Thursday, April 24, 2014

Words and their meanings

Last night we were driving back home after having dinner at a restaurant. My parents (Raghav's grandparents) were with us. We were at a roundabout, when all of a sudden, a man on a motorbike, sped in from the right, overtook us pretty close, and weaved in and out of the traffic in front of us, almost doing a little dance, while revving up his engine. We all held our breath watching the way he drove. "Why would he do something like that?!" exclaimed Raghav. My tired self mumbled: " He must be showing off his new bike"....and I knew even though I was half asleep, that I had done myself in. :) ... I should have known better - that I cannot get away with words, with Raghav around!

"What does that mean? What do you mean by showing off?", he asked innocently. I was flummoxed. I couldn't find the words to explain to him. He insisted that I explain. I asked my father to bail me out, and he explained it so beautifully, with a little story, without using the word "showing off" at all! Then, we thought of a few more examples together, about instances when we felt somebody was showing off, including Raghav!

"So then, showing off means you are actually comparing yourself to someone else no?", he said, in a very matter-of-fact manner. :) Who would have thought that showing off  is actually reflecting something deeper? Perhaps the need to show off stems from not feeling okay about oneself, and hence the need to seek attention and recognition, and comparing oneself to another to feel better about it. I was stumped by the depth of his understanding!

I have grown up in a system where the usual thing to do when one is stuck with the meaning of a word is to look up a dictionary. I realised today that there are other ways to learn the meanings of words - that life gives you real ways to understand some meanings, if only you see those with an open, non-judgmental mind...a mind that is free from scripts....a mind that is like a clean slate, that creates its own strokes and connections.

Sunday, April 13, 2014

The Joy of Self-Learning!

Recently, there had been a lot of sharing of Lego videos / simple animation done by kids, in our online homeschoolers' group. I watched all of those intently as I knew Raghav would love to make something like that sometime. One of them even shared the steps of how to make one with me. I was thrilled and wanted to make one for Raghav and surprise him. I thought he might then get more interested in making movies. But I forgot :)

This morning, Raghav sat with me to download some new apps on the iPad. He wanted to explore some new games. While he asked for suggestions like he usually does, he did not take any of my ideas ( again quite usual!) and went off after a while to look for things on his own, occasionally coming to share his findings with me. I now understand that his asking me for ideas is perhaps like the ignition - once you put in the key and turn it, it starts off on its own!

I was quite surprised at the iPad apps he had found on his own. One was about being a dentist, and the other was for making a Lego movie. He was excited about both! And I have no idea whatsoever as to how he found these apps! It was really strange because he had no idea about my thinking about making movies with lego, and he had also been to the dentist a few days ago, and had to get more dental work done in the coming week! And he had found two apps (both free) that would help him with both!

We went through the Lego Movie Maker app together and realised how easily we could make a Lego movie of our own! Raghav was very excited and went on to make his first ever Lego movie with it, almost entirely on his own. All I did was to hold the iPad for him to take a photo with a steady hand. He was even more excited  that he could add sound effects and his voice over to the movie! We spent some time on getting the video exactly how he wanted, with the voice over in the exact way he wanted and at the correct frame. He figured out how to adjust the frame speed and order the sounds recorded all on his own. I was merely there to listen, watch and hold the iPad steady. He plans to make many more and one hour-long Lego movie:)

A few days ago, my husband got a bit irritated with him for leaving the doors open in the bedroom, while the AC was on, and Raghav did not like being reminded of that. We had a long chat about it - we discussed how we didn't like to go behind him and close the doors each time as we were also getting tired of doing that. We also discussed how he didn't like to be told off or reminded about it. And then, we let it be.
The next day, Raghav came up to us with a printout of a door and said that he was going to cut it up and stick it on the bedroom door, to remind himself of what he had to do :) He had Googled for pictures, chosen one that he liked, printed it out, cut it out, and stuck it up all on his own! We have had to remind him very few times after that to close the door.

It is a priceless pleasure to watch the joy of self-learning and discovery unfold every single time. I never get tired of it. It is a warm feeling that radiates inside me when I see my son taking charge of himself and his living and learning, slowly and surely.

Sharing that joy with all of you through this post, photos and this video....

My first Lego Movie

a self-made reminder to close the door :)

Thursday, April 10, 2014

The Butterfly by the Door

Last night, Raghav and I were going down to see my friend for a little while, as she was going in for a surgery today. Just as we walked out through our door, we saw a little black and yellow butterfly in the passage outside. The bright colours caught our eyes. We stopped and stooped down to take a closer look. Raghav noticed that she had probably hurt her wing and could not fly. But she was trying to move. We wondered together how she could have got there on the twelfth floor. Raghav was worried if she was going to die as she could not fly to get her food. "She is so beautiful!", he whispered softly, looking at her with loving eyes. We held her in our thoughts as we moved on.

When we got back about ten or fifteen minutes later, we looked for the butterfly. She was no longer in the same place. She had moved. We found her lying still, quite close to the doormat of our house. She was dead. We stooped down again to see her closely. "I think she moved on her own, with that hurt wing. I think she probably knew that we cared, and that's why she moved close to our house," he said, as we walked in through the door. He was probably right.

We didn't think of burying her or saying a prayer. We simply held her with love in our hearts, acknowledging her quiet presence in our house that moment. This morning, when I opened the front door, her frail form was still lying there outside the door. She was gone and was yet there in a way.

Death brings one closer to love and the fragility of all that is, however big or small.

Understanding the Shine

Recently, we were at a mall to watch The Lego Movie. We had lunch there afterwards. Raghav was as usual watching something on his iPad while eating. Suddenly, a man with two little kids and wife, who was hovering around, probably in search for a place to sit down and eat, came up to us and angrily and said:" This is a place to eat you know, not a place to play games!" Before I could think of what to say to him and how, my husband had already finished reacting with anger. The man smiled, perhaps glad to have made his point, and moved away.

I felt trapped between how I was feeling for my husband and that man. I could understand the space from where both were coming. One was feeling angry perhaps because his space was being intruded upon and he was being told what to do. The other was feeling angry perhaps because he was with two hungry kids and could not wait to get a seat to sit down and eat. I was contemplating on whether I should get Raghav to get up and give our place to them, as those kids were really little and hungry. But that would have been next to impossible with Raghav's difficulties with transition and understanding another's point of view. While I was still processing all this, it was all over with. That family got a place to sit within a few minutes.

I have felt responsible for defending my child and his needs, as his mother. I think that until he is ready to set out into the world on his own and fend for himself emotionally and physically, I need to be there with him. And I know that my child and the Universe will let me know when he is ready for that. This issue with gadgets is something that I constantly face and have to deal with, both with my immediately family and friends. Sometimes I stand up and speak for us as a family and for my son. Sometimes I just get tired of explaining over and over again. But what I know is that it is coming up again and again for me because I need to get more grounded in my belief that all is well as it is. I know I will reach a point when I will not have to speak up for us and him, and when I won't have to defend a choice that we have made, because it is what we believe in. I will get there, and until then I will just have to keep following my heart and go with the flow.

Raghav has told us many a time before, when we openly discussed my fear that these gadgets would become an obsession, that he needs them, and that it is not just a want. We have had many a discussion on needs and wants. I have come to trust that he knows the difference, just like I trust he knows what he wants to learn and how. It is a deep feeling that grows with time and by living together, by being real and alive to whatever comes up for us each moment.

Raghav has this need to watch something while he is eating.  He has made it clear to us that it makes him "eat better". What I think he means by that is he is more mindful of his eating. It can be hard to understand how that could possibly be mindful eating, when he is doing two things at a time. It was hard for me to understand too, until I was able to see the process of eating, through his eyes. With his extreme, and often unpredictable sensitivities and challenges in processing some of those, a visual stimulant like the iPad or TV, probably makes it easier for him to process all the sensory inputs he gets while going through a complex task such as eating. I think it calms him down, so that he can process what he is eating and how. I have noticed that he is able to tell me more about the taste, texture, smell and if he likes the food or not, when he is calm and enjoying his food. He has often explained how his tongue and teeth work while he is chewing, and about the function of the epiglottis and breath, while he is eating in this way. This sounded very similar to what a young person with autism told us about being able to concentrate better on his lessons or someone speaking, when he was listening to the music of his choice, at the volume most comfortable to him, and using headphones. In fact, he even took his State level exams, with his music and headphones on, after getting special permission.

To me, my understanding of sensory processing has helped me understand my child better. It is like this - to understand it, I had to get into the box and explore it fully from within and from all sides...and then, I wanted to get out of the confined freedom of that box quickly, so that I didn't get stuck in it, and could look beyond. Today, I understand my son's challenges, through his shine. These "quirks" (for want of a better word) are his shine - who he truly is. I see them as pointers for me to not take anything, however simple it may seem, for granted. I see them as stepping stones to question and let go of my long-standing beliefs and fears. I see them as the unique cuts that make my precious diamond bring forth his own radiant shine into this beautiful world.

Friday, April 4, 2014

It's Lego Season Again! :)

When we got back from the homeschoolers' conference, a month ago, Raghav announced that his car racing and BrainPop season was over and that the Lego season had begun! He had been off Lego, on his own, over the last few months, and it was kind of hard for me to deal with the mixed feelings I had - happiness that he was out of something and into other things, and sadness that he was out of something that he was so totally passionate about. But I guess taking a break from anything is good once in a while, for he came back with a bang, creating some of the most amazing, cute and creative stuff with his Lego bricks.

Here is a slideshow of some of his creations over the last month .....