GUEST POST: India — My Baby is Growing Up

GUEST POST: India — My Baby is Growing Up

toothlessOne moment everything seemed fine and the next I was creating a little puddle of tears on my Yogasana mat.

I emerged from the yogasana pose to find unexpected sobs bursting through my throat, catching me completely unawares. A little part of my mind wondered what this was all about. And then I realized this was probably because of a niggling dissonance within, a reaction to a new milestone in my son’s growth that had not yet been completely accepted or acknowledged. This is what had led to the sudden grey cloud near the heart, that burst through as tears.

This morning, as Abhishek, my son, was having his breakfast before leaving for school, he called out to me saying that there seemed to be a gap between his two lower incisors. I touched a tooth and immediately found it was loose. The milk tooth would soon fall. We grinned and Abhi told me about how Kirti, his school mate, already had two teeth missing. I thought of a couple of his other friends, senior to him by a year, wearing gap-toothed smiles with part-embarrassment, part -pride. Now he would be a part of that gang too.

As we waited at the bus-stop for his school bus, we talked of the concept of the tooth-fairy. We both agreed that the concept was “cute”. I bid him bye, returned home and resumed my morning chores.

But somewhere in the heart, deep, deep down, the unarticulated thought had arrived – our little baby is about to lose his baby teeth. How did the years fly by so fast? And that would have been the genesis of the tears.

The innocence and unsullied grace of childhood are truly magical and seem long-lasting. But the pace of change and growth can actually be so rapid, that the heart can seem overwhelmed. Scarcely does a new milestone–a habit, a skill, or a new activity–set in, than the “Finish” line for that zooms forward, and before one knows it, it is time to say goodbye to yet another phase of one’s child’s growing years.

So much to cherish and so little time! It seems like it was only yesterday that I was rhapsodizing over Abhishek’s four new, shiny little teeth and feeling nostalgic about toothless, gummy smiles. And now it’s time for those very teeth to go!

“So what?”, one may wonder. A purely practical approach to this whole thing would be that his physical growth is going on fine and that I ought to be feeling reassured!

But to me it seems to be much more than that. His shaky little tooth tells me a lot of things. It reminds me that he is growing up quickly and that the only mandate I have been given from the Universe is to give him love, pure and unadulterated, intense and in every moment. It shows me the passage of the seasons of time – the travails of toddler-hood have given way to heart-touchingly earnest attempts at responsibility for this sweet-yet-solemn almost-six-year-old.

But most of all, the tooth reminds me that “this too shall pass!”

So must change be heralded by tears? Not at all. Something tells me that some of the tears were tears of regret, for all those “Not now please, I am busy” moments, when I allowed temporary realities to hijack my energies away from the greater priority of sharing my time and care with him.

Those moments are irretrievable and all I can hope is that this tooth has taught me a valuable learning. And then there were a few tears of concerns: am I ready to guide him right as he reaches a new phase of growth? As ready as I will ever be, I guess.

And then there were tears of joy: my little one, darling creature of the Universe, is growing up.

Motherhood seems like a permanent stage of “Work in Progress”. There is no “Finished Product”, just a heart that smiles, cries, is pulled and stretched and learns to give some more.

This is an original guest post from Piya Mukherjee in Mumbai, India; Mother, Corporate Trainer, Director.

The image used in this post is attributed to Stephanie Sicore of Young@Art. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

World Moms Blog

World Moms Blog is an award winning website which writes from over 30 countries on the topics of motherhood, culture, human rights and social good. Over 70 international contributors share their stories from around the globe, bonded by the common thread of motherhood and wanting a better world for their children. World Moms Blog was listed by Forbes Woman as one of the "Best 100 Websites for Women 2012 & 2013" and also called a "must read" by the NY Times Motherlode in 2013. Our Senior Editor in India, Purnima Ramakrishnan, was awarded the BlogHer International Activist Award in 2013.

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NEW ZEALAND: Innocence

NEW ZEALAND: Innocence

beastvboyOn Saturday night, I had the privilege of hosting three of my 13 year-old son’s friends for a sleep-over. They are lovely boys, and all I have to do is feed them and ignore them. I don’t mention things like showers or teeth-brushing, and in return they pretty much keep to themselves and don’t expect me to converse about Minecraft, Clash of Clans or Team Fortress II.

I teased them a little about not letting girls in while I drove my 9 year-old to a birthday party. I didn’t make a big deal of things when one of them smuggled in cola. I laughed with them, when on my return from the party drop-off, they were trying to stuff MacDonalds packaging into my kitchen rubbish bin. They pushed their limits with bedtime, of course. And they declined the offer of mattresses to sleep on (too much work for them to get them into our lounge) and slept on the carpet…. because, they’re 13 and their bodies still bend in ways mine don’t.

It was both innocent and, I felt, an appropriate mix of mischief and compliance.

Then, on Sunday, I heard of other 13 year-olds who had been in online chat rooms, talking about anal-sex and rape. Not in general terms, but in…. I shall be doing this to you terms…. These are kids who come from great homes and who have very loving families. I immediately thought: there but the Grace of God go I.

Children easily get caught up with what their friends are doing, or those who they emulate. My 13 year-old could have easily been one of those involved and I have no doubt all three of my boys will make stupid mistakes as they move from childhood to adulthood. Just not this time. Thank goodness.

The biggest worry, for me, was that there was at least one unidentified person in the chat-group who could, quite literally, have been anyone. It’s probably another 13 year-old, a friend or acquaintance but it could just as easily be a predator who was scoping for a target. And that makes it all the more scary.

The same is true of a local man who is hanging around liquor stores offering to buy alcohol and cigarettes for underage kids, 14 and 15 year-olds. He does this for a while. Then he offers drugs. Then it’s parties at his house. This is a whole different scenario from the stranger-danger I taught my boys when they were small.

We’re talking about people who are consciously befriending those kids who want to seem older than they are, and who are ready to break rules. They are grooming relationships before they pounce. They are feeding the teenage need to belong and the teenage need to experiment and do things that their parents may not approve of.

So we hit the teenage years, and now I find parenting is not so black and white.

No, I don’t want my kids drinking alcohol or smoking but do I buy them a few beers to take to a party, so that creeps don’t target them and they go behind my back? No, I don’t want my kids smoking pot but if they choose to, should I allow it when they know who grew it, rather than have them turn to those who lace it with P?

No, I don’t want my kids to be suggesting they will rape someone or perform anal sex on them, but I also don’t want them to be excluded from other things their peers are doing.

Suddenly, a conversation about Minecraft seems pretty appealing afterall.

What do you do or have you done to deal with these aspects of parenting?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our writer and mother of three, rapidly growing boys in New Zealand, Karyn Willis.

The image used in this post is attributed to JD Hancock and holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Karyn Wills

Karyn is a teacher, writer and solo mother to three sons. She lives in the sunny wine region of Hawke’s Bay, New Zealand in the city of Napier.

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SOCIAL GOOD: Post 2015 & the Sustainable Development Goals

SOCIAL GOOD: Post 2015 & the Sustainable Development Goals

Waterlogue-2015-01-05-20-35-01

The 2015 deadline for the eight Millennium Development goals is upon us. As of December 31st 2015 not all of the goals will have been met, but huge progress has been, and continues to be made. If anything the past 15 years showed what is truly possible with concerted effort and proper funding.  The MDGs were set in the year 2000 by 189 nations, and the Millennium Goal Declaration was put in place as a step to alleviate extreme poverty around the globe.  Negotiations of the Post 2015 development agenda are due to take place early this month, and will build on the progress made thus far through the 8 MDGs.

The next set of 17 sustainable development goals, which have 169 associated targets, are being referred to as the SDGs. The proposed goals are to end poverty, end hunger, achieve healthy lives for all, provide quality education, attain gender equality, empower women, and girls the world over. To ensure clean and sustainable water, sanitation, and sustainable energy for all. Goals include economic growth, resilient infrastructures, reduction of inequality between countries, to make cities safe, create resilient consumption and production cycles, urgently combat climate change, conserve our oceans, protect our ecosystems, create peaceful, inclusive and just societies, and strengthen global partnerships towards sustainable development.

On December 31st UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon released his synthesis report of all the suggestions entitled “The Road to Dignity by 2030:  Ending Poverty, Transforming All Lives and Protecting the Planet”, and broke the SDGs into what he referred to as  6 essential elements to serve as conceptual guides in the work of outlining the final goals.  Here are the six key elements according to a press release issued by UN Secretary-General Ban Ki-moon on December 4th of 2014.

1. DIGNITY

The first element is dignity:  an essential element for human development, encompassing the fight against poverty and inequality.

 

2. PEOPLE

Second is people:  Millions of people, especially women and children, remain excluded from full participation in society.  We must finish the work of the Millennium Development Goals.

 

3. PROSPERITY

Third, prosperity:  We must develop a strong, inclusive and transformative global economy.

 

4. OUR PLANET

Fourth, our planet:  We have an urgent duty to address climate changes and protect our ecosystems, for ourselves and our children. 

 

5. JUSTICE

Fifth, justice:  to build safe and peaceful societies, and strong institutions.

 

6. PARTNERSHIP

And finally, partnership:  because this agenda will be built on a foundation of global cooperation and solidarity.

 

These six broad categories provide a much more digestible approach to the 17 goals that will be finalized at the General Assembly in September of 2015. As #WorldMoms it will be our children, the next generation, who will carry through many of these goals, and be the ones help to innovate, execute, and hopefully see the end goal of eradicating extreme poverty by the year 2030.

What do you think of this new proposed set of SDGs?

This is an original post written by Elizabeth Atalay for World Moms Blog. She also writes at documama.org.

 

Elizabeth Atalay

Elizabeth Atalay is a Digital Media Producer, Managing Editor at World Moms Network, and a Social Media Manager. She was a 2015 United Nations Foundation Social Good Fellow, and traveled to Ethiopia as an International Reporting Project New Media Fellow to report on newborn health in 2014. On her personal blog, Documama.org, she uses digital media as a new medium for her background as a documentarian. After having worked on Feature Films and Television series for FOX, NBC, MGM, Columbia Pictures, Warner Brothers, 20th Century Fox, and Castle Rock Pictures, she studied documentary filmmaking and anthropology earning a Masters degree in Media Studies from The New School in New York. Since becoming a Digital Media Producer she has worked on social media campaigns for non-profits such as Save The Children, WaterAid, ONE.org, UNICEF, United Nations Foundation, Edesia, World Pulse, American Heart Association, and The Gates Foundation. Her writing has also been featured on ONE.org, Johnson & Johnson’s BabyCenter.com, EnoughProject.org, GaviAlliance.org, and Worldmomsnetwork.com. Elizabeth has traveled to 70 countries around the world, most recently to Haiti with Artisan Business Network to visit artisans in partnership with Macy’s Heart of Haiti line, which provides sustainable income to Haitian artisans. Elizabeth lives in New England with her husband and four children.

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MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The in-beTWEEN Years

MASSACHUSETTS, USA: The in-beTWEEN Years

wicked witch

The Wicked Witch of the West

Eight years ago I had my first child, a daughter.  Like most new parents, I got all sorts of advice and did a great deal of information gathering; particularly on those uncharted, early stages of infancy and babyhood.

I knew it was possible my child would have colic, GERD, and rashes. I had heard about the “terrible twos” and the “trying threes.” I was fortified for long days and short nights, especially during the early years. And I knew having a child home to entertain and educate for five years would be a whole different challenge from my professional life.

But, I thought I was ready because I knew—at the end of a long, sometimes dark, tunnel—there would be kindergarten, followed by the blissful and innocent days of elementary school to put me back on track. I anticipated that from age 5-11, life would be pretty seamless. Five years of struggle followed by at least six of predictability before the challenges of the teenage years moved in.

So when our daughter entered kindergarten three years ago, my husband and I settled in for the “predictable” parenting years we were expecting.

Sadly—and far too soon—those years are coming to a close…

This past summer, we got glimpses of something we had heard about but weren’t prepared for just yet: moodiness, sassy attitude, changes in speaking style, exploration of identity, greater awareness of appearance and increased self-consciousness.

Now that 3rd-grade is in full-swing, those glimpses are becoming the norm. It’s fairly clear that we are entering a new stage of parenting: we’re entering the TWEENS.

“Tween” is a term we use here in the US to describe the pre-teen stage of life. It’s in-between being a sweet, young kid, who’s dependent on parents and family for every aspect of life, and puberty, when a child morphs into a sassy, experimenting, independent teenager, stomping off toward adulthood.

The Tweens is a stage of life—I think populated almost exclusively by girls—when kids try to propel themselves prematurely into their next growth phase. They test out language they pick up from older kids, through pop-music and from movies and television. They mimic styles they see in the media. They use vernacular such as “like” and “whatever” and “no way!” They gravitate almost exclusively to their own gender groups.

And despite even the best attempts to shield children from pop culture and the negative influences present on TV, they still somehow find their fix at school.

The tweens are a funny, little limbo-land.

Take our daughter for example: She’s still afraid of the dark (in fact, she’s fairly convinced the Wicked Witch from the Wizard of Oz is living in her closet); her favorite Disney character is Sofia the First; she loves kittens and rainbows, unicorns and stuffed animals. But recently, she also has discovered Disney’s High School Musical, and when we go to our  pediatrician’s office, she pours over the book, It’s Perfectly Normal, (she has a lot of questions about both).

These days, she prone to emotional outbursts, demanding “alone” time and spontaneous moments of being shy. Aren’t these teenager behaviors?

Tonight, while my five-year-old was in a martial arts class, my daughter and I sat in the car having a chat. She said she was sad because she felt frustrated and sort of out of control. I found myself explaining puberty to her and talking about hormones and endorphins and lots of other changes in our bodies that made us feel confused and out of sorts…Uh, did I mention she’s only 8?

According to the American Academy of Pediatrics, the onset of puberty in girls now happens as young as 7! OK, so none of my early parenthood prep or information gathering or family planning ever involved needing to have these conversations so soon. Afterall, my youngest just started kindergarten. By my accounts, I had just come out of the trenches. I’m not battle ready. I don’t have my armor on. This is going to be a massacre!

But this is where we are these days…the in-beTWEENS. Wish us luck.

Have you experienced these sorts of changes in your own child(ren)? If so, at what age? Any advice for getting through to the other side?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our managing editor and mother of two (one of whom is entering her tweens), Kyla P’an.

The image used in this post is credited to Karen. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Kyla P'an (USA)

Kyla was born in suburban Philadelphia but tried not to let that stifle her deep desire to see the world. Her travels have included: three months on the European rails, three years studying and working in Japan, and nine months taking the slow road back from Japan to the US when she was done. Kyla took all of her Japanese knowledge and language ability and threw it right out the window when she met her Chinese-American husband in 2000. In addition to her work as Managing Editor of World Moms Bog, Kyla is a freelance writer, copy editor, triathlete and blogger. She and her husband reside outside of Boston, Massachusetts, where they are raising two spunky kids (ages 8 and 5), two frisky cats, a snail, a fish and a snake. You can read more about Kyla’s outlook on the world and motherhood on her personal blog, Growing Muses.

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BRAZIL:  The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma – Part II

BRAZIL: The Clown, Ice Cream Cakes and Emotional Trauma – Part II

This is the second post of a two-part series. To read part I of this post, please click here

clown cakeIt was my fourth birthday party. Since we were moving to Brazil soon, it was also a farewell party, and a big one. It was the only big birthday party I have had in my entire life. I remember it was held at some sort of club, there were a lot of people and a hired caterer (something almost unthinkable for my mother!) And then there was the clown. And he wanted to paint my face.

I was completely and irrationally terrified as only a four-year-old can be. While most of the other children were loving it all, I wanted nothing to do with the clown and his face paint (and certainly not on my face!). My party was ruined. In fact, I hid in the kitchen the entire time.

I don’t know exactly who stayed with me in the kitchen, but I don’t think it was either of my parents – at least not all of the time. Of course they were probably running around organizing things and tending to the guests. What really comforted me at that moment was the food, more specifically the dozens of intricately decorated mini-ice cream cakes. I recall later telling someone that the good side of the party was that I had stayed close to the food the entire time.

Although I hadn’t thought of it in a while, this story is not something that had been forgotten or hidden in my mind, as it has been told and retold over the years by my mother. The interesting detail that came up now was that of the ice cream cakes. When I remembered the ice cream cakes I felt like I could eat a ceiling-high pile. I felt like I had been looking for them my entire life. It was such a visceral craving it felt like nothing else could fill up my void except for those ice cream cakes. Right now writing this I want those ice cream cakes so badly it almost hurts.

It is interesting because here in Brazil ice cream cakes are rare – I believe I have only seen them for sale once in the more than 30 years I have lived here. I don’t know why this particular detail only came up so strongly now, nor what has been triggering this strong need for comfort and protection, which originally was a need to be shielded from someone scary (the clown) who wanted to do something I did not want to do (paint my face).

I don’t know if this is related, but it is also funny because I was never a big fan of makeup. Also, once when I was six and went through a brief period of interest for makeup, I got a kit of child makeup and ate several of the flavored lipsticks that came with it!

Perhaps this story will bring about significant change in my relationship with food, perhaps not, but it does bring up several issues related to my relationship with my own children.

For instance, it has reminded me that no matter how I try, it is impossible to protect them from every traumatic incident or foresee the lasting effect of seemingly small events on their lives. On the other hand, it is also a strong reminder not to belittle the things that upset them – what might seem insignificant or minor to me may be a huge deal to them and I must give them the best emotional support we can at all times.

Please share your stories about your relationship with food. Do you interfere in your children’s relationship with food? Do you actively foster a healthy relationship with food in your home?

This is the continuation of an original post to World Moms Blog published by our writer in Brazil and mother of three, EcoZiva. You can read Part I here.

The image in this post is credited to Chris Martin. It holds a Flickr Creative Commons attribution license.

Ecoziva (Brazil)

Eco, from the greek oikos means home; Ziva has many meanings and roots, including Hebrew (brilliance, light), Slovenian (goddess of life) and Sanskrit (blessing). In Brazil, where EcoZiva has lived for most of her life, giving birth is often termed “giving the light”; thus, she thought, a mother is “home to light” during the nine months of pregnancy, and so the penname EcoZiva came to be for World Moms Blog. Born in the USA in a multi-ethnic extended family, EcoZiva is married and the mother of two boys (aged 12 and three) and a five-year-old girl and a three yearboy. She is trained as a biologist and presently an university researcher/professor, but also a volunteer at the local environmental movement.

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JAPAN:  My Experience with a Japanese Hospital

JAPAN: My Experience with a Japanese Hospital

My 6 year-old daughter had her tonsils and adenoids out over summer vacation. She had been diagnosed with sleep apnea several months earlier and since nothing else was helping, finally I reluctantly agreed to the surgery.

I was reluctant because hospital “culture” in Japan is very different from the US, where I am from, and because I knew I would be up against another cultural wall in regards to care for my older child.

This surgery, that requires a one-night stay in the hospital in either the US or UK (according to some quick research on my part,) here in Japan means seven nights in the hospital.

Since hospital rooms are shared, parents are not allowed to stay over night for any except the youngest of patients. Parents are expected to provide clean laundry and cutlery for the patient every day.

The children’s ward had a strict daily schedule, with times when they we’re confined to their beds (which literally had bars like a prison cell,) and times when, if they were well enough, they were allowed to use the playroom.

But absolutely under no circumstances whatever could they leave the children’s ward. And visitors under the age of 15 were not allowed in the ward.

This was a conundrum for me. I have a 9 year old son, who was on summer vacation at the time, and a husband who works 12 hour days, on a good day.

Hospital culture in Japan is strangely at odds with the wider culture in general. A high percentage of children co-sleep with their parents well into their elementary years. That is the cultural norm.

However, the hospital where my daughter had surgery, would not allow parents to spend the night with children over 2 years old.

This particular hospital allows parents of small children to stay until they fall asleep, but for my daughter, that may actually have been worse. Come lights out at 8pm, there was more crying in the children’s ward than from the nursery down the hall.

I had another child waiting at his friend’s house or at Baba’s (grandmother’s) house for me to come home, after all. My husband tried to get home from work at a decent hour, but I think he made it by 7pm once.

The day after the surgery, when my daughter was still feeling ill from the effects of the anesthesia and started bleeding from her nose, I was very grateful that she was in the hospital where I could have a professional attend to any concerns with the push of a nurse-call button.

Around Day 3, though, I could feel myself beginning to fall apart, fiber by fiber. The stress and plain old-fashioned exhaustion were starting to get to me.

My son at home was starting to feel the effects of being shuffled from place to place numerous times a day. My daughter wasn’t sleeping well and wanted to come home. I begged the doctor to discharge her a bit early, even a few hours would be great. His response was that the other child in the same room who’d had the same surgery on the same day was not recovering as well, and it would be upsetting for her if mine left earlier.

Excuse me, what? I thought, blinking several times, sure I had misheard. But I hadn’t.

On the day she was finally discharged, the nurses and staff presented her with a postcard, complete with a photo of her post-op, “to remember them by.” My first instinct was to burn it. Who would want to remember this? But I kept it, an ironic little reminder of the Japanese tendency to have “entrance” and “exit” ceremonies for everything.

I was reminded of a speech the principal of a junior high gave to the student body to announce that I was leaving: “People enter our lives, and at some point we must be parted. We should cherish each of these events.” Perhaps one day my daughter will value the card.

For now, she gets angry every time she sees it. The poor little girl has been waking up at night just “making sure I’m at home” for the past several weeks.

But now I look at the card and I feel profoundly thankful that my kids are, for the most part, healthy and happy. I don’t know how parents, who have to juggle (and it is a juggling with knives-type event, not harmless bean bags) a child’s hospitalization—along with the mundane tasks of everyday life that just keep coming, even when we are least able to deal with them—do it.

I say a little prayer for you every night, moms I do not know, and wish you strength and patience and space to breathe.

Has your child ever been hospitalized? What was it like for you, as a parent?

This is an original post to World Moms Blog from our mother of two in Japan, Melanie Oda.

The image used in this post is credited to the author.

Melanie Oda (Japan)

If you ask Melanie Oda where she is from, she will answer "Georgia." (Unless you ask her in Japanese. Then she will say "America.") It sounds nice, and it's a one-word answer, which is what most people expect. The truth is more complex. She moved around several small towns in the south growing up. Such is life when your father is a Southern Baptist preacher of the hellfire and brimstone variety. She came to Japan in 2000 as an assistant language teacher, and has never managed to leave. She currently resides in Yokohama, on the outskirts of Tokyo (but please don't tell anyone she described it that way! Citizens of Yokohama have a lot of pride). No one is more surprised to find her here, married to a Japanese man and with two bilingual children (aged four and seven), than herself. And possibly her mother. You can read more about her misadventures in Asia on her blog, HamakkoMommy.

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