Baby takes flight

Last year in December I wrote about being THAT parent on a plane . Well it finally happened, my wife and I became that parent on the pane. We were going to experience what it was like flying with our own kid.

We booked the dreaded early morning flight. We had to wake up in the middle of the night, looking like something that was stuck in the bathroom drain for 6 months. No matter how you groom yourself you will still look like the demogorgon from Stranger Things.

The organized couple that we are, everything was kept ready. The only thing in our way was the sleeping 14-month old. How do we take her without waking the inner and the outer monster? At first we thought of knocking the back of her head with a blunt object rendering her unconscious for a few hours. But then we thought “we are new age Indian parents, and we dont beat our kids and all that crap…” so we gave up on that highly efficacious idea, and of course, jail time too.

Baby Z was strapped to me in the body carrier and was sound asleep. At 3am anyone would want to be strapped to anything to get some shut eye.

On the way to the airport, she was sleeping like a… baby … drunk. Mouth wide open, drooling on my chest, no way she was waking up, things were going great. But no… struggle was loading. As soon as we got off the airport she was as awake and active like a Monday morning  Bank computer. There is no God.

She realised we were not at home and threw a fit, not because of the new environment but she wanted to get off my chest and run around. Now the line to check-in was huge, and all the passengers looked like they could kill someone, mainly the people behind the counter.

After 40 minutes, we finally reached the counter, it was like crossing the finish line after an exhausting marathon. We were crabby, tired and ready to drop but Baby Z was galavanting like a stoned hippie radiating energy! As our luck would have it, we endured more struggle. There is no God.

When you travel with a child less than two years old, you are exempt from buying a separate seat, but they need to be attached to your ticket. In our case the systems failed to recognize this and we had to wait a good 15-20 minutes till they could figure this out. It’s the middle of the night and neither of us had the strength to carry or chase her from bumping into other passengers. This was just the beginning, we still had the flight to contend with.

The check-in was behind us and no longer were we “carrying baggage”, off to the immigration, luckily for us a ‘baby in arms’ has a separate window, with NO queue, hallelujah! It was such a breeze, the perennially surly and dour immigration officers beamed a rare smile when they saw Baby Z and we went marching towards the boarding gate. There is A God. At that moment I promised myself, don’t care how old  Baby Z gets, even when she hits 30, I’ll carry her in my arms just to avoid the serpentine immigration line.

We had an hour to kill before boarding, so my wife and I devised a plan. Since she was nowhere close to sleeping we decided to tire her out. Now T2, Mumbai Airport has a pretty decent play area, so we decided to let her spend some time there till she showed signs of sleep. She played a lot but no sleep came. Then we let her run amok in the airport. Still no sign of sleep.

Eventually we boarded the flight, discomfort started creeping up inside her. She knew something was wrong, where was all that space? She seemed to question in her own incoherent way. Because we had a toddler with us the airline was bound to give us the front seat so they could fix a bassinet for the child to sleep in.

We got the middle and the aisle seat but a very unassuming man was sitting in the window seat. He took one look at the baby and trepidation, mixed with fear, blanched his face, if it wasn’t for the air-conditioning, little sweat bubbles would be forming over his forehead. What he thought could have been a peaceful, sleep-induced flight for him just just got hijacked by Baby Z. He was trapped. We politely gave him a sorry-about-this-but-if-you-ever-plan-to-have-your-own-kids-DON’T smile.

We settled down, or were making a very feeble attempt of it. Baby Z was having none of it, she wanted to get off my lap and sit on the floor, I was wrestling  with her to keep her on me, while my wife was trying to look for the box of pomegranate. She was flailing her limbs in all direction.

Out of nowhere, the man next to us patiently got up and very politely offered us the window seat. We were obviously a little surprised, but he said he was happy to take the aisle seat so that the baby would be comfortable, that was such a warm gesture.

The plane was about to take off. I had to hold Baby Z in my lap and strap her with an additional baby seatbelt, she was clearly not enjoying this experience one bit. Whining and crying and grabbing everyone’s attention for all the wrong reasons. In the next row there was another kid, fast asleep, not a sound from him and there were two more kids in the seats behind us, they too seemed perfectly fine, it just had to be your kid with the attitude.

The pomegranate helped keep her calm and we took off, and just like that within 10 minutes, she was out. The flight attendant helped us with the bassinet and we put Baby Z in it. She slept right through the flight and woke straight in Kuwait.

We should count ourselves lucky, to be honest, it could have been worse but we survived first flight experience with a toddler.


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The Weekend Away With The Baby

There is always a sense of mixed emotions that sets in every time you venture into something new with your child. A perfect amalgamation of joy and trepidation, which in most cases, the latter overpowers the former.

Ever since ‘Z Baby’ was born we had refrained ourselves from taking her anywhere overnight. We were being extra cautious but this time we were resolute, not because the child deserved to get out and we can’t be too over-protective blah-blah-blah, but mainly because we wanted to escape our parents “when-you-were-an-infant-you-could-sail-a-ship-just-by-looking-at-the-stars” kind of stories.

We really needed to get out of the city, away from work, away from anything that was chipping away our sanity. My wife had planned a weekend break at a tranquil hill resort, four hours away from the mad rush of Mumbai city. My sister and brother-in-law joined as well.

It was quite amusing to travel with a child, never correctly predicting how she’ll react to a new environment, you were always left guessing what will happen next. Top of the mind was the drive we pre-empted everything; what if she cried? What if she pooped? What if she was getting annoyed with the long journey? All we had to wait for was an action and we would have been ready with a reaction… or so we hoped.

At any other given time this would have been any regular weekend away; come back from work Friday evening, throw in some clothes and essentials into the bag and leave Saturday morning. With ‘Z Baby’ we had to plan a week in advance making sure that we had ticked the list of EVERY.LITTLE.THING.

My wife and I carried five pieces of luggage, out of which only one bag belonged to us, the rest was for baby – 1) clothes and diapers; 2) baby bag with toys, food, water and toiletries; 3) her dinner seat; 4) Car seat. And yes her clothes bag was bigger than our bag. We had enough luggage to put the Kardashians to shame.

We left at 9am, which is considered REALLY late according to weekend travelers. We travelled in my brother-in-law’s SUV so space was not a problem. And unlike the intra-city car trips ‘Z Baby’ had someone for company in the backseat throughout the trip. In India it’s quite normal for parents to place their toddlers in the lap, no matter how long the drive, because you know let’s just test what’s stronger, the baby’s head or the windshield. Better sense prevailed and we safely buckled our daughter in a car seat, we really needed the quiet, no passing-the-parcel, four and half hour ride.

She was a blessing in the first hour, after which she fell asleep for another hour. Things were going great guns. Then came the poop bomb, now the beauty about this is that as parents we can smell the initial waft before it transcends into a full blown gas chamber. We also have become adroit in reading baby’s facial expressions, when she screws up her eyes and grunts like a hog in search of food.

My wife had a tough time as the amenities for changing a child in highway foodhalls is next to zilch. Our daughter had to be changed on a plastic chair but thankfully my sister was there to help, while we boys were cleaning out the car.

I took the wheel in the second half of the journey. My wife and sister were happy in the backseat keeping the baby busy and vice versa. But it was during the last leg of the drive that ‘Z Baby’ started whining and feeling uncomfortable. I guess it was mainly to do with the car slowing down to a crawl thanks to the bumpy road, that was her way of back-seat driving.

The whining gradually turned to crying and it was starting to get unbearable. She was ‘hangry’ but mainly she was getting bored of being stuck in the car. We didn’t want to feed her in the car as we were very close to our destination so we tried to distract her by releasing from the car seat and giving toys. It didn’t achieve much.

Finally we reached the resort and the first thing we did was feed her. She felt much better and was sort of excited with the new place and was happily running around, bumping herself here and there, causing unnecessary alarm, you know, the usual baby stuff.

This is how we spent the rest of the weekend – eating, sleeping, eating some more and then sleeping some more. ‘Z Baby’s’ sleeping issues continued at the nights. Nearly a year old but she still doesn’t sleep for more than three hours at a stretch.

It was just such a pleasure to see how she explore every thing around her and because she started walking early no opportunity was let go to reach places that she shouldn’t.

Toddlers in their own environment become creatures of habit, they know exactly where to find the family members, and remember daily objects in their lives. But the moment you introduce them to a new environment, we see a noticeable change in their behaviour. Their curiosity reaches a new level and look at things with a certain excitement and inquisitiveness. They are constantly moving around, pointing at things, making inexplicable noises and doing things that you would normally wouldn’t expect them to do.

We were overly cautious with her as far as traveling was concerned, but now that we have seen her in action, we want to keep at it and discover new traits about her and ourselves.

The father that I thought I was

Let’s start by stating the obvious – having a child is a big, big responsibility. In today’s day and age if you didn’t plan it then you are in for a pretty rude shock. Making serious sacrifices is just the beginning. Though most importantly you have to be mentally prepared for welcoming another human being into your home, into your bedroom, into your kitchen, into your personal space… into your lives. On that note, here is wishing a Happy Father’s Day to all the new dads (including me).

Today’s father has moved beyond the glorified baby-sitter who keeps the child occupied till he gets bored before handing the baby over to the mother to continue the drudgery of feeding, cleaning, changing and putting them to bed. All my friends who are fathers are purposefully involved in their child(ren)’s upbringing, ensuring that not only do they balance their work and life but also share responsibilities.

I’d like to believe that I have been an equal partner so far in this journey (I can hear my wife scoff in the background while I read this aloud). My wife gave up her job to raise our child I had no intentions to let her do this alone. I partook in all the responsibilities right from changing soiled diapers to waking up in the middle of the night to pat my daughter back to sleep, ensuring that I try and take away as much of the load as possible.

Yet I kept hearing, consistently from my wife, that I am not doing enough, I am not proactive, I am selfish (I don’t know where that came from) and that I will never know what she is going through.

Not only did that feed to my already growing annoyance but we ended up in quite a few verbal battles, which I was trying very hard to win but in the end there was always something left wanting. I argued back that “I work so hard for this family blah blah blah” but after a point I come to realize that I sound like a quintessential asshole, yet I don’t relent…typical.

So a couple of days ago my wife sent me an interesting link, published in The Guardian to give me a perspective (click here). The comic has a central theme “you should have asked”. And that’s when I started thinking, am I always waiting for instructions from my wife to do certain things.  Am I that guy who has to be told everything, perhaps not, but when I do recall, there are a number of things that my wife (and mum) has to remind me constantly. And when I do it, I feel elated almost like I came up with the idea myself. I feel I achieved something momentous, I feel as if I am my wife’s equal – what a travesty!

This article made me realize that my wife is perpetually pre-occupied with various aspects of the household and child rearing. Constantly organizing and re-organizing and getting things done. Her mind is like the navigation on google maps, if for whatever reason she takes a different road the navigation will re-route automatically, and will still reach her destination. On the flip side I’ll just end up like the deer caught between headlights, wondering “now what do I do?”

The more I think about it the more I am convinced about my lack of pro-activeness at home. All those things that I think I was doing of my own accord was already retro-fitted by my wife, giving the illusion that I came up with it… devious! It’s true, maybe I can’t be left alone with my child without pointed instructions – What time to feed her, What to feed her,  Where the feed is, What onesie to make her wear before she goes to bed, wind her down, read a book, don’t just dump her in the crib, etc. Not to say that I am bad father but maybe I should be a lot more proactive than I convince myself to be.

This just goes to show that I am programmed to be proactive at something that I get a reward for, my job for example. I will do anything and everything to get a task done, why? Because I get paid for it. But at home things are slightly different, especially about what you want to do and what you are told to do.

Marriage gives you a good perspective on how it is to share your life, adapt and make compromises. But when a child comes along, you go to another level, and acceptance is the key. Women do it brilliantly, I have seen it at home and outside. Men though, are under the fallacy that they have accepted it, but they can be way off.

Are we, the new age dads really doing something meaningful to contribute or is it just one of those check boxes that we tick? There might be a lot of fathers out there who won’t agree with me on this, which is fine because there is always another story to tell. But introspect, observe your wife the next time around and think of how she quit her job, stalled her career, stopped dreaming and put her body on the line… just to fuel this family.


Happy Father’s Day

Young parents, an infant and an Indian wedding

This year, in March, my only sister got married. The timing was a bit unusual considering the annual human mating (ceremonial) season is between November to February. It was a joyous moment for all of us in the house, especially for my wife and I. We have been eyeing her room for a really, really (I mean really) long time, now that we have a kid of our own. Don’t get me wrong, she is loved by all of us, but by the end of it we are Indians and getting a household member married off is our undeniable right.

Let’s focus on the real issue here – my daughter had just turned 6 months and against all our hopes, prayers and wishes the little critter still refused to sleep the night at a stretch without waking up at least four times. This was a big concern for us, because as we all know, Indian weddings will never end with just ONE function! We had 7 functions. At one end, we were so happy for my sister, but at the other end, we were scared shitless for our child. But we got through it (I think), here’s how:

  1. Learn to let go. With Z turning 6 months, this was our best chance to observe how she would do with so many guests; strangers, in her eyes. Surprisingly, she did remarkably well. Don’t get too stuck up with not handing your child over to people, whether you like it or not they are going to grab the kid, so learn to stay calm.
  2. Kids are unpredictable and so are their routines. Never, ever expect that a child will follow routines. When you least expect it, she is going to change her routine. In our case, the daughter dropped her third nap of the day and stayed up like “I… AM… SPARRTAAAAA…”. This can have adverse effects on both the child and the mother, especially at nights when they can’t get uninterrupted sleep.
  3. Prepare to make sacrifices. My wife would leave at 10.30pm every night so our daughter can catch up on her sleep and be ready for the next day. It was a tough decision to make but with a child around, you have to make a choice, no matter what people say.
  4. We made sure she was always wearing comfortable clothes. Mumbai is relatively warm in March and humid too, so we made sure that our daughter wore airy, cotton clothes. The last thing you want is a hot, cranky, uncomfortable child surrounded by a few hundred people. We also changed her into her trusted nightie as soon as it neared her bedtime.
  5. The mother needs to get as much rest as possible. Since Z is a completely breast-fed baby, my wife was not getting her daily quota of sleep and during a family wedding, sleep was hard to come by, so it was important for her to get as much of it as humanly possible. That’s where our guests helped us a lot. Because Z wasn’t afraid to go to people, my wife would readily give her away to whoever wanted to babysit her and that’s how she managed to catch up on her sleep

All in all, we had a great time. The wedding was perfect. Z is a very social baby; smiling and playing with everyone and capable of staying by herself too.

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CONFIRMED – 6 months up

Most of you must be aware that at a new job you are on a six-month probation before the company decides to confirm you, if you haven’t performed, well you go back on probation. What if we could do this with babies too, six month probation, if you don’t ‘human up’ then I’m calling the stork. I can only imagine what that conversation would be like:

The following story is inspired by true events… which involves my daughter. Really.

Dad is holding the baby’s resume as the little tot is nervously twiddling her thumbs:

DAD – Hi. Good Morning. Please take a seat. No don’t roll over. Sit. Baby you need to… careful or you’ll fall over. No that’s my phone, stop taking it in your mouth. STOP IT!

BABY – Sorry, force of habit…OOOOH hair clip! (nom nom nom)

DAD – Can you… NOT! Congratulations on your six month journey in this house and… life. You are one of the millions that have made it this far. You should feel privileged.

BABY – Firstly, thank you for this opportunity. I really wasn’t planning on getting into this field but then… POOF… here I am. Are you going to eat that rattle?

DAD – You mean “PUSH!… here I am”. And no, rattles are not meant to be eaten… In your case nothing is meant to be eaten… yet!

BABY – Right, of course. (Baby starts drooling)

DAD – Can you not drool here please, this is a strictly no-drooling zone. So how was your experience here so far?

BABY – Well, this place is rather big, I mean considering where I come from. Commuting is a bit of a problem but I am yet to find my feet.

DAD – Yes… quite literally. So… I’d like to give you some feedback about your work and performance.

BABY – Sure, yeah… shoot

DAD – For starters, your sleep performance has been quite below par. Your three month target was 18 hours and you have been struggling to say the least. I mean there have been a lot of complaints from the Co-Founder: MOM

BABY – I don’t know, the environment is too noisy for me to concentrate and the mattress is a bit hard plus I just don’t feel like sleeping, you know (Baby gets on her hands and feet and lifts her butt)

DAD – Why are you lifting your butt? Just settle down, no no, just sit still. You’ll fall off the bed! Just listen to me. No those are my glasses! Ok relax! This is something else I want to talk about. You are very hyper, sometimes I feel you take on more than you can chew

BABY – I am on breastmilk, I don’t know what you are talking about (biting down on a remote control and her fingers at the same time)

DAD – How are you getting along with the other departments?

BABY – The chairperson of GRANDDAD needs to carry me around a bit more, If I need to climb the ladder then that’s the fastest way. Also the VP of GRANDMOM should spend a little more time. I also believe the founders MOM and DAD need to really pull up their socks and be a little more decisive and take me out a bit more. And don’t even get me started on the Head of AUNT; we’ve had a bit of shaky start but I believe she is quitting so I guess…

DAD – She is getting married; she’s not quitting… What are you doing? can you stop putting your toes in your mouth! So just a couple of things from my side which you need to work on. You take too many drool breaks that needs to stop; I’d much rather you put that time and effort into research. Also not everything goes in your mouth, including toes. Need to work on your communication, sometimes you are a bit incoherent and we don’t know what you want.

Ok great, that was a good chat. You are hereby confirmed, of course there are perks and benefits, for starters we can start solids with you

BABY – Great, that’s fantastic, really looking forward to insipid, boiled and mashed food vegetables and fruits. Now change my diaper!

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