Letting Kids be Kids

I was with my kids having a go at their bicycles after dinner. We live in a guarded neighbourhood so riding their bicycles after 9PM is a common occurrence. Hey, we get them out of the house whenever possible, right?

This time though, a 3 year old from next door saw us and rode his push-scooter over to play. He was chubby, a little sunburned, chatty and frankly a little bossy. His grandmother (turns out she was his great-grandmother, 85, small statured but still limber) came over to watch him not fall and hurt himself, like all mothers do instinctively.

Fifteen minutes into play, the boy manages to get my son unseated from his bike. The boy tries to ride it. Fails. Grandma reminds him repeatedly to not play in the middle of the road. He tries again. Still haven’t quite figured out the bike. Gives up. Goes back to his push scooter.

Another ten minutes into play, while playing cops and robbers, the accidentally grabbed my son’s arm too hard. My son grimaced in pain though by his lack of tears, I figured it wasn’t intolerable. After making sure he was okay, they continued playing.

Five minutes later, Grandma starts scolding the boy really loudly, then goes to retrieve a cane(!) I must have blacked out before this because at no point was the boy misbehaving so badly that Mr Cane needed to make an appearance.

Grandma starts the ritual: threaten, threaten, raises cane, boy holds his ear, stays in submissive position. Grandma lowers cane, boy runs off to continue playing. Grandma waves her cane around some more, then asks us to ignore him. “Go play. Ignore him.” Then to her great-grandson, “Why can’t you just play by yourself? Why do you need to talk so much? Why order people around so much? Why… Why… Why…” The questions kept coming, to no listener in particular.

She comes to me, apologetic. For what, I’m still not sure. I smile to her, gesture positively. “It’s okay. He’s just being a kid.” Perhaps she was afraid her kiddo had upset my kiddo with the arm thing. But that’s 10 minutes ago, by now – all but forgotten.

Then she starts her gripes. “His mother has canes all over the house. We go swimming, he goes and bother other families. He refuses to come out of the swimming pool even after swimming for an hour. I’m 85. I can’t control him without the cane. He doesn’t listen to me. His parents work late nights. See, until now, they are not back yet. I’m 85. How can I manage him without the cane?”

“CAR!” We usher the children into the parking spots, away from the road.

The boy waves at the driver and its passenger. Mommy and daddy are home. They walk over while the boy tries to squeeze in 3 more minutes of playtime. “Say goodnight to aunty and your friends.”

“Goodnight!”

How do I make my child eat faster?

The problem: His highness is taking forever at the dinner table and puts up a fight whenever you ask him to finish her food faster.

“It’s getting cold. We’ve got to go, grandma is waiting. Can you focus and pay attention to your food, PLEASE?” Nothing makes him budge. The situation descends into a screaming, shouting or crying match. Sometimes, there’s even kicking.

What’s a parent to do?

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What you need to know:

You may find slow eaters in kids who were made to eat by themselves at a relatively young age. Maybe the parents wanted to foster independence early; maybe they have more than one child to tend to and so the older ones don’t have the luxury of being fed.

In any case, children who are fed by an adult are subconsciously trained to chew and swallow faster than those who feed themselves. Parents may be unwilling to wait, or they ask the child repeatedly to swallow as the next spoonful is already waiting at the gate.

Self-eaters do not share the same motivation. They take their time, perhaps imagining dragon battles and tea party in between each mouthful. As a result, their soup is cold and their rice dried out by the time it goes down to their semi-full tummy. 

What you can do:

It’s unfair to expect children to eat at the speed of their parents but we all have places to be, things to do.

So here’s what I suggest:

  1. Split the meal into two portions, preferably into separate bowls.
  2. Let the child eat from one bowl while you feed them from the second bowl, your bowl.
  3. Let them take their time with their bowl, while you keep them on pace with your bowl. At the very least, the child will finish 50% of their food, from the second bowl.
  4. Give the child a timeline to work with: “You have ten minutes to finish your food.”
  5. Give the child a goal to work towards: “We will go to grandma’s place after this. Do you want to go? Then finish your food.”
  6. Don’t give them a hard time if they do not finish their bowl, especially if they tell you they are already full. This prevents them from making over-eating a habit.
  7. Do this consistently, reducing the amount of the food in your bowl and allowing them to be in charge of a larger portion.

HDIM Reviews: Mowgli (2018)

Andy Serkis’s Mowgli is basically Jungle Book, the “Dark Knight” version.

I recently read my daughter’s Jungle Book school textbook (graphic novel) for English. Amongst many other retellings, this film version is close (if not closest) to the book version. And things got dark pretty much from the get-go.

The story is slower, methodical, disturbing and rooted in reality. For instance, Mowgli looks perpetually starving. The wolves don’t have clean, trimmed, silky fur. The elephants have moss growing on top of their heads and bodies.

It’s different of course, you’re used to seeing things prim and proper whereas here you have a Shere Khan who is in bad need of a shave. And Tabaqui has an appearance only a mother can love (not this mother though). 

Ugly as sin

From his time in LOTR, Serkis has revolutionised virtual production, as he calls it. In Mowgli, the characters show human facial expressions and emotions. If you don’t already know, Serkis himself voices Baloo the Bear who teaches the Laws of the Jungle. He doesn’t sign about Bare Necessities in this one. 

A somewhat eerie yet important observation one can make is that the eyes of the “animals” reflect those of humans. As uncomfortable as the thought makes me, it’s incredible that this can be translated onto the screen. I’m no expert but this is award-winning stuff right here.

It’s interesting to know that in the book, Kaa, the snake was a good guy, and that Shere Khan was trampled to death by panicked cows in an ambush masterminded by Mowgli and his brother wolves.

In this movie, Kaa is a seer who can see into the past and future, and she is neither friend nor foe. Shere Khan dies in the hands of Mowgli in a brutal not kid-friendly way.