Narrative of the goose that was killed for laying golden eggs

The_Goose_That_Laid_the_Golden_Eggs_-_Project_Gutenberg_etext_19994

The Aesop’s fable ‘The Goose that laid golden eggs” has always been told from the point of view of the greedy farmer. It was all about him: his penury, his luck, his greed and his debacle. None of the narratives have ever come from the poor goose. What was its side of the story?

It did not last to tell its story of being loved, wronged and then finally killed.

If all unfortunate events are mapped on a sheet and red mark is put on every story that happened because of somebody’s greed, believe you me there will be many. Our poor earth is one such goose that is being killed for laying golden eggs and the farmers aka corporate owners will one day find nothing but parched surroundings enveloped in smuts and smokes. Our education, health, political and economic systems are being milked with apathy to the point that they are starving of values and dying of sheer disregard of principles. So, in one way or other, at this place or some other, golden gooses are being smothered to death for greed of “more of much”.

Anyway, let’s come back to the point. What would the goose have to say if it were given a chance to tell its version? Men write stories for men and see things from their perspective and those that serve their interest. What did that poor animal have to say to other animals and give lessons from its side of the story?

Here we go, let’s listen from the goose who just transmitted its message from heaven. Heaven? Yes, heaven since for those who are wronged, suffered and killed, the best form of salvage that this world provides to victims is the promise of Heaven … if not justice.

The Goose’s narration

Hello everybody,

I am the poor Goose from Aesop’s fable. I was not always poor, how my life was snuffed out, made me poor in the pages of stories. I was a free Goose that moseyed and dawdled in lush green surroundings of my natural habitat. I pecked the grains, pruned my feathers and plonked my head in the warmth of my arms to sleep. I was living my life on my terms and was free to run in the face of attack from wolves and dogs. One day I got tired of running and saving my life on my own and gave myself willingly into the hands of a hunter who came to catch geese from the Jungle.

So, here my friends is the first lesson from my life:

  1. Don’t exchange your freedom for anything

The hunter sold me to a farmer couple. They put me in a coop and gave me grains to feed. The grains were neither too much nor too little. I prayed to God to give me the ability to lay gold eggs so that the farmer would grow rich and give me enough grains.

  1. Don’t give more than what one deserves

Things improved for the farmer and his family. But my share of the grains did not improve. They remained just a handful. I was wronged and had the gut feeling that the farmer would not return the favors. But I still gave him another chance by laying more golden eggs.

3.      Once bitten twice shy

I wish I had not given him more eggs or had restored to giving just the normal eggs but it was too late. The greed had taken the better of him and one day the farmer came in my coop with a shining knife. He killed me.

So that’s my side of story.

What is bad, what is evil… dishonesty, greed, treachery and backstabbing all are there to stay. Even Adam and Eve could not be spared and they too had to leave paradise. The lessons were passed on from ages to ages but poor geese forget it every time, let’s remember the lessons the Goose’s ghost came to tell us… Don’t give the best of you freely and in undeserving hands.

A conversation on friendship with my 5 year old daughter

bambi and thumper.png

It’s easier to talk to children above ten about complex things like relationships. (Maybe I am oversimplifying the problem). But when it comes to the audience whose understanding is limited to ‘sharing is the way of caring baba, baba black sheep’ it’s difficult to present something complex in a simple way.

Though Khalil Jibran has explicitly put everything that friendship is in these lines:

 Your friend is your needs answered.

He is your field which you sow with love and reap with thanksgiving.

And he is your board and your fireside.

For you come to him with your hunger, and you seek him for peace.

When your friend speaks his mind, you fear not the “nay” in your own mind, nor do you withhold the “ay.”

 The problem was how to talk about this to my little 5 year old. There were many helpful parenting sites that talked about the clinical aspects of making friends or being one. I was looking for something more. I was looking to touch the root of the concept, to talk a bit of philosophy with my bitsy baby.

Let me tell you the background of what prompted me to take up this topic with her. After we shifted to a new country, I had a daunting task at hand. There was a park nearby our apartment. I and my daughter would stroll down there in the evenings. The task was to find a friend to play. A few initial visits were stressful for me, she played swings and slides with her roving eyes looking for a pal amidst her unanswered smiles and waves. My little one was disappointed but not disheartened.

One day she took her new bicycle to the park and there was a girl of her age who came to play with her. They both rode the bicycle by turns. I was also relieved that she finally had a companion. The next day she went without her bicycle. She looked for her friend everywhere. Finally, she saw her playing with a group of children. She waved to her and went near them expecting that she would be invited to play. But nothing like that happened. The bicycle friend turned out to be an opportunist.

That day my little brave heart was heartbroken. She came running towards me and she plonked her head in my lap and cried. We returned home.

She was yet to start her new school. Her mom, dad and a few stuffed bunnies and bears were her only acquaintances in the new land. I wanted to talk to her about what had happened in the park but I kept it to myself. Though she was back to her normal self but it was evident that she was hurt. It was the next day at bed time when I groped a chance to begin the conversation on Friendship and making friends.

I chose to read ‘The Stinky Little Kitten’  — Jim Peterson, a story about a friendly kitten who is refused help by all the farm animals when she jumps over onions and starts stinking. A piglet, whom she had always avoided, is the only animal which comes to her help to clean herself. When the stinky little kitten is washed and cleaned, she runs up to her mother, nonplussed as to why none of the animals whom she thought were her friends, helped her. To this, the smart mommy cat says:

“It’s not always that you choose your friends. Sometimes the friends choose you.”

 The end of the story brought a smile on my kitten’s face. I smiled back.

Me: “What do you think of the story?”

She :“I liked it.”

Me: “What did you like in it?”

She: “The stinky little kitten found her friend at last.”

Me: “Ummm okay but what made her think that the piglet was her friend?”

She: “Because he helped her.”

Me: “Yes dear helping is friendship, but it’s not just helping that makes good friends.

She: “Aunty (maid) helps you too.”

Me: (laughing) “I pay her. Helping is in return of something.”

She: “I know mama friends share things.”

Me: “Hmm okay you shared your bicycle with that park friend.”

She: (frowning) “Hmmm I was friend, she was not friend.”

Me: “Yeah okay tell me which cartoon friends you like the most.”

(Thinks for a moment)

She: “Yes I like Bambi and Thumper”

Me: “They are my favourite too. Why are they your favourite?”

She: “Umm Thumper and Bambi have lots of fun together.”

Me: “Yes they do, indeed.”

She: “Why do you like them?”

Me: “I like them because they are different yet they understand each other, try to improve each other. Remember how Thumper teaches Bambi to ski on ice.”

She: (giggling) “Yes I remember.”

Me: “So a friend is someone who has all these traits. Somebody who shares toys but doesn’t help is not a friend. Somebody who helps but does not understand you is not a friend.”

She: “You are my best friend.”

Me: “Yes, I am dear and will always remain your friend. When you will start your new school, when you will attend your music or craft classes, when you will grow up, you will find such a friend who will be polite, helpful, understanding and who will like the things you like, who will not come to you because you have a special toy or a new bicycle. That friend will befriend you for who you are.”

 A bright, bright smile spread across her face that brightened my heart too. I switched off the side lamp. While sleep was slowly pulling my eye lashes down this quotation by Gloria Naylor was running through my mind, “We cannot tell the exact moment a friendship is formed; as in filling a vessel drop by drop, there is at last a drop which makes it run over; so in a series of kindnesses, there is at last one that makes the heart run over.

 

How to Talk About Death with Children?

talk childLike sex, death is one subject that we try best to steer clear of when asked by children. If coaxed beyond our capacity to resist, we give answers that confuse them. I remember as a kid, I was told that when people die they go to God. For many years I openly feared and secretly hated God for snatching away our loved ones.

There is no denying the fact children have different comprehension levels at different ages. Not all questions about death have easy answers so it is okay to say ‘I don’t know’. There are no perfect answers either. A few tips to take care of while talking with children:

  1. Be honest and gentle
  2. Listen carefully
  3. Don’t overwhelm them with information
  4. Repeat and ensure that they understand you

Often such conversations end with “Will you die too?” Children see death as separation. Never make promises to a child that you cannot keep. Instead, reassure the child that you plan to be with them for a long time, and that they will always be cared for.

Let’s quickly look at some questions related to death that children ask and ways to deal with them.

What is a dead person?

Instead of giving euphemisms like “long sleep,” “going away,” or “passing” may be confusing to children. Let them know a dead person is one who stops breathing, talking, eating, walking. The body does not function anymore. Show them examples of what happens to dead things like birds, computers, birds etc. It easier for children to process hard facts than we think.

When do people die?

The book Lifetimes: The Beautiful Way to Explain Death to Children by Bryan Mellonie and Robert Ingpen. It explains the lifetime of each living creature. It beautifully and gently explains that for each one of us there is a beginning, middle and end. A small excerpt from the book reads:

“Butterflies live as butterflies for only a few weeks. Once they have dried their wings, they flutter and flit from leaf to flower. At first, they are bright and quick, but as time passes they begin to slow down, until finally they can go no further. They rest for a while, and then they die. That is the way butterflies live, and that is their lifetime.”

Will I die too?

All living creatures have a lifetime, eventually we all will die but children are healthy and sturdy and live long lives.

Where do dead people go?

Soul is what makes us special and that’s what exists after body stops its function. To be a special soul we have to do special things in our lives – to love and be loved. Soul lives on long after the body stops functioning. Soul is ‘hope’, a way our loved ones live on in our memories and heart when they are gone.

Overcoming your own fears about death is important before you talk with children. Let them know that death is part of the circle of life and encourage them to live a healthy and happy life.

 

These are the toon characters I would take to psychologist

elsa

 

Case 1: In my neighbourhood live two guys and a girl who are normal people by the day. They go to offices and college respectively, but during the night they become someone else.

Case 2: I know a little boy who frequently slips into his world of dreams and has imaginary friends who come to life to have fun with him when nobody is around.

Case 3. There is a young girl who is suspicious that she may harm others with her powers. So, she has shut the door to the world outside.

You may say that these young boys and girls are in urgent need of visit to the nearest psychiatrist available. Case 1 is the theme of PJ masks, case 2 is Calvin of Calvin & Hobbes series and case 3 our very own Elsa of Frozen fame. Today let’s mute the comical sounds, keep aside the gaudy and garish play of colours on the screen and get down to the messages these toon personalities have to peddle across. The closer you will look at them the more untoward they will appear. Many children are taking them as their role models and copying them in everything they do.

So, let’s examine today, are they good enough to be copied? Are they suffering from any personality disorder? Grave it sounds but it’s a reality that is sprawling its slimy legs in our lives. More and more people are getting affected by emotional and behavioral problems. Health of a child has five dimensions– social, physical, emotional, mental and spiritual. Social health is how well they establish positive relationship with their peers, family and colleagues. Unlike our time (or rather my time, ‘coz you might be younger than me.   As a child I was deprived of cartoons, cables were something that ‘only Uncle D’ had in the neighbourhood then) cartoons are playing a very influencing role. Our children’s social behaviour is very moulded and sculpted by what they watch.

Let’s see which of our favorite toons have ADHD (Attention Deficit Hyperactivity Disorder): It’s common in children but it may persist through adolescence as well. Its characteristics are inattention, hyperactivity and impulsivity. Some interesting examples are:

Kalia (Chota Bheem) – Overlooks or misses details, makes careless mistakes. Avoids or dislikes tasks that require sustained mental effort.

Nobita (Doremon) –Does not follow through on instructions, fails to finish schoolwork, or starts tasks but quickly loses focus and gets easily distracted.

Scooby (Scooby -Doo) – Becomes easily distracted by distinct thoughts or stimuli.

Tigger (Winnie the Pooh) – Looking for  “fun, fun, fun, fun” reflects his  ADHD personality which is accelerated by impulses.

Joey, Dee-Dee and Marky (Oggy & the cockroaches) – Running or dashing around or climbing in situations where it is inappropriate, often feeling restless.

Minions (Despicable Me) – They jump from one thing to the next, have difficulty in focusing on one thing for anylength of time. They are easily distracted and often put themselves and others in dangerous situations.

Bart (The Simpsons) – He plays pranks in annoying ways. Being constantly in reckless motion.

Though there is no complete cure of ADHD but if you are concerned that your child displays any or all of these symptoms, you may take the help of a psychologist. The treatment helps reduce the symptoms. ADHD is commonly treated with medication, education or training, therapy, or a combination of treatments.

Cartoons have their own funny-loonyworldwhich is also reflective of the world we live in. It’s not just that they influence us. Their characters are influenced by reality around us. They give us a lead to understand and identify problems.

Oh! About the three cases I mentioned in the beginning.

Case 1: It is a case of Dissociative personality disorder, wherein two or more distinct personalities recurrently take control of an individual’s behaviour.

Case 2: It is a case of Schizophrenia where Calvin believes that Hobbes comes to life when no one else is around he hallucinates about adventures with his tiger.

Case 3: It is a case of Agoraphobia. She fears she may harm others with her powers and makes the choice to isolate herself in a castle and she refuses to meet anyone.

Have you observed any such thing in your favourite cartoon? Do contribute to the list here.

The Frog Prince – retold!

frog-1591896_960_720When a kid in kindergarten gets work, it’s not the kid who gets the work, it’s we – the parents who get work. It’s our comprehensive ability at test. So when my ‘daughter’ received homework on learning and understanding the moral of the story ‘The Frog Prince’, it was inevitably I at work.

The best I could decipher, I wrote. “It’s a story of a princess who is fooled by a manipulative frog to free him from a curse.”

The next day, I found a red mark slanting deftly across the paragraph I had written with a one liner penned with much annoyance and haste at the bottom of it –

“That which thou hast promised must thou perform.”

With all sincere apologies to Grimm Brothers, I want to retell this story.

Instead of running amok perplexed and letting her father cajole her to give in to the demand of a stalker frog, the princess could have made a different choice. Yes, that tiny green, slimy amphibian stalked her around the palace until he landed on the royal dining table to cry foul.

Anyway, before I tell you ‘how it could have been’, let’s quickly recap the original tale.

“IN OLD times when wishing still helped one, there lived a king whose daughters were all beautiful, but the youngest was so beautiful that the sun itself, which has seen so much, was astonished whenever it shone in her face…”

So begins the old fairy tale ‘The Frog Prince’.  It is the story of a princess who was playing with her golden ball near the palace. The ball slipped from her hand and fell into the well. She started crying. Hearing her cry, a frog crocked, “Princess if you let me eat from your plate, sleep on your bed and kiss me, I can bring your ball.” A talking frog!

In the evening, the princess was dining with the king when a soldier brought the frog into the dinner room. “The princess has broken her promise” the frog croaked. Quickly, he told the king all that had happened.” The king said –“That which thou hast promised must thou perform. Get him in.”

Though the princess was disgusted, she let the frog eat from her plate. Later, she reluctantly took him to her room and placed him in a corner. The frog however, hopped onto her bed. Furious, she threw him at the wall. The frog lay motionless. Ashamed of her action, the princess picked up the frog, placed him on her bed and kissed him. Immediately the frog transformed into a handsome prince. “Thank you, princess,” said the prince. He told her that a witch had made him a frog for refusing to marry her. Soon, the prince and the princess were married.

 As if the marriage was the panacea of all their worries in the world!

Hopefully – they lived happily ever after.

In exchange of a ball, a frog smartly manipulates a princess to promise him a dinner and a kiss. The princess knows it’s crazy and tries to save herself from keeping those ‘forced-commitments’. My issue is, why was a girl’s ‘No’ not enough? The frog had his way foxily. A girl is an instrument in the story through which a prince can regain his lost form. She is tricked into making weird commitments and then conscripted by her own father to keep them in the name of integrity.

It will not be out of place to recount a case I handled during my career as HR and a reporting point for sexual harassment cases in the organization. I asked the girl the reason for reporting it so late. She had been facing indecent overtures from her fellow colleague. She said that she was confused because the guy had been very helpful to her. He helped her in her projects and went out of the way to get things done for her. So, she owed him! In the barter, he was taking liberty in making sexual overtures.

Now what could possibly be different in the story – The Frog Prince?

Here I go:

Once upon a time there was a king. He had three daughters, whom he loved equally. The youngest of them was witty and brave. One day she was playing with her golden ball in the lawn by the pool. The ball slipped off from her hand and fell in the pool. She was thinking how to get it back when a frog jumped out of the pool. He was a talking frog!

The frog said, “I can take out the ball for you.”

The princess said, “O great! Please do.”

Frog said, “But you will have to promise me that in exchange of the ball you will have to let me eat from your plate, sleep on your bed and kiss me.”

The princess realized that was a freaky frog. She asked, “What is your problem, frog? Be realistic.” Frog was adamant and so was the princess. She said at last, “Ok you stay there I will get it myself.” She dived into the pool and got the ball. Drenched, the water dripping off her cloth in the puddle at her feet, she sat at the brink of the pool. The frog was sad. She asked him, “Why are you so strange?” The frog then narrated his story of how a witch transmogrified him into a frog. The princess felt sad for him but it was not easy for her to trust him as he had just tried to trick her into kissing him.

The princess scooped him up in her palm and planted a kiss on him. He transformed back into a prince. The prince was happy. He proposed her for marriage.

The princess said, “We don’t know enough of each other yet.” And she walked back towards her palace.

Her eyes had a gleam, her feet were light and her heart was brimming with pride and happiness.

Such a generous, witty and brave princess surely lived happily ever after.

 

A Letter to My Mother

woman-typing-writing-windowsDear Ma,

Saying thanks could be so hard I never knew. Thanks for molding, shaping and sculpting who I am.

The gratitude is for not one event, one chance, one moment but for the life I live, the courage that strengthens me, the hope that brighten me, values that guide me and wisdom that shapes me.

Gratitude for every warp and weft of my wings that you knitted in colors for years, and then willingly cut off from your fingers to let me fly to explore the wonders of the sky. Was it easy for you to cut those twines from your fingers or did you feel the same joy that lapped against the shore of your heart, when the cord was cut between you and me and I was woken to the shimmering shades of life? You rejoiced to see the symphony you composed flailing its limbs and fluttering its eyes lashes at you.

This moment is weighing me down because no matter what all I say it won’t suffice to unburden me. I am sorry and I am thankful. I owe you and I can never repay you.

Here, I am writing this letter, lingering over every word and reliving my childhood, teenage and youth in those pauses. So many emotions ebb together then wash off into the depths of my soul. I feel happy, sad, lost, found, strong and weak – all at the same time.

Let me tell you I feel sorry for the plates of food I left behind while rushing for office. I am sorry for the messy wardrobes. I am sorry for the harsh words. I am sorry for silly moments when I thought that “you don’t understand ”. You know ma, today I think you knew me better than I ever did myself.

Now, when I am thousands of miles away from you I face this world all by myself. In between putting up the show of being strong and independent, and somewhere in the middle of playing roles of a mother, wife, colleague and friend, I break down and feel like crawling back to the warmth of your lap.

When I am misunderstood, I miss you because no words were needed between us… you could read my silence. When my work is not acknowledged, I miss you because you clapped at the doodles I drew on the walls. When I slog through days in fever without anyone noticing, I miss you because you would touch, flip-flap, my forehead even when I was just quiet.

I wish those moments could roll back, the carefree days of my childhood. I wish I could live them again. Or may this be just a dream, I would wake up to your calls to get ready for school.

Ma I love you that is all I can say. You are very special to me.

Happy Mother’s Day

Yours,

Daughter

God, Ogre and Clueless Moms

questions children askA mother in her lifetime is asked more questions than a teacher or a doctor. I am not saying this; a research says so. (By the way, do you really need a research to believe this!?)

Questions vary from ‘where are my socks?’ to ‘what is the weight of the sky?’

Moms of the 1970s and 80s or even till the recent 90s had the privilege of tossing away each question with two simple answers: God and Ogre were the reason for everything. For example:

‘Where do babies come from?’ – God.

‘Why is the sky blue?’ – God.

‘Why do people die?’ – God.

For the rest of the questions where God could not fit in to take the blame, Ogre would come to the rescue.

‘Why can’t I play out at night?’ – Ogre.

“I don’t want to eat veggies” a child would whimper. A little mimicry and a few scary sounds to announce the impending arrival of the Ogre, and the grody yet healthful chunk would be quaffed down the food pipe of the picky little soul. The famous Sholay movie testified this and put it on record what mums of the 70s-90s did to kids. If the child would not sleep in Ramgarh, the mum would say “So ja beta nahi to Gabbar aa jayega” (Sleep or gabbar (the Indian ogre species) would come).

Times have changed now. Web 2.0 has brought the world beneath the fingertips and so the burden of the blessing is right there on the shoulder of every mum. We are obliged to answer correctly. If we know it then instantly, and if we don’t know then park it in some corner of the mind, search it online and then come back to answer it. There is high probability that by the time you come back with the answer, a new question would be waiting for you. You may feel tempted to shift everything on God and Ogre but then this guilt of careless parenting or the fear of being judged or onus of misguiding the curious Einstein would make you shrink under your shirt.

It’s easier to answer questions like ‘Why doesn’t the sky fall on us?’ or ‘Why is the moon walking with me?’ (“Because the moon loves you.”  You said this too? Ha Ha! We are members of Lazy Mum Club).

What is really challenging is to answer questions like, ‘Why did that guy cross the road on a red light?’ or ‘Why does Pia have a black dog?” or ‘Why did aunty forget to wear clothes?’ …ahem… No idea. Not even Google can tell you why Christine came out in her underwear today.

You may be giving them the best of the answers by thoroughly dressing up your answer to fit into their comprehension, but they would stump you with how they processed it in their mind. My daughter was watching a Disney movie in which the protagonist was an orphan. My daughter asked me. “What is an orphan?”

I replied, “Someone whose mum-pa have gone to God.”

“Why do they go to God?” she asked me with dispirited curiosity.

“Because God calls them.” I tried to be as soft as I could.

“Will you go too?” she was really sad. Her eyes looked at me with hope.

The bug of being right stung me at the wrong moment, which I regret till date. I said, “Yes my dear I will go too but I will only go when you will be of my age.”

While she was processing it in her head, I was gloating over the confidence and ease with which I got away.

She asked me innocently, “When is Nani (my mother) going to God?”

I missed a heartbeat. “What!!?”

How she interpreted it is – since I am already my age, God has good enough reason to call my Mum! Unadulterated innocence, fearless inquisitiveness, I say . Once in a month she asks me this, “When is God calling Nani?” I feel so miserable.

“A child’s mind cannot be re-engineered so soon” – this is said by none but poor me…

 

How to raise children as conscious buyers ?

Consumerism (2)The whining of a child had me turn my head towards a boy, barely 5 years old – lying on his back –erratically flinging his four limbs on the floor. The drama was going on in a supermarket. He was accompanied by two miserable creatures, undoubtedly his parents who were standing by his side and trying to woo him to get up on his legs. After a little tetchy crabby scene by all the characters, Mama finally scooped up the Spiderman toy from the store shelf and shoved it into their trolley. Peace, thus prevailed.

How many times have you witnessed or experienced the same tug-of-war between a child’s relentless persuasion and a parent’s grounded reasoning?

Who won? The little boy? No. The winning trophy belonged to an invisible team of experienced marketing strategists and product designers behind that querulous child’s persuasion. Dr. Dan Cook, Faculty of Advertising and Sociology at the University of Illinois, describes it in the following words:

It is the sound of thousands of hours of market research, of an immense coordination of people, ideas and resources, of decades of social and economic change all rolled into a single, ‘Mommy, pleeease!’

I am no exception. On my daughter’s birthday I bought balloons which had Frozen movie motifs. She wore Elsa’s gown. The cake too had ice flakes and glitters and all pretty shades of blue. But let me bare my heart. I worry a lot about this growing trend that is luring our children into consumerism, leveraging the attachments they have for their favorite cartoons. We casually praise the birthday girl’s dress and admire the twinkle in her tiara. That’s where I worry. Let me explain myself.

I worry that those praises showered on her because of her dress and the crown should not corner her to believe that she is nothing if that crown and dress are taken away. Or on certain occasions my daughter eyes somebody’s toy and pesters me to buy that over expensive toy which is beyond my budget. Isn’t an atmosphere of greed, peer pressure, jealousy and unnecessary spending brewing up? And aren’t we all playing our bits?

Children develop attachments for their favorite cartoon characters, providing marketers a convenient and stealthy way into our purses.

Warner Bros has tied up with about 20 companies in India including retailers such as Tata group, Trent and Primus Retail for selling merchandises of cartoon characters including Batman, Superman, Tom and Jerry and Scooby-Doo. (Source: Financial Express).

Consider this: Cartoons are on school bags, tiffin boxes, in video games, on blankets – they are everywhere. Cartoons are selling everything to kids who are being tempted towards junk and unhealthy food by using these cartoon character as baits.

How can we raise our children as conscious buyers ?

Let’s tackle this question in two parts

I: The Finance: saving, recycling and conscious buying

II: The Psychology: Things we buy do not define us!

Though many of them will sound too familiar because they are typical Indian style of parenting and many of us were reared on these knacks of ‘great Indian moms’.

 The Finance

  1. Buy them a piggy bank.
  2. Give them pocket money.
  3. Tell them to save ‘now’ to buy something better in ‘future’.
  4. Tell them ‘all that glitters is not gold’. Their favorite cartoon motif does not ensure quality of the product.
  5. Tell them about the traps of advertisements.
  6. Tell them we should ‘buy what we need not what we desire’.
  7. Tell them to make decisions between ‘make’ or ‘buy’.
  8. Involve them in the discussions of house budgeting and spending.
  9. Let them make their buying decision but in a controlled way help them weigh the features, utility and price.
  10. Let them understand the need of recycling and value of refraining from wastage.

The Psychology:

  1. Instill confidence in them by endorsing their good behavior. Put good behavior over branded clothes.
  2. Let them discover their talent and let them take pride in that. Let them wear it as their identity.
  3. Stop them from comparing their things with their peers. Reason out the utility and durability of those things.
  4. Tell them what stays is one’s talent and character.
  5. Tell them about the perils of following the herd.
  6. Tell them to follow what’s right even if they have to walk alone.
  7. Give them examples from the lives of people who made it big with their hard work and surely the brands they had no hand in their success.
  8. Be with them, handhold them through their childhood & adolescence lest they give into peer pressure.
  9. Remember, no present can substitute your presence.
  10. Talk and talk with your kids but make sure you walk the talk first.

Cartoons Which Make Learning Math Fun!

The subject that I dreaded the most was Math. Had it not been my ability to rote the final answer up to decimals, I would have never waded through my academic years. Till very recently, I was a happy soul that my Math-nightmares were over without flunking any year. But my happiness was short lived.

It is again in front of me, staring me in the face, now when my little one looks at me to teach her math. How I squeezed my way through it is not worth recommending to my kids.

In the book ‘The Joy of x’, author Steven Strogatz says “Math is everywhere, if you know where to look. We will spot sine waves in zebra stripes, hear echoes of Euclid in the Declaration of Independence, and recognize signs of negative numbers in the run up of World War -I. And we will see how our lives today are being touched by new kinds of math, as we search for restaurants online and try to understand – not to mention survive – the frightening swings in the stock market.” After reading this, a mist of depression hovered over me and I survived my first heartache. (Can you feel my pain? ) There are people who see so much math around and then there are people who want to close their eyes and sleep at the mere sight of a math book. I’m not proud of being the latter category.

I started looking for cartoons who can teach Math and its fundamentals in an engaging and funny way. I remember one episode of Sesame Street episode which Strogatz also cited in the first Chapter of his book ‘The Joy of x’. The episode was called ‘123, Count with Me’, in which a customer shouts his orders as “Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish, Fish” instead of saying “6 Fish”. It was such a funny, simple yet innovative way of making preschoolers understand the value of numbers. They are shortcuts to remember things. You see what numbers do – they make our life easier.

The team of writers of The Simpsons  includes mathematicians. Al Jean who is now executive producer, went to Harvard University to study mathematics at the age of just 16. It’s not a surprise that all Simpsons series have serious jokes (yeah, I mean!) about mathematical equations or concepts. The famous character Lisa-Homer and Marge’s daughter, is an expert in trigonometry and algorithms.

Here I go with a list of cartoons that make learning math fun!

1.       NumberJacks: It has some live action too. My 5 year old daughter is very fond of it. It is a squad of 0-9 numbers who lives under a sofa and goes out to solve problems. The best one which helped my daughter to remember ‘which two numbers make ten’ is my favorite too. Do watch “Sphere today gone tomorrow”.

 2.      Team Umizoomi: It has Milli, Geo, Bot and Umicars who go around solving problems. They work on problems which involve preschool mathematical concepts like counting, sequences, shapes, patterns, measurements, and comparisons. The recommended age group is 3-7 years.

 3.      Peg+cat: Peg, a young girl along with her indigo cat, who is her best friend goes out to solve problems that have mathematical solutions. The episodes which I also enjoyed are: ‘The Three Bears Problem” and “ The Tree Problem”. It is a good watch for kids under 6.

 4.      Brain Pop: Tim and Moby talk of different concepts including a wide range of subjects – English, Science, Math, History, Art and Computing. In fact, Brain Pop is shown in many schools to assist learning and understanding of children. Their episodes on math are worth watching with your kids.

 5.      Blaze and the Monster Machines: AJ is an 8-year-old techie who drives a monster-truck Blaze. The two go on adventures that have them taking on problems involving science and math. It’s educational, delightful and fun to watch.

 6.      Cyber ChaseA bad man wants to control the world. Cyber kids spoil his attempts by solving math puzzles. 6-12 years will find it funny and interesting.

 This is not a comprehensive list. This is what all I have seen and could remember. It would be fun to add to the list here, do share what’s your favorite cartoon that can aid learning math.

Toony Mum’s Tip – Don’t forget to screen them before you watch them with your cubs! 😊

 Peg-cat

How I Finally Got Success In Limiting The Screen Time Of My Overindulgent Daughter?

Much to my chagrin, my husband bought an iPad for my daughter on her second birthday. As if the non-stop cartoon network wasn’t enough! I was then working in a 9 to 6 job and my daughter was taken care of by her grandparents – who, if you know Indian grandparents – were raining their mushy slushy love for their grandchild by allowing her to do things ‘her’ way. My weekends were usually spent on running errands. The end result was that my 2-year-old was becoming an expert in video games and a walking encyclopedia on cartoons.

I swear I’m not exaggerating. I’ve had several moments of uneasiness listening to her impeccable knowledge on cartoon genealogy when I wouldn’t even know my great grandfather’s name. My smiles at her gaming feats would diffuse into thin air when she would throw tantrums and make a terrible racket as soon as the TV was switched off or her iPad was taken away at the behest of providing some respite to the poor electronic soul. I was worried it was affecting her behavior. I was worried it would affect her eyes. And I just didn’t have the time to think of what to do.

Although everyone was worried in the family, including my husband – who for the record, was on the screen himself all the time. I could let him off for the sole excuse that his job and commitments and some ‘me’ time were the reasons it was difficult to unwire himself. So basically, he was not qualified for the job of luring his daughter to limit the screen time.

The hot potato was passed on to me. I was thinking hard on this when by a stroke of luck, my sister made a plan to visit us with her two daughters. The three cousins got along with my kid like a house on fire! My baby girl was finally distracted and found real games to play with her gang! They left soon after and my pint-sized rubber ball was about to bounce back to her usual routine when I decided to use that disruption to my advantage. I encouraged her to make her time table and set goals – thanks to my decade long training as HR. I was not sure it would work. But it did. Children are more logical being than grown-ups. You can take my signature on this.

I set a time limit for her screen time. I encouraged her grandpa and grandma to watch cartoons with her and as soon as the time was over, to switch it off. We used to encourage her to switch it off herself by reminding her of the fact that she had set the time herself on the time table she made. (How manipulative! Bwahaha!). Initially there were some tantrums but they too subsided gradually. She was taken to parks regularly and I bought some educational activities for her which she started to enjoy. I learnt one thing in the process: when she was left to do things on her own she would cringe back to the TV screen, but if she had company to play, her interest would last longer. Things were getting under control. But the ‘elixir of life’ was yet to come and it came when we shifted to Middle East as a nuclear family.

We were putting the nest bit by bit in a new land. There was no TV for us. My daughter used to miss her screen time. I started downloading her favorite cartoons on her iPad. It was a good time to use my censorship rights and filter out the cartoons which I despised because of their language and/or behavior. I never dared to plug them off because my little dictator loved them. It was the most opportune time to eliminate them from my life. I downloaded some educational cartoon episodes of one hour duration only and saved them in a different folder. I introduced one episode a day to my daughter, handing her the tablet only after ensuring that it was on flight mode lest she should get an uninterrupted supply of cartoons or by any chance wander in the forbidden land. Putting the iPad on flight mode also saved her from unnecessary radiations. Slowly, but surely it became her habit. Now she is 5 and she is conditioned to watch cartoons on her iPad for one hour only. She has learnt that TV is for news and football matches. I changed myself too. I had to unwire myself first to get her out of overindulgence. Things are better now. Everything comes with some boon and some bane. Prudence lies in using the boon wisely. Cutting off completely and hiding in a cave is not the answer. Let’s act smart.  Kindly note the ingredients for unwiring your kids carefully –

One Disruption

Some Friends

One solid Time Table

A few Activities

Per day Unwired parent time

Some lies (Honey there is no Wi-Fi!)

Sufficient Stored (snipped) games/cartoon series (instead of non-stop TV with inappropriate commercial breaks)

The congruous mix of all the above may work wonders. Trust me.how i got success

Talking Points for Moms after Watching Smurfs – The lost village

This movie may prove to be a stopover for moms looking for a movie without any concealed negative messages.

Here are three pieces of cautionary advice before we move ahead and deliberate over what are the good points of the movie that can be discussed over the dining table or at bed time with your little ones.

Not for you if you are:-

  • A father and husband with anti-feminist opinions
  • Overthinkers
  • Either of the above two categories

Smurfs – the lost village is a giant leap in providing the due share to ‘yin’ in animated movies. However, earlier Smurfs have been scoring poorly on that account as there was one female character among five blue-dyed protagonists. Smurfette (the ‘she’ character) was brought into the all-male Smurf world to create chaos by goofy loony villain Gargamel. Indian soaps are not to be blamed alone for establishing women character as ‘chaos causing’. I had warned you earlier it is not for overthinkers.

Smurfette had a heart transformation. She turned from evil to good and instead of becoming an enemy, became an ally to Smurfs much to the dismay of Gargamel. Her heart changed and so did her hair from dark brown to blonde. Hey! Has this something to do with creating color biases like dark is evil, light is good. Am I overthinking?

In ‘Lost village’, Smurfette is on a mission. She muscles girl-power with grit and gumption. The story is about courage, team work and self-discovery. It also emphasizes on ‘he can do’ so ‘she can do’. We have been talking about ‘Beauty and the Beast’ having a feminist undertone. If ‘Beauty and the Beast’ can be defined as crooning of feminist songs then this movie of Smurfs and Smurfette belts out that song. Moms with daughters will enjoy this movie because of a strong ‘she- character’ who is curious, fearless and who is on a mission to find her identity.

Anyways let’s come down to the point. The talking points that moms can take up with kids after watching Smurfs – the lost village can be:

  1. What is so ‘unique’ about you?  

Welcome to the small world of Smurfs, full of slapsticks. There is a unique quality in each of them and so they are named after that unique attribute like

Hefty Smurf: He is strong and can do any work that requires physical strength.

Brainy Smurf: His name explains it all. He is an expert on every subject. He also has compiled volumes of books entitled “Quotations from Brainy Smurf”.

Sometimes children do get into the comparison mode and think what the other has is better or best. They lose sight of their own uniqueness.

Remember the story of the turtle “Jojo’ who was unhappy and wanted to be someone else. He takes the form of other animals to realize at the end that he is unique and learns to be happy with what he is.

This movie can be a good talking point on how everyone is unique. Its uniqueness of each individual that completes the world. Smurfette is feeling different and unworthy so she sets out to find her unique identity. Tell your little about his unique gift like ‘hey dear, you are good at playing cricket.’

 

  1. Courage: Smurfette and her team goes into the ‘forbidden forest’. They exhibit courage in following the mysterious map. In everyday life, we are faced with challenges and we have two choices every day, one to avoid that and cringe back. Second, is to face them and tame our fears. The movie explicitly shows how to face the challenges.
  2. Teamwork: It was team work of Brainy, Clumsy, Hefty and Smurfette that made the mission possible and they were able to outpace and outwit the rotten-teeth Gargamel. And yes, only evils have rotten teeth. That’s why mama tells you to brush twice daily.
  3. Gender roles: If your preschooler son has this notion that guns are for boys and dolls are for girls, make sure you take him to this movie.thQ3O2LG8W

 

Why Should You Watch Your Children’s Favorite Cartoon with Them?

The little Red Riding hood almost came under the sparkly claw of a wicked wolf because she did not pay heed to her mother’s advice about “Do not talk to strangers”.

It may sound bizarre, but if you step back and think, we have a window in our homes – the sweet “telly” – through which strangers of all kinds sneak into the minds of our children. They are intensely hued, have sweet tones and innocuous eyes. Cartoons are ubiquitous motifs, from the school bottle to the furrowed folds of diapers. Children cuddle them during bed time as soft toys and even want to eat junkies in anticipation of little toys that are offered with ‘kids meal’.

Children are so surreptitiously surrounded by umpteen unrealistic cartoon characters that there is no way to escape. Many of us see those cartoons reflecting in the way kids talk and behave; often we laugh it off and continue with the business of the day.

Many parents, and I am no exception to this, slide smartphones towards their children to stop their interruptions or to afford ourselves a break – because unfortunately, we don’t have a switch off button above the hip bone of our children. What should we do? We can neither cut TV /internet connection (it’s equivalent to cutting off oxygen supply!) nor can we leave them in the hands of these apparently harmless manipulators called toons. Leaving children completely to make sense out of what’s being shown is like allowing oneself to be fed anything and everything. You may not like that your child is fed sex, violence, bullying and cheating by being lured through those adorable animated little funny sketches.

So, let’s face them, sit by our child’s side and filter the things that reach his pliant mind, deflect what is not appropriate for him/her and bring the interiors to the fore by scraping off the garish and giddy exteriors. There are many benefits if you start sharing the fun of watching cartoons with your children. Instead of allowing toons to make their way into your child’s sponge-like mind, use them as a medium to benefit your child in making better sense of the world around.

  1. Screen time – best bonding time: Use screen time with children as a bonding time. Smartphones, tablets and TV are drifting us away to seclusion which is also responsible for why everybody feels so depressed and overwhelmed in spite of feeling “connected” all the time. There is less communication between parents and children. Watching cartoon together can bring up lots of topics to discuss about.
  2. Travel along in fantasy worlds, hold on to realism too: Elves and fairies with magic wands, gadgets to quickly raze any problem to the ground sets some unrealistic expectations in children and makes them look out for people and things to solve their problems instead of depending on hard work and acumen. The naïve mind of children aged between 3-6 cannot differentiate between real and unreal. We can save them from slipping into an unrealistic world and having unrealistic expectations by helping them understand what is ‘for the sake of creativity and fun’. The joy would be double if you travel with your kid in their fantasy world. Taking up the conversation later during meal time or play time is a good idea!
  3. Educate and increase awareness: There are many times during a course of an episode when a child’s curiosity is evoked. That’s the best time to educate them because they are more likely to connect and remember stuff. I remember there is an episode of ‘Octonauts’ where explorers and rescuer critters save a sea creature from mangroves. Later we did lots of research to learn about ‘mangroves’.
  4. Manage Screen time: It’s very important to set screen time which ideally should not be more than one hour per day. When you become a partner of your children, it becomes easy for you to manage their screen time. They look forward to the time when you are home from office to share the fun with them. Switching off the TV when you are watching together is easier than shouting from the kitchen or office area ‘ stop now’. When you don’t watch it with them they negotiate ‘half an hour more/one hour more’ or they stop listening to you altogether. Ah! Sad sides of parenting.
  5. 2 Positives and 1 negative: There is hardly any cartoon series which is enriched with goodness and positive messages only. Often our heckles are raised amid bouts of hilarity while watching them. For example: ‘Peppa pig’ is a nice, educational cartoon in many ways but the tantrums she shows and how she answers back to her parents is something I will not like to percolate down deep in my child’s behavioral anatomy. While watching, it is important to differentiate between right and wrong. You may say ‘I like Peppa is a curious little pig but I don’t appreciate the way she talks back at her parents.’

Disney has produced many stories where parents of the protagonist die early or are already dead. For example Nemo’s mom died, Alladin is an orphan, Little Mermaid’s mom dies and our latest recreation of ‘Beauty And the Beast’, Belle is motherless. The intention was probably to evoke more sympathy but it can also be read this way – “life is more fun and adventure without parents”, this may sound very fatuous but do think about this too.maxresdefault

Toon Bullies: Helping Kids Identify and Deal with Them

You might be reading this from either of the sides. Your kid is either a bully or he is being bullied. Both are equally worrisome. Bullies have existed ever since man walked on the face of the earth. Out of the first two sons of Adam, Cain was a bully. Wow! So, basically, bullies have a long standing. My last post (also my first on Toonymum) was about ‘Beauty and the Beast’, in which Gaston is a classic example of a bully. What is bullying anyway? My daughter was very fond of Doremon cartoon series which is quite a popular cartoon series among children. There is a character called Takeshi Goda aka Gian who is a sturdy guy. He easily gets angry and threatens neighborhood children especially the protagonist Nobita, of dire consequences if they don’t comply with his demands. He snatches away toys. He is a famous bully character and can serve as an example for children to identify a bully.

I never knew small kids can be awesome bullies until I became a mother. Like me, many of my friends who are mothers worry about bullying at schools and parks. Some of them have horrendous stories to tell. Children have friendship struggles and faces social cruelty at the hands of peers and schoolmates. At parks, you may have seen kids blocking the slide and allowing a discretionally chosen few. Or a kid threatening the one who ran faster than him to grab the swing. Or the big kid ostracizing some children from a group. It becomes very important to help our children identify what is bullying, how bad it is and what should be done to tackle it? Here is a short list of the famous bully cartoons.

Tom the he-cat: Tom is a blue/grey short-haired cat in the famous “Tom & Jerry” cartoon series. He sets traps, almost killing Jerry every time. But poor Jerry, who’s not so poor by the way, goes after Tom and digs ditches and bang pans on his head in a hippity-hoppity way.

Nelson muntzNelson is a student and a bully in Simpson series. He beats and terrorizes students and has a mocking laugh ‘Ha-Ha’. He has a dysfunctional family.

BlutoBig Bluto of Popeye series is a bully who annoys Popeye and keeps on creating troubles for him until Popeye eats his can of spinach and beats him black and blue.

Kalia: Big, rotund and strong Kalia of ‘Chota Bheem’ series is one guy who has two accomplices ‘Dholu and Bholu’ whom he bullies as he pleases.

Lotso: Lotso’s looks can be deceiving. He looks warm but he is a dangerous guy who has an army of loyal minions. He rules and orders and threatens everyone who dares do against his wishes.

The children who are bully themselves are struggling with some problem that needs to be identified. Lotso of the Toy Story was once a good bear but he was once lost by his owner and by the time he found his way home he saw another bear had taken his place which devastated him and he turned bitter towards others.

There are many such toon characters Eric Cartman, Jimbo, Pete, the step sisters of Cinderella who are menacing. Most of these bully toons were once good guys in the storyline and at many occasions they exhibit good traits.

Children don’t speak about being bullied but it can affect them damagingly. The little chicken was ridiculed for running amok yelling ‘the sky is falling’. The bespectacled little chicken had lost confidence. Do you know in poultry farms there is always a bully hen who pecks out other hen’s feathers? The bully hen does not allow other hens to drink water or eat grains. To maintain the peace of the coop the bully hen is put in an isolated cage. The solution in human species is a bit more complex. We have to work on unseen enemies like anger, social-deprivation, empathy and low self-esteem. Often bullies are lonely children who themselves were bullied too.

Keep the communication open with your kids. Speak more and ask more about their school and friends. It’s a great idea to watch your kid’s favorite cartoon with him. You will always get leads to talk further on any topic, for example if you watch Latso of Toy Story harassing and threatening others you may ask your child about it. Is it right to bully like Latso? Does he/she know anyone who is like Latso? Never advise your child to do ‘tit for tat’ as it may spin off in violence. Ask him to take help from school staff and hang out with other friends. Tell him it is the bully who is bad and weak, and not him. Restore his confidence through games and activities where he can learn ‘we lose some, we win some’. Assure him you are always there. For me, the mantra of “Connect, Listen and Guide” works brilliantly as a parent. What Mr. Jumbo , mother of Dumbo ( the big ears elephant) did ? She spanked Smitty-the bully. Smitty and his gang make fun of little elephant Dumbo. He called Dumbo ‘Klutzy elephant’ which made Mrs. Jumbo lose her temper and she grabbed him as he tried to run away. Mrs. Jumbo had her own toonish way of protecting Dumbo from bullying. Mum I am sure you will deal with it differently after all you are not mum Mrs. Jumbo.

bully-toons.png

What Moms Should Know Before Watching Beauty and the Beast with Their Kids

I personally think that Bill Condon has made the live action remake of Beauty and the Beast for millennials who were read this story to as children by their baby boomer parents; people who spent a considerable amount of life encountering real life beasts as they passed their engineering exams to land themselves that decent IT job. Jokes apart, if the remake of Jungle Book has set your expectations high and you are taking your kids under 16 to the movie, then it’s very important to know a few things before you buy them caramel popcorn at the theatre. For example, if you have not yet heard this news then let me take this privilege to tell you that Russia banned Beauty and the Beast for children under 16 because they have a federal law against ‘gay propaganda’ among minors. Does such a thing even exist? Well, the answer is yes, but if you blink your eyes more than how much you usually do while watching the movie, you are likely to miss it.

The beast has lots of hidden beauty and that is the underlying message of the movie. However, this moral lesson reaches after you are through with some flicks of violence such as snarling pack of wolves, mothers dying of plague, man thrown down to death and the beast lurching from one pillar to another with arrows in his back. The appearance of the bad boy Gaston cursed to become a leonine fellow can be a little too much for kids especially for those who have known Gaston as a ladybird in Ben and Holly’s Little Kingdom.

Much to add to the amusement, house items beautifully brought to life by the touch of technology – Mrs. Potts the teapot, Lumiere the candelabra and Cogsworth the clock. You will get to overhear Candelabra and feather duster talking of love flirting with and kissing each other.

In Hollywood and Bollywood movies alike, we have many storylines where the heroine falls in love with a ‘bad guy’ and her search for beauty in him trail blazes till the climax. Movies like GreaseReality Bites, and She’s All have this message. The underlying notion is that beauty is hidden in everyone – even the bad guys, and it yields to the care and bonding shown by the heroine. I have no particular issue with this theme except that it smells more of Stockholm syndrome as explained by psychiatrist Frank Ochberg who described the phenomenon of hostages developing feelings of love for their captors. Well, the latest beauty aka Belle is said to have been empowered but the end result of the story remains untouched, unchanged.

Belle is a motherless child. I wonder why all Disney heroines have one or both parents missing. It’s said most probably because Walt Disney himself was struck with this misfortune in childhood but does this justify his case to be killing – I mean absenting Disney characters’ parents?

There is subtle humor and profanity which is ‘okay’ for grownups but not suitable for small children. Like the scene where a woman grabs a man by his buttocks (I guess he was her husband!). There are too many women wearing low cut dresses and revealing their cleavages.

No doubt the movie is a delight for the eyes and also brings to life a story that was very close to many of us till these feminists brought their theories and distorted our focus. So mom enjoy it with your beast! Ahem I mean with your man, but is it good for your small kid? Take a call.

beauty-and-the-beast-2017