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.


Taking on the Terrible TTT

TTT stands for Toilet Training a Toddler.

For me, parenting is one dreadful prospect after the other. And potty-training is one of the worst. The thought of toilet training my two year old gave ME irritable bowels for almost a year.


I had already been making my boy pee in the bathtub when he was 18 months old. I used the bathtub because apparently running water would make him want to pee. I slowly started to condition him to pee to the ‘shhhhoo’ sound, which I would make with my mouth. So peeing was almost okay. (Gradually, I had him peeing into the toilet bowl. But this came much much later. Almost a year later. Till then he was pretty much peeing in the bathtub.)

In the beginning, he would indicate that he wanted to pee by holding his ‘wee-wee’. He wasn’t much of a speaker at 18 months. I had to be constantly watching out for this indication. If I ever ignore, he would pee in his pants.


Encouraged by this development, I wanted to have him poop in the potty. Honestly, I was tired of washing off poop from his pants and his body. Sometimes there would be too much poop, sometimes he would poop four times in a day. I had even stopped diapering him at home as part of his toilet training.

Not only was I tired, I was wary. All the other kids seemed to have been introduced to potties way earlier than my kid. My mother would say that she got us all pooping in potties at six months!

At 18 months, my son saw his first potty. We got an expensive one, which in hindsight seems like a total waste now. At that time, a lot of changes had been happening in our lives. We had permanently left Dubai. We landed in India, and were suddenly surrounded by lots of people. We were living in a house with lots of space, and a huge back and front yard as opposed to the tiny flat in Dubai. My son was totally distracted. He wasn’t eating well, because his primary focus was to play, unleash his curiosity and enjoy his new freedoms. This was probably the worst time to get him to sit on the potty.

We struggled badly. He hated sitting on the potty. It came to the point that he would suppress back his poop, and he would get constipated. My mother-in-law, seeing my anguish, suggested that I take a break from this routine.

Fast forward 3 months. We landed in Canada, and we were slowly going back to our ‘life in a tiny apartment’ mode. For the first 3 or 4 months in Canada, my son was pooping in his diapers. By this time I was thinking of enrolling him in a day-care program so that I could go back to school or look for work. I knew that it was high time he took to the potty.

We bought a second potty. The first two days, we got him familiar with the potty. I showed him some potty training videos. And voilà! He started sitting on the potty without a problem! It was unbelievably simple!

Nevertheless, we still have accidents. He still isn’t very excited about the potty, and if he had his way, he would still be pooping in his pants. He is yet to tell me when he wants to poop. Its been more than two months since his introduction, that he has been pooping in his potty, except for a few times when he has been out.

He now goes to a day-care where he is actively potty-trained in the toddler program. In September, he will officially be a pre-schooler. Hopefully he will be good on his own before he reaches school.

Preordained Ties

“They say everyone who looks into their family history will find a secret sooner or later,” Yusuf said simply, looking up from his book. He had been engrossed in reading Dan Brown’s The Da Vinci Code this whole weekend. He finally had gotten his hands on the popular book. Only ten years too late. 

As I lay down his favorite biscuits with tea, I took a long look at Yusuf. He had his teeth clenched. I briefly remembered how gripping the book was.  

I went back to my laptop. I opened my email folder and found the email I had been anticipating for the past one month.

“They’ve replied,” I said. I was afraid to make apparent the excitement in my heart.

“What’d they say?” he asked.

It was the adoption agency. They sent a mail asking us to meet with the orphanage head next week. As bland as the email sounded, I liked to think that the orphanage was happily ready to give us the child. But of course, that would be reaching too far at this stage.

The following week, we dressed up and left our flat in order to reach the orphanage an hour earlier than our appointed time. 

Yusuf was driving. I was lost in thought. My stomach was rumbling. I was tensed about how our meeting would go, and all the things that could go wrong.

“Maybe we should start looking for our birth parents,” Yusuf suggested.

“Don’t be silly.”

“Why not? It would be good to speak of a family lineage to the child when we get him.”

“Wonderful. I can’t believe you are saying this.”

He looked perplexed.

“Okay, let’s assume they are still alive and not dead already. Firstly, why would you want to search for people who didn’t want us in the first place. Secondly, how will you search among one billion other people?” I asked, without containing my annoyance.

“You can’t make such judgments. Just because we ended up in orphanages doesn’t mean our parents didn’t want us. Maybe they couldn’t afford to look after us. Orphanages are meant to give safe environments for children. And to your second question, we can always segregate the population according to age. And maybe narrow our search down to the locality of our orphanages.”

“Yusuf, we both are living examples of the fact that lineages don’t make a person who he is. It is the experiences and the people around him who makes him who he is.”

“Yea. I’m just curious, though.”

“Also, nobody has social security numbers here like in the U.S. You just can’t go to a database and find people,” I said. I was trying to crush his every last hope.
Yusuf was adopted by a travelling couple from the U.S. An american man of South Indian origin and his Irish wife had come to meet him at the orphanage. He was seven years old then.

The man had a hearty smile, and kept looking at his beautiful wife. The first impression Yusuf had gotten from her was that she seemed nonchalant about the whole deal. The three flew back to U.S. after fetching Yusuf a passport and a visa.

Having been very self-sufficient, Yusuf got by with the very little support he got from his adoptive parents. When he was sixteen, his mother suddenly left his father for another man. His father fell into the habit of heavy drinking. 
One night, his father approached his room and stood at the door in drunken stupor. ” That whore left me. Why do I need you anymore?” he said. And threw the empty liquor bottle at Yusuf before collapsing onto the ground. Yusuf packed his bags and left the next day to lodge at his friend’s place.

We met through a mutual friend when he had come to Mumbai for a holiday. We got to know each other. A certain kind of kinship developed between us, mainly after knowing that we both grew up without knowing our real parents. 

Ever since I can remember I grew up in the house of Geeta Shukla with twenty other little girls. Geeta Amma was a widow who dedicated her life and her home to children like us who had no one to be looked after by. Aayimma, an old woman who cooked and cleaned for us also lived with us.

None of us were interested in our past. We were already happy in believing that Geeta Amma was our mother. But sometimes, one of us would be overtaken by curiosity and would ask Aayimma how they ended up in this house. We knew that Aayimma had always been around, and knew the secrets to our pasts. I asked her once, and she told me that one night a stranger came and left me at the doorstep. I was just a year old and I was sleeping. Geeta Amma never called behind the stranger, and lifted me up like somebody had sent her a courier. 
We arrived at the orphanage and were directed to the head matron’s room. She beamed at us and asked us to sit. She ordered coffee for the both of us and called for the attender to bring the child.

“Yusuf, Nargis, meet Isa,” the matron said and motioned at Isa to come closer. 

He had curly hair and olive skin. He smiled at us and wasn’t shy to show the cavities on his teeth. He was just two years old. His roundish face was already making my heart burst. He looked nothing like the either of us. Perfect.
I looked at Yusuf and I found tears glistening at the corner of his eyes. I could see he was trying to say something to the child, but couldn’t because of the lump in his throat. 

I waved at Isa. He gave me a semi wave without lifting his arms. We spent the afternoon with him in the courtyard. Isa was just learning how to talk. And I enjoyed how he would take ages to speak a word, trying to perfect it as much as he could.

We left without wanting to leave Isa behind. We wanted to take him with us as soon as possible. The matron assured us that it was just a nominal visit for us to get closer to the child. Nevertheless, she said that more such visits would be needed before Isa actually relocates to our house. I decided that I would come everyday to see him.

As we got on our ride back home, Yusuf said like he had an epiphany, “You are right. Let’s not search for our real parents. I think the universe wants us to form a family without being tied to each other by blood. That is why we have had so much difficulty conceiving a child. For some of us, the secret starts at who our real families are. A secret that isn’t worth being revealed, right?”

“Right,” I said, with a peck on his cheek.

An Act Of Redemption

She turned on the shower to let ice cold water wash over her bare body. Even as she struggled with the initial breathlessness, she held her head still. She wanted to know how it felt. She bent and sat down on the tub floor. She folded her knees upward and hugged her self tight. She shut her eyes.

“Its all your fault!” – the words of her distraught husband rang in her ears. She opened her eyes suddenly. She turned off the shower and sat there, sobbing profusely.


She didnt even know when she had slept off in the tub. Her nose was blocked from the cold. Her hair was half dry. She picked herself up, toweled herself dry and put on her clothes

She sat on her bed. It felt like she hadn’t any energy left. She couldn’t rest either. Sleeplessness and undernutrition left her face hollow. Her relationship with her husband kept getting worse day after day. He couldn’t forgive her. He wouldn’t even look at her face. But saving her marriage was the last thing on her mind.

Because memories of her love kept haunting her. His smell. His laugh. His touch. His unkempt hair. His yearning eyes. Her grief knew no bounds. 


It was just 2 months ago that a phone call had changed her life. She was bathing her one year old son in his tub. She carefully filled the tub upto three inches of water and put him in along with his favorite rubber ducky. Her phone rang in the living room. She had been applying for jobs and expected it to be an employer. 

“Mommy’ll be right back!” she said rushing towards the phone.

“Hello..” she said tracing her steps back to the bathroom.

“Hello good morning! Is this Zoya Siddique?” A polite female voice.


“Hi Zoya. I’m Sharon calling from IPR Publishing. You had applied for the role of Junior Editor at our company website, right? Can you tell me a little bit about yourself?”

Zoya gulped a big one. She hadn’t expected a call from IPR. She stood still trying to remember the paragraph that she had learnt by rote. She spoke about her education, amateur trysts during her college years, her attempts at freelancing, and that short job in a small company. She tried hard not to sound like she was blurting it out. Unknowingly, she had even wrapped herself with the curtain in the corridoor.

“Great! We would like to see you for an interview tomorrow at 12 pm. I will send you a location map to your email address. Thank you very much.”

“You are welcome”. Zoya set down the phone. She went into the kitchen absentmindedly, opened the fridge and stared inside for a minute. She mulled over the long break she had taken from her career, and how desperate she was to get back. Then she suddenly remembered that she had left her son in the tub.

She rushed to the bathroom. At the doorstep, she saw the tub but she couldn’t find him. There was no sound. She inched towards the tub clasping her chest. What she saw beat the breath out of her lungs.

He lay in the water, face down. His rubber ducky rested on the small of his back. Her knees felt weak. She bent to pick her baby’s still body. Without breathing, she set him on her lap and tried to administer CPR. The baby did not move. She shook him slowly at first, and then wildly. She called out his name many times.

His eyes did not open.

Putting the lifeless baby on her shoulder she called her husband. Ashkar rushed home and took the baby to the hospital. The whirlwind that ensued left their small family broken forever. Their only child, the meaning of their marriage, was dead.

Zoya lay on her bed staring at the ceiling. She thought about the gathering at her little boy’s funeral. She clearly remembered how some relatives had given her accusing looks. Even now there were phone calls of curious people that poured in. Most people did not care to hide the shock and dismay in their voices when they heard about the cause of death.
She also thought of how drastically Ashkar had changed, right in front of her eyes. How many days had he gone to office with bloodshot eyes. He spoke nothing; except for that one argument they had one day. He slept on the sofa. Some days he never came home. 
When will this misery end? Zoya wondered amidst tears. It never will. She lost her son to death, now she will lose her husband to silence.

As if in a daze, she slowly got up and went to the kitchen. The scraping knife lay in the drawer. She went to the bathroom and filled the bathtub with water. When it filled halfway, she immersed herself in it. She slit open both her wrists uptil her elbows. And she lay down expectantly.

As the blood gushed out, Zoya felt oddly relaxed. She felt all her pain exit her body.

“Mommy’s coming, Ayaan” she whispered before slowly losing herself. She dreamt of herself emerging from a river bank and her son toddling towards her to pull her out.

The water in the tub turned crimson. Zoya drowned in her own pain, hoping it will atone for everything.