Saturday, February 26, 2011

The ipad generation

I just read this article in the NYT from a concerned parent worried about her 6 year old's addiction to ipad.  As parents in this high tech world, honestly, I feel combating distractions and playing the authority figure who decides how much is too much when it comes to screen time of sorts is getting to be a little challenging.  And this when my kids are just 5.5 and 3.5 years old.  I have not felt the challenge yet.  But I know it has started.

When KB was 3 years old, my friend used to often ask me how I managed to never turn the TV on for him.  I never found it difficult because somehow he didn't ask for it, I had not exposed him to it much and I knew that when he is five or so and he gets into it, he will anyway get plenty of it.  If I had to cook, I would for example set out two little jars of water and some smaller cups and spoons and he would pour/transfer/spill etc but it would keep him occupied for a long time.  He was a calmer child then.  He turned four, became this hyper energetic child, moved to a different preschool where his closest buddy was a star wars fan and would bring his toy light saber.  KB got into it.  At that time I had also introduced him to a couple of PBS TV shows - Dinosaur train and Sid the science kid - because KB was crazy about dinosaurs (still is to some extent) and he loved Sid the science kid which came on just before Dinosaur train.  We only have basic cable in our house so the kids anyway didn't have nick jr or Disney channel etc to watch.  Aside from these shows KB got into Star wars and Scooby doo.  Being the obsessive kid that he is, he totally got into "Star wars".  I didn't think too much about letting him watch it since he read Star wars books and his close friend also watched it without getting affected by it.  My niece gifted him this big Star wars dictionary or encylopedia, I can't remember - but KB would make us read all that useless information to him but would just sound like a star wars groupie remembering all kinds of details of Sith lords and who has what kind of light saber and what not.  But some good came of it.  He learned a lot of new words.  And Yoda became a good role model for him.  He still considers himself like Yoda when it comes to mind control.  That controlling one's mind can be a very powerful tool.  When he got frustrated say while trying to do a little math problem or a puzzle - he is that way - too hard on himself - tearing up if he can't do it on his own without help - he would try and control his tears saying he is like Yoda.  When he felt anxious about new situations, I would remind him how he is like Yoda and he can control his fears.  And many a time he did work on himself as if he was Yoda.  And then suddenly one day he outgrew the star wars madness.  Moved on to Scooby doo.  My sister, the indulgent aunt that she is, immediately mailed him a scooby-doo DVD set.  From then on, he was crazy about Scooby-doo.  He got a mystery machine along with the characters as a gift.  He played with it every morning after his shower even on school days.  Just a quick hello and time with the characters.  He got a whole bunch of books and it motivated him to read on his own as well since he enjoyed those books.  He moved on from that phase to the Super hero phase - dressed up as Iron man for Halloween and would draw those characters etc etc.  And then moved on from that phase to Ben 10 addiction.  He is totally into it now and as soon as he gets back from school he "slaps on" (as he puts it) his "Omnitrix" and wears it until he goes to bed.  He transforms into different aliens for different situations.  He turns into grey matter when he does his math work or XLR8 when he needs to play outside.  He made an "An I can read book" "Ben 10 guide" on his own - drawing about 17 characters and writing about each of them one the other side of the page.  He was so proud his first book that he created of his own free will.  He is still in the Ben 10 phase - frankly I am getting so tired of it - am waiting for him to outgrow this phase.  All this happens on the side apart from his school work etc - without my ever having to tell him - he will never ask to take his Omnitrix to school.  He constantly asks me about words he learned from Ben 10 - armor, enhanced, admire, priority, astounding, demise - and he points it out to me when I refer to Ben 10 as "Ottandi Ben 10" (useless Ben 10) - Mamma, I do learn things from Ben 10 too! :)

KG who is all of 3.5 now and started preschool only in September has watched all the shows that KB has watched and has listened to me read all kinds of books that I read to KB - Magic tree house series, Flat Stanley series, Magic school bus, and of course all the star wars and scooby books along with all the other non fiction books he reads.  And now if I tell her I am going to eat her up because she is so delicious, she says, Mamma, I am going to become Humongosaur (a Ben 10 alien form) and defeat you!  Which ever phase KB is in, she is in.  And goes with the flow.  Her preschool teacher is this awesome teacher who is a complete natural with kids.  She is also a very wealthy woman whose children are all grown up and is generally in a very happy place in life now.  She is also a huge fan of the ipad.  She has bought several apps for her class kids to use.  KG's teacher emailed me a few weeks back with photos of her playing with the i-pad and said "She is just amazing with it".  She does this snake puzzle by setting it at the highest difficulty level and memory match games etc with great ease.  As I walked in one day to pick her up from school, her teacher Ms.G said to me "Just watch.  She is totally in charge here.  She lets each kid finish their turn, takes the i-pad back from them, goes back to the main page, picks the game, sets the difficulty level for that child and gives each one their turn".  And that is exactly what she was doing.  One of the kids got stuck because he pressed the wrong button and he called out to his teacher to help him.  KG just took the i-pad gently from him and pressed a few buttons and went back to the main page and brought it back to where he was before his teacher could even get to it.  Ms.G turned to me and said, "See, I told you, she is totally in charge here.  She is just amazing with it".  May be it is being the second child or it is her nature.  But I don't know if KB would have done all that with that much ease.  He is more careful with it - he would not pull a puzzle piece into a slot that fast - he would pause to make sure it was the right piece.  Even when he plays chess he thinks so much before making his move.  Their inherent nature plays out even in such small things.

Back to my main point.  How much of all this is too much? KB is now getting into games.  KG is getting addicted to  And when we buy the i-pad this year, am sure there will more of that to deal with - both in good and bad ways.  Moderation is key.  But even deciding what is moderation is hard when you know they are learning something, enjoying themselves too.  And at least so far when the weather is good and we have time we are always at the park.  I make sure they meet with their friends and play rather than sit and watch videos.  But one fall out from all this is the time to play board games.  Between doing school work, piano practice, chess every now and then, and now these computer games and reading books to them, it is so hard to find time to play board games.  When KB was 3 plus we used to play board games almost every night.  I do feel bad about that.  It is not an easy thing I feel - allocating time for the million things.  While the noise drives me crazy at times, I am still most happy when I see KB and KG playing their pretend games for a long time jumping on our bed and hiding under blankets and what not.  No amount of puzzle solving or learning games on the computer matches the joy I feel when I see them do that.  I had my first computer when I was in graduate school.  From that to seeing these kids playing with i-pads at age three, it is taking some adjustment in deciding what's OK and what's not.  Hopefully the kids will turn out OK! What do you think?

Wednesday, February 09, 2011

Do you think about death?

It is quite amazing always to me how the body and mind adapt to changes how ever grudgingly in the beginning.  You can get used to more work or less work just as easily.  The inertia that sets in when you get used to a certain routine and feel so reluctant when you have to change it.  My father-in-law alternates between living in the US and back home.  He came a few days back and it means a lot of changes in my life. Mainly the cooking of full meals every morning and tiffin at night all with less oil and salt.  Going from just cooking for the kids in the morning to planning a full meal every night and rush and cook it in the morning takes some getting used to.  Sometimes it irks me how nothing changes for the "son" pretty much when he "takes care" of the parent/s but so much changes for the DIL and yet the way it is talked about is "Oh, yeah, he is with his son".  Well, I am talking about the average Indian family here, am sure there are many families where this is not the case.

I am very conscious of our duty as a couple towards my father-in-law (as well as to my mother).  I feel sad that he has lost his wife.  My mother-in-law was a very courageous woman in the real sense of the word.  She did not get fazed by difficulties in life.  She could handle most things smartly and without getting too stressed about it.   I miss her myself.  But sometimes when I see my FIL I feel like asking him if he thinks of her, does he miss her or has he gotten used to it?  He very rarely he talks about her except may be in some anecdotal way talking about some event.  I feel bad when I think of how even me and my siblings talk less and less about my father - we do remember him and talk about him - but that intensity with which we used to talk about him the first year he passed away has gone down.  May be because he lived a full life unlike some others I know like my cousin who died of cancer a month after my dad and her son was still in high school.  It doesn't feel so bad when you know someone lived a complete life and passed away before it got to a point of suffering and living on with bad health.  My cousin's death still does not feel real to me - somehow I never shed a tear over it because honestly I could not feel it being so far away.  But I do feel this strange feeling of disbelief, of wanting to talk to her and feeling that pain when I know I cannot talk to her.  Tears, no.  Sometimes my own reactions to loss surprises me.

So back to my FIL.  When I see him go on in the sunset of his life without his life companion and just doing mundane every day tasks from one day to the next, I just wonder what goes on through his mind.  And I can't also help but wonder how will it be for us when we grow old?  Who will go first and how the other will handle it.  I joke to B saying, "Hey, if you dare to go before me, I will kill you!".  And I feel worried almost that B too in his characteristic "head on his shoulders" way of dealing with things will just move on and focus on the future but I will be forgotten.  OK, don't kill me.  I am morbid that way - think a lot about death.  In reality though, how can a living human being mourn all the time? Impossible.  You just have to move on.  Some situations like the death of a child, of course, I can imagine one never ever recovers from that.  Especially if it is an only child and they are left alone after that.  It happened to B's close friend's parents.

The other day my FIL went to his room after his dinner as he always does to read a book for some time and then go to sleep.  I went in to get the kids in bed and when I came out I just peeked in my FIL's room.  He had turned the other way and was sound asleep but with the lights on and no book in hand either.  I got nervous for a second and tapped him and woke him up just to make sure he was OK.  He said he just fell asleep and didn't bother to turn off the lights.  Somehow that image of him alone there with the lights on made me feel sad.  If we had gone to bed may be he would have noticed only in the middle of the night.  It is really not a big deal - yet some images make you feel sad.  One of my friends who used to work out furiously said to me "I am just spending my youth preparing for old age".  And he wasn't fully joking.  And it is true.  In some sense if you don't take care of yourself and end up with bad health in old age, it is a very tough life for both yourself and the care takers.  Which of course in my old age will be some nurse I am sure!

It is as usual late at night, the only time I can write peacefully.  I am a little hungry, tired from a long day and it is late.  May be I shouldn't be posting this one and revealing my morbid thoughts to every one.  Do any of you ever wonder about these sorts of things?

Thursday, February 03, 2011

May I be excused? Not.

KB had his surgical procedure done the day before yesterday early in the morning.  The two moles (atypical neuvi) were scraped off and stitches were put in by the dermatologist surgeon.  I had bought KB an Omnitrix
as a reward for cooperating with us to get this done.  I figured I might as well give it to him before the surgery rather than after it.  It sure came in handy because KB was completely distracted by it and talking about it the morning of the surgery.  He talked about it and explained the whole concept of Ben 10 and the different alien forms to the nurses.  When the anesthesiologist walked in and was talking to him, he challenged her saying, "I am sure I wont fall asleep no matter how much anesthesia you give me.  I have too much energy".  She was this tall, supremely confident sounding woman who turned to me and said, "He sure is a talker. I could talk to him for the next four hours!".  When it was time for him to be wheeled into the OR, I told KB I would see him in a few minutes.  I felt bad conning him like that but I had no choice.  I didn't want him to feel the anxiety.  I knew a minute after going in, they would give him the general anesthesia.

We took KG along with us to the hospital.  Both kids woke up by 5.45 a.m. that day.  B got her ready for school at 8.30 a.m. while I was inside with KB.  He dropped her at school and came back by 9.30 a.m. I was so sleepy because I had not slept much at all and I had not had anything to drink since the previous night - I just could not get myself to that morning because we were not allowed to give KB anything to drink until after the surgery.  B saw me slouched on the waiting room chair and went downstairs to get coffee and Biscotti. Of course, Murphy's law - exactly at that point the surgeon came out to tell me, "KB is up.  But he is mad because he is in a new place and he is a little disoriented because the anesthesia is wearing out".  I ran in and saw him crying loudly, with IV needles and electrodes for monitoring still stuck on him.  He hates to even have band-aid on himself longer than needed.  He was hungry, disoriented and angry with the doctors for "troubling him so much".  Somehow we managed to sign all the discharge papers and got him into the car seat and started driving when he instantly fell asleep.  He slept for a couple of hours after we got home.  He had some milk after he woke up though it was lunch time.  He had some cereal and then asked to shower.  He normally likes to shower first thing in the morning.  He was again very upset that he could not shower for a day.  I toweled him down with a warm towel and changed his clothes after which he felt OK.

He is recovering slowly now.  Walking slowly because there are two sets of stitches in his lower abdomen.  He is scared when I touch the bandaged area to apply antibacterial ointment.  I sent him to school today.  Normally after they have a quick snack during their lunch break (KB has his real lunch at home), they ask the lunch teacher, "May I be excused?" and then they go off to play.  Today KB told me, "I won't ask Mrs.X may I be excused, Mamma...I will just sit with a friend and talk because I cannot run".  Later in the afternoon when I picked him up I asked him how it went.  He said, "Mamma, twice I asked my friend E to sit with me.  But he didn't!".  I then asked KB, "Were you OK with it?". He said, "Yeah Mamma, I was OK.  I just watched the other kids play.  And I watched all the ravens".  Thank God for a boy who delights in nature and in little children.  KB loves to see little children waddling and talking baby language.  He loves to see bees trying to get nectar from flowers and watch the gulls fly up in the air and count how many of them are flying.  I felt a tug in my heart at the image of my child sitting there alone but I made myself stronger and grow just a little more as a parent.  I told him, "KB, I am so happy that you were OK.  You don't always  need a friend sitting next to you right".  He said, "Yeah, I don't always need a friend sitting next to me.  I had fun looking at the ravens".

Suture removal in two weeks.  Thanks to all of you for your good wishes.  Will keep you posted on the progress in two weeks.