It was a lazy, summer afternoon and the clock seemed to be ticking away at a sluggish pace. I was racking my brain to figure out the next activity to keep my toddler occupied as she wasn’t ready to shut her eyes for a quick nap. I am amazed by the stamina of these tiny tots who can tussle with sleep and stay hyper-active even when their body is signalling otherwise. The buzzing of my mobile handset jostled me out of my thoughts and I was pleasantly surprised to be greeted by my friend who lives in the same locality. She had been keen to visit us since a while and apprised me that she would be arriving in a few minutes. I was eagerly looking forward to meet her and her infant, and rushed to churn curd to prepare a beverage for them. They were home soon and I was introduced by my friend to her mother-in-law who was accompanying her as they had arrived directly from a mall. After the typical exchange of pleasantries, I offered some homemade snacks along with iced buttermilk for them to relish. As we spent a while indulging in some general chit-chat, the topic of discussion steered towards parenting which was bound to happen with two children around. My 2 year old daughter was clinging to me, hence Aunty tried to garner her attention by engaging her in a conversation. After a few unsuccessful attempts, finally my daughter started responding but lost interest when Aunty began to ask her about what the various English alphabets stand for.
“Sweetheart, you didn’t tell me what does ‘D’ stand for? ‘D’ for…??”
My daughter shot a blank look at Aunty before turning towards me and then she demanded for some curd which is one of her favourite food items. She scuttled towards the wash basin and washed her hands with the handwash, while I scooped out some curd for her into a bowl. When I joined back my guests, I was blissfully oblivious to the “Gyan attack” that was awaiting me.
“You have not taught her what all alphabets stand for yet? She does not know what D stands for and it is not something difficult to learn at her age. Since you do not send her to school, I assume you are the one who teaches her everything. It is a competitive world and if you do not pull up your socks, your daughter will lag behind and will feel disappointed in you. Even nannies teach kids a lot these days; you are a mother after all. Don’t mind me saying all this but this is for her good.”
I was rattled due to the unanticipated volley of questions and remarks and it took me a few seconds to make sense of it all. I quickly glanced at my friend who had a visibly mortified look on her face. Ironically, just before I was being interrogated about my “teachings”, I was secretly admiring the manner in which my daughter was having curd all by herself, tidily and meticulously. As a matter of fact, she has been self-feeding since long and has a healthy relationship with food. I was all the more pleased when she had earlier washed her hands before sitting down to have curd without my nudging. But all this doesn’t matter because she is not aware of what ‘D’ stands for. Sigh!
The thing about parenting is that there is no “one size fits all” system applicable here. We keep saying every child is different, yet some of us measure each child with the same yardstick which is unwarranted and unjust. I know there are some 2 year olds who can recite the entire English alphabets song and are also aware of what each stands for which is unquestionably an exemplary feat. However, parents have their own priorities and parenting style according to their beliefs and their child’s interests. If one child is excellent with food habits, another has a photographic memory and yet another is gifted in some other aspect, and each child is special in his/her own way. Personally, I am a self-proclaimed indolent mother and we hardly involve ourselves in the conventionally “productive” planned activities. My prime focus has always been on inculcating life skills in my daughter – be it food habits, hygiene routine and even minor things like always dumping trash in the garbage bin etc. I believe that the rest she will anyways be learning at school and there is a whole life ahead to get drowned in the ocean of knowledge that this world has to offer.
This summer, I observed how my child adhered to all the daily personal hygiene rules as these have now become a pattern for her. Every season brings with it its own challenges and hence, the ground rules also get modified a bit accordingly. Our every day summer hygiene practices include bathing twice a day, cutting nails regularly, washing hair twice a week, washing hands with antibacterial liquid soap before any meal and after using the toilet, and of course after returning from outdoor play, brushing teeth twice daily and cleaning ears gently with a soft cloth. My daughter was not only tremendously obliging in following all of this but on many occasions she initiated the task on her own. As a mother, what more can I ask for!