Santa Claus

I don’t know about you, but our kids are still young and believe in Santa Claus, Tooth Fairy etc. (all of the aforementioned individuals now are reachable on email, believe it or not). Anyway, we find that this is the perfect time of year for us to use one more incentive for good behavior: Santa Claus. You better behave/be nice/not whine otherwise Santa may not get you everything you want. It works better than the threat of taking away their favorite toy or timeout (in our younger daughter’s case).

Our older daughter has lately been making noises about how there is no Tooth Fairy and that either her Mom or I put the dollar under her pillow when she loses a tooth, but even she hasn’t touched Santa yet.

This is probably the last year we will have an innocent couple of kids waiting for Santa to bring them their gifts on Christmas. Next year Shibani will probably be too old for Santa. I am going to enjoy it while it lasts and milk the Santa incentive for good behavior for all its worth.

Happy Holidays!

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Christmas

Growing up in a Hindu household in India, we never celebrated Christmas. Diwali was the main festival. But over the years of living in the US, I have been sucked kicking and screaming (my wife will attest to that) into celebrating Christmas. And, it has grown on me, I love it.

In many ways, Christmas is similar to celebrating Diwali in India, in significant other ways, it is quite different. Like Diwali, it is a secular festival for the most part: people celebrate this time of the year with their loved ones regardless of their religious beliefs, buying and exchanging gifts, having the holiday meal together…

Unlike Diwali, the buildup to the actual day starts almost a month back (right after Thanksgiving). The rituals of putting up a Christmas tree, having holiday parties, Santa Claus etc are a lot more formalized. The retailers and the entertainment industry do their bit by making the entire month of December feel quite festive. I’ll go out on a limb here: one could argue the season is almost more festive that Diwali in India.

Christmas began in our house this year right after Thanksgiving with the kids writing up their wish lists for Santa and putting them in the fireplace. The lists were gone the next morning when they woke up. The look of innocent amazement on their faces in the morning is something I will cherish forever.

Between now and the new year there is a lot to look forward to and each day feels like a celebration. Hope your holiday season feels special too.

Happy holidays!

Alisha’s World – it is live!

As a parent of two girls of East Asian Indian origin growing up in the US, I had been frustrated with the lack of reading/entertainment resources for my daughters. While I found a lot of age appropriate resources for colors, reading, math etc. there just weren’t any resources that helped my kids get comfortable with their dual cultural identity: American and Indian. I had thought about it for a long time but like a lot of things one thinks about, I never acted on it. Well, I am glad to say, I finally did do something about it and have created Alisha’s World™ (www.alishasworld.com).

Alisha’s World™ is filled with believable multicultural characters facing real life situations. The stories revolve around Alisha, an Indian American 3rd grader, and her friends. Inspired by friends and family who were raised in the US in similar multicultural environments, these stories are written for children to enjoy and to boost their confidence with their multicultural identity.

While the stories are written from the perspective of an Indian American girl, these stories talk about issues that will resonate with any child that is growing up in a diverse multicultural environment.

The first offering we have is a book of three stories. It is available now. Check it out and let me know what you think.

Daddy, I want to do Dandiya

This really made my day. My older daughter had some friends coming over to play. Turns out what she really wanted to do with her friend is Dandiya! (traditional Indian dance with short batons) I guess my kids are more comfortable in their Indian American identity than I think they are.

Guilt about working too long/too hard

I met Arjun Sen at a conference recently. He left a high profile job in Marketing to spend more time with his daughter. He realized one day that his work had been all consuming and was taking away time from his kid and so he quit. He started his own consulting company that allowed him to dictate his own schedule. He has written a book about his experience (raisingafather.blogspot.com). Check it out.

A few days later, I met a consultant from a Big Four advisory firm who had ‘Anton Days’ (days her son Anton was with her) when her kid was younger. On those days, she made sure all her clients and her coworkers knew that she was available only for certain hours. She did not take calls or meetings outside of those hours. People she worked with respected her decision and worked around her schedule.

While many of us feel bad about not spending enough time with our kids, not too many of us act on it.  I do believe, that it is tough to do what Arjun did, but I believe it is definitely possible to do what the consultant did. It doesn’t hurt to set expectations in our workplace for some personal time. I work for a global company and frequently have to interact with people from all over the world in different time zones. For many years, I have let it be known that I don’t take calls between 7 and 8AM in the morning (kids are getting out of the house) or between 6 and 8PM at night (my time with the kids). My coworkers largely honor these wishes and work around these times. It has worked for me so far. Would love to hear other people’s thoughts on this.

Disciplining Kids – Are Asian parents too demanding?

Saw an article that a good friend had posted this morning.

http://www.nytimes.com/2009/10/22/fashion/22yell.html

The article talks about how parents have increasingly substituted yelling for spanking. Speaking as a parent, I am certainly guilty of yelling at our kids occasionally.

The article points out that often times yelling is related to irritability and anxiety. I think it is by and large true in our case. The reason for irritability/frustration with our kids is different for the two of them. The younger one really takes time at some activities which lands her in trouble e.g. taking more than an hour at times to finish a single meal. The older one more often than not gets into trouble because a)she is talking back/not behaving nicely to others or b) because she is being lazy with her schoolwork and not applying herself.

This got me thinking whether I as an Asian American parent am more irritable than the average because my expectations are more rigid? I am not sure. Growing up in India, there was definitely a very black and white attitude to acceptable behavior. And yes, there was definitely the extreme focus on academics that defines the Asian stereotype. We were expected to do well in school. My wife, who grew up in the US/Europe, also experienced a similar upbringing – her parents are from India and have similar values to other Indians of their generation – in India or elsewhere.

While we are more easygoing/forgiving than our parents, or at least we like to think so, is our behavior towards our kids largely governed by how our parents treated us? I think so. If that is the case, I do think, Indian Americans are probably stricter and more demanding parents than the average.

Thoughts?

Racial stereotypes

You know how racial stereotypes are absolutely annoying. Check this video out. Very funny.

Interesting Science Experiments

Check this out. Arvind Gupta is my brother’s classmate from IIT and has done extensive work with poor children in improving their science literacy.

http://www.arvindguptatoys.com/

Daddy, I want to be white

Riya, our younger daughter, used to say this a lot when she was around four years old. She was at a preschool where the vast majority of kids were white. Her friends at school were white, her dolls were white, the kids on the TV were white, the people on the street were white but she wasn’t. We went through whole long-winded explanation on how there are different types of people from different parts of the world who look different but somehow that never entirely satisfied her. We have moved since then and now live in an area that has a lot of ethnicities. Riya hasn’t expressed a desire to change her pigmentation lately. It could be because she sees other nationalities around her and more kids like her that she doesn’t feel uncomfortable that she stands out any more. I certainly hope so.

Any similar stories and how you dealt with the situation?