Category Archives: My Voice

Want Your Child To Learn How To Learn? Go Outdoors!

// This article has been sponsored by Unilever and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/want-your-child-to-learn-how-to-learn-go-outdoors

Recently, while surfing the internet, I discovered that Action for Children’s Environments (ACE), an NGO and a charitable trust which works towards creating safe, healthy, all-encompassing and resilient living environments for children and young people, is calling on teachers across India to take at least one lesson outdoors on Thursday, October 12, 2017, as a part of the global Outdoor Classroom Day campaign. Not just teachers but even parents and anyone else who cares about childhood can get involved in the campaign. Apart from taking a class outdoors, people can contribute by encouraging their child’s school to sign up, or by helping to spread the message far and wide. Outdoor Classroom Day is a global campaign to celebrate, enthuse and inspire outdoor learning and play.

I was mighty impressed with the idea and reading about this campaign took me back to the day when I had wholly realized the importance of outdoor learning in case of my child. That day I was gob smacked! My fidgety and impatient toddler was playing “Passing the ball” with her school mates in a field next to the Montessori House that she goes to and they were all waiting for their turn uncomplainingly. At home, it had always been a herculean task for me to get her to wait for something but I was amazed to see the impact of great company, the right atmosphere and natural surroundings on her. Someone has rightly said that play is the best way by which children can learn how to learn because they are naturally drawn to play outside.

It is not that we are not aware of how spending time outdoors is of paramount importance in the overall growth and development of a child. But, in keeping with the changing times, children are exposed to a completely different kind of environment today as opposed to the kind we grew up in. With the advent of new technologies and changes in societal structures, the amount of time spent outdoors is dwindling resulting in sedentary lifestyles. Staying connected to the natural world is actually a necessity but unfortunately, it’s becoming a luxury. According to studies conducted on this subject, probable perils, interactions with strangers and getting grimy are also factors which act as a deterrent for some parents in encouraging their children to play outside, even though they are aware of the importance of such experiences. Though the fear of safety is understandable, we can certainly ensure at our end that children are unfettered and unshackled under the supervision of a responsible and trusted caregiver. And as far as getting dirty is concerned, all I can say is a little dirt does not hurt, right?

I have realized that the importance of outdoor learning and play is undermined by many, because it is largely considered to be “fun” time. Truth is that it also contributes to immense learning right from the infancy stage. Being outdoors provides kids with unlimited stimulus and boundless opportunities to develop their gross motor skills, soft skills, problem-solving skills as well as language skills. Fresh air invigorates and fuels a child’s imagination and senses, which ensures that whatever they grasp during that period stays with them forever. It is not just about play but just simple things like taking a stroll in the midst of nature makes for a perfect setting for erudition. Experts also highly emphasize on the impact of outdoor play and sunlight on a child’s sleep patterns. Needless to say, sound sleep is essential for the development of a child. I have also observed that children who are well acquainted with nature develop a keen sense of environmental awareness.

Raising a child who is not homophobic

// This article was written for media/news company “Youth ki Awaaz” and has also been published by Women’s Web. It is available at below links:

https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2017/09/raising-a-child-who-is-not-homophobic/

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/10/help-child-accept-homosexuality-as-normal/

The other day we were at a social gathering and my friend’s 8-year-old child came trotting to us. Her innocent inquisitiveness brought an awkward silence into the room which had been bustling with chatter all this while.

“Mummy, Ria said that one of her friends has two fathers and not one mother and one father. How is that possible? Isn’t that funny?”

I shot a glance at my friend whom this question was directed at and I could sense her discomfort as well as a tinge of displeasure on her face. She was almost about to tell the child to go away but I could not stop myself from intruding at that point.

“Come here Shuchi! Well, there is nothing funny in that, dear. Some children have one mummy and one papa, some have two mothers, some like Ria’s friend have two fathers and some have a single parent. It is all normal. You might have found it funny because you have not come across such families before. But they exist and are just like any other family.” 

“Oh! But why are such families not common, Aunty?”

Before I could answer any further, my friend diverted her daughter’s attention towards a tattoo artist and rolled her eyes after the children left. I confronted my friend because I knew that she was not opposed to homosexuality and hence, her reaction had left me befuddled. I was genuinely curious to know the reason she dismissed her daughter instead of making use of the opportunity to talk to her about homosexuality. I discovered that she felt it was too early to discuss about “such” things with her daughter and that she didn’t want to wreck and pollute her mind with “all this” talk. She, however, was grateful to me for handling the situation as best as I could. I didn’t prod her further but I did feel sad for the child.

While there is increasing awareness and acceptance of sexuality in today’s times, we still have a long way to go before it becomes a norm socially and legally. I strongly believe that a lot of the change that we wish to see in the world will come about from the way we raise the next generation. If we truly want to raise children who are not homophobic, we need to accept it wholly ourselves first. It is one thing to be aware of it but it’s very important to normalize homosexuality for our children without judging them for their questions or chiding them over it. If they witness us feeling embarrassed or cringing when the conversation steers towards such topics, or if they watch us mocking someone due to their sexual orientation, they are certainly going to imbibe it all from us.

7 tips to keep your child safe this Diwali

//This article has been sponsored by Dettol and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

https://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/7-tips-to-keep-your-child-safe-this-diwali

It’s that time of the year! Diwali is around the corner and every household is bustling with enthusiasm. Preparations for the “Festival of Lights” are on in full swing. It’s heart-warming to witness the manner in which the kids are also getting involved with equal fervour. Diwali is indisputably one of the most celebrated festivals in India and it signifies the victory of light over darkness, good over evil, knowledge over ignorance, and hope over despair. In today’s world when we are all caught up with our chaotic and frenzied schedules, personally for me Diwali is also the time to unwind and spend quality time with my loved ones. My daughter is now a toddler who understands what is going on around her, hence this time she is looking forward to thoroughly enjoy the merriment and splendour associated with this much-loved festival.

Since few years, we have been celebrating cracker-free Diwali. Offering our prayers to almighty, decorating our home with beautiful lights, relishing lip-smacking delicacies and bonding with those who matter – this is the essence of Diwali for us. As a result of this, my daughter will not directly be engaged in burning firecrackers but there are many other factors we intend to take care of to ensure a safe and joyful Diwali experience for her. Below are a few hacks that one can follow to keep children safe this Diwali.

Make sure kids are not unattended at any point: While this may seem like an obvious thing to mention, it is important nevertheless. Diwali has been the cause for quite a few accidents as per statistics. This is a festival which keeps us busy in many ways and unintentionally, we might tend to lose focus while keeping a watch on our children. Please keep in mind that firecrackers, diyas, candles, matchsticks etc. are potentially dangerous and can be injurious for kids. Hence, ensure that they are supervised at all times during the festivities.

A Letter To My Daughter On International Girl Child Day

// This letter has been published by Women’s Web on the occasion of International Girl Child Day and is available at the below link:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/10/the-perfect-woman-a-letter-to-my-daughter-on-international-girl-child-day/

Dear Daughter,

Today is International Girl Child Day and this day always evokes myriads of emotions within me. As you grow, you will comprehend the significance of this day in the world that we dwell in but this letter is not just about this one day. This note is, in fact, going to be an aide memoire for me and if I ever try to enforce my beliefs and opinions on you, this will hopefully serve as a reminder for me to back off and let you be.

I endeavour everyday to raise you as a sensitive and strong girl, but achieving this in a patriarchal society is no child’s play. While on one side I will always strive to encourage you to be yourself and stand up for your values, there will be a counterbalancing effect from a section of the society which will threaten to bog you down and crush your fiery spirit. At times, you might struggle to decide what you want to do; you might find it overbearing to fight loved ones and in a bid to want to fit in and be accepted, you may end up losing a bit of yourself.

Beauty does not lie in the eyes of the beholder

// This is one of the winning entries of “Warrior Women” blogathon contest conducted by Women’s Web in association with Juggernaut Books. Fact meets fiction in this tale of two warrior women.

The alarm kept ringing unremittingly but Reeti woke up from her deep slumber only after her mother’s squawk reached her ears. She shot a hasty glance at the clock while she dived towards the bathroom to freshen up. She was late for office again and she knew she would have to face her mother’s wrath as this had become a routine off late. It had been almost 3 months since 23-year-old Reeti began having prolonged midnight conversations with Ritul who lived in Pune. Ritul and Reeti had connected on Facebook through a common close friend. What started as a casual Facebook messenger chat had now turned into a clandestine affair, though there were no talks of commitment from either of them yet.

Reeti gaped at the mirror and felt crestfallen. She was almost in tears looking at the malevolent, outsized pimple that had popped up right at the tip of her nose. All the efforts she had been putting in since the last few days to ensure a scrupulously clear and radiant face had gown down the drain. Ritul was in Mumbai for a customer visit and it was a special day for her – their first date! But she did not want to meet him now. He would also mock at her skin just like some of her friends and relatives did during her growing years. From medical treatments to her grandmother’s hacks, she had tried it all in the past but the pimples kept coming back with a vengeance. There was a time when Reeti was extremely miserable and down in the dumps because apparently no boy had a crush on her ever, even though she was considered to be a benevolent, affable and intelligent girl. But, once she began working for a leading MNC, her self-confidence increased and the thoughts about her physical appearance started taking a backseat. Though she had never met Ritul, she felt a connection with him and was keen to take this relationship forward. He seemed to be a sensitive and level-headed man but Reeti was too scared to lose her worth in his eyes. She did not want him to think of her as an unappealing woman and wanted to look beautiful for him.  But, the bulky bump on her face had shattered her desire. With a heavy heart and moist eyes, she sent him a text message.

“Sorry Ritul, I cannot meet you this time. Something very urgent has come up at office and I will have to work late hours. Hope you understand. Hugs!”

Are we worth it?

// This article was chosen as the top article on India’s largest parenting platform mycity4kids in the month of August 2017. This was also published by media/news company “Youth ki Awaaz” and is available at the below link:

https://www.youthkiawaaz.com/2017/08/are-we-worth-it/

Bhavya traversed down the memory lane as the classic patriotic numbers played out one after the other in her locality. The reminiscences of her humming these songs along with her friends in their school bus brought the rare authentic curve on her lips. She recollected how she used to wait ardently to gorge on the delectable laddoos offered by her school on the occasion of Independence Day post the flag hoisting event. Her heart yearned for those idyllic days.  Lost in her own thoughts of her erstwhile life, she was blissfully unaware that her next client for the day had stepped into the room and was calling out for her. Her reverie was broken by the blaring honking of a vehicle in close vicinity and she realized that the musical extravaganza had concluded as well. On a reflex, she turned around and fear gripped her. Had she frittered her client’s valuable time away? Before Bhavya could apologize, she had been stripped off her garments and her façade had been put on. Bhavya had become Rosy. Rosy was aware that there was no way to escape from the besmirched, dingy brothel. She wondered if she would ever be able to breathe freedom again. The 17 year old was awaiting her Independence Day.

Raghu was an optimistic and affable soul. To the world, he was blind but he could see through the darkness he was born with and at times, could probably even observe what the people with the finest eyesight missed. He often thought that maybe, God had compensated him with this innate knack of sensing people’s emotions and mind-sets. He earned a meagre income, just enough to survive, by performing his daily job as the milk delivery boy in a particular neighbourhood. He had completed his basic education and could also type well on a computer. Those who knew him were often amazed by his independence and self-sufficiency. One day, a lady walked up to him to seek permission to cover a story about him. She clicked his pictures as he posed with a beaming smile and gave him hope when she mentioned about how the story would undeniably go viral and make him instantly famous. Though recognition was nowhere on his priority list, he presumed it would make it easier for him to get another job, a more respectable one, which could help him improve his living conditions and support his debt-ridden family. He was confident about his capabilities but unfortunately, most people did not even give him the benefit of doubt and assumed that his visual impairment would be a deterrent to his dedication and effort. So, as expected, his story did go viral but nothing altered for Raghu. A few did mention to him that they were proud to share his story as they “knew” him. Life was still the same for him – the same old routine, the same old “isolation” and the same old “pitiful stares”. At times, he speculated about the reason why no one out of the many who read his story felt that he was worthy enough. Perhaps, they were now engaged in making another story go viral.

It takes a village to raise my child

Chosen by BlogAdda among the top picks of the week

// This post has also been published by Women’s Web and is available at the below link:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/08/it-takes-a-village-to-raise-a-child/

The baby yowled again. She sighed! She wanted to prepare dinner and was already running late with her chores. But the impish 21 months old would not allow her to perform any task and bawled the moment she turned towards the stove. She tried all the tricks to keep the toddler occupied but when nothing worked, she was left with no choice but to hold the tiny tot in one hand and cook. It was uncomfortable because she was making Koftas and hence, had to be tremendously vigilant to ensure there was no spluttering of oil on the child cocooned in her arms. Sounds like a typical day in the life of a mother? Well, yes it is, except that the child is definitely mine but the lady in question is not me, but is my close friend who lives in my neighbourhood.  That is the kind of bond my little one shares with my loved ones who reside in my housing complex.

Friends have always played a pivotal role in my life. Needless to say, my family means the world to me and I cannot imagine my life without them. But, my friends are my lifeline and they occupy a unique place in my heart. My friends have stood by me like a rock in every circumstance come what may. They have looked after me during times of illness or despair, when I was away from family. They have watched my back and instilled in me the confidence to be myself. They have brought out the best in me by invariably egging me on to tap and hone my abilities. They have always made me feel like a star. They have given me immeasurable moments to cherish for a lifetime. They have taught me lessons about life which no book or teacher could ever edify me on.

A letter to a Mom from her Toddler

// This letter was published by Women’s Web and is also available at the below link:

http://www.womensweb.in/2017/10/toddlers-tantrum-dear-mom-a-letter-to-a-mom-from-her-toddler/

Dear Mom,

It seems like I gave you a very hard time today like I do on most days perhaps, as I can sense by your exhausted and flustered state. I am sorry but I did not mean to do so. I know there are times when you are at your wits end because you are unable to figure out the reason for my tantrum or outburst. But trust me Mom, that during such times, even I have no clue about the cause of my tears or feeling of distress. I am still learning about a lot of things. I have just begun to acknowledge my feelings. I have just started understanding the ways of the world. There is still so much that I cannot comprehend.

I know that you get tired of my howling at times. “Why do you have to cry or scream for everything!” you say. I am sorry mom but I am slowly learning to express myself and don’t know how to handle my emotions yet. I can communicate but I have a long way to go before I can talk to you clearly about what is going on in my mind. When you refuse to let me do stuff which I am keen to do, I feel unhappy. I want to explore everything in this world which I have only recently begun to perceive with my own senses. But, according to you I cannot do certain things and I wonder why. You explain to me about danger on some occasions but I don’t really recognize the safety risks you speak about and even if I do, I am not yet capable of retaining it all in my memory.

D For “Do Not Judge A Child With Your Own Yardstick”

//This article has been sponsored by Dettol and was first published on mycity4kids. Below is the link to it:

http://www.mycity4kids.com/parenting/my-voice/article/d-for-do-not-judge-a-child-with-your-own-yardstick

It was a lazy, summer afternoon and the clock seemed to be ticking away at a sluggish pace. I was racking my brain to figure out the next activity to keep my toddler occupied as she wasn’t ready to shut her eyes for a quick nap. I am amazed by the stamina of these tiny tots who can tussle with sleep and stay hyper-active even when their body is signalling otherwise. The buzzing of my mobile handset jostled me out of my thoughts and I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by my friend who lives in the same locality. She had been keen to visit us since a while and apprised me that she would be arriving in a few minutes. I was eagerly looking forward to meet her and her infant, and rushed to churn curd to prepare a beverage for them. They were home soon and I was introduced by my friend to her mother-in-law who was accompanying her as they had arrived directly from a mall. After the typical exchange of pleasantries, I offered some homemade snacks along with iced buttermilk for them to relish. As we spent a while indulging in some general chit-chat, the topic of discussion steered towards parenting which was bound to happen with two children around. My 2 year old daughter was clinging to me, hence Aunty tried to garner her attention by engaging her in a conversation. After a few unsuccessful attempts, finally my daughter started responding but lost interest when Aunty began to ask her about what the various English alphabets stand for.

“Sweetheart, you didn’t tell me what does ‘D’ stand for? ‘D’ for…??”

Mommy’s First Day Of Preschool

// This article was referenced by parenting expert, Dr. Debmita Dutta, from “What Parents Ask” in her article on preschool transition. Below is the link to the article:

http://whatparentsask.com/reduce-separation-anxiety-leave-child-school/

If you are a parent to an infant or a toddler, in all likelihood, you must have experienced more than one “I wish I could get a few hours of peace” moment. And then, that day arrives at last with a boom. The first day of your child at preschool/school! All that you love to do but never got a chance to indulge in due to parental responsibilities, you save for this big moment. “I will write more once my child starts going to school”. “I will watch movies when my child starts going to school”. “I will catch up on my lost sleep when my child starts going to school”. “I will visit the parlour at peace and pamper myself once my child starts going to school.” “I will this.” “I will that.” Isn’t the list endless? But, all you do once the child is away is sit aimlessly and cast a vacant, faraway stare into infinity.

So, yesterday was my daughter’s first day at preschool. No, let me correct that – it was my first day! Because I definitely seemed to be the more anxious, besieged and lost one. She is almost 2.5 years old and I was amazed at her confidence in handling this transformation sportingly and with zeal and alacrity. I had decided to wait outside the premises of the school on the first day but was advised by her teacher to leave once she settled down. When I reached home, I could sense restlessness creeping inside me and then, without a warning I could feel hot tears trickling down. Damn, I was weeping! I sincerely don’t know why but I was. Maybe because I was terribly missing the presence of my daughter and could feel the void; maybe because the peace I was desperately waiting for seemed like a sinister stranger whose noise was more deafening than the tumult created by my daughter’s antics; maybe because I was feeling guilty about having been a bit harsh on my daughter over the last few days due to extreme toddler meltdowns, whereas she made things trouble-free for me at such a crucial juncture of our lives; maybe because I was fretting over her well-being as she faces this big bad world outside; maybe because of the fact that she is growing at rocket speed and time is just slipping through my fingers like sand; maybe because I was genuinely glad and keyed up about her entering this new and vital phase of  her life; or maybe because it dawned upon me that finally I have to take that first step towards cutting the umbilical cord.