The Brat @ gmail.com

A few days after the Brat was born, I was saying his name to myself, thinking random thoughts… and suddenly I hit upon a great joke. An inside joke that involved his name and it struck me that were he older, he could have used it as his email id. And then I realised it was something that anyone else with the same name could have used already. A quick check on gmail told me that it was still unused and so without much thought I created an email id for him and blocked it. And after sharing the joke with the OA and my family, forgot about it. I also made an email did for the Bean when she was born, but that was nothing particularly fancy – I just wanted to ensure we didn’t lose the name.

The Brat’s love for animals is well known and often the family and friends send me an animal related forward telling me to make sure he sees it. For years he’s sat in my lap and looked at dolphins caught in mid leap, piglets wrapped in a tiger’s skin and so on. At times he’d have something to say about it and I’d reply to the sender with his comment.

When he turned 9 I realised his conversations with my dad, more than anyone else, were getting longer and longer. This was not just G’pa-G’son prattle, it was intelligent conversation. He’s way ahead of us in his knowledge of animals and my dad has begun to read up and research in order to keep up with him.

This is also the age by which we were all writing to our cousins and pen pals, polishing our letter writing skills. But this generation does neither.

Now everyone knows I have some firm views on the screen time that kids should be allowed and I was loathe to let him start mailing people, but of all the screen time that kids these days have the opportunity to use, this seemed the most innocuous. The other option is to make him hand write letters and then go hunting all over Gurgaon for a post box and hope that it makes it to the receiver.

Finally (actually it wasn’t as fraught a decision as it comes across as!) I decided to let him use his email id and mail his grandparents. He’s thrilled of course, but being the Brat, he expresses rapture with a gentle smile and nod.

Chhota Nana has really got into the mood of things and writes him long chatty letters in the style of our old times. Talking of the weather, what interesting things were cooked for dinner, update on his leg and how he is slowly walking more and will take the Brat out for a drive in an automatic car when he next visits, etc. He’s already got a pretty independent relationship with most of the family and being able to respond to them individually is bringing out a whole other side to him.

I opened his account on the iPad so that we can monitor it and he hasn’t even considered asking for privacy and it just lies open to view. I’ve only shared the email id with family so that he doesn’t get overwhelmed with the usual flood of information most of us deal with. I had anticipated a lot of to-do over it and I was right. The Bean threw a fit asking why she couldn’t have one and I pointed out that her brother was older and would get his privileges before she did. She needed to get to the same age to get access to hers. She griped for a day or so and then got involved in her Lego and the storm passed.

The Brat keeps his mails brief and surprisingly articulate. I had meant to teach him to thank people for writing to him, respond to a couple of statements they’d made in the mail etc, but he picked it up himself and has been corresponding beautifully. I had intended to tell him not to hand it out to friends yet but he didn’t even ask if he could and is happy to keep it restricted. Like a lot of other quiet people he pours his thoughts out in his emails and I hold back tears when I see a thought expressed in a particularly beautiful manner. It hasn’t occurred to him to demand privacy yet even though he and the Bean know that they aren’t supposed to read mail over my shoulder.

This email business also resurrected a few old issues with the in-laws who refuse to accept that I’ve retained my maiden name and that the children carry it in the hyphenated form. After much debate I had just begun to ignore the fact that the in-laws referred to me by their surname, addressed me as such in their cards and letters and so on. But when they began to do it with the children too, it bothered me hugely. The OA and I have chosen to give our kids both surnames and that needs to be respected by everyone, as our choice. Particularly since they are children and don’t need to be confused.

The OA firmly told his father that we monitor the email account and until he re-saved the email correctly, we’d not allow the Brat access to it. That was an unpleasant 24 hours but we got through and now the emails are flowing smoothly!

The Brat loves checking his mail sitting by my side and laughing over notes, sharing an image or two,  asking me if he’s worded something correctly. It’s yet another thing we’ve found to bond over and in the years to come I know he’ll want his password and is privacy. Until then… I’ll enjoy this.

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21 thoughts on “The Brat @ gmail.com

  1. It is interesting that your kids have both surnames. I have been wondering if that can be done. I mean, why should kids have only the father’s name? For example, is it Brat Sharma Chaudhary or do they have one surname as a middle name? It will be great help if you guide me on this.

  2. I love this idea and did the same for my son…except he’s only 2 1/2 so we still have some time before he starts emailing his nana 🙂 Great idea about the surnames…being Indian myself I understand how difficult that can be (to convince others) but I do believe you can get through everything with the inlaws if you have your husband on side. Love your posts x

  3. Beautiful post, as always, MM. As I have said here many times before, your posts make me want to have children, if only to share such lovely moments with them. 🙂

    A child’s first e-mail ID – now that is a milestone, indeed. And, of course, he has inherited your writing skills! Lovely!

  4. I remember when we were visiting and you told us the Brat’s e-mail ID. He has the coolest e- mail ID of all the people I know :).
    That said, the Brat is big enough to send mails now? That Kangiiiii baby? Why do they grow up so fast? He’s growing taller, but he still has his innocent baby face – so hard to imagine him as a big boy! That Nov trip has to happen now.

  5. Reading and writing are such important habits and so important to inculcate in our children. We try n then its upto them whether they want to keep at it or not I guess.

    My G’pa is used to write such lovely letters to ma and all of us…in an ink pen n on a special paper..Every single time. We lost him last Dec on his 80th B’day and as they tried to clear his desk, weeks after he left us. we found letters he wrote to himself, dairy notes, letters written for us that were never sent, all types of pens and pencils and erasers..just things that defined him and soooo much we could hold onto and treasure.

    If I’m allowed to pick only one gift from people i love, i would more than happily choose letters. My writing style is long and rambly and as if I am talking to the person… I’m sure you have realized from my comments..the one thing I am NOT , is a woman of few words 🙂

    Just curious , do you also have FB accountss created for both your babies?

  6. Such a typical story from you! Heartwarming as usual. We made email accounts for our kids, as soon as they were born, to ensure they got the firstname.lastname format we all use. And ours started their email usage with the grandparents as well. We have some lovely emails from when they were much younger (turn off autocorrect) saved. It also came in really handy for my son and MIL – she doesn’t speak/write much English – and he was (is) at a very elementary level in Tamil writing/reading, so script was beyond him – but he could read print laboriously and she could write to him with the Tamil keyboard. Over the years, they’ve added other family members (cousins – with whom they are now on Google Hangouts) and as of last year, all their various extracurricular teachers. The practice requirements, the changes to class times etc. are their responsibility and they send us a calendar event when things change. This year, son starts high school and I added his name to the school – there are so many emails from the school district and the school – time for him to deal with those as well (I remain on there so both of us get the information)
    And life does come full circle – they showed the grandparents (grandfathers) how to setup and use hangouts and now have a specialized thatha-hangout as well – to much mutual satisfaction.

  7. I’m curious – is the double-barrelled a personal and public thing, or has the Indian bureaucracy finally begun accepting it on official documents like passports or birth certificates?

  8. MM, That is so beautiful ; I have been successful in getting my elder one into reading and now I find it difficult to keep her off it during exam times, though she expresses beautifully when she does her class assignments this is something totally beautiful, this boy is a total blessing, May God bless him with double the talent than his mother and may be we would be reading his books and blogs in the times to come…

    take care

  9. That is a good I would say .. I am sure soon he will be wanting his privacy and all .. but by then I am sure he would have a learnt a lot 🙂

    Not sure what’s the problem with using both surnames .. but I am glad its all solved and emailing business is back 🙂

    god bless him

  10. I say it again, if I ever have kids, I’m coming back your blog instead of any parenting tips wala books.
    Or maybe, you know, I could just adopt Brat. 😛
    On a related note, has he read Gerald Durrell?

    • Trippy, he’s read some excerpts but I’ve saved the books for a little later. There’s a lot of subtle humour that I think is lost on kids and I want his first reading of it to be love at first chapter!

      • Ah, true. I read my first one when I was 13/14 and fell in love with all of it – the animals, the people, the places, the wry British humour. I’ve collected all his books over the years and they’re some of the best in my personal library. I’m sure the Brat would love it, whenever he gets to it 🙂
        (Perhaps I could bequeath it to him? :))

  11. Love the awesome brattie and am thrilled he’s getting to gupshup with the g’rents on email now. Look who’s all growed up on us:-) I’m sure some of them are howlarious to read in a way that only little kiddo writing can be. I recall when we first allowed V to email to my mu back in Goa a couple years ago he was very suspicious when she wrote back(we’d warned him tediously about email viruses and such and about not clicking on ids he didn’t recognize etc) with a name he wasn’t familiar with. So he wrote back to her saying he wasn’t going to correspond with her because he believed she could be a virus posing as his grandma!!! Go figure! He’s graduated much from then and writes elegant and eloquent mini letters to her now replete with videos, images and his photos. I’m on beanie’s side here though knowing just how eloquent and expressive she is, tis torture innit not to let her also send some love their way:-) And while I applaud all those of us who labored to ensure the kids got hyphenated surnames, I wonder sometimes if I’ve saddled V with two very long old fashioned Saraswat community surnames that he’s sure to drop one someday(and it will hurt me much if mine is the one he drops because it’s longer. Sob)

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