THE MULTI TASKING WIZARD!

Published in Dawn, Young World, May 7th, 2015

Illustration by Ahmed Amin

It’s 6 a.m. and mum sleepily reaches for the alarm to snooze it for a couple of minutes. But the baby is quicker than her and gives out a loud wail.

“He must be hungry,” she thinks, still half asleep, as she heads for the kitchen to fill the milk bottle. On returning she thinks about snatching a few more minutes of sleep but realizes it’s almost time to make the breakfast and pack the lunch of the school-going kids. To get rid of the grogginess, she splashes some cold water on her face.

Running between the children’s bedroom and the kitchen, she manages to shove them towards the entrance door as the school van toots its horn.

“There are still two hours before the maid arrives,” she tells herself with satisfaction as she heads towards her bed to catch up on her sleep. But the baby is crying again as he doesn’t want to sleep anymore. His diaper needs to be changed too!

With a sigh, mum lifts him from his cot and shelves her plan of lying down again.

At 10 a.m., the milk on the stove is just about to start boiling. The phone and the door bell ring at the same time. The baby is wailing for no particular reason (maybe just for attention). She lowers the flame of the stove to the minimum, attends to the door bell, letting the maid in and scooping the baby in her arms, she picks up the phone. It’s her mum (or a neighbour, friend

or sibling) on the line and she quickly finishes a little chat and hangs up as so much still needs to be done.

Come afternoon and there is more to deal with. The older ones are back from school. The eldest is in a bad mood because she has not got good marks in algebra.

“I told you mum that I have a test, but you went away to the party at Salma aunty’s place,” she complains.

Mum sighs … and with a quiet smile declares, “It was important as she was celebrating the recovery of your uncle after a major surgery.


But the teenager doesn’t appear convinced. The school-going son has his own story to tell. He is brimming with excitement as he has been selected for the school cricket team. He wants mum to listen as well as watch, when he shows her his actions in the trials, ball by ball, and feels annoyed when she nods absent-mindedly while putting the lunch on the dining table for the hungry kids.

Evenings are as hectic as ever. The teenager wants to be driven to her friend’s place for combined studies. The second school-going child needs help for his science test. The baby is wailing again, maybe just for attention this time.

Dinner has to be prepared, the table has to be set and the uniforms need to be pressed. And for mothers who drive, there is sure to be something needed urgently which they have to get from the nearby store!

She also has to attend to daddy when he comes from office, he needs some refreshment and also time to talk about his day. There may be discussions regarding family matters, an upcoming event or the children’s progress in school.

Dinner is served quickly as the kids are sleepy and need to go to bed so that they wake up fresh in the morning. After tucking them in bed, mum wearily puts off the lights and heads towards the kitchen to clear up after dinner.

Working mothers have a tighter schedule as they have to divide their time between their home, children and job. Even when they are at their job, they are thinking about their children and home, and how they will manage to cater to their requirements once back from work.

If a baby is left at a day-care centre or with an elderly grandparent, she worries for the welfare and calls many times to make sure everything is fine.

Even, at times, if mum pinches out a short time to relax during the day, goes out to visit her parents, a friend or goes for shopping, her mind is occupied in thinking about her children and still scheduling her chores when she gets home.

Friends, these are only some of the physical activities of your mother. Mentally and emotionally, she is as active! She worries for you, plans for you and is always concerned about your welfare. If you hurt yourself, while bandaging bruised knees or elbows, she may be scolding you for your carelessness, but if you watch carefully, you will find a mist in her eyes as she feels your pain. She stays up at nights when you are ill and all her activities are planned taking your needs into account first. And nothing can match her silent tears and prayers when you are in any sort of trouble.

Children have you ever thought of how you can repay for all that your mother has done for you? Most kids think that by celebrating Mothers’ Day, serving her breakfast in bed, or giving her a surprise gift or her favourite flowers is enough to repay for all her efforts. But this is a very misguided notion. We celebrate Mothers’ Day to pay due homage to our mothers, but nothing we can do or say can be enough for her selfless services.

I do not suggest that you should not celebrate Mothers’ Day, because your mum will surely feel pampered and happy if you shower her with your love on that day celebrated annually. My point is, nothing you can do can be enough to repay your mother’s love, selfless devotion and the way she toils for you without complaint seven days a week, 12 months a year, and, of course, throughout her life. She never asks for or even expects a leave and enjoys her taxing job with all her heart and soul. A mother is a multitasking wizard, who performs day after day with no complaints of weariness or boredom.

You should make sure to always reciprocate your mother’s unconditional love, try to meet her expectations and help her out in every way you can. Always cherish her, make her comfortable and do your best to make her proud of you. Only in this way you can, to some extent, repay your mother for all her efforts!

THE AMMEE IN ME!

THE AMMEE IN ME!

I started my journey as a writer at an age when usually people are at the peak of their respective careers. Although my first article was published in Dawn when I had already crossed 55, slowly and steadily I have worked hard to carve out a name for myself amongst the regular contributors to the Inpage magazines (The Review and Young World) of this reputed newspaper. With only scattered articles in a number of other newspapers and magazines, I cannot boast to be a top achiever, but as (by nature) I am not a very ambitious person, I am fairly content with what I have done.

The other day, while searching for something totally different, I accidentally stumbled on this definition on Wikipedia and it set the ball of thoughts rolling. Can I call myself a late bloomer? I wonder!

According to Wikipedia, “A late bloomer is a person whose talents or capabilities are not visible to others until later than usual. The term is used metaphorically to describe a child or adolescent who develops more slowly than others in their age group, but eventually catches up and in some cases overtakes their peers, or an adult whose talent or genius in a particular field only appears later in life than is normal – in some cases only in old age.”

People often ask me why I started writing so late in my life! With a smile I reply, “Things were destined to be this way”. The truth is that I myself have no answer to this question! Hailing from a rather conservative family and being a full time home maker and mother a major part of my life, I had never imagined even in my wildest dreams that I would write articles at any stage of my life and that my compiled books would be published by a very reputable publisher (thanks, Ferozsons!)

Yes, I was good at writing essays during my school and college life, often getting a grudging praise from our very strict English teacher at school. Sometimes I cannot help smiling when I remember how I dreaded her! Having a great proficiency on English language and excellence in Grammar, she was the best teacher one could wish to have. But her sarcastic remarks when I (or my peers) made mistakes drove me mad! But today I am thankful to her on the way she grilled in me the rules of Grammar, taught me how to expand my vocabulary and instilled in me the writing skills which I haven’t forgotten to this day (although decades have passed to that stage of my life.)

Sorry readers, I have meandered away from what I actually wanted to write today. Maybe one of the disadvantages of blogging is that you are less focused, even more so when you are maintaining a personal blog site. No editors, no words limit! You just allow your thoughts to flow as you keep on hitting your keyboard!

As I read the above mentioned definition of a late bloomer, an incident from my early childhood came to my mind. Ammi often used to relate it laughingly. I was hardly six when a visitor asked me fondly “Baby aap baree ho ke kya baneingee?” (Baby what do you want to be when you grow up?) Without looking up from the doll I was playing with, and without taking a moment to think, my instant reply was “Ammee” (a mother). I looked up in surprise when the visitor and my mother burst out in laughter. “Adults are so weird! Now what is the joke in my reply?” I am sure I must have thought to myself as I went back to my toys!  

And Ammee I became at a rather young age! As fate had planned, or may be a passing angel had said Amen to my innocent childhood goals, I was married when I was in my late teens and became a mother just after I crossed my 21st birthday! For years, my life revolved round my four kids, who are dearer to me than anything else in the world.

I tried hard to be a good mother and shape the personalities of my children to the best of my abilities. Coaxing them, urging them and at times bullying them to bring out the best in them, the Ammee in me was vigilant and active throughout the years they were growing up! At times, I longed for some respite, for a few hours which I could devote to myself, but more often than not, my kids kept me busy round the clock! Maybe the mother in me, the perfectionist who wanted to settle for nothing but the best for her children, kept me on the go throughout that hectic but enjoyable part of my life. Every milestone that my children crossed was like a personal accomplishment for me and every compliment they received brought a rush of adrelin!

Years fly and time moves at a fast pace! As life moved on, the children grew up and settled down in their lives, I found myself free with long hours to spend according to my whims and moods. But strangely, instead of a sense of relief, I was surprised to find a feeling of loneliness silently descending upon my heart. I had no idea about what to do with this extra time I once longed for!

And this is when the breakthrough came! My daughter-in-law, who is more a friend for me than a Bahu suggested, “Ammi, why don’t you start writing?” I was surprised and a bit flattered too! Writing for magazines was something I had never contemplated I could do. Although I wrote poetry on and off and maintained my memoirs in which I shared my life’s moments of joy, excitement, anguish and despair, this suggestion was something  totally new for me. A field which I had never explored or even thought I would at some stage of life!

But her suggestion excited me. Why not? I thought to myself, I have nothing to lose except the disappointment of rejection. I started sending in articles to various publications and to my delight (and surprise too), my submissions started to appear at fair intervals in the magazines of a leading daily Dawn.

Maintain a blogsite was the next step which I found more fulfilling. This is my domain, a place where I can struggle to improve, experiment, create! Just as in the by-gone years I worked hard to bring out the best in my children, I coax, prod, push and sometimes bully myself to do something positive, I write and re-write, try my best to keep on improving what I have initially written. I want to express my ideas and inspirations in the best possible manner.

Over the years I have been working as a writer, the Ammee in me is never completely satisfied or fulfilled! Creating something new gives me a strange sense of joy mixed with pangs of pain. I do not want to confuse my readers, but I think only a mother or a true writer can understand what I mean!

Just like the tough task of raising children to be good and positive adults, and the satisfaction which followed after I found myself fairly successful, writing is not something easy for me! I sometimes feel I have to pour out my heart’s blood to create something worth reading. Every new experience of writing brings a sense of accomplishment and fulfillment, but it also leaves me spent out, exhausted and a bit dazed after the endeavor.

As a mother, I remember never being satisfied with my children’s performance, always wanting and expecting them to do better. In the same manner I am never content after writing something. Always a bit shaky, I read and re read what I have written, making changes here and there to make a piece more powerful. Bekaar hi hai! (It’s worthless) I tell myself after posting a piece. But I must admit feeling a rush of Adrelin when likes and comments on my writings start coming in!

The urge to write something new, to create, to improve keeps me on the go! The strong and inborn maternal instincts in me have helped a lot as a mother and a writer too! The Ammee in me lives on! Alhumdulillah!

 

 

 

AN ANGEL ON EARTH (MY ARTICLE IN YOUNG WORLD)

 

Her touch soothes! Her voice consoles and her soothing murmurs drive away all fears. For her children, her loving arms are the safest place in the world! Research has proved that a child recognises the voice of his mother even before he is born. Her loving face is usually his first memory and deeply etched in his mind.  Mother day 2013 inside
She is the most selfless creatures on earth. On duty 24 hours of the day, seven days a week and round the year, and she actually enjoys her job! And for this tough job, the only pay she gets or expects is a sticky kiss from her toddler, a big hug from her school-going kid, or a grudging grunt of appreciation from her teenager! Or a rare “You look tired! I guess you need to rest,” from her husband. And strangely, most of the time she is happy and content with just this pay!
Without demanding or expecting a break, a mother cooks, cleans, looks after the requirements of the kids, often drops and picks them from school or tuitions. A caretaker, nurse and teacher, she keeps on switching roles until she feels like dropping dead at the end of the day. But the next day brings the same chores which she is ready to do again with the same amount of enthusiasm and zest. After snatching a few hours of sleep, she is ready to repeat her busy schedule.
And her life is tougher if she is a working mom. Racing against time, she has to juggle between her job, her home and her kids. And she has the additional worry and responsibility to make sure that her kids are in safe and reliable hands when she is away.
Spending time on herself is usually the last option for a mother. Whatever she wants or needs to do, her priority is always her children. She may be planning to visit a friend, go out for shopping or have an appointment with her beautician, but the minute her child comes up with his lesson diary, declaring he needs her help, or she find a child is not feeling too well, without a second thought she changes her mind. All the activities she was planning earlier suddenly become unimportant for her as she lovingly turns all her attention to the child’s requirement.
It may sound strange, but my experience has taught me that the feelings children have for their mothers change with every stage of childhood. They tend to find her absolutely adorable and fascinating when they are toddlers, nursery going kids may find her a bit strict and rebel from her rules occasionally. The pre-adolescent and teenagers are the trickiest stages of life of her kids that a mother has to tackle. Their moods swing and so do their feelings for their mum. Loving her one moment and defying her the next. Arguing on each and every possible matter, they nearly drive her out of her mind!
These youngsters may proudly introduce her to their friends, but all of a sudden she does or says something which they find embarrassing. This is the toughest phase a mother goes through as she finds herself walking on thin ice, one wrong move and her children feel annoyed or displeased with her! But as they cross the vulnerable teenage, their emotions for their mum become more stable and they overgrow the volatile behaviour which is perhaps a part of growing up.
There are issues on which mothers disagree with their children. She has her own way of protecting her kids from harm. She can be as soft as silk and as tough as steel where the welfare or safety of her children is at stake. In rebellious moments, they may call her tough, strict and not understanding their point of view. But it takes years, and sometimes decades, for them to realise that she was right! This is because the rules she wants her children to follow strictly are for their own good. Children may feel that their moms are sometimes harsh on them, but this is only to teach them lessons they will find helpful in their future lives.
There are days when the long working hours and lack of sleep get on her nerves. She may be irritable and moody. But these moments pass quickly and they are the main test of our love and respect for our mother. Instead of talking back to her or replying in a rude manner, we should try to understand her feelings and try our best to soothe her temper.
An anonymous quote so beautifully says, “At the end of the day I love my mom regardless of how much we argue, or whatever we go through, because I know she’ll always be there for me.”
It is an undeniable fact that mothers love their children more than anything in this world. We can never fathom or understand the depth or intensity of her love for us. Friends, our mother is our most valuable asset, to be cherished and loved each and every day of our lives.
Instead of waiting to show your love for her once in a year on Mother’s Day, you should realise that she deserves much more! Help her out wherever you can so that she feels relieved and can rest for a while. Give her a small gift now and then, even if it is only a bunch of flowers picked from your garden, a chocolate or a small pack of her favourite cookies.
Once in a while, surprise her by serving her breakfast on her bed, or helping her in the kitchen. If you are not allowed to use the stove, just serve her a glass of milk, cereals or fruits neatly arranged in a plate. You can also add a ‘I love you’ note on the tray. Believe me, it will make your mother’s day and give a great boost to her spirits.
As life moves on, we often move away from our mothers, but their heart is tied to ours in such a way that it doesn’t stop loving and caring for us any less. The unconditional love she showered on us when we were too weak and vulnerable to take care of our needs, demands that we try to reciprocate in the best possible manner. It is impossible to pay back a mother’s love but we can try to keep her happy and content when she grows old and needs our care just as we needed hers.
In the end I would like to add this wonderful quote from Sunita Sharma “The palm on your fevered brow, the soft kisses when you need them most, the grip that steadies you on rocky roads, the hand that feeds and nurtures you, the shadow that walks besides you unconditional and enduring, is a mother’s love !”

Communication: For your own good

Children often complain about their parents asking them too many questions. And of course, most questioning words begin with W, such as where, why, what, who, which, etc., — making W the most hated English alphabet by kids and the most controversial as well!

Where are you going? When will you be back? Who is going with you? Why are you watching television at this late hour? Why didn’t you clear up the mess in your room? Whom do you keep text messaging to? Why haven’t you started to do your homework yet? When will you start preparing for your exams? These are only some of the most common questions asked by the concerned parents. And the list goes on and on!

Youngsters usually feel offended by these queries and the replies are usually like, “You do not trust me”, “I am not a child any more”, “Why can’t I have more freedom”, “You are nagging all the time” or in worse cases, “For Heaven’s sake! Leave me alone!” or worse still “It’s my life, yaar!”

As life has promoted me from a mother to a grandmother, I often reflect at this conflict between parents and children. When I decided to talk to some of them, I got a lot of responses, but the most interesting and common feature was that all of those who gave their input wanted to remain anonymous! I take it as a positive sign and as a respect for each other’s feelings. Here I would like to share a few examples of what the two parties had to say.

A teenager who is a student of O Levels in a reputed school says, “After just a few minutes of talking on my cell phone or when I exchange a few messages with my friends, my mom starts casting questioning glances at me. And then she starts her queries, ‘Who are you on the phone with?’ and after a few minutes, ‘Why are you talking with him/her for so long’. Or, ‘Why don’t your friends call on the landline’.”

She clarifies, “I use my cell more as I like to remain mobile while I am talking to a friend. Often we are discussing a project/assignment or helping each other in problems pertaining to our studies and I need to consult a book or notes while talking. Using the landline means remaining seated on the lounge chair with distractions, as my younger siblings make a lot of noise and often the television is on!”

Her mother retaliates, “I wonder why she gets so irritated when I demand to know who she is talking to on her cell! After all the landline is more economical than the cell, and I also feel more comfortable when she is within my earshot when she is talking to friends. As a mother, I feel it is my duty to keep an eye on her activities. She is so naïve; I fear that wrong friends would harm her and also adversely affect her studies.”

Another teenager shares his woes, “The minute my mom sees me in my jeans and joggers, she showers me with questions ‘Where are you going?’, ‘When will you be back?’ and ‘Who else is going with you?’. And the query I resent the most is, ‘Why don’t you respond when I call on your cell’.

“For Heaven’s sake! I am not a child any more. I want to venture out into the world with a bit of independence. She must understand that the time to cut off the apron strings has past! My friends laugh at me when she calls after every half an hour. Her never-ending questions get on my nerves!”

His mother defends herself, “I cannot understand why he gets mad when I ask him where he is going and by what time he would be back! I feel it is my right to know about his whereabouts and the company he keeps. With the uncertainty prevailing in the city, I fear for his security and get nervous when he does not respond to my calls.”

A mother of four shares her irritation, “Why do they create so much mess when they know that I cannot stand a messy room?

When I demand to know when they will clear up the clutter, they just shrug and move away, or worse still, accuse me of nagging!”

Her 12-year-old daughter says, “Mama is a cleanliness freak! How can she expect me to study with my books packed in my bag or neatly lined up on the bookshelf?”

Her younger brother says, “I need some place to play with my toys and video games and there is bound to be some amount of untidiness when I am playing.”

Another 16-year-old says, “If I ask permission from my dad to go out for lunch with friends (dinners being strictly not allowed!), or just for window shopping to a mall, he will ask every time, ‘What is the purpose of such outings? Instead of concentrating more on your studies, why do you waste so much time and money on such useless activities’.”

His father says, “I spend so much on my children’s studies. Often I and their mother cut down on our own needs in our budget which we consider less essential. We expect our kids to be more responsible and dedicated to their studies and not waste their time hanging out with friends.”

Friends, speaking back to parents and being irritated by their never ending questions may be something you may regret later on in life. Their questions are only their way of showing how much they care for you and how concerned they are for your wellbeing! If you think with a cool head, you will realise that all these Ws are for your own good and out of love and concern for your wellbeing. So, instead of feeling that their questions are an intrusion into your privacy, or just plain nagging, try to understand what they want to convey!

Next time, when you are barged with these Ws, instead of getting annoyed, sit down with them and discuss your feelings.

Communication gaps always lead to misunderstandings!

By talking with your parents about what are their expectations from you, you can also explain your side of the picture and let them know why you react negatively! Our parents are much wiser and experienced than us! Their questions are their way to guide us on what should be our priorities in life and what things we should avoid.

In the end, I would like to quote Losivale Vaafuti, “Your parents will always lecture you, hit you, ground you, make you do chores, embarrass you, etc., but just know that they will always push you harder and harder to make you do the right thing, not to make you seem that you are a disappointment to them, but to prepare you for the reality. In other words, being successful in the future!”

 

Heart-to-heart: AN OPEN LETTER TO MY SON (http://archives.dawn.com/archives/7013

open

My dearest son,
I am sure you will be surprised on receiving this letter from me, as we live under the same roof, talk everyday and everything that I am writing now could have been said directly to you. But my dearest, I want you to know that often we talk without being able to truly communicate! There are so many things that I would like to tell you, discuss with you, advice you on but somehow whenever I try, the words simply don`t come out as strong as my feelings. So, I thought about writing to you.

You look very depressed these days, and I can sense frustration in your behaviour. You are no more my sweet tempered boy who was always bubbling with life, but tend to be irritable and get angry at the slightest pretext. Please read this letter carefully, and that too many times, and let my advice sink in. I know that your dreams have not been realized yet, your expectations of what your life will be after you finish your education, have not been fulfilled to your satisfaction. But I want to ask you, will anger and depression help you in any way? You know very well that life has never been smooth sailing for me, but I never gave in to self pity or frustration. Instead I tried to handle my problems turn by turn and I am fairly content with the results.

The problem with your generation is that you do not have patience. You want to step on the first rung of the ladder to success and want your second step to be on the top! I say “Give life your best efforts and be content with what life gives you in return”. You may not reach your goal, but you should have the satisfaction that you tried your best. Remember that life is not a trade… a business in which success means more output than input! What appears to be a loss in a trade can prove to be a gain in life. If you keep your attitude positive, experiences will end up giving you wisdom and failures a new resolution to try again, work harder and never to give up!

As you may have heard umpteen times, an optimist sees a glass of water half full, while a pessimist calls it half empty! The amount of water is the same; it is the difference of attitude that matters. You want to give up although you have just stepped onto the road of life. I don`t want to shelter you any more; rather I would like you to experience life as it comes your way. I know that you will face both success and failures but I want each experience, good or bad, to make you stronger! So please be positive, keep on with your efforts and with the help of Allah you will be amazed by the results, for things will surely change for the better.

I want you to behave like an educated person, not merely one who has degrees and has gone through college and university, but a person who dares to dream, has the ability to think and accept the challenges of life without a blink of the eye. Though striving for a decent living is part of a healthy life, don`t make it the sole reason of your qualifications. The least we can do to justify our education is to strive to change (for the better) the things around us. Sometimes small changes are not even noticed by us; but believe me, these small changes can bring about revolutionary ones! Invisible drops of water make up clouds, but when these clouds burst into rain, every single drop counts.

I do not want you be to be a part of the crowd; people who complain, criticize and grumble at life`s problems and conveniently place the responsibility of their woes on someone else`s shoulders. I want you to be among the few who have the vision and the burning desire to change things for the better, are ready to take responsibility; people who face life`s adversities bravely, accept its challenges and work hard to reach their goals.

Success may be evading you at the moment but do not lose hope. Because without hope there is no yearning, no desire for a better tomorrow! Without hope, life comes to a standstill! So, snap out of your depression and keep on moving ahead with your head held high. And remember, I and my prayers are always here for you. Love you my son,

Forever yours,
Ammi

Comment: The pampered generation By Yasmin Elahi . .http://archives.dawn.com/archives/69149

The other day my daughter-in-law requested me to get her a packet of diapers as I was going out to the store for some medicines. The gentleman at the store was busy with other customers and as I waited, I glanced around I was surprised to see so many brands of disposable diapers lined neatly on the shelves.

 

When I asked for the required brand my daughter in law uses the shopkeeper asked in a matter of fact tone “Basic or dry?”. I had not the faintest idea!  “Beg your pardon,” I said, feeling totally confused. “Madam, I mean which diapers do you want, basic or dry?” he repeated his question.  Feeling a bit foolish I mumbled something like I would be back later and quickly left the store.

 

This is an age of baby products. From diapers to toiletries to feeding bottles to baby foods to bed accessories there is no limit to the choices one has. We seem to shower our babies with luxuries, things unthinkable about a couple of decades ago. Designer clothes, branded shoes, expensive toiletries, electronic toys and ready to serve food are becoming an obsession with most mothers.

 

I wonder if any of the young mothers have even seen the glass feeders with nipples at both ends (except perhaps in some old Hindi movie) which were used before the advent of the unbreakable feeder. It was weird how the bottle always chose to come down crashing at the oddest hour of the night. After many sleepless nights trying to console the wailing baby, glancing endlessly at the wall clock which strangely just did not seem to move, and waiting for shops to reopen did I have the sense to keep an extra bottle handy. These days every baby has at least half a dozen feeders of various shapes and sizes to choose from.

 

The cloth nappies, which had to be washed daily, have become a nuisance for the modern mothers and disposable diapers are an easy solution for them. I remember the days when the maid chose to take off and come what may the nappies had to be washed and dried. On rainy days, I checked out constantly on how many dry nappies I was left with and sometimes had to use an iron to dry them. Disposable diapers were used only when I went out and considered a luxury for the baby (or me?). I remember feeling a pang of guilt every time I threw a diaper in the dustbin as if I was throwing good money away!

 

Talking about baby food, I toiled endlessly to cook, mash and blend fruits, khichri, suji and vegetables when my children started solid food. Now store counters are overloaded with endless varieties of ready to serve baby food and juices. Restaurants, specially the franchises, serve special meals for children (at hefty rates of course), and to lure parents they offer play areas for children to keep them relaxed while eating.

 

In the (should I dare to say) good old days, the ailing child was taken to the doctor in the neighbourhood, who prescribed mixtures with pills to be powdered for easy administration, and the child was hale and hearty in a day or two. A child specialist was consulted only when the problem got out of control. Now we find paediatrics divided into many branches and different doctors for different health problems the children have. (Come to think of it, has anybody noticed how the terminology related to kids has changed? The child specialist is now a paediatrician, a cot is called a crib, a pram is now a stroller and the ayah has been renamed a nanny!)

 

Gone are the days when grandmothers saved pieces of cloth to prepare clothes for their expected grandchildren. The economical home made Jhablas and caps are considered totally old fashioned now. Mothers prefer to buy ready-to-wear children`s clothes (prices depend on whether the product is `local` or `imported`). Home made `bedding` with washable covers is a thing of the past as babies are pampered with fashionably designed sleeping bags, wrapping sheets, comforters and carry cots (rates depending on the embroidery, trimmings and accessories chosen).

 

As for colours, now it is blue for boys and pink for girls and mothers-to-be are eager to find the sex of the yet-to-be-born baby to make the right preparations. Even for school going children, in buying clothes, joggers, school bags, water bottles and other accessories the modern mother is careful about the pink and blue factor. Bedroom furniture specially designed for children with cartoon figures or shaped like huge toys is every child`s (or parent`s) delight and the colour scheme speaks for itself whether the room is for a boy or a girl!

 

Raising happy and satisfied children has always been the primary concern for parents, but somehow modern mothers have mixed up this concern with loading their children with every possible luxury. I call this generation `The pampered generation`. Much ado about the kids. As the parents are putting in so much effort (and money!) for their comfort, we can definitely hope that when they are at the helm of affairs, the little ones of today would make this world a better place to live in. Considering my age, I do not expect to be around until then, so I can only wonder and hope!

SHAAHKAAR!!

 

 

SHAAHKAAR!

Har maa ke khwaabon ki dunyaa mein

Basa hota hai eik haseen Shahkaar!

Takhleeq ke karab se guzar ke

Aur maut ki dehleez ko chu ke

Jab laut ke aati hai Wo

Eik nanhe se wujud ko

Apne pehloo mein paake

Bhul jaati hai wo saara dukh

Jo kuch hi der pehle saha tha us ne

Aur us nanhee si jaan ko

lagga ke apne seene se

Phir se bharne lagti hai

Apne haseen khwabon ke khaake mein rang

Jis tarah kori mitti ko dhaalta hai 

Nit nayi shaklon mein kumhaar

Ya phir saada canvas pe mussawir

Banaata hai haseen tasweerein!

Kuch aise hi har eik Maa,

Nanhe bache ko bhur ke apni baahon mein

Bunti hai hazaaron Rangeen se khwaab,

Us nanhe maasum se wujud ko

Aasmaan ki bulandi se bhee uncha dekhna chahti hai wo!

Us ke andar chupa hua khwabeeda Fankaar

Jaag uth ta angrai le ke

Aur……..

Banate hai apne khayaalon ki dunya mein

Eik haseen shaahkaar

Aur apne bache se

Uski ankhein karti hain

Eik khaamosh sawaal

Karoge na tum mere saare khwaab poore?!

Banoge na Tum eik din mera Shaahkaar ?!

Parenting: The sky is (not) the limit! (http://dawn.com/2012/10/14/parenting-the-sky-is-not-the-limit/)

Arif had been tense since the last two months. As the top debater of his school, he had won many medals. His other passion was cricket and the school team was not considered complete without him. However, his studies suffered because of these activities. Although his parents proudly displayed the trophies and medals he had won, they never hesitated to show their disappointment with his grades. Finally, he decided to leave the school cricket team and did not enrol for the interschool debate contest. He wanted to devote all his time to his studies and come up to his parents’ expectations. On the result day, his teacher praised him for the improvement he had shown and urged him to keep up the effort.

“I was very excited when I proudly handed over my report card to my parents. I had more than 70 per cent marks in all the subjects, but to my frustration, they were still not satisfied.
Mummy was expecting a position and Daddy compared my result with that of my cousin. I feel I can never come up to their expectations. How can I excel in every field of life?” he asks with a sigh.

We, as parents, are seldom satisfied with our children’s academic performance. We coax them, urge them, nudge them and push them to do more, to improve. For us the sky is the limit! But do we ever stop to think and ask ourselves whether we are being fair to our child? Are our expectations from him/her realistic or are we over burdening our children?

Most parents become defensive and argue that they want their child to perform well for the sake of his bright future. After all, he is the one who will benefit in his future life from the success. But is it not true that a child’s achievement is also directly linked to the parents’ prestige? Does it not satisfy our ego to boast in front of our friends and family about our child’s extraordinary performance?

Parents have the tremendous power to affect their child’s emotional health and attitude towards life. Our opinion of him plays a great role in the child’s self-esteem and what he feels and thinks about himself. But sometimes, in our eagerness to see them at the top, we unintentionally harm their confidence and sense of worth. Instead of making a child feel that life is a race, which he must win to feel loved and wanted, we should make him believe that he is loved for what he is, not for what he achieves!

Shaista, a mother of three children, says, “My second son is the most intelligent among my children. He gets good grades although he studies less than his siblings. Previously, I used to scold the others, setting him as their role model. But I felt their grades declined over the years. Then I realised my mistake. Each one of my children has a distinct personality and all of them cannot excel in every field. After my husband and I drew a line on what were our expectations from the less brilliant ones, we were able to help them better. And now I feel they are improving. My youngest is a great sportsman while the eldest has a very creative mind. Their talents were nurtured once they were given the opportunity.”

Parents must learn to create a proper balance between asking or expecting too much from a child and not asking enough of him. We must understand that our expectations may become a burden instead of a boost for our children.

This does not mean that we should not urge them to improve their grades. But there should be a difference between nudging and pushing a kid. Our children are like tender saplings which need a correct amount of water and sunlight to grow. We all know that an excess of these will do more harm than help. By creating a balance between what we want from him and what he can possibly achieve, we can gently lead a child towards a better performance.

The “you have done well, but you could have done better” attitude is frustrating for a child. It develops a sense of insecurity and decreases self esteem. In extreme cases, the continuous dissatisfaction of parents can make a child rebellious and often his performance suffer. Impatience, haste and comparison with other children can do more harm than good.

So, instead of declaring the sky as the limit, parents should never make the academic performance of their children a matter of personal pride. By trying to understand their strong points and helping them out in their weaknesses, we can boost our children’s self-esteem, so that they cater for themselves with more confidence in their abilities when they venture out into the world to start their lives on their own.

 

Parenthood: The ideal gap (http://dawn.com/2012/08/26/parenthood-the-ideal-gap/)

“Mummy, please help me prepare for my test. These spellings are so hard to learn,” my six-year-old pleads as he looks up from his English reader. “These Algebra equations are totally confusing!” my 12-year-old daughter sounds distraught. “Mummy will you please drop me to my tuition class? These two will have to wait as I have a test tomorrow,” The 17-year-old brushes aside his younger siblings’ pleas as unimportant.

“With the considerable difference in the age of my three children, I often feel dizzy by the diversity of their demands!” Ayesha Riaz, a stay-at-home mother, confides.
After their marriage Ayesha and her husband decided to plan their kids at least five years apart, so that they are able to give quality time and attention to each child. But at 42, she sounds totally exhausted and often wonders if this decision was wise. “I often feel bored with my monotonous life. After tending to the totally dissimilar activities and requirements of my kids, I feel I have no time left for myself.”
Asma, a working mom, made a difficult choice. She says, “In the early days of our marriage, we decided that completing our family would be our first priority as I had to go back to my career. I had three children in the short span of five years! It was a tough and very busy period for me as the physical and emotional demands of motherhood were like an unending roller coaster ride! However, those joyful but also extremely tiring years of sleepless nights and hectic days were finally over and now I feel that we made the right decision. After my youngest joint pre-school, I still had enough stamina left to pursue my goal to specialise as a gynaecologist.”
Saira, a home-based writer says, “I personally think that one should complete one’s family in the first ten years of marriage. The ideal gap, as I perceive is around three years between two children and if a couple plans to have a big family they should plan accordingly. I firmly believe that after completing their family, couples should strive for the best possible upbringing of their children, give them quality time and teach them to cherish the family bond which is one of the most valuable assets in life.”
Is there a perfect age difference between siblings? The answer varies from couple to couple. Personal choices, financial considerations and health concerns deeply affect the decision. Parents usually plan to have children three to four years apart. It seems easier for them to look after their kids one by one. But sometimes, it is too late when they realise that the prime years of their lives have been spent in raising their young ones. When they finally have time for themselves, the tide of youth is ebbing. With approaching middle age, and sometimes a failing health, they (especially mothers) often have to give up the dreams they had hoped to pursue once the kids grew up.
Saira discusses this phenomenon from the child’s point of view, “I am strictly against the ‘one late kid’ phenomenon, who ideally would accompany the couple when the older children would be busy in their lives. Often, this poor kid is bound to live in isolation, with his/her interests totally different from that of the siblings and has to grow up with already exhausted and aging parents.”
Dr Moin-uddin Qureishi states, “Where the health of the mother and child is concerned, a gap of minimum three years is ideal because in this period the mother regains her health and the calcium content of her bones is restored. The child also starts school and begins to manage a few things himself. But no rules can be set as there are many other health, social and economical issues e.g. working women or those who tied the knot a bit late in life prefer to complete their families in a shorter span.
Rukhsana Iqbal, a homemaker says, “In my opinion, there should be a gap of three to four years between siblings. Being a mother of three boys, I realise today how difficult it was for me to manage the house and the kids, not to forget my parents-in-law, which was compounded by the fact that all three births were through C-section. The gap is ideal for the simple reason that the child should be at least of an age where he/she understands that the love and attention he/she gets would have to be shared with the newcomer so that instead of a sibling jealousy, the child begins to look forward to the new arrival.”
There can be no set rule for the perfect age gap between children which would be the best for each family. It is a decision which is deeply affected by the spouses’ priorities in life. Although I firmly believe that there is a Divine Hand which can topple all human plans, once couples settle down after the honeymoon period is over, they should openly discuss with each other what they want from their future lives and go ahead with their plans in compliance with their dreams.

Opinion: Early start (http://dawn.com/2012/02/05/opinion-early-start/)

How do we decide what is the perfect age for a child to start school? With Montessoris and nursery schools mushrooming in every nook and corner of the city, parents are often confused on the issue.

At a party, I overheard a group of young mothers discussing (read boasting) about the academic achievements of their kids. “Ahmer is doing so well at school; he has been going for hardly a year but already tries to speak English (which is the ultimate aim of most parents!),” a young mother declared pompously. “May I know how old is Ahmer?” I

couldn’t help asking as she herself looked so young. “He will be three next month,” she announced proudly. “What a shame,” I couldn’t stop myself from blurting out, “Don’t you think he should have spent this year with you at home?” The arrogant mother gave me a disdainful look before turning back to her friends.

When asked the reason for opting to start their child’s schooling at a tender age, when he/she can barely talk, is not even potty trained or is uncomfortable when left alone with strangers, most mothers often say, “We want time for ourselves,” or “We want a few hours of peace when the little tyrant is not around!”

To attain these few hours of peace, they sacrifice their sleep (and that of their child), bathe and dress him, cajole him to take his breakfast and then sleepily drive him to school. To be picked back after three to four hours! Once back, the child has to be pampered, changed, fed and put to bed for a nap. Handling a cranky young child, who is exhausted
from the strain of going to school, is another hectic activity for the already tired mother.

If we calculate the time and energy enthusiastic mothers spend in all these efforts, we will find that instead of the so called ‘some hours of peace’ or ‘time for ourselves’, they actually lose the few hours they can devote to their personal activities.

Call me orthodox, but I am against sending children to school at such a young age. When my daughter-in-law, Saira, wanted to send my two-and-a-half-year-old grandson to pre nursery, my reaction was a firm no! And as I am very possessive about him, she complied although reluctantly. But she often complained laughingly that her son was considered a ‘Jahil’ among her friends who teased her for not sending him to school. “His grandmother knows better,” was the only weak argument she could produce. Now at six plus, he is attending a reputable school, is in the same grade as his peers and doing fairly well in his class.

Hina Nauman, a young mother, who herself teaches in one of the elite school in Karachi, says, “My personal experience was different with all my three children. With my first born, I was an over enthusiastic mother. Giving my child the best of everything was my prime aim. He was not even two months old when I eagerly set out to register my son in a reputable school! I remember being told at some schools that I was LATE!

“My eldest started school when he was 2.5, which I think is a good age for kids to start. My second born started school at 18 months which from experience I learnt was too early and a sheer waste of money. I had put undue pressure on the child, the effects of which I faced till he was in grade 1, as he seemed tired of the same ‘school routine’. My third child also started school at 2.5, but he fared better as exposure to elder siblings had made him more mature.”

Sheeza believes that for a stay at home mother, this is the time to enjoy your child and develop a lasting bond with him/her. “I enjoyed the years with my two children and as I taught them basics like alphabets, numbers, shapes, colours, parts of the body, etc, they did not lag behind when they started going to school.”

Hina’s suggestion is, “Don’t fall for the school scam, sadly like all other commercial ventures; the education sector (especially the private schools) is one big racket. Instead of sending your under age kids to school, indulge them by sharing activities like reading out to them, taking swimming classes, playing simple games, collecting flowers or
butterflies. In this way you will pay less, enjoy more and feel more bonded with your children.”

Being an old timer, I firmly believe that it is really unfair to the child to make him leave the safe haven of home and venture into the outside world before he is four. Young mothers usually do not agree. Saira still feels that her son started school a bit late, as her second born attended a pre nursery at age three. “There is a difference, however subtle in the approach of my two children,” she says wistfully. This may be what we call the generation gap!