A Calmer You, by Sonal Kalra: Don’t turn vacation into vocation!
Here’s a quiz. Name your great-grandfather…Updated: May 05, 2018 16:38 IST
Summer vacations are almost here. And depending on whether you are a student, teacher or a parent, you could be at various stages of rejoicing, relaxing or dreading at their thought.
Last week, I was speaking at a forum on modern parenting. While speaking about how we’ve come a long way from the time when parents forced their kids to focus only on academics and not on extracurricular activities, I realised that we’ve mistakenly reached the other end of the spectrum. Now, the pressure is equally intense but that to pursue extra-curricular activities!
A neighbour of mine sends her seven-year-old daughter to — no exaggeration here — ballet classes, tennis lessons, horse riding, piano classes, and now a theatre workshop, because vacations are here. I’m sure the kid loves some of these activities. I hope she loves all of them, actually. Just that I haven’t seen her play in the park, ever. Talking of which, I have to narrate something lovely I read the other day. Bhawna, a friend on a Whatsapp group forwarded a photo of the ‘holidays homework for parents’ given out by Annai Violet School in Chennai. I thought their homework ideas were simply heartwarming. Taking the liberty to quote some points from it.
1) Visit three neighbours. Know more about them and build a rapport with them.
2) Have at least two meals together with your children. Teach them the importance and hard work of the farmers and ask them to not waste their food.
3) Let them wash their own plates after every meal. Children learn dignity of labour from such activities.
4) Do not miss the local festival and the local market.
5) Gently encourage your child to raise a kitchen garden by planting seeds. Knowledge about plants and trees is an integral part of your child’s growing up.
6) Take them to your workplace and let your child understand that you work hard to support the family.
7) Share stories about your childhood and your family history.
8) Visit the grandparents and let the children bond with them. Their love and emotional support is very important for your child. Take photos with them.
I so totally loved these, especially the last point. In the tumultuous life most of us lead these days, a big casualty is ‘rishtey’, or the bonds of love with the extended family. A lot of today’s parents have experienced the warmth of big family gatherings, but a lot of today’s kids are not likely to have that experience to share with their future generations. As I’ve written in this column in the past, we have moved on from families with multiple uncles and aunts and cousins to families with no relatives, or only those who don’t get along. With a lot of couples opting for a single child, words like bua, chacha, mama or mausi could seem like stuff of storybooks someday.
The other day, I was sitting with a bunch of pre-teen kids and we played a game. A game that required us to use the first letter of the names of our parents, grandparents, great- grandparents and so on. We didn’t go beyond the first round because while none of the six teens knew the names of their great grandparents, three of them could not even name their grandmother. We, of course, laughed and attributed it to them addressing their grandma as dadi or amma or badi mummy all the time and never bothering to ask their name, but it left a slightly sinking feeling in my heart somewhere. Our kids don’t know about our own families.
Some of you might argue that it hardly matters, but I feel it doesn’t hurt them either, to know more about their family tree and the kind of life their grandparents led. For those parents who would get tempted to indulge their kids only in things that lead to a tangible outcome, let me say that these lovely, simple discussions lead to gaining a lot of knowledge, at times. For instance, telling your child about what day-to-day items used to cost when their grandpa ran the house, could be an insight into the economy’s evolution. During a chat with my nephew about what Coke used to cost in the ’70s, I ended up discussing the imposition of Emergency at length, a subject he may have studied in school textbooks but was never fascinated with earlier. The point is simple. No amount of ‘project work’, making big, attractive holiday homework files would help if we would turn holidays into yet another extension of the cut-throat competitive life we make our kids lead through the year.
This summer vacation, simply slow down. Leave the fancy brochures of the fancier summer camps aside, and let your kid explore the world he or she lives in, but mindlessly. At their own pace, with their own eyes, and not through the lens of an iPad. Someday, they’ll thank you for it.
Sonal Kalra has found the address of an agency that does prize-winning holiday homework of any class and there’s a 30% discount currently. Anyone interested can mail her at sonal.kalra@ hindustantimes.com or facebook.com/sonalkalraofficial. Follow on Twitter @sonalkalra