Author: obsessivemom

The exam checklist

The exam checklist

We’re almost done with the children’s exams – three whole weeks of crazy days. Each small windows of free time that I’ve had has been taken up by housework since the maid has been playing hooky since the day before exams. But the mandatory exam-post needs to be done.

You remember the one I did during the last spell ? Well here I am again.

Exams affect different people in different ways.

Each exam time I find my children changing in interesting ways.

This year they turned into authors.

Their creative juices are in full flow. The only catch is those juices are directed in every directions except towards their books. They have both decided that being a writer is their calling after all and have started work on their debut novels. The daughter is writing a book on an Indian girl who strikes up a friendship with an English Girl. She informed me today that she has written 1021 words over the last two days. She just might finish her novel by the time exams are through.

H’s masterpiece looks vaguely like Rick Riordon’s work, only in an Indian context. The Gods and goddesses have names that are part Indian part Australian (since they have Australia as part of their syllabus, in excruciating detail). One of them, I clearly remember, is called Yirdaki,

Meanwhile I have turned into a queen of confiscation.

I have currently, in my possession

Sponge balls – 3 nos
Rubix cube – 1 no
Tub of slime – 1, small
Water colours – 7 bottles
Nail paints – 6 bottles
Toy dinosaurs – 2 nos
Fidget Spinners – 2 nos
Guns – 2nos

I’m fast running out of space to hide away all the confiscated items. And if you’re beginning to feel sorry for the children, Don’t, for toys are mere props to their rich imagination. They are currently in the process of fine-tuning an adventure sport that involves jumping from one bed to the other because the space in between is a volcanic field covered with ‘bubbling lava’ visible of course, to their eyes only. I’m not sure how long their Pepperfry particle board beds will bear the onslaught. The way they jump and clamber, even my grandma’s teak would have groaned and died.

Other things that have kept the twins busy are as follows:

H has discovered a new shop of ‘imported chocolates’ in the neighbourhood (Where on earth do they get their information from?).

Also, as he very proudly informed me, he is fourth in the world in some online game he plays where he, quite darkly, calls himself ‘Death’.

The other day as I settled down with a book he jammed his fist in my armpit. As I straightened after picking up the book I had dropped, he explained, “I read that children resemble their parents in six aspects – colour of hair, colour of eyes, smell of armpit…. (I forget the other three) so I was checking whether the theory was true. He proceeded to thrust his other fist in his own armpit and then sniffed at both his hands, nodding in agreement.

QED

N has found a way to make coloured slime (resulting in a coloured bathroom sink everyday) and is now in the process of adding glitter to it so she can patent her own glitter slime. She got pretty offended when I refused to believe that she could continue to study with ‘full focus’ while kneading that bit of slimy dough.

Even as I write this they’re deep in planning their after-exam social calendar which is chock-a-block with lunches, dinners and rendezvous at Ice Cream parlours.

I’m off then, to sort my TBR list.

Happy days ahead.

Striking a balance is the hardest thing to do

Striking a balance is the hardest thing to do

If you’ve been with me on the blog for a while you’ll know how I have always rued the fact that the twins seem to feel no pressure of exams while I am completely freaking out. The more I worry, the less they seem to think about it.

During their mid-terms in October last year, things got worse than ever. All through those two months (before and during the exams) I was constantly yelling at them and then feeling terribly guilty at the things I had said. We’d reach a stalemate, go through silent spells and then I’d be back trying to appease them, trying to get them to study, only to lose my temper yet again.

The worry about their marks and exams hung like a dead weight on my mind dragging me into the dumps, waking me up at night and keeping me anxious all day. I hated the entire exam system, hated that I had to handle it all alone and hated that I had to put the children through it all. It was  vicious.

All for a class 6 mid-term!

I can see how foolish that was, now. But the thing is, the reaction of a troubled mind is often far from logical. In retrospect I realise it was also partly because I had been struggling with a lot of health issues. That must have contributed to my chaotic mental state.

By the end of exam time I knew just one thing – I never wanted to be in that space again. More importantly, I never wanted to put the children through that. No marks, no awards were worth it.

We talked about it, the children and I. And we promised that at the next exam all of us would work towards keeping our cool, NO MATTER WHAT.

The children call it my Kalinga War, moment 🙂

Yeah Asoka the Great is part of their syllabus this term. So basically, that last exam was a sort of turning point. I made the keep-my-cool promise, even more fervently, to myself. I promised I’d not let the worry of their scores push me to the edge of reason, ever.

I am happy to say, this time round exam time has been relatively peaceful. Nothing much has changed – I still have to push them all the time, they still rush off the moment my attention flags, they’re still playing computer games, watching television, amusing themselves in a hundred different ways and annoying me in a thousand more.

The only thing that has changed is my attitude.

Sometimes the only way to make things better is to change your attitude. Click To Tweet

This doesn’t mean I haven’t lost my temper at all. A leopard takes time to change her spots, right? But I have definitely dissociated myself a little bit and that feeling of panic hasn’t come back.

For that I am grateful.

After years of worrying that the children do not worry enough I can finally see the benefit of it. I never thought I’d say this but here I am feeling grateful that H and N do not panic. A friend, who is a teacher, spoke of kids who threw up constantly, suffered from headaches and body aches or ran a fever throughout the exams – all due to anxiety. And these are kids from class five and six, 11, 12 year olds. I would not wish that upon any child ever.

That said, I have to admit I doubt myself all the time, specially when I see a lot of moms pushing on relentlessly. I know of moms who solve each math problem along with their child. And when I hear of things like this I cannot help but  wonder if it’s just me. If it is I who am at fault, that I don’t have it in me to handle the pressure and then I worry that H and N might suffer because of that. Am I allowing them to slide into mediocrity by letting go? Have I been too hasty in letting go?

I don’t have any answers and so for now I push all these thoughts away. I’ll wait for their results before I make up my mind about anything. If they aren’t radically different from the mid-terms I’m good, or else I’ll need to rethink their study pattern.

However, there’s one thing I’m sure of and that is that I never want to go back to the madness of those anxiety ridden days, for their sake as well as my own. I’d much rather they score less and be happy than top their class but become a bundle of nerves.

And for now I’m enjoying the sense of peace.

*********

Linking up with Vidya’s Gratitude Circle

 

Facilitating growth the right way

Facilitating growth the right way

I used to think children gave us grief only when they were infants. Not true at all! As they begin to grow and develop personalities of their own, trouble takes on whole new dimensions. Research says baby brain development starts right from the moment of conception. Then on, children make such rapid progress as to have you completely stumped.

The other day as I sat with N trying to explain the importance of exams and good grades she said:

Mama do you remember the time we went out for dinner to that restaurant Italy via Punjab?
Me (wondering how this fitted in with my exam gyan): Yes, I do.
N: And do you remember your marks in class 6?
Me: No, I don’t. Why?
N: See nobody remembers marks, we only remember the good times. Exams aren’t everything, you know!

Seriously? Now I’ll have a cheeky 11 year-old lecture me on how exams and grades weren’t important? I know that already, thank you. And could you get back to your studies, please?

Sometimes when they talk like this, like know-it-all mini adults, I wonder when they grew up. When did they start thinking up arguments and talking to me like equals?

I well remember the day they were born – tiny mites they were – H, at a mere 2.4kgs, was struggling with an underdeveloped lung while the 1.9 kg N was all eyes and ears, looking, listening, absorbing, even when the doctor brought her to me for that first hug.

I have to admit I was a pretty clueless new-mom. All my school friends had grown up children by then, while my work friends were mostly single or childless. I hardly read up and thought of pregnancy as one big holiday since I’d worked ever since I had left college. That wasn’t quite the right thing to do.

Have you heard of Feed IQ?

I recently came across the concept of Feed IQ. Have you heard of it? Quite literally it implies that a mom ‘feeds IQ’ to her baby through breastfeeding and also through infant brain exercises. There’s a whole list of exercises for each stage of your baby’s growth. You can look it up here.

Simply put, a new parent needs to expose his/her child to as many new experiences as he/she possibly can while giving the child time and leisure to process them at his own pace. Coupled with proper nutrition, this can boost the baby’s IQ.

First the food

I went purely on instinct back when H and N were infants and so obsessed was I about the food that my sister christened me Nirupa Roy. I worried constantly about their baby weight, because they were pre-term babies, plus because H needed to spend about two weeks in the NICU.

They picked up fast enough and I can say with some amount of pride that they are pretty non-fussy as compared to a lot of other children. My sister insists that because I ate so much lauki and cabbage during my pregnancy the children have developed a taste for it. There might be some truth in that, given that the foetus’ first taste of food is through what the mother eats.

And the brain exercises

As with food I went with instinct again, which wasn’t all bad, but I do wish I had been more organised. I’d do things differently now, prepare better perhaps, be more conscious of the fact that the children were attuned to my every mood and thought even when they were tiny foetuses.

The trick is of course, to start early.

I remember I talked to them all the time, even when they couldn’t understand much, mostly because I was often alone with them at home. I sang to them and told them stories. While Shape of You might be miles away from Nanhi Pari, I like to think their love for music stemmed from there.

I do take complete credit for their love of stories. I began by telling them about the epics then moved on to reading aloud to them. From Christopher Columbus’ discovery of America to the great Wars, they loved every bit of it, and still do. Now they’re writing stories of their own.

Going by the way they argue and counter argue; their brain seems to be developing fine. Some of it is genetics of course; we’re quite a family of ‘arguers.’ But as a parent we can facilitate their skills in a hundred small ways.

As the twins grow I see a lot of me in them. And that makes me happy except when they quote me at me to get their way.

Four tips to make sibling room-sharing easier

Four tips to make sibling room-sharing easier

Last week I wrote about how chaotic it can get when siblings share rooms. And yet it has huge benefits. That aside, almost everyone who read that piece had warm memories despite the squabbles. Also, one might not have the luxury of two (or more) separate rooms for each of the children.

So here I am, back today, with some tips that worked for me.

For once, I am glad I had twins because it made this a little easier. I wasn’t dealing with differing age groups where sleep times may not coincide. That would be a major issue with children of different age groups. One could perhaps let the younger one turn three or four before shifting them to a separate room.

We co-slept with the twins till they were about six. The Husband, I and the children slept on three beds – a double bed plus a single joined together. By the time they were six we were all squeezed together in one terribly tangled bunch and I, for one, couldn’t get any sleep at all. The Husband, by the way, had no issues. He’d start snoring as soon as the lights were out.

But I’m digressing.

Here are four things that have helped us keep our sanity.

Start early

I found six years a good age to start though a few years earlier wouldn’t have hurt too. The children were old enough to not need us at night and yet young enough to be glad of each other’s presence across the room. During those first few months they were comforted by each others’ company. In fact, I’d often find them snuggled together in the same bed. The thought that they had each other close was reassuring for me too.

Have clearly demarcated personal and shared spaces

This is the single most important factor. I cannot stress this enough. If you don’t want to tear all your hair out, demarcate which areas are shared and which are each child’s personal space, very very clearly. For instance H and N have separate beds and separate cupboards for their clothes and school books. But they have a common bookshelf and a common soft board. After a big row they even demarcated walls – because N wanted to put up posters of people H absolutely couldn’t stand.

Have basic rules in place

Since they are sharing the room both of them have to adhere to some basic rules. We have lights off rule by 9pm since N is an early-to-bed person. H likes to read late into the night on weekends so then he moves to the living room. Mercifully they share a taste in music but we make sure they have earphones handy if one of them doesn’t want the ‘noise’.

Have separate study areas, preferably in separate rooms

This was a bit of tough decision to take. Ideally I would have liked them to study quietly in their own room. But that didn’t really happen. When one wanted to read aloud the other one would protest. So now H does his school work in my study and things are relatively better.

Much as I try to separate them, they have a tendency to stick together like opposing poles of a magnet. They have periods of extreme affection when they are inseparable and then, in a flash, they are arguing. That’s something I have to live with.

Sharing a room with a sibling

Sharing a room with a sibling

…can be a lot of fun.

Through most of our childhood my sister and I shared a room with our grandmoms. We got ours when we moved to a new house. I was in college then. We shared it till I left Lucknow to work in Delhi. We had posters all over the walls – Ravi Shastri, Boris Becker, Karan Kapoor – all our heartthrobs! Our pride, however, was a gigantic collage we had put together with our favourite ads and quotes.

Of course, we had our fights. Luckily we had two single beds which we would push together in times of peace and drag away during war. The memories that stand out, however, are mostly fun ones.

I’d hoped the same for H and N.

Sharing a room is a great way to learn to adjust

Everyone comes with a bunch of quirks and living together helps one look beyond them. Out in the real world we are not always fortunate to have like-minded room mates. Not for nothing did I survive multiple roomies at working women’s hostels (my first one was from Kashmir and my last from Chennai) and then later, the snores of my one permanent room-mate – the Husband :-).

It teaches you to respect boundaries

It helps children understand the concept of ‘mine’, ‘yours’ and ‘ours’, that there are certain things they can share and others which they cannot.

Most of all, it’s a great way to bond with your sibling

My happiest memories are of hours spent with my sister listening to songs of Shammi Kapoor (he was our eternal love) as also Elvis, Cliff Richards, Boney M and the Beatles on an old battered ‘tape recorder’ and mouthing dialogues of Sholay and Maine Pyar Kiya along with the tape.

H and N being of the same age have it a little more tough. Their books are constantly getting mixed up since they’re in the same class. It is a regular affair to find one of them foraging in the other one’s bag despite protests (How dare you touch my bag!), and coming up triumphantly with a lost book (See? I knew it was in there).

There are personality clashes too. N is more careful with her things and more particular about privacy and ‘space’. She likes and respects boundaries. H, on the other hand, can never even perceive a boundary. If he would, he’d probably step right on it!

Things became a bit crazy the time he used up N’s hair colour pens for painting a carton (He was making my birthday gift!). A huge storm, followed. He insisted they looked ‘just like regular pens’, which they actually do. She refused to believe that (Can’t you read?).

Despite all of that they’ve stuck it out together.

However, at Diwali last year, N picked out pink curtains. I have to admit they were gorgeous. However, H absolutely refused to have them in the room. I tried to pacify him with a beautiful blue rug, but he was adamant.

Striking a compromise…

Finally, I emptied out a shelf in my study and moved some of his things. He can now work on his assignments there and call it ‘his’ room too.

It turned out to be a good idea because they can now study in separate rooms and also sort out their dukh dard in some amount of privacy while still sharing a room.

That said, I have to add that nothing, I repeat, nothing can completely rule out fights and arguments. It is built into their systems, I think.

The other day I was busy in the kitchen when I heard them having an argument. Here’s how it went.

N: This is my room, go away.

H: I’m on my bed, the bed is mine.

N: You can come in only at night.

H: I can come in when I want.

N: Then I’ll take your room and you can stay here.

H: Don’t you dare!

N: Just you watch.

I know a stalemate when I see/hear one. With one eye on my bubbling curry I tried to bring about peace, to no avail. Finally, I bellowed out from the kitchen ‘This is MY house and papa’s and nobody else’s. You two don’t own a room, a cupboard, a shelf. Nothing! So there’s no humara – tumhara. Quit fighting.

It was at that precise moment I realised, our door was open and my elderly neighbour was standing right there, listening to only my side of the conversation. And now I’m sure he doesn’t think much of me as a mum.

Life’s not really fair.

 

Do you remember what it was like to share a room with your sibling? Do you think children, specially of different sexes, should have separate rooms?

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