Children are living beings-more living than grown-up people who have built shells of habit around themselves. Therefore it is absolutely necessary for their mental health and development that they should not have mere schools for their lessons, but a world whose guiding spirit is personal Love.
– Rabindranath Tagore
Generally, the Unexpected Holidays are cause of Joy for school children. They are always thankful to Heavenly forces (Rains, Floods), Elections, Bandhs, and Curfews which lead to closure of schools. And yet in 2020, they are also left wondering about the Microbial Virus which has not only closed down their schools but also threatens the world of human interaction. The school is being missed for many reasons and to each child his/her own set of reason. Amidst the lockdowns, restrictions, unlocking; the School itself grapples with a new Normal through Online Classes. Bereft of Human touch, the Chalk and board, the assembly of prayers and discipline, the friends in flesh and blood; stupefied stands Student in front of computers, laptops and mobiles. When I look at the dark circles and postural pains of my 13 year old child, I feel helplessness the Virus has brought upon us All.
These are quite different times, we are living through. The rising number of infected cases, the deaths, the possibilities of Border conflicts, the struggles of Migrant/unorganised labour, the rise in depression and various other uncertainties loom large. All of us are experiencing changes in our personal lives vis-à-vis the trajectory of Society, Nation and World. As outside World seeks solutions; the inner world of children is going through a crises/transformation of a different degree. As parents, we are also going through mixed emotions and behavioural responses. In the initial phases of Lockdown, we looked at possibilities of setting in some new habits and duration of 21 days seemed such an omen. So practising Yoga with kids seemed like a Mission Accomplished by me till their early morning sleep or simply sense of routinization, overpowered my zeal. Actually, I realised that coercing into any activity deprives it the Joy besides making you lose your inner peace and composure as a parent. And when the continued closure of Schools has become a reality, the kids have to be rather helped to understand and adjust to New Order.
The Online Classes are only the means devised in these unusual times and are not to be treated as an End in the journey of shaping a child. It is, therefore more important to communicate with children particularly when they have lost communication with the friends in flesh and blood. While I am trying to juggle work outside home with stay at home kids, the means of engagement with kids is a constant endeavour. Some kind of viable distribution of Classes, TV time, eating time, Me time, Nature time, is always going on. And trust me, when you have two kids with almost five year gap; you are constantly switching roles from Mother Teresa to Godfather (Mother!). There are times, when I have to keep checking myself for some possibility of Bipolar disorder within. And amidst all necessary madness, I find my peace in their smiles, stories, drawings, dreams. And not to forget the handmade Mother’s Day card in between. During these times, we must encourage our children to share and talk about their understanding, hopes, fears, dreams including day dreams. Trust me, dreams give a lot of insight into their world of wants, fears, joys and wishes. And listening to their interpretations, stories opens up a new world even if they are referring to their cartoons, story characters. So, I listen to my son’s pokeman deeds and challenges while cooking and participate in imaginary attacks with his Ninja Teams. And I listen to my daughter’s poetry and respond to her attempts of Harry Potterising me. Walking over the grass, listening to hornbills and crows, appreciating the rains and Moon beyond the clouds; a Nature Walk with them is a joy for ever. While they are learning new ways of living, I am learning the wisdom evident in their words, daily acts; unlearning and unburdening a lot in the process.
How our kids will emerge at the end of this pandemic, a lot depends on how we are responding and communicating with them during these times. Are we aiming to routinize their lives into rote learning and submissions without understanding or we are letting them discover finer, hitherto unknown aspects about themselves? As a tiny microbial Virus threatens every cell it manages to thrive upon; it becomes important to fill our children with nutritive food and thoughts, positivity, empathy, love and compassion so that every cell within them is empowered to respond to New Order/Disorder. And as parents, we will be measured by, the enabling role we played through this Pandemic. The words of Khalil Gibran, always strengthen the resolve to enable a child so as to fulfil its own Life’s longing:
Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself. They come through you but not from you, And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
Sharmistha Shree is a senior civil servant based in Dehradun. The views expressed here are personal.