A Mum is working in the kitchen when her young one strolls in with a request.
“Mamma, where is my truck?”
“It’s on your toy shelf!”
“Go and see. It is right there.”
“I did. It’s not.”
“Mamma kept it there, baby. Go and see.”
“You come and see.”
The Mum sighs and takes the kid by the hand to show the toy shelf. “There it is. Mamma told you it’s there.” She hands the toy to her child with a smile.
The kid smiled wider than his Mum, “Thank you, Mamma.” The Mum begins to leave for the kitchen.
“How should I play with only a truck? I need the bus too!” the kid calls her again.
“It’s right next to it. Take it, then.”
“I’m holding the truck. You give me the bus.”
The Mum smiles. She sure gets the point. She pulls out the bus and hands it to the kid. The moment the bus is down, “And the two cars too!” comes the next request.
“Okay!” Mum knows where this is going. “Here you are. Now play with them. Mamma has something to do in the kitchen.”
“But I already have a bus and a truck. Those cars are for you. Let us race!” the exuberant kid tells his Mum – his offer is the best he could make; two of his own cars to race against his truck and bus.
Mum knew all along what was happening. She gave in. “Okay, champ! Let’s do it!” Five minutes, she reasons, she can afford that much from the kitchen. She plays for a while and then again attempts to leave. The kid comes up with a new plan, but by then Mum knows that neither would another game be enough, nor would the kitchen wait forever.
“Okay, who wants to see Doraemon?”
“I do. I do.” jumps up the kid. The Mum turns on the TV and sits with the kid. Within 5 minutes the kid is zapped into the TV show and Mum slips back into kitchen.
Have we seen that scenario being played out? A bit too often these days?
The characters may differ but the story is the same.
TV used to be entertainment. Since when did it become the distraction that a Mum uses to make sure the kid eats, does their homework, or even keeps them busy so that they could get on with whatever they had do to. Since when did it become an alternate for spouses, a substitute for friends, the occupation for aging parents and grandparents? Since when did it start filling up the space occupied by friends and family? Since when did it become a guilt- and responsibility-removing mechanism?
Don’t get me wrong. I’m not in the finger-pointing-business here. This is just an observation that came my way today.
My family had to go for a luncheon today. I could not accompany them due to my swollen legs. My Dad opted to stay home with me. He told me he really did not want to go (he really did not want to go.)
We talked for a while when he asked me for a glass of water and I gave him some. He was telling me about his grandkids, my brother’s children. I wanted to get back to my writing. I picked up the bottle while still talking to him.
In an instant, Dad said, “Yes, I don’t want any more water. Keep it back.”
As I walked back to the fridge that just, sort of, stayed with me. Dad understood that I wanted to go back to my room. He probably could have gone on talking with me; Dad and I talk to each rather well. I get my writing streak from him; he used to write when he was young, and then responsibilities overtook and he gave up. When I started to write, I wanted to publish my first book and give it to my Dad as a surprise – for giving me that dream. But how could I surprise Dad. He knew before I did that I loved to write.
Dad didn’t stop me. He made a way for me. A bit of guilt made its way into me. I told him to call me when he wanted lunch. It was about 12 p.m. then. Dad and I are the same when it comes to meal times. We have our eating hours that we stick to. If we don’t get it on time, we may get cranky sometimes (Dad more than me, honestly!)!
I went back to see what he was going to do while I was writing. Dad had switched on the TV. Dad does not really like watching TV. It puts him off to sleep within a space of 15 minutes. When I saw the TV turned on, I was satisfied, somehow that he was going to be busy. So, now I could be less guilty.
Ah! That thought was like a dagger in the heart!
I decided I would not wait for him to call me when he needed lunch. I’d be up myself and prepare it for him at the time I know he likes to eat. A small idea – but it helped me survive the next hour.
I came back to my room. Started to write, logged on FB, put up a few messages, and then I thought, I’d better be getting the lunch ready because it was going to be 1:00 p.m.
I was initially just going to get the food microwave-d and serve it. But then, the idea evolved.
I cut up a salad, and thought I’d get some Raita as well. He likes a full meal. Again, I wanted to surprise him. But how do you surprise your Dad. He came to the kitchen just when I was finishing up decorating the salad, and he laughed. It was his lunch hour and food being readied made him happy. He said he was ready to eat.
I rushed to get the yogurt, got the meal served in two plates. I was going to give him his lunch, and take my lunch to my room to my waiting laptop.
But then, the idea evolved – “Let me eat with him. Else, he’d eat alone.” I turned off the laptop, joined Dad for lunch. It was fun! He loved it, I think. I didn’t do the Raita, because we both decided to have ‘meethi dahi’ instead (Yogurt sweetened with sugar). I cleared up the table.
I was washing the dishes when I remembered that I’d made besan ke ladoo the previous day. I brought them to Dad. He took one and laughed again. His meal was complete now.
There was a time when my Mum and Dad would work together to make me eat if I was angry and refused (as a child). I was a pampered, stubborn kid. Though, if you ask my parents, I was their perfect daughter. I’d sleep without food when angry. They’d wait for me sleep, and then pull me from sleep and made me sit up. Dad would hold me in his lap while I was half-asleep. If I’d resist, Dad would gently whisper to me, “You’re with Dad! You’re with Dad.” Somehow, that calmed me immediately. Mum would continuously talk to me, tell me stories, and make me talk. And in all this, small morsels of food would find their way to my mouth. Half-asleep, I’d forget that I was angry and was not supposed to eat. Then, they’d talk some more to make sure I was sitting long enough after the meal, and then put me back to bed. It usually got late for them, because they’d have to wait for me to sleep.
And in the morning, they’d laugh because they’d gotten me to eat and I would be angrier because they tricked me into eating.
But it was fun! It was a memory of childhood where my parents were allowing me to be the child, and helping me grow up.
Do I see that happen now? Rarely.
My mother still does it sometimes with her grandkids. Her 4-yr old granddaughter, my niece, is like me when it comes to being stubborn.
Scary: TV took this place in our lives?
Scarier: Since when did relationships become a pastime, which could be replaced by TV?
No, I’m not trying to paint a sordid picture. I was myself a victim of it.
But you know what? One’s a victim only as long as one chooses to stay a victim. When one resolves to walk out of chains, one finds the way out. Our busy schedules, our lifestyles, or even our pleasures should not become our excuses. If they are to be enjoyed, then they mustn’t be allowed to chain us down and rule us. I may be wrong, but that’s what I feel. Why doesn’t TV come with family, instead of being in lieu.
I had a nice insight into it today. It was a blessing. I didn’t sit the whole day with Dad. We just lunched together, and then he took his nap and I took mine. I’m not really a promoter of quality time with family over quantity, if it becomes an escape route – but I do feel that something is better than nothing. If the there is willingness, there is hope.