Vagabond's guide

Its a vagabond's view on everything

Nabiha learned to ride a bicycle … eventually — July 28, 2017

Nabiha learned to ride a bicycle … eventually

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A few months ago I removed the support wheels from Nabiha’s bicycle and googled “Teaching your child to ride a bike”. Soon enough I was armed with plentiful information about how to train a child to master the art. As per the internet learning how to ride is a two-step process—learning how to balance the bike and learning how to pedal. It also mentions the need for patience and positive attitude. Sounds simple, doesn’t it? Well it’s not. Especially for a woman who cannot ride a bicycle if her life depends on it. Ahem…but my daughter doesn’t know that, so don’t tell her.

The most valuable lesson I learned from this experience was that if you teach a child a new skill, leave them alone to it. That is if you want to teach a child to balance a bike, leave them alone with the bike in your backyard and don’t try to ease the process of learning by giving them tips on what they should or shouldn’t do. Sure, guiding them about the technique, will help them but that is not the most important part of the learning process. The most important part it seems is letting your child experiment, make mistakes and gain confidence. Nabiha did learn to ride a bicycle eventually. But how she mastered the art of cycling after her mom almost ruined her chances of learning it, is a story in itself.

From what I read the best way to learn the balancing act is to ride the bike down a slight slope multiple times, without touching the feet on the ground. Since I couldn’t find a suitable slope for her, I pushed her from behind and told her to try to balance the bicycle. At each attempt, I’d tell her how she was doing and how to make it better. We tried it out for two weeks and it seemed like it was impossible for her to keep the bike straight. As per my husband’s advice, She tried kicking the ground herself to make the bike move forward. But whenever she kicked the bike would tilt to one side and she would just stand up. The net is full of advice about patience and positive attitude while your child practices the first step, but still there is not enough of it. Because, even with all that I had read, I lost my cool multiple times and my negative attitude effect Nabiha’s motivation. Eventually, we got so frustrated we both gave up.

However, during Ramadan, with the lack of activities, Nabiha got her bicycle out again. This time I neither had the strength to push her from the back, or time to give her feedback about each of her attempts. That seemed to do the trick. Soon she got the hang of getting the bike to glide forward without crashing it to the ground. When the bike tilted to one side she kicked it forward from that side then the bike tilted to the other side and she kicked from that side as well. Soon she was biking the whole length of our house with alternate kicks all day long. But the poor bike was unable to sustain all the crashes of the unmonitored learner and lost a pedal and its chain. But that was ok with Nabiha, the wheels of the bicycle were intact and turned fine as she swayed along on highspeed. After Ramadan, I happily noted that kept both feet up for long stretches while her cycle went forward. It would have been a miracle if I didn’t notice, with all the happy screams that accompanied the feat.

Last week we got the bike fixed to make it fully functional. Nabiha started working the pedals. With all the self-confidence and self-assurance that she had developed she got the hang of it in two days. Or maybe it was the easy part. And today my heart welled up watching her go. She learned a new skill. And the truth is she got the hang of it herself. “Getting the hang of it” part came to her naturally. Though my feedback may have helped. But the real teacher was the time that she spent making mistakes and thinking inward about them.

Finally, end the story of a proud mom who didn’t learned to ride a bike but taught her daughter to do so (or watched her daughter learn it herself). And like all good story it has a moral too. The most important part of teaching your child a new skill is to give them time to falter and think inward. Making mistakes and self-correction does a lot more good to a child’s learning curve than continuous feedback and advice from parents.



Origami — June 13, 2017


The kids and I tried our hands at origami today. Making origami objects is a great way to encourage children to use the fine motors in those adorable fingers of theirs. It requires very limited resources (just paper) and hardly any time to set up. Origami can be enjoyed at any age. So sibs of different ages and parents can all experience the soul satisfying process of folding paper and creating little pieces of art without anyone feeling left out. Simple origami designs like hats, sail boats and houses are excellent choices for a budding origamist aged 4. A more serious contender of 7 can take more challenging objects like dolphins, crabs, tulips, or boxes. And a parent can attempt a dragon.

the video is from Jo Nakashima – Origami Tutorials on youTube.

The takeaways from crafting origami are many. First of all the fine motors get some exercise. Second kids learn to follow instruction. Both video instructions and picture instruction have their advantages and both should be tried. Third, it’s good for their emotions — curiosity, patience, commitment, achievement, these little humans will learn to deal with all of these. And finally, after all the hard work kids can have fun with their creations and use them as props in their game play.

The kids and I created some very beautiful things.

I usually find difficulty in following the pictorial origami instructions. However, there are so many channels of origami artists on youTube with video instructions, which the kids and I found much easier to follow. So all those out there who feel origami is a lost battle, don’t lose hope just yet, try out video instructions.

Good luck with origami crafting!

Ramadan Craft and Activities — June 2, 2017

Ramadan Craft and Activities

Ramadan, the most important month of the year is here. All of us (except the kids) wake up before dawn for breakfast(sehri) and abstain from eating or drinking anything the whole day. The fast is finally broken with snacks and dinner(iftar) when the sun begins to set.

Ramadan is the only month that our family has meals on the same table. It’s the only month I get free mornings and afternoons as all the adults in house don’t have breakfast or lunch. Its the only month where our BPs are too low for arguments and fights. It’s the only month the kids are on the best behavior since iftar treats are a great motivation for reform. All in all ramadan is my favorite time of the year.

Religion and moral values are the hot topic in the house all through the month. Husband discusses the bayan’s (speech) of the Imam in the masjid or what he read in a book or some verse from the Quran. I discuss fundamental moral concepts of Islam with the kids. This year discussions are revolving around speaking and supporting truth, helping others, caring for your parents and neighbours and not speaking ill of another behind their back. Nabiha who is almost seven is participating most excitedly in all the discussions. Giving lots of examples from her school life. Abdullah who is four, listens distractedly and doesn’t have much to say as yet.

Ramadan also comes with its fair share of crafting projects and activities. Our first activity was creating a Ramadan calendar with the lunar dates, gregorian dates and the dawn and dusk timings. We used the leftover invitation cards for my wedding (still plenty left 8-O) and packing foam of some new furniture we got for the base. The calendar turned out great. Along the way Nabiha learned how to read the sombre looking ramadan timing chart and Abdullah learned to stay still during the preparation of each date card so that he could paste the final border to decorate the card.



The culture of Breastfeeding in Pakistan — May 29, 2011

The culture of Breastfeeding in Pakistan

When I was young I thought that exclusive breastfeeding was a norm in Pakistan. When I got pregnant with my little Nabiha I started reading up on breastfeeding and promptly decided that my daughter was going to be exclusively breastfed. I was content and at ease with my decision thinking that amongst all the uncertainties in life ahead, breastfeeding was going to be one task easily learned with the support of all the ladies who had breastfed their children.

But when Nabiha was born and I started popping thousands of questions, I came against walls. No body I knew (and I must have talked to around 20) had the faintest idea about breast feeding breast practices. In fact all of them (yes each and every one of them) recommended that I should do exactly the opposite. When my baby was only a week old and I complained that she keeps on drinking and drinking I was advised to give formula TWICE a day and was even advised to quit. Thank God I am very overconfident by nature so I didn’t waver from my plan to breastfeed her.

But I was shocked about what others thought about breastfeeding. Breastfeeding is good but not enough and not as nutritious as formula! Yes they didn’t say it but that’s what they thought.

I kept on hearing you have to eat ALOT to be able to breastfeed. This one advise I did listen to (just in case). So I ate ALOT. I’m hoping some of it turned to nutritious breast milk material and got my baby’s system up and running.

I won’t say I didn’t ever waver from my plan to EBF. Nabiha’s weight’s was in the 90th percentile when she was born and her weight gain has kept slowing down so much so that she is in the 10th percentile now. So I did try to supplement her (to everyone’s relief ) but I reverted back after a lecture from the nice doctor Yaqoob.

I read an article online which stated that even though majority of mothers in Pakistan breastfeed, majority of mothers in Pakistan supplement breast milk with formula milk/cows milk and other liquids even in the first three months and even in the FIRST FEWS WEEKS:(

I read another article which said that the last campaign on importance of breastfeeding infants was conducted in 1988 and no new campaign has been launched since then probably because of the lovely manufactures of the “white powder”. Do you know (well, i didn’t) that limiting the marketing of FF in Pakistan was proposed in 2002 (after 55 years) and it took another 8 to actually get the bill passed that too by the efforts of an International organization save the children.

I’m not saying that mothers who are formula feeding are doing something wrong but I am saying I wish they had made this choice fully aware of what BFing is all about.