Screen-time Struggles!

I started giving my kid my iPad and mobile phone to watch when he was about a year old. This was the time when he started showing pickiness in eating. It was a harrowing time for me, like any other parent. I wanted my kid to eat more. I asked myself (against all the blaring sirens in my head): What could go wrong?

Well, what started as an innocent curiosity, became a full-fledged addiction.

I was happy in the beginning. He was eating better when he was watching his favorite nursery rhymes. He started learning the nursery rhymes by heart. He also learnt the alphabet, the numbers, the shapes and colours in no time. When I needed him to remain distracted, even in public, I could just fish out my phone and put on a video, and he would stay glued to the screen.

All the while, I heard, read and witnessed horror stories of children turning into little monsters due to excessive screen-time. But I kept denying that I had a problem. My kid wasn’t a monster (yet).

Fast-forward to when he turned 2 1/2 years. The following factors opened my eyes:

  1. Worse eating: Despite the initial spike, my kid’s eating began going on a downward spiral. He was pickier than ever. He would cry for the screen even to eat his favorite food. When he went to the day-care centre, he wouldn’t eat properly because he couldn’t get his regular ‘distraction fix’.
  2. Temper Tantrums: Even though I took his temper tantrums as normal behaviour during the “terrible twos”, I knew that it had to be curbed in some way. Going out with him was an absolute nightmare. He would throw tantrums in the middle of the road! He would fall on the ground and writhe like a snake. Imagine being that parent, when all those judging eyes are on you! Apparently, the screen started losing its charm with my little fella when it came to behaving in public places.
  3. Impatience: This goes hand-in-hand with temper tantrums. But impatience is a much larger issue. It was affecting his patience to play, to learn new things, to overcome challenges etc. He would just give up after trying a little – a scary thing to watch when he was just two years old.
  4. Warnings from people: Friends and family started showing their disapproval when they saw me giving my son screen-time, expecially during his meals. They told me that eating shouldn’t accompany bribes, especially something as addictive as screens. I saw how parents who caved into their kid’s screen demands suffered as a result of it.
  5. Speech impairment: My main concern was his speech impairment. He knew nursery rhymes by-heart, but never spoke very many words outside of it. He struggled with expressing his needs. He couldn’t say some of the basic words that his peers could say. He was ‘babbling’ a lot – while this meant that he wanted so badly to talk, he didn’t have the vocabulary to express his thoughts.
  6. Other developmental issues: What does it mean if your toddler screamed and cried for screen-time when he was bored? That he doesn’t want to play with normal toys. Playing with normal toys develops motor skills, eye-hand coordination and creativity. He had reached an age when he should start learning to brush his teeth, to put his clothes on and to eat by himself. Screen-time was a huge barrier to all this.

One fine day, I took the giant leap of taking away his screen-time altogether. I was expecting a hurricane to hit, but only a small storm swooshed over us. He became a little confused for two days. But then he came back to normal.

Of course, this meant that I had to get creative… a hell lot more creative. By goodness’ grace, I found out that my toddler gets competitive when it comes to food. Sly me! I would pretend to eat his food, and he would cry and snatch it away from me, and eat it himself. For now, that seems to work everytime.

Slowly, but steadily, my toddler and I were overcoming all the cons that screen-time brought with it. His apetite is improving, and so is his temper, speech, creativity and motor skills.


Home daycare or daycare center?

Last month, I took my son out of a daycare center and put him in a home daycare. The decision was solely based on my husband’s work shifts. I had joined school and was having mostly afternoon and evening classes. My husband was leaving work only at 6:00 pm, while the daycare center demanded that we pick our child up at sharp 6:00 pm.

Our friend suggested that I look for home daycares where, even though they worked only till 6:00 pm, they were able to look after my child for half an hour more. We searched and luckily found one which was close to where my husband worked.

When we first visited the home daycare, we were met by a pleasant lady. She had her ECE license and had been working with daycare centres for the past 8 years. She had a beautiful home, a great play area and a good activity schedule. My son immediately took to her and her home.

Now, after one month of sending him there, I have noticed a few changes in his behavior:

1. Better manners

There’s been a considerable decrease in bad manners and tantrums ever since we shifted him. He says thank you, please and sorry so much more often. He responds with compliance when we say please. He is more cheerful, calm and well-behaved in public. He doesn’t yell things like “Mine!”, “Stop it!”, or yell names of his classmates ( as he might have heard his teachers yell).

2. Fully potty trained

The potty training process has accelerated since he was shifted. He is now able to tell me when he wants to go. His teacher reports that he was having only occasional accidents. When he was in the daycare centre, I remember him coming back every other day having had a pee or poo accident. Maybe he was not confident enough to tell his teachers there when he wanted to go. I wouldn’t blame him. He might have been confused amongst all the cacophony.

3. Better eating

As a parent, I am guilty of having indulged my son in videos while he ate his meals. I just wanted him to eat more. Needless to say, he became hooked. It came to a point where he wouldn’t eat even his favorite foods without a video. I tried many times to get him off the videos in the past, but it always ended in huge tantrums. In the end, I would give in to his demands. But I’ve found out that, after shifting him to the home daycare, I was easily able to get him off the videos! Like I said, he is in a calmer disposition now after the shift. He now eats better. He even demands his breakfast first thing in the morning. Although, he doesn’t eat as much as I would like him to, and I just know he never will.

4. Better health

This year’s summer went by without us getting a single ice cream! The reason was that my son was always sick – sicknesses he always caught from the daycare centre. Because daycare centres have so many kids coming and going out everyday, chances of contracting sicknesses from another kid was pretty high. My son always either had a cold or a fever. But now since he has joined the home daycare, he hasn’t had a cold ever since. Not even a blocked nose. All this despite the cold weather.

5. Better speech

My son’s vocabulary has increased a lot. He is able to say complicated words with the right pronunciation. When he was at the centre, he was learning words – but mostly undesirable or useless ones. Now he learn words which have utility in his day-to-day life. Names of meals of the day, names of foods, names of the clothes that he wears etc.

6. Happier child

The real reason behind all the five points above is because he is happier at heart now. He loves going there, he loves seeing his teacher. He has never thrown a tantrum since joining the home daycare. The teacher’s family are warm and friendly and consider my son as one of their own. Their house is clean and has great facilities. Whenever we go to pick him up, I see how caring the teacher is towards him. It warms my heart to know that he is in good hands.

My experience with home daycares are of course not comprehensive. I wouldn’t be able to speak for unlicensed daycares, because my son goes to a licensed daycare where standards are strict. I’m aware that my experience might be a lot better than other parents’ because of how good my son’s caretaker is.

Life Update – Moving To Canada

On 27th January, 2017, we made a great leap. Like, literally. We will leapt over half of the earth, all the way to Canada. After almost 1 1/2 years of patience, preparation and prayers, the moment had finally arrived.

My mind is still whirling. I’m both excited and anxious. Its like visiting another planet. We even landed smack dab into the middle of a Canadian winter. Everything is going to be new, and we have start from square one. But at twenty-six, am I too old to learn new tricks? *nervous laugh*

I’m a second generation ‘Gulf’ kid. Hordes of Indians migrated to the GCC to make fortunes, and to help their homelands prosper. I am truly thankful to this endeavour by our forefathers because it has given us many valuable things. But three years in Dubai, the hedonistic capital of the GCC, had got me yearning for more meaning.
And so, we decided to take this risk. The risk of leaving behind a comfortable life to tread unknown waters. The risk of being so far away from our beloved parents and family. This is for us and our children to come. I think it is now our generation’s time to endeavour, looking for better oppurtunities.

The journey to Canada was full of hiccups and if it weren’t for our excitement for landing here we would have been burnt out completely. A day before our connection flight from Kochi to Delhi, my husband and baby boy contracted viral fever. Then the Air India flight from Kochi was delayed by two hours which made us miss our Air Canada flight from Delhi to Toronto. We had to stay in Delhi to catch the next Air Canada flight the following day. Owing to this, we lost our booking for infant meals and premium leg room seats which would have been crucial for the long flight.

The worst was to come when we entered the flight. It was a 14 hour flight and our baby decided to cry for fourteen straight hours. I cannot explain how harrowing it felt to see him cry like that. He had never cried so badly on any other occassion. It got so severe that we had people coming up and asking us what was wrong and to do something to stop the baby from crying. We were so helpless, we tried everything under the sun.

Miraculously, when there was just half an hour left for landing, he stopped crying. He returned to his playful self and hogged down a packet of biscuits to satisfy the hunger that he had raked up during his 14 hour crying fit. He drank a whole bottle of water. We were baffled, but we were so relieved.

Our landing process went by swiftly with no hiccups. The officer who processed our landing papers, with a disarming smile and an open demeanour set our first impression of Canadians. We proceeded to the luggage carousel, and found out that one of our bags was missing. The baggage official assured us that our bag was with the aircraft, and will be sent to our place of residence later.

We got onto our Uber to our hotel, where we slept like logs after our tiresome flight.

I hope that the optimism and perseverance does not run out too soon because there are surprises hidden everywhere. The game plan now is to keep navigating around these surprises and to hope to reach a time and place where we know Canada by heart.

Why I Want to Write

I want to write because that’s the only thing I believe I can do well. I was never good at math or science. I was never good at remembering dates of battles or the names of obscure leaders. The first people to point out my ability to write were my English teachers. When there came the question of choosing a vocation, I knew I didn’t look forward to a life of cooking three meals a day and keeping house. So I chose to write.

I am always wandering around with ideas clamoring in my head. If they are not let out through some channel, it feels like a suppressed bladder. Or even worse, like suppressed gas. Writing helps me relieve this suppression. Sometimes, in a fit of inspiration, I grab my phone and rapidly jot down stuff in my note app. If I have no access to writing, I talk to myself. So naturally, I could relate to the mind of a writer.

I would normally think twice before calling myself a writer. The label seems too accomplished for someone like me. With two failed blogs and a career that refuses to take off, along with a toddler who has an uncanny aversion to me picking up a mobile device or a letter pad, I have very little to prove myself. But I have always wanted a place inside the writer community, however peripheral it may be. Hopefully, this blog will be the beginning to a successful foray into my dream job.

In today’s age, everyone is obliged to write properly. It has become one of those everyday things just like addition and subtraction. If you have a social media account, you probably have an opinion about everything. If you want that opinion to be heard, you need a good hold over language.

But there is a difference between writing properly and writing well. The difference lies in seeing things creatively. In being affected by simple things. In being able to bring out to the world the magic in those simple things. In short, proving to us that we are still humans. Good writing, and art in general, reminds us that we humans are not doomed just to run the rat race that we run everyday. It shows us that we can experience a whole new level of consciousness filled with happiness, awe and inspiration.

It is, hence, a high aspiration to write well. And despite the nagging self-doubt, that is what I aspire to do.