Off You Go

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I gave you wings
So you could fly

Let go of doubt
Just don’t be shy

Shake off your fears
Give them a try

At first you’ll fall
May even cry

But I’ll be there
To wipe your eye

In but a blink
Your tears shall dry

’cause night will pass
The light is nigh

With dreams in tow
You shall go high

The winds of time
Will pass you by

And lift you up
Beyond the sky

– Yousuf Bawany, September 2016

Note: One moment you’re carrying them in your arms, and the next, you’re dropping them off to school on their first day. Children grow up so fast and as much as you want to hold on to them, there’s nothing you can do to stop them from their destiny. This poem is a gift to my children Fatima and Muhammad; they are the light of my life, the twinkle in my eye, and the beat of my heart. To them, I say:

There’s nothing you cannot do or accomplish if you set your mind to it. If you ever need me, you just need to to call; I’ll be there to break your fall and support you in getting your bearing straight. All the best, my little birdies; fly high and let nothing drag you down. The world is your nest now.

Who Is She?

Never Let Go

She carries you around for months
She brings you into life
She holds you when you need it most
And makes sure you survive

She loves you with no strings attached
She is your first true love
She shivers when the cold sets in
Makes sure your hands are gloved

She keeps leftovers for herself
She feeds the best to you
She sits patiently by your side
When you’re ill with a flu

She is the only ray of hope
She shows you what is right
She pulls you up when you’re in blue
And brings you to the light

She is your friend when you need one
She mentors you through life
She lends her shoulder to lean on
When things don’t turn out right

She works hard for you night and day
She ensures you advance
She sacrifices all her life
To give your life a chance

She meets your infinite demands
She helps you make your mind
She pushes all her hopes aside
And leaves her dreams behind

She safeguards secrets within her
She is the one you trust
She can be tough on you sometimes
Never is she unjust

She’s always close-by even when
She may be miles apart
She’s known as mommy, mom or maa
And lives inside your heart

– Yousuf Bawany, July 2015

NOTE: Being a mother is one of the most demanding jobs yet doesn’t pay a dime; our children should be able to recognize her role in shaping up their lives and learn to respect her. This poem is for my kids so when one day they ask their mother, “What have you done for us?”, this can serve as the perfect answer and also help them understand her true value.

I dedicate this poem to my mother and all the mothers out there. I love you maa!

Feeding Monsters!

Getting your kids to eat is an uphill battle parents have to fight on a daily basis, and more often then not, we grown-ups end up on the losing side. I constantly have to come up with new and interesting ways of serving food to my kids (3.5 yrs and 1.75 yrs).

Just a few days back, my wife and I were having some mac-and-cheese for dinner. As usual, the kids were in no mood to eat and well, I just had this insane idea to feed them some plain macaroni using a very unique approach (see photo below). Both my kids ate their fill and thoroughly enjoyed their meal, all the while trying to scare each other with their fake monster nails.

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I hope this helps some poor couple in distress and keeps their children enjoying this fun way of eating for at least a couple of weeks; then boredom will kick in and the cycle shall start all over again.

Que sera, sera. 🙂

Girls Just Wanna Have Fun!

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For girls, it’s all about accessories. Their love for color and sense of style start to develop at a very tender age; for my daughter, it was at about one-and-a-half years. Her shoe collection is ten times the size of mine (which consists of 4 pairs of shoes, a couple of sandals and a pair of slippers) and she loves her accessories as much as she loves her parents. I try spoiling her and I cannot resist the urge to buy stuff that I think she’ll enjoy wearing/using; at least 70% of my impulse buying results in a purchase for my lovely daughter.

A few days back, we happened to visit a local bazaar, a heaven for my now almost three-year-old Fatima. We came across these really neat bracelets made out of old telephone wires and I couldn’t help myself from buying them for her. Pink’s her favorite color and purple’s mine, and since most of her clothes belong to one of these two color-groups, this purchase was a no-brainer.

Hope these photos can inspire all of us to recycle and possibly ignite a spark of creativity.

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Life After Kids: Beauty Sleep For Newbie Parents

In my Arms

In my Arms

Children are the BEST thing a married couple can have; a new home comes in a close second. The first few days after the baby’s born are the sweetest. Everyone in your household pitches in with the baby’s care, especially if you are living in a joint family system (it’s an Indian-sub-continental thing). But after the furor has died down, the baby is left at the mercy of the untrained parents who try balancing everything from their disrupted nightly routine to the regular diaper changes; needless to say, the whole experience can be a bit overwhelming.

I started writing this post almost seven months back, right around the time when I was cradling my two-month old son to sleep and I revisited it only after reading a friend’s Facebook status update begging for help:

Can’t say I miss being with my li’l baby but I do feel good about my newly acquired balancing act of managing work commitments too. Now only if I can get back to my social commitments. Any tips from sleep deprived parents welcome! All others who plan to be smart-alecs by saying motherhood comes with sacrifices, please keep your traps shut! Lol.

Having gone through fatherhood twice, I consider myself somewhat of an expert on balancing sleep and kids. This sense of helplessness most parents experience can be somewhat alleviated if you somehow miraculously get to sleep through the night. So my dear friend and all my readers, I present to you some time-tested tips that work most of the times and will (probably) help you and the baby get a good night’s sleep; if everything fails, try praying.

  1. Get the baby checked for infantile colic and treat accordingly
  2. Try giving the baby a pacifier at night
  3. Let the baby snuggle with you; try the wonders of kangaroo care
  4. Change the baby’s diaper frequently; some babies are really fussy about a dirty diaper
  5. Sing the baby a lullaby; hush little baby!
  6. Take the baby in arms and pat him/her lightly on the buttocks
  7. Try a technique called the 5 S’s by Dr. Harvey Karp; I have tried it on more than one occasion and it works
  8. See if the baby is gassy and give him/her some gripe water; do check with your doctor before giving the baby anything
  9. If the baby is being breast-fed, check if the mother is fulfilling the baby’s needs; otherwise, ask the doctor for a suitable infant formula
  10. See that your kids are burped properly; if not, they may cry a lot and keep you up all night
  11. Set up a sleeping pattern with your partner so that you can each take 4-hour shifts watching the baby; a 4 hour sleep at a stretch is better than no sleep at all
  12. See if the baby has boogers in his/her nose; a stuffy baby is a fussy baby
  13. Make sure the temperature of the room is right; the baby will cry if it is too hot or too cold
  14. Get an automated swing; the swaddling motion is comforting for the baby
  15. Use toys like mobiles over the baby’s cribs; seeing a repetitive circular motion helps put them to sleep
  16. Buy cots that have a vibrating electronic device underneath; the vibrating helps babies go to sleep
  17. Maybe you are not handling the baby properly; there are several independent services who teach how to take care of a baby and you should try hiring one
  18. Take the baby for a ride in the car near its sleeping time; works like a charm
  19. Give the baby a stuffed toy to snuggle with; it’s better if you try point no. 3
  20. Teach your baby how to sign; apparently, it’s the new IT thing but I’ve never given it a try
  21. Give the baby lukewarm milk with some cardamoms as it helps relieve stomach pain and gas build-up (check with the doc before trying this out)
  22. Make sure the baby’s wearing comfortable clothes; an uncomfortable baby is a fussy baby. Babies outgrow clothes faster than older kids so make sure you have appropriate clothes for the baby.
  23. Check your baby for diaper rash and get your doctor to recommend an anti-rash nappy cream.
  24. Join a parenting group for new mothers; hearing other people’s problems may help you deal with yours better. OK. The last one came out wrong. It should be ‘a support group for new parents’. The mothers and fathers are in this together.
  25. Most babies adjust to a sleeping pattern three months after their birth, so wait out the sleepless nights, keep your fingers crossed and pray that your baby is one of them; think of this as a light-at-the-end-of-the-tunnel scenario

Some parents may actually resort to giving the baby up for adoption but I suggest you wait out the worst of it and you’ll be amazed at the things these kids do when they grow up. Remember; it’s these unique experiences, these memories, that bond you with your spouse and your children for life.

Tweet ’em Away

Twitter is one of those things that grows on you. I have always been a man of many words so the 140 word limit is a bit intimidating. Once you get the hang of it though, it helps compose your thoughts more efficiently.

Here are some of my old tweets for your reading pleasure.

  1. Love conquers it all, except a forgotten anniversary. It’s a battle you lose even before you begin fighting. :p
  2. I don’t like the way you #Tweet me. Everyone has the right to be #Tweeted equally. :p
  3. Only powerful people have opinions that are heard. What we commoners say doesn’t even matter. #SocialInjustice
  4. After having two kids of my own, I finally understand why parents are more tolerant than ‘regular’ people. Baby vomit on shirt? No biggie!
  5. We’re afraid to miss (or be late for) a doctor’s appointment but we blatantly disregard Allah’s appointments (namaaz) everyday.
  6. You simply cannot ‘Like’ a death-in-the-family status. #EpicFail #FaceBook
  7. I’m running an average of 80 kms daily at approx. 76.5 kms/hr but still not losing any weight. #TempleRun2 is no help whatsoever.
  8. Don’t get intimidated by the barbed wires life spins around you. Think how to break-free & shine like the light you were always meant to be.
  9. Watching your 6-month old son go to sleep in your arms is perhaps the best feeling in the world! #ThingsMoneyCantBuy
  10. Those in the lime light wish to run away from it all; the rest of us wish we were in their place. It’s a #MadMadWorld.
  11. Had an annoying are-we-there-yet moment with my two-year old daughter; I was #Shrek and she was #Donkey! 😉
  12. It would be really interesting to read what people ‘almost’ write as a status or a comment, then delete it just before posting! 😉
  13. Your five-month old rips a loud one in a room full of people and you know the it-was-him-not-me look isn’t working. #Awkward
  14. An issue you won’t find being discussed between Pakistani friends: “Are you and your parents close?” #LoveYourFolks
  15. It’s time to lose weight when the plastic armchair you’re sitting on gets stuck to you when you get up. #HarshRealities
  16. If only we’d stop fighting for our rights and start giving others theirs, this world would be a much better place. #LifeLessons
  17. Funny how things NEVER seem to turn out the way you want them to; life is still worth living! #DishingOutInspiration
  18. Politics has a way of sucking you in, whether you want to or not. #HatePolitics
  19. #MashaAllah. The feeling I get when my almost-four-month-old son bestows me with a smile cannot be put into words. #Priceless
  20. Burning a bridge is easier than building/repairing one. Make sure you think twice before breaking ties/hearts. #SpreadTheLove
  21. My #daughter comes up behind me, puts her arms around my neck, #kisses me thrice and asks, “Maza aaya?” (Did you enjoy it?). Masha Allah.
  22. It’s disrespect when your kids use your first name to talk to you, but not when it’s your 21-month old daughter. ‘Youtuf’ loves you sweetie.
  23. Sometimes, what we say is what we don’t mean; those are the times we break hearts. Don’t hesitate to #Apologize if you think it’s worth it.
  24. The written word has a longer lifespan than you and I, so why not leave a lasting imprint? #Twitter #WordPress
  25. The joy in your daughter’s voice as she screams ‘Papa’ the moment you ring the door-bell; #Priceless
  26. Seeing your 2-month old son look into your eyes and smile for the first time; #Priceless
  27. There are two things that should NEVER be delayed: (1) doing a good deed, and (2) apologizing to someone you truly love/respect
  28. Whenever there’s a strange smell in the room, why does everyone automatically assume it’s the #FatGuy?
  29. Stabbed in the heart while being robbed in my own home, trying to protect my wife. How very chivalrous of me?! #NightmaresAndDreamscapes
  30. Beauty Magazines: the more you read them, the more you realize how pathetic your un-photoshoped body/face is! 😀
  31. The purest form of #love is what a parent has for his child; no conditions, no expectations, no strings attached!
  32. very #Pakistani is a Political Analyst with a potential for hosting a great #talkshow; if only profanity were allowed on Public Television!
  33. When a #TV character does something bad and tries covering it up, you know it’ll bite him/her in the butt within the next 5-7 episodes!
  34. There are some #questions in the world no one can answer; for everything else, there’s #Google!
  35. #Ramadan is not just about giving up food and drink for a prescribed amount of time; it’s about moderation, preservation and self-control.

Follow me on @YousufBawany for more insanity.

Cheers,
Yousuf

Quest For Creativity: Why Can’t We Be Children Again?

We’ve all encountered children with vivid imaginations. Some have imaginary friends while other see remarkable patterns in otherwise mundane things. Here’s a sample scenario:

You take your daughter to the park. She points to a big cloud in the sky and says, ‘Papa look. An elephant!’; all you can do is stare at the boring lifeless lump. You say, ‘Umhmm’, try shrugging it off as stupid, and your super-observant daughter instantly knows papa doesn’t get it. She then starts explaining how the thin wobbly line at the top of the cloud resembles a trunk, the blobs on either side look like ears, and the rest of the upside-down U shaped cloud, an elephant as seen from the back; the final touch being the little tail-like wisp inside the bend. ‘Aah! Now I see it.’

Can you spot a frog? [SPOILER on the right]

Can you spot a frog in the cloud? [spoiler alert!]

If we could quantify Creativity, we would find that, mathematically speaking, age is inversely proportional to creativity (in most cases). So the real question here is ‘what changes when we grow up’? Is there a switch that is suddenly turned off as soon as we reach adulthood? Are our minds so polluted with everyday problems that we stop observing, really observing, things? Is it maybe that our educational system is too linear, too one-dimensional? Is our thought process too subjective or biased? Or is the fear of being mocked by society for indulging in childish fantasies too gripping?

I love children and everyone who knows me knows as much. Children just connect with me and I to them, and it has been so for as long as I can remember. One of my younger cousins even used to call me his mama (i.e. mother), an honor I still unabashedly cherish to this day. What I lack in having a degree in Child Psychology, I make up for in experience. From what I have seen so far, children have some innate abilities, an eye for detail, and a thirst for knowledge most of us can only dream of having. Let us look at few of the qualities that make children more creative and even though some of these might be interrelated/over-lapping, they are nevertheless individual traits:

Forgiving / Forgetting

If you read anyone’s New Year’s resolutions, I’m sure you will have quite a few for mending broken relationships or rekindling ties with the estranged. A while back, I wrote an article on ‘Punishment for Breaking Ties in Islam’; statistics on this blog show it to be one of the most-read articles. Being an adult means making hard decisions and sometimes, these decisions cost us our loved ones. One simple argument can create huge rifts that put the Grand Canyons to shame. We focus so much of our energy nurturing this hate that at times, it becomes all-consuming, destroying everything in its path.

“It was his fault; he should apologize.”

“I am never talking to her again.”

“Over my dead body.”

Children have a totally different approach to this problem. I took my daughter to a pediatrician and she told me that children have a very short memory span. They fight with each other and two minutes later, all is forgotten and you’d find them playing together. This, I believe, is a key factor that develops the creative side in children. So as a lesson, let us set our egos aside, spend less time scheming and plotting our revenge, take things in stride, forgive and forget, and use our minds for something constructive; water under the bridge, people.

Fearless / Audacious

Adults are generally driven by consequences. Our entire day is based on what-if scenarios and we are generally driven towards choosing an easy way out for every problem. Life as an adult is all about boundaries, personal spaces and comfort zones. Then again, the definition of comfort varies from person to person; a person may be comfortable jumping to earth from space but might be scared of public speaking. Most of us never dare venture out of our comfort zones and even if we do, we chicken out the moment we encounter something remotely risky.

Let me give you a fearless example from my life. I personally don’t have any issues with cats but my wife is scared of them; my daughter, on the other hand, is obsessed with these furry creatures. My wife fears their sharp claws and the angry hissing noises they make; having never seen any of those things, my daughter passionately chases after one and at times, I have to hold her tight so as to prevent her from strangling the cat in question. She is not afraid and is willing to try new things, except for food, maybe; getting her to eat something is a feat in itself.

In short, children are not afraid of the consequences. We often scold them for breaking apart things, forgetting the key fact that even if it may look destructive, the exercise on the whole is actually contributing a lot to the child’s education. You simply cannot put up a price tag on the experience. Adults generally tend to associate a monetary value with everything. How many of us will willingly break apart our iPhones only to examine their internal contents, just out of curiosity?

Inquisitive / Curious

Ignorance is bliss but people belonging to the knowledge-is-power sect may beg to differ; would any of you ever willingly touch a snake? Obviously not! For children, everything counts as ‘an experience’. Whether it is taking the first steps or trying a particular fruit, each of these things gets a child into sensory overload; these feelings, or inputs, are then decoded into likes and dislikes, loves and hates. I have noticed that my 10-month old nephew is more eager to try new things as opposed to my 22-month old daughter. Taking things downwards on the age comparison, I find that my 4-month old son is more interested in the surroundings than either his sister or his cousin; he probably knows the intricacies of the ceiling fan better than anyone else in my house.

From all these observations, I have come to a simple conclusion; Children inherently have unbiased opinions. They are more subjective, open to new ideas, and ready to explore new avenues; adults, on the other hand, are generally inflexible. Children see the world in a different light; they analyze, think and evaluate ideas, no matter how absurd or preposterous the concepts may seem. We, on the other hand, say NO to anything that goes against our principles, our beliefs, and don’t skip a heartbeat in trashing it straight-away.

Free-thinkers / Broad-minded

If you’ve ever been to interviews, the phrase that truly sells you to a prospective employer is ‘Out-of-the-box thinker’. Ever wondered why it is so? Adults tend to be very linear, one-dimensional, in their approach. Most of us don’t see things from a different perspective, that’s why fancy concepts like out-of-the-box thinking are all the rage these days.

When it comes to children though, everything from a close inspection of car to the cereal they oh-so love is out-of-the-box (no pun intended). They just seem to see everything in a different light and a have a multidimensional perspective. They ask a lot of questions to understand concepts until all their curiosity is satiated. My daughter loves asking questions, so much so that at times, we just hold our hurting heads and beg her to stop the inquisition; fortunately, that doesn’t stop her from asking more.

We adults, however, feel ashamed to ask questions, fearing that asking too many questions might make us look dumb. There’s this one friend of mine who’s a genius (Masha Allah), literally (Ph.D. from MIT, working for Google, etc.), and he once told me something I haven’t let go of till this day:

One who asks a question is a fool for five minutes, but one who doesn’t, is a fool forever [Chinese Proverb]

The key point here is to see every issue, every problem, using a holistic approach, keeping your bias out of the equation and to freely ask questions. You may come across pros you might be against, cons you might actually support, but you need to be open-minded and listen to all sides of the story before drawing conclusions.

Visionaries with Wild Imaginations

Being adult means being extra-cautious before saying anything out of the ordinary, lest society labels you a weirdo.

“That’s preposterous. What would they think if I said this out loud?”

We also don’t hesitate to label someone as soon as something remotely fantastical comes out of their mouth.

“Are you five?”

The great thing about children is that they often mix fantasy with real life; that in itself is a big difference in how we adults perceive the world. We compartmentalize our thoughts, making judgments on what is acceptable and what is not, and have an innate need to ‘keep it real’. On the contrary, children have no mental boundaries; its all uncharted territory, a blank canvas waiting to be painted with the colors of creativity. Imaginary friends, bizarre drawings (that, if painted by adults, count as ‘abstract art’), and monsters in the closet are all part of this world they live in. Leading companies across the globe have realized the value of these ideas and have concluded that children have a lot more potential for creativity than adults. That is why, they run annual competitions where children are encouraged to envision a greener world or draw their fantasy cars.

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I just love observing my children. Call me neurotic (after all, what parent isn’t?) but I tend to capture even the least insignificant of my children’s accomplishments as a record of their history, their growth, and their victories. Whether it’s a photo of my son holding his milk bottle for the very first time or a video of my daughter naming all her favorite candies (Smarties=Mattish, M&Ms=M.M.M., Maltesers=Matishers), I have it all on camera, thanks to the digital revolution (man, we’re lucky!).

Children can be a constant source of inspiration and learning; all we need is to look at them in a different light, take a moment to understand their thought process and take them seriously. To truly unleash our creative potential, we need to start experiencing things like they do. They may be ignorant, but they are certainly not stupid. We as parents should nurture and encourage these behavioral traits from childhood so that our children can transgress with these into adulthood.

After all is said and done, I am painfully aware of the fact I am about to present to you:

When we are young, we can’t wait to grow up, be independent. It’s only after we get there do we realize how enslaved we are by our very minds and know the true value of freedom.

Love is in the air

Love is in the air