastic-wrapped area of the house with a diaper-less child for 3 days, and feed, play, sleep and defecate there. On the 3rd day, the child would magically become potty trained (or you’d commit suicide due to complete mental disorientation). This was never going to work for me: BabyA couldn’t sit still and there was no way I could bound her by any Laxman Rekha. My irreverent Sita would have crossed before Rama was out of earshot.

Then I read the “What To Expect”article* which listed the tell tale signs that your child is ready for potty training. BabyA wasn’t showing any signs but I disregarded the article and went back to mommies’ orders. I took BabyA off her diaper, bought the most endearing Teddy potty in town that had an inbuilt cheering squad for every time the baby filled its base with urinary or fecal goodness! I got star and smiley stickers, multicolored lollipops along with a reward chart where BabyA got to colour in a star every time she did things right. I did it all but she just wouldn’t potty train. She would cry because she hated the damn potty!

I gave up after 20 days, but kept an eye out for the signs, and they came. About 3 months later, BabyA started showing interest in being toilet trained, by no prodding from me. That’s when I took her off the diaper (except at school) and it was magic! She potty trained herself. No stress from me, no pushing, no taking her to the bathroom every 15 minutes or 2 hours even. I’d only take her when she expressed a desire to go, and we barely had any accidents even. In a month, she was almost completely trained! Just like the Mommy Bible had foretold.

And now when I look back, I wonder what I was panicking about. In the world, there are hyper mums and lazy mums, cool mums and crazy mums- but no matter what mum a child has been plagued with, they all get potty trained. I don’t know any 34 year old still running around in diapers (except in my dreams)!

So I relax. I close my eyes and just listen to my surroundings: the mellifluous tinkle of my child’s pee-pee filling my ears. I stop to take a deep breathe and my senses are invaded by the strong scent of a pooping baby who ate some of her favourite Rajma-Chawal last night. And I break in to applause. Who needs automated cheerleaders when God created mothers?


*For all those interested in the article I was referring to, click on http://www.whattoexpect.com/toddler/potty-training/signs-of-readiness.aspx


My iPhone playlist displays “Reason by Hoobastank”. “Hoobastank? Who’s that?” I think although the song name sounds familiar. I play it and it’s my all time favourite song, and I can’t help but wonder how this information has been erased from my memory.

It’s called being mommy-brained. Just the way you have hare-brained and twit-brained; in the same family of semantics is the condition of Mommy Brain-ness (I don’t call it Brainy-ness, which may sound more grammatically correct, because it would wrongly connote that this was some kind of an admirable condition).

It’s like, after a child comes into your life, she assaults all your senses and then occupies them, ALL THE TIME, for life. I know I make it sound horrible but it’s wonderful and then a bit miserable, but never horrible. Nothing is yours any more. You no longer focus on yourself and so, soon enough, you no longer know yourself without her.

You only watch what she likes, and if at some point, she senses that you may have gotten away (sitting in your room having a jolly good time watching “Modern Family” reruns without her), she runs to your room, to make you switch to “The Adam’s Family” cartoon series which you must watch hand-in-hand with her!

You are constantly sensitive to the aromas of the world, trying to focus on what might bother her: protecting her before yourself; from pollen-infested flower sniffs, smoky mosquito repelling fumigations and stinky bodily emissions that you are more allergic to than her.

The only music you listen to any longer is the Preeti Sagar Nursery Rhymes’ CD she wants to hear, on a loop. And you flinch with every bursting ‘phataka’ (firework) as if you’re the one whose frightened of pyrotechnics. Ganpati Visarjans are even more torturous, and more than once, you have mentally enacted the scene from Kill Bill where Uma Thurman slices her enemies, with the Pandal DJ playing your villain.  “After all, no one messes with my baby!”

Your taste buds are no longer able to enjoy the explosion that you enjoyed in your mouth while slurping some spicy rasam and your only thought when the waiter brings out that pink sauce pasta is that dimwits without kids don’t understand how crucial simplicity is. You can’t fancy it up by putting in some colour or exotic veggies: Mac n Cheese is on all kiddy menus for a reason!

Food for you is now something that lets you live. You shovel down the truffle gnocchi without appreciating the subtleties of its preparation, and you eat copious amounts of chips, cheese toast and even tasteless apple purée just so starving kids in Africa don’t find out that your child wasted some food.

In fact, feel is the only sense that becomes more enhanced after you have a baby, and that’s what makes the miserable part so damn wonderful. Till now you haven’t truly understood how your heart can soar when you’re sleeping and someone wakes you up to butterfly kisses all over your face. You haven’t known how your heart skips a beat as that little baby, who can only be an innocent angel of God (it seems, at that point), suckles to your breast and is comforted from any feeling of fear, discomfort and insecurity… all because you’re there!

I may no longer know what kind of music, TV shows or food I like. I may have lost all control over my senses (and bladder, post delivery) but the way my heart leaps when I see that little soul clinging to me, like I’m no less than God herself, in her eyes; that’s the part that makes motherhood so damn worth it!