by Krista Our family recently marked the end of our third month living in India. I recently wrote here about how the move and transition went really smoothly for us. What I didn't talk about were the hard parts. I never expected a perfect transition. Things haven't always been easy on us though, and we've had to deal with some challenges that I didn't expect. The biggest of all of them was how out of sorts the lils were, and for how long. I knew that there would be a period where they would not be their normal happy selves, and possibly downright cranky. I just didn't expect it would extend for a couple of months, long after they had overcome the jet lag, finally gotten our shipment with their "stuff", settled in to school, and figured out the lay of the land. It's gotten much better, but they still have days where they are lashing out way more than they ever did back in Ottawa.
A big part of their behavioural change is likely due to the new rules that they a living under. We went from a fairly carefree existence, to one that is filled with new rules. We tried really hard to ensure that we only made rules where it was strictly necessary, and tried to introduce them gradually and intermittently, but it turns out that there are a number of new rules that couldn't fit into that approach. Rules like don't play on the road, cars won't stop for you. Don't walk on the sidewalk without holding a parent's hand, as the motorcycles and mopeds frequently drive on the sidewalk and aren't watching for you. Don't drink the water from the tap, it isn't safe. Don't touch any dogs, they are all wild and some are mean. Don't touch any bugs, some of them are nasty and we don't know which... It's a lot for little people to take in, and some times they rebel and don't listen at all, which is stressful.
Food is also a source of concern for us, more than we anticipated. We expected that they would rebel against some of the new foods and flavours, and they have, more than we thought they would. We also knew that finding safe foods for Woo, who is allergic to nuts, was going to be difficult, as peanuts are a staple here in many snack foods, and in the preparation of many foods. We are told to peanut oil is not a stable in urban kitchens (it is used much more in rural areas), but we still have to ask any time we are getting food for Woo. Sadly, allergies are not that common here, and we need to ask and explain several times before we are confident that he will be safe. This has made Woo feel very stigmatized, and he doesn't want to ever eat foods that we haven't prepared for him, and doesn't want to go to restaurants or to other people's houses to eat. We try to do as much advance work on this as we can, but struggle with this frequently.
We have also found it difficult to go out as a couple, without the littles. When we left Ottawa, we left our support network behind, and that network included our babysitters, both family and teenagers for hire. We're slowly starting to build a network, but have only used a sitter once. Building trust comes slowly for all of us, and it has come at the expense of time out without the lils, something I feel we need more of.
We are all a little lonely at times, including Woo and Goose. I just assumed that they would make friends at school, and that the social interaction there would help fill in some of the gaps. It does, but their area long periods of time when they are not in school, when they need to have someone to play with, when we are not enough company for each other. Getting together with friends in from school is possible, but requires more coordination than it did back home, as we have to ensure that we have the driver and that sitting in traffic is not going to eat up all our play time. We need to find more friends in our neighborhood, and I wish I had put more effort into this from the start.
Their loneliness is probably linked to the fact that they really miss home, especially Woo. I am shocked at how much they still talk about their friends and involve them in their pretend play. Woo frequently talks of wanting to go back home and of the things that he is missing at home. I don't want to. Discourage their connection with Ottawa, but I need to also foster a sense that Bangalore is home. It is clear that it is not for Woo, despite our efforts.
Finally, I underestimated just how much we would be a "tourist attraction". We very much stand out where ever we go, and the lils especially attract a lot of attention. While this was neat for them the first couple of times it happened, the novelty has firmly worn off. We want to be sure that we give our lils an opportunity to experience many new things here in India, and this means that we are out and about, exploring and walking all over. Unfortunately it also means that they are touched, pinched, picked up, and photographed or videotaped a lot. They have become very uncomfortable with this, and having us protect them was not enough, they were getting to the point where they didn't want to leave home anymore. Through trial and error, we realized that giving them the power to say whether they wanted to be touched or photographed really made a difference. We now ask people to ask the lils directly. Goose and Woo get to decide if they want to pose, or anything else. Mostly they say no, but occasionally it is yes, and they have fun with it.
Each day brings a new challenge, and a wealth of new experience.
Krista is married to Willy and mom to a 4 year old son, Woo, and 3 year old daughter, Goose. A capital family, they are currently living in Bangalore, India for a year. You can find her at Life in the Hutch or on Twitter @kgraydonald