Talking to your child about the refugee crisis

Yesterday, my 5 year old came home from school and asked me, “Mommy, do you know what a refugee is?”.  Needless to say, I wasn’t prepared for this question. Usually I get asked about what are we having for dinner or if so-and-so can come home for a play-date. So…gathering all my wisdom…I pushed the question back in my son’s court, “Yes, sure. Can you tell me what you know about refugees?”  As parents we try to limit our children’s exposure to news — which can be quite graphic at times — and I honestly was not aware of how much he had been told about refugees at school. In the most simplistic way possible, he described to me how refugees are people who left their homes because of war. This was a great place to start our conversation. We then had a short discussion on how refugees are families just like ours, who have had to leave their home and country to protect themselves from war. We also talked about being kind to children who don’t speak English very well and to help them at school.

Later though, I wondered how you would broach that subject with kids who are perhaps a little older. Or what else I could have talked to my son about? With a little bit of research, I came up with short list of things to keep in mind when talking to children about the refugee crisis:

  • Give age appropriate information. A 5-year old may not fully understand the plight of refugees fleeing in inflatable boats and being stopped at borders. But perhaps, a 12-year old might. Depending on your child’s age you may or may not want to show them some of the images we’ve seen during this crisis.
  • Tell the truth. As parents we want to protect our children from the harsh realities of life. However, it is important to let children know the reason for the refugee crisis, as well as their current situation, in simple language and ideas.
  • Encourage a discussion. A fear of answering the harder questions should not stop parents from having a meaningful discussion with their children. Talking about war and the ensuing refugee crisis can be very scary for a child but as long as the information is age appropriate, a discussion can help your children comprehend the situation.
  • Emphasize safety. For younger children, it is important to impart a sense of safety for them at home, school, and their community. Emphasize that we are safe here in Canada.
  • How we can help. Share initiatives that are taking place in your community to help the refugees. A large number of Canadians have been donating clothing, furniture, and other household items for new refugees. In addition, many Canadians are sponsoring and hosting refugee families. Showing them examples of good samaritans will go a long way in comforting them. A good place for parents to learn more about the refugee crisis and help initiatives is Unicef Canada’s website.

For now, I think the information my 5-year old has is sufficient. He understands that refugees are going through a difficult time right now. Many are still trying to find a home and we have to treat everyone with kindness. And perhaps of greater importance, he knows we are safe and fortunate.


Hot Topic: Breastfeeding

We were bestowed with a wonderful New Year’s gift this year – our second baby boy. K Junior arrived amongst much celebration and of course in the coldest and snowiest winter we’ve had in the last few years.

I thought I had prepared myself for all of the challenges I was going to encounter raising a newborn along with our now 2.5 year toddler son. Surprise! I had forgotten how tiring tending to a newborn can be. On top of that, I still had to give time and a lot of TLC to my toddler.   My memory also seemed to have erased the mental and physical exhaustion that came with dealing with all things breastfeeding.

I had a hard time breastfeeding both my sons. The first time around, no one told me how difficult breastfeeding is. It is not the peaceful picture of a mother holding a child at her breast in a cradle hold position. You don’t see the scrunched up face of a mother when the baby is painfully biting at the nipple. No Sir! You don’t see the ever wriggling baby trying to latch on for dear life. My eldest son would turn into a screaming banshee the second he was hungry and never learned to latch on. In the end I started pumping so that he would get the benefits of the “liquid gold”.  The second time around, I was determined to nurse my newborn and we did well…for 2 days. As his appetite grew, he demanded to be nursed more and I was encouraged by my hospital to feed on demand. Well, that ended up in severely cracked and bleeding nipples. I was back to pumping.

Both my sons were “combination fed” for the first 3 months and then were completely on formula. This was a decision I made based on my children’s never ending appetite and other factors such as difficulty latching and low milk supply. Although I have received much grief and snide remarks from family for my decision, I don’t regret it. Do I wish I had breastfed them for the recommended 6 months or longer? Of course! Does it make me a bad mom if I didn’t? I certainly don’t think so and I wish mothers (READ – especially S. Asian women) would stop judging each other on the basis of whether anyone breastfed their child and/or for how long. To some mothers and tots, breastfeeding may come easily and kudos to them for sticking to it. But please let’s not bring down the other mothers who have a hard time with it. To each her own!

Birthday Parties

Been MIA for a while now from my blog…the last month or so have been horrible. Between work, K and the new baby (13 weeks now!), I have been so exhausted that writing just took a back seat.

My K turned 2 this past week and he has been the center of attention. His “Happy Laa-laa”, as he likes to call is birthday, was awesome. His squeals of delight upon seeing his gifts, the birthday cake, the clown and the bouncy castle were enough to put huge smiles on our faces and for us to sigh with relief that our baby was truly happy and excited.

K is a summer baby and so planning a birthday in our backyard was an easy option for both his birthdays. Our large yard is the perfect setting for kids to run wild. However, with baby no. 2 due in December, it hit me yesterday that my second one will not have a backyard birthday party. No summer colors, bouncy castles, piniata, bubbles or playing in the sandbox. Instead, it would be held indoors with dull, dreary colors. There may not even be a lot of people around at that time what with Christmas and New Year in that week. I know I am thinking way ahead in the future but time flies with kids and before you know it, I will be looking for a Chuck E Cheese or something of that sort to gather a few kids and celebrate the baby’s birthday.

On the other hand, maybe just maybe we can do the destination birthday thing. Note to self – buy a 649 ticket next time I am at the grocery store.

What are some of the unique things you have done for your winter baby?

Woman, honor yourself

This past week has caused me to think about what it means to be a woman, specifically a woman born Indian. Until recently, I did not think that I was any different than anyone else. I thank my parents’ upbringing for that. They gave us a strong foundation by instilling cultural values, the ability to differentiate between right and wrong and confidence in making our decisions. We are a family of 3 girls (yes, brown people, THREE girls !) and from an early age were given freedom in making our choices. Sure, our parents guided us when they felt we may not be making the right decision but more often than not, they would give us their reasoning and let us decide.  We were always involved in decisions that may affect our family, be it as trivial as buying a new appliance for the home or the next expat assignment that my dad should accept.  I realized this week that my parents may have been an exception to the general parenting style in India.

Over the course of the last few days, horrible cases of infant and newborn girls being killed by their own family have surfaced in India. These are just a few of the ones that the Indian media has broadcast in the hundreds and thousands of infanticide cases that happen each day.  Be it foeticide, infanticide, dowry killings, rape or murder, Indian women have learned to live with no rights. Those women that are lucky enough to not be subjected to any of the above, still have to endure other kinds of humiliation.  Just a couple of days ago, a fairness cream ad was released which advertised the product’s power of skin lightning around the vagina. Come on!      Do our vaginas now have to be white to have sex?! What kind of a message is being sent to the new generation; that you will only have a happy life if you are fair skinned? One more thing for society to ask of women…pile it on.

All this happens in a land where the majority of its people worship Devis or Goddesses and is widely known as a spiritual haven. It is a country where the literacy rate is 74%, roughly 3 times the population of US,  is one of the fastest growing economies in the world, and one with a space program and nuclear energy. Yet, every day women are deprived of their basic rights.

Somewhere, I think Indian women are one of the causes for their own degradation. Had we raised our voices against physical, mental and emotional abuse to us and our children and not worried about the “shame” it would bring to the family, our situation would not have been this deplorable.  As Mary Wollstonecraft said, ” I do not wish them to have power over men, but over themselves.” We forget that as women, WE are the ones giving birth to the sons AND daughters. This oppression has to be stopped and women have to unite and raise their voices together.

Illustration courtesy:

The Missing Women

“Social progress can be measured by the social position of the female sex.”
― Karl Marx

Women are oppressed everywhere, but in India, there are generations of women that are missing. Or shall I say, that have been wiped out. In a country with one of the fastest growing economies in the world, female foetal abortions and infanticide are still widely prevalent. The male child is preferred as a son is viewed as the provider for the family and a daughter, as a liability that has to be married off with a dowry. This view is not just the mentality of the uneducated or lower class but supported in the middle and upper classes of India, albeit more discreetly.  Despite the government ban on sex determination, sex selective abortions still take place resulting in a large gender imbalance.

The onus of this genocide lies with both  the government and the citizens. This has to stop now. A global campaign to stop this genocide, The 50 Million Missing, is pushing for the Indian government to enforce existant laws on female foeticide. Founded by writer and gender activist, Rita Banerji, this campaign is an international effort to demand justice for the millions of missing Indian women.

Please support this campaign by clicking on this link and signing the online petition: Call for Government Action to Stop Female Genocide In India Petition | GoPetition.

What’s in a name?

Future Trends, Baby Names I sometimes catch myself thinking about names for our second baby. No, I am not pregnant…yet. But, when I hear a good name for a boy or a girl (please God, let the next one be a girl!), I wonder if it would be a good name for our next child.

With our son, Kabir, we knew we wanted an Indian name which was meaningful but short and easy to pronounce. Kabir means “the great one”. We didn’t follow tradition and hold a naming ceremony but instead shortlisted 2 names that we loved and that met with some degree of consent from family. When K arrived, we knew from the twinkle in his eyes that he was a Kabir.

Traditionally, in Hindu families in India, parents hold a naming ceremony for the new baby during which family comes to bless the baby and a priest determines the best alphabets for the baby’s name, based on the baby’s astrological chart or kundli. The baby is named using one of the shortlisted alphabets. There are many variations on the naming ceremony in India, depending on the region of the country and the religion of the new parents. Out of curiosity, I Googled “naming traditions around the world” and found a few very interesting ones:

  • Buddhist: the naming process is similar to the one described above, except that the name is announced a month later by the priest when the parents bring the baby to the temple for blessings.
  • Australia Aborigine: a tribe in north-east Australia will name a baby during the birthing process. The mid-wife calls out the names of the child’s living relatives and the name chosen is the one that was said the moment the placenta was delivered.
  • Latvia: the godparents choose the baby’s name in a ceremony that involves a feast and dancing. The godparents vow to care for the baby during the ceremony.
  • Nigeria: the Yoruba community names their baby girls on the 7th day after the birth and baby boys after the 9th day. Many names are given to the baby and one of them is to describe the circumstance of the birth such as Idowu for a child “born after twins”. The oldest member of the family chooses the name for the baby which is announced during the naming celebrations.
I hear more and more names that are deeply en-rooted in ethnic cultures today. I do think this is more to have a unique and fashionable name than anything else. I know that if our next baby is a girl, we will be scouring baby names books looking for a different, trendy yet meaningful name, be it from any culture. Maybe a Nevah, Anoushka, Kara or Sophie…

Caution: Mom at work!


Yes, during the week that is exactly what I do…ignore, shove stuff under the bed, wrestle clothes and toys into the closets or simply toss things in the recycling bin.  Saturday mornings the good girl my mom raised me to be, takes over; laundry gets put away, floors get scrubbed, linen is changed and tidying up happens. Anyone who comes in my way while I do my weekly clean-over is in danger of getting run over.

This Saturday was no different, and with extra inspiration from HGTV, I hit my chore list with a vengeance. After spending hours cleaning and scrubbing, I wandered into the kitchen to find my son eating a cookie.  He had grabbed one from the packet off of the counter and there were crumbs everywhere!  I suppressed the monster inside me who was ready to scream and quietly cleaned up the floor. What could I have done? A few minutes later, I notice the pencil marks all over my kitchen cabinets.What the….?  Where did he get the pencil from? Deep breaths in and out…”calm down, its okay”, I tell myself, “easy to wipe off”. Just as I finish wiping off my son’s artwork from the cabinets, I see K out of the corner of my eye reaching for the, baking soda that I had been using to clean.  NOOooooo! There it was on the floor, in all its whiteness, calling out my son’s name. As my shocked self moved in slow motion to get to him, he raised his foot and stomped in the powdery mess. Aaaaaaaaaaaaaaarghhh!!! Stupid me to leave it within his reach and even more so to turn my back on him knowing he was around me in the kitchen.

“That’s it there is no point at all in cleaning up!”, I shout. My dear husband, who was drawing up a financial analysis for his work, looked up briefly, raised an eyebrow in sympathy and went back to his computer. “I am not going to clean ever again.” I ranted on for a few minutes on how I have to do everything and that I am just tired of it all. My 20 month old had cranked me up real good.  Finally, I went back into the kitchen and mopped the floor AGAIN.

Note to self: Cleanliness will have to wait until we stop having kids and they all grow up. Until then, we’ll have to live with it!