Monthly Archives: September 2014

Toddler Talk: Confusion Central

Too many parenting choices making you crazy? You have company

Sometimes, at the end of another day of toddler parenting, I’m emotionally and mentally exhausted. And it isn’t my daughter’s fault. On these days, the trouble is all in my own head, the result of over-thinking, over-analysing, and over-worrying every little parenting choice or decision I have to make. It’s like having a half a dozen or so hyperactive squirrels running round and round in circles within the confines of my brain. Let me tell you, it’s not fun.

The worst part is knowing that I’m solely responsible for all the confusion. This generation of yuppie parents are uniquely gifted in this regard. We have too many options. We read too much – too many different perspectives in too many parenting books and news articles and websites. We sit on the fence between the traditional and the modern (Western?), flip-flopping awkwardly between the two. We obsess about the right choices to make, terrified of making the wrong ones.

For instance, do you do the traditional mottai (tonsure) or not? For the record, I didn’t. But then I wonder often if I should. One squirrel in my brain squeaks that the older folks have it right. Maybe the hair the child is born with should be removed for her well-being. Then the other squirrel pipes up – nonsense! The rest of the world manages just fine without turning kids bald in the first few years of their lives.

Squirrel 1: But there’s a reason why we have this tradition, isn’t there?

Squirrel 2: But the baby curls! So pretty!

You see? Round and round in circles.

Let’s talk about that other rite of passage… piercing your baby’s delicate, petal-like earlobes when she’s just an infant (holes! In those tiny, tiny lobes!). What’s the best time to do it? What’s the best way? Gun-shot or the traditional method? What about infection (oh my god, oh my god!)? Do you trust a jewellery shop to do it or go to a doctor? Squirrels, lots and lots of them.

It’s not just the traditional stuff. Vaccines are a huge part of it. As if the first year of parenting wasn’t hard enough already, you need to go every few minutes (or so it seems) and watch the doctor stick a big needle in your baby while you stand by helplessly and the child sobs as though the world is ending. Not to mention the fussing, and the mild fevers and rashes that follow. It’s all for the good of the child, though, isn’t it? Unfortunately, there’s always the internet to shatter your peace. ‘Vaccines are evil!’ shouts one site, ‘Conspiracy by Big Pharma!’ shouts another. Your doctor looks beyond exasperated when you ask her yet again if the vaccine is really, really needed, but you can’t help yourself. Whom do you trust? The world tells you – no one. Then what to do? Squirrels! Squirrels everywhere!

The choice of school, of course, is another one that makes us turn grey (or fat, depending on your stress-eating habits). Traditional schools or alternative? Big or small? AC or non-AC, basic?

It keeps adding up. And it’s all the worse because every person you meet seems set to judge you instantly. Should you teach your child only her mother tongue or more of the English she going to need in school? Either way, you’re going to hear “She doesn’t understand English?” or “Tamizh theriyada?” The list is endless… food choices (processed or natural? Maggie or ragi?), vitamins and tonics (evil or necessary?), disciplining (there are about 15 million books, articles and blogs written on this one topic alone, and about 15 million opinions more), and so on.

It would be easier, of course, if we just did what our mothers and grandmothers did before us, follow blindly in their footsteps. But that’s out of the question. We’re too ‘enlightened’. So we worry. We muddle. We confuse. And the squirrels in the brain go round and round, round and round, round and round…

TIPS:

  1. No helpful suggestions on this one. Too squirreled out.
  2. You’re on your own. You don’t know whom to trust. What right? What’s wrong?
  3. Panic attack? Join the club. Here, have a cup of camomile tea.

‘Toddler Talk’ is a lighthearted weekly column that appears in The Hindu MetroPlus

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Five reasons why it helps to be drunk while dealing with your toddler

Disclaimer: This was written when I was three glasses of wine donw… I mean down. Hee hee.

1. It seems funny when she spits out the idli you’re feeding her. Whooo look at that trajectory. Good job! *clap clap*

2. The terrific mess she and her bestie made in the drawing room suddenly becomes an amusing obstacle race. Wheee look at me go! Didn’t step on the broken guitar. Yessss! 

3. The five millionth repetition of whatever repellent cartoon she’s watching doesn’t bother you in the least. You haven’t seen it spin around in quite this way before. Joke’s on you, kid. One more episode? Suuuuure. Go right ahead.

4. It doesn’t even bother you that she seems to be coming down with the fifth cold of this month. Sneeze. Blow your nose. Or not. Whatever. 

5. Bedtime? What’s that? “Amma, I want to sleep!” Seriously? Ok, now I’m just hallucinating…

 

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Toddler Talk: The “Parents of Fussy Eaters” Support Group

There are few jobs as frustrating and just plain exhausting as feeding a toddler with fussy eating habits.

If toddlers were like camels, it wouldn’t matter as much; we could just stuff them with one really good meal a day and then relax while they subsist on the good stuff stored away in their humps or whatever. Unfortunately, they’re more like hyperactive hamsters that burn calories nonstop by running round and round in circles, so you need to feed them three times a day and add healthy snacks in between. The result? Your whole day pretty much revolves around planning what to give them at each meal, and making sure it’s ready on time. Then you need to wheedle them into actually trying the food, selling the dish like some desperate door-to-door salesman (“Paruppu sadam is Dora’s favourite, I swear!”), before finally spending an hour feeding it to them. By the time you’re done with one meal, it’s time to regroup and start thinking about the next.

There’s no step of this process that’s simple. Entire food groups need to be left out simply because your toddler has decided they’re “yucky”. There are no guarantees whatsoever — what was ‘in’ last week or even last night might be on the barf-list today.

And so, for all those parents out there who struggle with this meal after meal, snack after snack, day after day, I propose the creation of the Parents of Fussy Eaters (POFE) support group. This is a non-judgmental space, a place where no one will say, “Your child looks so thin! Has she lost weight?” and no one will blink an eye if you say she had banana chips and ketchup for dinner last night because that’s all she would eat.

We’ll be there for you when your toddler refuses to even taste the soup she claimed she LOVED just last week. We’ll hold your hand when she eats barely two morsels of the dish you spent all evening cooking for her (“It’s kaaram!”). We’ll listen while you rant about the way she ravenously ate curd rice — the one thing she will not touch at home — at your friend’s house, just moments after you’d finished assuring the friend that she definitely wouldn’t eat it. We’ll share in your wistfulness as you watch another child wolf down a full festival feast and wipe his ilai clean, while yours has eaten about one-fifth of a dosa. We’ll pat your shoulder understandingly when you confess that your child sometimes has lunch at 4 p.m. because breakfast took till noon. We’ll even help you lose that extra weight you’ve gained because of eating all those ghee/butter/cheese-filled delicacies your toddler wouldn’t finish. And provide therapy when you snap from having to watch the same cartoon over and over again three times a day, seven days a week, because it’s the only thing that makes your child eat.

You can call our helpline any time, after the trauma of breakfast, lunch or dinner, or after you’ve spent half an hour trying to feed your child half a banana, which now lies in little spit-pools all over your drawing room. You could get mad and decide to just let her eat whatever she wants. But you know you’ll pay the price for that with a night-long tummy ache session, because her idea of a balanced meal is probably chocolate cake and cola.

Instead, call us or attend one of our meetings. No one here will give you advice or thrust super-nutritious recipes on you, recipes so complicated that even the ingredients intimidate you, and no one will look horrified if you say your child hasn’t eaten any vegetable other than potato in three months.

At POFE, we’re simply here to listen to each other’s hair-raising, appetite-killing stories. And, in the process, help you keep your sanity through yet another long meal with your fussy eater.

TIPS:

1. Membership to the Parents of Fussy Eaters (POFE) support group is free. You’ve suffered enough.

2. You’re only required to prove adequate fussiness. Parents concerned that their kid didn’t go back for a third helping at the buffet need not apply.

3. The only advice we give at POFE is: toddlers are hardier than they seem. Don’t sweat the small stuff. Too much.

‘Toddler Talk’ is a weekly column that appears in The Hindu Metroplus. 

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