Abeer – Living with a bratty Toddler!

All of 1.25 Kgs, Abeer stepped into this world 8 weeks early. Tiny and all tubed up – is how Kapil and I saw him for the first time. Our hearts went out to the little one – but almost immediately, both of us commented that he looks like a Rockstar. We were of course not alluding to any good looks – at that size and weight, he could best be described as ugly (barely human) – it was his attitude – there was something in the expression even then, that said, I care two hoots!  We didn’t realise then, how close to the mark we were! Now that he is 15 months, he looks us straight in the eye (with a devilish glint in his own), baiting us, before proceeding to do the exact thing he has been told (requested /pleaded/ begged) not to!!

We shouldn’t be surprised. I think we had enough warning even while he was in the womb. Fetus A. That is how we knew him, through the 32 weeks of my pregnancy. Fetus A was clearly the more feisty one – he was always on the move! I was sure that he was the wild girl I had always wanted. So sure, that I had already chosen a name for him and his twin – Aranya and Arin. Aranya means the forest, the jungle – apt name for my wild girl. Wild he is, girl he was not. Well at least I was right on one count!

Before we get to know Abeer, we need to get back to Arnav – our first born. A totally sweet tempered child, who never kept us awake during the night, who was so absolutely well behaved whether at home or outside that everyone was amazed. Baby proofing? No need! Protecting walls? Absolutely not! Toy shop tantrums? Never! Public embarrassment? Out of the question! People commended us on how well we were raising our baby! We credited the sweet nature of our child – but somewhere we were sure some credit must also go to us! If nothing else, at least our genes must have something to do with having the perfect child! But how wrong we were! Come Abeer, and any self-congratulatory thoughts we had about our parenting have been thrown out the door!

Even before he learnt to roll or sit, he had mastered all the bullying sounds ever. Aaiiih???AAiihh? AAIIhh? AAIIHH!!!! Screaming with an increasing volume and pitch, he sure knew how to get attention, without moving a limb. Nana and nani, two people devoted to him, were the most abused as well! There was no way nani could save her spectacles or bindi from being snatched away. These days, she is filling in as the pole Abeer uses to slide down the bed.

And let us not even talk about his treatment of the younger twin. I don’t think he even realizes that Anvay is also a living being. (or if he does, he has clearly decided to ignore that) He likes to go and plonk himself directly on Anvay’s face. If Anvay has a pacifier in his mouth, Abeer would surely pull it out and put it in his own. These days he loves to snatch the milk bottle out of Anvay’s mouth and either start drinking from it or put on its cap. Pulling his hair, crawling over him or sitting on him are totally normal in the course of the day.

And what about the sweet tempered elder brother? Well, on more than one occasion (multiple actually), Arnav has come crying to me, complaining how Abeer is bothering him – he has either slapped Arnav or is sitting in the middle of some game he is playing or maybe torn the current book he is reading. While Arnav is quite protective about Anvay, he looks at Abeer as his equally able opponent!! Since last week, Arnav has been the Jaeger and Abeer the Kaiju (those who have seen Pacific Rim will know what I am talking about)

 

And did I say, we didn’t believe in baby proofing? Really? Well, I am reconsidering. After having just learnt to walk, he leaves a trail of destruction behind him. Any room he decides to visit – is left ransacked. I think he would put Mahmud Ghazni (or was it Ghouri)  to shame. Oh and wait – once you see him pick up an object and send it sailing across the room – you would agree that he has a bright future in discus throwing.

But seriously can I blame him? There is clearly nothing else that is more exciting. I wonder really about the claims made by toy companies – how well researched each toy is – the colours, the texture, the sensory and gross motor skills the baby will develop etc etc. Well let me tell them, they are WRONG!  They have absolutely no clue what their target group likes – it is usually not toys. (Even the wrapping paper is preferred to the actual toy!) By the way, tearing the day’s fresh newspaper is one of his favourite past times :-/

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A toddler first of all loves the dustbin – the more full it is, the better he can throw things about. Second is a boring black laptop or a phone. No, it doesn’t have to be on. It will still attract the baby. Third – household cutlery – tell me one child who would prefer a toy truck over a sharp fork. And such fun in pulling out all utensils from the drawer and throwing them – have you heard the lovely sound that makes? Can any electric toy even compare with that sound? And now that it is summer – an open fridge will attract them like bees to honey. I cannot open the fridge without him getting between my legs and trying to pull out everything in sight. I can write pages….

And don’t think he doesn’t know what he is doing. He does. Very much. And then to make up, he turns on his full charm. He knows very well the effect of his lop sided smile, or his adorably cute singing and dancing routine (mix of bhangra and pop – we told you he is a rockstar, didn’t we?) and if that doesn’t work he starts walking backwards on the bed, spurring every adult in vicinity into action.

He is our source of non stop entertainment in his waking hours. Well no, even in his about to sleep hours – remember Sid from Ice Age? Yes? Remember the scene where he was trying to go to sleep? No? Look at this. Well this is exactly how Abeer goes off to sleep! Flipping and flopping on the bed – tossing around the entire length and breadth, before he finds a position and spot he is comfortable in. And mercifully he sleeps then. And so do we, happy at having survived another day! Zzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzzz………..

P.S. tell me your toddler stories too!

This one is about fathers…

I lost mine two weeks ago.  My sister and I were very close to him. He was very different from most fathers of his generation. A father who completely trusted us and our ability to take decisions. A father who shared and discussed his value system but never forced it on us. One who let us develop our own identities and personas. A father broad minded enough to tell his daughter leaving for higher studies to not commit to her boyfriend but keep her options open.

A hands on father – he packed our lunches all through our school lives.  One who made the perfect glass of milk – the perfect temperature, the right balance of Horlicks and sugar and no lumps left after mixing. 🙂 Even now, he was the one who gave us our night glasses of milk!! (Have been skipping milk now for most of the last two weeks).

We discussed everything under the sun with him – science, the big bang, evolution, history, geography, Agatha Christies, politics, religion, sex, relationships – you name it. Our relationship with our parents was highlighted by its openness. Not once do I remember ever having to lie to them or to hide anything from them.

Anyway. My meandering mind will keep dredging up memories and this blog will end up becoming about just one father. I wanted to write about fathers and fatherhood. No expert on parenting or relationships, I just wanted to write about how fathers have added meaning to their relationships. And I feel it is especially important in today’s context, as more and more fathers are becoming hands on parents. Many of them will not have similar reference points from their own childhood.

  • Be yourself. A cliche but true. The person one is, will define the kind of father he will be. Don’t try to be something different as a father. No point being a disciplinarian, if you are someone who lives life by the moment.  Just be yourself, and let the child evolve into herself.
  • Respect – Before love, care or anything, the emotion that comes first is respect. I believe, that the foundation of any relationship, is respect. And if you respect those around you, your child learns the same. I think that was one of the first values we were taught at home.
  • Love with all your heart – Traditionally men have been conditioned to restrain their emotions. No need to. My husband is one of the MOST soppy fathers I have ever seen. And he is not ashamed. And his kids absolutely love it!
  • Keep your promises – One of the most vivid memories my husband has from his childhood is when his father kept his promise of buying him a bicycle. His father worked in a different city and he took a special leave just to come back to his home town and buy his son the bicycle on the promised date. You keep your promises – your kids will learn to keep theirs.
  • Fun time – I once stayed at a relatives’ place. The next morning, I woke up to see him and his kids excitedly getting ready for a walk. The amount of excitement, energy and fun there was in the air, will forever remain etched in my mind. Making the mundane and the trivial fun is an art. And fun is what makes our memories bright and sunny.
  • Labour of love – Its not only the mom’s job to do all the physical work. Bathe your baby, feed him, clean him, oil his hair, cook for him, help him with homework and crafts and basically everything. My brother in law does it all. Respect.
  • Alone time – Just have some daddy – baby time together. Go and eat out. See a movie together. Chill out at places you both like. My son loves this time he spends with his dad.
  • And the list can go on….. But I don’t plan to do all the work. Please share your own experiences with your dads or as dads yourselves. Would love to hear from you. So Long!

It takes more than a village…

PHEW!! yes it does… especially when we are talking about raising twins. The first year can be especially tough and parents can do with all the help they can get. Between feeding, diaper changing, calming bawling babies everything may just seem overwhelming.

Abeer and Anvay were premature and it felt weirdly empty when I came back home without them. It also meant going to the hospital at least twice daily with pumped milk for them. Emotionally it was not easy to see the tiny bodies hooked to so many wires. It hurt to see little blue marks where the needles had pricked them. Physically it was tough to make so many trips to the hospital, while recovering from a major surgery myself. The pain naturally took much longer to go away.

Once they came home, focus was weight gain and they needed to be fed every 2-3 hours. Which meant almost no sleep at night! Being on maternity leave at that time, I took on the job of night time feeding.  I did manage to catch some sleep in between – but despite that it was quite exhausting.

Some days were tougher than others. Days when one or both of twins would be inconsolable. Nights when they were sick. Trips to the hospital were tough with two infants in tow. And we had a larger share than normal due to a number of extra check ups for preemies. All in all, a physically and emotionally draining first few months.

Everyone pitched in – in whatever way they could. While nani helped in overall baby care, nanaji became the de facto provider of medicines, milk bottles etc. etc. Mausi came down from Bombay to help. Arnav also took on big brother responsibilities – like bottle feeding 🙂

Daddy has a special gift for calming down crying babies and putting them to sleep. I bet no baby anywhere in the world has been put to sleep with their dad loudly singing (while rocking them) songs from Kabhi Khushi Kabhi Gham!!! I can’t claim it will work on other babies – but it worked like magic on ours. (of course only when sung by dad – none of the others ever dared!)

Once I joined work, nana and nani became the primary care givers during the day. Hats off to them for managing two babies so well. And once my travel started, dadi came in from Jaipur to provide support whenever required. And while Babaji could not physically come – his willingness to manage alone was a huge support by itself. The San Francisco, trip would not have been possible without chacha, chachi volunteering help.

In case of a working mother, the ‘village’ extends to the workplace. I am very lucky to be working in a very supportive organisation. Even before the twins were born, I was advised to work from home due to the high risk. My then manager agreed. Despite all the rest, they were born 8 weeks early – I shudder to think what might have happened if my manager had not agreed so readily to let me work from home. Once I joined back, my new manager was happy to support flex hours or work from home as needed. He also helped me move to an office location closer home. My team members were always there to catch the ball if I dropped it. A supportive workplace can do wonders do reduce the stress involved in bringing up infants.

And now all of you, who have read my blog and supported it, have become part of our village too by encouraging us. Please keep reading and sharing.

As I end, just a few tips for new parents, (or older ones too):

  • Feel free to ask for help. As Harry Potter Says, “Help shall always be given to those who ask for it”. It might be tough (it is for me), but it will help you get through, and it will actually strengthen relations.
  • Get your ‘me’/ ‘together’ time. In our case, it didn’t apply only to me or my husband. It applied equally to nana and nani too. We made sure we give breaks to each other. Many times we went out in ones, or twos or threes, for dinner/ shopping/ movies/ parties.
  • Do not take anyone for granted – not even each other. We were all giving up on something or the other – sleep, fun, work. It was a community task – but it is important to appreciate everyone’s role.
  • Change roles – sometimes, changing roles can also give one a breather.
  • Try online shopping! I got addicted when I started shopping for my older son’s birthday! It saves you time and gives you more choices. And I don’t know if you have felt it too – but whenever an online order is delivered – I feel the same excitement as I would on getting a gift!
  • Take a deep breath.
  • Try and ask for a supportive work environment. The new Maternity Bill that got passed last year is a huge step towards supporting new mothers.
  • Finally, this too shall pass! When you are through the exhaustion, the fatigue, the sleeplessness – you will be able to look back and appreciate the laughs, the tears, the milestones and the stronger you!!

 

A new year… and new hope…

Another year has begun and it is time to reflect on the year gone by and look forward to the new year. As I look back, I realise it is actually two years and not one, two years that are rolled into one. I cannot remember when one ended and the other began. Two years that were no short of a turbulent albeit exhilarating roller coaster ride. Two years that were at the same time very challenging and equally joyful. Going from a difficult twin pregnancy to premature babies to discovering that one of them has special needs – we pretty much covered a wide spectrum of experiences and emotions in the last two years!

2016 began with a wish for a new baby and ended with two little bundles of joy! The grandparents, parents and the little ‘big’ brother were as pleased as they could be. 2017 went by in a whirlwind of managing babies Abeer and Anvay! Everyone pitched in – grandparents, mausi-mausa and even big bro Arnav! He loved carrying them around like his personal dolls!

The twins are now a year old – and I feel I am able to look up and breathe a little, reflect some and  share some more.

The last eight years have been awesome fun with our first born Arnav – we just loved the little bundle of joy and I was surprised at the strong love that such a little thing could evoke in me! We decided to be ‘cool’ parents i.e. not hold back on doing anything, just because we now had a small baby. Arnav watched his first movie with us at less than 2 months of age! And before he turned 1, he went on a trip to Jaisalmer and Jodhpur in the bitter December cold! We were not daunted by the fact that the train that we had tickets for, changed its route and avoided our stop completely!! We nevertheless took a 7 hour bus ride to Jodhpur, followed by another long bus ride (this time in a local bus with open windows) to Jaisalmer – all with a big suitcase, a big pram and a 10 month old!!

So to cut a long story short – we loved parenting so much that we wanted more (well one more) and were gifted with two!! And it is great fun but a lot of hardwork too 🙂 But we have decided not to be overwhelmed by the hard work and follow the same policy of not stopping fun because of the babies. So in their first year, the twins have watched most of the new movies, been twice to Jaipur, been all the way to San Francisco and back (2 infants in a long haul flight – GAWD!) and to Bombay. And we are hoping for more adventures this year 😉

But why am I writing a blog? Because I have realised over the last two years, that this is becoming one of the best ways to reach out to people – whether those I know or those that I want to know. I am one of those people that immediately resort to google when faced with a question – and the number of searches I did in the last two years would have probably surpassed all my searches before that! I looked up everything from conceiving, to having a healthy pregnancy to all the horrors that can happen with premature delivery to managing premature babies and finally to understanding the number of medical terms that were coming our way once we found that all was not right with Anvay. I also read personal stories of people who were in similar situations – some gave me hope, some scared me, some gave me useful information. I also scoured blogs on creative ideas, birthday ideas and everything was there for taking. However, I found very few people who were blogging from India.

So here I am, wanting to share my thoughts, ideas, suggestions, learnings with all those who would like to connect. This is my first post – already delayed by about 3 weeks (Hazard of being a Triple A mom – unable to finish anything in time) and I would love for you to connect with me, encourage me and share your ideas and stories as well!