Monday, April 6, 2015

Summer vacation in a new city

Summer vacations are in again and parents for now are as happy as their kids are. It is a time to slowdown a little, little introspection and do something else than rest of the year which is full of curriculums, tests and grades. Summer vacation brings a challenge for parents too, specially where both parents are working, we strongly realise at this time of the year how much the school does for our kids, in terms of keeping them busy, enthusiastic and some times bore them with routined home-works. Summer camps, activity classes, teaming up with other parents, taking leaves, inviting grand parents and other relatives are all important tools to sum up the summer vacation for all parents working or not.

Summer vacation is the time when we need a known community of our kid's friends and their family to fall upon and get some time to enjoy it too.
With a recent relocation to a new city, this summer J and we were little anxious on finding ways around this summer vacation.

Luckily I am working from home at present so that made J happy. Now a days she is also in a mood of 'me time' and so does not show her happiness like she used to as a 5 year old. I need to observe that solemnly when she comes and touch me while I am at work, or asks me if my work is going well.
She is now becoming active online and I find it uncanny if she is being online all the time. I had this when she was getting hooked to TV as a toddler (those were nice and easy days!) and I know both she and I will get over this internet usage also.

Otherwise she has become very sober and does not come to me with her queries at all while I am at work. We have some break times in between for lunch and a quick tea where we talk a little, and I try to propose some activities to her. It is all on mademoiselle to do them or not, or do them the next day or not do them at all. I don't rush her - after all it is vacation time.

This time, like all the sumer vacations we had before, we have decided to read books (as many possible), and not by buying them but from library-this way she is forced out of Harry Potter and Percy Jackson genre and finds other interesting books from the library. Some time she needs to write review on what she has read and what she liked or disliked in those, or write a blog if some idea strikes. Only sometimes though - the whole fun of summer vacation can derail with the steam of over ambitious mommy!

Then this summer there is a golden rule for her to watch one movie a day! sometimes what she wants to watch and sometimes what I want her to watch. She watched Monalisa Smiles one afternoon and upon finishing that she came to me and hugged me. She liked the movie very much and I instantly got more sure that I am raising a friend in her with whom I would be discussing a lot of stuff. We would also agree to disagree at times!

She is bringing a lot of new sounds at home in the form of new music bands which we might have never known if we did not have her. Thanks to you tube, we get to see the videos and music of many new and recent popular bands. She tells us about the band, the equation between the band members and about their fan following. I try to squeeze in Indian instrumental music, Bollywood songs or Bengali Rabindra sangeet in exchange. She minds a lot, who cares!

Web based software applications or our good old MS office suit exercises also comes handy when she gets bored even after all the above activities.

Today morning I realized simple crayons and a piece of paper still can occupy attention of a child at age 11 for quite some time. Only problem here is the exploring minefield of google and its friends who keep hypnotizing kids of this age or any age actually towards them.

After all this, she becomes really sad in the evenings and miss her old friends badly. She talks with them at times but she told me that it does not feel the same, she wants to sit with them and take a walk with them like before. Initially she decided not to make any new friends in this city as she did not want to loose them again. We did not force her anything, but searched for her some activity classes for her to spend some time constructively like arts and sports. Another idea was to help her find friends from these classes. She is not saying much about them and I am waiting when she will come back and say, "Oh I have made a friend today".

J is a shy kid and making friends is always a task for her. During our last move she used to stand in our balcony and see the kids playing for almost 3 weeks. Finally one day she decided to go down and play with them.

The city is new to us so we are using the weekends to discover the city just like we went for short trips during other summer vacations. For us adults also it is still a surreal state of mind where we are settling down to a new place, new work space (for J's papa) or new way of working (for me) and there are times when we sit together and talk about the other city we lived in and what our friends might be doing now.

We make plans of going back to them, to visit them and return to the certainty of a known place and its roads. Although we know that the trip would be just for a visit to the city we lived, the city we made our home in.

Monday, March 23, 2015

Relocate, Reset and Restart

 Disclaimer: A story written by J from her recent experiences in life...                  

“What?" I yelled almost dropping the plates in my hands. “Careful with the plates J.” My mother warned me.
“How can you think about plates when we are going to move to Chennai!” I asked.
“I told you she wouldn’t take it well.”  My mother sighed to my father.
Great. Now they were doing what all parents do, talk to each other about their child as if the child is a fly on the wall.
Stomping to my room, I slammed the door behind me completely forgetting about my job of unloading the dishwasher.
Switching on my music gear, I lay down on the bed and thought things through.
I suppose everyone do this at some or another point of their lives, after weeks and months of surging through life you just take a break and think.
And that’s what I was doing. I just kept thinking.
Chennai is a huge place; it’s very unlikely that we would find a small and bountiful place like our present place-NSA over there. We’ll most probably live in one of those huge societies where there are hundreds of kids with whom it’ll be very difficult to form a friendship. I mean with so many kids around, everyone must already have a best friend, right?
Why does this always happen to me? I make friends in one place and whoosh we have to relocate.
Just then my mother walked in, probably to call me for dinner, and I took the opportunity to ask, “Do we have to move?”
She sighed she had been expecting this. “Yes, Yes we do. Your father and I think the change will be good.”
Oh Whoop-di-do, let all leave our friends and go to an alien planet, the change will be good for us! Not.
My mother seemed to guess what I was thinking and said, “Look we’re moving if you like it or not. Just accept it.”
Accept it? No way was I going to accept it. In fact I’m going to keep hoping that we’re going to stay in NSA until I board the plane.

Saying bye to my friends was the worst part. I didn’t say bye to them until the very last minute I could be with them. My social life was always grouped into two halves; school friends and home friends.
I thought it’ll be worse saying bye to my home friends than my school friends but as it turned out it was just as bad saying bye to my school friends.
I was pretty close to the boys in my life; I mean our relationship (ugh, came out wrong) was normally bickering about things like which biscuit company was best.
Yes. We bickered about biscuits. Got a problem? No. Thought so.
And the girls… well we shared everything that happened in our life with each other. So they knew everything about me.
I’ll miss my home too. Over here I had a tiny and cosy apartment.
I’ll miss this place.
Well I’ll just have to Reset don’t I, and start again and make new friends. And get comfortable around my new apartment.
Lets hope there’s a good library over there. Books only can be my life-line now.

The last few days in NSA flew, literally flew by.
One day all our belongings were packed in boxes the next day they were loaded on the truck and being carried of to the new city. And all of a sudden we were boarding a plane.
I cried the whole 2 hr journey, sure I had my music gear and a few (7 actually) new books I got as parting gifts to read but they just numbed my pain, sort of like painkillers.
The pain was always the starting -people who relocated a lot knew that- it was the starting of a new chapter in my life.
A new city, new friends, new surroundings - A new Restart!


Monday, December 15, 2014

Zo – the shy child

It is not easy to believe now, but Zo used to be a very shy child. Her parents did not push her to talk but they used to tell her that, “It is good to wish people whom you meet on the way to kindergarten.” Zo never said good morning to her kindergarten teacher until she was almost 4 years old. This doesn’t mean that she did not like her teacher. It was just that she could not say anything to her. She would not talk in the children circles or during rhyme time. Her teachers, tried to encourage her all the time, but still Zo was not able to let go of her shyness. She was very interested in art and craft and she loved story times and playing with others. But whenever there was occasions where she had to speak it out in front of others she was unable to do that. She could not sing in the Christmas function where every one else participated.  Zo’s mum and dad used to feel sad sometimes, as Zo’s shyness was not letting her enjoy all the fun of the kindergarten. Zo used to be a clingy child when they visited their friends. Zo also missed not being part of any performance going on in the kindergarten and after going home she used to perform them in front of the mirror. Her mother used to watch her secretly!
Zo’s mother remembered that she herself was same as a child. Zo’s mother also remembered that there were so many occasions she herself missed chance for a performance just being shy. She did not want the same for Zo. She wanted to help Zo to get rid of her excessive shyness. She talked with Zo’s teacher. Zo’s teacher an experienced lady, very good in child pedagogy, listened to all the concerns of Zo’s mother and reassured her that it was fine for a child to be shy. There are all kinds of children just like there are all kinds of adults. She told Zo’s mother that Zo would find out her way from shyness in her own pace. May be she would never be a star performer at stage but she would find her own place in a stage called world. The teacher told Zo’s mum to be understanding and patient. To watch for her other strengths like her affinity towards scissor, paper and glue. She added, “Talk with Zo about several situations at school and how she reacted to them.”  Zo’s mother started doing that and she started telling Zo about her childhood and how she was almost same as Zo. Talking with mum helped Zo and specially on knowing that mum was also a shy person helped her to be happy with the way she was. Slowly she started smiling at the neighbour and her teachers every morning. Zo’s mother used to find books in the library telling stories about shy children and about different situations, like making a friend, participating in a school drama, playing a game of football etc.  Zo loved reading those stories. Her mother gave her a tip that in order to talk with others (other than mum and dad) Zo did not need to look at them, she could look to their nose or lips or somewhere else and say hello to them. With this tip in her mind, Zo found it very easy to say good morning to all the people she met on her way to kindergarten and then she also said a warm good morning to her teacher.

Zo’s mother and her teacher were very happy on seeing this development in Zo. Little did they know that this was just the birth of a chatterbox!

Disclaimer: Published before in the "mom and me" blog 

Friday, November 14, 2014

In the age of digital and democratic parenting

For a long time no blog is churned out from this space. Recently a call to write on topic of digital parenting in Women’s Web – eKavach ‘This Digi-Parenting Life!’ campaign caught my eyes and I wanted to write my experiences about being a digital and democratic parent.
During my pregnancy, internet provided me all the support in a distant country that a mother, aunt or sister provides to an Indian women in India. All the recipes for tasty but nutritious food, different strokes of messages and how to keep that mood swing at bay when your body is playing drum-rolls with hormones.
No wonder after I got my bundle (of joy) in my hand, websites like became my go to places to know all about a new subject of parenting. As a new mom who was also studying for her final degree, I needed support to calm down my daughters from crying, return to home tantrums in the evenings, and dinner time showdowns. Slowly creeped in the world of you tube   and came the little boy called Caillou, the brother and sister's team lola and charlie, a friendly pig called Peppa pig and several other characters. They entered into the daily screen watching ritual of my daughter and my daughter could connect with them almost as if they were her cousins. Also came the nursery rhymes and rhymes in our mother tongue again from you tube. Slowly my daughter started controlling the keyboard and mouse and started selecting her favourites. For being a democratic mom (and sometimes a tired one too) allowed her to have a dedicated screen time which was mostly computers and television. Smart phones were still a future product then. Games from popular website cebeebies became popular in our house too. We started learning numbers, colours, manners from the computer games. Being in academic field my husband and I were using computer all the time and our daughter never got any negative vibe about using computers for her leisure. Till then I had no issue with safe surfing as I used to be there with her or she would spend time surfing through the website only. My only concern was about time she should spend on net.
Now 10 years down the line, she is strongly aware of Google. New gadgets like smartphones and tablets have added to her list of screens. The time denoted to screen views could not be that strictly controlled anymore. Her interests are growing from doodling to rock and pop music to reading harry potter or looking at pottermore. She knows most information are available through proper searches in Google or in youtube. I am not always there with her to supervise her moves online as my work loads have increased too. She gets assignments at school with instruction to do secondary research on internet. There are times when we plan to bake a cake and she quickly run to check a recipe online. Being a digital savvy and democratic mom I am happy that she has learned to utilise a resource that makes her tasks easier. I feel proud when her grandparents ask her to solve their queries related to smartphones and computers. But there is a creepy voice inside me which keep bothering me about her online safety specially when I am not around to check what she is upto on screen. It is important that we discuss with her on regular basis and understand her interests on regular basis. She is still not into social media but pottermore is very close to that. We have given her instructions about not being too open in the internet world, and that it is important to handle internet in secure way but we are still not sure how much she understands the seriousness of it. It is difficult to block unwanted advertisements and visuals from youtube and that concerns me a lot.
I understand as a parent I would need to understand more about the world of secure online presence along with finding ways to teach hindi to my daughter. It is nice to know that there are others who are thinking alike and have come up with the concept of ekavach - to let our children go out their in the world of internet but in a guarded manner.

Friday, April 11, 2014

Not so easy things of life...

It happens to all of us but we always think that it is happening only to us. All of us go through certain stages of life where confusion takes over and we feel entangled. Most of the time we feel overwhelmed as we see others not in the same stage but then if we observe a little more we can see each one of us are dealing with Not so easy things of life... Each in their own way... Each in their own terms...

Crossroad symptom- Once my father told me not to cross a road on the crossroads where 4 roads meet. He showed me how vehicles were coming from four sides and how difficult it was to judge the correct time to cross it. He showed how some people were trying to do that and were getting frustrated and angry.  We walked little further  on the road and we could easily cross the road.
I experienced the same when I became a mother as a phd student. I guess any woman or man goes through this  when they become parents and try to balance their lives along with a new bundle (of joy!) and the regular demands of life. Many times without much help from extended families like me in a foreign land and lots of self expectations of having a picture perfect life like those shown in the postcards. This is also the time when I learnt that my career and my child are equal in priority for me and that as much I want to do good in my career I wouldn't be able to do that without proper support ( emotional, physical and economical) for my child. It took some years for me to find ways around this situation, now 5-7 years away from preliminary years of parenting I could see how fragile and nervous I was at that time. I did not have a friend who could inspire or listen to my worries at that time. I had only male researchers around me married or not, parent or not, and I could not confide to them. They could not see any problem and they were publishing like anything. That was my limitation of not being able to reach out and to try to cross the road where 4 roads were meeting. That state of mind impacted my career and future choices/decisions to a large extent.

Today upon finding a way for myself I see so many other new mothers passing through same phase.

Two boat situation- It took me some years to accept that as much I like reading, thinking and presenting about science, I don't look forward towards technical processing of science. I did not like the repetitiveness of experiments to be performed and the dependence on one boss for greater part of the scientific career. I took strong decision of spending a big money to learn something related but outside of bench science. I started learning about that new field. This time I was more careful about my choices and started to look for jobs in both fields. My ongoing research field and newly learned scientific writing field. This process enhanced my confidence and enabled me to talk with senior people from 2 different domains in the name of interviews.

There are times when we can't pick just one path and need to keep walking on parallel roads. This can be exhausting but for me this helped.

Guilt free mode- I cannot tell you the date but it is around the time when my daughter was turning 5. She was getting relocated from one country to another with me and was mostly accepting things positively with some mild aberrations, seeing her handling things with a smile I could see those long lived guilt clouds leaving me. I could feel for the first time that my daughter would survive and succeed in this world and that she could take so much change easily more so because she was a day care goer from very early age.
Also, one day while talking with her she told me that she did not remember that she used to cry in the mornings before leaving me for day care as a toddler ( my major trigger for guilt- I realised this later) but she remembered her friends in day cares and the doll houses. From that day onward started my guilt free mode of life.

2nd chance is rare and should be nourished- I received an opportunity for further research, and I took the chance to try once more and  I am glad I did that. Research after Phd is very different and enables us to work in independent environment. Sharpens our transferable skills like teaching, communication, and problem solving. Help us earn good money to lay path for next chapter of life. After availing the second chance I was sure that I really don't want to 'do' science, but facilitate, write about it or nurture science in other ways.

Calculated risks and diluted ego- I learned to take calculated risks and say yes to
opportunities which were opening new frontiers to me. I still did not learn to negotiate though. Higher education come with a baggage of ego and pride, having taken calculated risk and stepping into a new domain, I could not afford to keep my ego boosted. It was required to bust my ego and quickly find a niche for myself in the new domain. I started using the skills learned in previous jobs, like attention to details and a knack to teach and train others. Sincere involvement  and a mind to take new challenges came easily upon taming my ego. Ego never helps in anything. The less we have the better we die.

Same problems but different approach- In the new job I soon started pouring in long hours and though there was no experiments to be planned this time but there were telecons and meetings with different team members living in different time zones. I could relate to these situations from past experiences. I started taking different approach than handling them in previous manner and waiting for different results. This time,  I was more confident and mindful, with less expectation. I simplified things wherever possible by expressing and demanding help at home, making my daughter independent in doing simple chores. I learned to walk further up the road and avoid crossing it on the crossroads.

Circle of friends-  From previous experiences I learned that it is necessary to continue to make friends from all facets of life, from different genre of living. A childhood friend might not understand my present state of mind and a college friend might find me a bore altogether. So I learned to make friends from neighbourhood and internet. I have many blogger friends with whom I share thoughts that my sister might also find difficult to engage with.

Inspire and get inspired- I don't shy anymore to discuss about the lessons learnt through my journey.  I share them with my colleagues who are in similar phase as I was few years ago. I observe and learn from others who are little ahead of me in career. I have a good network of like minded friends to talk, argue, debate and agree to disagree. I am learning about a new domain, new roles and designations, and new models of work in each day.

The dotty connect- My daughter keep asking me about what will I be when I grow up. She believes that just like her I will also keep growing. And isn't that true! I understand that designations change from one year to another and from one company to another but I have no answer to my daughter's query. In 5 years I might have more dots in my career chart and I hope to connect them together in a solid line.

Three years theory- This year I proved again my theory of childhood that it takes 3 years or less for a us to accept a new city or a place. This is my third year in this city and now I have started feeling comfortable about it, I have learned to understand its strengths and weaknesses.  I have started debating with new comers in the city, who don't find any reason to like this city. I was in the same page last year, today I feel home here. Having lived and left many places, I have found that only after travelling the path of newness, irritations, loneliness, reaching out, making friends, and then my brain accepts a place.

Let it go- Most of our problems arise because we are unable to let the moment go. We sometimes become so attached and grow comfort with a thing of life that we try not to change that like Not, let the child grow, let the career flow, let the relationship mature or let the life pass by.

Change is the only constant and we need to learn to let life go slowly but surely...