Food for thought…

A newly-married friend walked in to my place with her husband. I was feeding my son.

The couple looked at each other and burst out laughing.

“We’re sorry!” they said. “But whenever we see you, you’re always feeding your son! Why are you so obsessed?!”

Her husband asked me, “I’m just a bit curious. Will you become very depressed when he grows up and start eating on his own?”

I looked at them perplexed. Am I really so obsessed? I wondered. Maybe a little…

Come on, who am I kidding?

Of course, I am.

In the big book of maternal guilt, feeding your child is the opening chapter! Right from the day he was born, I worried if he was getting enough nutrition. I don’t know about others, but I just didn’t think I was competent enough to be responsible for a little person’s well-being…

I still remember the day I took him to the pediatrician for his first month review. He was only 2.6 kilos at birth. I waited with bated breath as she placed him on the weighing scale. It was like waiting for an exam result for me.

“4 kilos!” He’s almost doubled his birth weight!” She announced. I collapsed with relief.

Now I realise, I haven’t grown out of that phase yet. My son being a fussy eater and being so skinny does not help either.

Veiled comments from elderly relatives send me automatically to monster-mom mode. I bully, rave and rant till my son finishes his last morsel that day.

I suppose this is a very Indian trait. I don’t see this abroad at all.

From what I hear, nobody spoon feeds a baby after a year in the west. They let him/her make a mess, but the baby feeds itself. And if they go hungry, well, they just eat better the next day.

Someone even told me the best way to train my son is to leave the food in front of him for 20 minutes. And remove it after that, regardless of whether the child has eaten or not.

He may not lick the plate clean on the first day, but will soon realise that the meal will have to be over in 20 minutes.

Can you imagine an Indian mom doing that?!!

She’ll be the centre of all bitching sessions in her entire clan…

Can I bring myself to do that?

On good days, I cajole him, run behind him, switch on the TV, do anything for him to open his mouth during meal time…

And on bad days, I’m a monster-mom!

Forget me.

Even days before her death, my mother’s first question to me when I enter her hospital room was, ‘Have you eaten?’ Regardless of the time of the day! I had to tell her what I’d eaten and only then she’ll relax.

Maybe Indian mothers are wired that way!

A friend told me that undue importance is given to food in India.

The reason, he says is that we were a famine-ridden country for many centuries before the agricultural & Industrial revolutions.

Here, in any communal gathering, food plays the most important part. Even now with all the affluence, I see people running to the dining hall whether the muhurtham is over or not. Some one just has to say “Sappadu Ready!”

The first Pandhi is always the most coveted.

And when someone drops in unannounced during meal time, people get annoyed. ‘Vandhuttan par, sapadra nerathile’ This, my friend tells me is because centuries ago, we did not have food to share with others.

I read somewhere that food was medicine in those days. They had different food for different seasons, a particular order to consume the food and even specific food for specific times of the day.

The food they ate kept our ancestors healthy. When someone fell ill, the medicine was from his/her own kitchen. Kashayams, otthadam, patthhu, etc took care of the various aches and pains.

A friend even told me each of us should stick to the food we’ve been eating for generations.

“Look at the Keralites.” She said. “If we consume coconut oil like them, our cholestral levels would hit the ceiling. But their genes are programmed to handle it”

And once I was on a salad diet (For exactly 5 hours! I was so hungry by 3 pm, I had to order in a masala dosa!) she said, “Your genes are not wired to handle a salad diet,” she lectured. “That’s for people from very cold climates”.

So now whenever my husband starts bugging me to stop eating rice at nights to stop my burgeoning waistline, I tell him, “Sorry, I have to eat rice. My genes are not programmed to digest anything else!”

Oops! its 11 pm! I lost track of time! Have to go for that steaming hot rice with a dollop of ghee with avarakkai sambhar!

Goodnight!!

Lost Lessons…

After a child-abuse scare in my son’s previous school, a friend urged me to educate him on such issues.

‘Isn’t he too young to understand?’ I asked her, ever the non-confronting type.

‘Kids are never too young to be warned about these things,’ she replied wisely. ‘I had this talk with my daughter when she was barely two. You don’t need to get into gross details. Just tell him that someone touching his private parts is a strict no-no. If anybody tries to, tell him he must tell you about it.’

‘Hmmm.. Okay,’ I nodded thoughtfully.

‘Look, unless someone tells him its wrong, he’ll just think that’s the way things are,’ she explained. ‘Its up to us as parents to let the children know the difference between what’s right and what’s wrong. So just do it so your son does not suffer in silence’

That really pushed me into action.

I wondered for a long time about how to open the topic with him.

One fine day I just wanted it over with.

I sat near him while he was busy playing with his power-ranger toys.

I thought I’d be casual about the whole thing.

‘Did you go to the bathroom in school today?’ I asked, as I picked up a Red ranger toy.

‘Yes.’ he replied.

‘Did anyone come with you?’ I asked

‘No’ he said as he snatched his Red Ranger from me.

‘That’s mine!’

‘Okay!’ I said , tempted to lecture him on sharing instead.

He continued his fight, unmindful of my presence.

‘Listen,’ I said, ‘Don’t let any one touch your weewee or bummy, okay?’

The fighting stopped abruptly.

‘Why, Amma?’ he asked.

‘Because its wrong,’ I replied.

‘Really?’

‘Yes’

After a long pause, he turned to me wide-eyed and said, ‘But I touch my weewee everytime I go su-su… That’s wrong?’

Maybe I should have left this responsibility to his father, I thought with gritted teeth.

…………………………….

This time I wanted to warn him about kidnappers and such.

Someone offered him a chocolate when we went out. Clearly that person was being friendly. But what if someone with a not-so-good intention offered him the same?

So as we were driving back I told him that there are some bad people who give chocolates to small children.

‘Why?’ he asked.

‘So they can carry them away and lock them up’, I replied.

Stony silence.

‘If someone you don’t know offered you a chocolate, what should you do?’ I asked him after a while.

‘I’ll say Thank You’

‘NO!’ I screamed. ‘You’ll not take it from him. What if he’s a bad man?’

After much contemplating, all he had to ask me was

‘Does the bad man have nice, big yummy chocolates?’

I give up.