If only we could go back to feeling and thinking like children…somewhere along the way, in the process of growing up and growing supposedly wiser, we lose empathy, we lose our ability to look at each other as just human beings like our selves. Children think so often with their hearts, their sense of justice is well defined, they are agnostic to shades and colors of the skin, to rich and poor…which socialization and supposed education eventually teaches them.
Last evening we read a beautifully written and illustrated book about Martin Luther King Jr. called Martin’s Big Words. A biography of the great man, told in simple words and with powerful collage based illustrations, this was a wonderful book to continue our conversation on the civil rights movement which we had dipped our toes into when we read Follow The Drinking Gourd a few months ago. Nish’s reaction to the story was almost visceral. I could see him looking upset at a point when I explained as simply as I could what segregation was and by the time we reached the place where Rosa Parks was asked to give up her seat on the bus, he burst into tears and stood up saying, “but everyone is a person! Why could the white people not sit at the back? And why did they have to make her get up!!!!” He was very upset and we paused in the narrative to allow him some time to calm down. The tears continued to flow as we read about MLK’s work and his non-violent approach. Nish could not wrap his head around the fact that people were being treated the way they were and it was heart breaking to see him grapple with his initial brush with identities and concepts of power. And although the book ended with the White Only signs coming down, he was still upset and disturbed that this could have been a reality not so long ago.
And yet it took so long for an educated people to see, understand and respect something that an almost 6 year old could do so instinctively…and we probably have not understood or truly embraced this respect for people no matter who they are, where they come from, the color of their skin and type of their hair.
As a mother, it broke my heart to see him burst into tears and very obviously be disturbed by something, and at the same time, I felt proud of this child who had his heart in the right place, who recognized people for who they were…and it showed me once again just how much we have to learn from our children.
Sid’s key take-away from the book was: I guess I would not have got a seat on the bus back then huh?
Yes – I guess he continues to grapple with that gorgeous brown of his skin in a society which places a premium on chubby fair faced rosy cheeked children.
Our twins are a few months shy of turning 6 and the current excitement in life is around shaking and falling teeth. Both of the them lost their first incisors a couple of weeks ago – within a couple of days of each other.
I decided to introduce them to the tooth fairy – also because she seemed to have visited pretty much all their friends who lost their teeth in the past few months.
So, I had the boys put their tooth under the pillow when they went to bed. The following morning, they woke up and checked under the pillow and discovered that the tooth was gone and they had 10 rupees and a generous offer of a new book from the tooth fairy to boot.
As one of the twins relayed this fascinating bit of information to his grandmother, she asked him why the tooth fairy was taking teeth. He barely thought for a few seconds and pat came the reply…”i think she does not have any teeth of her own and so she needs to fill her mouth with teeth” I thought this was quite an interesting take on the tooth fairy…because honestly, why on earth would someone want random fallen teeth??
Of course – in case you want more information on the tooth fairy and various myths around this fantasy figure who is found across various countries in Europe, you can look on wikipedia…i am quite content with the toothless lady explanation 🙂
Elves??…no! Reindeer?? No….Christmas trees! Yup according to Amu my 3 yr old, those are Santa’s helpers!
To put that epiphany into context…last night Amu was busy making Christmas trees using felt traingles and popsicle sticks. He was busy decorating his felt triangle with lots of sequins and glitter and foam bits and other stuff from our craft box. I was generally chatting with him as he worked. I noticed that he was sticking thin long triangular scraps of felt on his trees along with googly eyes. Surprised at this interesting choice of decoration given the many buttons and sequins we had, I asked him what the extra triangles were for.
Amu: Oh – that is a nose (isn’t that obvious???)…and these are eyes (in case i did not get that either)
Me: ok…that’s different! How come you chose to put those on the tree?
Amu: Because Christmas trees have eyes and a nose! (very matter of factly)
Me: Oh really?
Amu: Yeah..they have to tell Santa who is being naughty and nice. How is Santa going to know otherwise?
Duh…silly me..asking such basic questions! Floored once again by his incredible imagination!!!
Yeah..that’s right..that is the title of this post. (and it is the third post of the day…have not blogged in a while so decided to go the whole hog)
Anyway, Nish came to me yesterday and asked me this very innocently: Aai, what’s a virgin?”
I was not expected to field these questions at 4…
Me: Why do you ask?
Nish: S (his friend) was telling me that he knows another virgin
Me: What do you mean another virgin?
Nish: I know one too…but he know another one
Me: Which virgin do you know love?
Nish: I don’t know what virgin is Aai! But when I was singing “When the Saints go marching in” S said that he knows another virgin. The tune is a little different.
Me (whew): Yeah…that song has many versions (i said the word slowly and clearly). It means that there are different ways that the same song has been sung. You have versions of games, of cars, of many things.
And then then 4 yr old tripped off happily to his room singing his ‘virgin’ of ob la di ob la da …yeah and life goes on!
Diwali has gone by and the cool weather is arriving in Bangalore. The rains have been regular daily visitors and the boys have moved from shorts to track pants and light sweatshirts. They are a lot more excited by the smell of baking and are generally super snacky when they are at home.
Yesterday i decided to make some gingerbread cookies. I got the recipe from Martha Stewart’s site (http://www.marthastewart.com/343445/gingerbread-cookies)
Anyway, long story short..a little tedious but turned out absolutely delish! The boys woke up from their afternoon nap like puppies with their noses in the air sniffing around in the kitchen. We pulled them out, I let them cool and did a simple icing on top. Then before i knew it, the kids had taken them off the cooling rack and made off with a gingerbread man each.
Sid looked at Amu who was admiring his cookie in general and said “eat it up quickly before the gingerbread man runs away!”
Nish my ever musical boy immediately broke into the gingerbread man refrain “run run as fast as you can….”
Amu of course had us all in splits a minute later. He promptly chomped at his cookie and then held it up saying “no worries, i have eaten up his legs…now he cant run!
It was Ganesh Chaturthi yesterday and we were in the throes of all the action. After setting everything up, I left hubby dear to get the puja stuff ready while I changed into my sari and pulled out a little jewellery…a bit of a cvhange from my usual avatar 🙂
The boys watched as i draped my saree, admiring the color and design and then Sid was completely mesmerized by my jewellery box (as a bit of context, i usually wear studs in my ears and rarely wear any other jewellery). He ran his fingers over the bangles, picked up and examined the necklaces, peered curiously at the intricate work on the earrings.
“I want to wear this!” he finally declared as he pulled out a delicate gold necklace from the box. “And some bangles too!” He selected a few. Deb (hubby) came into the room and watched with a little amusement as Sid played with my necklace. “I want to wear this” Sid explained. Deb obliged and put it around his neck and fixed the clasp. “Now the bangles” said Sid. “No” said dad. “That will be silly”…and he went back to the puja preps.
Sid sat fingering the bangles and finally decided he wated to wear them. “I love these!” he said “when i am bigger can you give these to me?”
“Sure” i replied.
He wore the bangles and looked really pleased. “Ok” I said, “why don’t you go outside and help your baba (dad) while I put this away?”
“No no” said Sid. “I can’t go out. Everyone will laugh at me and say I am a girl”
I looked at Sid, at 4 already worried about what the world would say…already torn between what he felt like doing and what social customs demanded. “Hey!” I said, “it’s just bangles and you feel like wearing them. It’s fine. You don’t really have to worry about what anyone says as long as you are ok with what you are doing. If you are doing something bad or wrong or something that will hurt another person then you need to worry. Not otherwise.”
Sid thought about it. “but if i go out like this others will hurt me…they will say something and hurt me”
A lot of wisdom from my little fellow…and something that brought to the forefront for me how much conditioning was happening all the time…and maybe i wasn’t doing it (maybe i was?). In a world of hate crimes, terrorism, war, poverty, malnutrition…is this seriously what we spending our time drilling into our kids??? Seriously???
We were at a friend’s place for dinner last week. Her daughter’s room is done up in an underwater theme…manta rays and octopuses and shells and …a big life size mermaid on the wall behind her bed. The twins have always been most fascinated with the room and love to ask K (my friend’s daughter) about the different fish on the wall.
Last week however, they were more interested in the mermaid. Sid stared at her for a bit and then placing his palms on his chest he looked at K and asked…”Why does she have those shells on her chest?” (His hands on his chest indicated exactly what he was asking…no room for any doubt). K’s jaw dropped as she racked her brains for how best to address that question. But Nish jumped in promptly “That is her bra!”
Sid: But there are no strings or straps. How can it stay there like that without anything holding it?
Nish: I’m telling you it’s a bra
By now K was looking at me for some help. I kept a straight face and told Sid that it was probably a fancy bra with transparent straps that were camouflaged in the picture. He fortunately seemed quite satisfied with that answer and so we moved on to other pieces of perhaps less interesting conversations 🙂
This evening before bedtime, the boys were playing with their doctor’s kit. Sid was on the bed with his stethoscope and Nish and Amu cam along in an imaginary ambulance accompanied by lots of loud siren sounds.
“What’s the problem?” asked Dr. Sid
“The patient is here” said Nish, pointing to Amu
“What is wrong with him?” asked Dr. Sid
“He’s not well…he is dead” said Nish
“Ok…let me take his temperature…now an injection…it won’t hurt don’t worry” said Dr. Sid
And the dead patient smiled broadly and said “thank you Doctor, I feel much better already!”
Oh…the simplicity of early childhood!
This evening, after his bath, Nish came up to me looking a little distraught. “aai” he started in a worried voice (nish is a master of the worried voice) “…i think i have a bone in my penis. Actually its not in my penic..its in this thing under it” “That’s your scrotum” i replied not sure where we were headed with this. “You don’t have a bone there”
“no no there is something there…its hard like a bone. it’s not a bone??”
“Nope” i replied and tried to return to my task of folding and putting the laundered clothes away.
“Then what is it???” he asked persistently following his line of inquiry
“Those are your testes” i replied, sticking to basic facts and volunteering nothing more
“What do they do?” he asked me in all earnestness
“Um…many things…one of which is to produce testosterone.. it will help you become more ‘manly’ as you grow older…like getting a mustache and a beard.
Now Nish looked horrified..worried was passe…
“I DON”T WANT a mustache or a beard!!!” he exclaimed
“hey, if you don’t like it you can always shave …your baba (dad) does it everyday”
“Oh disgusting! i don’t want a beard and a mustache! And i don’t want to shave! it is so much jard work to do everyday…i don’t want to!”
Me, trying to lighten the mood “well, i guess you could get it all removed by laser so it will never come back huh? that’s something we can think about later”
Nish after a few minutes of thinking this over..”Aai, that lazy (laser) shop you mentioned…can e go there tomorrow itself?”
Guess he really does not want his mustache and beard now does he???!!!
The boys are big time into super heroes…spiderman, superman, batman and a bunch of other ones. It’s more because of their peers I guess – they have not watched a single super hero cartoon or anything and we don’t have any books with them either. yet, the boys love these men of steel with their incredible powers and cool outfits. They dominate so many of their conversations and often creep into their imaginary play.
Sid loved the batman costume our friends gave him and sometimes even wears it downstairs to play. This year for their birthday they wanted a party that had superheroes as a sort of theme. I decided to go with it and have tried to work the theme into their little party tomorrow with all their friends from our building complex.
Since Sid was so keen on Superheroes, I tried having a conversation with him about them. Here is how it went.
Me: So you like superheroes
Sid: Oh yes I love them!
Me: What is a super hero?
Sid: He is like spiderman or batman..he can fly even
Me: So, what makes him a superhero?
Sid (with absolutely no lead time): His clothes…he has a cape and a mask
Me: That’s it? Just his clothes?
Sid: Yes i think so
Me: So anyone can be a superhero if they wear the superhero outfits?
Sid: Yes anyone can be a superhero
Me: If you wore a superhero costume you think you could fly?
Sid: Yeah…i think so…but i will be a super hero then
Me: What do superheroes do?
Sid: They fight bad people…they catch them and then shoot them sometimes or tie them up (sudden pause and deep thought) Then…does that make them bad people too? Because shooting is not a good thing right?
Me: Yeah i don’t think it is a good thing
Sid: So superheroes are actually BAD? (deep thought again) But they only catch the bad people so that we stay safe and don’t get hurt so they are not so bad.
Me: So you think they are not bad then?
Sid: Yeah … i can be a super hero too. If you push me high on the swing then i can fly.
And cut….end of the discussion as other conversations took over! However, it was interesting to see how simple it was to turn into a superhero…decided to take that and tie it into the plan for their birthday party…so have made superhero capes and masks for all the kids. Let’s see how many metamorphose into superheroes tomorrow!