Recently when my toddler and I were playing ball, I witnessed an interesting phenomenon. The little one would crouch down, and then straighten up quickly, stretching her body all the way up. She would then throw the ball up, and end up in loud chuckles. After a few minutes, I realised these were her first attempts to jump up, except her feet never left the ground.
I must admit I was extremely fascinated by this new development—the whole idea of learning to jump. While paying close watch to her growth milestones such as crawling, sitting up, and walking, it probably had never dawned on me that there is something called a 'jump'. Or that you had to even 'learn' how to jump. And it is in little moments like these that great thoughts come knocking. It set me thinking about the little wonders of childhood; each new step and a new lesson every day.
For a child, learning to get that feet off the ground, or to pinch and hold a morsel of food and successfully get it into their mouth—all these are great steps. To us adults, these are mundane tasks that we have known forever how to do, and have taken for granted.
As parents, most of us carry a load on our shoulders—the task of raising prim and proper children, and of being a good teacher to them. While we are so caught up in teaching them the alphabet, rhymes, games, manners, and greater life lessons, what we miss out is the fact that our little munchkins are great teachers—they teach us parents to evolve, to think and ideate.
My daughter has an evening pastime now—cooking, and feeding her doll and Pooh bear. But on one condition—I must sit down next to her and mix in the ingredients. All of them mixed together makes a delectable 'biriyani' of sorts, which we then serve to her toys. With love, she feeds me, too. Playing this every evening can be quite boring—for me I mean. But had it not been for my demanding toddler, my imagination would probably have stagnated and I wouldn't have gone looking for new ingredients to jazz up 'supper'. The ingredients vary from small Lego blocks, bits of crumbled paper and her entire collection of hair clips. Some day we'll have wine, too.
One of these days, she held of a portion of this assorted biriyani in her little hands, and extended a share towards a photo of Christ on the wall. “Inna [take it], she said lovingly. That was another lesson from a one-year-old—share your biriyani with everyone in the room!
Going on a walk with her when I get back from office was another strategy to keep her entertained. When she enjoyed it, I believed I was sorted. I had struck an idea to which I could stick on to. For not very long, though. I have to rack up my brain every day to find a new way to improvise the walk—take a new route, carry her or make her walk, let her choose which slipper she wants to wear, spot a bougainvillea flower one day, a yellow bell flower another day, visit birds and fishes in the pet shop one day, or head to the supermarket the next day.
That's what kids do to you. They never let you get stuck in a rut. They make the wheels turn. They let you evolve, not just forward but backwards to being a child again. How else could you dust your brain, and entertain them with some of those old tricks—leaping paper frogs, or desi windmills made of coconut palm leaves in your village home?
And as time passes, they throw questions at you—about adults, family matters, politics, violence, sexuality and gender equality. They will question our ideologies, if we have any. They give us new perspectives, which we can either dismiss, or take a look at.
But all that's heavy-duty stuff. Let me now enjoy parenting and stick to the simple things like hair clips, Pooh bear, and yellow bell petals.