Wednesday, April 23, 2008

Illiterate Parents

This happened a while ago, but I forgot to blog about it until Kiran reminded me. Summy had learned how to write, even though she didn't know how to spell.

She wrote pages and pages of stuff and brought it to us to read. "What did you write, Summy?", I asked, looking at what seemed like gibberish.

"I don't know?" she said. "I can't read it. You're the one who knows to read! What does it say?"

What logic!

Shhhh.... It's a secret

The other day I asked Summy what she did at school, and she replied, "We were making special jewellery boxes for Mommies."

Then, smiling sheepishly, she said, "Oops. I was not supposed to tell you that."

By this time, the Mothers Day secret was out, but I promised her that I would forget she ever told me.

Kiran was in Japan, and while talking to him on the phone night, he asked Summy what she had done that day. This time she was more careful. She whispered into the phone, "I made a jewellery box for Mama." He couldn't hear her at all and kept saying "What?", but I could very well.

Nothing is as precious, even a jewellery box, as a five-year old trying to keep a secret.


Summy was eating strawberries and asking me if they were good for her. "Yes", I said, "They have antioxidants and are very good for you."

"Bananas are good for you too", she said. "They have lots of mashpotams."

"You're right", I agreed, smiling. "They do have lots of potassium."

Thursday, April 17, 2008

Something smells fishy

Oh yeah, that's Summy's fish.

Summy picked them, Dad brought them home. Summy wrote fish to-do lists. Dad set up their tank. But who spends the whole day with them? Mommy.

We asked for sturdy fish that could survive a family who didn't know anything about fish. The guy at the store pointed at some fish that were kept individually in cups, and recommended that we bring home one male and two females to put in the tank.

At home, we put them all in the tank and went to sleep. The next morning, Kiran left for work, Summy went to school. I was working on the computer but all I could see was the fish chasing each other out of the corner of my eye.

It just so happened that these tough fish were Betta Splendens, also called the Siamese Fighting Fish for a good reason. And there could have been no worse advice than to put a male and females in one tank. The male Bettas are very very aggressive and don't tolerate others of their kind in close proximity, be they male or female. This is why (duh!), unlike the rest of the fish in the store, the Bettas were kept in individual cups. Ofcourse now I know that, after having watched Blackfish (the boy) terrorize Coffee and Angelina (the girls) and nip their tails.

Finally, I couldn't stand it anymore. I went back to the store for advice, and this time the advice was no better. They said I could return Coffee and Angelina for a refund.

How could I return fish that Summy had named? How could I put the fish back into the little tiny cups after they had the whole tank to swim in? How would I know that after I returned them, they wouldn't just be flushed down a big toilet that was specially built for the fish? The truth was that I hadn't "bonded" with the fish (that must be the zaniest sentence I ever wrote). But for better or for worse, we had got them and we had to care for them, even if they were just fish.

I divided the tank into two with a net, and isolated Blackfish on one side. Within two minutes, the two girls figured out that Blackfish couldn't get at them, and they seemed to enjoy staying right on the other side of the net and staring coolly at Blackfish as he went nuts trying to get at them.

So we took him out of the tank altogether, and put him in his own bowl. For now, everyfish seems happy, even though the two girls have little fish fights.

Now that there is less conflict, it's happier to watch them everyday. They are tiny little creatures one inch long, and I expected they'll just swim around aimlessly, all the same way. But each has its quirks. When I turn off the filter in their tank, they know food is coming. They seem to have good memories. Angelina prefers small pieces of fish food, while Coffee will eat anything. Blackfish is kind of picky, but he loves peas (I found out from Mother Internet that some fish can eat some vegetables).

And yes, now we've bonded with the fish.

Wednesday, April 16, 2008

TV and Junk Food

I am not a great mother - I try to be good, but I know that I make many many mistakes.

Summy wasn't much interested in either TV or junk food before we moved to California. Once we came here, her school was very laidback in every way, including food.

For every holiday she brings home goodie bags filled with candy, and one of her teachers actually rewards good behavior with candy. Still, we threw out most of it because she didn't eat it. I kept a jar of candy out in the open at home and it rarely got touched. No restrictions, she could have it anytime she wanted - even before mealtimes. Because, she just wasn't interested.

But slowly, as I started giving her quick convenient "snacks" and she got the same at school, she developed a taste for Starburst, chocolate, Oreos, and Cheetos (all unheard of six months ago).

Also, back home in Massachusetts, the only TV we watched was PBS - for half an hour in the morning on some days, no ads. After an hour or so, she would usually get bored and switch off the TV herself. So again, there were no restrictions on TV. She could watch it anytime she wanted. Because, she just wasn't into it that much.

We move to California, and new cable, and here there's a kid channel that keeps going 24/7. Besides that, there's several on-demand kids shows. Whenever I had to study or cook dinner, I would just turn the TV on. Slowly, especially in the last few weeks, she turned into a zombie, lying down on the couch and just staring at the TV for an hour or two every day (and wanting more).

So I put away the candy jar inside the closet, out of reach, and tried not to turn the TV on so much. Didn't work very well. She still asked for candy at the store, and TV at home.

I panicked - here I had a good thing; a great thing - a kid who loved her vegetables and fruit and didn't even like candy and chips, and liked to get around and play instead of sit down and watch TV - and I went and ruined it. I took it so much for granted and thought she would always be that way.

Luckily, the damage seems to be reversible. I've started to show her strawberries or oranges instead when she asks for junk food. She still has a choice, but she mostly chooses the fruit. Ofcourse she chose the junk before, because I wasn't giving her another good option - I would ask her if she would like fruit instead, but that isn't as good as a visual of a bowl of juicy red strawberries.

And the past few evenings, when she asks for TV, I've been saying "Let's play.". I've never seen her choose TV over companionship once. And it still hasn't changed. Her bored expression goes away and her face lights up at the sugggestion of doing something together. It makes me sad to think of all the times she sat on the couch and said "Can I have some TV now?" because she knew the answer if she asked me to play with her - "I'm too busy right now, Summy.".

I remember one day, she drew a sad face instead of the happy faces she usually draws. I asked her why the little boy was sad, and she said, "The little boy was sad because when they were going to school his mommy said they could go to the park in the evening but in the evening they had to go to Ralphs for groceries and they couldn't go the park because his mommy said they runned out of time." in one breath. A not-at-all subtle dig at me. Broken promises have happened to us several times in the past few months.

In all the bad things I've done as a mom, I think getting my priorities wrong and letting her down this way, was one of the worst. I am lucky that Summy is small enough to not even realize that I've done wrong, and even when she realizes it she forgives so easily. At the end of the day, she always hugs me and says "You are the bestest mom in the whole world.". And I feel like a fraud.

Monday, April 14, 2008

Wee as in Wictory

Inspite of being misunderstood countless times since I came to the USA, I still used to think I talk English okay. Until now.

Summy realized that I just didn't know how to say some things. Hey, I realized that I don't know how to say many things.

For example, today I was talking to her about her friend Owen. She said "What?". I repeated myself. She said, "Who?". After saying it three or four times, she says, "Oh, you mean Ohwen!". It seems that I had been calling her friend an oven.

The other day, I was telling her how to spell van, when she stopped me. "Amma, say vee. Not wee."

I say, "That's what I said: Wee!"

"Not wee. Say vee."


"Vvvvv... Vvvvv.... Vvvveeee!"

"Www... Www... Wheeee!"

At this she doubled over laughing. Then she realized I wasn't just kidding around, I really couldn't tell the difference between "V" and "W".

In school, an English teacher taught us how to say "W" - always start a w by rounding your mouth - and pressed on us to say "water" not "vater". So that's how I say "w", only apparently now I don't know how to say "v" anymore.

Summy was even more persistent than my English teacher and wouldn't let me go until I said it the right way. So now I know: to say "V", one has to touch the inside of the lower lip with the upper teeth.

Ve both emerged wictorious.

But I still can't really tell the difference between v and w unless I try really hard. Sometimes, while driving by myself, I find myself going "Vee. Wee. Vee. Whee." People stopped next to me at red traffic lights think either that I'm crazy, or that I'm having a lot of fun.

Actually, it's both.

It's "afishll" - we are now five

Summy turned five last month (and ofcourse, we turned five as mother and father).

The celebration was quiet and peaceful, unlike the last two years where she had birthday parties with all her class invited.

This time we brought the party to the class, with pizza and cake. Her teachers made a special birthday crown for her. When the cake was put in front of her, her friends and teachers gathered around, and every one sang Happy Birthday, the look on her face was unforgettable. It was one of pure happiness. The same look was on her face at the same moment last year, and the year before that.

This may sound like a greeting card, but Summy: May you always be surrounded by lots of friends and loved ones, and have many many more happy times.

Kiran brought Summy a small aquarium and three fish as she is now five and considered responsible enough to care for pets. She is responsible all right, in a managerial sort of way - she wrote me down a list of things to do to care for the fish.

I quote her list, numbers and all:

2 THE FIISH WANT AA HIDINGPLACE (I had to go buy decorations to put in their tank to hide in when they are shy)

She signed her name on the bottom, drew pictures of three fish on it, and to show me how official the list is, she wrote "A FISHLL" on top (she had already asked me how to spell "fish", and she figured that official must probably be spelled with a "fish" in it). The list is still taped to the aquarium stand.

The list seemed to have worked because the fish are still swimming around.