Food and Layers of Learning

I was harboring fear and irritation whenever Raghu asked for “interesting” food.  His kind of ‘interesting’ usually involves me going waaay out of my comfort zone.  He drools over Nigella, Masterchef, Jamie Oliver and devours cook books.

A couple of evenings ago I plunged into buying alien items like rice-paper, sesame oil and Sumac.  That evening I created a dish inspired by Nigella and some techniques i’d learnt via Masterchef.  The stuff was eaten so fast that i never managed to photograph it 🙂  I created rice paper rolls with cooked corn-rice, cooked and raw cucumber and shredded lettuce stuffing.  It was incredible.  We dunked these translucent, beautiful little parcels of semi-cooked and raw elements in 2 kinds of home-made, asian dips.

What is my point here?  Well for me this was an act of courage.  I want to honor it / myself.  I was able to be playful and relaxed while creating, nay inventing, new food while meeting Raghu’s taste, my pantry limitations, dinner rush, and all the other “perceived”obstacles.  I did keep daal and chaval on the side as a backup, just in case 🙂

So what are the layers here?  I went way beyond just creating the food.  I was able to get past the fears, irritation (why not focus on the million other things i make?… I already make many different cuisines for my gourmand-son) and learn to go with the flow.  I set an intent “to meet Raghu’s need for new foods with love and to make it happen”.  And it happened.  This intent setting business is heady stuff.  I don’t quite know when the internal shift happens… but by setting my energies in the right direction and not lingering in doubt, fears, irritation or too much left-brain analysis etc… I am happier and able to stay in the moment with love and gratitude and an open heart that says “even what you think is impossible can happen if you want it to”.  Ok… a bit dramatic… but truly… buying rice wrappers, fancy-shmancy ingredients, paying a bomb, not knowing whether they will get used fully, whether i’d make anything good with them etc… and whether the kid will eat it etc… tests my thresholds 🙂 out here in India.

For Raghu he got to see me take a dip in uncharted waters.  He, needless to say, was thrilled, cheered me on and was an enthusiastic taster while i cooked.  He spoke with me about other ingredients we can source in Pune (he wants me to cook him endives and bake Beef-pot-pies next 🙂 We spoke about why i get irritated with his frequent needs for “interesting” foods.  I shared how i feel stressed by the cost of these imported ingredients.  A simple slab of haloumi sets us back quite a bit here (haloumi being a simple, salted, Arabic cottage-cheese variety that i took for granted growing up in Abu Dhabi) or even a simple Cheddar.  And Raghu is quite the gourmand… he knows his cheeses, oils, meats, salad dressings, nut butters, etc.  But as we talked I realized…. OMG i love it.  I love how much he knows about food… his passion for new tastes and exploration.  And Ravi, dear Ravi, confirmed for me that we should just keep money for it… like we would if Raghu wanted a class.  When it comes to money and seeing it as a flowing, moving energy… Ravi is awesome and inspiring to me.

Raghu surprised Ravi and me by having boiled, salted peanuts sold by the toll booths on the way to Dharwad.  Also road-side, large watery cucumbers slit and dipped in spicy salt.  He has been adjusting to the local cuisine and eats many, many more Indian (read: ingredients are easy to procure and cheaper and more local for me) dishes these days.  But he is a ‘foodie’ and misses bagels, pretzels, well-made shawarma (tasted last in Abu Dhabi) and other international foods that we (parents who travel and work in different countries) have exposed him to since an early age.  So I move, learn, change, unfold, whisper sweet intents to the universe and the layers of learning dawn upon me everyday.


Allergies and the road to unschooling…

There have been many times when i’ve recounted the tale of how i came upon unschooling. And sometimes people who have children with allergies ask questions about how we treated Raghu’s allergies. So here is an excerpt of an email to some one on this topic and a few more paras on how it connects to choosing unschooling:

I recommend finding a Naturopath near you and see if you like the Doc and the diagnosis/suggestions. My son, then 3 years old, instantly responded to MSM, Esterol, Magnesium, Quercetin, B12 and some dietary changes. His season-induced allergies magically vanished within 3 weeks… only we had to continue the doses for the entire time we were in the US. But still better than using a pump, medication etc.

So diet wise… we switched to raw milk and raw cheeses when possible (we were in NJ and had access to this). Also i started to listen to my child. Sounds simplistic. However…. Raghu had stopped eating most fruit (which he used to love) and started eating more of Methi (fenugreek leaves), Spinach, Kale, Grapes, Apple-skins, and some other things that the Naturopath immeditately said meant that his body was searching for ‘Quercetin’. Sadly till i met this Doc i had forced/coerced/cajoled Raghu to eat what “I” thought his body needed. Once I began following his cues… his health, his over all diet, his ability to ask for foods he liked/wanted/craved improved dramatically.

Giving my child the freedom to choose meant he could connect with his body and really eat only what he wanted and in the amounts he wanted. His health has been amazing since.

He asks for candy/so-called-junk-foods… but he also is the kind of kid to ask for broccoli and kale on a day to day basis. He eats brown rice, chicken, no fruit, lots of greens, many cheeses including fresh mozzarella, olives, stir-fry veggies etc. I mean his diet is rich and varied and yet… he is in charge. I simply make lots of options available. So he may eat sugary, choco cereal with cold milk in the morning and a packet of chips… but then i make chips in the oven…and he loves those too… and then for lunch he asks for soup like today… with grains, pasta, veggies and sausages thrown in. All per his choice and his body. With me simply providing options, making things easily available and helping him find things he wants.

This Naturopath Doctor led me to understand how important it was for my son to stay home… allow his body to relax and adjust to the allergies… not battle emotionally etc with school and seperation from me. Raghu preferred me to hover outside the door of the little, loving montessori he was in. He wanted ony to work on the practical stuff like water, cooking etc. He hated being asked to change and go to the playground or sit for circle time. And i was pretty much spending my days outside the classroom door.

The Doc asked me if i knew about homeschooling… adn the journey began. I started to read and as seems to be the case always when you get passionate about something…. homeschoolers just happened to be all around. We started going to park-dates with our local group and loved the freedom. Many of them were eclectic or traditional homeschoolers. No unschoolers as far as i recall. However Raghu’s food choices that i had struggled with and my apparent idiocy in forcing foods that his body did not need…. was the real killer. That memory pushed me further. When i first came accross Unschooling as a form of homeschooling…. i was hooked. I’d read and read and yet i could not implement it. I was still hooked on controlling TV and some food choices and would insist on fresh air everyday… like run outside and play with other children.

Anyway… soon i could see the futility of force/coercion and the beauty of living in freedom. Unschooling unfolded slowly in our lives. The past year has been a joyful recovery/journey. So allergies to radical unschooling…. that was our path.

Good Mornings to you!

I’ve been up since 4 am because of my cough. Its a good thing. I’ve been thinking about my blocks… my blocks are the areas that i still make bad choices in.

For e.g. Raghu did not want dinner last evening. But i forced him (not physically but verbally) to sit and taste the rasam I’d made the way he likes it and had asked for only a day before. Why did i do that? Normally its not an issue. “I was watching my niece and daughter eating dinner. I was tired and grouchy because of my bad throat and cough. I knew he’d be hungry later and did not want to deal with it. I bet that if i told him that he’d say “no problem Amma… I’ll get some milk and cereal myself”… Dammit he is so considerate. Just honoring the child’s need in that moment meant i would have to accept him eating cold cereal for dinner… something that goes against the Indian-hot-meal-is best-mindset.” Back to the dinner… once he tasted the rasam he enjoyed it and asked for brown rice and yogurt. But he ate very little and was done soon.

I made a bad choice. I could have laid out some food for him in the fridge… but the fridge was crowded and I’d have to clean it out to make space… and that weighed on me too. Still a bad choice forcing him. If i had honored his need for no dinner… he’d have eaten cereal probably or helped himself to some cold rice. Why is that bad? A block to be slowly ripped and replaced with conversation, choices other than the one choice that seems to overtake my mind.

Sometimes as a mom of young kids who is learning late in life about “choices” i find myself knocking myself on the blocks despite knowing and having better tools. Its better to listen and accept food choices… the easier one to navigate than say wanting to buy a 2000 Rs. toy.

Back to why its good mornings… every morning is good here. We wake when we feel rested and we eat as we will each morning. Its a good feeling. And today i shall get a whole new day to really hear my children’s voices… voices that come from knowing their bodies as best they can at this early stage of unschooling.

I’m unblocking, reminding myself that there are multiple choices in every scenario, hating my postmortems, wanting to do it right each time, reminding myself that its the feeling-blocked-moments that need my fullest attention and wishing myself a very good morning.