In draft mode since Feb 29th.
Hip hip hurray, here we enter new foray! What’s all the excitement about? Check this link. That’s the picture that Hari took and submitted as part of the NPR’s Backseat Book Club assignment for February. I know it is one of the several pictures that were submitted, still it’s mighty thrilling to see Hari’s name, and his work printed on the NPR blog site. Do check out the pictures by other kids. Some of them are very profound and heart warming.
When I heard about NPR’s Backseat Book Club, I knew instantly that it is something that I would like Hari to be part of. It seemed like a cool way to introduce him to the concept of book club and another opportunity for us to bond over books. He is underage (in terms of content) for some of the recommended books, so the plan was (and is) to read the books to him at bed time . For instance, Shooting Kabul was a very heavy book in terms of topics covered – 9/11, Taliban, caste conflict, and oppression. Since I read the book to him, I was selective about what and how much I exposed him to.
“Mama, after swim practice today, the boys in the locker room were doing things that could get them in trouble. Everybody was doing it and I felt like doing it too. But my brain was asking me not to do it and I listened to my brain.”
Inspiration comes in different forms and shapes. Today, it came to me in the form of my seven-year old. A reminder to listen to that voice of discrimination and do the right thing even when it is not the easy thing. God bless you my child!
A huge Aha! moment for the week.
I could feel butterflies in my stomach. Understandably so. After all, this was my first time presenting to an audience of this size and nature. The message had to be simple, clear, and crisp for the slightest chance of holding their attention. I prepared as best as I could. I researched, took notes, and came up with a couple of ideas that would foster discussion. I wanted to do good from the bottom of my heart.
They trickled in one after the other. I said a small prayer, and distributed the materials. It was a mixed audience ranging from those that were bursting with enthusiasm to participate to those that couldn’t stop yawning. I have wanted to do this for a long time. Now that I had the opportunity, I decided to be in the moment, and give it my all. That’s exactly what I did, and before I knew it, it was time to disperse. I heaved a sigh of contentment, and thought to myself – not bad, huh?
As I drove back home with Hari in the backseat, I asked my usual question, “How was class today Hari? how did you find it? boring? fun? what did you think?” And he replied, “Mama, you were good!” You see my audience today was Hari and his friends at culture class in his Sunday school where I have been assisting since the start of the academic year.
Drafted on Jan. 24
This evening saw our children inflicted with attitude problems. “Not dhalia upma again. I was hoping it would be something I like. I wish I were not so hungry,” sulked the seven year old at dinner time. “I will not sit on my high chair and eat,” implied the fifteen month old as he persevered to free himself from the high chair. Given the direction in which things were headed, one would have thought the evening was a disaster waiting to happen, right? Not really! How come? Well, let’s just say that I wielded the spoon. Hari is less tolerant to his least favorite foods when I spoon feed him. I give in once in a while, after emphasising it as an exception, to achieve the grand goal of getting him to eat what’s offered. And how about Ram? All it took was, “Do you want to sit here next to me and eat just like anna?”, and the child happily perched himself on my lap instead of sauntering around the house with a mouthful of food. So my friends that’s the story of how the evening was tackled – one spoon at a time!
The evening did remind me of my childhood days when my mom or my grandmom would be seated with a plate laden with rasam rice and us kids swarming around amma or patti for our morsel. I was never a big fan of “kaila podara” routine. The dripping of the rasam rice would irk me, and having to wait for my turn when my stomach was rumbling with ravishing hunger was not exactly something I looked forward to. But then it had its share of perks. No rinsing of plates. No need to pitch in with after meal chores. Plus, we were entertained with stories and gossip. And if we got lucky, we had the privilege of being served in the balcony or terrace under the starlit sky with the summer breeze caressing us.
And like how Enkay wondered in one of her posts, I tried to step in to my mom’s and grand mom’s shoes – what could have been their reasons? did they use it as an opportunity to sneak in left over food? some economies of scale being leveraged in the process? was it less work? or may be, just may be, they simply enjoyed the act of feeding tiny mouths, and seeing little bellies inflate like a balloon following a meal. A smile spreading on their face knowing that now that the kids are well fed, all is well with the world. Just like I secretly did that evening.
The nights that I don’t drift to dreamland while putting Ram to sleep, I would go to tuck Hari who would be more or less at the end of his reading session for the day. As soon as he sights me, he would entice me into reading books by Mark Brown (Arthur series) or Richard Scarry to him.
I am not a big fan of the Aardvark and his bratty sister, but I don’t mind reading about the life in Busytown although we have read it a million times before. Truth be told, I like the Busytowners – the sensible Miss Honey, the ice cream lover Bruno, the unusual Wiggly Worm, the popular Mr. Fix It, the hard working HumperDink and his little mouse assistant Charlie Baker, and every other quirky character that inhabit BusyTown. I like the details in the illustrations. I like how the story and the illustrations are tied to each other. I like how Richard Scarry engages the little readers as the stories unfold. Mostly, I like it because it touches a very soft spot in my heart – it reminds me of Hari’s love for books in his pre-school days and the numerous bonding opportunities that the love paved.
Anyway, I digress. This post is not meant to profess my love for Richards Scarry’s works. It is about what his works mean to Hari. It is about why a kid who likes to show off his reading skills by grabbing books for mature readers such as the Power of Now would insist that his mommy read kiddie books to him at bed time? Last night I posed that question to him and his response was – “These stories calm me down amma. They make me have good dreams. The other day I was scared after reading about the dead cooks who came alive in Captain Underpants. I read Arthur and Richard’s Scarry so that I will not have nightmares” Although he likes to claim that his little Batty Wings (a Bat stuffed toy that he won at an event in Disney) is his comfort item, turns out that it is the books that he devoured as a preschooler that he falls back on for comfort.
I am glad I asked. I am even more glad that he was aware about what drove him to these books and he was able to articulate it to me. Now that I know what it means to him, I will hold back on my tendency to rush through the bed time ritual. The intensity of the days tends to sap my energy by that time of the day, and Hari’s bed routine is what takes a hit. Going forward, I will make the extra effort to not shortchange the most scared part of his routine. Rather our routine.
Overwhelmed after a long day of catching up with routine activities, I lay next to Hari for a super abbreviated version of his bed time ritual. “No reading kannamma today”, I muttered with a trace of apology. “How about some cricket”, he asked with hope lingering in his eyes. “Illa ma rajathi, amma has work to do and it is already past your bed time”, with this closing statement I fast forwarded to the fag end of our routine. Recited our routine slokam and asked him, “How was your day? what made you happy? what made you sad?”. He talked a bit about soccer, recess, and snacks, and shot the questions back at me. Little did he realise that the questions would unleash a pity party. “I had a hectic day Hari. First, it was shoveling the snow, then getting reading for the day. It was busy at work. Then had to pick Ram, drop him at home and then pick you from swim class. Then I had to make dinner. I have a terrible terrible tooth ache and head ache. I wish I could sleep now. But I have to work for atleast another hour.”
It didn’t matter that he was only a first grader. All I wanted was a willing shoulder to lean on. And yesterday it happened to be his tiny shoulders. He listened patiently, and asked, “Do you want me to help you with the cleaning?” Somehow that casual offer seemed like the perfect soothing balm for my tired soul. I came downstairs to tackle my sink full of dishes and a house littered with toys with renewed energy knowing that I was heard and someone cared.
Sometimes the difference between empathy and indifference is only a few words, isn’t it?
We had created an email account for Hari a few years back but never really used it. Now that he reads and writes, we have started using it as a medium to keep him posted on things pertaining to him. He seems to be getting a flavor for it. His first few emails were around, “Amma, you are the best mom in the whole world”, then he used emails to coax me into doing things, “Amma, do you think we could go to park today, please, pretty please?”. Sometimes he would reply with maturity, “Amma, thank you for your encouragement. I hope to do good”.
I love love getting these emails with so many different flavors. The formal tone of the emails laced with stretching spelling, typical for a seven year old, is another reminder to me that although he is so matured and grown up on the outside, deep down he is still a little child. The reserve of innocence may be depleting but it’s still there.
“Amma, do you want to know my email password”, asked a rather excited Hari. “Only if you want to share it with me”, I replied pretending not to know what it is. He whispered the password and told me to keep it as a secret. “Why should it be a secret Hari”, I asked to pick his brain. “Because if you say it loudly some robber might hear it and break your computer”. Ha, password security through the eyes of a first grader.
“Why does Yuna keep writing to me always amma”, asked a rather puzzled Hari as he was checking his email account to reply to folks that had wished him for his b’day. The question cracked me up as I explained to him, “Hari, remember the last time we talked about it? Like how we have strangers in real world, we have strangers that write to our email ids. They are called spammers. Like how you are not suppose to talk to strangers unnecessarily, you should not open emails from someone you do not know.” Yuna was so real to him. Someone who doesn’t know him would know his email id and would actually write to him was so unfathomable to Hari. I think he gets it, sort of. In his words, “I am going to call Yuna as Junk Girl from now on mama.”