Vol XVII Leave the child alone


Waking upto a bicycle ride into the dawn; fat warm mornings under the mango trees; the stillness of afternoon lying on the floor reading a book while the hand reached for a curl of murukku; games of badminton in the evening; long hours of the night star gazing – this was the promise I made myself all through the school year. Of a summer vacation when I did whatever I wanted simply because I felt like doing so and not because it was expected of me.

Inevitably after the first week of doing nothing but gorge myself on mangoes and chikoos, bicycling and badminton, reading new books and rereading old ones, a certain flatness would sink in. It was probably in those days when the summer vacation seemed like a purgatory to go through before school re-opened, I first started reading what I had been forbidden to do so. I learnt the words of every popular song and sang along. I made a castle of injection bottles and made a bag of plastic wires. And yet the hours dragged. So I found other ways to amuse myself. I found that I had inner resources that I could tap into: an imagination.

Later as a mother with a part time job, I thought I was doing right by my son by sending him off to summer camp while I was away during the morning. I was saving him from the boredom that was sure to set in. It was a godsend I thought. It gave his day a structure. One I had so craved for in my childhood during the summer hols.
Later when he was older and no longer agreeable to be sent to summer camp, his argument was, “Why do I need structure in my day? It is summer vacation, Mama! It is meant to be go-with-the-flow-time!”

I was stumped. It occurred to me then that parents need a structure more than the child. Children will always find a way to amuse themselves. It may not be in the ways we once did. But give them the benefit of imagination to figure it out themselves. Give them the time and space to experiment rather than stuff new learning into them.Children will get into mischief, if in my times it was climbing a tree now it could be surfing the net for porn. Both hazardous but inevitable. It’s the parents duty to watch out rather than curb. For the rest leave the child alone to be a child.

To discover life as it happens.

And here is a much-loved song about the loss of innocence.


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