Thursday, January 31, 2008

The Anti Jinx

I am feeling a little silly today. Not to mention uninspired to write anything of substance. By which it is implied that what I write usually has some substance in it and there will be many of you, no all of you, who will jump at this opportunity and say A-ha. Gotcha. You don’t. So, well. Scratch that.

We often write about our kids, our homes, our lives. And wise, rational, educated folks that we are, we often say a little prayer to ward off the evil eye before hitting that little publish button. Or if you are like me, you spell a few words backwards or boldly declare the jinxters to go away. So, I thought it would be good fun to be a little creative while doing it. So I created these lil graphics for ya’ll to put on your sites, posts, images to ward off all those evil eyes. Call them cheesy, campy, kitschy, but you can’t deny they are not funny! So enjoy.

P.S. I have added two more icons thanks to Gypsy and CeeKay

Also these are more like thumbnails. The images are hosted on photobucket. Please click to get a larger/better image!

Buri Nazar 2

Buri Nazar 3

Wednesday, January 30, 2008

Under Weather

If you open the Mommy Handbook, the first rule says, Mommies don’t fall sick. Obviously what ever virus or bacteria or [insert species] currently invading my throat and throwing all their friends and their mothers a gala party haven’t read the mommy handbook. Obviously. My throat hurts. Ok, that is an understatement. My throat is inflamed, I can’t swallow and it hurts like someone is pounding it with a hundred pound, spiked lead ball. I prefer labor pain to this. I have tried ginger teas, gargling with every liquid under the sun, homeopathic remedies. Nothing seems to be working. Which has now lead me to the conclusion this must be strep. I really should go see a doctor and get some antibiotics, but going to a GP here is a pain in the south. My GP is about 25 miles from where I work and 16 miles from home, making the trip with traffic and everything else a 2 hour deal. It’s not like I have tried to find a Family Practice closer to home. The last time I was down with strep I called EVERY family practice within a five mile radius of where I live. And the earliest appointment I could get was three months down the line. Three months. Ninety days. Yeah, I am just going to tell the strep bacteria to go hibernate till it’s time for my appointment when they will get hosed down with some amoxicillin.

Don’t even get me started with health care here. If it is a real emergency, you will thank your stars you live in this country. They work like a well oiled machine. But for things like strep throats and flu and minor aches and sprains it can be a nightmare. I should go to a doctor, but I probably will just ride it out. All I want to do is go home and sleep. Get some hot tea and antibiotics and sleep. Which brings me to another point. I feel horribly, terribly guilty if I have to take a day off for me, personally. I just can’t do it. I will fret and fume and imagine all sorts of scenarios where everything at work is broken and everybody is cursing me. Which of course defeats the purpose of the said day off especially when you are sick. My friend and neighbor V once took a day off after a party she hosted because she was exhausted. Sent the girls to the daycare and just slept or did nothing. Guilt-free. How I admired her courage! I can never do that. As much as I badly want to. The guilt will cause my body more harm that whatever trifling illness I am down with. And I think most mommies are like me. Feeling guilty for doing something just for themselves. Just being the operative word. We feel irrevocably selfish. One small day off. What is the big deal? Right? But it is. It means you are a bad mother for wanting a day off. It is true in its own silliness.

So here I am debating whether to go to a doctor because it will be such a waste of time if they find that it is not strep but just your regular garden variety viral cold. Then what? I am back to the ginger tea, gargle and riding it out. Sigh. Why does this have to be so complicated?

p.s. Did you like my new look? Grafx did it! I tweaked the banner but the rest is all her.

Monday, January 28, 2008

The Object Of My Affection

The inimitable Kiran tagged me to do this. And I have been having a hard time. Atlases and elephants and bangles. I have no such treasures. Well, maybe I do, I suppose. There is a little steel “gadu” - an odd shaped cup for water that belonged to my mother that belonged to me and now belongs to Chip. But it doesn’t inspire mushy feelings. I have a pair of my grandmother’s earrings and a silver platter that was awarded to my dad. And they are all wonderful things to have no doubt and they will be passed on proudly as such things usually are. They are mine only in transit. The earrings will go to Chip’s wife and the plaque will be given to him as well. They are not mine, not in that sense.

When I came to the States nine years ago as a student, I came with two suitcases and a backpack. Leaving most of my treasures behind. A collection of vintage and old coins. A carved rosewood chest. Little treasures collected as a girl. I felt a sad; perhaps a little nostalgic knowing that this is where we parted ways. These things would not cross the shores with me. But I sneaked in a little treasure. And most of you would have a hearty laugh if you knew what it was. A hairbrush. A little plastic hairbrush. Black. With hard bristles. About eight inches in length. Shaped like curvier paddle or a half-round. Take your pick. The hairbrush is more than a quarter century old and it has quite a bit of amusing history attached to it.

The hairbrush came with a hairdryer set. This was the late seventies, early eighties when hairdryers were a middle class luxury. My dad and mom on their maiden trip to Germany bought a cherry red hairdryer set made by Siemens complete with accessories on sale and brought it home. My mother obviously liked it but I don’t have too many memories of her actually using it. I am sure she was convinced her hair would fall off or turn gray (and no, I don’t blame her). Needless to say, I was completely smitten. Not just by the red hairdryer but also with its box that showed off pretty blonde models using the accessories and features to achieve silky straight hair and tumbling curls. Wow. I begged my mother to let me dry my hair with it and she permitted me to do so a few times, but not more. If I couldn’t have the hairdryer, I begged to use the accessories by themselves – a large comb and a brush. The comb was too commonplace. Every household had one. Brushes, on the other hand were a novelty and I declared the brush as my own. Over the years, the hairdryer was rarely used, although I used the hard bristled brush every single day. Many years later, the hairdryer brunt its coil and was thrown away. I was in my teens. My mother begged me to throw away the hairbrush that came with it. I had several brushes and combs by then, but this one held a special place. Never would I part with the silly hairbrush. For many years, I brushed my hair with it, sort of to finish my hair routine even if the bulk of combing and brushing was done with scalp friendly brushes. It had become a sort of a talisman. To part with it would be to invite untold tragedies upon me.

The brush crossed the Atlantic with me and to every house I moved to, it moved with me. I bought fancier brushes and nicer combs, but this one always stayed. Over the years it collected dirt and dust. It became faded and marked and scratched. It came so dirty that overnight soaking in sudsy water did little to improve its appearance. BigGeek threatened to throw the vile brush away. “You will catch a disease” he pleaded. Hairbrushes were not to be used for a zillion years. True. I had brought and thrown away many, many hairbrushes, but I was unable to part with this one. One day BigGeek followed up on his threat. I found the brush in the trash can. I, of course retrieved it and cleaned it. “It has to get out of this house.” BigGeek said, arms crossed. I relented. The hairbrush was causing him too much distress. “Ok, I promise to get it out of the house.” I said. I was glum. I slipped the hairbrush into my purse and all conversation on the matter ended. I hid it in the glove box of my old car. And it stayed there happily for a while. And then, when I sold the car to the dealer a few years later, I gathered all my stuff and put it in BigGeek’s car. The brush went in his car and hid in the seat pouch at the back. I think BigGeek knows it is there but he has given up on it. I once told BigGeek when I was pregnant that I intend to brush Chip’s hair with that brush. He was horrified that I would expose our little one to such atrocities. But I have sneaked and brushed Chip’s hair with the brush. And he has enjoyed it.

p.s. Wrote it in a hurry yesterday, so forgot to pass along the tag. Gauri, Preethi, choxbox, your turn now.

Wednesday, January 23, 2008


If you think my blog is suddenly looking like a preppie wardrobe, I won’t blame you. What with posts titled Pink and Green. Maybe I’ll write a few more posts titled Oxford Shirts and Martha’s Vineyard to complete the look. Jokes apart, over the last year, all said and done, I have come to appreciate the whole Green thing. I have in my own way, tried to be a little more responsible about environment while trying to say away from its faddish, Upper East avatars.

Thirty years ago, my mother would have laughed at the Green nonsense and dissed it as yet another Western fad. Recycle? Compost? People write and talk about this? She would have laughed and gone back to negotiate stainless steel dabbas with the bohareen in exchange for her eight sarees and three trousers. I did not know anybody who did not do this. It was a way of life. Fuelled by necessity. Growing up, we saved newspapers. At the end of each month, we sorted them neatly in two piles - English and Vernacular and took them to the raddiwallah. He weighed them carefully, calculated the rate – higher for English, lower for Vernacular and then gave us an option of either buying coconuts from him or settling the deal in cash. Although some haggling took pace occasionally over accuracy of the scales or the going rate or both, all parties were without doubt happy at the end of the deal. It was a win-win situation.

Paper towels were an ill afforded luxury as was aluminum foil and shrink wrap. People simply put small steel plates on steel bowls to cover leftovers in the fridge. Grocers wrapped daals and peanuts in neatly cut squares of newspaper (and nobody worried about lead in the printing ink). In smaller towns like the one I grew up in, even gray water was not wasted. In little washing spaces in the backyards, water from washing clothes and dishes was diverted to a small grove that grew luscious bananas, papayas and calocecia.

So when I arrived in United States nine years ago, it was a bit of a shock. The first thing I noticed was the abundant use of paper towels. My roommate used paper towels to catch crumbs from his toast, using it as a plate, and then crumpling it and throwing it away and ripping another sheet to clean the table afterwards. Disposable cups and plates, copier paper, single serve packs. Nobody gave it a second thought. And as I embraced the fast paced, go-getting, goal oriented lifestyle I embraced this cultural emblems too. Before I knew it I was buying packs of disposable plates and piles of paper towels. I was throwing away kitchen scraps but buying hummus and fertilizers. My grocery was brought home in throwaway plastic bags. I recycled religiously, used the grocery bags as trash-can liners but I was also wasting a lot without realizing it. And it dawned on me only last summer while growing strawberries and tomatoes and peppers that I could be more responsible and waste less. Waste not want not.

Over the past year, I have tried to minimize my environmental impact. I use less soap in the washing machine and my clothes turn out to be just as clean. I use reusable canvas bags to get grocery and other supplies. I compost. I had stopped using disposable plates not for environmental reasons initially, but simply because I thought it was tacky to feed people in paper plates unless it was a child’s birthday party. But I know people who will use disposables even if there are having only two dinner guests because its convenient (than what?? Loading the dishwasher with two more plates??) We have always kept heating lower. Our thermostat is set at 67F. We would much rather wear warm pants and a sweater than crank the heat up to 75F. We don’t drive SUVs or mini vans. Although I wanted one badly, I saw BigGeek’s reasoning. I would be driving it alone most of the time, so I would just be wasting gas.

I am living in a society that appreciates leaving a smaller environmental footprint. And all the little acts mentioned above have some societal validation. It’s hip to carry reusable bags and to compost. It’s not yet hip to buy smaller houses. People with one or two kids would still much rather live in a McMansion. And when both parents are work and the kids are in school, the energy consumed in simply heating or cooling a big empty house is tremendous. I wish builders had some other way of upping the status ante than just giving more square footage.

So, we still have a long way to go. Even a simple act of taking reusable grocery bags can be a hassle. I have forgotten it so many times when I was just starting out. Now its become second nature. As have a lot of other things. So, now its time to ask what more can I do? For instance, I can surely remind myself to take containers to restaurants to bring home leftovers instead of using the restaurant supplied plastic or foam containers. Or try making toys at home from things that would be thrown away. Use reusable gift wrapping or reusable cloth bags instead of paper. There are so many ways to reduce waste. All it needs is a little creativity.

Thursday, January 17, 2008

Near and Far

As I write this, the snow storm outside is covering the landscape with a shimmering blanket. Big snowflakes floating in the air uncertain of where to go; eventually pulled by gravity, almost unwillingly, falling gently to the ground beneath. Like a million cursed angels. I better not think about the commute. But today’s post is not about snow or about commute. Far from it.

Every year in January as the festivities fade away in the year past, my feet begin to itch. The desire for solitude or whatever its redefinition is, in a spousal and a parental context, creeps in. A yearning to escape cluttered thoughts and the monotonous dreary of the everyday. To look at something new in the silly hope that when I eventually get back to my chosen life, my point of view, will somehow be magically altered, if only briefly. But constraints impede: time and money. As much I would like to, I cannot escape into verdant forests in the mountains or dive into the cerulean blues of the seas on a whim.

A very long time ago I dreamed on hopping on the trans-Siberian Railroad. Timetables were gathered, flights checked. Seasons debated. A three week journey through snow filled Russia or a more welcoming July? How about making it a honeymoon adventure? The thrill of it although intense, was not very long lived. It would cost an arm and leg and was carefully swept aside and promptly put on a list of things to do when we have the money.

Then a few months later, Alaska. The surreal tundra landscape took my breath away when I looked it up. The pictures of the soaring mountain peaks, the fragile wildflowers. The Tundra. The Taiga. I was living elementary school geography and immensely enjoying it this time around. It is the closest I will come to being in outer space, I told myself. BigGeek concurred. The plan did not come to fruition for two years and then it did. We drove and hiked in Alaska for 10 glorious days. Standing on a mountain drinking in the vast, ethereal, almost eerie wilderness of Denali. Watching in amazement as the strange, silt-ridden glacial rivers of the land braided and twisted themselves again and again, changing course every season, never knowing where they will be next spring. Witnessing a glacier thunder and rumble and then suddenly calve and burst into a million icy shards a few feet away. Sights like these bring profound changes and they coerce you to realize, yet again, your utter insignificance in the larger scheme of things.

Although we traveled in subsequent years to many places and saw many sights, it was not the same. There was something missing. We went to Boston and South California. Nevada and the Grand Canyon. Hawaii and Florida. Beaches in Virginia and mountains in West Virginia. We went “sight seeing” with mighty expectations. And, not unsurprisingly, all those places failed to give me that elusive sense of wonder. I slowly realized why. We simply did not meander. We went with a set goal in mind and that sort of voided the thrill of travel. We were inches away from being one of those ubiquitous tour groups that take you to fifteen European cities in 2 weeks. It was physical travel. Not a journey.

With monetary and time limitations firmly in place that show no signs of budging, I do what every pauper in my place must do. Become not an armchair traveler, but a slightly more modern desk traveler. So, on dull afternoons and uninspired evenings I plan trips. Adventures to far away lands. When time and money casts a deep shadow, the imagination soars. And with my little desktop PC I have been to many places. I have visited the sands of Mongolia and lived in kurts under the starry sky. I have visited the islands of Japan with their exotic manners and baffling ways. I have climbed to legendary Manasarover and seen a lake that defies linguistic description. I have kayaked in the Amazon and cruised on the Nile. I have battled giant mosquitoes in the mysterious African rainforests. I have seen the fjords of Norway and have crossed the Arctic Circle. I have driven deep into Patagonia and hiked to an ice shelf with only penguins for company. I hope to do all of this one day. Some day. And I hope that with every mile I travel outside, I also travel a mile on the inside.

Tuesday, January 15, 2008

On the flip side

Chip’s swimming classes aren’t going as swimmingly as I would like them to be. The culprit obviously is Chip, but, the proximity of the water slides are also blame. Take yesterday for example. When I went to pick him up from his school, I had to wait until he finished making tea in the (toy) microwave a dozen times. Running out of patience and the desire to use the restrooms, I have to lure him with the promise of swimming. “Don’t you want to go swim, Chip?” I ask chasing him with his coat. He stops mid track and beams. “Yay! Let’s go swimming!” We sit inside the car and I think its time to tell him the truth. “We have to go for a swimming class today, Chip.” His forehead has deep furrows. “Aaj (today) no Mr.Eric, Aie.” He declares in his Minglish. “Mr. Eric yenar Mondayla (Mr.Eric will come on Monday). “Today IS Monday.” “Today is Monday?” he repeats after me. “I don’t like Mr.Eric” “Oh nonsense.” I brush him off. “He is so nice. You can dump water on him and sing songs with him. Yes?” “No” he replies grumpily. “I want noosta (only) swimming. No swimming class.”

If I thought an hour or so before we headed to the pool helped, it wasn’t so. BigGeek accompanied Chip into the water as my mom and I sat on the bleachers looking at the fun (not!). Despite BigGeek’s cajoling, Chip refused to get into the pool. He wanted to go on the water slides and just play. After much whispered conversations they finally got into the pool and joined in the activities. While other kids listened quietly and followed (or tried to follow) directions, Chip’s attention was drawn by the kids playing on the water slides, then the lifeguards walking past. He refused to kick his legs and move his arms. He simply clung onto BigGeek’s neck and squirmed with all his might. Extremely annoying and extremely frustrating.

Sitting on the bleachers, watching BigGeek struggling with him, I wonder if Chip has developed a phobia for water. I remember this past summer when Chip jumped into the pool without fear or our trip to Florida where he refused to play in the baby pool because if offered no buoyancy. Later in the locker room I ask Chip if he is afraid of the water. “No”, he replies shaking his head. “Chip is not afraid of water.” He pronounces to me and BigGeek.

Chip is simply not getting anything out of the lessons which has made me think if I am pushing him too much. I thought the lessons would be fun. When I was growing up, the preferred method of teaching kids to swim was to push them into the deep end of the pool and watch then gasp and claw and kick. Kids generally figured out how to stay afloat after going under a few times. That was hardly ideal, so the classes, I thought would teach me how to teach. And I have got some excellent pointers, no doubt. But I have also realized that formal instruction, even if it is cloaked in songs and fun-stuff is not for Chip. Not at this age. He is just not ready yet. And it gets exasperating not only for him, but also for me. I don’t want to turn into a hypercompetitive parent who wants their kid to be a swimmer and soccer-player and a neurosurgeon and an astronaut and a black belt karate master and a surfer and a pianist. Buckaroo Banzai, Chip is not and certainly won’t be.

So I am wondering if I should continue with the classes at all. There are five more sessions to go. I would just rather take him to the pool and let him have fun and figure water by himself. Because the whole point of sports is to go out there and have fun, isn’t it? And if not sports, the whole point of childhood certainly is.

Wednesday, January 9, 2008

In the eyes of a child

If someone were to ask Chip what the highlights in his 2.5 year old life are, it would be these and in this order.

1. The day the lawn mower ran out of gas
2. The day we visited New York City

This summer we visited some friends in NY and that was Chip’s first trip to NYC. He was completely bowled over by the crowds, the skyscrapers, the lights, the noise and the buses. He wanted to ride on every bus that thundered by. And he was thrilled about the ubiquitous yellow cabs. Sitting in them without a car seat. Hailing them by the curbside. He was amazed to see so many people walking and the congested streets, unlike the suburb he lives in, jam packed with traffic and flanked with stores and roadside vendors. Such an impression NYC made on him – and I yet have to meet a person who is not bowled over by the city – that when he and BigGeek and my mom picked me from my office in the local downtown last weekend -which, though crowded, is no where close to the bustle and energy of NYC-, Chip was so excited, he blurted “Oh my god, Aie! It’s New York!”

But NYC trip pales in comparison to the day the lawnmower ran out of gas. Chip is obsessed about mowers. Ride on mowers, push mowers, self propelled mowers, big mowers, small mowers, any mowers. He scours the flyers in the Sunday paper looking for mowers. Our favorite winter pastime is often going to Home Depot and looking at the mowers there. He can watch the neighbors mow lawn for hours. And of course when time comes to mow our own lawn he is Baba’s big helper.

The hour it takes BigGeek to mow the yard, Chip is at his heels. He looks forward to it week after week. And one week on a hot July afternoon, Chip got a bonus. While mowing the lawn, the mower sputtered and then stopped. Chip gasped. “What happened, Baba?”. Baba said, “It’s nothing, the mower just ran out of gas.” Then Baba took a little red can out of the garden shed and he and Chip drove down to the gas station to get gas. They came back with the gas, poured it carefully into the mower and the mower started again. That’s how the story goes and Chip demands a narration every single day. Nothing and I mean nothing comes remotely close to mowing the grass with his Baba. And the mower-running-out-of-gas episode is nothing less than nirvana for Chip.

This fall however changed our lives. With BigGeek’s heart attack, he was told to take it easy. Mowing, was obviously out of the question. I paid the neighbor’s boy to cut our grass, but for Chip it wasn’t the same. He watched from the deck as C and his brother mowed and weed whacked. I explained to Chip why Baba was not cutting grass and he seemed to understand. I thought nothing much of it until a few days ago.

I was putting Chip to bed. BigGeek was away at school. After the endless cycle of bedtime stories and books and calls to his Baba to wish Goodnight, I turned off the light. “Close your eyes now, Chip” I said sternly. All was quiet for a while and then Chip spoke slowly. “Baba does not do lawn mower. Because Baba has a big ouchie.” “That’s right, Chip. C mows the lawn for us now.” I said. There was a pause. “Does P kaka mow lawn?” I was surprised by this question. “Yes, Chip. P Kaka mows lawn.” I said softly. Pause again. “Chip help P kaka mow lawn?” I was speechless. My eyes welled up and there was a lump in my throat. I was at a loss for words. “I am sure you can, Chip. And maybe we can also ask C if you can help him mow. OK?” I managed to keep my voice steady. “Ok.” Chip said after thinking about it for a few seconds. In a few minutes he was fast asleep. But I wasn’t. Not for a long time after that.

Tuesday, January 8, 2008

Swimmingly Yours

“The County Recreation Center called an hour ago” my mom said as Chip guzzled his elaichi flavored Horlicks and I rummaged the fridge for an after work snack. “To confirm?” “No.” my mom replied. “They said lessons on Tuesdays and Thursdays are cancelled. They have enrolled him for Monday and Wednesday and if that doesn’t work for us they will give us a refund.” “Ok. Same time?” “Yes. Same time- 6:20” my mom nodded. I glanced at the clock it was 6:05. “I think we can make it to today’s class. Dang. Why didn’t they call earlier?” I frowned. “Come on Chip, let’s go swimming.” Chip wiped his mouth on his sleeve, leaped off his chair and let out an excited scream. My mom dressed him while I changed and we stuffed ourselves into the car and drove to the Rec. Center.

It was 6:20 on the dot when we arrived. We ran inside and found the registration desk. I explained the situation to the twenty-something blond there and was told to wait in the corner of the swimming pool area for the instructor to show up. By 6:30 there was no one in sight. I went by again and found someone and told her my story. “Wait there, someone will be there soon.” By now Chip was getting antsy. He saw the water and was ready to dive in. “Wait a second, you teacher will be here soon.” I tried to hold him back. 15 minutes later and no one in sight, I let Chip go inside the baby pool. Ten minutes later, someone finally summoned us. Chip refused to get out of the water and cried for dear life, showing off his mighty lung power as I tore him away to another section of the pool where the classes were held. There were six other kids. All remarkably quiet and well behaved. While the toddlers looked on as the instructor (let’s give him an alphabet E) introduced himself to us, Chip’s eyes and heart were already in the toy bin where he had mentally picked out a red bucket he wanted to play with. “I want to play with red bucket.” He declared to no one in particular. I shushed him. First appealing to the good boy in him, then the big boy, finally threatening to give him away to a rakshas. That bought me a full 15 seconds while he squinted and did some quick mental math to calculate the odds of that happening after which he was ready to dive in the pool.

After refusing my help to step into the deep-for-Chip pool and trying to wiggle away to the water slides, Chip started Activity#1. “Wheels of the bus go round and round, round and round, round and round” sang Chip gleefully moving his arms in unsynchronized strokes. After the song was done, E cheered the kids and Chip declared loudly “Let’s sing Humpty-Dumpty now.” I shushed him yet again, telling him we had to listen to E, but he wouldn’t let go. “ I want to sing humpty dumpty.” He whined. So while other kids and their mommies and daddies listened to what the next activity was all about, Chip and his mother ended up singing humpty-dumpty, albeit softly.

The next activity involved buckets. Chip let out a “YAY” and clapped as E brought out the little sand pails. E went to each kid asking him/her to dump a pail full of water on his head and gently dumping a pail full of water on theirs. Chip gleefully dumped a bucket on E’s head and then several buckets on mine. While other mommies’ and daddies’ hair stayed nice and dry, my head was drenched by a very, very zealous Chip. While other kids stayed quietly in their parents arms, Chip splashed, jumped, kicked constantly.

Then came the barbells and the little duckie board and the hokie-pokie song. All in all, it was a BIG exercise for me. And while I was beating myself up for not jumping on the treadmill, I did end up getting a good workout just swooshing Chip in water and dunking him and doing all the activities with him, but mostly just trying to holding him still. Let’s see how it goes tomorrow.

Friday, January 4, 2008


“I want pink color.” Chip replies without batting an eyelid. We are getting out of the car parked in front of an art and craft store where we are headed to buy wool for my mom to knit a sweater for Chip. “Not blue or green?” asks my mother. “Nooo! I want pink sweater.” I throw my arms up in air. “OK. We will go see what colors they have.” Chip is all about pink these days. And Dora and care bears and princesses. A few weeks ago during the holiday season, Chip and BigGeek went to Sears to get a drill/hammer/random-equipment-for-I-don’t-know-what. Chip had also been in a popcorn phase then. He had kept chanting his popcorn mantra for days, when BigGeek saw huge popcorn tins by the checkout counter and asked Chip to pick one. Chip looked over Cars and other “boy” themed tins and gleefully picked a pink one with Disney princesses. When I saw the tim he brought home, I asked Chip what those figures were. “It’s a princess” he told me pointing to a clone-of-Barbie dancing princess.

A few weeks later we visited the doctor for an ear infection. She offered stickers to Chip – truck, cars, planes, he looked into the bin carefully and picked a pink Care Bear. “You don’t want the red fire truck?” She asked. Chip shook his head. “I want pink bear.” He declared, holding the piece of sticker in his tiny fist. He has thrown himself on the floor of a store for a Dora backpack and begged for a Dora cup. He has fought tooth and nail for a pink doll stroller. He imitates me wearing makeup. Does this bother me? I am not going to answer that question, not just yet. Because this is a bit more than pink is for girls and blue is for boys.

I once mentioned his pink obsession to Ms.L, his teacher. She must have sensed something in my voice because she put her hand on my shoulder and shook her head. “Don’t worry”, she said patting me. “He plays with trucks and cars and planes too.” It was because of a girl called J in his class, she explained. J and Chip are good friends and she is all about Dora and princesses. “J talks about them all the time.” I nodded as she tried to explain. “It’s okay.. It doesn’t bother me a lot. I like Dora. I have seen her show once.” I shrugged and told her. Chip’s class demographics are highly skewed too. In a class of 16, there are 13 girls.

I have wrestled with this issue forever. Even before Chip was born or even conceived. I wanted Chip to play with dolls and tea sets along with planes and trucks and had happily set out to buy him a doll when he was a baby. But BigGeek had a strong opinion about it and Chip had not demanded one just yet, so I let go. But when Chip started to take down and pots and spoons, and cook with them and serving his creations in wooden coasters, I started toying with the idea of buying him a tea set. Chip hadn’t asked for one and I thought BigGeek would not be too thrilled with it, so the idea stayed in my mind until a few days ago when we were over for din-din at our wonderful neighbor and friend V and A’s house. I mentioned my desire to buy Chip a tea set when V told me she an extra one, and Chip could have it. “Are you sure?” I cooed. “It is pink and has princesses.” She warned. “T had a white and blue set, I could have given that to you, but a lot of the pieces are lost.” We came home with a lovely pink tea set that night. BigGeek frowned a bit at the color (why can’t they make red and green tea sets with bugs on them, huh?) but allowed us to keep it and Chip has had a blast with it cooking idlis and chapattis and mac-and-cheese every day and I am happy for it.

But this has not been an easy issue. My thoughts on the whole “pink” thing are so jumbled that I am having a hard time sorting them out. I don’t mind Chip playing with pink princesses and sporting mermaid tattoos, but I don’t want him to loose his boy-ness. Which brings us to what boy-ness really means in the context of a two year old. Do I discourage him passively by ignoring him, when he pretends to wear make up? Do I play more rough and tumble games with him? Do I tell BigGeek to make it a point to have Chip around when he fixes things around the house? Or have him take Chip fishing? Do I leave the TV on when a football game is being shown? Or leave it to him to figure out gender identity by looking at peers when he is older? What if he asks to wear a skirt tomorrow? I don’t want to thrust gender stratification on him at this age, but unknowingly I do and I don’t think there is anything wrong with it.

For example, Chip’s little chuddis have Elmo on them and have “Slam Dunk” written on the back. I would have returned them to the store had Chip been a girl, but I don’t find it as offensive since Chip is a boy. Chip has a visible scar on his forehead from a fall and had it been a girl, I would have gone to the pediatrician asked for something to make it less visible. But since Chip is a boy, it’s no big deal, he can brag about it to his girlfriend later. I would much rather he plays football and ice hockey than dance ballet and do gymnastics if it’s up to me.

It’s a hard balance to achieve. Especially for boys. Girls wear pants and play with airplanes and that is quite acceptable, socially. As is a girl who prefers climbing trees and running outside to playing with her dolls. Gender identity for boys is much more trickier. Girls can take on all the boy characteristics and that is not only frowned upon, but even admired. With boys, society and especially future mates do want them to be sensitive but not effeminate. What’s a mother to do?

At the arts and crafts store, Chip has picked a ball of pink wool but now says he wants a black sweater. We pick some tan and brown wool in the end and as we return to the car, my head is full of pink questions. As we speed away into the cold night, I wonder if I will turn him to a chauvinist fool when I teach him to let the ladies go through doors first and to help them with their coats. I mull this over in my head, and later that night as I am about to fall asleep I realize I have known the answers all along.

Edited to add: TAAMomma's awsome post on the same topic