Category Archives: parenting

Momnesia!

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I have become famous in my family and friends for my terrible memory. While I never had a photographic memory to begin with, it has gotten really bad after the birth of little H. So much so that three months postpartum I went to the doctor especially complaining about my poor memory. The doctor, a wizened old lady with kids and grand kids of her own peered at me for a few seconds. And then asked do you forget to feed your baby, do you forget to wash her poop, do you forget to give her medicine when she is sick. When I answered no to the all these questions she said my memory is perfectly fine and I am just suffering from mommy brain. I still insisted she give me some supplement for my memory but she just brushed me aside. To my credit the only serious blooper I committed was forgetting H’s three month vaccination. After that my family was diligent about asking me and reminding me about any upcoming vaccinations. When I googled about poor postpartum memory I realized researchers have coined the word momensia for it.

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Two and a half years down my memory fails to show any signs of improving. And I just have one kid! I am often found standing in front of the open refrigerator thinking what I came to get. According to my mom this happened to her only after four kids. Guess it is the ‘asli’ diet in their childhood which gave them an edge in the memory department. And of course whenever I leave the house to go for a sleepover at my mums, I often come back after five minutes to retrieve the very important thing that I forget. Both my mother in law and mother now know not to lock the gate till at least fifteen minutes have passed from my departure! I have forgotten my phone charger countless times, not to mention stuff like keys, wallet all because I changed my handbag. And the  most important forgetting diapers! There is an unspoken rule of poop, the only time you forget to bring the diapers and an extra change of clothing that is the time your child will have a major poop disaster right in that very important family wedding or dinner. You and your husband will exchange worried glances each time a loving uncle or aunty would want to pick up your toddler. Once on an outing, I made my hubby stop at a mall, buy diapers from the supermarket and then changed H’s diaper in the mall’s changing room. I have a mantra for dealing with such accidents, pause, take a deep breath, tell yourself you will be laughing about this in a few years! And then tell your husband this also because you can tell he is thinking about his expensive car seat covers!

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So over the last two years I have collected a few tips to counter momnesia:

  • Download a to do list app like astrid on your phone. There are also many family apps which you and your hubby can use jointly like cozi. But it never worked for me because hubby dear would just ask me to remind him instead of upadating and setting a reminder on his cozi account. So personally I like astrid. It sets you make multiple lists e.g. you can have a grocery list so when you find yourself at the grocery store unexpectedly and cannot think what you needed, you have the list. Similarly it lets you set recurring reminders like I set one for my daughter’s and my vitamins. There is also a list for today, you update it for everyday. I like to make my to do list for the next day before bedtime, or in the morning after Fajr. That ensures I do not forget any important tasks for the day. And ah the sweet pleasure of ticking off tasks off my to do list.
  • You know how random things to do occur at the most inappropriate moments. Make a master to do list on a piece of paper or cardboard and stick it on your dressing mirror or someplace where it is very obvious. Then attach a pen too. And whenever a random thought occurs write it down IMMEDIATELY. I repeat write it down immediately. Do not wait to finish the task you are currently doing because for sure it will leave your brain the minute you finish the current one. Also have a separate to buy list, you could have it on your phone on astrid. Being a pen and paper girl, I also like a nice big list on my dresser too, one column showing things to buy and one column showing things to do. From that master to do list and to buy list I transfer things to my daily to do lists on my phone. Also a good idea is to plan your whole week. That ensures you do not forget any important event like doctor’s appointment or vaccinations.
  • If you are a desi mommy like me and live in pakistan, you might also want to have a list of things to tell your maid. In the mad preschool drop off and pick up rush I often forgot to give instructions  to the maid and would later fume when she would do things the wrong way or I would have to do her errands just because I forgot to tell her. With the maid instruction list this problem was solved.
  • Plan your menu especially your breakfast menu with a few alternate plans if you have a fickle toddler like mine and limited time in which to feed her. I have a weekly menu of dishes which I know my toddler likes plus there is always one simple backup plan. So if H refuses to eat the omelette I lovingly prepared for her (wrings hands in frustration), I give her a simple cheese sandwich or raisins and bananas. Plan your daily lunch and dinner menu. That prevents you realizing at the last minute that you have forgotten two ingredients for today’s dish. Once you have the weekly menu, you can do the weekly grocery. See easy peasy.
  • Another important one which I learned after many mistakes. Always have your diaper bag ready. Replenish your diaper bag as soon as you come from a trip or at least the very next day. This tip usually prevents the diaper forgetting the disaster!
  • If your mum lives in the same city and you often go for sleepovers or just spending a day then you would have to lug a whole bag of clothes for your little ones. In that case have a handy checklist to make sure you do not forget anything. A sample checklist could include stuff like onesies, socks, shoes, caps, sweaters, vests, phone charger etc. Of course an easier options is to keep some clothes there. Usually this does not work for me in winters because I often keep a limited stock of clothes for the short Karachi winter and cannot afford to leave clothes at mums too. But it works great in summers.
  • If you have a toddler and often go out then keep some ready to grab snacks handy in your fridge. This minimizes the chance of you forgetting them and countering a middle of the trip car tantrum fueled by hunger.
  • Last but not the least, embrace your forgetfulness and kick guilt out. You are only human and among a million things that you have to keep track of, it is ok to forget a couple. Remember as long as you have a healthy, happy child the rest is all ok.

Ok mamas, that is all for now, though I am sure I am forgetting something crucial! 😀

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How to raise a kind child?

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We Pakistanis are notorious for our cynicism and apathy. Some say this cynicism is a survival mechanism brought about by the poor law and order situation and the level of deceit, cheating and widespread poverty in our society. It has come to a point where the majority of the city dwellers consider every person especially belonging to the lower class as a fraud, be it the maid or the driver or the beggar on the street. While some may argue this is necessary to protect our self interests but I firmly believe people are innocent until proven guilty. Negative people are rarely happy and if you are always thinking and attributing bad intentions to others you will create an aura of negativity around yourself which will harm yourself the most.

And this negative attitude filters to our children. When I was teaching ethics to my seven graders, I was surprised by the level of mistrust found in a bunch of 12 year olds, supposedly the future of our nation. When asked how can they help their servants most of them were of the view that servants are a bunch of lazy, stealing crooks. And it is best to treat them harshly so that they remain in control. Disappointing. This is the mindset they learned from their parents.

As parents we are our children’s first role models. Children are very observant. They are paying attention even when you think they are engrossed elsewhere. So the saying that ‘Be the person you want your child to be’ is so true. Kindness begins at home. Treat your spouse and your children with kindness and politeness even when you are angry. Treat the hired help in your home respectfully. Many would argue that if you treat them politely they would trample all over you and not work properly. Here I would like to point out the difference between aggressiveness and assertiveness. You can be polite while being assertive. For example your maid is taking too many days off on the pretext of sickness or other reasons. Instead of shouting at her, you could calmly tell her that she can only take a specified  number of days off in a month. Anymore and her salary will be deducted. Always focus on win win solutions.

In a metropolis like Karachi which is steaming with beggars at every traffic signal, it is difficult not to get annoyed by their persistent demands. I have seen people rebuking street children and beggars very harshly, even abusing them. Do not give them money but at the same time set an example for your children by never speaking harshly to  them. Help the children selling tissue papers, toys, dust cloths by buying from them even when you do not need those things. They are trying to earn a respectful earning for themselves and should be encouraged. If your children are old enough to be getting pocket money, encourage but never force them to buy stuff from these children. Or sometimes buying a treat for a random beggar is also a good idea. For example it is very hot and your child is buying a packet of juice for himself. Encourage him to buy one extra and give it to the boy cleaning car windows in the scorching sun.

Children have an innate desire to help each other. It is we who make them into selfish individuals by our own behavior. Even a two year old can be taught empathy and encouraged to share her pack of  biscuits sometimes with a beggar. Generally after age three children have the ability to learn to share. Never punish them for not sharing but always encourage them. When they see you doing it, they would also want to share.

Instill in them a sense of empathy and gratefulness by telling them how lucky they are to have so many things and how some people do not even  have enough food. My two year old once surprised me by looking at a hand less beggar and then staring at her own hands and declaring, “Uncle does not have hands, H has hands!’ I was dumbfounded by that observation for a minute. But then realized that this is great teachable moment. So I told  her that we need to thank Allah that He has given us hands and help people who do not.

Sometimes in our quest to protect our children from emotional pain we do not let them see the misery of others. But at the same time to raise empathetic, helpful adults it is imperative to let them see and help the less fortunate in our society. A good idea is to take your younger children to the Dar ul sukun if you reside in Karachi or to any orphanage. Bake cupcakes or buy treats for them and then let your child hand it out. For older children let them save their pocket money and every month take some portion out for the needy. Take them to buy clothes or other essentials for the poor. Involve them in volunteering at welfare organizations. There are so many ways to encourage and motivate children and inculcate in them kindness but first you have to start with yourself.

Parenting my High Needs Toddler

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I had never heard the term high needs baby. It was when my baby turned eight months old and developed separation anxiety that I started googling the term clinginess and separation anxiety. All the websites talked about how it is a phase and it will get better with time, once your child realizes that mama always comes back. Interestingly I hardly ever left my child, the first time I left little H was when she was 3 months old and my husband and I decided that we really need some time for ourselves. So we left her with the very excited and doting grandparents and went to Dolmen City Mall. Now those of you living in Karachi must know that cellphone signals often disappear in Hyperstar. So while we  were happily doing some grocery shopping our darling daughter was causing an uproar and driving her grandparents insane with worry by her incessant crying. Oblivious to all this drama once we exited the mall, both hubby and my phone started ringing madly. And so we returned to a distraught little girl who only stopped crying once she was comfortably snuggled with mama and having a late night snack 😛 After that I only ever left her when she was napping in the afternoon for a quick shopping trip.

The next time me and hubby decided to go out was on our anniversary and again we were rewarded with a repeat performance where little H refused to be consoled by either grandparent. After that we just accepted that we can only leave her if she is sleeping. Little H was around 1.3 years old at that time.

One interesting thing which I observed was that since little H was a baby, if I  had to go somewhere and was trying to make her sleep she would never sleep. She would get the vibes that oh mama has to go so let us pretend to be really fussy and not go to sleep or keep waking up so she is not able to go.

It was not only that H had an issue with me leaving, in fact she had an issue with me doing anything which took away my attention from her! That involved going to the bathroom, showering, cooking or any chores. And she wanted was to be carried ALL THE TIME. From the minute she woke up to the minute she went to sleep, she constantly wanted to be with me. And so I mastered the art of cooking a three course meal, doing laundry, cleaning while balancing a toddler on my hips. Thank God little H was always on the skinny side or I am sure I would have developed a hump on my right hip 😛

Anyway all the websites proclaimed that it is just a phase and will go away on its own usually by the time the child is two years old. So I waited eagerly for her second birthday. She was also starting preschool once she turned 2 so I was hopeful that that will also help make her less clingy. I should have known better. Four months of going to school and although she is well settled in playgroup now but her clinginess at home and when we go out shows no sign of abating.

I of course have been given all sorts of advice, that I should just leave her, should not pick her up, be more assertive with her and blah blah. Her teacher told me to just tell her that mama’s hands are tired and she cannot pick you up. I tried that for a week, but it just ended up with a limp noodle stuck to my legs, howling her head off. And she had the stamina to keep crying for ages, if I removed her from my legs, she would just follow me and hold me tightly. A week of this and I just started wondering what I was doing to her self esteem, as trust in the primary caregiver i.e. mother makes up the foundation of a child’s self esteem. I being a firm proponent of attachment parenting never believed in the crying it out method, but was willing to try anything by that time out of sheer frustration. When that failed I again turned to my best friend, Google. It was then I discovered the high needs child and a great article by Dr. Sears. Here is the link http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-features-high-need-baby.

When I first read that article I felt it was talking about little H. Since birth she has always preferred by arms to anything else, nursed very frequently read every fifteen minutes, wanted to sleep with me and not in her crib, was very difficult to wean from the breast, and still awakens at night at 2.4 years.

To all those moms who have a high needs toddler or baby, I want to tell you there is nothing wrong with your child and neither with your parenting. Most importantly you are not spoiling her by holding her or attending to her needs 24/7. Your job is to encourage her to be independent but at the same time do not push her away from you when she is not ready. Her trust in your ability to meet her needs provides her with a life long sense of security and a strong self esteem. It is only for the first few years of her life that she needs you this intensely and she will soon grow up. Also read this article by Dr. Sears http://www.askdrsears.com/topics/health-concerns/fussy-baby/high-need-baby/12-lessons-our-high-need-baby-taught-us. It really sums up my feelings.

Happy Parenting!

Enjoy your child!

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days are long but years are short

It is a beautiful day here in Karachi. Sunny with just the right amount of chill in the weather. Not enough chilly to make you pull out a sweater but enough that you will break out in goosebumps when you do Wudu for Fajr. Little H is finally sleeping after waking up at 5 a.m. and driving me crazy for two solid hours! Little Madam wanted me to sit and pat her to sleep forever and if she caught me closing my eyes or lying down a tantrum will ensue. H’s latest quirk is having me pat her for ages while I sit. I am not allowed to close my eyes or lie down. It does not matter whether it is 12 a.m. or 3 a.m. or whether she has woken up for the zillionth time, the same procedure must be repeated. I am seriously thinking why haven’t a mechanical mommy arm been invented!!! I feel like one of the handmaidens of Mughal times who were supposed to fan their mistresses all night in the hot Indian summers. So here I am rewarding myself with some me time with a huge breakfast, a steaming mug of tea and my laptop. Of course my heart jumps whenever I hear a voice from the bedroom. and that is every few minutes because  being a mommy means hearing an imaginary baby cry all the time. So not good for my poor heart, I tell you.

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Anyway I was ruminating about this quote someone said about motherhood, about how the days are long but the years are short. So true. Sometimes I feel like it was just yesterday that I brought H from the hospital all bundled up in pink. I do not remember much about the first six months. It is a blur of marathon breastfeeding sensations, and never ending poopy diapers. I look at other people’s babies and I wish I could go back to little H’s infant hood and take a moment to just cuddle her and stare at her perfect little hands and feet. As is the tradition here, when all the extended family came to visit me after the baby, the aunties will look wistfully at the baby and say enjoy this time, it is not going to come back. And in my mind I would go like I know it is not going to come back but how am I supposed to enjoy with a baby who refuses to ever sleep, cries incessantly combined with a difficult post partum recovery.

connect wiht chidren

Once little H turned around eight months, she developed extreme separation anxiety. No one was as good as mama and no place was better than mama’s lap. She wanted to be held all the time. I googled stuff, all the websites said separation anxiety will abate after a few months. I waited and waited but no as she grew older it just got worse. She just wanted and still wants her mama. And not just to be around me, but to be held by me. I grew increasingly frustrated as it was literally impossible for me to do any cooking, cleaning or other chores. I once even burned her while trying to cook while carrying her. Guilt made me miserable for days after that. But still stuff had to be done. I can now cook a three course mean while carrying her. Mommy superpower! I am sad that despite all the useless advice I got on H’s clinginess, nobody ever told me to buy a baby carrier and wear your baby! H has always been a very perceptive baby so the more frustrated I got with her, she would absorb my anxiety and cling to me even more. In retrospect I realize I was unconsciously pushing her away. If I could just have let her be and spent time with her, her clingy phase would probably have ended sooner.

seperation anxiety

After two years, I have realized the chores can wait, everything else can wait but my baby will only be two once. She would be this adorable and cute only once. So now I try to cuddle her longer in the mornings. When she beckons me to come play pretend games with her, instead of a hurried no I am busy now, I try to take two minutes to give her my full attention and do what she wants to. It is amazing how five minutes can make a difference to a child. They will be happy with just the five minutes you sit with them and will often go off to play by themselves after that. You do not have to sit and play for a half hour and let your chores wait. Life has become so fast and filled with never ending to do lists, social commitments and chores that it is very easy to consider your children as a distraction from all that you have to do. I have been guilty of that. But we need to remember children are our greatest priority and they will be young only once. So mamas, sit down, stop what you are doing, look in your child’s eyes, give them a hug and go start a pillow fight. Go create memories!

Parental Influence on Children

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I love observing people and since I became a mother I observe other people’s parenting styles, their children’s personalities and behavior. It is a lot of fun actually. I am no psychologist but one thing I have noticed is that children’s personality traits are  greatly influenced by their parents. And here I am talking about adult children. You would not be able to tell much by looking at a 2 year old or a 5 year old but when you observe a 40 year old man and then look at his parents, you realize how similar his thought pattern is to his parents. You are a product of your  past experiences. Of course at any time  you can break out of patterns made by your past, but that requires a lot of conscious awareness and willpower (this is a topic for another post).

happy chilren clipart

Children are like sponges, They absorb whatever is there in their environment and store it in their brain. For example you and your hubby had a fight. Although you took care not to argue in front of your child, you continued to give your husband the cold shoulder. You might think that your toddler or preschooler will not be able to notice this but trust me they can feel the vibes and if this is a frequent occurrence they will learn that ignoring people is the solution to problems.

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One day I was feeling very tired and stressed out. I was just sitting and thinking about all the stuff I had to do. Little H came in the room and completely surprised me by asking what happened mama. She is only 2.3 but she could feel the tension emanating from me. So never underestimate children.

It is often the things that we do not notice about ourselves that our children learn from us. I realized that after marriage when I got to look at my husband’s parents and my parents and realized that our current communication styles are so much influenced by our parents.

Some traits that I observed children learn from their parents:

Optimism

Specifically optimism is one trait you learn from your parents. If you view your glass as half full  your children are likely to do so too. Your husband got a new job which is high paying but in a remote region. How do you react? Do you fall into depression thinking how will you pass the time there or you start making plans to engage yourself?

optimism

Anxiety and problem solving skills

problem sovling

How do you behave when confronted by an everyday problem? For example you have a huge dinner party today and your maid falls sick and cannot come. Do you panic and start talking about how difficult it will be now or you immediately start making alternative plans like maybe you can call the neighbor’s maid. Our level of anxiety when confronted by a problem and our problem solving skills is something our children definitely learn from us.

Resilience

reselience

Resilience is the ability to bounce back from life’s misfortunes and to cope with stress and adverse situations. Your children observe how quickly you bounce from a negative event like the loss of a job, financial distress, death of a loved one or relationship issues or you keep wallowing in your grief for a long time.

Happiness

happy  children

If you have  a cheerful disposition and enjoy life it is likely your children will also turn out be cheerful, happy individuals. Again this is linked to optimism.

change mom quote

So mamas, be happy, optimistic and enjoy your life and you will automatically raise happy children! 😀 And remember all these traits can be learned, your personal development as a person is linked to your growth as a mom 🙂

Positive Parenting and Desi Culture

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happy familyl

The other day while supervising my daughter at a park I heard this exchange between a mother and daughter. The daughter was around 5 years old and was scared to come down the slide. The mother was telling her that even little babies were using the slide and everybody is going to laugh at her for being such a sissy. Now I firmly believe that every parent-child situation is different and there is no one solution fits all scenario but I found this just very wrong.

plant growing

Sadly this kind of parenting style is very common in our society. How many times have u heard parents scaring children of Allah babas (the bogey man) to get them to behave. Or telling them that everybody is going to laugh at them if they do not do a certain thing, or comparing them to other children or telling them how good babies do not do that and how he/she must be a very bad baby!

scaring todder

I feel this kind of fear based parenting is the reason our children only follow rules when we are around them. We as a society have failed to raise a responsible and self motivated generation. We will gladly throw garbage out of our car windows here because we know there are going to be no repercussions. But the minute we step on foreign soil we become law-abiding citizens. This is because positive parenting is really missing from our society. We raise our children through intimidation, threats, bribery.

positive parenting meets psychology

So what exactly is positive parenting.? It is gently guiding your children to the right path through listening to them and setting clear, consistent rules. Many people in our society confuse positive parenting with permissive parenting thinking being gentle with children is going to spoil them.

Now let us discuss the most common desi parenting pitfalls:

1. Using fear and threats.

disciline

This is a very common approach, scaring them with cockroaches, lizards or Allah baba to get them to behave, stop a tantrum or make them eat dinner. Please stop. Instead of scaring them, look them in the eye and say your rule in a clear, firm voice. Once you have repeated your rule, there are two approaches. For very young toddlers, 12-18 months, distraction is the best disciplining strategy. For older ones, explain the consequences to them. For example if you hit your brother with a toy car, I am going to take away your car for the evening. It is going to not have any effect for the first few times and your child will howl and cry. Let them cry but do not give in. After a few times your child will know you mean business. Scaring them will surely lead to quick results but will leave them under confident for the rest of their life.

2. Did you see that baby/boy/girl, she is so well behaved, you should also be like her.

We desis are forever comparing and judging. See that person’s bahu, she works and then cooks a 3 course dinner too. You should also do it. See that person’s children, their mother disciplines them so well. You should learn some tips from her. How many times have we listened to such comments. Innumerable. Unfortunately we do the same thing to our children. Comparing them constantly with other kids. This is wrong because it undermines their self-esteem and makes them feel that they are never good enough for their parents. This leads to life long insecurities. Instead of saying look at how nicely behaved that little girl is, you should be like her, say Mama is going to be so happy if you sit and quietly play with your toys.

3. You are a bad/dirty baby because you threw your dinner/ cried or whatever.

People are never bad, their actions are. And children are intrinsically innocent, calling them bad makes them develop negative self-image for life. Each time we call them bad, they internalize it and think they can never be good. Instead if your 2-year-old throws all the salt out of the shaker, tell them that was a bad thing to do and all the salt is wasted now and mama is unhappy. Do not tell them that you are such a naughty bad boy for throwing the salt. Those of you who have studied economics must know about self-fulfilling prophecies. Same is the case with children. Call them bad and they will turn bad. So choose your words carefully.

4. You are such a smart/good/pretty baby.

praise

You guys must be thinking that if it is not ok to call children bad it must be good to praise them by calling them smart, good etc. But recent research has shown that excess praise and non-specific praise can actually damage a child’s self-esteem and turn them into people pleasers. So how do we praise our children then? Praise effort, not the end result and be very specific. For example you saw that your child studied hard for a test but was not able to score good marks. Instead of reprimanding him for not getting good marks, tell him that I know you studied very hard, next time you can show me what you are studying and we will go over your study material together so you can do better. Or if your preschooler shows you her drawing, instead of saying good job, ask her a question like ok you have colored the banana yellow or say I like the way you kept in the lines. Or if your toddler cooperates in getting her clothes changed, instead of saying good boy, tell her mama is feeling so happy because you changed your clothes. Praising effort makes children realize that they can always change their life outcomes by trying hard or trying a better approach. This leads to more successful and emotionally balanced adults.

4. Big babies do not cry.

crying baby

Every time I hear this statement I want to retort, excuse me, then do adults cry if not children. Let children cry. That is how they express emotions. If you tell them not to cry you are essentially telling them to repress their feelings. Then they are those parents who would give in anything to stop a major crying tantrum. If you give in to their crying it teaches them that you will change your mind if they cry enough. And believe me each time they will cry more :p It is essential to be firm, gentle but firm 🙂

5. No spanking.

no spanking

Many of us desis especially the older generation feel that spare the rod, spoil the child. Of course we all have had really bad days where we lose it and end up maybe swatting our child. And then feeling horrible later. But using spanking as a discipline strategy is totally not acceptable to me. If we use physical violence we are telling our children that physical violence is the answer to problems and a means to express anger. The way we behave when we are angry is the way our children will learn to behave. I strongly feel our children must obey us out of respect and not fear.

Learning to parent positively is an ongoing journey, one baby step at at a time. As our children grow, so do we grow in our ability to be a better parent.

children grow up

Happy parenting!