Monday, January 27, 2014


As a baby, S was not really scared of big sounds - vacuum cleaners, food processors, fireworks, and darkness. In fact he did not have stranger anxiety too. When ever anyone new came to our house, neither was he very excited nor was he afraid. He just continued to do what he was doing. When we took him to the fireworks in St. Paul, C was so scared that S would be terrified of the lights and sounds from the fireworks that he closed S's ears. Seeing this, S just gave C a stare and continued to enjoy the fireworks.

But once he became a year old, he would cry on hearing the whistle of a pressure cooker or run into the bedroom on seeing the vacuum cleaner. We worked hard to get rid of this fear - we kept the vacuum cleaner among his toys, gave him the pressure cooker as a toy, acted as if the vacuum cleaner was a dancing partner and more... As S got over these fears, new fears took their place. Slowly it was fear of water, slides, swings and play areas. That just meant more trips to the play area and the swing set in the park - that helped him ease his fears of sliding, swinging and play areas. As mentioned in detail in my post here, no trial was successful to get rid of S's fear of swimming (I must mention though that he overcame his fear after our move to AZ). By the time he was 2, S's fear of swimming developed further into a dislike towards getting wet while dressed. His dislike was so much that he did not like even a couple of water drops on his shirt while brushing his teeth or washing his mouth/hands after food. He enjoyed a tub bath with all his bath toys and the bubbles right from the start but he was averse to the fact that someone can get wet with clothes.By the time he turned 2, he had long standing fears for water and darkness.

On the other hand, A had no fears at all - loud noises, darkness, strangers, swimming (everyone around us called him an aqua-baby) etc. If he felt sleepy, I would put him in his crib, put on his bed light and he would fall fast asleep; he wasn't at all scared of the darkness.  When we asked S to bring his clothes from his bedroom closet, he would decline because the light was not on; immediately A would accompany him into the dark bedroom. Now, as A grew up he was getting difficult to handle - he would not listen during food time, bed time, bath time. He always had his way - he loved the water and made a mess every day during bath time, he played around with his food every meal, bed time turned into play time for him and it started to become very difficult for us to manage him. So, then we started to tell him, "Akhi, if you do not sleep Wiwilliwinkie will take you away." 

One fine day during winter of 2012 while we were at a restaurant, we tried the same thing to stop him from doing something naughty and he asked, "Show me, where is Wiwilliwinkie? Where is the Boochie uncle (the Telugu word for Wiwilliwinkie)? " Immediately C pointed to the hotel manager and said, "That is the Boochie uncle." To that A started shouting, "Hey Boochie uncle, you cannot take me away. I am not scared of you." The hotel manager on seeing A pointing to him thought that we were trying to tell him something and came over to our table. From that day on he started calling the hotel manager at every hotel Wiwilliwinkie... Now that turned out to be a lot for us to handle. So that trick was out the window, at least not in hotels. Actually everywhere; one day he offered to give away his nainamma (C's dad) to Wiwilliwinkie when she tried putting him to bed.:(

No trick to scare A worked with him, it always backfired. He just became more and more fearless and we just began having a more and more difficult time...He was not unmanageable, but he was just so active that it was taking a toll on us and that's why we tried to scare him with Boochie (Wiwilliwinkie). From being such a fearless toddler he suddenly turned into a timid toddler - he developed fear for ants, dogs, cats, birds, food processor, slides and vacuum cleaners. 

Till date, C and I cannot understand how this drastic transformation for the bad came along during the summer of 2013. If he says a black dot in the bath tub, he does not get off the stool mistaking it for an ant. A bird on the sidewalk, a dog walking almost a mile ahead of us, sound of anybody else's vacuum cleaner other than ours, loading the food processor - everything make him run. In spite of these fears, if he is sleepy he will get into his bedroom and sleep (even if his bedroom is dark). Both of us try to make him overcome his fears but most of the time our efforts are futile. 

On one hand, as parents we keep thinking, "Oh My God! why is he so scared? how to make him get rid of his fears? will he ever get rid of these fears? how did he develop these fears?  are we doing something wrong?" We try to reduce his fears by telling him fairy tales in which there is a little boy called Akhil who had 20 ant friends, slept beside 4 dogs, vacuumed the entire house every day and was not at all scared; that the birds fly in to kiss him, the ants crawl up to wish him a very good morning; that the food processor is singing a rhythm for him to sing to; and that the vacuum cleaner is an excellent dance partner when mom is not around. 

While on the other hand, we try to get our way with A by saying, "Akhi, eat otherwise I will call the bird.", "Come on Akhi sleep, else we will call the doggie uncle from next door." It looks like this is the only trick that is working right now to make him eat his lunch in 30 minutes, sleep without troubling his older brother who has to wake up early for school the next day, not go out onto the road opening the house main door on his own, not sit on the carpet without cleaning his bum after going poo-poo, not cry once he hears a "No" for an answer; I tried sticker charts (he will take the stickers without listening to me), ice cream rewards (he will climb his chair and bring the ice cream out of the freezer without listening to me) and 2-min / 3-min time-outs. Nothing except this fear is working right now.

Growing up people have their own fears - C has acrophobia and I am claustrophobic. Is it even necessary for me to use A's fears to get him to obey? I just did not like the concept itself and I began to wonder - I am the one putting the fear in him and I am the one trying to get him rid of it? Am I even justified in my expectations from a little 3-yr old? Am I logical in my requirements? If I am facing a catch-22 with him, I wondered how confused he must be with the contrasting messages I am sending to him as a parent (in different situations)...

 This got me thinking as to how can I make A listen to me without scaring him? And I took a resolution last week - do anything but scare A with his fears to get him to obey. And I shared this to S too so that I have an impartial witness/judge (I share my resolutions with S because S will stop me right when I am going to break my promise - at least this way he does not give me the scope to regret for my actions). I told S, " No yelling, no shouting, no scaring - only talking and very firm talking in our family. But you boys have to listen to my firm talking, else Amma will not talk to you for one hour..."

And to be very honest, this has worked from Thursday last week (that was when I resolved so) - neither did S nor did A act up. But another very good trick of the trade was to get to eye contact level with my boys and then they know that mom means business.

Looking forward with fingers crossed for another such rewarding week...

Tuesday, January 21, 2014

MLK is still alive...

Siddhu told me the following as soon as he got back from school today:

"You know Amma, Martin Luther King (a.k.a. MLK) is still alive. Actually, my friend's (J) mother is 31 yrs old and she is older than MLK. MLK was born in 1987. He said that people in this country where we live, America are bad and that they should kind to each other. By kind, he meant that people should not hurt each other by removing pieces of their brain with a knife. Some people did not like what he said and they shot him in the head; he died but then came back to life again. And it is his birthday on Jan 20th and thats why we had a holiday on Monday."

I wondered where he saw that gruesome act with the knife and he replied that he saw it in two place :
1) a Telugu movie in Green Bay while my in-laws were there (it might be that he just got to see a scene or two before my in-laws shut the TV off before S woke up form his afternoon nap).
2) in a show that my in-laws explained to him where there were lots of huge bad boys and a guy with a bow (I guessed this to be the Bhagawatham serial in Telugu)

Lesson # 101 - I scream, U scream and we all scream for…ICE CREAM

Over the weekend while cleaning up my refrigerator, I came across a really old chocolate flavored ice cream in my freezer and planned to finish it off so we could get fresh ice cream. So, I ate it (about 2 scoops) and left the empty container on the kitchen countertop (looks like that was enough for the boys to guess who finished the ice cream). The next morning, little 3 yr old A got up, saw the empty ice cream container and came straight up to a happily sleeping me and …pulled my hair, broke few strands of hair, poked my nose, pressed my eyes and…yelling into my ears all the while, "Amma, get up and answer me. Why did you eat my ice cream?". As if this harassment was  not enough, S, my 5-yr old keeps asking me throughout out the day (even today - it is Tuesday and I ate the ice cream on Friday), "Amma, how could you eat our ice cream? You did not even share ! Why did you eat it first of all?"


Lesson learnt - Eat ice cream but never be the one to finish off the container because kids keep a track of how much is remaining. If you ever happen to finish it off, keep it a SECRET...

Thursday, January 16, 2014

Some fun conversations with S - 1

Just recorded some conversations of S with others in the family - these were during the second half of 2013 (S @ 4y and A @ 2y)

Me: Siddhu, do you like me to work or be a stay-at-home mommy?
S: I like you to work so that you can get lots of money and then buy me lots of toys with your money.


S:What is Lord Ayyappa's vehicle? (like Lord Ganesha rides on a rat)
Me: Lord Ayyappa rides a tiger.
S: Oh, Amma how can he? It will bite him and eat him up.


S: Dad does a lot of office work.
Me: Should I ask him to stop working?
S: No !!! If he stops, who will get money to buys Akhi and me toys? May be after you get a job...


S: I will one day build a heart hospital in Minneapolis. And then I will buy dad a car. But how can I go to the car store to buy the car, because I wont have a car?
Dad: I will drive you to the car store.
S: Ok, then I will buy dad a car, then myself a car, then Akhi a car and then Amma a car.
A: I will settle in California - I dont want to go back to Green Bay. I like California.
S: That is OK, Akhi. I will travel to california and meet you for your birthday and you travel to Minneapolis for my birthday and both of us will travel to Arizona for Dad's birthday, ok?
A: Ok, Siddhu
Dad: Say Annayya.
A: Ok, anayya…(he never stresses on the n)

Mom or dad - whom do you like more?

I am sure this must be a question in most households - growing up I was a mommy's pet and my sister was a daddy's pet…

In our home C usually asks the kids, "Whom do you like more - mom or dad?" (I must admit I take pleasure in asking A this question because he just is more expressive with his eyes). This has been an ongoing question at frequent intervals  ever since S started talking fluently( this was about 2 and a half years old). Ever since that time, S's answer was "Amma and Nana". If we said you have to choose one he would say "Amma" (if I asked him) and then follow it with Nana right away(with a small pause). If C asked him, then he would say "Nana" and follow it with Amma. Akhi was always in the picture, irrespective of if Akhi's name was in the question or not.

Today C asked him the same question over dinner and he replied, "Akhi Amma Nana". C asked him to pick one, he said "zero, because I am not going to pick one. I said all your names in one sentence because they are all one word and I like all three of you the same amount…"

On the contrary, A's answer always is "Amma" - It just does not change. It is a bittersweet feeling, because how much I am happy that he says my name I would like that to always be S…

Mwah to my boys - how I hope time can stand still...

Wednesday, January 15, 2014

Little minds, biggest question

While entering San Diego Sea World on December 25th, 2013; S asked me a question that stunned me - "Mom, how do we die?" The question took me aback; honestly given his age (just turned 5), I never expected this question from him. What shocked me further was how composed he was when he asked me the question - he asked it like it was another normal day to day question. Though death is the final destination, when faced with the question I felt like I was struck in the head with a reality check...

I replied, "Siddhu, I think I am not sure of the answer- I will find out and let you know."

To that he said, "Amma, I know how people are born. But I am curious as to how they die?"

Now the story of the answer to "How people are born?"

S asked me this question when he was like 3 and a half yrs old. For that age my answer was, "Parents pray for children - God sees if parents are behaving well, are able to take good care of a child - then accordingly gives them a child."

Months went by and he came up one day (pointing to a pregnant lady) and said, "Amma, that aunt ate a lot of food and that is why her stomach is so out." I said, "yes" (I could afford this answer because my friend was in her early baby bump stages)

Few more months went by and S noticed that my overeating friend's tummy (actually pregnant) did not go in - it in fact increased a lot. This aroused S's curiosity and I modified the answer to, " Parents pray for children - God sees if parents are behaving well, are able to take good care of a child - then accordingly puts a child in the mommy's tummy." S questioned, "Why mommy's and not daddy's tummy?" I answered, "Only because mommies sometimes stay at home and have more time to take care of the baby." 

Looks like that was a satisfying answer, he has not brought up that topic again...

...just when I think the toughest question is gone, another even tougher one comes up in my children's minds to prove my ignorance, question my understanding, reaffirm my belief and broaden my knowledge...

Love my boys to infinity and beyond for all the learning I do through them...

Little minds, bigger questions..

One day while I was on skype video call with my mom, he wasn't allowing me to talk. So, I said "Siddhu, she is my mom and like you love talking to me(your mom), I too want to talk to my mom. So, please go to your room and play or else stay quiet if you want to be around." Not accepting both these, he instead decided that he will talk to grandma. So the conversation went on as follows:

S: You are my mom's mom. But where is your mom?
Ammamma: She is in Tanuku. (Actually my grandmother reached the heavenly abode in February of 2013, but my mother did not want to deal with the complexity of explaining death to a 5 yr old)
S: Where is her mom? I mean your grandmother (your mom's mom)?
Ammamma (after deep thought - she knew where this was going): She went to God.
S: How does one go to God?
Myself (My mom gave up and looked at me to answer the question): Siddhu, when someone becomes 100 yrs old, they go to God. We come from God and we go back to Him.
In a few days it was my father-in-law's 60th birthday (Shashtipurthi) and we all wished him. After S was done wishing him, he asked him, "Thatha, how old are you now?" To this C's dad answered 60 yrs. Immediately S did some counting and said, "Oh Thatha! You have a way to go to God. Don't worry!"  And S turned to C saying, "Dad, when someone becomes 100 yrs old, they go to God; KKD Tata is 60; so he is not yet that old, right? "
My father-in-law did not have another word to say...:-(

To add to this question frenzy at home, every morning while A uses the potty he says, "Amma, why is my pee-pee (pe***) so big and standing? I don't like it like that. Can you make it smaaallll(A's style of small), please?" And he keep playing with it to make it small... if this is not enough, they say it gets crazier going forward. So, enjoying the calm before the storm.

Cow on a stove?

More conversations regarding eating meat follow. For those of you who have come here without reading the first post, please go here.

December 2013 (on our way back from school):
S: Amma, my friend ate a hot dog today. Which meant is it?
Myself: I think it is a cow's meat.
S: Why are we not eating a hot dog?
Myself: Because it has animal's meat in it and I do not like killing animals. Also God created us as vegetarians, so He might not like it if we eat meat. (I made up the last part to avoid further questioning, but that did not work it looks like)
S: That means all my friends who eat meat are bad because they are not listening to God.
Myself (not wanting to leave him with that thought because imagine if he said something like that in school the next day): Not really Siddhu, we might not be listening to God in some other aspects and listening to God in eating habits - this may be opposite with your friends. So you cannot say good or bad; it is a choice which you take knowing all the options/consequences/opinions etc. 
S: But then my friends are killing these animals and eating them, Amma?
Myself: No your friends do not kill these animals. Hunters kill them and then companies process the meat, send it to stores like Walmart, Sprouts etc - your friends will buy the meat from these stores. It is similar to we buying vegetables from these stores; we do not grow them - farmers grow, pluck and package veggies and send them to these stores for us to buy.
S: Oh, yes amma, I know now. So after a hunter kills the cow, he puts the cow on a stove and cooks it like we cook our dals and vegetables. But if it is a mommy cow then it will be huge and will not fit on the stove. So the hunter will chop it into pieces and then cook it.
Myself (exhausted): Siddhu, that is very creative but I have never seen how they process meat. May be we will find out when you are a little bigger...

I was already so exhausted that I just could not carry on the conversation further - I was actually running out of ideas.

January 2014 (out of the blue while playing):
S: Amma, not eating meat is your choice or you are just obeying your mother because she does not like you to eat?
Myself (OMG - what a question) : As a child, my mother did not allow me to and i wasn't exposed to a lot of eating meat because my boarding school offered vegetarian food. But growing up, it was my choice to not eat meat.

The last question revved up a lot of reflection and introspection and still play in my mind - sometimes I just discover myself via S's questions. Such innocence and honesty - hope it always is there in my relationship with my children...


Eating Meat - A big ?

Ever since S started Kindergarten in August 2013, he has tonnes of questions about eating meat (very progressive questions). To understand more about why eating meat is a question in our family there are a couple of facts to be brought to light: firstly, I don't eat meat (hubby dear does). Secondly, the reason behind not eating meat is because I believe in ethical treatment of animals (not because we are brahmins).

Until Kindergarten, S attended pre-school at Green Bay Montessori where each child brought their own lunch and there was no school cafe. And his teacher, Mrs.K would warn him with the meat items during any potlucks or festival celebrations. On the contrary, most of his friends in Kindergarten buy their lunch from the school cafeteria and all of them take meat in different forms (chicken nuggets, hot dogs, bacon strips, salami, meat pieces in salad etc etc)...Below are his progressive conversations about the same:

September 2013:
S: Mom, some of my friends eat meat? Why don't we eat meat?
Myself: Because I don't like killing animals for satisfying someone's tastes buds.
S: So, my friends kill animals?
Myself: Not exactly, your friends do not kill animals. But because there are people like your friends who like eating meat, someone people kill animals and get it ready for your friends and others.
S: So, who kills animals?
Myself: There are people who kill animals and those people are called hunters.

S became silent and began digesting these thoughts...

October 2013:
While going through the local grocery store, he read the label "Chicken Nuggets" on a packet and exclaimed, "Oh Amma! that is chicken nuggets and we cannot buy it because we cannot eat meat. We do not want to hurt the animals, right?" . I answered in the affirmative and headed to the car. Just when I was glad that there were no more questions, I heard an inquisitive little 4-yr old's (about to be 5 in a month) voice -
S: Amma, why don't we eat meat?
Myself: I do not like killing animals. Imagine that animal's babies and family? If someone cuts me and eats me, will my family be happy? 
S: No Amma.
Myself: Similarly I feel that animals should not be killed to be eaten - only because there are people who want to eat meat, there are hunters who kill animals. But this is my thought Siddhu. 

November 2013:
Being a chatty boy, he forgot his lunch box at home and I noticed it only after the school lunch time. I still called to check if I could give him his lunch because being a vegetarian I wondered what he would eat from the school cafe. Since it was still recess time, they allowed me to give him his lunch. And then while eating his PB&J sandwich,
Myself: Siddhu dear, I am so sorry. I thought you put it in your bag but apparently you did not; I should have checked again. 
S: That's OK, Amma. But they allowed me take a lunch form the school cafe.
Myself: So, what did you eat?
S: Some baby carrots, cucumbers and a salad. Everything else had meat in it. Even the salad had bacon pieces in it, but because we do not eat meat I removed those pieces and tried the salad but I did not like it.
I thought that was pretty big thinking for a 4 yr old.

Further conversations are noted in an upcoming post here.

Monday, January 13, 2014

Little minds, big questions...

In the second half of 2013:
S is an extremely inquisitive kid; he has a why? what? when? and how? for every thing someone tells him. And both myself and C encourage his questions. We both feel strongly that it is very important for a child to question and even more important for parents to take time and effort in answering the same . To that point C usually sends S in my direction; sometimes my answers are to the point, other times they raise more questions, and even more times it is just "I am not sure, I will look into it and let you know." His recent questions have been 
  • Does a pe*** have a bone? (This one he asked C while he was peeing)
  • Mom, are you married? (Suddenly, out of the blue while driving)
  • If you had two other boys instead of me and Akhil you would be telling them every night that you love them most and that they are the cutest two boys in the entire planet, right Amma? 
  • Who will be mine and Akhi's wife? 
Now with those questions, I will let you imagine what the next one might be...