Where we talk about breasts!

That is as forthright as I’m going to get.

Recently, I had a good talk with my 6 year old curious mind about, you guessed it, breasts.

We had just wrapped up playing a round of snap. I was gearing up to get on with the rest of the day’s chores, when Namnam came to me for a cuddle, and burst out laughing while trying to peek into my shirt. This went on for two to three times. Each time she hugged, she would look at my breasts and start laughing.

I asked her, “What happened, Namnam? Why are you laughing?”

She said, “Nothing”.

I asked her again, “What is it, tell me?”

Again, “Nothing”.

I keep my cool, laugh with her and ask her again, “Is it some kind of a game you play?”

She said, “Yes. I am laughing at your ‘this’ (pointing to my breasts)”.

I knew then and there that it was time for one of those talks.

She obviously didn’t know what ‘this’ was called so I decided to introduce the term to her and said with the smile intact, “Yes, THIS is my breasts”.

And continued, “So what game is it that you play?”

That’s when she divulged that she and her friends played this game where they would show off each other’s ‘breasts’ and laugh.

Now, 6 years of parenting have given me a lot of instances to learn how a child’s mind works. Of course, I’m not yet adept at grasping their minds..I’m still learning though. However it doesn’t alarm me anymore when I hear of all the games kids of today indulge in. I had even blogged about one such game here.

So I won’t be lying if I said that I was expecting to be faced with a situation when my kid also might come across a game of this sort at some point of time. And although I have known that there may not be A right way to address such a situation, yet as a parent it would be in my hand to address it in as apt a way as possible.

So..coming back to our talk, when I learnt about this game that Namnam played with her friends I realized that if I had to ensure my child didn’t get any wrong notions about things as basic as parts of her body, I would have to explain things to her in an appropriate and frank manner.

I told her that breasts were as important a part of our body as any other. So they were not something to be made fun of, but something a woman should be proud of.
I said that I was proud to have them because they helped me make her, my baby, stronger when she was born. I went on to tell her her how I used to breast feed her and continued feeding till she was about two. To which she asked if she could be fed like that even now. I explained that breast milk would not be enough for her anymore since she was big now and in need of healthier and more nutritious food..
I said that, she would have them too when she is bigger and when she does, she too must be proud to have them. I told her that one day she may also breast-feed her babies. Her instant reaction was, “Babies? Noway! I will have just one baby…ONE!!” 😀

Well….anyway, I, then reminded her of the conversation we had had once about baby-making. And she remembered all that I told her about how and from which part of me, she was born. It gave me a good chance to remind her that genital area was another important part of her body which she had to guard extremely well. I went on to explain how she must take care of each and every part of her body, not let anyone touch her inappropriately. I was happy to realize that she remembered and agreed with that bit.

I don’t know how well she registered all that I said, but I felt nice to have been able to explain things to her openly. Because this way I could cover topics which were otherwise considered taboo and sensitive, make her understand that she didn’t have to ever feel hesitant or embarrassed to talk about them with me or her father.

This little talk that we had is not such a big deal..yet. I know that. The day is not far when her curious mind will come up with a lot more detailed queries and then I will have to be ready with equally detailed answers. But what this conversation has given us is a good grounding for any future tackling of sensitive issues with frank and open discussions.

I have seen that, when it comes to talking about serious issues like sex, body parts, etc. a lot of parents cringe at the slightest possibility of clarifying their little ones’ inquisitive minds at work. And frankly I didn’t want to be one such parent.

I remember reading in a book on parenting where it was advised that if parents adopted the practice of referring to body parts, especially the genital parts, as their actual terms, instead of substituting them with cute names like “wee-wee” or “mee-mee” when talking to their babies from early on, then it would go a long way in doing away with the stigma attached towards sex or such taboo subjects.

I quite liked that advice, to be honest.

The more you charade words with cute alternative names, the more you build a taboo around them, the more you mislead and confuse your children.

Whereas the partcular practice adviced in the book would help in building a great level of comfort, openness and honesty in the way children and their parents communicated with each other.

I feel that kids of today are exposed to things a bit more explicitly, than the kids of years gone by. So the least we, as parents of today, can do is encourage them to express their doubts or curiosities openly with us, so that they never get misled into drawing wrong conclusions and interpretations, right?

Worshipping while Menstruating- Why not?

WHY EVER NOT?

Its amazing to realize how, sometimes, your beliefs can rule your life. Even when those beliefs border on the lines of superstition, you still allow them to take over you. I’m not talking about person A, B or C. I’m talking about myself. I’m frustrated to think that I’m allowing my religious beliefs to clash with my superstitions because of which my decisions are being influenced.

I had a long and fierce discussion with R & my mother about the same. While I voiced my inhibitions, they were constantly urging me to shed them and go by what my belief and faith ask of me and not what some ridiculous ideologies/ superstitions want me to do.

I’ve been wanting to initiate Namnam to music for a while. And since she had been showing an inclination towards it lately, I thought I’ll introduce her to the world of music this year on Vijayadashami.

Vijayadashami is considered to be an auspicious occasion to start formal education of any kind. On Ashthami, the eighth day of Navarathri, children keep their books, musical instruments, etc. for pooja, which are taken back and used after pooja on Vijayadashami, the tenth day.

Now there is a slight glitch here, which is making me withdraw my plans, much against my wish. And that is the clashing of Vijayadashami with my menstrual cycle.

According to Hinduism, the religion I follow(sometimes blindly, I wonder), a woman is not allowed to take part in any kind of religious ceremonies for the first four days of her menstrual cycle. She cant go to temple, do poojas, eat prasadams or offerings from temples, churches, or mosques. Partake in festivals. She cant enter the kitchen. In a nutshell, she is ostracized. So much so that she is made to feel like a sinner if she goes against such beliefs, no matter how ridiculous they may seem.

This has been going on for ages, for generations. Those 4-5 days women are considered ‘impure’ or ‘polluted’. Its so disturbing to even write about it.

In some parts of our country women are confined to a shed/hut and allowed to eat dry foods, salt and rice as though they are being punished for some crime. Preposterous!

And this is where I’m frustrated. I know how ridiculous it sounds to me, and yet I’ve been following it blindly for as long as I can remember. Why? Because all my life the reasoning that my religion presented to me was that God doesnt approve of women worshipping Him during their menstrual period. And if I wanted to defy that reasoning, I couldn’t because I didnt want to invite God’s wrath.

When I hit puberty, I remember very vividly how disturbed I was , when I was told that I’ll not be taken to the temple or allowed to light a diya. I could very clearly see the agony, the pain in my mother’s eyes as she forbade me. I was so shaken up that I had cried into my pillow that night- something even my parents dont know about till today.

I remember an incident when we had gone to Kerala on one of our summer vacations. The entire family had planned a temple visit and as my luck would have it I got my period. My Ma, the rebel that she is, decided to stay mum about it and take me to the temple, come what may. Of course I was asked to keep mum about it too. But one of the aunts overheard us and word got around just when we were about to reach the temple. Oh dear, the accusing glances that my mother & I had to endure!! As though the whole town had got polluted! I could sense how helpless my mother felt at that moment. As expected I was not allowed to go the temple :(. I’ll never forget this incident as it brought forth the regressive and backward line of thinking of my society.

Thats how it is isnt it?? We steer clear of questioning any illogical reasoning for the sheer fear of being shunned by the society. So we bind ourselves to the ridiculous customs and let our lives be taken over by them.

I’ve wondered all my life why does a woman have to be ostracized for something that is one of the most natural and important functions. Ok agreed, in olden days it would have been hygienic. But today, we have sanitary pads, we have other clean ways of handling the situation. Then why this need to seclude women?

If God is the one who created us, as is preached universally, then He would surely have thought about this particular function well enough to understand it to be an important aspect of a woman’s body and NOT something to be shunned , right? If He were to disapprove of us women worshipping Him, then why would he give us this function in the first place, while creating us? If we have faith in God, then cant we believe that He will be reasonable enough to understand us?

What I’m trying to say is that such beliefs are nothing but brought about by some religious fanatics to propel their ridiculous ideologies. And sadly such beliefs are still being practiced by fools like me.

Today, I feel overwhelmed as a mother, when I think about the situation when in a few years Namnam will reach her puberty. What do I do then? What do I tell her then? Can I tell her that worshipping God can never be wrong, in whatever circumstances one is in? Can I tell her that so long as she and her God know she is ‘pure’ and her devotion is pious, no society can forbid her or decide for her when she should worship or why she should or should not worship? I hope to God I can. I hope to God I do.

After a constructive discussion with R & my Ma, I’m seriously driven to defy these very illogical beliefs and go ahead with full faith in my God and initiate Namnam to music.

Maybe I should. Maybe I will, if I want to raise my child in a prejudice-free environment.

***********

EDITED TO ADD: Here’s wishing one and all a wonderful, joyous and blessed time this festive season. Happy Dussehra to everyone!