To Parents of Preschoolers : Ready or not, here it goes !

Preschool readiness is more important than you think it is. For your child’s sake, please don’t take it for granted. First and foremost, a school is an institution for educating children, under a uniformly established routine and a common set of expectations for all children. Simply put , preschool readiness means your 3 year old NEEDS to be ready for preschool. Whether you or they want it or like it or not, they NEED to have a set of well established foundational skills for a comfortable transition into a learning environment. It’s your job as a parent, to set up your child for success in order for him/her to be an integral fit into a preschool setting. These basic skills make it easy not only for your child’s educator but more importantly for your child to expand their already well established abilities. Remember, it’s the parents role to create and build so that the teachers can expand and scaffold that very ongoing process of raising your little humans. Trust me… I am a parent, I am a teacher and I do both.

Honestly, without preschool readiness in your child, you as a parent, are unknowingly causing a huge delay in your child’s learning journey from preschool into kindergarten, which further transfers into first grade, second grade and so on. As a kindergarten teacher, I see children struggling to catch up on their learning milestones all the time. That is NOT the kind of academic and social pressure situation you want a 5 year old to learn and grow under. And as a preschool teacher, I have seen the struggles of children who are coping with the lack of preschool readiness skills. Including my own child.

What struggles one might ask? It’s hard to watch your child constantly struggle to follow simple instructions in daily activities. You don’t want to see your child get easily frustrated when sudden expectations are placed upon them. You are not going to like your child being desperately dependant on an already busy teacher, for his self care needs like dressing, day time toilet training, hand washing, eating, and so on. It hurts to see your child being socially immature and not knowing how to interact with their peers. With limited play skills, they might even find it difficult to play constructively – alone or even with peers. It is heart breaking to see your child struggling to understand or even answer simple questions asked (who, how, what, where) because they find it challenging to form simple sentences. It hits you even worse when your child responds to simple questions unclearly because somewhere you didn’t give him/her enough opportunities to develop that skill back home. With limited vocabulary, they become difficult to understand and work with. Further, it gets more challenging when they have a hard time understanding the consequences of their behaviours because you let them have their way each time back home. They don’t know how to hold or work with books or do any table activities because you didn’t introduce them to those kind of activities back home. Ultimately, they don’t want to engage in new activities or even learn about how to develop new skills because they have pretty much been their own teachers, designing their own lessons back home.

We as teachers, will always sugar coat these concerns when sharing it with parents like you, but to be brutal, that’s not helping your child at all. We sugar coat it because we do WANT to focus on the small successes and the positives in your child. But at the end of the day, even though it might not show on your child’s happy face everyday, your child NEEDS you to make it better for them. Think about it … with the difficulties listed above, how is your 3 year old going to succeed at attaining his/her preschool learning milestones?

Your child NEEDS you, their parent and their very first teacher, to make better (sometimes hard) choices early on itself, in order to avoid this delay in their learning journey later. So please do read between the lines when your child’s educator is sharing about your child’s performance at preschool and always think and ask about how can I make it better for MY child. They deserve a comfortable present and a successful future. And YOU AS THEIR PARENT owe it to them. I know I do!

What I need and What I want. I AM A PROUD AND EXHAUSTED TEACHER MOM.

As a “teacher mom”, early childhood education is very important to me. I always wanted my child to have that strong foundation, at the right time, to set her up for success. I believe an early start is what one needs. And I have seen it work wonderfully in action, not just on mine but also on children with moms like me. It’s a belief, it’s a choice, it’s the actions …which are worth making, well… most of the times !

My 3 and a half year old is capable of having fun, meaningful conversations with me about anything and everything. I see her developing an IQ as well as an EQ. That balance of Early Childhood Care and Education is very important to me. That’s why I chose to be an Early Childhood Educator. I learnt how my personal beliefs as a hands-on mom can be so very critical in getting my child ready and curious to learn at school. And that appetite for learning is what any teacher would love for her students to have so that it can be built upon.

Mom on the job: As a mom, I want nothing but the best destinations on my child’s itinerary for life. But wanting that isn’t enough! I also need to make sure that my child is well prepared and well equipped to take on that journey filled with ups and downs.

Teacher on the job: And as a teacher, I want my students to meet their learning objectives as per my lesson plans. But just wanting that isn’t enough! I need to plan out an exciting journey in the most healthiest, safest and adventurous ways possible in order to achieve age appropriate learning milestones.

Double Shift on the job : As a mom, a lot of my personal “needs” might endlessly stay at the back seat while my child is engaged and exploring the world of education, at all times… at home and at school. And as a teacher, a lot of my professional “wants” might get endlessly overlooked when in reality, most of those wants are what I need to succeed as a teacher.

Complicated yet mostly true for teacher moms. And what I, as a teacher mom, would really want is for moms and teachers to work in true partnership to make this magical learning journey a true success. How? When? More in the next…

2020 … A year like no other!

Is it just me who feels like the year 2020 had just begun? It was a long, tiring and endless one, yet to me, it seems like days just went by, each one looking no different than the other, and now it’s already coming to an end. As each year passes by, I always tend to look back and think about the year that was. So here I am, reflecting upon what was achieved this year?

This year was like no other, PERIOD! 2020 was globally defined by the COVID 19 pandemic and no one can deny that it was a devastating year as a whole. We all experienced the same crappy bag of mixed emotions in different homes, different countries, at different intensities and at different frequencies. It was a year of dreadful uncertainty and intense anxiety for the entire human race. And this year, instead of looking back on what I achieved, I am compelled to do nothing but simply be grateful for the fact that I didn’t have to experience the grief of losing anything significant or someone precious to me. In fact, I gained a lot … in ways I didn’t expect.

It definitely wasn’t the kind of year during which I achieved everything I had ever “wished for” but it was the kind of year that made me deeply appreciate everything I have. I didn’t really achieve any personal goals as such and even the handful of progressive moves attained in life were time and again dampened by the depressive bouts of coronavirus related news. In spite of making a big move into a new city this year, to live the American dream apparently, I didn’t really get to explore and experience it’s newness as would normally be the case. And speaking of explorations, what I missed the most this year, were those annual holidays or even those long-weekend getaways, which I had so gotten used to thanks to my travel enthusiast of a husband. Although I took those travel experiences for granted, I realised their true value this year – how they happen to help me to switch off and enjoy some time away from the daily grinds of life. And given that I was primarily catering to the supersonic and largely assertive, never-ending needs of a high spirited, energetic toddler, in a new home, in a new country; it goes without saying that I didn’t really make any quality time for myself either. Through most of 2020, I was far away from living a well-balanced life, yet towards the end of it, I am now so very close to living a well-cherished one.

During this year filled with uncertainty, I was abruptly and unexpectedly gifted with an opportunity to live my life in Slo-mo, wherein I could experience each and every moment, in its most basic and simplest form. It was a perfect year to realise that I already have everything I need. Although this year was challenging and testing beyond boundaries, this year also surprisingly evoked a stronger sense of gratitude in me for everything that I am blessed with.

2020 gave us the gift of unlimited time to spend more qualitatively together as a family. As the world was silently mourning for the loss of their loved ones to the coronavirus, I was blessed to be “stuck” in a home bustling with nonstop action thanks to my little one who can barely let us finish a sentence or even a thought, let alone have an adult conversation. Sadly, at first, I didn’t know how to handle this gift of unlimited, uninterrupted and isolated face-time as a family… I was simply lost… I complained, I panicked, I prayed, and put a negative spin on everything at first. And as time passed, it was something I got happily used to and so very comfortable with. As a first time parent, I got to experience how “all-time active parenting” in a socially distanced world can drive one up the wall and yet make one fall in love with their resilient little one, more and more with every passing day. This drastic yet pleasantly welcome change in our family time routine presented us with this rare opportunity to microscopically observe our little one grow, a bit by bit everyday and marvel at how we were raising this little human, who was completely unaware of the global pandemic and its effects around the world. This was a blessing in every way!

We not only grew to value the emotional bonds at home, but we also saw how humans in general crave for not just emotional but social contact too, even though one might not be a party-animal kinda human. And in that quest, we discovered creative ways of staying connected with the world in isolation. We connected for reasons so unheard of and in ways so unimaginable but we made connections at a whole new level. We gave our best to celebrate each and every moment, event and festival by unleashing our hidden talents, expressing our deep-rooted feelings for each other and embracing this positive human spirit to not only find, but also share the light, even through all of the darkness.

Of course this wasn’t a year anyone was prepared for or even wildly dreamt of, but it certainly gave me a startling reminder that I desperately needed … To never take this beautiful life for granted and to appreciate life in all it’s glory and gloom. The glory makes us rise and shine while the gloom enables us to sustain and survive. And I feel, both these are so very necessary to live and appreciate a meaningful and well-balanced life. So here’s my GoodBye to 2020 … thanks for teaching me some harsh life lessons that only made me stronger as a believer. And with that I warmly Welcome 2021 … I hope you can be kinder and milder in your teaching style. Regardless, I shall continue to learn, grow and preserve with humility and faith.

Motherhood and its paradoxical nature

I am learning that motherhood is simply full of contradictions and I am starting to believe that it is all in the mind – my mind!

As a stay-at-home mum with a high need for order in my life, I try my best to not just plan my days but also to keep up with an organised routine. I am doing fairly well and so is my two and a half year old. Routine gives us the satisfaction and stability that we both need and have both grown to love. Yet I find myself getting bored of it from time to time. That’s when I kind of crave for some noise and chaos to break the monotony of a toddler care routine. And within minutes of facing the challenges brought about by that “out of the ordinary” routine, I start to miss the calming sense of happiness that comes from the very same monotonous routine which I wanted to escape in the first place. Yes, I hear myself and I know how I sound! This is the paradoxical nature Im talking about. The feeling that “Grass is greener on the other side” followed by an instant realisation of the fact that its not.

As any first time toddler parent, I continue to sacrifice my own sleep to ensure that my little one gets a quality one for herself. Through the day, I then console myself, by counting down to when I can get to make up for the loss of my beauty sleep. Meanwhile, as I am running all of the chores and errands of the day, I simply love observing anything and everything my little one does around me. She’s growing into this wonderful person that I can’t seem to get enough of. Her energy and enthusiasm is so very inspiring and motivating but at the same time it can be so testing and annoying. There’s no doubt that she keeps me on my toes and her zest for life also gives me a purpose to contribute to it all. I enjoy it all thoroughly but at the same time, I’m secretly waiting for my “quiet ME time”. But when I do get that kind of space and time, I find myself wide awake and lost, for no reason as such. Very often, I end up using this time to look at photos of my little one or writing a blog about her and find myself missing her as she sleeps right in front of me. I start thinking about all the awesome stuff she does and how fast she’s growing up! I sit and smile in awe, as I am struck by this feeling of nostalgia. And even before I have made the most out of my much awaited “me-time”, she’s up and about.

And then we are back to the grind, moving at a pace so fast that at times feels like a familiar movie reel going in slow motion. In that grind, a moment to myself is hard to find. A moment of calm, just for myself – physically and mentally. And when I do somehow manage to get that moment, I end up feeling lost, all alone. How can I possibly feel lonely when I am never really alone, when I am constantly spoken to and when I am constantly needed? I am in conversation all the time, yet I feel like I have lost my conversational skills. My brain cells are constantly up and running and yet I feel switched off up there. How can I feel unproductive when I am constantly on my toes, doing something or the other? Why does my “to-do-list” seem so small on paper yet takes up my entire day? How can I want to hold on tight to my little one’s love for me and yet want her to be more independent? Her independence is nothing but a testimony for how I am doing as a mum, yet I tend to constantly question my skills as a first time mum. I feel like I know nothing, and yet I am confident that I’m doing the best for her. I loose my patience and burst out of frustration which is instantly followed by me running to comfort her. I spend my days teaching her to be a better human being and yet wonder if I am in fact living up to it myself. I am constantly feeling divided, sitting on a fence, yet I know that I’m doing the right thing.

I often revisit those days before my little one came along, and think about how life was much simpler in terms of catering to my own likes and needs. Although I didn’t see much value in it back then, I could sleep late without any worry, I could watch tv without being constantly interrupted, I could engage in an adult conversation without any distractions, I could read in quiet and peace, for as long as I wanted … I could practically do any task at my own pace without a clock ticking at the back of my mind and I could just focus on my own “to-do-list” – for the day and for life. Basically I had all the time and space I needed back then. Although exhausting and frustrating in a whole different way, I look back on my decade as a professional educator and can’t help but think about how I loved that feeling of excitement and the whole rush it brought along. It all seems like a different lifetime now but if I have to honest, as much as I might miss those days, I am not willing to turn back time and wouldn’t want to trade in what I have today! NO WAY! I don’t want to loose myself in motherhood and at the same time I can’t seem to be able to let go of my little one’s growing years.

I know it all sounds like a complaint but I‘m not looking for a fix. I know it all sounds like a problem but I’m not looking for a solution. I have come to accept that motherhood is all about embracing these contradictions and making the most out of each and every conflicting moment because very soon, these moments too will be long gone and missed. And even before I realise, I would be walking into another phase of motherhood which will continue to be paradoxical by nature, at a whole new level. But that’s life – moreover a mum’s life and I am learning to love it, just the way it is.

I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry for being a mean mum from time to time.

Motherhood changes everything. PERIOD! Being in-charge of raising another human is not just a huge responsibility but it is also an overwhelming experience. It has those “Awwww” moments along with those “Ughhhh” moments. It has moments of pride, it has moments of guilt, it has moments of frustrations. And I have come to realise that the best way of dealing with this roller-coaster of emotions is to accept and embrace every moment and the emotion it brings along. There was a time when my last thoughts before falling asleep every night used to be around what I should wear to work the next day and what are the things I could do to enhance my teaching skills at work. I used to doze off thinking about what would happen on the next episode of “This is Us” and here I am now, sleeping every night, doing a mental self assessment of myself as a mum. Did I give it my best? Did I enjoy my “awwww” moments? How did I respond to the “ughhhh” moments? Did I raise my voice? Did I mistreat my little one in the whole quest of disciplining her? Did I loose my cool when she threw a tantrum? Could I have been more patient with her? Did I feed her well today? Did she get to eat a variety of foods from the different food groups? At the end of this self created questionnaire, I simply reassure myself that tomorrow will be a new day, a new chapter, and yet another chance to try and be the best version of myself as a mum, as a human.

Amidst all of this, I have come to the conclusion that although I have this amazingly close and loving bond with my little one, I can be super mean to her every now and then! And I’m cool with that! Is that bad? I don’t think so, not as of now! But I bet my little one thinks so, although as a 2 year old, she hasn’t developed that realisation yet. I can so see her growing up to realise this “mean streak” in her mum and someday she is going to tell me how I invariably end up ruining all the fun for her, all the time. And although she might see it that way, I am okay with that as long as I am serving the goal of raising a decent human being, with a strong character and grounded moral values. This stuff is important to me and I need her to value it too. Just because I’m a “no nonsense” kind of mean mum at times (ok, many a times), I don’t think I’m a bad mum.

For example: I can seem mean when I don’t always play with my little one. Don’t get me wrong, but I do a whole lot of fun activities with her and I do goof around with her by being all silly from time to time. And I enjoy every bit of it. I even let her play in the rain although somewhere I’m worried that she might catch a cold. I try to keep my own OCD issues aside, when she is having some messy fun of her own. But there are also times, when I don’t want to play with her and I simply say NO, NOT NOW! And that’s fine, because although she might think I’m being a fun spoiler for her, I feel that I’m giving her a real world experience then and there. I need her to learn that in the real world, not everyone is going to comply with her needs. I need her to understand that everyone has a right to say yes or no depending on their own desires. I want her to respect this need that everyone has just as much as she expects everyone to respect and comply with her own needs. Life is about give and take and we don’t always get what we want, and when we want. She needs to learn to deal with whatever emotions such a situation brings her way. And it rather start early, and start at home – in the safety and comfort of her own people.

Another scenario that brings out the mean mum in me is when it is time for my little one to clean up her play things. I have this strong need for cleanliness and organisation. I can’t stand any sort of mess for long. In fact, I have rubbed off this quality onto my little one as well. She is generally is clean freak too but when she’s busy playing, she can get very messy. It’s a typical toddler thing and I respect that when it is her free play time. But once she’s done, she needs to clean up her mess. Maybe it is too early for her to learn this but I am consciously teaching her to play in an organised fashion. Like taking one toy at a time and putting it away before bringing out the next one. But she doesn’t get that and I’m willing to wait until she does. However, at the end of it all, she has to clear out the mess – she can choose to take her own sweet time, she can pretend to ignore my instructions, or even throw a dramatic tantrum over it. But she does have to clean up, period! There are times I wait patiently as I sing along and make the whole cleaning up process all about fun. And there are times I yell out my orders and throw a loud tantrum myself, to get the job done as soon as possible. I need her to realise her responsibilities and what is expected out of her. If I don’t insist that she is capable of doing this, she would never realise that she in fact is capable of doing it. And trust me, she is doing a good job at it and I hope this lasts. She is not just learning the concept of responsibilities and time, but she is even learning about consequences in the bargain. Like my silent treatment when she’s not behaved appropriately e.g., she accepts it graciously and knows exactly what called for it. She even tries to not repeat that behaviour in the future which is a big learning I believe. Yes sometimes, she will be adamant and repeat the same behaviour and just like her, I would repeat my reaction as well. That’s when she realises the existence of a concept called consistency which is very important when it comes to disciplining a toddler. Consistency in rewards and praise as well as in punishments and silent treatments. And by now she knows what to expect from me and most of the times, behaves appropriately. This is her window of opportunity to learn about complying with societal norms. And if she doesn’t want to do the time, then she shouldn’t do the crime.

Again, don’t get me wrong, I do give her umpteen number of chances to goof up, test her boundaries and test my patience. That’s also a crucial part of growing up after all… “to know when to stop”. And after she is done exploring those “chances”, she’s get “ONE LAST CHANCE”. If she doesn’t get her act together in those chances, guess what! She has to deal with something called “consequences”. That’s when my “enough is enough” look surfaces and “the no nonsense mum” in me takes over. A lot of the times, this involves me “yelling”! I feel awfully terrible when I do that but I still do. But again, that doesn’t make me a bad mum. If anything, I’m a real mum, an authentic mum who is not putting up a façade or pretence of any kind. She needs to learn that her mum is just as human as she is. Just like she gets to behave or misbehave in the comfort and security of her own home, so does her mum. This is another opportunity for her to see how I feel as a mum, each time she yells and screams to get what she wants. And hopefully, she learns how unpleasant and how unproductive yelling is and begins to control her own tantrums too. When I apologise after I yell at her, she learns something too. She learns the value of productive communication and how to do some damage control after making errors. We are all humans… and need to learn from each other. We need to respect each other and learn to coexist in a harmonious manner. And trust me, I can see her imbibing all of this, even though she’s so little. She knows that I love her to the moon and back but at the same time she knows that she has to do her bit as well. I also make it a point to highlight that it is her behaviour that I’m judging and holding up for accountability, not her as a person. She is a beautiful person and I can’t say that enough!

So yeah, here I am! To a third person, or even my own family at times, I might seem like a mean and yeller kind of mum, but hopefully someday they will get to see why I am, the way I am. And someday, my little one too will see the value in what I did and why. I’m sorry, but I’m not sorry!

Why you don’t see my toddler’s photos and videos on social media.

Today, social media has become the most basic form of staying connected and the most “glamorous” form of sharing our life updates. One might be living right next door or might be living miles away from his/her family, friends or from the place where they grew up, but social media continues to serve everyone as the most “creative” way of sharing their life stories. Don’t get my quoted sarcasm wrong; it is indeed a fun way of maintaining relationships, sharing interests and exploring identities. And I do enjoy seeing photographs and videos that people on my social network share – a lot of it is about their party life, travel adventures, food creations and… their… wait for it… “Little MEs”.

Personally, I have yet to master this skill but I’m amazed at how people can go about living their lives and yet find the time and energy to share their life stories and how. I simply can’t keep up with it, trust me, I tried and am still trying. However, I choose to keep my child out of these updates, paying no attention to the occasional temptations I might feel. I consciously chose to not share photographs from the time I was pregnant up until now that my child is a toddler already. And just because I choose not to do it myself, doesn’t imply that I judge those who do it. It’s great if their choice to do so suits their interests and needs. I honestly do enjoy watching and often end up admiring all of those fancy updates. But its just not for me…Why?

First reason being that I somehow have this strong feeling that I should protect those details of my family life from the “jungle (of information) out there”. Today, we live in a world where information is all over the place and its there to stay. Social media platforms have become this easily accessible space where anyone and everyone could learn a lot about me and my life, in no time. It’s actually scary when I think about it. I know there’s this thing called privacy settings but I don’t really trust it. Second reason being that my toddler doesn’t really have an understanding of this concept of social networking yet. As her parent, I feel responsible to protect and respect her privacy until she has the capacity to do so independently. In addition to a sound understanding of the same, she is yet to develop a voice, with which she can tell me if she’s okay with me sharing her life with the world out there. And whose interests will I really be serving if I choose to go ahead and do that without her permission? Hers? Mine? Our inner circle? Our outer circle? Or the online global community at large? In any case, I cannot and shouldn’t ignore the fact that its her life – however little she might be.

Well, she is 28 months old and loves her daily dose of music, songs and rhymes. We tend to sing-a-long A LOT during our routine activities, its been like that since the day she was born. You will often find her singing, dancing or making her toy friends do the same. She is fascinated by water falls and water fountains of any kind and in any form. She wants to grow up to be an astronaut and take her rocket from NASA to the moon. She enjoys exploring books and is even attempting to read them now. She is a big fan of trains particularly Japanese bullet trains and she can actually recognise them by their official names now. She is obsessed with swings, slides and particularly loves climbing and jumping on the bed. She is always on her toes, rarely sits, enjoys running, playing ball and most recently playing with sand at the beach. She thoroughly makes the most out of her showers and massages & gives us pretend showers and massages too. She is passionate about cooking with her play-foods and as she feeds us her delicious creations, she always makes it a point to ask for feedback…. Nice? Yummy? Hot? Sweet? Spicy? Crunchy? Tasty? And so on… Yes she’s a foodie, much like her parents. Its amazing to see her talking to and taking care of her toy friends. She plays with them, disciplines them and then comforts them affectionately. She does something amusing, entertaining and astonishing every day and as you can see, we can’t stop talking about her. Her giggling and laughter is so contagious that we often find ourselves laughing and giggling with her, over absolutely NOTHING! Of course I get EXTREMELY tempted to share all of this with my social network but I don’t. I do excitedly share it with my close family and friends on a one-to-one basis but I refrain from posting any of it on social media platforms as such.

The other thing is that I don’t really know how my child would respond to me posting her pictures and videos online. If she grows up to be anything like me, she would be grateful for the fact that I didn’t post any “embarrassing” stuff about her that stays online forever. She might end up appreciating how I didn’t publish her life online without her permission. If not, she might be disheartened to know that she doesn’t have a trillion followers on an account that I failed to create for her. In that case, she might even question my level of enthusiasm and my PR skills altogether. And if that happens, I can always have her look at the GBs and GBs worth of material I have collected on her. Trust me when I say that I have captured each and every special moment, every skill, every milestone she has ever been through. But, I need to respect the fact that its her life.

I know I can’t protect my child from the “outside world” forever, but for now I feel that I am obligated to treat her privacy with respect. When she’s old enough to understand this world of information sharing and when she’s wise enough to make her own choices about the way she wants to conduct herself in that world, I will be more than happy to hand over all the material I have on her. Then on, its her decision and her voice as to how she wishes to exist in this world. Till then, I shall continue to document every little detail of her life and share it only with a select few who really need to be a part of her life journey at the moment – people who she knows, people who know her and thereby can use those updates to connect with her. It simply serves as an extension of their offline and face to face interactions. Like I said, I need to consciously keep in mind whose interests am I going to be serving by sharing about her life. Nothing personal to those on my social network because if you do wish to connect with my little one, I will be more than happy to facilitate that on a one-to-one basis. Not on the World Wide Web. “This isn’t about you, it’s about my little one!”