And Then There Were Three

October 9, 2008

So the twins have totally arrived in the land of make belief. The teddy bear they were acquiring maternal instincts towards has emerged as their full-fledged baby, with all the attendant biological and emotional needs. They feed it, wash and dry its hands and face, give it the bed-time routine and put it to bed, then wake it up and wash and dry its face again, which I never do to them. They carry him around on their hips and console him when he falls down. They talk to him, croon to him, give him lots of hugs and kisses, and make him play football. They wipe his nose on their hankie. And, horror of horrors, they put him on the toilet! They even flush the toilet when he’s done! I thought he would fall in, but luckily he doesn’t. Or, should I say, he hasn’t yet?

And just a few minutes ago, Mrini headed to the cupboard where the diapers are kept and demanded a diaper to put on him before she put him to bed!

Initially, I sort of aided and abetted them in their parenting, but now I’m wondering: perhaps this has gone too far? I mean, if they want to bathe, oil him, and dress him next, I’m in trouble. I’ll have to buy a whole new set of clothes. And shoes. And miniature diapers. Not to mention stuffed-teddy-bear-proof soap and oil.

Sigh. I’m not sure I’m ready for another baby right now. Can this wait a few years?

Babysitting: Third Time Lucky

October 7, 2008

Not that the first two times weren’t lucky… But let me start at the beginning.

The first time that we both went away from the twins was when we were in Calcutta in December last year. That time we went for a stroll in the neighborhood that lasted maybe 30-40 minutes. The twins were with family members they had been living with for about a week. They were, so we were informed, ok but a little subdued while we were out. As soon as we got back, Tara came up to me, took my hand and burst into tears!

Thereafter, Amit and I have left them briefly at home with the girls who come for cooking or for cleaning the house, but these absences have been usually only 10 minutes or so. So technically, the second babysitting episode was while my parents were here. I nipped out one day to run some errands, and again, I was back in about 30 minutes. This time was uneventful, and I was thankfully not greeted with a flood of tears.

The third time was Saturday. I took the kids to S&S’s place in the afternoon. They haven’t been spending a lot of quality time with S&S in the past several weeks, due to various reasons, and perhaps due to that, or perhaps because Amit was conspicuous by his absence, they took a very long time to unwind. Like, more than an hour! I had almost given up on leaving them and going out, considering the way they were sticking to me like glue.

But after about an hour or so, they both asked to use the toilet, which was really impressive considering they were both strapped up in their diapers. Anyhow, after using the toilet, they seemed to decide that this was a nice friendly place after all, full of nice, friendly people and they began to make themselves at home. So a while later, I did go out, saying bye to them as I went and telling them I’d be back soon.

I was out for a stressful half-hour. My body was going around doing its errands, but my mind was on the kids the whole time. Would they be ok? Would they ask S&S for the toilet if they needed to? Would they howl or be miserably silent? Would they think I (we) had abandoned them???

Really, it’s only we parents who worry; the kids are fine. They glanced at me in an off-hand manner when I returned, as though to say, “oh, it’s only you, pooh!” and went back to whatever they were busy with. Charming!


October 6, 2008

Sometimes the twins are just adorable.

(If you really don’t want to read more mushy stuff about the twins, you can just skip this one.)
(And no, as far as I know, “twinnings” isn’t a word. I just made it up because it sort of sounded like “antics the twins have been up to”.)

So, yeah, adorable. Let me tell you.
They have a perfectly hideous orange teddy bear (a gift, of course) that they just adore. They attach themselves to it early in the morning and hug it and talk to it and treat it like their baby for long periods of time at a stretch. I think I’ve even spotted them trying to make it walk, and trying to put it to bed.

Occasionally, they fight over maternity rights, but not very often.

Yesterday, after their bath, I wrapped them in their towels and sent them to their room as usual. Technically, Mrini’s towel is blue, Tara’s is orange; but we’re not overly particular about it. So, as it happened, Mrini was wrapped in the orange towel and Tara in the blue. On entering their room, Mrini unwrapped herself and started to spread her towel very neatly on her pillow preparatory to lying down with her head on her pillow (so that I can rub oil all over her, they have extraordinarily dry skin). Tara rushed in, grabbed the towel off the pillow and draped it over the orange teddy and proceeded to hold him up by the ear, giggling insanely. Mrini, outraged, tried to get her towel back. Tara unravelled her own towel and politely handed it to Mrini, who took it, flung it on the floor with utter contempt, and resumed her quest for her own towel. She succeeded in getting it, eventually, and Tara wailed and wailed and went on wailing till I got her to point out all her various body parts and end by touching her toes with her nose, by which time she was still upset, but had forgotten what she was upset about.
Another activity that keeps them occupied is to grab any piece of cloth they can find – the laundry basket usually has a good collection; otherwise they flick the hand towel from the bathroom or kitchen – and to very diligently mop the floor and wipe/rub/scrub every surface they can find. Sometimes they even scrub my face.
Mrini has started paying attention to music. If there’s anything particularly lively on, or if I’m singing along, her face lights up like a thousand watts and she starts moving her arms up and down as though she’s dancing. Her current favourites are Disco Deewane (Nazia Hassan, remember her?) and Billy Joel (particularly An Innocent Man, the album).
As I sat with them on the sofa this afternoon, the sun bounced off my watch and created a small, shining highlight on the living room wall. I remembered how I used to love these reflections as a child myself, so I showed it to them, making it dance all over the wall and ceiling. They thought it was the moon. I thought that was close enough (sunlight reflecting off something; how do you explain reflection to a two-year-old?) so I let it pass. Unfortunately, after a few minutes the sunlight disappeared and so did the “moon” – and they were desolate. They followed me around asking – pleading – for the moon. By the time they went to bed at 8.15 at night, Tara was still plaintively asking for the moon. How do you explain the absence of the moon (or, in this case, the sun that caused the reflection) to a two-year-old?
Not that they can ask me too many things yet. Their verbal communication still consists of a fair mix of one- and two-word-phrases, and a goodly number of bits and pieces of nursery rhymes which they jumble up in hilarious fashion (“Twinkle twinkle little lamb” “Humpty Dumpty my black hen” and so on). I can hardly wait for them to reach the Mel-and-Jess stage.

I suppose loading the twins with three languages does slow down the process a bit, but think of all the potential for fun when they start mixing the languages!

Fish Curry

October 4, 2008

Don’t believe everything Amit tells you: I’m a pretty good cook when I put my mind to it – which, admittedly, isn’t very often.

The only thing is, not having been brought up on it, I don’t make very good fish.
In fact, apart from a pretty good fish fry (it must be pretty good, judging by the rate at which it disappears; but I claim no credit for that, good fish fry anyone can make: take fish, fry it, it disappears; it’s infallible), I prefer not to do fish at all. My attempts at “traditional” (Bengali) fish dishes are usually abysmal failures. It would not be stretching the truth to say that me and fish do not get on very well; we never see eye to eye, if I can help it. (For more on me and fish and other meats… )

Still, once in a way, especially if there’s no one else around to lay the burden of their expectations on me, I out-do myself even with fish.

Here’s what I did today. I took:

    one packet of frozen and almost boneless fish fillet
    a few curry leaves
    the Bengali five-spice mixture, though I’m not even sure how authentic that was. I think it should have white til in it; why else would I even have white til in my spice rack, considering I don’t know what it’s used for? The other four are mustard seed, jeera, saunf, and kalonji, I think. (Um… That would be cumin, asafoetida (?) and black cumin (?) in English, maybe.) Anyway, that’s approximately what I threw in, in small quantities
    a dash of haldi (turmeric) powder
    a healthy amount of Bolst curry powder (it claims to be hot, but I don’t find it so)
    some coconut milk (or was it cream? I think it was Dabur) out of a carton
    cooking oil, of course (we use olive for health reasons, but I suppose mustard or coconut would be better, seeing as this appears to be a fusion of kerala/tamil nadu/bengal cuisine)

I dumped everything in the pan in more or less random order, squeezed a bit of lemon juice on top, and in 5 minutes flat, it was done. And pretty delicious it was too, or so I thought. The kids ate it grudgingly, but they eat anything grudgingly at dinner time, after all, it’s time taken away from play time. At least they didn’t reject it outright. (Though they did seem to prefer ancient, black, refrigerated bananas over the fish, they went through about 4 of those each! But that’s kids for you, no taste, no predictability, no gratitude.)

I should have taken a photo of the dish, but Amit’s absconding with the camera, leaving me high and dry. So you’ll just have to take my word on this one.

Teaching Religion

October 3, 2008

Now that the twins are going to be starting playschool already, I have to face something I haven’t really given much thought to: religion. Apparently, even these neighbourhood-type playschools teach kids to pray.

Pray? Seriously?? Two-year-olds???

I hadn’t expected to have to teach my kids anything about religion at this age.. Not for a few years yet. But playschools teach prayers, what do you do?

I’m sure there are many who’d argue that it’s never too early to teach kids about god… But my problem is that prayers aren’t about god, not in this format. They’re just word strung together by someone else and chanted or sung by everyone together in public. It’s not as if the kids even know what they’re saying.

When I teach my kids about praying, I’d like them to learn what I believe – that praying is something that can (or even should) be done in private, maybe even in silence, and always with utter honesty and intimacy and sincerity – not using pre-formulated words uttered by rote along with hundreds of others.

I’d like them to learn about god in terms of morals, values, and a guiding philosophy of life, not about the rules and rituals of this religion, or that, or another. I’d like them to know that there are many different religions, but that what matters is not the declaration of belonging to a religion and living by its rules and rituals, but instead practicing “goodness” (for want of a better word) in whatever they do.

Obviously, these are not lessons for a two-year-old, or even a four- or six-year-old.

I know that as they grow, they will meet various religions along the way, and that’s fine. I’m not trying to insulate them from religion per se. What I don’t like is that they should have to “learn” any particular religion in school. Why? I’m not sending them to a seminary (if that’s the word I want). Why can’t normal primary education be divorced from religious education?

Of course, now that I come to think of this whole matter, religion was a part of the schools I went to as well. One was a Convent (need I say more?); then there was a school intended for children of Naval staff (I wasn’t; don’t even ask) and a DAV school (Dayanand Anglo Vedic – there’s a lot of philosophy, history and context to that, but I don’t honestly have a clue), both of which defaulted to Hindu prayers at assembly. Why the naval school should offer up Hindu prayers defeats me, but I suppose they thought they couldn’t just have the school band play merry marching tunes every morning.

So I shouldn’t be surprised that the twins are going to be learning “prayers” along with their colours and numbers and nursery rhymes. The best I can do is to take it as another kind of nursery rhyme… and let them get acquainted with my beliefs when the time comes (and also with Amit’s, which is that there is no god)… and hope that they choose whatever system works best for them.

But really – why do schools teach prayers? And why to two-year-olds? And how can they assume (other than those schools that, like Convents, statedly adhere to a particular religion) that Hindu prayers are best suited to all their students? I mean we do have people of other religions in this country, so if you’re not really affiliated to a particular religion, shouldn’t you just stay away from the whole thing?

Archaology Update

October 2, 2008

The Early Prehistory module I’m doing now as part of my online Archaeology course is absolutely fascinating. It deals with the origins of humans from 5 million-odd years ago. I’m only a few weeks into the module, but it’s the best part – hominids, Lucy, Neanderthals, stone tools, the emergence of cave art… If I had known about this in school, I would have chosen to be a paleoanthropologist. Why don’t they tell you these things in school? The closest we came to it was History, which is about as close as Leo Tolstoy is to J K Rowling (or Anna Karenina to Harry Potter).

According to what I read this week, at one point there might have been as few as 1500 women alive on earth. 1500! The tiniest twist of fate could have made human beings extinct. Then our planet would have remained in its pristine Garden-of-Eden state for god knows how many millennia. Imagine that!

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