Do you have a doll at home.. Boy mom?

Toys have no gender🚺🚹 , they have no idea whose playing with them, a girl or a boy . Nor do the kids … they don’t think of their own gender before they start playing with a toy …. till we adults intervene. And either joke about boys with dolls and label girls as Tom boys when they are playing with cars.Making them wonder about gender too soon.

It’s up to us parents, kids do what they see and gender discrimination in toys is an age old accepted norm. We need to commit ourselves to keep this gender conversation open. Even if we have understood how harmful it can be, we still have a world full of marketers who put gendered marketing techniques to sell their stuff and then there are neighbours, peers and older people in our children’s life. What I have done in my capacity as a child developmentalist is to constantly remind my son, his friends , cousins, grandparents, and everyone around us who would listen that there is no such thing as boy stuff and girl stuff. It is high time that we change the narrative all around and hence I have been trying to reach as many people as I can through Lilsakos, a gender neutral space I have been building for last six months. https://www.instagram.com/lilsakos/

One issue of not giving our boys dolls to play makes me especially angry. If we can love a man rocking a baby or a doting father changing diapers , why do so many squirm or bully boys with dolls. Seeing a father caring for a baby makes us miss a beat and invoke a emotion in us. So why, when we like men to be sensitive and caring ,why do we discourage small boys to cry, play with dolls and never ever think how harmful our expectations from little boys are.

See below four powerful reasons that will convince you to let your boys and girls both play with dolls:

  1. It will help raise empathetic kids irrespective of their gender. A doll can be a great way to role play situations, talk about feelings or simply learn how to care for something.
  2. Dressing up dolls is good for fine motor skills of kids. The buttoning, zipping is good practice for them to learn to dress themselves up.
  3. Caring for a doll can be used to show kids how to hold someone smaller than them or how to be gentle with them. A doll can help a kids get prepared for a new baby sibling.
  4. Many of us women grew up playing with dolls, but not too many men did. We need to give dolls to our little boys to debunk the age old idea that caring is a woman’s job. Just like dolls prepared us to be moms, dolls can prepare boys to be dads.

Are your kids intrinsically motivated?

What do you think is better?

To remind kids to study , read , make their schedules and continuously be after them to follow YOUR plan.

OR

Let kids be free to make their own schedules, study , read etc on their own.

We got it right somewhat , beyond the initial years our children studied and read on their own , reminded me the timings of drop off for their activities. Some days were good , some frustrated me a lot to see them whiling away time , not sticking to their own routines but it all ended up great. As we have two intrinsically motivated young adults doing pretty well for themselves in college now. Not that any of this was easy but in hindsight making kids not dependent on praise and rewards worked. Not that they didn’t mind when their friends were rewarded by holidays, air pods, clothes and new phones. They did crib but we always told them the same thing consistently – that they are studying , doing well, making sense of their lives for their own good and not for us. We always believed in them to be their best versions and rewards were never a topic of discussion. They are grown up now and know that if they need something which is worthwhile and important for them , they just have to ask. Hence doing well in school and college,being kind and sensible are not negotiable or could ever warrant an award.

One of the things we did was to motivate them to think for themselves. We avoided praising them , instead always valued their effort. Describing what you see rather than praising helps our kids to grow, makes them autonomous, genuinely interested in things and feel intrinsically motivated. Praise like “You are so smart!” can leave a child at a loss when they don’t do well. Using “You CAN be” instead of “You ARE…” tells a child the effort and hard work can help them grow. See the following slide show to see some examples of how to use descriptions instead of praise.

What did you do for someone else today darling?

Some stories touch the deepest parts of your heart. Aditi Chaudhary’s did that to mine. I had the privilege of meeting her and hearing her talk at #imaginewithcf- Parenting with courage event. I haven’t yet seen the film ‘ The Sky Is Pink’ and wanted to write this before real Aditi Chaudhary became a reel character for me.

Aditi Chaudhary with Shailaja Sen@imaginewithcf

What does losing a child mean?Even a thought of a pain like that makes me miss a lot of beats in my heart…. i don’t think any of us can ever know exactly what dies in you to have a child like Aisha and living on an edge everyday. Aditi & Narain Chaudhary’s story of courage and looking at death in it’s face and accepting the reality, making it into a life purpose of helping others and giving back…… has changed something inside me.

Snippets of Aditi’s talk that left me awe struck:

” When Aisha asked me if she would still be alive at Christmas, I told her I don’t know if anyone of us will be alive till then”. Isn’t that true how do any of us know if we will live till Christmas.

” I have started feeling achievement is a dirty word. Do we ever ask our kid- what did you do for someone today darling”? Isn’t that true how we always want our kids to succeed , success and achievement is revered in our society. Aisha has gone but her motivational talks are still inspiring many to make stem cell donations. Aditi, her mother is now a mental health worker & activist who helps people through their emotional struggles. Narain, her father still sings in fund raisers to raise money for charitable organisations.

‘We grieved the loss of her life even before she passed away. But one day we woke up and made a resolution and we said we may not have the years but we will seize the moment…We will keep her happy” . Isn’t that true , no matter how long we live, it’s the moments we seize is what counts in our well being.

 “I don’t feel like she’s gone. I have a great sense of loss but I feel a lot of gratitude. I feel blessed that I have a child like Aisha. The strife has shaped us into the people we’ve become.” We run from adversity and yet it is always the tough times that shape us into our best versions.

AND another one from Aditi’s world, which resonates with my parenting sensibilities and what I do too is I tell my kids often ” No one can tell you which colour your sky should be. You are the one who paints your own sky.”

Hats off to you Mom..

Let’s all let our kids paint their own sky…

Let’s accept our kids as their own little persons….

Let’s parent with courage …

Let’s inlcude giving back in our achievement graphs….

Let’s inspire kids to give back…

Saakshi Kapoor Singla

(Aisha was the daughter of Aditi, a mental healthcare worker and Niren Chaudhary, the president of South Asia operations of Yum Brand. She had an elder brother named Ishan Chaudhary, a music composer. She was born with an immunodeficiency disorder. When she was 6 months old, she had to undergo a bone marrow transplant as a side effect of the medical therapy following bone marrow transplant, she developed a serious illness called pulmonary fibrosis a type of condition that causes irreversible scarring of the lungs.Aisha Chaudhary was giving inspirational talks on various platforms since she was 15. She was named an INK Fellow and spoke in the 2011 and 2013 INK Conferences.Aisha was also a speaker at TEDxPune in 2013. She wrote a book called My Little Epiphanies (2015)( that got released one day before her death) which included her thoughts about life and also wanted people to know about her journey that could help others going through such hardships in life Her book, Aditi and Narain’s story has helped in awareness for Stem Cell Donations )( credit: wikipaedia)

Ada Lovelace Who?

Lilsakos was at Green Crusaders market last Sunday. Showcasing at a place where you end up meeting like minded parents, your kind of kids and see some examples of parenting done right is what makes this job I do amazingly interesting.

Green crusaders market is a sunday market in Noida that encourages green organic , meaningful companies to come out and display their passionate business ideas and products. The ambience and energy here is very different from the mall visits families are stuck with because of few available outdoor options in the city. When your work gets to you to meet the right audience it makes all the hard work worthwhile. I met some fabulous parents and kids who were thrilled to see Lilsakos products tickling their kids brains.

Lilsakos Achievers Coasters were the heros or should I say sheros of the display on Sunday. Ada Lovelace coaster was recognisable by a few kids and it became a wonderful conversation starter and we ending up discussing Charles Babbage, first computer, Ada being the first computer programmer in the world and lots more. Ada who? came from a few parents who lost out on undertanding the conversation. They also pledged to read up on her and went back appreciating the thought behind the inspiring products. Lilsakos is also proud to have a young fiesty budding designer who likes stories where girls save themselves and has designed some fabulous wall art to inspire kids that got rave reviews too.

Another hit product was the bathroom ettiquette wall art. Lots of parents engaged and discussed the perils of toilet trining, how important it is to put up signs that help in building good habits and help in educating about importance of hygiene in their kids.The continent cushions and continent coasters always find buyers who love to travel. Lilsakos has the essentials like bath, decor, accessories, mini learners products and also some not the usual kind of merchandise. These aren’t mainstream or focus on how kids look,these look beyond and* aren’t tiaras and bows,

* instead are conversation starters about the 🌎 , inspiring people & ideas,

* designed to make home environment more and more stimualting,

*made with love to motivate kids to be their unique selves &

*and inspire them to dream and work towards their dreams and read stories like that of Ada Lovelace, Emelia Earheart, Serena Willaims, Indra Nooyi etc

*there are no pink & blue brains here

*it’s a mighty little place for little strong, adventurous and kind kids and their conscious parents.

Saakshi Kapoor Singla

Rome wasn’t Built In a Day!

Growth Mindset comes from our willingness to put ourselves outside our comfort zone. Nothing is easy at least not as easy as staying at one place- being where we are and where we have always been.

There are lots of people who are willing to take the entrepreneural plunge out there & it was heartening to meet some of them during the TIE Start up Expo in Gurgaon last week. Buzzing entrepreneurs- some young & some not so young with stars in their eyes were talking about their wonferful ideas. Amazing elevator pitches, many worthwhile mentoring sessions and a hall full of many dreamers and some doers.  Inspiring success stories from the founders of companies which started just as some small ideas like Chayos, Biryani by Kilo ,Beer Café ,India Mart, Make My Trip.

 Loved every bit – What made these entrepreneurs tick?

How it isn’t easy?

How it isn’t for the faint hearted?

How money doesn’t mean success is guaranteed?

And a reminder that Rome wasn’t built in a day.

Lessons Worth Remembering for me & Worthwhile enough for kids – yours and mine both!

  • Go out, invest time in your learning, take more courses and read about/listen to inspiring people.
  • Your own conviction in your idea matters not the idea so much
  • There are many people with ideas but only some have the courage to go all the way.
  • Seek a mentor, accept that you can’t know it all
  • Don’t expect quick results, hard work but done smartly is only thing that works.
  • Stick to it, perseverance is the only way to success.
  • Give your dreams all you’ve got, and you’ll be amazed at the energy that comes out of you.

Walking outside my comfort zone is tough for me and I surprise myself every time the jitters push me forward towards a road less travelled. When in trouble, I sometimes curse myself for not staying put and taking it easy but what makes me go still is that i know my kids are watching. They might not see me succeed but they have to see me try at least. And it has helped as my kids are becoming thinking people, propelling themselves to grow and evolve always. Only problem is that when they are walking out of their comfort zones, the mother in me has bigger jitters & and they do that a little too often for my fragile little heart.

Rome surely wasn’t built in a day…It just was made by people who had a growth mindset.

Does Experience battle youth in your house too?

Remembering the times when as a teen , young adult and a new mom, I used to hear older people talk about how they know better because of the sheer number of years they had lived more than me. It used to infuriate me a little too much. What can a young person say in defence to someone’s grey hair ?

While growing up, my home used to turn into a battle ground sometimes. Voice of youth is shriller, more arrogant and supposedly more surer. So whenever there was an argument -there was only one winner and that was me. Looking back I realise, my parents didn’t seem to want to win the battles , instead always had a smile on their faces and calm in their eyes. I DIDN’T REALISE then that they always had an upper hand in our arguments because they unlike me had experienced youth and crossed over to another stage of life.

Got thinking about this today after so long and God am I amused? With many grey strands desperately trying to peep out, I am not young anymore. How much ever we middle aged people tell ourselves that age is just a number… we are getting older. Our society teaches us to compare often and use positive or negative adjectives like young is great,old is not, fat is bad and thin is good. But I am old and insist I am good too.

Why the philosophical rant today? I am here at my son’s college..came to settle him in his apartment. Second year college, he has settled well, found the balance and all is going good. He and me have come a long way in understanding how futile our arguments were an year ago. The battle of experience and youth has come to a consensus… it’s a tie as we both have what the other doesn’t. And nothing is more important than the other.

Last year was full of anxiety as my experienced self knew this won’t be easy but my young adult had confidence in his youth. I remember after endlessly ranting a very long list of advice and instructions, my son asked me this, ” How can you say all this will be a problem and what I should do or not do, if you have never studied in America, away from home in this particular university?” I stopped dead in my tracks and shook myself up to the reality of what he said to me. Because what he said was true, but what was also true that experience told me to keep quiet and stay close emotionally because something that young people think is easy peasy… is the one that makes them learn nothing can’t be taken for granted. AND THEN THEY UNDERSTAND WHAT EXPERIENCE MEANS AND HOW IT HELPS.

Second year and I am back here again, looking at many anxious parents giving a long list of instructions and telling their experiences to their freshmen and freshwomen here. Me & my Son, we are looking around and finding it difficult to dig our smiles because we know their battles have just begun and ours are almost over.

I understand now that my experience knows a little better but not everything as circumstances, places and ideas are all different in this new world. Also since my son is born in a different era, my experience cannot help as much as I thought. He has to make his own experiences count. And I accept that I don’t know more because I am older.

He understands that just confidence doesn’t do it, it’s the insights he carries forward of both good and not so good experiences that matter. And Mom is sometimes right if not all the time in a few points on that old instruction list she ranted millions of times.

With Love from a Middle Age Mom, who is happily growing old, BECAUSE OLD IS GOOD- no exams , no running , no self consciousness, no proving to someone my worth anymore and yes loads and loads of experience!