On personalisation

A couple of nights ago we had dinner with friends. They are a  DINK couple who planned the evening around my kids. I was touched. They have the most beautiful home that is not at all baby friendly and yet they didn’t shriek everytime the kids went near anything breakable. Neither did I shriek if the kids went near a sharp corner!

We’ve fortunately always had friends who have welcomed our kids and spoilt them beyond measure, more than making up for any lack of family. I loved that these guys had planned the menu to ensure that there was nothing too chilli, dinner was laid early, and most importantly, our kids were invited and entertained the entire evening by these friends and their dogs. The plan had been to then put them to sleep eventually and then watch a movie. The kids had a blast and I don’t know about my friends, but I enjoyed watching the kids build their own equation with them. The Brat always goes for the older men in a family  – he really idol worships them – and my friend’s dignified dad suddenly found he had a little tail, with the Brat hanging on to his every word.

Anyhow, the point of this post was that I was chatting with my friend’s mother, who is a teacher and has been one for the last 25 years or more. We were basically talking about how the kids were too wide awake to be put in to bed and then the conversation moved on to how people no longer take kids to places and put them to sleep there. I recall being taken everywhere by my parents and obediently lying down on a chair or any corner and going to sleep when I was told to. “Well, aunty,” I pointed out, ” nowadays everyone has maids and parties are very clearly either for adults or kids. There’s no mixing. And kids are expected to be left at home. If you bring kids to a party, you’re expected to bring them with a maid in tow so that you can nurse your drink and peck at the hors d’oeuvres without chasing a toddler who is intent on killing the hostess’ Persian cat.”  Parties in the good old days were different. Parents did get together and drink, but we were right next door in the nursery and there was always one parent popping in to check on us. And when they said lights out, lights out it was, with all of us lying down in a row and obediently shutting our eyes and our ears to the Black Sabbath or Pink Floyd blaring in the next room.

She nodded and made a very good point – That’s because everything is so personalised for children these days. Their bed, their stuffed toy, their sheets. They just can’t settle down or adjust to a new place  – everything has be specially for them.

And I nodded as realisation dawned. She was right. Kids now have to have their Dora night lamp, their ratty teddy (or heffalump as the case may be), their glow in the dark Ben 10 stickers on the walls and so on. They aren’t just put down to sleep anywhere. Most people will request you not to come over at the child’s nap time. And you’ll be asked to keep your voice down if the child is sleeping. No one just grabs the baby and goes over to somebody’s house and puts them down. And it starts early – you carry the baby cot, the playmat, their own rattles, their toys – they’ve never learned to entertain themselves with a couple of spoons and a bit of ribbon. They’ve never just been put down in someone’s house and guarded with a couple of bolsters – and I have to plead guilty to some of these things. On the other hand I know people who carry food to cook on holiday too. me? I just asked for boiled eggs and potatoes and bits of rice, banana and bread, if I found nothing suitable for a baby.

I recall growing up without my presence in the house being an inconvenience to the elders in the house. And I feel no less loved for it. I can still sleep through a tornado if required. Fortunately so can my brats. If they are tired, they are out like a light – often on the floor. The Bean is famous for lying down in her class room with a little cushion and going to sleep towards the end of the school day. I keep two cushions and a shawl in the backseat and often after a long day the OA and I lie them down head to toe and cover them up, letting them fall asleep on the long drive home. Growing up in Munnar, the drive from one estate to another was a long one and I remember my favourite part of a party being getting in to the freezing car and falling asleep (the backseat of an Ambassador is still the most comfortable) … and then being carried to bed in a haze of sleep.

I have to agree, sometimes we’re just too fussy about our kids. Carrying kiddy food to parties and ensuring they eat at the exact time that they do at home. What harm is there if they just eat plain rice or roti at one meal because everything else is too spicy? What harm if they drink a little juice instead of milk at bedtime? I am glad I met aunty and I am so glad she made that statement. My own mother says it all the time but its so different coming from some one else. Depending on the way its said, it sounds less like criticism and more like an observation. Else the simplest solution is to just leave the kids home with maids and come out to party. Which no doubt, is fun once in a while, but its also nice to come out as a family – all of us. And how is one to do that when parties no longer cater to that?

As another wise Aunty once mentioned, how are kids going to learn to behave in public if you don’t bring them out and let them mix with others? If their interactions are limited to parties that revolve around kids with magicians and bouncy castles and kiddy food, all the time watched over by maids? Something that struck me too, was that people are no longer cool with a kid breaking something accidentally or puking on their carpet. Everyone has expensive furniture, knick knacks from travels abroad, expensive coffee table books, Afghan rugs and so and so forth. Any damage really does burn a hole in the pocket.

Another point she made was about 18 month old playschool kids being given building blocks to play. Instead of making trains or houses, 7 of them got on a cute baby conference call – yep – all of them pretended they were talking on mobile phones. Again, no judgment, but if kids only see their parents on the phone, that is all they will learn. If you want your kids to read or play outside, you’ve got to do it yourself. You can’t slump down in front of the TV and tell them to go out and get some fresh air.

What say older, wiser mothers?

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131 thoughts on “On personalisation

  1. I was at a party last weekend – a very adult party where the rest of us sat and drank and smoked and made adult (actually, mostly very juvenile) conversation. One couple had two little daughters who stayed very quietly in another room the whole time, entertaining themselves and later sleeping. They smiled at us but I didn’t hear a whine out of them. I was amazed at how well-behaved and cheerful they were!

  2. Very true…and yes.. guilty as charged when it comes to my daughter sleep time. But luckily, she dozes off pretty much anywhere. We have been able to take a lot of vacations.. and the drinks only gets nursed once she is sleeping away in their master bedroom!
    I do tend to revolve activities after her nap,this way she is happier and less cranky. In our friends, we are the only ones with kids… and our friends are super sweet about entertaining her. I rarely have to worry about it. She has spilled juice and other food crumbs which we ahve wllingly picked up!
    So yeah, we will get to our friends or have them over. She will generally eat earlier and then will play happily with everyone untill she is super tired. This implies.. she just goes to the other room and one of us stays until she snores.. and the party just resumes. Simple.

  3. You didn’t ask old but newer mothers but still. Some things I agree, some I can’t. I cart the baby in cabs and buses and subways and make do without a car seat if it’s not possible. I lay her down on the floor in people’s houses (because I’m scared she’ll roll off the bed). I do take my own food but not to people’s places – she’s just too young to eat solid solid food so I don’t want to assume I’ll get something easily mashed. But I’m so looking forward to her teeth so that food becomes flexible too.

    The things I can’t do – I am quite particular about timing. Because the timings are not based on my pre-set routine but her body clock. I’ve learned her cues about hunger and sleep and I refuse to have her be flexible for me or other adults. So I will tell people that I cannot leave for another hour because my baby is sleeping and I’m not going to wake her. I won’t delay her food if she is getting visibly hungry and cranky. I’m sure people see this as inflexible but I don’t think it’s fair for me to deny her the basic needs in the name of being easy going – yes she can play with spoons and pots and sleep in a different place but eat and sleep she will!

    The being quiet during sleep – I see it in a couple ways. One, is just courtesy. Sleep is a blessing for those who have it and just like I’d like some cool and quiet, why not for the baby. It is the time for recuperation and when their brains develop – I’m just affording her the respect I would anyone else. The other being that she startles easily and I wouldn’t go out of my way to make noise – as she gets older I’m sure it’ll be fine.

    The thing is MM that while I may be flexible, where I am invited may not be. So I am always on the defensive – like oh, don’t worry I won’t bring her etc. Sometimes I wonder why I got out of my way to act single and with no strings attached when I had a big fat umbilical cord attached not so long ago. I think it’s my fault for almost apologizing for having a baby and I’m going to stop that.

    • oh no. new mummies are welcome. but we’re part of the offenders so to speak. i’m asking those who took their babies everywhere and fed them anything. i wouldnt ever let a baby go hungry, but i dont mind feeding them some boiled mashed potato if dinner isnt ready. neither do i mind putting them to sleep in the midst of noise. as for apologising for benig a mother, i agree. most of us do it when we’re the first in a group of friends. mostly friends dont understand. and its funny to see them go all anal once they become parents. i have friends who now freak out about their one child and didnt think it was a big deal when i had two under the age of two to handle alone.

      • So guess what. I’m on this no refined flour kick. Well I hope it’s not a kick and I’m able to sustain eating whole grains as much as possible, same for the baby who has been eating brown rice. My tam brahm mother almost died on the phone “no idli or dosa???”. haha, I paused a good 6 seconds before I said no ma, it’s fine. you can feed your grand daughter whatever you want. but it’s a fond memory 🙂

        • more power to you for however long you can pull that off. i kept my kids off chips and coke for ages and it worked till they grew old enough to have it when we’re visiting people. it keeels me.

        • Just wanted to respond to this: You can make perfectly fine dosas with brown rice 🙂 My mother was horrified at the idea but has come around when she realised the dosas taste just the same. You do need parboiled brown rice, so may need to parboil your own, if you can’t find any in the stores.

          Idlis with brown rice, are, eh, OK. But we’re idli snobs – brown-rice idlis come out about as good as restaurant idlis, which for my picky family isn’t good enough 🙂

  4. You know what, MM.. this here is one of the most important things I think of as a non-parent. I was recently on vacation with a family member who is mommy to a toddler I adore, but it was a bit much when the entire vacation revolved around the child. It’s actually irritating to see 5 elders being dragged around, just because a child can’t be expected to be entertained with something else.. how do you expect these children to take rejection well tomorrow? They’re so used to being pampered!

    Secondly, I do expect children to be better behaved than some I know are! People always say that now that they have kids, they are not cool enough to be invited over by single people. The truth is, as a non-parent, it is impossible to child-proof my house for now. I expect parents to watch over children.. I don’t mind something broken, as much as I do mind being made to feel guilty if the child hurts himself/ herself.

    The other is talking rude/ hitting adults being a laughing matter.. what is up with that? The other day, a 3-yr old child hit me across the face so hard I actually had tears spring to my eyes.. and I had to listen to “he is getting very quick na? Look, how he did that!” Maybe sometimes you cannot control kids but you certainly dont have to applaud such stuff for future reference?

  5. Depends very much on the personality of the kid, IMO. My son was fine with this – he is not a picky eater and could (and does) sleep anywhere/anytime. My daughter could not (and still can’t) sleep in unfamiliar surroundings, she needs her bed. She also didn’t do well with makeshift meals – I started carrying food for her, and leaving places if it was her bedtime.

    As for being quiet when kids are sleeping, MY ILs family is that-a-way – MIL, FIL, BIL, Husband, all were willing to stop all activities when the babies were asleep – I grew up with a more casual outlook (shut the door on extreme noise, otherwise live through it) – I don’t know that it’s made any difference – both have always slept through everything (including, sadly, their alarms for school :)) but my BIL’s kids still need that quiet to fall asleep – so again, depends on the kid, I guess…

    M

      • No, my observation is that that they don’t all adjust – that again depends on the personality of the child/person. Interestingly, this came up with my parents (they’re here now) – dad HATED being dragged around to people’s houses – he’s a major everything-needs-routine person and 74 years haven’t changed him. He says he used to be miserable as a kid because visits then did mean all day, and kids were expected to eat/sleep at the visited house…mom says she didn’t care much for that aspect as well, but learnt to deal with it. In her case, there was also the whole girls-adjust-to-all-things to deal with.

        All this to say, no one-size solution for all kids – parents presumably know their own kids’ personalities best and should do what works best given the circumstances 🙂

          • Ah paranoia – whole ‘nother beast that.
            Not talking about that, but IMO, some nuance is required to the whole don’t-pander-to-your-kids thing, that’s all.

            • actually here’s a thought. so what if a kid doesnt like noise? even if your FIL says so – the point is, that he still had to do it. isnt that the whole real world argument? that our kids will have to deal with noise in the hostel, studying through chaos, sleeping with lights on, people snoring on trains – and here i speak only of india. i get that some of us are okay with it and some of us dont deal with it so well. perhaps its for those who dont deal with it so well that we need to do this – so that they learn that even if they dont like it, they still have to lump it. the brat doesnt like loud sounds. he hates it if we play the music loud. earlier we used to pander to that. now we just dance around like dervishes and he’s learning to join in without shrieking at us to turn down the volume

            • too many nested comments I think: N is the same way re: noise – cannot STAND it, and I believe it actually physically hurts his ears. Telling him to lump it, as a 2~3 year old didn’t make sense – he wound up getting so worked up, his asthma would flare up. Ear plugs helped (like at basketball games) – but we did most of the adjusting, dropping activities that were that noisy etc. N is 10 now, and while he still dislikes noise intensely, is able to deal with it much better…he carried his own earplugs as well 🙂

  6. Wooow..such a thought-out post.I like it ..n will want to come back to read it when I have my own baby. Will u remember to remind me?:)

    Hmm..so pretty much all my friends around here have babies between 2 and 5 yrs of age. Therz just 2 other couples who don’t hv a child…n in the US we can’t afford maids to tag along or take care of children at home..so it’s always Family get-togethers irrespective of whether its an adult’s or child’s B’day bash or a Diwali/New Year party!. I’ve noticed that some parents leave early while the rest stay back n let their children have fun as long as they are able to. Some parents feed their child at home while some others will be happy with plain rice n ghee, while few others’ have gotten their child used to spicy biryani! So mostly , no fuss.

    But one pain point with most parents is that…their excuse for arriving late to the party(even surprise B’day parties!!) is that they have children. I am so tempted to say…if u know it takes that long to get ready ‘coz u have a child…then mabbe u shld start getting ready early…’coz I don’t want ppl to point fingers at me n say ”u don’t hv a child. U wont u’stand.”

    Sleeping in the backseat of the car on the drive back home… My sis n I used to do that for a long long time!!love the memory !

    • Hey PV, I agree with your comments but I would like to point out something about your pain point.

      Kids inevitably mess up their schedule when you have something planned. They either don’t sleep on time or sleep longer. I have a 20 month old who will nap at 12:30 every afternoon at daycare. Weekends that stretches out to 2 pm since we get up late. But, the day we have something to do in the evening she will keep dodging us. I agree starting early is good, but sometimes its out of our hands.

      I used to be very punctual before the baby. After the baby, I used to fret about being late to the point of getting annoyed at myself. Now, I just take it in my stride.

      • i think that is the point Aunty was making. that we’ve got to just pick up the kids and move. let them sleep in the car or wherever. they will fuss for a month and eventually will learn to sleep anywhere.

        • Ah but that’s where I think Auntie is oversimplyfying as well…some kids learnt to adjust – others got cranky/ill. Now we do pay attention to that – and it’s not a bad thing IMO. So as parents, perhaps our default setting needs to be to be flexible – and learn to read your child.

          Plus, it’s sometimes a matter of pure self-preservation – I don’t want to be dealing with a cranky clingy child at a party – I would rather come in late, with a well-rested child who will let me socialize 🙂

          • i think that is the point. very often my coming in late will ruin everyone else’s plan na? that is what others complain about. a little give and take no? i’ll come in to the plan on time and you help if my baby is cranky.
            and yes – that is her point – she’s not saying you drag kids everywhere – she is saying that default settings are no longer on flexible. parents as well as kids are rigid – everything has to be just so. from table mats to plates to spoons. and parents think its damn cute to say – oh he wont eat unless he gets his own glass/plate/spoon/sipper/food. and seeing her awesome son, and her 25 plus years of handling kids, i think she has it right.

            • MM, I have rarely skipped a family outing because of the kiddo. I take her wherever and infact sometimes forget to carry any of her toys to play with esp. to visit people with no kids. She is easily entertained by some stones in the yard or an old ball lying around.
              My point is, that I would try to get her afternoon nap out of the way in order to attend a b’day party in the evening so that she can enjoy it. In the end, I will take her is she had not napped all afternoon, but I am willing to go in later just so that I don’t have to wake her up.

              I too don’t believe in personalization. hey, my daughter still sleeps in our bed occupying the center 50% while we are hanging off the sides trying to stay in! 🙂

            • no – i totally get what you’re saying. i think what they mean is picking up a sleeping baby and letting her keep sleeping. i know its hard. my kids tend to wake up if picked up. but i’m going to start training them to sleep through anything. if we could do it, so can they. now all i need is the strength to follow through on that resolution 😉

    • i agree with you but i have to tell you that with kids you can never plan early enough. even if i leave half an hour early, one of them will want to do potty after we leave home and you have to return. or they throw up at the doorway and need a bath. its murphy’s law.

      • MM n rest..

        i really do u’stand that its hard to PLAN when one has li’l children. But i find it hard to believe that someone’s children is the reason for delay EVERY SINGLE TIME these people are late for a party.n they are late not just once or twice but for every party! Also when i say late..i dont mean late by 30 mins..i mean late by arnd 2 hrs. n mind you we all stay within 5-10 mins of driving distance from each other’s house.

        We’ll have these parties where the dress code will be sari…n these women will say they cant wear one ‘coz its hard to get ready with children!(n yet be 2 hrs late!)

        We’ll have potluck parties n these women will bail out at the last minute…’coz they have children n its hard to cook for 30 ppl!

        Not all moms are like this..some of them manage to play along with the group even if they have children..so i cant help thinking that the ones who always have a problem, are simply using thier li’l ones as an excuse!

        • yeah – i know what you mean. some people cant handle the whole kids plus life thing. i understand where you’re coming from. but i also believe that most women today have such full lives that its hard to combine everything. most moms who have kids on a schedule are working moms – our parents never had to run on a schedule like ours. i guess that is what changes everything.

  7. Just wanted to share an incident – I was visiting my friend’s 1 yr and 2 months old baby. They live by the beach. Since it was my first time at this beach house, she decided that the 3 of us should visit the beach. Once there, the baby got plonked on the sand along with both of us, and she happily kept playing with the waves that washed up at us. By the time we left, a couple of waves had pretty much ‘washed over’ her. We took the baby home who got a quick wash under the tap outside, followed by a more leisurely, warm water wash. Towelled off, in dry clothes and powdered, she was the most non-fussy baby that I had ever met and she was a total hoot, to play with, after!
    I dont know if I am making a point, but in this day and age when most of the mothers around me make such a hoo-haa about this whole parenting business (which seems scarily nothing similar to how my parents did it), my friend handled it so well, without being too careful (to the point of being obnoxious) or too cautious.
    Gives a lot of nowhere-close-to-being-mommies-but-looking-fwd-to-it people like me, a lot of hope. That all is not lost yet 🙂

  8. I live in the US. When I go to my desi friends home, I always take my baby along, give what’s on their table or take my own food and then pop into the bedroom to rock him to sleep. But sadly in my firang friend’s house it is not very possible. Because if it is a party everybody else leaves their kids with the baby sitter. I refuse to do that, so then only one of us (hubby or me) attend the party while the other is with the baby. I guess it is the western culture that is slowly catching up in India.

  9. I actually had the opposite experience. We kids were left at home while our parents went for adults-only parties at 9 pm. Not all the time, sure, but after enduring painful-relatives parties (you know, the ones where you are forced to recite “The Daffodils” or sing something to a living room full of uncles and aunties), I think we infinitely preferred staying at home with our toys and books. For me, at least, facing adults was always a trial.

    In fact, I remember being really puzzled the first time my friends with kids brought them over for a late-ish party (we were childless enough at the time to not consider sleeptime and whatnot in planning a party).

    I think our daughter’s life is reasonably personalized, but its more to make our life convenient than anything else. I actually think putting her on a schedule makes it easier for us to run our day – missing an hour of a party or leaving early because our daughter has to sleep will ensure WE can sleep through the night – and at our age, a few less hours of partying and a few more hours of sleep is always a good trade-off. Ditto w/ food – having no will to face a cranky toddler or improvise, we’d just rather take a jar or two. So we’ve embraced the scheduled lifestyle, as long as it suits us. That said, we do the occasional (ok frequent) eating out/getting home past her bedtime/taking her out for the day and letting her miss her naps etc etc. My evaluation is this: our life has not changed significantly since she was born. Yes, we did have a boring life before we had her, so at least we can’t blame her for our lack of activity. On the other hand, its nice to blame one’s children for one’s own sloth.

    n!

    • well it depends on how old you are before you can be left alone at home. and very often we were taken to homes where there were other kids. but by 10 we’d hit the sack – all the kids in a row, while the adults partied on to 4 am and then picked us up and left. of course as we grew older we were left home. but what do you do with little ones?

      and i agree – age matters i suppose. i had the brat at 26. there was no way i was going to bed at 10 and missing a party. our friends were all living it up and so did we. and see thats my point – if the kids are used to it, they will sleep and so will you. if they are used to eating anything, they wont be cranky.
      i had to laugh at the last line.

  10. the thing with taking kids to somebody else’s home and expecting them to sleep is that they are too wound up, too excited – at a time when you cannot give them proper attention. Some kids look for any opportunity they can to pull a fast one on their parents and stay awake. Why go to sleep when the adults are obviously partying? And if there is another kid with a different kind of sleep routine its another thing to tackle.

      • i think it all comes down to you do what u want to do and you know best how to manage your on kid. You have to live your life without feeling like you had to give up too much for yourself or your kid. OTH – what is good for you is not always the best for the kid and vice versa. I dont think there are any right answers. Our parents did what they could in their generation with kids around, and we are doing what we can in ours. There is no RIGHT way! It’s only the WAY that you want to live your life. Why do people (not you in particular) always feel like justifying their way is the best way, the ONLY way to do it. I did something, it worked for me and my kid doesnt mean it would work for yours. And also repeatedly taking your kid to settings and getting them adjusted to sleeping anywhere, anyhow for example (while great in theory) may just not work in practice. (maybe your kid is wired a particular way that will not enable them to sleep with a lot of noise). You really want to pick the choice that works for you. No judgement on what others do or dont!

        • i dont think there was any judgment, goodenough. its an observation by someone who is older and more experienced. and yes, one can take it or leave it. the truth is over the last few years even i have been reading a lot of articles on how we’re raising very self centred children as well as hearing from most of our parents generation that our kids are very spoilt. who believe that their parents life must revolve around theirs. that parties must cater to them. that they must get what they want. i wouldnt give it much thought if i hadnt noticed that kids are really spoilt and that even parents seem to be crying about how hard child rearing is, while our parents never did that. read the comments to see what i mean. its just food for thought.

          • See this is where we disagree. I am of the opinion that every generation thinks that the next generation is spoilt. Yes, they are spoilt because things are different today. The rules that applied a generation ago dont apply any more. It’s the rule! I see a lot of people around me trying hard to teach kids the value of money, that toys dont grow on trees, trying really really hard to make sure that their kid is not ‘spoilt’ just like you are doing. But no matter what, if you apply the logic of a generation ago (say for example you grew up with no TV) your kid is spoilt just because he has TV or he has so many choices like computers, iDevices, etc. I dont think anyone is suggesting that we take those choices away from them. As to child rearing being hard and hearing more of that, dont you think it is more so because you see so many women working outside the home, and having so much more expectations out of themselves and their kids. You dont have any gender specific roles anymore, you are doing a lot more with your kid (than your parent ever did) while juggling multiple other things. In some ways modernity and progress havent made life that much easier for the working parent anymore! I take the point that your wiser and more experienced aunty made (and its probably a true observation) but one that I would simply shrug off myself as an observation of the changing of generations with time!

            • i agree with a lot of what you said. but what if its not the next generation’s observation alone but one made by us too? i argue with the OA that our kids deserve the AC because its hot. I dont believe that spoils you. but i do think youre spoilt if you cant entertain yourself for a while and need a TV/Computer/iDevice/ hobby class all the time.
              its the attitude. our parents’ life didnt come to an end after kids. most of us are putting our lives on hold and letting them imagine its all about them.

            • if there’s 3 camps –
              1)lead your life just the way u did prior to kids, and the kids will just fit in.
              2)Make some adjustments to the way you lead your life, but you are still the boss not the kid. You decide what’s best for the kid – you give in sometimes but you hold your own other times. Tradeoffs…
              3)you let the kid completely control what u can or cannot do…

              I would put myself in camp 2 for sure. I dont know many who do 3 – but quite a few who profess to do 1. I am not so sure that the approach of 1 works for me.

  11. I agree to some of your points MM, specially the last about introducing a habit in the baby. My 20 month old always takes a book to bed and loves to look at the pictures before going to sleep. He sees all the other members of the family doing it, so he thinks that is the norm.
    But parties, we still live in a world where parties are not strictly adult. Everybody brings their kids along. I don’t know what I would do if I was invited to an adult only party. I might decline.
    And I am guilty of carrying food for the baby. This is because my son is the only toddler around most of the times. So if there is nothing appropriate for him to eat, or if it is getting very late, I give him whatever I have brought along.

    • i know what you mean. for a long time the brat was the only kid when we partied. and if you’re going to a bachelor pad where there is only beer and biryani on the menu, its best to carry something. else i just feed them whatever there is.

  12. MM, what a timely post.

    I’ve just been wondering about inviting a friend home for dinner. They have kids about 7 and 4, so have been wondering what the best way to entertain them would be–I always have building blocks and crayons, but kids seem to need more specific entertainment these days. Any ideas? Especially given that they’ll be the only kids?

    I also wanted to add that as kids (ie, once were 4 years or so) we were always taught to be flexible. I was always told to drink and eat whatever I was offered by the host. So I was a bit taken aback when, at a recent kiddie birthday, each of the parents came up to my friend who was organising and requested a specific drink for their children. Some wanted cold milk with no sugar, some wanted Milo with two spoons, another wanted weak tea (don’t ask!). My friend got tired just making the beverages.

  13. MM

    This is probably where “fauji” get togethers are different. Dinner invitations or impromptu “bouncing” friends for meals, means kids will be present. Possibly messing up the resident kids room, definitely running through the house and garden/terrace. They are mostly minded by the parents in shifts and the kids room is generally under the host or hostess supervision. No maids in tow at all. In case of the kid free home, the couple definitely sets up a movie in the spare bedroom. Snacks are sent their way,dinner is DEFINITELY laid on the table by 9-9:30 pm and generally the moms feed the kids before adults even pick up a plate. Babies are put to bed/breast fed etc. in the quiter bedroom.

    At “formal” officer’s mess parties, it’s very clear that if kids are not invited, mom doesnt come, dad (who HAS to go) generally makes a brief appearance OR if the couple is comfortable enough, they leave the kids at home with a maid, checking in regularly through the evening .Thats why most mess parties these days are out in the lawns, where kids generally keep themselves amused with their park buddies.In case of indoor parties, either kids are present in the entire party area, or (as they used to do in our times), a movie room is specially set up for the kids.Of course if 7:45 p.m. is when the party is supposed to start, it does , and except for weekends ,dinner is served between 9:30 to 10 ish and things generally wind up about 11:30 to 12.

    All this goes on while the folks have their drinks, party games are played (yes at “adult” parties !) and the dance floor is thrown open, speeches are made(at official parties)etc.

    I definitely carry Artim’s baby bag everywhere, with his milk bottle and non spicy snack, but if he wants roti, raita etc. from my plate, that is absolutely fine with me, because out of sheer laziness , after he began eating solids,I have never made baby food for him. In any case,he turned up his nose at the first few boiled gloop attempts, and went for dal roti from my plate.Basically, we dont allow him to have processed food, but anything freshly cooked and fruits etc are absolutely ok.

    As for the toys bit, from what I see of Artim and his age group, they actually prefer to raid the kitchen, drawing room etc for stuff-that-mamma-forgot-to-put-away-and-which-makes-a-loud-noise-when-banged-on-any-surface and anything else within hands grasp,as opposed to toys specially bought for them. In fact in Artim’s case a piece of string tied anywhere to his clothes keeps him busy at parties
    😀

  14. Recently went on a holiday to Lonavla. Didn’t carry any food even for T. The buffet for lunch was super spicy so they had rice mixed with vegetable soup followed by some trifle pudding. I refuse to stress about food. Something can always be figured out and one less than nutritious meal is a small price to pay for a stress-free outing.

  15. Are only older/wiser moms supposed to comment on this post? 😛 anyways recently a friend of mine was buying her daughter an Ipod or itouch as a gift..just take a guess on how old the daughter is? 5 or 6 odd…My mom was talking on similar lines as your post. She categorized it as TOO MUCH AFFECTION for kids…too much laad pyaar..:D

  16. i agree yaar. we both hate to go to a party leaving her behind (we dont have a maid or baby-sitter; so if grandparents are free she hangs out with them). i hope our friends dont hate us too much for it! it restricts things a little bit, but not much. she will curl up in her father’s lap, hanging on to his (gigantic) shoulders, at some point of the night… we have done this all these years and not likely to change. i used to worry about her food but not too much any more. she doesn’t eat much in any case. and has developed a few bad habits in recent times (read Kurkure) but again, as an ‘older’ mother its hard to stress too much about it. if she is the only child that is going to be at dinner, I bring her a book to read (preferably a new one that i have cleverly hidden away in my clothes shelf). that never fails to work.

    Having said that, it has taken me a few years to be able to chill and do this when its just me and her out with a bunch of friends, especially if the friends are of recent vintage and have not yet figured out our crazinesses…

    i do think wistfully of baby-sitters and going away by ourselves for couple-only time, and drinking merrily and so on. and i do miss the occasional movie outing. but we have other things we do, so i think its okay. and i would miss her incredibly at any rate…

    • *koff koff*
      older mother aa? i see.

      i think its awesome that you manage to party so much with her. with no grandparents handy we have to keep a fulltime maid. so yes, if its a terribly smokey, loud party with no kids and people who will look down their nose at us, we leave the kids at home.

      i wish you lived close by. we’d party so much!

      • i had that luxury for 10 months exactly after that it was always the three of us..and with a fun kid like her i enjoy it much more than going all alone 🙂

  17. chalo Im doing something right with my gypsy baby!! frankly even he knows if gets all “high maintenance” on us he will stay home, will not pass go, will not collect 200.
    But the off side is that Mama’s hand has become the “security blanket”, “heffalump”, the only constant amongst so much change come bed time.

    • ROFL!!! dude, that child of yours is a trooper. you forget i’ve seen him. he’s slept on the OA’s chest while you had a long bath. He’s played with my brats while you and I chatted. he’s going to grow up to be the lowest maintenance kid i know in our social circle

  18. My sis carries her kids around everywhere! Her 2 year old eats with the elders, she bravely tries the sabjis and dals and settles for plain roti and curd mostly! She’s slept on chairs placed together at weddings and receptions. On her first visit to my place, she decided that she liked our bar stools best and almost fell asleep there!
    Her favourite ‘toys’ are her mom’s kitchen utensils and her nani’s coin collection. Guess i should make my sister my role model in baby-raising 😀

  19. Fortunately, I’m still living amongst people who carry their kids wherever they can, and the kids just sleep/eat/play at whatever’s available.
    Dhanno grew up like that. And just yesterday I met a 2 year old who pretty much kept partying with us until 2 in the morning. 🙂

    I guess,it’s because we are filmi, not all of us have too much money, and we live in Mumbai where family or bai support is not easily available.

    But I feel sorry for the kids who meet only their own kind, eat only their own food, etc. What a world of experiences they miss out on.

    Parents do need to ease up a bit.

  20. Great post…you are right…as a new mom (well almost new for two years now) I think I do sometimes go over board on her habits..as long as her tummy is filled and she gets her 12 hours of sleep, I shouldnt really be bothered if the routine is disturbed once a while…you know what…my mom tells me the same things as you have mentioned, but like you said, when it comes from another perspective, it makes you THINK… 🙂

  21. I carry the kids around with bare minimum baggage and am pretty lazy to fuss over little things too. I actually dont party as much too, but even when we do we generally are back before its too late. I have seen people come to church for a 2-2.5 hour mass with sheets and blankets and bouncers and toys and hot water and bottles and plates and spoons and what not. While I just smile sympathetically in my head I am going ..Oh MY GOD!!

    • see i dont mean people who arent party animals in any case. the OA and I have partied wildly and now are slowing down due to my health. thats it. we do work things around our kids a lot, but i am seeing the error of my ways and trying harder to make them easy going.

  22. Thought-provoking as usual MM.

    This firang friend with four kids (all under 10, youngest was 21 mo then) was visiting us and all four ate desi food, spice and all (she’d insisted we cook what we eat every day). My two and her four played through through the evening while we chatted in the living room. No maids in these parts btw.

    So as you say, its mostly about how much fuss *we* make.

  23. Good post, MM! I think one of the best things my parents did for me as a child, was to have their own lives. It makes kids realise that the world does not owe them everything. My mum and dad were far too busy with careers, chores, family commitments to obsess over us kids – and guess what, we grew up fine. At parties, all the kids were normally left in a room and boy, did we have fun. When dinner was served, we ate what we liked and didn’t make a fuss abt the rest; for young ones, moms and dads fed them. It was understood that misbehaving in someone else’s house was a total no-no. And of course, we slept anywhere… parents picked us up when they were ready to go, that’s all.

  24. I wrote a beeeeg comment last night, and WP ate it up, I suppose. Even worse, I wrote something totally jumbled up in my sleep, you thought of it as spam and deleted it.. ack! Anyhoo, here goes AGAIN:

    This post touches a nerve with me as a non-parent.

    On the personalization bit: I was recently on vacation with family who have a 4 year old daughter. The kid is adorable and I absolutely love her, but I noticed this time how she’s so used to having everything just so. And some really unreasonable demands are complied with! It’s a bit much when an entire vacation with 5 adults and a kid revolves around kid movies/ mcdonald burgers/ zoos/ rides.. you get the drift.. as if the adults have no say at all, and I really got the feeling that even voicing an opinion would mean being “selfish”.

    On being invited over to non-parent couples’ homes: It’s often said that singles/ non-parents “won’t understand” about kids’ needs.. which I don’t like at all, but that apart, it’s impossible for me to childproof my house for a party (I doubt I’d ever do it beyond the absolutely necessary safety measures, considering I would want to live my life in a grown-up house, thankyouverymuch) so yes, I do expect that children be watched over by their parents. Honestly MM, I don’t even mind something being broken as much as I’m paranoid about a child hurting herself, and then being made to feel guilty for it. Yes it has happened.

    On learning how to behave around other people: I had the privilege of being slapped by a 3 year old child so hard across my face that I teared up! If that wasn’t funny enough, the mother was all “Hawww! But he’s getting very quick na.. That just happened in a second.” I keep telling myself that one can’t really control a child’s physical reflexes and maybe tomorrow I’ll be embarrassed similarly, but that’s the thing.. I’ll be embarrassed and not proud. Certainly not applauding the behaviour. What is up with that?

    • LOL! well admittedly non-parents often dont understand and wonder why you cant lock a child alone in the house and go. or why you cant leave a sick child and go to work. but i also realise there are so many parents who are often surprised or shocked by your choices that i guess it doesnt matter either way.
      as for the child that slapped you, i’d have slapped the mother back. i am so horrified if my kids dont say thank you.

      • Why the hell don’t I ever meet parents like you and Rohini above, who can put the ‘all izz well’ back in parenting?

        Similarly, I think you meet extremely freaky non-parents if they can’t understand why you can’t lock a child alone in the house and go!

        On a lighter note though, my cousin pulled out a LARGE Ben-10 plate (!) from her bag, only so her child eats something. It wouldn’t be so funny if she hadn’t been visiting from Japan! While I watch the children of today take down their parents like this, I’d want to be slowly electrocuted with my own Dora lamp please, for I shudder at what lies ahead of me!

  25. Hey MM,

    I am forwarding your post to my mom and hubby. Surely it’s going to make them feel high about me too that I don’t just do tp over the net but read some brainy stuff!

    I can so much relate to each and every word of this post. But as you said how to get out of the crowd when people expect the kid to dance on “aall izz welllll” on the day of independence day – my poor baby was clueless about this piece of music. 😦 AND I am happy about it!! :p :p 🙂

    MD

    Btw, am a big fan of your’s. and whatever you write influences me. So as we do it with our kids..think twice before you write! 😉

  26. I am traveling these days and your Baby tag posts always make me nostalgic. Kudos.

    Incidently, both my wife and I are lucky to have most of our friend circle with kids the same age group as ours. There is always a Kids’ circle and a grown-up circle in every party.

  27. You know MM. Last Saturday we had a party at our place where we had some 15 people making a lot of noise. One little child, just a year old, sat on her mom’s lap entertaining herself with a spoon and smiling a toothless smile at anyone who cared to look at her and paid any attention to her for 5 seconds. She eventually slept on her mom’s lap. And later her dad took her to put her to bed very late in the night. People were still singing and talking and making the same amount of noise.

    The kid is my neighbor. They have two kids too (a boy, the elder one and the kid above is the little girl). I think they are doing such an awesome job by just letting their kids be and not making a big fuss about them wherever they go!

    And no. I am not older, definitely not wiser and not a mother yet. But I can absolutely relate to what you have written because that is the way I think many of our generation were brought up. I too can sleep through a tornado and make do with boiled potatoes and rice 🙂

    And yes. I need to send you an email with a picture. Of a plant that is. I have been gifted this plant and its all very pretty but neither the giver nor the taker (me in this case) have any idea how to take care of it. So! Watch for my email in your inbox!!

  28. On second thought, forget kids, I have been SO pampered by my mother that I have to have everything JUST SO. I am an only child and after my dad passed away, I became the center of my mom’s world. There were instances when I wanted to eat dosa at 1 in the night and my mom has gotten up from her sleep to make me dosa (batter was already made) and chutney from scratch.

    I am not proud of this but it makes me feel special :). Now, my husband does continue the pampering to some extent. It might be hunting for chinese food at 11 in the night after everything has closed down or taking me to a drug tore 30 miles away at 3 in the night because I wanted to try the new brand of L’oreal lipstick. I realised how spoiled I had become when I went on a trip to Chicago a few months ago with 6 friends and was getting irritated at things like “I want the AC in the car at 69 and the volume at 23” but someone kept changing it.

    So, I do agree that we should not raise the kids in such a way that makes them believe the sun shines out of their a@@. 🙂

  29. I don’t have kids and yet have an opinion. Please be kind :). I find that the change in parenting attitudes, mostly the incessant fussing and behaving like your kids have to have what they have to have when they have to have it, may also have to do a little bit with peer pressure or the fear of being judged as being a bad/inadequate parent. We live in the UK, and we have great next-door neighbours with two incredibly lovely little ones who we like to have over for dinner every so often. They, however, want to have dinner at 5pm so they can go back home by 6:30 to put the kids to bed. I’ve offered our bed several times and they could always carry the kids back home, but they never take me up on it. My husband and I think it is a bit extreme, but were wondering if they were worried about taking the common sense approach for fear of being seen as fiddling with the children’s routine to suit their convenience. I think paranoia overtakes common sense more often than not, especially in today’s highly-strung and highly-competitive society. I think when we were young, our parents just dealt with the having and raising kids business as a nice bonus, but now when having children is so planned and organised, you feel the pressure to make sure everything is perfect and to be secure in the knowledge that you are doing the right thing, according to everyone else.
    End of my two cents.

    • i’m always kind *koff koff*
      you’re right. we are a highly competitive lot. we have to be CEO at 35. we have to have the best homes. our kids must get the best. we must be the best parents. also – birth control. ever since we’ve had control over giving birth, its more thought out and planned. those who CHOOSE to have kids, put everything in to it. i cant help but think that our parents behaved the way they did because kids just happened. i think you and i just agreed with every word the other said. might i say i love your blog?

  30. So you read my mind…
    I am at the point where the internal battle has begun – get A to stick to her schedule and keep her happy and predictable. Or let there be occassional slips and let her learn to go with the flow. At home, MIL says she won’t nap if there’s any sounds. OK, I guess at home we can be at her beck and call – what happens when she goes to day-care? Other kids will not follow her timetable. So I am sure there will be lots of tears before she learns to sleep through a storm!
    Recently we took her to a Baby Shower — big crowd, new place, lots of noise, madame was so unhappy within the hall, I had to be outside with her holding her until she fell asleep. Once inside she was annoyed again, but all she wanted was to be “put down” so she could play with someone. We had “planned” on coming back by her bed time – but her untimely nap and untimely feed at the do let her to be awake till WAY past her bedtime.
    Another party is soon coming up and while there will be a ton of babies, I just don’t know if I should go there, stay until just before her bedtime and come back (even if that means I might not get to eat dinner) or stay there, try to get her to sleep (again meaning I won’t really be partying/socializing) or leave her home with R’s folks or play it by ear. If she bawls, we bring her home, if she stays, well and good.
    Question in my mind is – when is a child too early to be put through the wringer, when is it ok to mess with their schedules? Tough one this and then if you do mess with their schedules, you have to have the energy to come back home and put up with all the whining and crying from too much stimulation!
    PS: This parenting gig is TOUGH!

    • meh. its not tough. you can pick and choose. its back breaking and soul wringing. but you have to do what suits you and your lifestyle. i know the OA and I party a lot. I have to make the kids get used to it because I have no regular childcare. maids come and go ….

      • Tough maane – I have this internal monologue – on one hand I strongly feel she should be adaptable on the other hand it hurts to watch her cry and get all riled up.
        Parties are far less stressful to think about than travel. God help me when I have to put her on a plane and go far far away from home and land 🙂
        Good thing they don’t have much of a memory of this stage. At least she won’t hate me for keeping her up until midnight :-p

        • 🙂 dont worry. i believe kids settle fast. i remember we did some 6 restaurants in Madras with a 40 day old brat bawling each time we sat to eat. later on we realised that our villager hated the AC. he was happy in cheap joints that were hot and sweaty. anyway, we persevered, one eating while the other walked around the restaurant rocking him. soon he got used to it. that said, we only took him to noisy cheap joints. never ruined anyone else’s fine dining experience

          • yes I agree with you. In that regard our little girl is a trooper. We’ve taken her to a fine dining place (they had a separate room they locked us in which we were infinitely grateful for) and she was chipper as long as I held her and ate my food (that had to be cut up for me as if I was the baby!). We’ve also taken her out in the middle of the afternoon, blazing heat and sat outside for lack of space, she lulled herself to sleep after some milk! It’s awesome…so I think I’m def taking her to this next party and see how she does. It’s practically the same group, hopefully she will get used to them (she better!)

            • well thats all that matters na? no one cares if the OA chops my food up for me like a baby. no one cares if i have no lipstick and my kajal is all over my face. and no one cares if i have a baby tucked under an arm till 2 am while we listen to jazz and chat. honestly. people just miss their friends.

  31. We were taken to all the parties too. Used to fall off to sleep to the sound of laughter and music on strange beds all the time. Only problem is I think we ingested too much cigarette smoke passively 🙂

    I agree about the over pesonalisation of stuff. A case in point-when I was growing up our parents didn’t specifically play child friendly classical music for us, neither were there specialised albums for kids available. The music was just there and we were never kept from it on the grounds that it was too “heavy” for kids-quite the contrary we were taken to concerts and could sleep there if we were tired. While its good to make stuff specifically for kids, there are some things that should not so easily be slotted intoa ge-appropriate labels.

    • totally agree re the music U. the first pieces of music my kid fell in love with were a ghazal from lekin and a bismillah khan album, much to our huge surprise.

    • With you on the music all right! I’ve been reading your recent posts on classical music for kids, with some bemusement 🙂 We were just schlepped along to all concerts; liked what we did, were bored out of our skulls by some artists, appreciated many of their nakhras and so on. My kids love some of the so-called heavier ragas from being exposed to them since they were babies (and even before)…

      • M-:)
        Like I made clear at the beginning of the series (and elsewhere), I think they should be exposed to everything and that it is hard to be prescriptive on this subject. But now since specialised stuff IS coming out for kids and people are looking for it, thought I would highlight it, but with the caveats mentioned above.

  32. Persian cats,Afghan rugs,maids,coffee table books-whew!!! am glad I am still in middle class India surrounded by middle class families- no drivers,one part time maid and a working mother.Lucky you guys.

    • middle class India is no longer as middle class as you might have noticed!
      coffee table books – eh? you included a coffee table book in this list ? why?!
      And full time maids – working parents don’t really have a choice in this country, do they? women have joined the work force with a vengeance and there are no decent daycares. you say your mother is working. well most of us have working mothers too. who will take care of the children while we earn then?
      as for Afghan rugs – have you noticed the salaries starting management students get today? when i started work i was paid a measly 7k – although i don’t grudge them what is their hard earned money. we work longer hours than our fathers ever did.
      the age at which people buy their first house has dropped. most of our parents could barely afford to buy a house at 45, while I know 30 year olds who own 4 houses. this is the new middle class india baby 😉 wake up and smell the coffee at any barista/mocha bar/CCD 😉
      I dont know about lucky; I guess as long as you have health and a loving family, you would count as lucky.

  33. Fir kya! The superwoman that you are, I so so wish to be around you and know you better. (read: ‘be your best friend’!!) But I know it’s never gonna happen. You’ll find me an ordinary duffer. *sigh* 😦 😦

    MD

  34. ooh! I stopped carrying a diaper bag the instant my first was out of diapers and guess what, he threw up in the car all over his shirt and shoes (no spare), we carried him bare chested and bare feet from store to store trying to find a shop selling toddler clothes! That aside though, here in the US, with no maid (and I cannot stomach a sitter taking care of my kids when I am not at work), all our socialization and vacations include kids. The kids will hike and bike with us (my second hiked 4 miles when he was 18 mths old) on vacations, hang out with our friends when we socialize and pretty much eat and sleep on the go. They can sleep anywhere and eat anything and most of my friends’ kids are similar too. THey are on a schedule at home as far as bedtime goes on school days and those are the only days we schedule them at all for obvious reasons. I refuse to buy a DS or other handheld games for long drives or flights and pretty much spend the time telling them stories or pretending I am not awake so they figure out what to do. As for the using the kids as an excuse to be late or not go somewhere, if we really don’t want to be somewhere…;)

    • awesome 🙂 hats off to you. I did that in india – carried the bean without clothes in a mall coz she threw up and had to buy her a tee. i had some people saying i was bad parent for not being prepared. me – i dont believe in carrying huge bags everytime just in anticipation of that once.

        • meh. what can i say. i’ve had people say that being prepared is half of what parenting is about. why torture the kid in a vomity tee? me? i just shrug it off. i live by the seat of my pants and am teaching the kids to do so. that whole prepared thing was so against my grain

  35. Well I’m not a parent but I attended lots of parties as a kid with the folks. We kids generally got sent to the residen’t kid’s room with some chips & kid friendly snacks and we were expected to entertain ourselves.I often remember falling asleep in a huddle of arms and legs (with 5 kids on a double bed and 2 more on the floor) and waking up in my own bed.

    Now only one of our friends has a kid but they often get him over. She wanted a steel bowl to give her little son chips but I didn’t have a steel bowl so I gave her a regular ceramic bowl then. Now I have kept a little steel cutlery for kids.

    I have also seen my cousin’s little kid who is the cutest ever. We have a huge family & weddings can have upwards of 100 “close family members”. At the age of 2.5, he was formally introduced to all the family members (he didn’t remember anyone from before obviously) properly and told how to address whom – this was done by his Sardarni mother in a Bong family. Ont he other hand another cousin’s 5 year old still continues to address everyone as Aunty & uncle because she thinks its too confusing for the kid. Confusing? How? We all did it. I think that;s just being stupid.

    • i think that is more a personal thing. i have taught my kids to call everyone by the title they should be addressed and they promptly forget and end up saying aunty or mashi, the two most common ones. i dont know if anyone minds…

  36. MM, can i just say i LOVED this post? with an almost-3 month old, i barely get the time to keep updated with my fav blogs, but this post, i actually bookmarked it so i could come back and read all the comments too. very interesting discussion u have going on here 🙂
    my little girl is just an infant now, and the limited couple time we get to go out, we leave her with my mum or MIL, simple because she’s too young for solids, can’t sit, and is just now beginning to have some semblance of a routine (AAH the sleepless nights have ended thank GOD!) with respect to sleep, nap times etc.
    i loved ur post because it reminded me that i need to, absolutely NEED to be an easy going parent, and as soon as she’s a bit older, maybe 6,7 months or so? i should start lugging her around a bit more so she understands how to behave in social situations and learns to adapt accordingly. i totally agree with the logic of “how will kids know how to behave in public if they’re never exposed to such situations as such?”
    i also agree with the dependence on gadgets and this blanket and that stuffed toy and everything JUST SO, but its such an easy trap to fall into i think. this post reminded me to stay clear, to work a bit harder in the short run and save myself a lot of misery in the long run, of course when the time comes 🙂
    i also heard something on tv which stayed with me, u need to make sure kids understand theyre not the boss, the parents are. yes sometimes parents give in, but thats should only happen SOMEtimes… i see a lot of spoilt children who have parents hanging on their every demand, and i wonder when this started and how.
    uff, she’s going to be three months soon, and i’m totally scared/yet excited lol about how we’re going to raise her, aah, the joys of parenthood 🙂

  37. ain’t that the truth, though! I was so surprised when my sister turned out all american and brought along her son’s folding cot on vacation to greece!!!Puds was put to bed in her pram which had a lying down option and our kids were sleeping as if they were at home, whereas my nephew took hours everyday, what with not having the exct same routine as at home. What’s the point of having kids if you can’t include them in your daily life and keep having to invent a special child-oriented one?

  38. I live in US and here desi parties are famous for starting late. We used to go on time pre-baby and also post baby. Never used to fuss about his sleep/dinner times. Once we reached the venue even before the hosts(on time!). Everyone else with kids arrive at least an hour late of the time on the invite and by the time, my baby end up tired and cranky. After that incident, we decided we are never going to be on time. 🙂

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