Monthly Archives: July 2008

Of Wolves, Witches and Stepmothers..

My daughter loves books, wants me to read to her every night before she goes to bed. It’s something I started doing when she was very young because I wanted her to love reading, which, to my utter joy, she’s showing signs of.

She wants me to begin every story with “one day” or “once upon a time” and they all must end with “happily ever after”. Only then am I allowed to switch off the light, after which she flops on her tummy and closes her eyes, almost as if she’s trying to picture it all again in her mind’s eye.

But, the trouble is that most fairy tales I tell her are fraught with all sorts of evil and dark elements. And this is something I have wondered about often, why, for one, must stories for little children be full of stepmothers? How terrible it is to tell a two year old that when a little child’s mommy dies, the evil step mom tries to kill her or makes her work in the house. But, one might argue, that there’s always a happy ending. Really? What is that? Oh! the handsome prince. So, all these terrible things happen to Cinderella, but in the end a prince charming, who’s floored by her beauty, marries her and that’s a happy ending. Now, there’s nothing wrong with stories and I do not want to over react for the sake of it, but it amuses me how so many of them end this way!

Or , then there are those where even if the parents are alive, but poor, like Hansel and Gretel’s parents, they lead them into the dark woods and leave them there. Imagine what a little kids thinks when you tell him or her that.

A few days ago, my daughter asked me to tell her the story of Snow white, but when I started reading it to her, I was not sure I wanted to tell her that Snow white’s mommy dies, so I sugar coated it somehow. She asked me what a step mom was and I tried telling her in the best way I thought possible for a two year old to understand (I don’t lie to her, mostly, when she asks me something, I may give her an abridged version but I try not to lie). She didn’t quite understand, but didn’t inquire further, so I let it pass.

But then yesterday she found Hansel and Gretel and told me to read it to her – the cover had little children and a house made of candies on it, so it appealed to her. When I started reading it, (I told her that the kids got lost in the woods, not that the parents left them there) and got to the part about the witch, she looked at me in fright and told me to shut the book. Then she cried and cried and said that she never wanted to see that book in the house, that I should give it to some “other baby” as I tell her when I want her to look after her things!  And I know that there is a moral there in the story about not going into strangers’ houses and so on, but I think I can teach her that anyway, without such tales!

I’ve decided to put these fairy tales away, and since I have other books for her too – I’d also bought the Panchtantra stories some time ago – I now read those to her, and she loves them. But every now and then she’ll ask me things like why the wolf wanted to eat Red Riding Hood, or where Cinderella’s mommy was…

Each child is different and I think before reading these stories to them one must think whether they’ll be affected by them or not. And frankly, a lot of kids would be, I mean who likes to be told about witches, wolves and evil mothers? Not kids for sure. I wonder what they were thinking when they wrote such stories for kids.



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Now She Ok, Now She’s Not..

Before I say anything else, I must admit that I am not a strong person, not strong when it comes to people I love. I have a lot of angst about, well, about many things in life, but also about mommy issues, as is apparant in this blog, but, the big but, let’s just say, I ain’t got nerves of steel, to put it mildly.

So, last week when my daughter sat inside her classroom with total strangers, I was happy. She has a lot of stranger anxiety and one of the reasons I wanted to put her into playschool was to try and cure her of some of it, so that she does not recoil each time someone waves a hello. She never liked school (its only been a week and a half) but, once there, she would go in and after a while I’d leave the room and she’d be fine.

Day before yeaterday she just didn’t want me to leave, but the teacher made me, so I had to. I felt terrible as they took her screaming from my arms. I skulked around corners for a while till I was scolded and then I left the hall and sat outside with the rest of the mothers and soon I was swapping salad recipes, though my mind was inside the classroom.

I told myself that she’d be ok, that this is something she had to learn to do and I had to be strong. But I could not get that image of her out of my mind, her sweet face and large teary eyes looking at me. I gulped a few times to stifle the lump that was, once again, beginning to form in my throat. Then I started wondering if I was doing the right thing, because though in my mind I was doing this for her betterment, just like everyone around me, I was very upset about the fact that she cried the way she did.

The thing about her is that, though it may appear to be the opposite, she actually loves kids her age and once she is familiar with a place, she tends to love it. So I had hoped that she’d start liking the place soon. And while I know that such moods are cyclical, I am dreading going to school tomorrow and leaving her in the classroom. The last time she told the teacher to bring all the mommies inside, she had pleaded for me and when I was finally called in, I found her eyes red with crying. She ran to me and clung and cried, then laughed, then asked me not to leave. I could not say anything but I held her hard and after a while told her that I was right outside and had not gone home.

I know all kids go through this and they settle down after a while, but, like I said, I am not strong enough. I hate it when I have to leave and she is crying, I hate it but I still do it because I think it’s good for her, because the whole world does it, my parents did it too, and all the rest of it, I know all that, but it’s still not good enough for me because I simply hate seeing her sitting at a table crying for her mommy.

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A Smile On My Lips, And A Tear In My Eye.

My daughter started pre-school last week. She cried, of course, and I felt terrible when she clung and didn’t want me to leave. I told the teacher that I would stay till she was a little settled, and I know what the debate on that is – that they don’t settle till they can see the mother, and there’s truth in that, but, I still knew it was not going to do her any good if I left her crying like that in the first week. Each child is different and I know that in her case she needs to feel a little secure before she likes anyplace, otherwise she develops an aversion. I wanted to give her the security that I was not leaving her there. So, I was the only (or one of the only) mother sitting inside with a child, not that that bothered me in the least. She looked at me and said “mama, don’t leave me here”. I promised I would not till she liked it.

I think it worked. The first week I went in with her and the next I would go in, like all the other mothers, but leave in about ten minutes- never slipping out, but telling her that I was going to be waiting outside, so she need not worry. She cried for a few minutes, of course, but not in the hysterical fashion she had done before. I told her that I’d be right there and take her home in a few hours.  Somehow that worked. She was alright without me inside, maybe because she knew that I was around, or maybe not. I don’t know what worked, and I also know that part of it is cyclical, she’ll probably still cry sometimes.

But the thing is that she’s aware of the fact that now she has to do this, and I am not sure she loves it yet, but she likes her teachers, which is good.

The first day she put her little Dora bag on her back and walked away, I smiled and yes there was that silly lump, don’t know where it came from, but there it was in my throat. She looked back at me and smiled, told me she had just spotted a little Tellytubby doll.

She’ll probably learn to let go soon. Now, I have to do the same.

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Two, No Wait, Few Birds With One Stone.

I decided to solve the clingy problem with all the will I had left in me.

Last month I had told myself that after my vacation, I would seriously tackle the what-am-I-doing-with-my-life issue.  But that cannot be done with a toddler holding your leg and wailing . You need peace to think, and I haven’t had any in the past two weeks, because my daughter decided she needed her mommy 24-7 and no one else. Flattering as that was, I began to lose it after a while; something needed to be done, fast.

So, this is what I tried. I got up in the morning and asked a friend if she wanted to watch a film, which she did, and I trotted off and told my horrified looking maid, who had been witnessing the scenes around the bathing and eating, to do what needed to be done – the bath, food etc – and put her to bed in the afternoon. I planned to return only after she had taken her nap.

And guess what? She didn’t shed one tear or throw one tantrum. I was told happy stories about how she laughed and played in the water and also during lunch. All that drama was, of course, only for mommy dearest. So overjoyed was I with this outcome that the next day I decided to take off in the morning again, and went shoe shopping, something I had been wanting to do for a while. And sure enough this time too she was happy as a calm and was sound asleep in her cot when I returned home, to peace and quiet.

So I am not sure I’ve successfully solved the problem – mommy hood has taught me not to celebrate achievements too early, and sometimes not all all, they have a way of resurfacing just when you think you’ve crossed that bridge – but I am feeling chuffed. After all not only did I manage to wean her off me for a while, I also got to watch a movie, catch up with a friend and buy some shoes in the bargain- not bad, not bad at all!!!

So now I am wondering if my good luck will last and somehow, miraculously, she’ll love school when she goes, for the first time, on Monday.

Too much to ask? I thought so. But, it’s worth a shot, in case someone up there is listening.

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