Tuesday, October 18, 2011

To School or Not To school

With my son turning three end of November this year, a lot of people have been asking us and/or advising us to send him to school, if not a big one, then a small play school. I am not so sure about that though. I suppose it is a common practise now a days with parents sending their children as young as eighteen months to play schools. Last week I bumped in to my former manager at a local resturant here in Dubai. She has a daughter only fifteen days older than my son. And this little girl has been enrolled in to a nursery school. Not a play school mind you, but a proper pre-nursery curriculum. I was curious so I asked her what do they teach if it is not just free play? Apparently they train the children in making sandwhiches (for eg) , colours based on some themes, numbers and alphabets also based on themes and in play way method. Sounds good. But is that all I should be sending my child to school for? I think not.

I believe there is a lot to it than meets the eye and on different levels. I am a teacher by qualification and have taught some before I decided to stay home. It would be fair to assume that I sort of know about educatiing children in general. Now that I am a mother too, it becomes even more important that I give it great thought and planning. Firstly though, let me make it clear that I have nothing major against schooling system in general. I come from a country where education while greatly valued, also comes cheap if you are reasonably well off. Anybody who can, will take a higher degree from a university. India infact, is one of the countries which has the largest number of universities and colleges in the world! That should tell you something. But getting a degree is not what the intention should be. It is improtant to me personaly and I dont want to bring up my child thinking that a fancy degree will solve all his problems in life. It gets you only so far after all.

So why am I resisting sending Yohaan to any kind of establishment yet? It is my belief that I, as his mother, should be his primary teacher. I should be the biggest influence on him along with his father. I should be his chief care giver. I am most  certainly not comfortable thrusting this responsibility on to a stranger in an environment wherein, he has to adapt to twenty other unique personalities and conform to a regimented structure of activities. What can be more baffling? At this age when he is only just becoming his own person, why should I inflict more unfamiliarity on him? And what can be more better or important than lessons learnt from home through his own mother/father/siblings. I mean really, do I want to send him to school so that he learns to say hello to strangers, so that he learns to sit nicely in a corner and eat his lunch, so that he can learn how to use scissors??? Or know that a fire engine is red in colour or that he must name his body parts by a certain age? Who decides these milestones? Is it not enough that an average baby will anyway learn all this as time goes by. I am the kind of mother who does not fuss much especialy about reaching milestones. Everybody picks up. They all catch up and the one's who dont, there are doctors and therapists to handle those challenges. But what I do care about is his emotional and spiritual charactor. It matters a great deal to me that my child becomes a good human who loves his Creator, no matter what. That is something we as his parents are not willing to compromise on.

One of the major reasons we are hesitant to send him to any kind of school yet, is knowing the fact that he is under critical training before he can be let loose in the world, on his own, for a few hours. He reamins close to me throughout the day but he is constantly learning and absorbing like a sponge. Sure it gets tiring for mommy, but they never said mothering was going to be a cakewalk. It is exhausting  precisely because it is supremely important too. Bringing up your child your way, is your responsibility. Period. The teachers and care givers, grandparents and relatives, neighbours and friends are good to have around but parenting is my job. If I am able to trust anybody else to do it for me and not only that, I pay them for it, it doesn't make me think much of myself am afraid! The sense of security and a combination of learning, discipline and application of skills learnt at home is any day superior to a school. Yes my dear readers who might disagree, I do genuinely think so. Even if I was not a qualified teacher, I would still think that I am the best teacher for my child. Ofcourse, if the husband paid me for it, I would be a happy bunny and out in shot, shopping, but jokes apart, nothing compares to mommy being the teacher at home. As it is, I also happen to feel that for many, many women going to work and leaving their children behind is just a means of shirking off their responsibilities as a parent. It is as simple as that. I do not and will not accept any of the usual reasons working mothers give for leaving their kids at home. They 'think' they deserve the down time, well, I dont think so sister! You spawned them, you look after them. And so, dont stretch it by sending them off to school when clearly they are not ready. Have some compassion.

Do parents consider need for socialisation as one of the reasons for sending their kids to school? Sure they do. Homeschooling families get a lot of flak from families who dont . Let me tell you then, research has already established that children infact, dont need a classroom full of peers to grow, learn or even to enjoy friendships. It seems, no more than two or three children of the same age group is enough to develop their social skills. Add to the general chaos of having too much too soon, I dont want my child to develop a competitive spirit. It is not an acceptable quality either to me or my husband. It is enough for us to know that he tries his best. That is definitely enough. Some of those typical,  high achieveing friends of ours, have asked us whats wrong in being out there competing with the rest? Everything, I say! On every level if you will. Lets not even begin. Else I might just explode!

Then a cousin of my husband's says to us, send Yohaan to school so he develops immunity and wont fall sick often. His system will get used to the germs floating around. Thank you very much but really, my child is not a guinea pig, do you mind. Further he says your son will become independant. Allow me a few moments of utter and great pride dear brother-in law and readers alike. (Readers, brag alert ahead) My son who is not yet three- eats by himself and loves his food, goes to the toilet by himself, does not wet the bed at night, loves to talk and  listen to music and dance and read, he can wear all his clothes on his own, he enjoys playing with his imaginary friends when the actual friends are not around, he has a fabulous vocab, he loves to read whatever he can manage (aww my baby), he can climb high chairs, jump from heights, he can express himself if he is in pain, he has clear and precise interests and dislikes, he is outgoing, he looks you in the eye when making conversations, he can count some, scribble some, recite some poems albeit in his baby language, he knows his colours, he loves animals and gardening, he loves to swim, he loves to help around the house, has zero interest in watching that wretched TV or playing with his father's fancy gadgets and so relies on his own imagination to keep himself entertained, follows an easy going but familiar routine and above all knows the  enitity of  God the father and His Son Jesus. See? Your usual baby out there, going about achieving all the required milestones and then some! No pressure, no seperation anxiety, no distress at the unfamiliar. Why would I want to throw in some nasty germs and competition with the peers  in to the scene now? Tell me one good reason. As for gaining independance, I am not sure I want him to be completely independant of us, his parents, at such a young age. He seems to be enjoying the security we provide by constantly being available. There's no rush to register for that college dorm just yet anyway.

I must again point out that I am not anti-establishment. Schools and colleges have their use ofcourse, but as a parent I will decide how much of an influence I am allowing on my child from these external sources. I am very uncomfortable doing something just because everyone else is swearing by it. No offence meant to nursery teachers (remember I was one), but really I know that they have 20 other kids to handle and all in the same way. There is mostly no scope of indivisualising methods of teaching and nursery care. In large groups, systems have to be tailored and regimented suiting the establishment, not the child. That is not the kind of 'forced' care I want to subject my precious child to. What about you other parents out there? Would you be willing to send your child to pre-nursery so he/she can learn how to make sandwhiches or use stickers or wear a red dress because the teacher declared it a red day in class? What is it that they can learn better which you cannot provide at home? Tell me because I am curious. No, I really am. What makes a parent take such a radical step as to send their child to school before the conventional ages of five or six? And how do you decide when is the right age anyway? For starters, I think mothers first need to stay home! Stay home and know your child. Dont base your decisions on feedback receieved from the nanny or grandma! Stay home and do it your way, you child deserves that much to begin with no? Nothing else can/should be more important. Nothing. Ever.

Wednesday, October 12, 2011

All That I Ever Wanted To Be

For the longest , longest time I remember, all that I ever wanted was to be a wife and mommy and play house. Yes, there I've said it now. It was a passionate, strong , living dream of mine. As a little girl I loved playing with dolls, imaginary cooking sessions, mothering my baby cousins and the grown ups around me would comment 'oh, she is such a mummy!' I even remember being very pleased to hear that! Then you know, being Indian means you have to get married and have children before the right age, that 'right age' differs from community to community but a general trend in my clan is getting it all done before 30. That is infact quite late by most Indian standards. So as I started approaching twenty-five, my parents, ah bless them, dutifuly began making noises. 'Havent you got a boyfriend? What kind of guy do you want? Do you want us to start a search?' I can imagine many of you cringing, which is okay. As I keep repeating, I am Indian and in India we do still have arranged marriages you know! If one has'nt conjured up a boy/girl friend or if one has'nt been noticed and basicaly nothing exciting is happening in one's life, parents step in a do the needful. Very convenient I must say.

Suffice it to say, my life wasnt 'happening' enough and so one sunday morning my mother asks me, 'well, you know, shall we then?' 'What mother?' 'You know, you are soon going to be twenty five, maybe we should get you married?' "Why mother, how nice of you to notice!'. Except for the small, teeny-tiny problem of 'arranged marriages' not working out in our clan for some reason! As it is there are hardly any uncles, aunts or cousins of mine who have had an arranged marriage and the ones who failed at producing a suitable boy/girl were 'fixed' by their parents and lived to regret the choice. So, arranged marriages dont work for my family. It's just one of those family curses or something. Anyhow, me being me, happliy agreed. To marry that is. But informed her that I would find my own man. And I did! Non Indian and particularly western readers may find all this weird. I suppose it is, if you are an outsider looking from the outside ring view....but for many of us young Indian men and women marriage is a serious business and most of us, if not all, comply with societal norms of getting married 'on time'. I was no different and while I was not desperate to start living my domestic dream, I knew in my heart that I was ready to be married from like the age of 10 months maybe....who know huh?!

Many women who have a similar profile like mine express great amazement when I open up about living my dream. With increasing options vis a vis higher education, career choices, access to world travel and technology nowadays, no doubt more and more young Indians are pushing marriages and motherhood to the backburner. That is alright I suppose. I mean our parents' generation did not have these choices, so it is natural that changes will take place, it is inevitable. Which is why some of my mommy friends who have chosen to work too, express shock that I 'seem' to have such old fashioned views. How can anyone simply dream of being a wife and a mother. Is that it they ask? How? Why? Honestly, I have never felt concious of speaking about my dreams. I have never felt the need to sound right and say that I will also try and take a shot at being a career woman and a home maker and balacing it all. I always knew my inner most desire and whats more I went about planning and attaining my goal just like any 'other' career minded person would. While you may have gone to college to train in a career outside home, I studied so I would be better informed and able to teach my future children. I travelled to become more aware, I read books to hone my intelligence and pick up skills, I watched other seasoned home makers and learnt housekeeping and mothering from them, I watched happy couples and tried to file it all away for a future need. I learnt from their mistakes too, one of them being 'dont say no to sex!' :) Jokes apart, I did take preparing my self for marriage and motherhood rather seriously. In my mind, if I was to live my dream successfuly, I had better be prepared. Lifestyles today face unprecedented stress and strain, so I chose to be fuly equipped. When the right time comes, you can make the transition as smoothly as possible.

I dont know whether by working outside, I would be making great changes in the world. The kind of person I am, I have my doubts really. I did work steadily before getting married and untill I was pregnant with my son. In my mind it was just a phase of getting to meet lots of people people and making some money, thats about it. I performed well because it was the right thing to do. But those jobs that I picked up were not going to take me anywhere and were certainly not my priority. They would never take the place of the stuff that were supremely precious to my soul. That is, having a partner, a house to look after and a child to bring up. Yes ofcourse I was biding my time untill I met the love of my life and asked him to marry me and proceed to give me a baby- major strategy at play here, dear readers! Hello there hubster, you were very obliging I must add! Ha ha ha. It worked out quite well isnt it? The sense of contentment and fulfillment I now have is the same as any other 34 year old (darn, you guys know old I am now!) working woman. She would probably be a manager by now, heading her own team, steadily climbing up the career ladder and making pots of money too! On an average I assume. Well, it is the same with me. What would you expect from a 34 year old home maker and a mommy? I must say I have come a long way indeed! From pure panic at the prospect of hosting a couple of friends or cooking a fancy meal for hubster's boss, from not knowing how to revive a dying inddor plant, from not knowing how to plan and execute a week's worth of menu, from not knowing anything about brith control, from not willing to submit to my husband and caring for him, from not knowing how to shop for fresh meat and vegetables and oh, so many things I have come a long, long way baby!

Even if I say so myself, I do run a good house. And am currently guilt-free as far as mothering is concerned. Being a good wife is fodder for another post altogether though. *sigh* I am now a fairly seasoned home-manager! I dont panic, I am organised, I plan and I execute effortlessly. My house is open to all. My pantry is well stocked, fresh food always available. The beds have clean sheets-always. The toliets are shining. Things are (mostly) in their place. I have a budget and a menu plan. I manage to be awake before the boys and ensure they are looked after. (Hubster's ALL socks are always missing though...loosing battle that one now). My child is secure and happy knowing mommy is always around. He gets the very best of me and not some care taker, and that is perhaps the best deal in this whole drama. I can and have hosted 50 guests easily with not an ounce of panic, I am available to anybody who is needy around me.  A new mother needs a meal? No problem. An elderly church member needs a pick up for church? No problem, even though I dont have a car, will organise a car lift anyway.  A young single girl friend needs help shopping for her upcoming wedding followed by hand holding and counselling? No problem. She also needs advise on sex and birth control before she gets married? No problem. A young brother in law needs advise on handling a crush? No problem. He also wants his laundry done during the weekend because he is a bachelor and not very well equipped to handle it in his own pad? No problem dude! Come on right over. Husband's colleague at work gets married and visits with his new wife , reqeusts me to share recipes and tips on settling down in Dubai- with pleasure! A hindu friend drops in for a meal during Navratri and wont eat meat, will cook a fantastic hindu-veg meal babe. ( I know you will read this and smile!) A visitor from India first time in Dubai? Will take you around and cook and launder for you and entertain you too! A reader of my blog , perhaps very lonely will email and expect a few words back- certainly no problem! Blogging regularly after so much happening in life- maybe a little problem, lolll.

As you can see my dear readers, I have enough and more happening in life. I am not busy without a purpose here. I am trying to live intentionaly. Without expectations. My Father in heaven sees all this and I hope he is similing. Look at her! She's a little-big momma alright! And am lovin it .

Disclaimer: I sound so full of myself but let me assure you, I am no domestic godess, yet!

Monday, October 10, 2011

How Exciting....

 Patricia has posted today  featuring a house tour of none other than your's truly! To view the pictures go here.

Thanks Patty. I am so excited and honoured.

When Life Gives You Lemons, Make Pickle.

Over the weekend, I surveyed and found 183747 kilos of fresh lemon and green chillies in the fridge. I could not think of a regular recipe requiring so much of both. So, this is what I did. Made the most amazing lime and green chilly pickle. Let the pictures speak. :) Gimme a shout should you want the recipe.

See what I mean? Too many of 'em!

Love the colours!

Assembling in to a jar.

Salt and suggah!

A final dash of lemon and....

We are done. Out in the harsh sun just for four days and this is good to eat!

What have you guys been up tp then? Am linking this to Patricia's The Weekly Story ~ wk 52

Thursday, October 6, 2011

A Servant Girl

Most of you would have figured out that I am from India. North India to be precise but that is not important. I am a stay home mom and am quite comfortable with this choice. Lately, I have had a chance to meet some other mothers who stay home (mostly Indian, or Asian) in my appartment complex. Different backgrounds, different sub-ethnicities, some with a single child and some with more than two at home. What binds us is ofcourse our motherhood and the fact that we all are at home with these kids. However, just mothering is not all of it. We also have homes to look after and meals to cook. Many of us have decided not to employ any domestic help. These helpers are commonly referred to as 'maids' in this part of the world. I personaly  dont attach too much importance to semantics really. It is a generic name. As far as I am concerned, I would like to be a kind and a fair employer ensuring that in my dealings with them, they get to witness some light of Christ. Currently though, I dont have anybody working for me.

Two days ago, my next door neighbour and two other ladies from another complex met me down at the park. This neighbour has a Bangladeshi woman working part time for her, the rest of us manage on our own. There really is no glory in it. Just that we are home makers and do the job of making home! Just because we dont have a maid to help us and we do everything ourselves does not make us superior. I really dont think so. It is a choice end of the day. Some of us may be happy doing everything ourselves and some may not. After all, there could be a hundred reasons why a family chooses not to hire help. A lot of Indian women tend to read a lot in to this I'm afraid. So anyhow, we were all chatting away when suddenly I realised it was getting late and I had to be back to prepare dinner and fold laundry. My last chores of the day. And so I decided to make a move. Immediately my neighbour says to me, 'Why do you have such a maid mentality, why dont you value yourself more?'. To say I was astounded would be putting it mildly. I did not react then but it triggered a thought pattern in my head. I managed a goodbye, took my son and came back home.

Non Indian readers must understand this unfortunate cultural/social phenomenon in our society. That we do not have a concept of dignity of labour. Class and social barriers are deeply rooted and so the 'maids' there certianly do not enjoy a respectable status in society. I dont know about other countries but thats how it is in India. They come from the poorest of the poor slums, are illiterate and because they cannot find work say in a 'offoce-school' kind of establishment they choose to become maids. Often they are married off at a young age, have children just as early and are forced to move out to fend for the whole family. I think I can safely genralise that most of them suffer from extreme hardships brought about by poverty, illetracy and poor health and nutrition.When my neighbour asked me that question I know for a fact she wasn't referring to my 'class'- just to the way I seem to be working hard in my house- maid like if you will. But then she was also very condescending in her tone. And that bothered me. What is it about being a maid that is wrong? No really, if I am working in the house the fact remains that it is indeed 'my' house.

I dont understand why is it a problem if I want to do everything myself? I cook, clean, dust, mop, water the plants, make beds, clean toliets, do laundry and everything else that is required to run a house smoothly. The way I want it. At my pace. With a flexibility that suits me. If there is any urgency and endlessness attached to it, so what? I have never, ever judged a woman just because she has hired someone to help her in the house so she can have time to do her thing. Never. I know so many women who run their homes fully relying on an army of maids. Their homes sparkle, the meals are fabulous, the toilets always shining, the plants thriving, not a speck of dust anywhere, you get the picture. I however will not even dream of turning around and asking them, 'Err, excuse me, but what is it precisely that you do in your house everyday?' or ' And you are preening about your fabulously run house because you work your butt off or your ten maids do...?' That would be harsh and terribly judgemental is it not? Especialy because i have been on both sides. I grew up with an army of house help. My mother has always worked and owns her own school. No way she could have stayed home to do even a fraction of chores one is required to keep it running well. She also has high home making standards however. So, I like what she has done since she set up her home. She always chose not to spend money on clothes, jewlery, eating out etc. In those days ( about 25-30 years ago) there wasn't much she could do anyway living in a small Indian town. Instead, she spent on her  personal physical comfort and peace of mind. She may not have had the best sarees in her wardrobe, but she had her own personal maid to attend to her. For her, that was money well spent and frankly she deserved the rest and peace these helpers provided after she worked so hard all day. I know some relatives kind of disapproved of this lifestyle but like I said, my mother had her priorities set and did not mind paying for it .  My father never seemed to mind this arrangement and so that is how things have been since forever! After I got married and set up my home, I have had maids off and on to help me. I took them on when I needed them the most like when I had a baby through a c-section and my bedroom was on the first floor. Or earlier, when I was working full time. I needed help and I got it. Nothing to it.

We must realise that there are often two sides to any given situation. When my neighbour who also by the way professes to be a Christian, asked me such a question I was struck by the thought that how easy it is to judge or worse look down upon somebody. Just as there is no big deal in keeping a house with the help of a maid, similarly,there is no glory to doing it all on our own. You can either enjoy it or tackle it in a very matter of fact way and just do it anyway.  It is a calling for some, like me. I dont find it mundane, I dont crave change, I like my rythmn and routine, I get satisfaction out of cleaning the toliets as per my standards of hygene, I am excited in the kitchen when I try a new recipe. No, it is not always fun. It can get exhausting,it does get lonely alone at home, sometimes it seems thankless too. Some days I dont complete any chore, some days are super productive and smooth. Each woman does what needs to be done, just as I do. Sometimes, we do it all by ourself, sometimes we get help. What is there to judge, yeah?

For me personaly, it started becoming a matter of living out my faith. As I struggle to grow in my christian walk, I am trying to incorporate it in every aspect of my life including in practical terms. I blogged about it earlier too. Some months ago, I reached a stage wherein I got convicted that I was just not a very productive home maker. As a wife and mommy, it will always be a work in progress but I was not being intentional about my home making. Which is when I decided to make changes. I learnt to be still and be intentional in everything I do around the house. And to learn to be joyful. If this is my house, then I better be happy looking after it. Many do not enjoy this privilege. I am blessed to be able to stay home. I am not proud, but am so contented that I cook for my boys the things they love. I clean for them and ofcourse for myself. I am happy knowing that my plants probably laugh behind my back because I talk to them when I water them. I dont mind serving my husband when every night without fail, he forgets to get himself a glass of water for his bedside and will ask me to do it, and to fetch his phone too while I am at it. Or early morning he will ask me to organise his towel and socks etc even though it will be lying right there in front of his eyes!

There are rituals  and rotuines every family forms. Of different kinds. And if mommy or daddy (even) is the one serving the rest, so what? It is a wonderful way of demonstrating to our children the value in being 'of a servant heart'. It teaches them humility and hard work. My son watches me look after the house, him and his father. It will be my hope that one day, while he wont compare his wife to me, he would have learnt from his father the ways of appreciating his  wife! My neighbour was rude no doubt, but in calling me practicaly a maid , she unwittingly complimented me! Christ Himself commanded us to 'serve one another in love'. Also, on a somewhat  similar note,  I dont think I am sacrificing anything here. How can my role be called sacrificial? I am doing it for 'me and mine'. Thats hardly a sacrifice now is it? I am doing it because I love my house. I like to keep it pretty. I love my family, I look after their over all well being. The end result is 'ME' being happy and contented. I wish I could have made her understand that in God's eyes the lowliest of the lowlies is the apple of His eyes. His preferred one. I wish I could tell her that there is nothing wrong in being a 'maid' - of anyone! I AM the servant girl around here and proud to be one!

Sunday, October 2, 2011

My Major Blog Crush

...and I do mean serious , seriouser, seriousest of the kind!  I dont know why did I not share with you all before, but better late than never as they say. I absolutely love this home decor blog which focuses on only the colour Turquoise! Want to know more? Then head over here. I can promise hours and hours of eye candy. Enjoy!