Raising an infant without Gina Ford

You know what they say about there being no hard and fast rules about child raising?

I don’t know, the further away I get from the beginning — or from when my little girl had just come into the world — the more unconvinced I am about that.

I have just read, and I must admit with some degree of envy, that a friend of a friend who has been blessed with twins has, with Gina Ford’s help, got the two little ones sleeping soundly at a stretch in the night by preventing the babies from nodding off whenever they please and also managing their feeds during the day.

I did hear of her when I was pregnant and I do remember flicking through her book briefly but I also remember feeling quite ill at ease with the very thought of imposing some arbitrary set of rules onto the infant who was yet to come. As though it was alright to assume control as parent and as though raising a child was about adhering to some other person’s, (no matter how famous and well-regarded), method.

But now when I’m reminded of those early days or actually the entire first year, I wonder if having introduced some amount of discipline in nap times and feeding would have helped me feel far less exhausted and given the little one a bit of a sense of structure.

I guess I’m still quite uncomfortable about viewing the parent-child dance as something that can be preempted or slotted into ready-made boxes, but what I do see very clearly now is that what a mother needs most as she is just recovering from the l o n g journey pregnancy is, and the hard, hard work deliveries end up being, is multiple sources of unconditional support and loving friendship. People and relationships that help her stay focussed on the crucial, intense and all-consuming experience as a mother — in whose having, a scepticism towards all methods — (no matter how certified) doesn’t feel foolish, foolhardy or overly optimistic.


A sentimental state of mind

It sounds like such sentimental trash. But it’s true. Old friends, true friends, good friends morph themselves to do and be exactly what you need when you reach out to them.

You could have last spoken to them years ago, last seen them a decade ago, last exchanged real news of each other’s lives even further away in time gone by, and yet, when you reconnect, all the good things are right there to be had, unconditionally.

Isn’t that amazing.

They will tell you the nice lies when needed — that the clothes look great, that the grey hairs peeking out suit you, that life is a shit, (sometimes!) that your choice of restaurant is impeccable even if they drove half way across town to get there — all in all, reassure you when you are all but crumpled, and make you feel like the best thing on earth when you have all but given up.

What would I do without them?

One day I shall perhaps flesh this out and give them names!

But until then, please know, all of you out there, whom I have been so inattentive to, for so many years, that without your love and support and ungrudging presence as and when I have called around, keeps me ‘on the path’, keeps me sane, keeps me happy, keeps me keen.

What more could I possibly ask for?!

A clash of cultures

Being on opposite sides of the work-flex debate probably only fueled our already obvious differences.

The head of editorial and production at a large publishing and printing-house began the exchange badly by asking whether I thought I was the only parent in all of Delhi who had a child at home.

And worse, actually said, with all sincerity, that a three-year old child did not deserve to be called little anymore.

The immediate cause of her ire was that I, despite being shortlisted for what she certainly thought was a hot job at her organisation as head of copy, had the gall to enquire if I could do half days simply because I did not want to be at the other end of this large, sprawling city for more than a couple of hours.

Now, a few hours after the rather unpleasant and unbecoming exchange, I can actually feel compassion for her. And I don’t at all mean it sarcastically. (Well, okay, a tiny bit…: )

I mean this is what all of us are drilled with day in and day out.

The cost of living is rising, a good education costs a lot, the older you get, especially as a woman, and even worse, as a mother, the less desirable you are to the work force, children need to get used to the harsh realities of the world and not be molly coddled, they can thrive equally well in the hands of an ayah and so on and so forth.

I can’t dare say the first few concerns don’t affect me but I am quite sure that suitable work, preferably not too far from home and preferably not full-day, will eventually work out.

Simply because things do have a way of working out.

Or so I believe so far.

And until then I can bask in the glory of being told by our favourite cab company’s head on the same day as this godforsaken job interview that he was very touched when I corrected the little three-year old when she called him (as a lot of people unfortunately in this culture and this city do), ‘driver’ — as though he were a job, not a person.

He said it had meant the world to him that there was at least one young child who was being taught to not mindlessly replicate the predominant abhorrent etiquette of addressing those considered beneath their class or station, by their occupation, rather than their names.


Simple vanities

About 10 minutes ahead of our young children’s arrival, we, a motley group of mums, in our mid to late 30s, gather together outside the school gates and have some of the most ingeniously compressed chats about how we are keeping up/coping with our still new selves as mothers.

Today, Radhika, mum of two, and adept civil and criminal lawyer, came wearing eyeglasses for the first time. When we enquired after the circumstances of this new acquisition she said in half jest that it was either too many hours spent wilfully in front of the idiot box late in the night or sleep deprivation. (The latter, in being a common affliction, didn’t even register a flicker of sympathy.)

But what did catch our attention was the former — and when we asked how she managed (as though it was an achievement) to even find an hour to watch the idiot box, on her own, late in the night, she said it was her detox therapy, her way of finding some much-needed ‘me-time’ after the children had been put to bed and after she had caught up with the day’s news with the husband who tended to get back from work, late.

She also confessed to gorging on hot chocolate fudge (yum, yum yum) originally bought and stored with the intention of sprucing up dessert for unforseen guests — during her nighttime sojourns!

Although I haven’t yet begun hoarding sweetmeats, I too remember having stayed up late one night watching a semi decent Hollywood flick with Bruce Willis — and enjoying it all the more because I got to do it on my own, in the house, with little T fast asleep and with this deep sense of contentment that I was doing something I loved without having to handover T to anyone or worrying about how she was doing, or feeling horribly guilty about doing something for myself.

And the only reason I haven’t repeated it much is because of how wrung out it had got me the day after — and pretty incapable of being a steady hand on board the parenting ship which made me cringe and fill up with unnecessary guilt.

But another favourite and convenient ‘indulgence’ we have discovered is a good haircut. And although most of us wistfully long for the luxurious after services that other women seem to indulge in after a hair cut such as a slow, time consuming, head massage, we are more than happy and grateful in knowing that we can have a haircut at all! For it is just the kind of one hour indulgence that fits perfectly into the three hours when our little ones are safe and happy at playschool and just the kind of ‘lift’ we seem to currently need to pay attention to our little girl selves that we have lost sight of in our ongoing busyness as mums to high energy toddlers — and a celebration of our respective vanities!

Precious, little one

It’s a funny thing, nearly every afternoon, when I try to get my little girl to settle down for a nap, the anticipation of a successful result and the funny exhaustion of trying to ‘seem’ nonchalant to her, does away eventually with my own ability to wind down for a little rest myself.

But on days like yesterday, when I am not distracted by unfinished chores or pressing editorial work, I get to marvel at the absolute beauty of watching a little person asleep.

At one point, I was especially drawn to her sleeping form because she was evidently watching a dream. Her arms twitched, her heavy eyelids darted about and her small perfect mouth mumbled something in a sweet, low, monotone. I lay down and put my head close to her, trying to make out what she was saying while watching her face closely, and I remember wondering while watching her like this, as though for the first time, who was this marvellous little creature??

A little later, the dream was over nearly as quickly as it had begun. She smiled as though in satisfaction, stretched, turned around, sprawled her arms and legs across the width of the bed, patted my hand and fell into sound, dreamless sleep.

Against the backdrop of the rush that mornings spent in getting ready for school have become, and the sparring that we as mother-daughter engage in about nearly everything, much too frequently nowadays, moments like these lift me up from the daily grind and remind me of how touching, humbling and elevating it is to have a chance at all at being a parent and being witness to a little life in all its moods and hues.

Hello world!

Like a fellow mum/blogger/writer wrote recently, I find motherhood strings me out physically but makes my mind “unusually fertile”.
So although I dont have the hours in a day to really sit down, shut the world out and write notes or chapters that may lead to a book, I do have this. An amazing space I can come to when I do have the time and energy to jot down some of the hopefully less irrelevant ramblings that swirl in my mind nearly all the time.
I hope to stay in touch with some of you I have known for nearly all my life and hopefully meet and make new friends, fellow bloggers/writers who are also possibly finding out that this is a great way to return to writing, something, anything, everyday.
Love and luck to all of you on your individual journeys in this mesmerizing world.