Wednesday, July 25, 2007

Brick walls, tiled steps and toddler...

I find myself to be in some state of anxiety pretty much all the time that my twenty three month old son is awake and running around. I was not this way until baby girl (who is now a month old) arrived. I am constantly worried about my little boy's safety. We moved to a two level house early this year - the bedrooms are upstairs and the other rooms are downstairs. There is a fire place with a slightly raised brick platform in front of it and beautiful mantel shelf and large mirror above it. All the rooms down stairs have tiled floors and there are two long tiled steps leading to the small foyer area and outside door. The stairs are carpeted but the floor just below it is tiled.
Every time I sit in the master bedroom to nurse baby girl, my son hangs out talking non stop, bringing things from drawers, jumping up and down the bed, fiddling around with things in the room, throwing baby girl's hat up and down and trying to catch it...and then suddenly he runs out of the room wearing baby girl's blanket over his head saying "Kanume" (peekaboo). And I panic. Right outside the room is the staircase. I tell my mother to keep an eye on my son while I am up in my room nursing baby girl. She waits for some time and sees that my son is busy playing with me inside the room. He is able to open the bedroom door even if I shut it tight or worse still he tries to pull on it and I am afraid he will fall down thud and hurt himself while I am sitting in the bed. So I don't shut the door. I imagine him tumbling down the stair case and landing on the tiled floor below and I feel panic setting in. I scream for my mom and ask her to keep an eye on him. Sometimes if she doesn't hear me I just have to abruptly stop the nursing and run to make sure he is safe and is not wandering around like a little ghost with a blanket over his head.
While he is playing downstairs he runs around the rooms - just runs - round and round - and like Charlie Chaplin goes and rams his big head on the edge of the kitchen cabinet and looks startled and starts crying when he realizes he is in pain. Two days back he ran from one end of the living room to the fire place area screaming "curever, curever" (meaning screw driver) in an excited voice and fell flat on the floor and hit his nose on the brick platform by the fire place. He had three gash marks on his swollen nose for a day - thankfully it has subsided.
I am constantly afraid he will hurt himself badly and I find it stressful to worry about this every time he runs around or when I am upstairs with baby girl unable to fully keep an eye on him. He IS quite careful on the one hand but goes into his own world of thought while climbing up and down the stairs.
Now I must come across as an over protective wimp of a mom. I thought so myself. But the other day a friend, his wife and two children visited us at night. Their son is 16m old and he was running around the house. He was running around playing and suddenly fell down and hit his forehead on the tiled step and was bleeding. They panicked on seeing the deep mark and all that blood. They were ready to go to the ER but the blood flow had stopped and it didn't look serious. My friend was insistent they go to the doctor just in case...his wife was too tired and was worried about the older child having to wait three hours in the ER for a simple cut. It was a simple cut but thankfully so. It could have been something that demanded ER attention. Now my friends say they will not move to a non carpeted house or a bi-level until both their children are a few years old.
This incident has added to my stress levels. I feel as if we are getting lucky each day in escaping with just mild bruises and bumps when kutti boy runs around the house.
When I was a child, the house we were in was a very large house but like a lot of old houses, it was not carefully planned nor child friendly. There were heavy brick steps leading to the dining room and I have had many a fall there.
How do parents in India manage this problem (this is not in any way India bashing - in case it comes across that way!)- or rather this fear? Houses are built of hard bricks and concrete. Much easier for a child to get seriously hurt if he/she bangs on the wall at an angle. No one there seems to be stressed about this issue as much as we here stress out. Are we just being over protective? I am wondering if we should move to another place before baby girl joins her brother in his antics!
I hate this feeling of stress and anxiety all day. I don't seem to be suffering from post partum depression which many people warned me about with both pregnancies. But I was not prepared to feel so anxious about the kid's safety - wondering if all of you go through this also or if am being unduly paranoid?

In response to Moppet's comment:
We do have a gate downstairs for the steps. We cannot have one upstairs - the way the stair case is designed. Even the downstairs gate is not working out a)because if I go up leaving kutti boy downstairs he cries his heart out - makes me feel very bad - especially since I have to nurse every third hour b) he has now started pulling on the gate which is even more dangerous.

Table edges have not been too much of an issue so far - I bought table cushions but it is not fitting into some of the table edges - keeps falling off. We plan to go to Home Depot this weekend and find out if we can carpet the foyer area and the tiled steps alone. Tiled floors are great to keep clean and avoid allergies for the kids.
I am not sure how we can child proof the brick platform near the fire place.

I am really curious how parents deal with this issue in India since you cannot possibly child proof all that brick and stone areas! Of course they learn by falling and it is happening here regardless of my worrying - but I just hope it is stops with minor bruises.

Saturday, July 21, 2007

Favorite Indian Writing

Tagged by Swati and Mystic Margarita. Thanks Sawti and MM.
Here are a few of my favorite Indian books...

Small remedies – Sashi Deshpande.

It is a brilliant novel that delves into the lives of two women, Savitribai, a musician and Leela, a communist active in public service, both rebels in their own way. Madhu, Leela’s niece travels to Bai’s home to write her biography. Madhu, who has lost her only son Adit, tries to make sense of her own life by exploring Bai’s life. It has some brilliant lines that are powerful and moving.
Without mentioning the context I will write a couple of lines from the book.

“Not fair to Adit? How can anything be fair to him now? Why do we speak of the dead as if they have any connection with us, our lives, with life itself? It’s all over for them. The finality of death makes nonsense of any idea of their responses”.

The Bachelor of Arts – R.K.Narayanan

I simply love RKN’s writing style. This book is one of my RKN favorites. It is the story of Chandran, a young man who graduates with a Bachelor of Arts and steps into the real world. In typical elegant RKN style, he brings out the charm of simple south Indian life especially in the context of marriage. Chandran falls in love with Malathi and his eagerness to marry her is brought about with such sweet humor, you will become so involved in Chandran’s emotions yourself.
Chandran waits for Malathi’s horoscope to be delivered to his parents but there is more of a delay than Chandran or his parents expected. Chandran offers to actually go and ask the girl’s side for a copy of the horoscope. His mother is afraid he might actually do it and embarrass them. Some of my favorite scenes from the novel:

Father laughed and told it to Mother who became scared and said, “Chandra, please don’t do it. It would be a very curious procedure. They will send the horoscope themselves.”
Father said to Chandran, “Look here, you will never be qualified to marry unless you cultivate a lot of patience. It is the only power that you will be allowed to exercise when you are married”.
Mother looked at Father suspiciously and said, “Will you kindly make your meaning clearer?”

M.S : A life in music – T.J.S George

This is a must read for anyone who is a fan of M.S.Subbulakshmi or for that matter anyone who loves music. The biography of the legendary modern day musical saint – M.S.Subbulakshmi, by T.J.S George reads like a novel.
M.S.Subbulakshmi, the innocent, talented and beautiful girl from Madurai escapes being paired off with a rich chettiar as per the norms of the “Devadasi” traditions and boards a train to Madras and takes refuge in the home of Sadasivam. This marks the birth of the protagonist, Mr. Sadasivam, who weds M.S in a rush, to ward off the handsome and talented musician GNB for whom MSS had developed a soft spot, reading almost unbelievably like the traditional love triangle script from modern day Tamil cinema. Sadasivam transforms the simple girl from who fled home into a film actress and then to a saintly figure of carnatic music accepted and appreciated world over. Mr. George summarizes the relationship between M.S.S and Sadasivam into an unforgettable epiphany “ If M.S made melody, Sadasivam made M.S”.
Like an onion peel, the saintly image of MSS is peeled layer by layer to reveal her human quality and yet her absolute and unflinching dedication to music, her guileless demeanor and humility, her divine voice, natural talent, perfect diction and “Shruthi Suddham”, her life long service to innumerable charitable causes all at once wrap her back into an image of a Bhakti saint. Icons are sometimes best kept cloaked in enigma. Knowing their personal stories often tarnishes and strips away the aura around that image. Mr.T.J.S George however skillfully keeps the balance by revealing the human side of the image yet eliciting a sense of wonder and respect from the reader towards M.S.S. He does this in an erudite fashion from having researched the time and history of events and characters that shaped the world of carnatic music at the time MSS emerged in the scene. His biography of MS stands out as unique because it is not a mere recording of events in her life and career. It is placed in the context of social and cultural history of the times in which her musical career developed.

A fine Balance – Rohinton Mistry

I don’t often cry for novels or movies. I do get moved but this book really left me crying at the end. I finished reading this novel at 2.00 am one morning and I called my husband (we were on opposite coasts then) and bawled on the phone! It may be sleep deprivation that made me that* emotional but it will no doubt move you to tears.
It is an amazing novel really.
Set in 1975, during a state of emergency declared by the government, this novel revolves around the lives of four people, a widow, a student and two tailors who have fled their native town to the city. It is a brilliant narrative and has so much intensity to it that you will actually not mind reading through some 600 pages (I find it hard to get through such long novels unless they are really good and engaging) of it.

Some of my favorite lines:
“I have sad news” he said. “Chachaji had an accident and passed away”.
The tailors were too distraught, however to be able to mourn the loss or fully comprehend it. Yesterday’s events in the market square had merged with all other tragedies in their lives. “Thank you for coming to inform us,” Ishvar kept saying mechanically. “I must attend the funeral and Om will also come, yes he will be better tomorrow”.
When you read this line in the context of the lives of these characters, you will understand how when tragedy strikes again and again, emotions can be numbed out. It is a beautiful novel worth a read.

Harvest – Manjula Padmanabhan

This is probably the only English play I have read by an Indian author. I can’t think of any others that I have read. It reminded me of Samuel Beckett’s play, “Waiting for Godot” in how it made me feel after I read the play.
Harvest is basically a play about the harvesting of human organs from poor people. It revolves around a family of four – Om, his brother, his mother and his wife. It is futuristic and has a vein of dark humor running through it. It leaves you feeling disturbed and anxious about society in general. I don’t enjoy that feeling. Nevertheless, it is a brilliant play that I am glad to have read.

Arangam – Sujatha Vijayaraghavan

This is not a well-known book but it surprises me that it is so because it is an amazing Tamil novel in my opinion. Note, this is not a novel by the famous Tamil novelist Sujatha (who is also one of my favorites). This is by Mrs.Sujatha Vijayaraghavan who is a talented writer, choreographer and musician. She hails from a family of musicians and it shows in the ease and flair with which she has written this novel about an aspiring vocalist in the world of carnatic music. It has enough drama in it to keep your attention and make it “unputdownable”. She describes the emotions of the main character in eloquent Tamil – the language itself flows like music in some of her passages. I thoroughly enjoyed the book. Unfortunately I don’t have the book with me now – one of those “borrowed and may take long long time to come back” book. If not I could have quoted some lines from the book to give an idea.

It looks like most of the bloggers I know have been tagged for this already. In anycase, will ask SS, Terri, Rbdans, UTBT, Agelessbonding, Cantaloupes Amma - please if you don't mind - would be nice to read about your favorite Indian books...

Sunday, July 15, 2007

On accepting a new person at home...

Before I had my second child I was very curious to see her. Just imagining how she would look made me very curious to actually see her. Would she be similar to my son in her looks, her temperament? I was also very curious to see how my son would react to her arrival. I was worried sick for months as to how he will handle my being away at the hospital and if he would create a huge fuss and cry loudly at the hospital when he visited me. Miraculously, he behaved so well and accepted my being away for two days despite never having been away from me for more than a few hours. But when he came to visit me at the hospital his reaction to the new baby was cool indifference. He just took a cursory glance at her, was mildly curious but he moved on to focusing on his mamma...he would come and sit right next to me in the bed for the whole hour and half he spent in the hospital room.
The morning after baby girl's birth, the nurse came to check her vitals. A very experienced older nurse, she was pleasant and asked me about my family and how the older one was taking to the arrival of the new baby. When I told her about his reaction and how I worried if he would be violent with her or would be very cranky from the sudden shift in my attention, she told me this: "Well, some one told me, you know - how would you feel if your husband brought home another wife and told you you had to accept it?!". Goodness - I didn't need that analogy to drive home the point. But it certainly did. Is that how bad it feels for him to share my time and attention (or his dad or grandma) with another new baby at home? Every time he gets cranky these days I tell myself I have to be understanding and be patient. I try, I really do. I spend all my free time with him what ever little there is of it. Even when I check my mails quickly or sit down to have my cereal in the morning, I ask him to sit right next to me and I am always engaging him in conversation. I make it a point to take him for a walk or to the park for him to play in the evenings. We make sure to take him on some outing on weekends. Every effort is being made in my opinion to make him feel secure. So when evening time comes and my husband has not yet returned from work, if my son acts cranky and does crazy things (like bring a sippy cup with Gatorade and reach up the crib and drop it in while I am stuck in position nursing the little one) - I just lose it. I feel angry that I am making every effort to not make him feel left out and yet he is demanding more of my attention. For those few seconds when I am driven to the edge I forget that he is still a child and that he is being incredibly generous in fact in how affectionate he is with his little sister and how accepting he is of her. All he wants is my love and attention and a constant reassurance that that hasn't changed. When things have calmed down and dinner has been fed and baby girl has gone to bed, I sit with him for an hour before he goes to bed. He used to run around the house playing kick the ball with his father during that time normally. But these days all he wants to do is to just soak up my free time and sit on my lap and hear me sing his favorite songs and wait me to ask "Appram yenna?" (what next?) and he will tell me the beginning words of the next line in the song. Those moments are just so precious and I feel so much at peace then. Until the next day...
For now I tell myself the only way to deal with all this is day by day....

Wednesday, July 11, 2007

Kutti boy with baby sister

So how is the kutti boy taking the arrival of his little sister?
Well he loves her really. So far - he has been very affectionate with her. Calls her "KuTTi papa" with a stress on the T's. And grinds his teeth and comes close to her and gently pats her on the cheek.
And then pats her a little more...
Which suddenly grows into an extra dose of affection and the pressure increases on the pat pat...
So far so good. Let's see how long this gentleness lasts in how he treats his little sister...

Monday, July 09, 2007

Is it luck?

I recently heard someone comment "Man, guys with children who's moms stay home with the child instead of working are so lucky!". This was said most innocuously. No malice intended really. But it still irks me to hear this or variations of this comment which are in fact quite patronizing or plain insulting. The latter sorts often in fact come from working women...I have heard this from someone " I don't know how you guys do it, I just can't imagine being cooped up at home with my kid all day". Or "You are so lucky - you get to spend so much time with your child".
So is it luck really? Hardly so. It is a choice we all make. Most of the people who make such comments are not in economically underprivileged situations that they have to work. They just chose to work and have their child be dropped off in day care. What is luck is if they have someone young and able that they absolutely trust that can give them the kind of care they would have given themselves had they stayed home with their child. Some people have the grandmother and father come and take care of the child for the first year while they go to work soon after the maternity leave ends. I am okay with their choice but I find it very annoying if they just make it seem like luck played some role in some of us spending more time with our children. When you spend time taking care of two kids and feel completely exhausted you hardly feel like it is "luck" favoring you. It is a difficult and tiring job to do that all day and it is a choice we make. Yes it is probably a lot more chaotic and challenging when both the mother and father are working especially if they have to leave their child in day care. I don't necessarily feel like I am luckier than them nor do I make such comments to them. Somehow I get this feeling that there are some working women who think it is a failure on our part to have put our career on hold and choose to stay home with the children for the first couple of years. Different strokes for different folks. You have to do what works for you and what you feel comfortable with. But to belittle the amount of work it takes to be a stay at home mom and subtly put it down with these kind of comments is plain rude. But how do you respond to such comments when it is made so subtly!
Well - I could go on and on about this - but I have to get going now - the night duty starts now! Two or three cycles of night time feedings and a little sleep every now and then to look forward to! In the meanwhile squeezed in time for a quick rant in my post!