The other day, my son, Sid, looked at me with his innocent eyes and asked if he could carry a story book to school so that he could read it during his break-time. I would have allowed him but something made me ask him why he wanted to do that; he could play with his friends instead, I reasoned. But Sid, in his own pragmatic way, told me, “Then, when can I read? I just don’t get any time!” Well, if 11-year-olds cannot find time to read books, then fully grown adults can just give up on this already dying trend. “We will find time. You go ahead and enjoy with your friends,” I suggested.
Then it happened again later that day. My neighbour was listing the weekly schedule of a six-year-old. Somehow, I couldn’t shake off the feeling of heartbreak when I realised that more and more kids as young as six simply didn’t have time even for ‘free play’. My son Sid is no exception. He is very busy and constantly on the go. He has activities lined up even during weekends that leave him with very little spare time.
Back when I was a little girl life was not so busy. I had time to play in the morning, go to school, come back and again play with my friends. I had time to marvel at the resin that oozed out of the bark of a tree and follow the trail of ants along the walls of our house. I had time to paint, sing, dance and also indulge in a bit of sports. When television landed in our village, a whole new world opened up. Now I had time to even watch a few favourite programmes. It wasn’t a busy life. Did I study? Yes, I did. But unlike these kids, exams didn’t come in the way of playtime. My mum did not push me to study, but we fared fairly well and we turned out alright.
Fast forward to the present, and mums are inundated with WhatsApp messages over what children study, what they indulge in and how many hours of activities they have clocked. There is intense competition and parents want to get the best out of their children. I don’t blame them, as I am like them too. It is just that when I think of a time when my child will grow up to be a 40-year-old man and look back at his childhood I wonder what he will see — fast-paced, stressed-out, time-crunched moments or a relaxed and happy childhood.
I know in my heart I have to pause. But the moments are short-lived because the whole world is in such a hurry to get somewhere. I don’t know where, but everyone is hurrying up.
That evening as I was going over some messages on my phone, I smiled. The reason was the new WhatsApp group I was added to. People who were in school with me.
We were all chatting after 28 years. It felt good. No hang ups, no prejudices. It was pure fun. While I chatted I realised something. I wanted Sid to build these friendships. I am pretty sure he has them.
But I want him to savour some of the moments. These bonds will last much more than any of his activities. It is OK if he doesn’t learn how to strum the guitar now because he has a lifetime to do that.
But for now he has to revel in the childhood he is in because this doesn’t last. It is around just once in a person’s life. For this, he has to pause and I am OK with that. Then maybe, just maybe, he will find time to read that book!