Special Needs

Did you know – those born with special needs, are at the same time also born with special skills, which most of us “normal” beings don’t possess.

Like we consider them needy, I am sure they consider us more so.

Unadulterated Adulation

Sometimes the Love that you have nurtured and held dear for a long time, has the capability to strangle you completely, till you are gasping for breath.

Going through that phase with Yog. His attention for me, and demands of attention from me, are leaving me completely perplexed. When I am at home, the only way to get two minutes to talk, eat or even pee seems like a luxury, a gift granted from God itself.

On one hand, I love the fact that he adores me so much. On the other, I wish there was a better form of adulation he could figure out.

Sense of Purpose

The smallest ant, the mightiest mountain, the farthest planet and even the darkest hole in the milky way is all there for a purpose.

Yet, most human beings, considered the most intelligent specie ever, live our lives on a daily basis without the sense of a positive purpose.

If that is what intelligence means, my request to God – I would like to go back to being an Ape.

Time to Focus

Just like we cannot replace 1 hour of daily exercise for 10 days, with 10 hours of continuous exercise in 1 day;

we cannot replace quality time spent with relationships on a daily basis, with years of continuous time together.

Some things flourish with just a little focus every day. If we don’t give that now, we can never hope to compensate for it later in life.

Lesson on Change Management from Yog

I seem to be re-learning all Project Management lessons from my children. After a session on perception management from Toyna, Yog taught me a very useful lesson on Change Management.

As Yog turned one year old, the pressure on me to give up infant practices and transition him into toddler ways started to build up. After his first birthday we took a small vacation and I made up my mind to start working with him on the transition, soon after we return. This meant weaning him from breast milk and formula to cows milk, stopping his bottle feeding and feeding in the middle of nights, not grinding his food and not having him watch TV while feeding. The list might seem simple to those who have never tended to babies, but I am sure most mothers would relate to how painful the transition can be.

I knew a couple of days ahead would be rough, and I was emotionally and physically prepared to take the stress. The day we came back from the vacation we were all completely exhausted but I made sure I live up to my commitment of starting the transition. I hid his milk bottles, trashed the remaining milk formula and gave strict instructions to everyone not to grind his food. As I expected, Yog refused to cooperate. He vomited whatever he ate, refused to drink cows milk or even water without his bottle.

A few days of howling, scratching, kicking went by and I realized it was not what I wanted. I stepped back, trying to gauge what I was doing wrong. I made a list of what were the most important things that had to be addressed first, and which could probably wait for a while. The top 2 things in my list were – No to formula and grinding of food. So I started with this. I reintroduced the bottle, but with cows milk this time. I even added a little sugar to milk to try and get Yog hooked on to it. For feeding, I re-initiated the TV sessions and made food soft enough for him to swallow without grinding.

Yog liked the sweet milk and started drinking that from his bottle. Over the period of next few days, I reduced to quantity of sugar in his milk bit by bit and he was off sweetened milk after about 10 days. As he got settled with drinking cows milk, I tried introducing the sippy cups and doing away with the bottle again. This time he did not resist. In fact he liked the sippy cups because the flow of milk was much faster in that.

As for eating food, as long as his cherished nursery rhymes were on, he gulped whatever came in front of him. After about 10 days again, he was adept at eating soft food which had not been ground. Now we initiated the process, of skipping TV during feeds and slowly got him distracted with books, toys and other activities.

Yog is now almost 14 months old and I can say the transition has been complete and more or less successful. Through this whole exercise, I learnt the following lessons from Yog on change management:

1. Keep your priority list simple. Identify one or two things to address first before setting eyes on other priorities.

2. It is Ok to introduce small evils (like sugar), in order to get rid of bigger evils (like formula).

3. Change need not always be painful. It can be fun and exciting as well, if introduced in the right way (like sippy cups)

4. Successful change management is not so much about your level of preparedness, but more so about the level of acceptability in the recipients of the change. (just after tiring travel was a wrong time to start the transition)

5. Another learning, not necessarily about Change Management, but about hiring. When trying to hire good quality Project Managers, organizations should look at hiring women who have been mothers. Believe me they have lived through some extreme projects in their lives.

Lesson on Perception Management

Lesson on Perception Management from Toyna:

Yesterday evening, I was trying to win a debate on food choices for Toyna. In order to make her feel she was in control of her choices, I said, “I even ask you each day what you want for your school tiffin. And I give you just that, then how can you say I don’t let you decide what you want to eat.”

Her prompt answer, “You ask me what I want for tiffin, because you can’t think what to make for me!!”

I literally had my mouth open for a few seconds as I soaked in her perspective to all my hard work.

Learning about the World

Morning walks with Yog have now transformed from “Learning to Walk” exercise, to “Learning about his World” exercise. We walk less, but stoop more to pick up things from the road. He feels almost every fallen item on the road to explore its colour and texture. If there is something very interesting (usually a stone or a shiny wrapper), he decides to sit down on the road or on the mud alongside the road to give the item its full attention. In the initial days, I used to worry about hygiene and infections, but I figured the amount of learning involved for him in this whole exercise is much more than the possibility of him contracting an infection. Nonetheless, to keep my mother’s anxiety at bay, we have timed his baths to just after his walks, so we can scrub him off all the germs that he has so lovingly explored.

Today, as he sat down on the road rubbing his hands in the mud and pebbles, a lady walked up to us with a look of complete disapproval. By her attire and accent, I could make out that she belonged to one of the slum communities that we have near our house. She looked at me and said, “Can’t you see your son is sitting on the road?”. I was surprised by her tone of voice and was taken aback a little. My response was brief and curt, “Yes, he is sitting on the road! So..?” She gave me an exasperated look and walked away. I realize she was trying to tell me that my son can fall sick by so many germs surrounding him. I am guessing in her mind, she assumed that people with intellect and money should not indulge in primitive games like this. For the lesser privileged children, they didn’t have a choice but to run and play on the roads. But how could I, educated female of the modern era, have my sun exposed to so many germs?

While coming back home, I had this constant thought running in mind – Does the possession of education and monetary resources mean that we have to live our lives away from the ground? Just because my son can have all the toys he desires, should I deny him the enjoyment of rolling in the mud and picking up stones? More than the enjoyment involved, I seriously believe such activities immensely aid in the development of motor skills of young children and help them learn about their world. Should I deny him this essential learning, because I have been fortunate to be educated?

As we grow up the ladder of education, innovation and success, I so wish we could keep our lives simple, as close to the ground as possible. Yog loves it for now and I hope I am able to keep it this way for some more years to come before the world of technology floods him.

Walking and Falling

After a month of holding hands with Yog and religiously walking around, Yog finally started walking on his own. Watching him grow towards taking his first few steps on his own has been a significant journey for all of us.

In the early days of trying to walk, he lost his balance once and fell hard. Ever since that day, he became skeptical of walking. Somewhere in his mind, he associated walking with falling and getting hurt. In the last month, we all knew he was capable of walking on his own, but he wouldn’t let go of our hand. For him, the fear of falling was way stronger than the joy of walking on his own.

A lot of times, people on the street looked at him as if something was wrong with him. After all, kids his age walk on their own. It didn’t matter to him and it didn’t matter to me what others thought. I knew he would get there at his own pace sooner or later.

The transformation from those days of not letting go of my finger to now, when he refuses to catch our hand even when we know he is about to fall, is one of the most memorable journey we will ever embark. As we step out of the boundaries of our home, he leaves our hand and runs forward out on the road. He is still wobbling around on his feet, so we are often scared he is going to fall and get hurt. He probably knows it too, but that doesn’t stop him from wobbling and running around at the same time. Every 10-15 shaky steps later, he falls down on the road. We instantly get concerned, but he steps up as quickly as he fell down and starts to run again. All over the street there is a platoon of people trying to catch him, to stop him from running (more so from falling). But he hates to be held on to. He wants to run, catch the flower, pat the dog, or chase the motorcycle whizzing by.

After a few days of trying to prevent him from falling, I gave up. By now, I had realized an important lesson in life – in order to learn how to run, it was also equally important to learn how to fall. Even though Yog is still learning how to run, he has pretty much mastered the art of how to fall. Whenever he is about to fall, he either uses his hands or his soft bouncy diaper to cushion him from the fall. “Falling”, for him is as natural a process as Walking. Some times, when he falls down, he sits on the road and claps his hands, congratulating himself for having fallen down.

I wish, as adults, we are able to remember this lesson, we all went through as children. I wish we are not scared of falling, when we are trying to run.

Working Mother

I think I can make a generic comment on behalf of working mothers:

While others look forward to going back home, after a long day at work, we look forward to going to work after a long winding morning to catch up on our peace of mind.

No matter how crazy work is, it will always be more relaxing than the chaos at home.