Preparing for a sibling

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For those of you who know me…please don’t panic..this is not another baby announcement. I already have my hands full with my boys. Actually I am writing this because I happened to have conversations with two different friends today on how to prepare for a new baby in the house..more specifically how to prepare for a new sibling.

Actually, I had a really simple time doing this. Maybe i was just plain lucky or maybe some of the stuff we did and talked about with the kids helped. My twins boys were all of 20 months when our younger son was born and from the first day on all I saw was lots of love and care. Sure they fought for attention every now and then…of course they were boisterous and noisy at times around the baby…but no pinches, no hitting, no pushing. They made sure everyone around them knew they had a baby brother…they chose his name and and clothes for him…they tried to give him their toys and they made sure no one came to pick him up without sanitising their hands first. Honestly i could not have asked for anything more.

Here are some things that helped us make this a fairly easy transition for the boys and the whole family. For one, we started talking about the baby once I was about 6 months pregnant. I started looking pregnant and alos started to tire out more easily. The twins who were less than a year and half then loved to jump on me and horse around and some of that was about to change. It really helped that a good friend of ours who has a daughter their age had just given birth to a baby boy. The boys loved going over to see the baby and were most fascinated by the whole thing. So when I told them that we were going to have a baby too, they actually seemed excited. I don’t think that at that point they realized it meant that they would be sharing me and Dad with this new creature.

Every evening as we lay down and read our books before bed the boys wold take turns touching my belly, talking nonsense to the baby, singing songs and more often than not, making funny farting sounds with their mouths on my very large tummy!

We made a list of girls and boys names and had them pick the ones they liked. They only chose a boy’s name as they said it was definitely going to be a baby brother. We started picking up a few small things together and every time we got the baby something we made sure to get something small for the twins as well.

My boys all love books and so I figured that would be a good way to talk to them about the baby. Here are some that we read:

1. Will you Still Love Me by Jean-Baptiste Baronian, Illustrated by Noris Kern.
This is an extremely delightful and touching book that articulates in the simplest of manners the fears and worries that a child might have about a new sibling arriving into his/her life. The most basic question on all captured perfectly in the title of the book : Will you still love me.
A story about a little polar bear who feels that his parents are behaving slightly differently. He talks to his friends about it and finally talks to his mother who tells him that she is pregnant. And my children’s favorite lines from the book: A mommy’s heart is as big as the sea. And a daddy’s heart is as big as the sky. I will always love you. Even when you are a big brother, you’ll still be my little one. And I’ll love both you and our new baby with all my heart”

2. My New Baby illustrated by Rachel Fuller
Another extremely simple book with lovely illustrations. The book is very different in style and approach from the first one I have put down but it beautifully juxtaposes what the older sibling and baby are doing and able to do. It shows acceptance, sharing and how in spite of the new baby the parents are still there for the older sibling.

3. Peter’s Chair by Ezra Jack Keats
Written by Caldecott award winner Ezra Jack Keats (For Snowy Day) Peter’s chair beautifully captures some of the struggles an older sibling goes through. This is a story about a boy called Peter who has a younger baby sister. His parents are trying to reuse a lot of Peter’s old toys and things for the new baby and Peter resents that. He does not like his crib being repainted or his stuff given away to her. He takes his favorite little chair and hides with it…that’s when he realizes that the chair is actually too small for him. This is the story of a young boy trying to deal with the struggle of having a baby sister and accepting her and sharing with her. Peter is someone my kids could related to very easily. The illustrations are stunning too and Keats use of collage with cutouts is simple yet beautiful!

4. I also put together a simple story book for the boys. (http://myfourboysandme.wordpress.com/2013/04/16/book-for-introducing-a-new-sibling/) You can check it out on my earlier blogpost if you like. The twins absolutely loved it and we read it many many many times!

Once the baby came, I tried as much as possible to involve the twins. They got me diapers, sang songs to the baby, picked out his clothes for him and chose his name. They called me when he woke up, they checked to see if his diaper was full. They climbed into the baby cot and cuddled with him right from the time he was 3 days old. I bit back the NO on my lips as much as I could and just made sure they did not hurt the baby accidentally.

Of course things are different with each child and this post is in no way prescriptive. I have simply put down some of the things that worked for me and I hope this is useful to some of you out there :)

the colour of my skin

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In a land of the skin colour obsessed, in a time where ‘fair and lovely’ creams are now ‘fair and handsome’ creams for men…one cannot escape from the reality of the colour of our skin. And in a house where surprisingly little has been made of the hues of our skin, the conversation has suddenly crept in…slinking in through the back door like an uninvited guest.

I noticed some conversation between the boys earlier about skin and colours when they were talking about a classmate who is very fair. “He has different skin” said Nish. “Aai and I have the same skin” he added. “Sid has different skin too.”

I talked to them about how each one of us is different in so many ways and skin colour is just one of those many many things. What matters is who we are. I showed them how even my parents had different colours of skin and hoped the conversation was over.

It was…for a few weeks. Then, this morning as I got the boys ready for school, Sid stared intently at his legs and knees. “Why am I dark brown?” he asked “my knees are almost black” he continued. “You are a lovely colour” I said. “I love the different browns you have!”

“But Nish is not this brown…he is a very very light brown” Sid replied

“I am like Aai and Amu” Nish confirmed

“You are like your ajoba (grandfather)” I told Sid (he adored his ajoba)

He looked a little longer at his legs. “It’s ok?” he said/asked

“You’re beautiful” I replied.

I love his gorgeous colour and I really don’t know where he is getting this colour complex from. It is so easy to pick up on sub text and random conversations, to sink into the mire of societal constructs of beauty and value. I just don’t want that affecting his self worth in any way. My Sid is a stunning boy just the way he is and I hope that with time he learns to appreciate himself for all that he is…a bright rebellious little spirit who is empathetic and caring and affectionate…my thinker outside the box, my destroyer of boxes for that matter…I hope he breaks out of this box too!

wisecracks from Sid

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I was watching the boys play in the sandpit last evening. There are a few simple rules for the sandpit:

1. no throwing sand

2. No taking the sand out of the sandpit

I don’t care if the boys are rolling in the sand or covering themselves with it. I am however particular about my 2 simple rules because sand can get into someone’s eyes if you throw it and it makes a difficult to clean mess on the walking path when it is taken out of the sandpit.

Anyway, Sid my little rebel filled his dump truck up with sand and then proceeded to climb out of the sandpit, onto the walking path and then he started ‘zooming’ with his truck, tilting it with loud noises as he dumped the load onto the path. I called out to him and said, “Sid, sand play in the sand pit please” to which he looked up with a deadpan expression and replied…”Sorry aai but this truck is completely out of control!!!”

Anyway, got him back in. Later as he was doing something else he absolutely wasn’t supposed to, I walked up to him looking annoyed. Before i could say a word he quickly smiled and said..”I am not a bad boy right…I only did a bad thing…I don’t know why but my hands just suddenly did a bad thing. But i am not bad!” (best rationalization for smacking his brother that he could have come up with). And then as an afterthought he yelled “sorrrrryyyyyyyy Nish”.

And of course, psych 101 comes back to bite me in the butt!

Something Else

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The great thing about having found a lovely bookstore is that I now am finding (obviously so) lovely books. I came across an especially wonderful book last week called Something Else by Kathryn Cave and Chris Riddell.

For those of you who have read my earlier reviews of kids’ picture books, you know that I absolutely love illustrations and the way picture books can handle the mst complex of topics in the simplest of ways. This is another example of just that.

A simple yet stunningly touching way of looking at difference Something Else poignantly captures the essence of tolerance (and the lack of thereof as well) with lovely illustrations and a story line that even the youngest of readers can relate to. It allows for a lot of conversation, discussion and interpretation because it avoids stating the obvious.

A story about a creature who simply does not fit in, does not belong…he tries so hard to be a part of the group, to fit in…but whatever he does, he is always ‘something else’. The another ‘something’ comes along…so different from ‘something else’ and helps Something Else come to the realization that you can be different and yet be friends. the books captures the emotions of aspirations, rejection, empathy, tolerance and happiness with such facility and the text and illustrations convey so much feeling with such little effort!

A book for a range of ages, I would strongly recommend this to teachers as well as parents,

stray thoughts…deeper questions

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I was talking to my kids as we sat and painted yesterday. We were all on the floor on our painting mat and i had laid out the water color cakes and some crayons. Nish was busy choosing his brushes and getting some water for his painting while Sid sat lost in thought…kind of pensive. “You want to paint?” I asked him. “Sure” he said though not super enthusiastically. “You don’t have to” I said. “Nish wanted to so I set it up. You can do something else”

He fidgeted with some crayons and asked for a paper. “Will you give me a star?” he asked. I thought he was generally asking for a tattoo…though he usually chose cars or spiderman for that. “Why not?” i replied. “Why do you want a star?”

“Didi does not give me star. Everyday Nish gets a star but I never get”

“Why does he get one? Why don’t you get one?” i asked

“Because didi says me coloring is ‘kacha-pacha’ (half baked, not proper)”

“Why is that?” i prodded

“Nish colors neatly inside the lines but mine is not so neat and inside the lines. Will you give me star?”

I cringe and feel sorry for the little fellow. For one, I had avoided keeping the focus on rewards like stars so far…it was more about feeling great about what you are doing…So if they paint  something, we talk about it, ask them to describe it, and we either put it up, frame it or use it to make cards. We can be pretty candid while doing this…i do not hesitate to tell them if i feel they are not really putting in their best. I know what they are capable of and I know they feel proud when they do something well. And a lot of times i simply let them explore the paints and different media, recognizing that there is different learning happening at all points. But to have it all come down to a silly star on the hand??? that is what your art needs to mean to you? Is there perhaps a different way of pushing kids to do better or more. And do we need to revisit why we are getting them to do things? Sid has always lagged a little behind his twin in fine motor skills and initially even gross motor ones. He has slight muscle hypotonia and consistent physio and timely early intervention brought him fairly upto speed. But Nish generally has a better pincer grip and control while Sid is still working on it. I don’t want his self esteem tied to a star or him thinking that his art is “kacha pacha”. He has always enjoyed paints and art and I want it to stay that way. He does not have to be picasso or monet…i just want him to be able to create something, be able to look at it critically, be proud of something done well and recognize something that it not.

Am i over reacting?

Devious devious…

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Ok…so the era of innocence is fast getting over…i mean seriously…my 3 1/2 yr old twins have started thinking deviously. I was so taken aback when i saw this yesterday..
So the boys are pretty territorial…while they do share their stuff with each other they are also pretty clear on “this is MINE!!”
Yesterday, Nish was desperately trying to fill a small bottle of bubble liquid with water from the tap. I asked him what he was trying to do. “I am filling this with water” he replied. yes, i could see that. “Why?” i asked. “Because it is Sid’s and I poured out the liquid”…”accidentally” he added as a not so convincing afterthought. “So why are you filling it with water?” i pushed. “The level is looking low” he replied. “so i am filling it up again. Otherwise Sid’s going to get upset!”
The bottle was ceremoniously ‘found’ and returned to Sid in a bit…filled to the brim..the level ‘restored’. However, I guess his conscience was pricking him just a teeny weeny bit so Nish pointed out that the “liquid seems to be a little less. Maybe someone spilled a little”
Amu was quick to take the blame. “amu spilled-aa-little…amu spilled..aaa…little” he chanted like it was an achievement. Sid got really upset and Nish seemed relived that he was not at the receiving end. I finally stepped in and asked Nish, “Any idea who REALLY spilled the liquid?” Nish looked sheepish and admitted it was him…”accidentally OK Sid” he added.
Fortunately Sid interest in the bubble liquid had now been replaced by a Spiderman towel and that was the end of that conversation!

They do say the sweetest things

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You look at the mischief in their eyes, the fact that they hardly ever listen…you cringe as they tear up and down the stairs screaming louder than anything you thought possible..you pull them apart as they roll on top each other, fighting over a red honda city car…and then just as you are ready to throw in the towel they do or say something incredibly heart wrenchingly cute that makes your instantly forget the madness of the day in a moment. Here are a couple that I simply had to share…
We were at some exhibition yesterday..Giftex…there were all kinds of handicrafts and jute products juxtaposed with high end speakers, magnetic putty and funky giftable things by a range of high end players. As we walked by the stalls, we stopped in front of a ‘bastar art’ stall. While my husband and I were engaged in conversation I noticed that Sid was standing at the neighboring stall where an older lady (probably from a tribal region in west bengal) was busy sorting through and string some stuff through a large plastic bag. He came up to me and tugged at my sleeve to interrupt..”she is very poor Aai?” he asked. I was a little taken aback by this question. Looking at her, she did look like she came from a fairly lower socio economic background. But what had made him pick that up…she wasn’t really badly dresses. She was in a sari with lots of sequins. “Why do you ask?” i probed. “She looks like she is poor” he replied. I wondered what he was using as a cue. She was very dark skinned and I did not know whether the little fellow had picked up some of the abundantly flowing color bias that we see around us. “Is it because of her clothes, her color or something else?” i asked. “Not her color” he replied. “not her clothes” he added. “her um….expression…she looks a little sad…she looks like that other old lady at the traffic signal. She has a poor face” he tried to explain. I knew what he meant but I did not want him to create stereotypes…”Maybe she is just tired…or having a bad day” I said..”everyone can look sad or have a bad day. that does not mean she is poor”. Before we could go any further with this conversation (it was taxing because i was trying to figure out how to talk about these things and differences with them), Sid moved away and back to the stall. He took out his measuring tape and started pretending to measure the table the lady was sitting at. He intermittently stared at her and flashed big smiles till she finally gave in and smiled back at him. He came back to me looking happier in general and quite pleased with himself. “now she is not so sad” he announced.
It was touching to see how much he was able to perceive and I was moved at how he made his own little effort to make someone’s day a little bit better!

Then today we had another interesting conversation. Nish has been down with acute tonsilitis and so he stayed home from school today…he was miserable and his throat was hurting a lot so he kept whimpering and crying. However, he came with me to pick up Sid from school. In the car, i told Sid that Nish was not well and had been crying. Sid looked at his twin and asked “You were crying for me? because you were missing me?” “No” replied Nish “because my throat was hurting”. “But you missed me?” asked Sid looking at his brother. “no” replied Nish.
No remotely crushed by this response, Sid simply gave his brother a hug. “I missed you at school today. You are my Nish and I love you! you want to share my water bottle?”
Again…it was so cute to hear that frank little conversation. How easily kids say things that are actually so deep!

Felt felt felt!

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I am really discovering the magical magical world of felt. While it is nothing new in terms of a concept, the possibilities are endless and I love what I can do with it. The boys are really enjoying playing with felt board…whether it is stories or rhymes or math games or mr.potato head dress up stuff. It is plain and simple fun…not so difficult to make and quite versatile in its uses.

I am now working on a felt Quiet Book and the boys are supplying me with ideas and a wishlist.

In terms of stories and rhymes we now have: Three little pigs, The three Billy goats gruff, La Luna, Chicka chicka boom boom, 5 little monkeys jumping on the bed, 5 little monkeys swinging from a tree, five little fish, and Five little ducks went out one day. We have a ladybird counting game, a build it yourself fire trucks, matching shapes, potato head and make your own cupcakes.

It is great for literacy related devt, math skills, motor skills as well as promoting conversation, retelling, narration, imaginary play, etc. My boys are playing with the felt board all the time…the older ones don’t need me around ..they enjoy retelling stories using the felt board, they make up stories as they go along and in general have a blast. I plan to use it with the kids to practice math and phonics too.

Here are some pics:

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Finally a bookstore that I instantly fell in love with!

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Ever since we moved to Bangalore I have been in search of a nice bookstore…nice does not mean fancy…it need not have a cafe in it and I really don’t mind so much if it is air conditioned or not. I like to take the boys to a bookstore, sit with them and browse through books, appreciate the literature and illustrations and then pick something we can take home with us. It was a like a ritual of sorts in Mumbai for us..we would visit Kitaab Khana in Kala Ghoda once a month and come back home super happy and with 2 or more books for our collection.

In the past four months I have not been able to do that. Crosswords near our place in Bangalore has a large section of books for kids…the toddlers/preschool section has a shelves laden with ‘activity books’ coloring books, math for kids, handwriting books and phonics. What happened to the literature part??? The sales person had not heard of Eric Carle, Julia Donaldson or Sandra Boynton..The chap at the computer in the information section candidly informed me that they don’t keep ‘those type of books’. I guess our toddlers only need handwriting and phonics?! I had similar luck with a couple of other bookshops too.

Which is why i was so delighted to find Lightroom Bookstore in Frazer town. Some one i met the other day mentioned the bookstore and it is indeed a pleasure to visit it. Went without the kids this time as I was not sure what to expect but it was absolutely wonderful. A whole room full of children’s books…Caldecott winners and all.

And the lady who run the bookstore actually understands books, can discuss literature and illustrations and was charming to talk to! It was all in all a most satisfying experience and I strongly recommend this bookstore to other children’s books lovers! (They are on FB if you would like to learn more)

Melting moments

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Melting moments

Day before, my youngest Amu was at his worst behaviour. He wanted everything his brothers were playing with and pulled all stops to make sure he got them…which included pulling, screeching, hitting and biting. He bit Sid and poor Sid came crying loudly to me saying “he bit me Aai…he bit me and it is hurting terribly!” I took him to my room to look at where he was hurt and he insisted he wanted his twin Nish with him…”Nish Nish Nish!” He kept calling till his brother arrived. “Look Amu bit me…so badly it’s hurting!” Nish examined the injury quite seriously and looked at me..”you put ice?” He asked. Yes doc. “Nish!” howled Sid again.
“It’s ok Sid, Nish is right here next to you” said Nish gently stroking his brother’s hair and giving him a kiss.
At this point I figured my injured boy was in very safe and caring hands and I left to address the biting boy.