Author: Tulika

Last minute Valentines Day gift for your Teen

Last minute Valentines Day gift for your Teen

Valentine’s Day is two days away and I have nothing at all planned for the children. It shouldn’t matter, except that they really look forward to something special. That’s of course my fault entirely for having spoilt them so. However, I do believe we should celebrate every occasion we can, as long as it doesn’t become a compulsion or a pressure. This year with exams coming on early and the pressure of tests and projects, we’re in dire need of cheering up but I’ve hardly had time to think of anything.

That is why I was looking for something quick and easy (and also free) that they would love. I’m taking a cue from something H did once. There’s a little bit of a story here, hear me out and then I’ll share my idea. So the thing is while H is the huggiest child when it comes to immediate family, he’s extremely shy when it comes to friends and extended family. It’s a joke of sorts, with everyone trying to hug him while he runs around trying to avoid them. Once when he was clueless about ideas for his aunt’s birthday, he made ‘Huggie Coupons’ for her which she could ‘encash’ at will in exchange for a hug from him. They were essentially bits of paper with ‘One hug’ written on them since H isn’t the crafty kind but his aunt loved the intent.

Privilege Coupons

That’s what I’ll be doing this year for the children. I’m making coupons which they can encash for special privileges. I like that it gives them a sense of choice, which is something teens are always fighting for. That said, I really thought through my ‘offers’. The option of not being able to fulfil any of them doesn’t exist. Both H and N are absolute Shylocks when it comes to extracting their pound of flesh and I shall forever be labeled ‘unfair’ and a ‘promise breaker’ if I dishonour a coupon.

Here’s my list of offers:

1. Weekend Movie Night Pick

2. Chore Free Day

3. Order Out Day
Cannot be used the same week as Pizza Night

4. A meal of your choice
24-hour notice required

5. Pizza Night
Cannot be used the same week as Order Out Day

6. Mama Hour
An hour of Mama’s undivided attention for an activity of your choice
We could read along, craft together, watch videos, your pick. It has to be on a weekend.

7. Weekend Coffee Date

8. Weekend Breakfast in Bed

9. Get Your Room Cleaned

10. Weekend trip to the mall
I included this one only because we have a small, very functional kind of mall right next to our apartment complex and I know the children love going to the mall but aren’t big on shopping.

I made my coupons on Canva. Click here if you want to try making your own. This is what they look like. I shall staple them together into a booklet, from which they can be torn out and given.

That’s the cover of the Coupon Booklet

This is a sample of the coupon

There are also loads of love-coupons-for-kids printables on the Net. You could try those. Or you could  design your own or, if you want to keep it really simple, cut out squares from fancy paper, write down your ‘offers’ and staple them together into a booklet. Easy Peasy.

A few pointers:

  1. Think in terms of activities (not things).
  2. Give them options you can see through.
  3. Add condition wherever you need to.

And you’re done.

Let me know if you try it.

Note: The coupons work for any age-group of kids and even for adults.

Growing Up

Growing Up

I wait outside the registration room and I watch H as he stands in the queue. He looks uncertain, but not scared. I watch as his turn comes, he signs up, picks up his ID card and walks out to me.

‘There. Done,’ he says with a grin, ‘You can go now. Or you can stay for the opening ceremony.’

I am here to drop him off for a mock UN session. We have travelled half way across the city for this annual event that brings together school children to represent various countries discussing a particular topic.

The instructions and timings are a little vague and H doesn’t know a soul here. That worries me. All through the forty-five minute drive I’ve been talking to him, explaining, cautioning, making sure he has the phone with him. Will he feel lost, lonely, scared? I wonder.

‘Don’t worry ma,’ he says reading my thoughts, ‘I’ll be fine.’ I look at him, taller than me already, in his formal suit, the ID card around his neck making him look oddly grown up, professional almost. To an outsider.

To me he’s just a 13-year-old. A goofy absentminded 13-year-old.

Unbidden, a memory comes to me, that of 6-year-old H, taking his first steps into Big School, bravely trying not to cry, walking away without a backward glance.

I look at him again. Try as I might, I see no traces of the scared 6-year-old. All I see is a young boy, chattering away excitedly. ‘I wish they’d have given me a more important country to represent. Philippines is just so sidey. China would have been good or the US or even India,’ he complains, ‘Next time we’ll register earlier.’

Nope, no traces of the six-year-old.

With an effort I make myself separate the two images.

‘Oh boy!’ he exclaims examining the programme for the day, ‘they have Breakfast after the Opening Ceremony. Last year I had three glasses of hot chocolate. I hope they have it this time too.’ The six-year-old is back again!

I can’t help but laugh, glad the younger version is still in there somewhere under the suit and the tie even as the teen tries to take over.

Choosing your own race

Choosing your own race

Choices are bad. Choices drive you crazy. Choices give you anxiety. Big anxiety.

It’s choices that have been troubling us over the past few months. This coming academic session the children will step into their first Board-exam year. They had to make subject choices and helping them make that decision drove us all to distraction. If you’re wondering why I didn’t simply ask them, tell me, do you really think a 13-year-old is equipped to make a life-decision like this one?

To be fair, it is possible but only for a child who is sorted, who has clear likes and dislikes, a clear path ahead of him. But what of the one who hasn’t yet formed a picture of the path he wishes to tread but can do reasonably well at whatever he takes up? How does he choose?

We’ve been going back and forth over their options in an attempt at selecting the least stressful one while not closing any doors to them later in life. We’ve done career counselling and aptitude tests but in the end the decision is so much more than all of that.

It is tempting to stick to the (generally perceived) educational Holy Trinity of science-maths-computers. Every reasonably decent student does that. And yet I just wasn’t convinced. Part of me argued why a child should study stressful subjects he has no interest in just because he can? Wouldn’t it be better to allow him time to focus on what he truly enjoys? The other part of me wondered if it was too early to close doors by quitting even one of the elements of the Trinity.

Seriously, when it comes to decisions I’m Chidi. From The Good Place. Have you watched it? If you haven’t, suffice it to say that I find making decisions very very hard, specially when it comes to the children, even more when the decisions will have long-term implications on their careers and lives.

Anyhow, based on what they said, taking into account their likes and dislikes, their interest, their aptitude, their attitude, their capacity for hard work, also discounting peer pressure and societal norms and tempering all of that with doses of practicality, we have together made the choice.

Fingers crossed now.

The pressure on the children is incredible. And no matter how cool we are, how much we tell them that grades don’t matter, it doesn’t ring true given the the whole world’s obsession with them. During one long tearful conversation N said as much, ‘No matter what you say,’ she had said, ‘grades matter. Maybe not to you, but they matter to my teachers, to my friends and to everyone else. And so they have to matter to me.’

The race has become only too real. Already.

As parents our goal should be to keep our heads above water, to make sure our children make the correct choices, to ascertain that they don’t get overwhelmed, or give in to panic with this whole ‘It’s-our-first-boards-exam’ thing. That’s what I’m going to do.

We have to try our darndest to help our children stay focussed on their own individual races, rather than joining in the ones laid out by their schools, their peers, the society or even their own siblings.

I am writing. Again.

I am writing. Again.

The beginning of a year has always filled me with new vigour. It seems magical somehow, full of possibilities. Each year I print out planners, set blogging goals and health goals. I make resolutions, some of which I even manage to stick to.

This year, however, has been different. Because I’ve done nothing! Nothing at all. I tried to plan. To write. I opened my laptop multiple times. I sat staring at it but I just couldn’t. I read articles and blogs in search of inspiration. That’s what got me out of my limbo in the past.

Curiously enough, this time the more I saw year-end posts and resolutions, and Word of the Year posts and Vision Boards, the less I felt like writing. Because, honestly, I have no goals for this year. That sounds terrible – like a lost directionless ship. Moreso when everyone else seems to have everything worked out neatly.

Perhaps that’s why I couldn’t bring myself to write. It isn’t a happy confession to make – that one is directionless. It’s like belittling the whole business of writing/blogging.

Then today I received a gift and a beautiful little note from friends from a blogging community which I am sort of part of – in a very peripheral kind of way. But that small note reminded me of the fact that I am a blogger. Goals or not, professional or not, good or bad, five views or five thousand, I am a blogger, I write. That’s what I’ve done for over a decade, not counting the years I did it for a living. There’s no way I could stop doing it.

And so I resolved to try again.

Each evening when I drop the kids for their classes I workout at a gym. Today I decided to dump it. I ditched my tights and tee. I picked out a gorgeous new top and my favourite pair of jeans. I put on some gloss for good measure. Then I did away with my gym rucksack, got out my bright red handbag instead and slid in my laptop.

Today, I was going to write.

The children looked on, a trifle puzzled. H, who can never hold in a question asked, ‘Where are you going  ma?’ ‘To write,’ I replied cryptically.

As they walked off to their class I headed for the smoky cafe I go to sometimes. It’s been an hour since I sat  here with a terrible cup of bitter green tea for company and I’ve got down a thousand words! Not all thousand are going to make it to the publish button, maybe none of them will, but the good thing is I am writing. Again.

The blogging world is vast. It is easy to feel lost and inconsequential, like you and your writing don’t matter (and maybe they don’t, really). However, one must keep writing with the hope that someday, some small piece of writing may make a difference to someone somewhere, that it might touch someone in a special way, bring a smile maybe, or a nod of relief and understanding. And for that, one must keep writing.

So here I am with my directionless rambling. Perhaps this will mean something to someone else feeling just as directionless. Perhaps it will make them continue on their path, like me, in the hope of better things. Perhaps, tomorrow I’ll find my goal and write something meaningful. But for now, this is all I have, this will have to do.

In search of a perfect gift #WordsMatter

In search of a perfect gift #WordsMatter

Some six or seven years ago, on a crisp December morning I stood before the tiny temple I have at home, my hands folded in prayer. This small dialogue with God is my daily post-bath ritual. I put all my anxieties on hold for the space of a minute or two and recite a small prayer. That day after I finished my regular prayer I added a special petition for H and N.

It was their Sports Day and I wanted them both to do well at the races. Mercifully they were in separate sections and so both stood independent chance of winning. As I was asking God to help them, I wondered if all other moms, or at least some of them, were standing in front of their Gods just like me praying the same prayer. So who would God listen to? Also, I wondered if it was a little unfair, not to say selfish, to ask a favour for BOTH my children at the same time. I mean, God must have some kind of a quota system, right? Only so much happiness to be doled out per family, or something like that, I reasoned. So if I had to choose one child to ask a favour for, who should it be? That thought boggled my mind so crazily that I gave up without even trying. I’m not good at decision making anyway and so I decided to leave it to Him. I ended my prayer with a ‘Keep them both happy, please God’ and that was it.

They both ran their races. N bagged a medal while H missed his, coming in fourth.

And that, dear friends, was the best thing God could have done. I’m sure if H reads this later he will wonder if I’m really his evil stepmom as he often says these days. And since God prefers to conveniently shut himself up in the heavens above rather than offer clarifications I’m going to try to do that for him.

First up, N is the sporty one in the family while H is content with his laptop and his books (in that order, regrettably enough). That day winning mattered more to her than to him. He would perhaps have been content losing out in the heats so he could sleep in at home rather than go for the finals.

Also it is N who needs small wins such as this one all the while to keep up her confidence, while H has an inherent sense of self that never lets him feel down too long. So all in all I can say, Well done God!

Had I not had my I-want-the-world-for-both-my-children glasses on my mom-face that morning, I would perhaps have known what to pray for. Thank goodness I at least had the sense to leave it all to Him.

And so when I think of the one gift I would like to give or receive I’d stick with the same one I asked for H and N that December morning – the gift of happiness.

The tricky bit is nothing guarantees it, not a win at the races, nor fame or success or money or even friends or family. One can have the world and yet not find lasting happiness. Paradoxically, it’s the simplest to find too – a hot cup of tea, a gentle smile, a stranger’s kindness. One can have nothing and yet be happy.

And that is what I’m counting on, that we all find our own individual happiness beyond material gains and social paradigms.

*********

I received this tag from Geetanjali Joshi at Of This That and More . It’s my pleasure to pass on this tag to Parul at Happiness and Food. There are 25  of us on this Blog Hop and it will be spread over 3 days – 6th, 7th and 8th December  2019. Do follow the #WordsMatter Blog Hop and prepare to be surprised! 

On my other blog: Beat About The Book

Dopehri #BookReview

Dopehri #BookReview

Book: दोपहरीAuthor: Pankaj Kapoor I don’t know why I took so long to pick up this book. It is written by an actor I love; an erudite, eloquent, thinking actor. It’s set in my hometown. It has a promising title and gorgeous cover page. I really can’t imagine why I didn’t pick it up earlier. […]