Monthly Archives: July 2012

Little guys, big guys

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I am doing a master degree in development management. In parallel to a master degree on parenting. My child will be awarding the degree. Stakes are high. Principles and values are simple.

Read lots of books on parenting. The list of my favorite books includes:

Brain Rules for Baby: How to Raise a Smart and Happy Child from Zero to Five, by John Medina,

Baby Hearts: A Guide to Giving Your Child an Emotional Head Start by Goodwyn Ph.d., Susan, Linda Phd Acredolo.

What All Children Want Their Parents To Know by Loomans, Diana, Godoy, Julia.

All these readings made me plunge into my childhood. Lots of my current beliefs and behaviours got suddenly a crystal clear explanation. But this post is not about that.

So back to my master’s in parenting. In parallel to others wisdom and experience I also rely powerfully on my intuition. From early pregnancy days, my core ABC values are:

A. YOUR baby is your guide. Not your relatives, neighbours and all kinds of ‘good-wishers’, whose “advise” is to be listened to or dismissed with, sometimes, huge sense of humour.

B. Treat your child as you would like to be treated yourself. It’s the Golden Rule of reciprocity and basic respect.

C. Treasure yourself. Parents’ supreme responsibility is to be there for their children in good physical and mental health.

How I explained my B value to my partner, who had issues in adjusting to his parenting role as in a “fast grab it & do it” parenting style? Imagine you are being approached by a guy 3 to 5 times your height and 7 to 20 times your weight who is verbalising in an alien-like-adult-prejudiced- sound track and is suddenly grabbing you and holding up above his head and finds it funny and expects the same from you?!… not quite funny isn’t it, if looked at from the other end :). And all forms of patronizing are, to me,  an antonym to parenting.

OR for day-care dropping: imagine you are visiting a friend in another country who cannot see you tonight and instead drops you at a party in the neighbourhood in a room of 100 strangers talking different languages, waves you goodbye and says “you’ll be fine”. Not quite funny, is it? :). It’s a “walk in their shoes” approach.

What’s central is respect, as reciprocity is an immediate manifestation in a parent-child relation.

I am loud, my baby is ear-splitting.

I am respectful with others, my baby is politeness-incorporated!

I am sad, my baby is tearful!!

I am vocal, my baby is choral!!!

I am reserved, my baby is demur!!!!

I am a fighter, my baby is Che-Guevara-ish!!!!!

I am happy, my baby is happier!!!!!!

I love and my baby loves life, animals, small bugs, flowers, the wind and the city she calls Paris… .

And reciprocity is what makes parenting a really beautiful endeavour.

Enjoying to respect kids and enjoying being a parent is a choice. Easy one. When done with love.

Baby brains, science and love

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There is a buzz now around youngest Olympians going to London. And rightly so, I would say. 15 to 18 year old great persons with a jolly inner and outer kid reflected in their eyes are rejuvenating the whole atmosphere. Behind each of them there is a story of hard work from avery young age. One of my favourite books on child development is ‘Kindergarten Is Too Late!’ (1971) by Masaru Ibuka, Sony’s founder. Read the Russian translation and sorry for not being able to read it in the original language. The main message of the book is that by age of 3 a child’s brain is developing the fastest in a human life. Skills and knowledge transferred and gained at this age are fundamental and life-lasting. Some say ‘kids are like sponges’ at this age – absorb it all.I also recommend the book by John Medina “Brain rules” – excellent insight into children rational development.

There was another happy encounter in my life. It was a late October evening. In a park. Downtown. I sat on a bench with my 9 month old baby with a new book we just bought. It was an encyclopedia for kids. A lovely senior lady was sitting on the same bench. We started talking. She told me that the development of my baby is totally up to us, her parents. She shared insights into how she nurtured her child: daily readings, constant dialogues, multi-language training. She told me a story of a German couple who decided to give encyclopedic knowledge to their son, so started initiating him in all sciences. By age of 3 he has spoke no word at all. And his parent stared worrying. When he turned 3, all the knowledge they insulated, was pouring out of the little guy. By age of 4 he enrolled in school, by age of 12 he graduated it and got admitted to University. Made up or not this story made me curious about the idea of “genius not born, genius made”. Plenty of books on the subject… This is how I got to meet also Mr. Ibuka through his book.
There also a strong ingredient in the “genius not born, genius made” story: Love.

My favorite quote from John Medina’s book: “a man once asked me “how can I get my son into Harvard?’ “Go home and love your wife!”, was my answer”.

Surrounded by love, children will thrive and beautify the world around them and multiply the love with unseen and unbelievable knowledge and abilities.

For the sake of love and beauty.

Stigma and a Handshake

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Reading the very insightful article Generation HIV: Growing up under a shadow of infection by By Madhumita Venkataramanan on http://www.bbc.com/future/story/20120723-generation-hiv, accessed on 24 July 2012 and news on Hilary Clinton appointing U.S. Global AIDS Coordinator Eric Goosby to lead the development of a blueprint that outlines U.S. goals and objectives to achieve an AIDS-free generation,  expected to be unveiled on World AIDS Day 2012, reminded me of my quasi experience with HIV people.

We were on a retreat with white collar colleagues from an international development agency in a HIV awareness campaign several years ago. Colleagues from World Health Organisation invited HIV people to talk to us. I remember quite vividly the faces of that honest open small group of people at the entrance of the room we were all gathered. They were shy, but not uncomfortable. It was us, the rest, who were more uncomfortable, in a very relaxed otherwise natural setting.

They had simple stories to tell. They were obviously in a daily persistent fight for their lives. With smiles on their faces. At the end of their story telling, one man with a dignifying expression extended his hand asking if anyone would like to shake it.

I had an urge, but that ‚socially acceptable behaviour’ voice in my head stopped me.

That hand was there, extended, for a few minutes. In vain.

One person from the audience shouted ‚ you all should be in closed camps, away from our children’. I could see the pain in those people’s eyes. Being rejected and humiliated when fighting for your life is a double punishment, don’t you think?

I am sorry for that.

Should I meet now that person, I would be the first to extend my hand and give it a firm shake.

And apologise profoundly.

P.S. a lot is done, more needs to be done on marginalization of those living with HIV, at a very basic human level, in addition to all overwhelmingly medical and epidemiological approaches at local and global level. Further reading on http://www.devex.com, ‘Legalizing’ HIV, by Devex Editor on 24 July 2012 on Launch of the U.N. Commission on HIV and the Law. By Naomi Burke-Shyne, program manager at International Development Law Organization’s HIV and health law initiative

Let’s talk about aging. Part 2

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Age may wrinkle the face, but lack of enthusiasm wrinkles the soul.” – Danish Proverb.

I am surrounded by people of all age both in my working environment and my private life. Creative vibes among us are not about the birth year. The enthusiasm is that defining link which erases the difference between a 23 year old and a 90 year old. A lively interest in life is what differentiates us from others. That spark in the apple of the eye is what makes escalating mountains of life a piece of cake.  Have you noticed that some elderly complain about walking difficulties? It’s because they refuse to advance and forgot about that lively interest in life and all its gifts. Remember that next time you feel you feet hurting or legs aching.

This week-end I was looking for some presents for teenagers of my child’s God parents. Wanted something hand made in this era of gadgets. There is a pretty decent local artists’ square downtown in my current location. After half an hour of wondering about between walls of paintings and ceramics, I hear a voice of a lady eagerly suggesting to her customers what to choose from her offer. It’s the voice of a seventy something energetic lady. A proud owner of a splendid grey hair. Her face is wrinkled but her voice and soul is untouched. Obviously, it attracted me and couple of more customers. There were more customers with her than any other much younger vendors. I made my purchase there – a neatly made purse and a vintage bag – ok, ok, I admit … Betty White whispering to a giraffefor gadgets :).

This lady with eyes enthused with amazement for life told me she works for USD 1 commission per item sold and is happy about it, even if she has to carry all those tablecloths, carpets, paintings, purses and bags every day to and from the market, on a hot or rainy day. She shared how proud she is to have terrific grand children, one of whom is a sports’ champion with dozens of medals by age of eight. And that her daughter in law is expecting another baby ….

I carried on with a wide smile on my face and sparkling eyes….

Probably the author of that Danish proverb got inspired by a similar face and soul. Wisdom is eternal, isn’t it?

Coffee, chocolate, wisdom: combined

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I should be working on an assignment on inter-institutional coordination in complex emergencies. My mind took a break. A coffee and chocolate break. And not even feelling guilty about it. Love my mind!

I have two addictions – dark chocolate and wise people. Love them combined.

Every Friday morning it’s my beauty hour. Friday is the “day of Frige”, an Old English goddess, cousin with Roman Venus, goddess of beauty. It is kind of an explanation I give myself for indulging  all kind of beauty treatments on Friday. It’s also a nice prelude to week-end days.

So every Friday morning I go to a beauty salon to my beloved cosmetologist whose hands are beautifying my face for the last decade or so. She just turned 70. Before her divine massage she orders coffee. We chat about everything and nothing. This is The best coffee I ever had and hope to continue having for the next decade or so. It smells and tastes like no coffee on earth.

The feeling is similar to having a bottle of wine with a great person and still feeling alcohol-free as opposed to getting drunk from a sip of wine in an inappropriate company.

To make it even more magical I bring her chocolate desserts I bake, for us to celebrate these special moments. The way she tastes my desserts and appreciates the flavours stays with me for another week. Untill next Friday morning.

So why is this coffee so different? ….It’s the wisdom and gestures of this lady. The way she graciously puts the coffee on table, takes a first sip, ponders to feel it’s warmth and asks about how I have been. Her eyes are always illuminated by a magic internal light. She is always genuinely interested in conversation and in spite of her enormous life experience she is never in a hurry to give advice.

Such an organic and holistic approach – body & soul & mind – wrapped in an aroma of coffee & chocolate, with the fragrance of a facial masque, enriched with seven decades of life wisdom and served in a nonchalant and elegant way.

From the love of beauty and with the beauty of love.

Every day is full of magic… 1

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Every day is full of magic and beauty. We just need eyes to see it. Ears to hear it and a heart to feel it.

Every working day at noon I buy take-away soup for my child from a cafeteria in a business center down town, where I work (o.k., o.k. I am not the does-it-all-full-time- working- parent, and not even aspiring to). The lady who serves the food behind the counter is in her mid twenties, blue eyes, fair hair, with beautiful actress like hands, and an irresistible smile when she asks for “would you like to try some of our pumpkin – pie today”.

Yesterday I noticed her training a colleague:

–        Are you preparing your replacement for an up-coming summer vacation?, I asked.

–        It’s for more than a vacation, she responds with her irresistible smile, which is now even more feminine and sweeter, a real poppy-like smile.

It makes me look for a reason for such a blossoming transformation…. . My eyes search for it behind the counter and here it is –  I see her gorgeous timidly showing baby bump!

Hello, baby! You’ll definitely get your beautiful smile from your mother as she is blessing the world with it every day.

On my agenda: get this lady a present, to thank her for letting me have everyday a soup enriched with the fragrance with a poppy- like smile.

Every day is full of magic and beauty. We just need eyes to see it. Ears to hear it and a heart to feel it.

Dreams

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“ – What did your dream about last night, sweetheart?

–        A prince, replies my two year old princess with a nonchalance I envy (especially when I am to respond to a large and diverse audience).”

When was it last time you had a ‘prince’ or a ‘princess’ in your dreams? And ‘never’ is not an acceptable response. Neither is “there are not enough royalty to dream about’. Because it’s not at all about that.

It’s about dreams. About wings’. About aspirations. Positive ambition. Emulation. Reverie. It’s about climbing your own Everest.  Or acquiring your own Holy Grail. Didn’t Martin Luther King start with “I have a dream…”? ….

Remember ‘Peter Pan”? His prescription is simple “all you have to do is to think of a happy little thought”.

If it does not work right away, remember :

“All it takes is a little bit of trust!’.

And here we gooooo, we can fly!

My dream? To become a goodwill ambassador for kids. So that They can Fly!