Thursday, April 21, 2011

And the brat gets the itch to read

The other day we went to a birthday party of a fren who is barely six months older than the brat, but much more 'mature' as the phrase goes. This boy is an avid book reader, and when Mamma, who being the scatty type she is, asked him what he wanted as a birthday present, being the one who had landed up without one in hand and planned to use the time at the mall waiting for the party to get over to pick up said present, replied promptly, "Books". Mamma was delighted. Being a bookaholic herself, and beamed down approvingly at the child. "Which author would you like, do you know the book titles you want?"
Promptly, the birthday boy rattled off, "I want Witches and Matilda by Roald Dahl."
Mamma trotted off to Landmark next door and bought the boy the books he wanted and could not contain her admiration of the same, and voiced said admiration to the brat who when asked what he wanted at any given point could be guaranteed to reply "Beyblade Storm Pegasus."
The brat pondered and pondered and finally declared that he wanted a book too. Make that two books. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory and Witches. Both by Roald Dahl. Dahl is an author he is familiar with, since he has had Fantastic Mr Fox as part of his curriculum this year, and has googled up Dahl, his childhood pictures and his cottage and even assumed the Norwegian spouse of my aunt, who admittedly bears a striking resemblance to Dahl, was the man himself. Ergo, when he began whining about wanting these two books, Mamma picked up bag and hotfooted it to Crossword and procured said printed copies and placed before him. He flicked through them with zero modicum of interest evident on his brow. And then he put them down and picked up his Beyblades again and began spinning them through the vastness of space and time aka the living room floor, in decimating battles that shake the universe, read bang into the dining table chair legs and leave scratches.
Mamma hopped and yelled and grumbled about his lack of interest in the books purchased and frothed at the mouth for a bit, before Pappa calmed her down, applied ice to her brow and led her away to another part of the house where she could be calm and collect herself. "Let him be," the pater advised sagely, himself having discovered the joys of the printed word only after his head of hair had gone grey.
And so mamma did. Let the books lie on the bedside table without insisting that the brat read them, ignoring the pricks of anger that the brat could be so enriching his mind with the wonderful words of Dahl rather than whooping with joy over two tops dashing against each other for what seemed like almost the entire day.
And when the day's play was done, and the brat returned home, wrung out and exhausted, Mamma went into the kitchen to get him his solid nutrition, and found this when she returned. The brat, sitting crosslegged on the bed, reading Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. And chuckling to himself. And reading bits and pieces aloud to his pater and yours truly whenever he found anything of interesting, like the pater and I keep doing. And so we sat, parents and child, each reading their book, until our eyes drooped and the lights were switched off, reading in blissful camaraderie.
This morning, in the fresh sunlight, I asked him how he had enjoyed the book. "Is boreding," he declaimed from the vantage point of one having grown up on Japanese manga and anime cartoon serials. "Dere's no fighting, no battles, and only funny peepuls wid orange hair and wurking in a factory. And I don like wat happenz wid d udder childrens. Is not good to do bad things to the childrens even if theyre nod nice childrenz." Has this politically correct generation has outgrown Dahl.

Monday, April 18, 2011

And so the brat learns swimming

The brat, much to the dismay of his swimming champion father, has been mortally terrified of water. So much so that when he was little, washing his head would ensure that banshees would quail at the amount of shrieking that ensued when water was poured on his head. And then, the father in a sink or swim moment threw the barely two year old into a swimming pool to get him to learn to like the water. The brat never quite recovered from the shock of impact, and would shiver knockkneed when confronted with the prospect of getting into water.
Every holiday, the pater would take him into the swimming pool at whatever hotel one was at, and he would shriek and yell and wriggle out of his clutches and run off to the kiddy pool, belligerent about not getting his head under the water or letting his feet get off the floor.
Ergo, when he was assigned swimming in school this year, we thought, yes, now he would learn.The fear of the water would be erased. But each term came and went and he was still cycling in water holding the rod and with the float tied firmly on. His grades for swimming came back with a shameful 'U'. This summer, therefore, was mandated as the summer in which the brat would learn swimming.
He was enrolled in swimming camp, timed in such a way that he would need to attend swimming camp if he wanted to attend the karate camp he had set his heart on. Cmon. He is now the zillionth incarnation of Bruce Lee. Never mind if Bruce Lee is Kung Fu.
So we have the swimming camp going on for one week. Pappa is taking a keen personal interest in the coaching and strides all around the pool, thankfully not being permitted to get into the pool, demonstrating action, movements and generally superseding the coaches, who defer to his medals and his knowledge of the sport, with little grace.



The brat is now actually swimming, a rough dog paddle, and has garnered up enough nerve to get into the deep without a float or a coach right next to him. He actually did two laps of the pool today without a float. Deep end to shallow end. To me, that's his equivalent of scaling Mount Everest. The father, I must say, is walking around like a rooster, puffed with the pride that his son has learnt to swim (in dog paddle style no less) within a week.
As for mamma, all she wants is for the brat to learn the life skill. Without screaming the suburb down.

Sunday, April 17, 2011

How safe are your children in your own building premises?



It is something most of us parents take from granted, the child will be playing with a group of friends, there will be people all around, where is the scope for a potential abuser to get to a child and wrangle the child into a situation where abuse is possible. And then too, we think, mistakenly, that this happens in other kinds of building complexes, in places where folks are maybe, of a certain SEC, not ours, with professionals and a HNI profile.
Is this something you think about? And of course, the maids are down there supervising the children, aren't they, the kids are safe. Think again. This is what actually happened in our building complex.
A few children were down playing hide and seek, well past the darkness setting in. Two little boys, and one girl. Barely six or seven each, they must be. Suddenly, an uncle from the next building spots them playing and insists that he will join them in their play. The gaggle of maids and other adults were in a different part of the complex, it is a huge complex and the kids scurry around so quick, it does get difficult to keep track of them and I speak from experience, because I am down every single evening, trying my best to keep the brat away from scraps.
The 'uncle' from the next wing, joined the game apparently and insisted one of the boys give the den, the other boy go and hide in the park, and took himself and the little girl to the construction area behind, which is dark and isolated in the nights. We don't know exactly what happened, nor is anyone telling us, but the child came screaming out and ran to her parents and this man fled. The parents tracked him down and confronted him. And obviously he denied everything. But no one believes him, because three children corroborated the sequence of events. And this is a man with two young kids, a good job in a reputed multinational company, and a very sweet wife. A perfectly normal, everyday, educated person. Someone you think is such a nice man, always polite and pleasant and well mannered.
Did it come as a shock to us? It did. We are infinitely more concerned now if the children are out of sight for a while, we go look around for them. The children have been warned that adults are not supposed to play in kiddy games, and if any adult insists in playing with them in non sporty games (cricket, football, etc, many of the fathers do come down to coach their children) they are to promptly come and tell us.
Ergo. Be careful. Be on your watch. Your children are safe nowhere. We've seen through the CSAAM month of survivor stories that the children are not even safe in their own homes. You owe it to your children to watch over them as much as you can.

Thursday, April 14, 2011

When another parent bullies your child

Regular readers of this blog might remember a post circa Navratri in which I mentioned a woman who has been haranguing the brat. The haranguing has been continuing and with no lessening, in fact, getting worse by the day. Her issue, she feels the brat is targetting and bullying her son and beating him up when the fact of the matter is that both kids are equally aggressive and the brat, while no angel, is perfectly non controversial when it comes to other children, but only has his hackles rise when it comes to this particular woman's son.
Strangely enough, the brat and her son are good friends, who often come to blows over trifling things. My philosophy when kids get into scraps is to separate the two and give them a firm warning. Give them both warnings. I donot believe, as she does, that a child should be publicly yelled at and humiliated. Which she does often enough with her own son, and sadly had begun doing with my son. The brat, before I could intervene on one occasioned had already backanswered her, much to my shock, given he is not a child who back answers, and while he got pulled up for the rudeness by me later, at that moment I was rather stunned that the child could very well stand up for himself from verbal assault by an adult, a rather Virago-ish adult at that, on a rampage (details of the backanswering: She tells him I'm giving you the last warning not to fight with my son, the brat replies, without missing a beat, Who are you to give me a last warning?)
This had been going on for a while, and things reached a head the other evening when she screamed so loudly at the brat and indirectly at me, that the entire building complex came out to watch (Incidentally, this is a lady who has chased a watchman with a stick to beat him, so one doesn't put anything past her). At that moment, I did not respond. I ignored her. I collected my child and moved off. I asked the other children present about what had happened and gathered the facts. The facts were that her son had started the fight, the brat was merely playing on his own. If the brat is assaulted he is too much of a mard ka baccha to accept being hit without retorting in the same manner. The brat had a bump on the back of his head where the other child had banged his head on the slide. The trouble being the brat doesn't cry. Her son begins wailing loudly at the slightest pretence.
The next day I had decided something needed to be done. I was not going to do a similar fishmonger style screaming in the compound exercise with her. I worked out a plan of action. I would invite her for a conversation in the presence of two trusted and sensible friends in a neutral location. I would try to figure out what her issues with the brat are. I would try to resolve the issues. I would also warn her off. Simultaneously, I also made letters to the chairman of her building society, and took legal counsel on filing a harassment and intimidation of a minor case against her. Because the last incident had her using abusive language against the child. Something all the children confirmed when asked independently.
At first she refused to meet for a discussion. Then she did a volte face and agreed. We sat down and I tried to approach the topic as calmly as I could without spitting in her face. Her issue, she said, was that I was not 'controlling' my child that is why he had gone 'out of hand'. I thanked her for her concern and informed her that I was a parent who was doing my job and she didnt need to do it for me. And if she had any issues with my son, she was to bring it to me, and not to yell at my son. I spelt it out very clearly that she had no legal or moral authority to shout at my son and use abusive language and that she had crossed boundaries. She of course, denied using abusive language and insisted all the four five kids who repeated her sentence verbatim were lying, including of course, my son. Never mind. Even without the abusive language, she has no standing on which she can keep periodically yelling at my son. Even if he and her son are fighting. Kids fight. They fight and are best friends the very next minute. Now ever since she has been targetting my son, none of the children in the building want to play with her son, for fear that he will run off complaining to his mother and she will come abuse them in similar manner. The child cycles alone in the compound, children run away from him. I pointed it out to her that her child was being ostracised by the rest of the children because of her attitude and was she going to fight his battles for him right upto college. I dont think she realised it till then, that no other child was playing with her son. I pointed out to her that the brat has never in his life answered back either me, his father, his grandmothers or his aunts. Nor his teachers. Nor any other adult he has come in contact with. Why did he backanswer you, I asked. It is because he has no respect for you. You cannot command respect from a child because you are an adult. You have to earn it. And at that moment, the way you were screaming at the top of your voice at MY child, I am glad he replied to you. Because it shows me HE can fight his own battles, unlike your child who you are mollycoddling. I hated making it a my child, your child thing. But I was pretty furious.
She has now agreed to bring her issues with my son to me now. I am waiting to see if her promise lasts. If it doesnt, I have my letter ready and Plan B on standby. I gave her a chance to redeem herself and get over her uncondonable behaviour. What would you have done in my place?

Tuesday, April 05, 2011

Of the thali ka baingan

The brat, as anyone who has seen him would aver. Looks exactly like me. Or exactly like his father. Depending on which biased pair of goggles you wear. Seriously though, ever since he has been a child, he has been examined closely for evidence of his nose growing to respectable proportions like mine own fine one and unlike the rather squat version the father has been blessed with. Or whether he was going to lumber over all his playmates like the father who stands out broad and tall in a crowd, unlike me who has to resort to subterfuge and stilettoes of a minimum of three inches in order to make myself visible and stop my chin from dragging on the ground. Or whether he would show athletic or academic inclination. (Ah, well, the father's the athletic one, I'm the academic one, and the brat thus far, is neither).

The given obvious features apart, I insist he has my eyes and eyelashes (of yore before 20 years of inserting and removing semi soft lenses ruined them) and chin, and his father's face structure, the brat surprises me sometimes by behaving like either of us. He is a democratic soul, and ergo distributes his behavioural traits with an even hand to both sides of his genetic code. His distate for all activities of the sporting type he gets undoubtedly from me, and his dislike for the written word, he draws completely from his father. In fact, he's gone a step further and sifted out all the undesirables from both of us, and chosen to inherit only those. His love for drawing and sketching he gets from me, and his penchant to vegetate in front of the television set and his love for martial arts, err, from the pater. He sleeps on his side, like his father, he walks like his father, the second toe nail of each of his feet are like his father's and his paternal grandfather, I am told. His hair. That is the only aberration. His hair is like neither of ours. His bua. The middle one. She has hair like that. No one from my side of the genetic pond has hair like his, straight, silky and smooth. The mater has a frizz that can only be tamed by much oiling and tying back, I have, like my pater did, wavy hair with texture that behaves only after much supplication with conditioning and the like. The husband has a thick head of lionine waves. The brat, he reached out to his aunt for this bit.

Given that he is constantly changing, there are some days when I look at him and catch my breath, thinking that he is the reduction xerox of his father. And at others, I get the feeling he is the spitting image of my father, of whom I am the spitting image, ergo, by extension the spitting image of me. I often wonder how it could be possible that the child looks like both of us, and much minute examination of his appearance has happened and the features have been analysed in great detail. The central triangle of his face is all mine. The nose, it is advancing beyond the paternal limitations and seems to be promising enough to take after mine, the eyes are mine, the lips, the chin. All mine. But he is still so much his fathers son. In the way he walks, in the shoulders which are already broader than the hips, in the solid length of his legs, in the sudden stormy face.

I remember all my life, looking radically different from my mother. And it often getting commented on by folks. With the brat, it has been a pleasant debate always of whom he resembles more. Now, I've decided he's not the spitting image of either of us, but his own person. A lovely blend of the best and the worst of both of us. And that is exactly how it should be.

Friday, April 01, 2011

CSAAM April 2011-How soon is it to begin teaching your child about the touch to be avoided



The brat was all of around three something or nearing four when I took matters seriously and sat him down for a detailed conversation on the touch. "Brat," I told him. "Your nu nu and your bum are places where no one should touch you. Nor should you touch anyone's nu nu or bum."
He nodded wisely. I soldiered on bravely. "If anyone touches you there, say no. Dont let them. Shout loudly. Scream. Tell them that you will tell your mamma. Okay?"
He nodded again, in familiar wise manner. "Okay."
"Did you understand me?" I asked again. "Yes, mamma," he said and bounded off to play with some action figure who I had heartlessly employed in being demo model for parts of the body off limits to any adult. Apart from Mamma.

A few days later I got a frantic call at work from Nana who was babysitting the brat for the day. "Talk to him," she said in a resigned tone. "Tell him I am allowed to wash his bum. He's been sitting on the pot for almost an hour refusing to let me touch his bum."

I hastily informed the brat that Nana and Daadi were allowed to touch the bum for post potty washing sessions or to bathe him if mamma was not around. The lesson, I was glad to know, was clear. He had assimilated it.

Now that he is older, he has been sat down with the Visual Encyclopedia and shown the parts of the body which are offlimits for any adult to touch. Any adult. And any older child. Because we have had instances within the building complexes of the older children preying on the younger child. But that's another topic and another post.

This post is about when is the right time to start talking to your child about the good touch/bad touch or the safe/unsafe touch as the NGOs these days are calling it.
I would say as soon as the child begins to understand the parts of the body, can understand what you are trying to say and can inform you if anything happens.

This link: http://www.thomashaller.com/PAwhatchildrenshouldknow.html
has some interesting age appropriate points made and I quote:
Age 2 to 3
Between the ages of 2 and 3 (the toilet training years) is a good time to talk about bodily function and to foster positive attitudes about body parts.  How you react and respond may have the greatest impact on what your child learns during this time.  For example, young children think that bowel movements are part of their bodies.  If they are told that bowel movements are bad, they may feel that they are bad too (ACOG Patient Education Pamphlet).  This age is also a time to teach children about who can touch them and where and how to tell a parent or adult if they have been touched in a way that has made them uncomfortable.

By the end of this stage children should:
  • have a positive attitude about bodily functions
  • have an understanding of bodily functions
  • know about “good touch/bad touch”
  • know who can touch them and where
  • know how to tell a parent or adult if they have been touched in a way that has made them uncomfortable
  • know that they are lovable and why
It is never too early to teach your children about their bodies, and that no one has the authority to touch their bodies. The earlier the better I say. Don't ever be the ostrich with your head in the sand assuming that sex abuse will not happen with your child. The statistics out there prove that 53 percent of children have been sexually abused, boys as much as girls. The age of abuse starts from as early as 2 and the maximum abuse happens between 5 and 12, and this is the age when the child understands and can communicate. Talk to your child. As much as you can. Use a doll, use a visual image of the human body, gently talk about body parts and explain that if someone does touch them on the parts which are their private parts they should not allow it and they need to come and tell you or whoever is the closest adult-maybe a teacher if it happens in school.  Empower your child to say no, I dont like this.
Remember the three best words you can teach your child are No/Stop/Tell. They might just scare off a potential molester from harming your child.