Our kids are not kids anymore!

4 year olds.jpeg

Image Credit: Pexels

Do you remember your childhood? I remember mine. Till 4 or 5 years of age, I used to roam around naked. When I visited my family in Delhi, my grandfather gave me a bath or all cousins used to have a bath together. Some cousins were older to me, some younger, but I don’t remember having any discomfort bathing  naked in front of them. Well, maybe, because it was a different era! More innocent and less aware.

Today, when my daughter goes to Ahmedabad and has a shower with her male cousin, I make sure both of them are wearing their underpants. I also make sure that no male is around when she is changing clothes. She has also been taught, to never change clothes before people. Also, she knows what is good touch and what is bad touch.

I am sure there are millions of parents like me who do the same. They do not let their kids roam around naked, not even before their family (the world around has dirty eyes and you don’t want them on your child). They teach their kids good touch, bad touch. And they regularly hold sessions with their kids to teach them the way the nature works between a man and a woman.

What are we doing? We are protecting our kids in case of any untoward situation in the future. But, are we?

If a 4 year old can insert his fingers and a sharp pencil inside his classmate’s vagina, then each one of us needs to ask this question to ourselves? Are we seriously protecting our kids, or sending them down the bog of self awareness and confusion.

Do you think the child did that deliberately? Bah! A 4-year old, who doesn’t have clarity of speech, who might not even realize that he has soiled his clothes, who needs his mama to make him sleep can he actually violate another child’s body?

The poor child, doesn’t even know what he has done. Can he be blamed? I think not. It’s the collective failure of the entire society. We as parents have failed him and the little girl. We have robbed them of their innocence. We have stopped them from being kids.

Our kids are too aware: Awareness is good, but anything ‘too much’ is not! Our 4 year olds know what is a good touch, what is bad touch, what are the private parts, how babies are born. More awareness leads to more inquisitiveness.

Girls and boys are different: When girls play with girls and boys play with boys, they become more aware of their physical differences. ‘Boys don’t put on make up’, ‘Boys don’t play with dolls’ or ‘Girls are silly’ make them physically aware of one another which can be detrimental to their positive growth in the long run. This leads to girls giggling on seeing boys or boys resorting to dares like touching girls’ breasts, deliberately touching their body or lifting up their skirts.

OTT parenting: Go to any bookstore and you will find shelves full of books on parenting. Also, the Internet is full of parenting blogs (mine one of them) who can teach you how to have a normal birth to how to deal with an impossible teen. We want to raise our kids as per the latest research or as the experts say. Our kids are our favorite projects and experiments, and we want to bring them up that way. However, we tend to forget, parenting doesn’t come out of a book. Parenting is an instinct. Yes, we can definitely learn from each other, but we need to put in our respective context before applying the same.

Videos and apps are culprits too: Parents are extremely busy species, they have been for centuries. I don’t remember my mother ever playing with us; she just didn’t have the time. She was busy cooking and raising her three children. And, we didn’t have 24/7 television and mobile phones. We played with siblings, cousins and friends. Today, the mobile phone is the sibling, cousin and friends, and sometimes parents too all rolled into one. There are zillions of apps available, and not all appropriate for them. But, who checks what kind of disturbing things they might be watching?

Sexual assault is turning into an epidemic. We teach children to beware of strangers, but what do we teach them against their own classmates. We can’t be everywhere to protect our children. But, we can’t let this go too. We need to take up more responsibility for our children, however small or innocent they might be.

  • Tell your kids that girls and boys have different body parts. That is how the nature intended, and it is no big deal.
  • Avoid differentiating between girls and boys. Do not stop your kids from playing with the other gender.
  • Keep a close watch on the kind of videos your child watches and the kind of apps he downloads. Most kids at this age replicate what they see or hear.
  • Do not fondle or indulge in love making with your partner in the presence of your child. Their innocent mind won’t be able to process it, and they would want to replicate it with the other sex.
  • Watch them while playing doctor-doctor. It is the roleplay which should give you enough signals about the maturity of your child.
  • Talk to your kids regularly to understand what is going on in their mind. The way they talk or act should give you a hint.

Let us understand one thing here – that 4 year is not a culprit. He is too young to understand the crime. But, he will have to live with the repercussions of his deed his entire lifetime. Not only the girl child who was violated, but also the small boy will undergo a trauma when he will be repeatedly scolded or chided for his act. His parents should not only take him to a counselor and refrain from reminding him what he did, but should also get their act right. They need to look within themselves and find out where they went wrong.

This is an activity that every parent should undertake from time to time. It’s time we left the books alone, and got down to some real parenting!




Mommy, why can’t I play with my iPad?


Image: pixabay

It’s an incident that happened a few days ago when I was visiting my parents’ home. My 5-year old nephew was watching some cartoons on the iPad. In spite of umpteen warnings by my mother, he was still glued to the screen. A couple of hours later, my sister in law returned home. She saw his son still with the iPad. So, without warning, she just snatched the iPad from his hands. What followed next was totally unbelievable.

My nephew was first stunned. And then in the next second, he lied down on the floor, and started banging his fists and head in a full blown tantrum. Seriously, who throws a tantrum, that too over a tablet?

A few days ago, a similar thing happened with my daughter. As she is more vocal, she chose to express her feelings rather than throw a tantrum. She was playing Temple Run on my phone, when I told her to give my phone back. She first made a face, but then when she saw I was serious, she gave the phone back to me.

But not without throwing this loaded question at me – “Now what do I do?”

It made me realize that I took away an important thing from her. But, in return I was offering her nothing.

Also, threatening them with “age-old TV, phone or tablet is not good for your eyes” cuts little ice. They have heard this a million times if not more, and they don’t care. They have friends who wear cool blue, pink or yellow framed glasses and don’t think having weak eyes hampers their lifestyle even a bit.

Kids until they turn 7-8 years, unlike adults cannot stare into space or daydream for hours. They need an activity to keep them busy. And, more often than not, the onus falls on us, the parents.

I often look back upon my childhood and try to recall what I did when I was my daughter’s age. It was simple. We didn’t have TV then (except a couple of hours in the evening which at that point of time didn’t interest me much) and there were no electronic gadgets. But, I had siblings. So getting bored was never an option. There was always someone or the other to play with. I don’t ever recall my mother playing with us. She had enough on her plate with 3 children. But, today, our kids are alone. Many of them don’t have siblings. And with working parents, no one to play silly games with.

So before we snatch that iPad or phone or switch off the TV, we need to think of interesting options for our kids. It’s not right to just yell at them – Go in your room and play! No, that doesn’t work.

They need clear clues. Suggest – how about you do a bit of drawing or colouring. Get more lucid if you have to – “Would you like to draw a flower, mountains or your favourite friends?”

They need more options. You snatched their favourite toy even if you don’t think of it as one. So they are sulking. That means whatever you suggest won’t go down very well initially. Remember, how we behave when we are upset with things. We just can’t think straight or realize what is right for us. Hence, keep a multitude of options handy. Running out of them is not an option. Drawing colouring, making puzzles, playing with dolls or kitchen set, etc.

Encourage to play alone. Do not pity. Playing alone is neither a catastrophe, nor a punishment. Today’s kids have ample toys and games. It won’t hurt them to indulge in some alone time with their treasure.

Offer to play. Kids can play alone but not for long. And, you can’t have their friends over all the time. So, sometimes it’s advisable to offer to play with them. Unfortunately, I have realized I cannot play with dolls or tea parties with her. It’s just not in me. However, I can do activities with her – like I read to her, make puzzles, take her for a walk, play Frozen UNO cards, narrate stories or play board games with her. Find your niche and indulge in that activity with your child.

Don’t back down. Once you have decided to take the gadget away, stick to your decision. If you surrender now, you won’t get the same level of attention or respect the next time you choose to do it. So, however hard it may be for you, just stick to it.

At the end of the day, just remember, snatching away a gadget is not enough, even if it’s for a higher good, you need to replace it with something worthwhile (in your kids’ eyes).

My Clean House Was Shockingly Also A Polluted House

cleaning house

Image: viivilla.com

I am a stickler for cleanliness. Though I don’t have a Monica-esque (from the American sitcom FRIENDS) reaction to dirt and dust, I am still somewhere close by. My house gets dusted, swept and cleaned every day. I use disinfectants for cleaning the floor and liquid sprays to clean the furniture. Of course, the maid does the maximum cleaning, but I still keep a dust cloth in my hand and wipe the surfaces after she cleans them. And on days she doesn’t turn up, I get an opportunity to go about the house cleaning even the nooks and corners. I clean all the cupboards every 3 months and stuff them with naphthalene balls and desiccants. So just imagine my shock when I learnt that the air inside my home may be more polluted than outside. And contributing to it is my beloved cleaning products.

According to WHO, 4.3 million people a year die from the exposure to household air pollution. More than 50% of premature deaths due to pneumonia among children under 5 are caused by the particulate matter (soot) inhaled from household air pollution.

Agreed that most of us are fortunate to have gas pipelines in our homes, and so our families are not breathing smoke and soot from coal and wood stoves. But, what about the pollutants from cleaning and aerosol products, pet hair and dander and poor ventilation. We are not safe from that, are we? It’s a rhetorical question. No, we are not safe. Our families and children are not safe. They inhale this toxic air day in and day out. No wonder, many kids suffer from cold and cough or some sort of allergies all year round.

As educated, smart and responsible mothers, we need to take the matters in our hand. It’s not difficult to get rid of these toxic pollutants and purify our home.

Here are 6 simple ways to improve the air quality at home:

Clean your home regularly: Diwali cleaning is obligatory, but Diwali comes just once a year, while your home is piling up dirt every single moment. So, it needs frequent cleaning. Engage a maid or a cleaning agency or clean it yourself.

  • Remove the shoes before entering the home. Because it can bring in the dirt from outside and with it the numerous pollutants.
  • Use a damp cloth to clean the hard wooden or tile/marble surfaces. They are better at capturing micro particles.
  • Remove the dirt from ceiling fans, tube lights, behind and top of the cupboards and refrigerator and under the sofas/beds (that’s where maximum dirt gets trapped).
  • Use a vacuum cleaner weekly to clean your sofas, chairs and tapestry. Remember to change the filters regularly.
  • Remove carpeting if possible.
  • Wash/dry clean your curtains every 2-3 months.

Do not smoke at home: If you or a family member have a habit of smoking indoors, it needs to stop immediately. Tobacco releases a lot of chemicals into the air that can cause cancer.

Put those aerosols away: Minimize your use of aerosols (that means your deodorant sprays and perfumes), room fresheners, harsh household cleaners, candles and nail polish removers. They release VOCs that can cause headaches and nausea. If you love candles, try using beeswax candles instead of paraffin wax candles. Paraffin wax candles being a petroleum by product releases toxins, while beeswax is clean.

Use air purifying plants: Certain plants absorb air pollutants (benzene, VOCs, formaldehyde and carbon monoxide) making them ideal to be installed at home to improve the air quality. Get indoor plants like aloe vera, boston fern, rubber plants, goldon pothos, etc. and breathe cleaner air.

Increase ventilation: The circulation of air inside the house is very important. Hence, make it a point to open the windows every morning and let the sunlight and air come in. While you may hate the cold breeze in the winter or the hot winds in the summer, ventilation can control indoor humidity (that can lead to breeding mold that produces mold spores which when inhaled can be dangerous to humans) and airborne contaminants.

Use air purifiers: Installing an air purifier must be the easiest way to get rid of pesky indoor pollutants. Air purifiers can absorb harmful chemicals like formaldehyde, allergens, pollens, microbes, etc. They clean the air and make it cleaner and less toxic. There are many good brands in the market and installing one would be a wise choice, especially if you are expecting and don’t want your newborn to inhale unhealthy air, or your children are suffering from asthma or other respiratory problems.

When it comes to the health of our family and children, there can be no compromise. Installing an air purifier is not only easy, but is also safe and tested. Choose a trusted brand and see the air quality of your home improving. Even if you are like me who walks around with a dust cloth in her hand, cleaning is just not enough, you need a more powerful tool to beat the air pollution inside your home.

I Let My Maid Cook For My Daughter Sometimes, and Hey, It’s Okay!

My mother’s life revolved around her kitchen. She was the Queen of her kitchen, and felt at home whenever she was working around with her pots and pans feeding one child or the other (we were three, you see!)…

Those were days when my father had set up a new business and he would regularly come at midnight or even later than that. But my mother never kept rotis for him. She would make fresh chapattis for him whatever time of the night it might be. As far as her kids were concerned, she never let us eat junk. If we were hungry at 7 PM, she would give us our dinner then.

Growing up in a house where my mother placed her kids and husband’s meal before everything else left a mighty big impression on me. When my daughter was born, my mom told me one thing – “Take good care of her!” Knowing her well, I knew that she was asking me to feed my daughter properly and not take any shortcuts when it came to her meals.

I started with breastfeeding my daughter. When my daughter was ready to be weaned, I made her homemade cerelac of rice-dal, nachni-dal and wheat flour-dal. When she grew big enough to eat normal food, I still would separate her dal and sabji before adding spices, and make fresh chapattis for her.

But the real trouble began when I resumed work…

When she was 5 months old, I started working from home. I started working for longer hours when she turned 1 year old. Soon, my work became demanding. Still, I made sure to feed my daughter myself. However, there were times when I would get an unscheduled client call (they always started with a request for only 5 minutes and then stretched to 20 or 30 sometimes). By the time I finished the call, it was way past my daughter’s lunch time. Also, time for another call! Though most clients sympathized with a work from home mother, it was not professional to expose them to ear-splitting shrieks from your daughter because she was hungry.

I was going through a really tough time. Yes, I was a mother now. But I also wanted to reclaim my life. For three years, I had ignored my friends. I could not meet them because I was afraid of who would do the cooking on those days.

How my husband helped me find a solution to the problem
I realized this could not go on. I didn’t want my daughter to suffer. “Kids should always come first” – I remembered my mother saying once. I thought about quitting my job. That’s when my husband told me something I have never forgotten:

“You are not your mother. So don’t try to imitate your mother. What your mother did was commendable, but what you are doing is equally remarkable too.

Your mother’s life was her kids, while yours is your daughter plus your work. You are a working woman and there’s no harm in letting the nanny cook for our daughter and feed her if need be!”

To read more – click here – http://www.worldofmoms.com/blog/I-Let-My-Maid-Cook-For-My-Daughter-Sometimes-and-Hey-Its-Okay/1168/2

When I learnt indoor air in my home was 10x more polluted than outdoor air!!


Images: flickr.com

Since Diwali, Delhi has continuously been in the news, but for all the wrong reasons. The smog that has hit the capital is one of the worst in the current times. And, it’s sad to see the people, especially kids suffering from various lung infections. I read in the newspaper that the presence of PM 2.5 and PM 10 are at alarming levels in Delhi, and several times higher than the safe limit recommended by the World Health Organization. For all those who don’t know what is PM (I didn’t know myself and Googled it), PM is fine particulate matter about 30 times finer than the human hair and hence easy to be inhaled deeply by the lungs causing respiratory problems, lung cancer, strokes and heart attacks. Yes, it’s that bad!

I stay in Mumbai. I thought I was safe. Mumbai is more than 1000 kms away from Delhi, and its pollution. But, is it? I checked the real time air quality index (AQI) of Mumbai, and to my shock I realized that, we, the citizens of Mumbai aren’t that safe from pollution too. As a mother, it is something unacceptable to me. I can’t see my daughter inhaling polluted air. So does that mean I keep her cooped up indoors all the time? That is not possible either. So I tried to search for some solutions on the Internet, when I got the biggest shock of my life. Indoor air can be 10 times more polluted at times is worse than outdoor air. I thought it was reading it wrong, so I read it again. But, the message was loud and clear. Our homes are more polluted.
  • Cleaning products: We can be exposed to carcinogenic chemicals found in household cleaning products. I have an obsession when it comes to keeping my home clean, and so I use various products like surface cleaners, Koleen spray, phenyl, Dettol, toilet and bathroom cleaners, etc. on daily basis. I never thought they were contributing to the air pollution in my house. I have instructed my maid to use fewer products, but they are still being used however little.

  • Tobacco smoke: If you or someone in the house smokes, it can lead to pollution. Thankfully, neither I nor my spouse smokes.

  • Pets: If there are pets in the house, then pet hair and dander can make indoor air extremely unhealthy.

  • Cooking: Carbon monoxide and nitrogen dioxide gases from cooking in an area that is poorly ventilated can lead to infections, cardiovascular diseases, etc. I make it a point to keep the kitchen window open at all times whenever I am cooking.

  • Aerosol products: Deodorants can cause indoor pollution. Are you stumped on reading this? Well, so I was. I stopped using deodorants immediately, but when I asked my husband, he looked at me as if I had suddenly taken leave of my senses. And, argument over.

Next, I looked at the solutions to control indoor air pollution in my home. Here are a few I came across:

  • Keep your house well ventilated; open the doors and windows to bring in fresh air.

  • Get some indoor plants like Areca palm, Reed palm, Boston fern, Rubber plant, Dwarf date palm, etc. which remove pollutants from the home.

  • Keep the bathroom and kitchen exhaust fans on as they suck in indoor contaminants.

  • Use air purifiers conditioners, dehumidifiers and humidifiers regularly.

These are some nice enough ways to control the indoor pollution in your home. However, if you live in a highly polluted area, they might not be adequate. So, use an air purifier to get clean air.

Buying an air purifier seems a good enough solution to me. However, I cannot buy things just on face value. I need to know how an air purifier will clean my house. I read about it and here’s what I learnt. When I use vacuum cleaner over carpet, sofa tapestry, etc. I can see dust and muck on its filter. However, what about all that pollen, dust mites, etc. that the vacuum cleaner can’t absorb still floating in your house and entering into the lungs of your kids? This is where the role of Air Purifiers kick in as it can reduce these allergens to a greater extent.

I guess I am sold on air purifiers to reduce indoor air pollution and release pure and healthy air for my family. There are a few air purifiers in the market and all should be good. However, as I have been using Eureka Forbes water filter for 10 years, and consider it a good brand (I haven’t had a single complaint in the last 10 years), I have decided to go with Eureka Forbes’ Dr. Aeroguard.

When it comes to the health of my family, I am not compromising. What about you?

From Experience, I Can Tell You This is the Worst Way to Respond to Your Child’s Tantrum


My brother was a super tantrum thrower. As a child, I remember whenever his demands were not met, he would spread himself on the ground – no matter where he was, whether it was on the street, playground or dirt track – and kick his legs. For me at 8 years old, it was a funny sight, I am sure my mother would not agree with me.

I had forgotten all about my brother’s weird temper tantrums until I came upon my daughter throwing them. And, let me tell you, it was not funny anymore.

I guess it was payback time for me. Though it didn’t happen much, it was enough to emotionally and physically drain me for life. Without rhyme or reason, she would start crying and refuse to listen. I was having a hard time dealing with these tantrums, needless to say, and it was during this time that I got some hard lessons.

From experience, let me share the WORST ways to deal with your child’s tantrums. Do anything but this when you are tying to restore some peace and normalcy in life!

#1: Giving in to your child’s demands to avoid getting embarrassed in public

When it came to temper tantrums, I had started to notice one thing: the chances of it happening were more when I refused to buy my daughter candy, cookies or flavoured yogurt at the supermarket! It was embarrassing, and hence, I would give in to her demands. We try and do anything to avoid a public scene, right? But, then I realized I was being held to ransom. This could not go on.

Read more at – http://www.worldofmoms.com/blog/from-experience-i-can-tell-you-this-is-the-worst-way-to-respond-to-your-childs-tantrum/1034/2

Choosing the right preschool for your child in 2017


Image: wikimedia

My daughter was 22 months old, when I put her in a nearby preschool. There were only two preschools to my knowledge that were within walking distance from my home. Both were known brands. However, I chose one over the other because I liked the ambience of the first preschool more. My criteria to choosing a preschool were simple –

  1. It should be within walking distance (I hated car parking related woes and commuting in auto rickshaws).
  2. The infrastructure should be good and pleasing.
  3. The fees should be reasonable and within my budget.

I was satisfied with my choice of the preschool, but somehow I realized that my daughter was not too enthusiastic about her teachers there. Anyway, it was only later that I came to know that there were two more good preschools in the adjoining complex. The people in my social circle didn’t know about them, hence I never knew they existed. It’s difficult for a person like me who was new to the area. I do regret my decision of choosing my daughter’s preschool, simply because choices existed, only I was ignorant of them.

Let me tell you what happened with one of my friends. Unlike me, she left no stone unturned in her quest for a good preschool for her son. Apart from taking opinion from friends, family and neighbours, she cornered helpless mothers in the parks and engaged in long conversations about which preschool they thought were good in the area. She stopped young kids in uniforms waiting for their school bus to inquire about their school. She must have discussed her preschool woes with everyone in her life from her maid to the milkman, vegetable vendor and the building watchman. She had turned hysterical in the process of finding a preschool for her son.

I am sure my friend and I were not alone in our pursuit of securing admission of our kids in a good school, there would be thousands of mothers like us fretting over the same issue. The truth is there is no Yellow Pages or a single medium to guide parents or help them choose a good preschool for their children.

The first few years of children’s life are very crucial to their physical as well as physchological development. It lays down the foundation that shapes their future health, growth, development and learning. Hence, it becomes equally important that apart from providing a loving carefree environment at home, parents choose an appropriate preschool.

I recently had a chance to meetup with Siddhartha and his team who are working on challenging this status quo.

And, they have a solution too. It is called First Crayon and can be of a big help to parents.


What is First Crayon?

First Crayon, is an easy-to-navigate online portal, a product of deep and focused research, lengthy conversations with parents to understand their woes and expectations, and meetings with over 700 preschools.

Why First Crayon?

We all have at one point or the other faced a dilemma over choosing an appropriate preschool for our child. With First Crayon, that particular problem is taken care of. With a databse of 1500+ preschools in Mumbai, where you can find more than 20 preschool options within 10-15 mins, First Crayon can help you make complex decision based on over 100 factors like teaching styles, quality of staff, safety parameters, infrastructure, fee structure, admission gateway to primary school, etc. The information is curated by experts and the reviews are all genuine from people like you and me. Though it doesn’t actually replace the need for you to physically visit the preschools, it definitely helps you narrow down your search as per your criteria.

What are its features?

It’s an ever-expanding database of 1500 preschools in Mumbai. You can:

  • read detailed information on each and every preschool including the staff strength, facilities provided, student-to-teacher ratio, age criteria of the preschool, etc.
  • read reviews and share your opinions
  • select your favourite preschools and compare them
  • get customized rating based on your preferences
  • make online query with the preschool
  • take a virtual tour of the preschool

It is a heaven-sent solution for all those parents who are spending sleepless nights over preschool admissions. If you are searching for a preschool, trust me, visit the website and take use of it. If your child has already passed preschool like mine has, then do share a review; it will help fellow parents.

Oh, before I forget, the team at First Crayon is very receptive, so your feedback will always be welcome and taken in the right spirit.  You can reach out to Siddhartha directly on siddhartha.jain@firstcrayon.com.

Your search for the right preschool for your child in 2017 should end at First Crayon! Hope I had a preschool search-mate like this 3 years ago!