Thursday, June 28, 2012

School buses and safety

This morning, the newspapers had the story of yet another school child coming under the wheels of his own school bus and dying. The heart breaks to read these instances. School bus accidents causing injury and even death of the very students they are supposed to ferry around have become a regular feature. Most of these accidents are caused when the buses are reversing or picking up or dropping the kids back at their homes. Or in the case of that unlucky child, due to critical head injuries caused when his head accidently hit a banner on a lamp post because he stuck his head out the bus while it was reversing.
The most disturbing thing about all these accidents is that they have mainly been caused by negligence.
School bus norms have been put in place, and these will be legislated by July 31 according to news reports. The state has also initiated a sensitizing programme to train bus drivers in basic safety norms. But the norms are clearly not enough.
The brat doesn't go by school bus. I pick and drop him up myself, despite the fact that this severely limits my workday. This isn't always practical, of course, if one lives far from school or if one is a working parent and I do understand that. And it isn't the solution. I chose to do the school pick and drop for reasons other than school bus safety, and more for the sake of convenience, especially given that he does go for post school activity four times a week and that timing does not have a bus pick up. And I shudder at how the ubiquitious van wallahs handle the children, shepherding them like cattle across the trafficked street that the school is in, and with the kids raising Cain, oblivious to the clear and present danger of getting mowed down by oncoming traffic.
I see kids from various schools getting off from their buses and walking off home on their own. And these are tiny tots. Barely five or six years old. No adult escorting them back home. Some of them start walking off without looking whether the buses are reversing in order to turn out of the lanes. In our previous building where this happened, the child was a latchkey child, barely six, and luckily we had good security staff who ensured that the child reached his home safely, and any other mothers who happened to be at the gate kept an eye out too. But it terrified me.
Call me anxiety prone, but I do believe as much as it is the school's job to ensure there are responsible trained attendants in the bus, there should be a responsible adult to pick a child younger than 10-12 from the gate.
As parents we need to be more proactive in insisting that the school authorities have drivers who are trained as well as trained attendants in the bus. Some schools ensure that a couple of teachers are in each and every bus and that helps ensure the children behave and attendants are more watchful. We need to ride occasionally in the school buses to see how they deal with the children, how careful the drivers and attendants are, report rash drivers, keep an eye out if we come across instances of unsafe parking, reversing and such instances. We need to check the buses for wire mesh on windows to ensure the kids can't put their heads, hands, etc out. Our children travel in these, if we don't pay attention to potential danger in these, who will?
But first we need parents who are aware and concerned about child safety. We have parents who pick up their kids from school and let the kid stand half out through the sun roof while they zip away with foot applying great pressure on the accelerator. Because it is cool. Parents who walk with the child on the side facing oncoming traffic. Parents who aren't bothered about the importance of ensuring the child has a helmet if on a two wheeler or if the toddler is sitting in the front seat without wearing a seat belt. We even have parents who keep their babies in their laps while they drive. I've seen these and more and I despair.
And until us parents don't start getting more particular about our children's safety, I don't see much changing. As for these school buses and the poor children who have come under them, my heart goes out to their parents. No one should lose a child to such mishaps. 

Tuesday, June 26, 2012

My life doesn't revolve around you

When the brat was little, I admit, my life did revolve around him. Every waking moment was spent in spending time with him, attending to his needs, keeping him fed, clean, healthy, happy. I put career on hold. No, I gave up career completely. I became full time, hands on mom. And despite my declaration to myself that this was a choice I made willingly, a little part of me was just that bit resentful.
A couple of years ago, I decided I needed to start reclaiming my life. The child was in school, he had his friends, he had his post school activities. When he was home, he was with his books, with television, with PSP, or with his gang of friends. I was starting to get empty nest pangs in advance. Luckily for me, I wrote a book in this period and it got published. I got back to regular work. I began going out, meeting up with friends, making my me time non negotiable. The child now knows that mamma has a life and a social circle that is not dependent on his schedule. She has things to go to, people to meet, events to attend, which the child needs to accept. And he has. Without even a tenth of the fuss I thought he would put up. Of course, he has his paternal grandmother to watch over him, and his maternal grandmom as occasional back up. But he's not too perturbed about not being the whole and sole of my focus these days. He's been calm about me travelling for over a week at a stretch. He's cool about me spending my entire weekends doing readings and barely spending any time with him. He knows that I love him and I will be back. And that has made me a better, a happier mother.

And I read this on my Facebook timeline today and it instantly resonated with me. 

"my mother also gave a great gift to my brother and me: she always made it clear that she wasn’t sacrificing her life for us.   From the time we were small, our mother always took time for herself.  She had her poetry group, her work with the League of Women Voters, and other social and community activities in which we were not involved.  Now mind you, she was a loving and devoted mom!  My brother and I grew up knowing we were cherished and protected and cared for.  But we also knew that our mother did not exist merely to meet our needs — she had a mind of her own, wants of her own, and she was going to make time for herself as well as for her sons."

Read the rest of this post here and tell me what you think.

Monday, June 25, 2012

Mamma's little helper

This weekend, Mamma and brat went off for OT. Yes, OT has begun again thanks to the school's insistence that the brat needs it for specific issues and if it helps him, who is Mamma to argue. Post OT, we needed to return an umbrella to a store in Inorbit because it wouldn't shut well, and ergo we took ourselves to Inorbit. The previous day had been Mamma's birthday and Mamma was clutching onto a wad of cash generously gifted by family to go forth and buy herself some gifts. Mamma was all set to go screaming into the stores to pick out stuff for herself but she hadn't factored in the brat premise. He had different plans. They started with Ferrari Ki Sawaari, went on to KFC and then ended with a WWE Randy Orton action figure. Shopping for Mamma's birthday presents didn't figure in this plan at all. Mamma figured out it would be simpler to let him have his way and return some other time, unencumbered by him to do her shopping.
So Ferrari Ki Sawaari was seen, KFC was ingested. Crossword wandered into to check for WWE PSP games and such like. Post which the brat, sated with the joy of having had his day, said, "Come on Mamma, led us shop fer you. What you wantu buy?"
Mamma's jaw clunked to the ground and she blinked her eyes rapidly in disbelief. "Yer want to buy new klodz?" he asked, "I will help you tu choose!"
And there he was a whirlwind of activity in the clothes racks, picking out tops, checking the size, checking the price tags and handing across the ones he felt fitted both mamma and her budget. Yes, Mamma ended up buying two from the ones he selected. When he grows up and has girlfriends, I hope they thank me on bended knee for bringing up a boy who actually is a help to a girl in her shopping.

Monday, June 18, 2012

Main bhi Sachin...

The brat had to dress up as his favourite achiever for school today. Given his current penchant for WWE, I thought the demand would be to go as John Cena, given he has the requisite Rise Above Hate and Hustle Loyalty Respect Tshirts and matching caps. The three fourth length trousers I thought I could manage by chopping up an old pair upto his knee. Voila. Trust mamma to find the easiest solution to any stressful situation. But the brat, as usual, had other ideas.
"I wantu go as Shahrukan. In Ra.One. Like G.One. Wid d kostuum."
Son. Shahrukh Khan also wears regular clothes in the rest of the movie, you could try that. No, he was firm, foot stomped on the ground firm that he wanted to go as G.One. I tried hard to explain that he had to go as the person and not as the character and fished out pictures of Shah Rukh Khan in regular life, fighting with Wankhede guards, cartwheeling on cricket grounds and explained to him that Ra.One was a character not the achiever. He thought about it. Hard. Wrinkled brow et al. "Den can I wear d Chammak Chalo kostuum?"
No. "Okay, den I'll be Shahrukkan in KKR tshird."
Ermm. Darling child, I attempted yet again. Aren't there other achievers you can go as. Think hard, I exhorted him. Read through the newspapers. What about Mahatma Gandhi? Pandit Nehru? "No, I'll have to wear no klodz for MahatmaGandhi and fer Pandit Nehru, I'll have to wear big overcoat with churidar and topi. Wid a rose. Eveyone vil laffatme."
I scanned by brains for another achiever from the des he could be, who was an easy look. Finally, I resigned myself to him going in a shirt with a black pant and bowtie hanging open round his neck.
He woke up this morning with a brainwave. Like a man on a mission, he stomped past me and went to his cupboard, opened it wide, threw all the clothes within into a heap on the bed, as is his norm when he wants to search for something to the sound of my wailing in the background about how I'd just settled the damn cupboard the previous day. He dug out a Mumbai Indians Tshirt and tracks and went in for his bath. He had made up his mind, and was not asking for any inputs from me.
Finally, when he was in gear, and dragging along his very heavy wooden bat, he decided to enlighten me. "I'm being Sachin Tendulkar. Now he made his hair straight, like mine."

Sunday, June 10, 2012

And its a week since school started...

A little less than a week to be honest. But we have got back into the flow pretty smoothly, including the token five minutes of tantrumming in the mornings because we dont want to get up and bathe and dress and go off to school. We had rather got used to the luxe life of waking up at 9 am, having a leisurely breakfast, fooling around in the bathroom with hour long baths and such like incolving action figures slugging it out in the buckets, then spending a relaxed bit of the morning contemplating what to breakfast, getting it made and placed before us, and so on and so forth. The cold harsh jerk back to reality and a schedule is disconcerting. What makes things better this year is that it is tabula rasa time yet. He still hasn't managed to piss his class teacher off so infernally that his approach morphs into red flag to tormented bull. But I'm counting on his hell raising abilities to manage to get her pissed off with him soon enough. Nonetheless, by the time he is spit polished and pushed into his clothes and buckled into his shoes, he is in good cheer enough to trot off to school in the most happy manner.
The one who is really struggling is me. Yes, shamefully. It is me who is resenting  the 5.30 alarm every morning, the ten minutes more of grabbed shut eye, the quick visit to the bathroom, the planning in the head the previous night about the multiple tiffin boxes to be made. The brat is a child who needs to be fed. Thankfully, like his parents, he is a child who can be counted on to eat comfort food without a moue and does not thrive on variety. Ergo, certain things, are staples which get into his tiffin box every single day. A jam sandwich, a cheese sandwich or a chatni sandwich. Five oreos. Five chicken nuggets. These are the non negotiables. Then there is the variable element that is the lunch. Either a chicken roll, a dosa sabji or idli sambar, or dal chawal. I don;t get too experimental with the menu given that the cook comes in screeching as we have 15 minutes to leave and gets this bit of the tiffin box ready. I've tried the pastas, the burger buns and such likes but those are mere passing phases for him. He prefers regular food. Dal chawal. Curry rice. No rotis. I wonder how much of my bad eating habits have trickled down to him, I too don't go for too much exotic on my plate. Give me simple solid stuff over elaborate cuisines anyday. I'll choose an all you can eat buffet over fine dining where they serve you one shrimp and a small portion that makes you want to go stick a fork into the chef's chest in sheer hunger. And yes, I don't eat any fruit or salads. At all.
The homework routine too has begun. This Sunday we spent close to three hours tearing each other's hair out in bunches trying to get it all done. Getting the brat to do his homework is the most trying task of it all. It requires me to gather my patience into a knot and keep constantly at him to get it done. I remember my childhood when I was such an angel child that the mater never even knew that homework existed and that it needed to be supervised. Homework was done. On my own. The brat obviously has chosen the aspects in which he takes after me very selectively. This irresponsibility towards homework he doesn't get from me. Maybe its an inheritance from the Y chromosome donor.
The strangest part of school reopening is this, the fact that for me, it actually feels like another year has passed me by. I am now measuring my years by my son's growing up and that, in itself, feels very, very strange indeed. 

Thursday, June 07, 2012

Do you agree?

“These are the things I learned (in Kindergarten):

1. Share everything.
2. Play fair.
3. Don't hit people.
4. Put thngs back where you found them.
6. Don't take things that aren't yours.
7. Say you're SORRY when you HURT somebody.
8. Wash your hands before you eat.
9. Flush.
10. Warm cookies and cold milk are good for you.
11. Live a balanced life - learn some and drink some and draw some and paint some and sing and dance and play and work everyday some.
12. Take a nap every afternoon.
13. When you go out into the world, watch out for traffic, hold hands, and stick together.
14. Be aware of wonder. Remember the little seed in the Stryrofoam cup: The roots go down and the plant goes up and nobody really knows how or why, but we are all like that.
15. Goldfish and hamster and white mice and even the little seed in the Styrofoam cup - they all die. So do we.
16. And then remember the Dick-and-Jane books and the first workd you learned - the biggest word of all - LOOK.”
Robert Fulghum, All I Really Need to Know I Learned in Kindergarten

Wednesday, June 06, 2012

Sunscreen giveaway on my other blog

Right here.
Go ahead. Have fun. And get some sun protection.

Day one of school and uniform crisis

Yesterday was the brat's first day at school, and as always Mamma did all that needed to be done at the very last minute. Which in turn meant that the uniforms were procured screeching into the store seconds before it was to shut the previous day to school reopening. In the chaos of two changing rooms rooms catering to what seemed like the entire populace of the school (obviously Mamma was not the only Mamma who left things till the last minute, the others like her were also losing their heads in the ensuing chaos), gadzillion squalling and running around in circles children ranging from ages two to 14 and one disinterested salesperson digging out the trial for size samples. Add to this, the hot sun in which mamma and brat had made the trip to get said uniform and recipe for disaster had been written and put on pot to simmer.
Uniforms tried, socks tried, sizes noted and given to the man in charge, tray bearing one's order aloft, mamma paid for the uniforms and came home.
The next day, the brat wore his capris and his new school tshirt and Mamma noticed, how interesting, there's a new design element at the base of the capris, a touch of red to match the tshirt and her sense of aesthetics was pleased. The brat, being the Philistine he is, didn't deign to notice such delightful touches of detailing.
Mamma dropped the brat off in the morning and went across at school closing time to pick him up. His face, adorable as will always be to a mother, was carved in stone. He stomped out grouchily, his head down and a his face clouded over by a storm.
"Whatever happened," mamma asked. "Was your first day in class not good? Did someone say something? Did something happen?"
He looked up scathingly, his eyes flashing fire and brimstone.
"Dis is a gurl's pant. You made me wear a gurl's pant. Everybody laffedatme. I'm nod going back tomorrow."
Mamma is depositing extra funds into the brat's "Therapy for Traumatised Childhood Caused By Bad Mom" fund.

Monday, June 04, 2012

And school reopening is here...

School reopens on Wednesday. The reality of it hasn't yet sunk in for the brat. He's still on a hedonistic schedule of swim all day whenever he feels like it, punctuated by PSP, Playstation and television watching. For me, it can't reopen soon enough. I'm sitting with a pile of books in front of me, with plastic sheets and labels and getting on with the covering business, grumbling every second and yet, paradoxically relieved that this means the brat will be out of the house and back onto a schedule for the next 10 months. I think the schools have it wrong, they should have these two months of summer vacations broken up into one month long breaks scattered through the year. By the end of this long summer break, however adorable the child, one has had quite enough of them being in your hair the entire day and are ready to put them up for adoption.
The school uniforms are yet to be procured. This happens because the school, in its wisdom, outsources the uniforms to a vendor a few suburbs away with wierd timings that ensure the procurement gets put off to the very last moment, so tomorrow I will scramble there and get the uniforms, hopefully squeak in as the shutters roll down.
The brat, as expected, has only a single question. Will he get the same class teacher this year? Not from any love for her, I assure you, but if he gets the same teacher he insists he will change his school, so terrible has his experience been under his Grade 3 teacher. I am sure the teacher feels likewise.
The haircut has to be got, given that the hair is now closer to the pelt of a small arctic creature rather than the scalp of a small boy, and that too will be done tomorrow. Fortifying self for the barber shop trip which inevitably will include much debate and discussion on whether the hair, post cut will stand up like Shah Rukh Khan's did in Chammak Chalo and if it is too short to allow such sartorial adventures, much rolling on the floor tantrumming would happen and general two Disprins plonked in a glass of water would need to be downed by me in order to cope with such tantrumming with beatific smile and not resorting to a scalping of brat in public situation. 
The new school bag, the new pencil box, the new waterbottle has been got. The new raincoat and the new floaters are still to be procured. I have a to do list that is longer than my arm, but am so radiantly awash in the bliss of knowing the brat will be in school all day.
What about you, when does school reopen for your children, and are you looking forward to it as much as I am?