Sometimes life’s most enlightening revelations will come while spending time with kids. Their perspective of the world is so different that often the adults are struck speechless. The world view of a toddler is much simpler than that of most adults, and they leave space for no complications of adolescence or adulthood. I have always felt good when I am around kids, and their simple notions. Engaging them in conversation comes naturally, of course.
It was one such day today. I had to (unintentionally) babysit my ‘niece’ today. Like always, I wasn’t sure of what exactly would keep her occupied and the dearth of material (toys, coloring books and equipment etc.,) at my place meant that I’d have to find ingenious ways to keep her occupied. Which was no mean task by itself. Especially not when the kid is observed with acute observation skills.
Since I had always abhorred being asked to sing and perform my school rhymes and other stuff in front of adults in my childhood, I’d decided not to take the easy escape route. I was not going to make her sing rhymes, or recite slokas or do whatever stuff the kids are usually forced to do. Against my better judgment, the only option I had left was to engage her in conversation. And that was the way I took.
This being said, I had to hand it over to the kid. She was perceptive, quick witted, sharp and pleasant. The first topic of conversation presented itself when a friend called me, and I set about explaining to her how the friend became a friend to me. Did I mention the kid was inquisitive? And then I diverted the topic to talk of her school friends and she spoke of her gang of three girls, including her, they’d nicknamed Powerpuff Girls.
Parenting done right, that one.
An interesting conversation about why they were Powerpuff girls ensued, and it was difficult for me to stop grinning. It was easy as pie to go down my own memory lane, and regale her with stories of my childhood naughty exploits. (Naughty as in playful. Stop that mind right there. Thanks.) On a side note, I was probably a bad influence on her, telling her that it was okay to be truant and break rules sometimes, and that the parents were themselves like that.
*Evil grin* I just had to tell her the stories about her own father. They were too good to be ignored. And my reward was to see the eyes widen in wonder as she thought of her strict ‘dad’ himself being a troublesome child. It was good fun, living life on the edge. I am yet to see the repercussions of that, though. And I am expecting an irate brother at my heels any moment now. That too shall pass. So back to the story.
With some food into her system, she became hyperactive, and wanted to rummage in my shelves where I had stored my old broken toys. The first thing she chanced upon was an old Badminton Racket. She was grinning widely when she asked me, “So you play Badminton?”
Of course, I used to. But I no longer did. Silly me thought of the best reply to that and ended up saying the standard explanation. “No I don’t. I’ve grown up.”
Yes. I don’t work well under pressure. My answers aren’t brilliant either.
She nodded wisely, and with all the innocence (and brilliance) of a toddler, she concludes. “You grew up because you didn’t play!”
That answer took me a moment to decipher. As I dug around the shelves in search of more toys, my mind went into a psychological analysis overdrive. Something about the simple way in which she’d arrived at this conclusion surprised me. The assumption that I’d grown up because I stopped playing, instead of the other way round, set me thinking. She lamented about how her dad (my brother dearest) never let her play, and was always focused on her academics and other extra curricular activities surprised me.
The same person who had cribbed and groaned a lot about being forced to study without evening play time, was now doing the same to his daughter. The star cricket player had effectively discouraged his own daughter from pursuing any form of sports. Not even a month has passed since the day we all recollected our childhood, and those with kids had promised to give them a little more freedom to grow up gracefully instead of just growing big and growing old.
But the promises had gone with the wind and routine had set in. In a hurry for them to grow up into multitalented adults who exceled in everything, the parents are more focused on cramming as much as possible into the little brains instead of letting the children be. There must come a point in life where every adult suddenly needs to take on the mantle of responsibility, and do everything that they hated when their parents did to them.
It need not necessarily be like that, but it usually is.
I am not really sure what I would do were I in my cousin’s shoes. I might probably take the same route. But no matter what happens, I will never forget that I grow old the day I stop playing, and it never is the other way round. Maybe that realization will help while I am faced with such a conundrum.