the pleasure of playing games when sick

Raghu and Zoya are sick with throat infections and a bad cold. Honey, hot water, lots of lollipops, mints, hot soup with noodles…. we explored our kitchen for new foods to suit our body’s needs.

Actually, when we woke up we had a full day planned with a visit to the British Council Library and lots of little errands. But after hearing Raghu complain about the full day (that he had been prepared for till the previous night) and noticing the slight change in their demeanor….I cancelled everything.

We listened to music, watched Asterix- the Gaul, played scrabble (yes…. raghu-rules are more fun… just make words as you like… anywhere… e.g. “satulite” and “cookes” and “jar”, we played magnetix, puzzles, watched half of chitty chitty Bang bang, watched a nature documentary on Pandas and Penguins, played “chest”…raghu’s way of saying Chess, made some collages, used a stencil, ran around the house and chased each other on the scooters etc. For a day that began with cancellations… it turned into a lovely day even as we used up kerchiefs and tissues to manage our noses.

Now its 5 days since i wrote the above… and R-Z still have a night cough and I’ve caught and am getting over this bad flu virus. I used to feel guilty if i took rest during the middle of the day… so i’d find excuses for it or else push myself to do stuff if there were no excuses handy. But with this new lifestyle things are simpler. I am learning to listen to my body. the kids are better at this than me. they instinctively created new games at home, had me read more books than usual, slept a lot more, worked on all the puzzles we have, learned a bit more about chess, and so on.

A lovely poem that raghu and I enjoy often:

The Land of Counterpane by R L Stevenson

When I was sick and lay a-bed,
I had two pillows at my head,
And all my toys beside me lay
To keep me happy all the day.

And sometimes for an hour or so
I watched my leaden soldiers go,
With different uniforms and drills,
Among the bed-clothes, through the hills;

And sometimes sent my ships in fleets
All up and down among the sheets;
Or brought my trees and houses out,
And planted cities all about.

I was the giant great and still
That sits upon the pillow-hill,
And sees before him, dale and plain,
The pleasant land of counterpane.

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must be consistent, must persevere, must….

Last night a friend and I talked about the words “consistency”, “perseverence”, “pushing forward” etc. And how when we were unable to produce results or were unable to show our efforts then we felt the blame, shame, guilt automatically.
Most of our growing years of school and college…. the usual drill… “if you don’t do this every single day or if you don’t consistently work at it, then you will never be good at it”. I blamed myself for not being good at something… why could i not develop the willpower to do it, etc…?

But when i started to paint…i kept at it because i wanted to. There was no need for external compulsion. I just did it because i wanted to. So the persevering part, the consistency of purpose, the pushing forward etc… just was natural. I did not consciously follow these dictum’s. I just did it… for the love of the subject.

So today if Raghu does Lego…its because he wants to. I honestly believe that provided he is doing something because “He” wants to, he will stick to it and be good at it. And good to the point that feels good to him. The day he switches interests, it simply means he has exhausted one interest at this point in time and is achieving contentment in another. Even if its an interest that lasted a day… its still just that. An interest… his to control.

I’m so glad Raghu has never had anyone tell him that he needs to be consistent / to work hard at Lego. His interest would have died the day we timed, primed, examined etc.

Back to me and my friend. I feel the dictums told to us as we grew up came from fear. A fear that we will not achieve the set goal. (Set usually by someone other than ourselves.) Fear of the possibility that our interests might change by the day. Fear that if we do not persevere at one interest…. then we will start from scratch at some other interest. The fear that our lack of efforts in one direction will reflect badly on our social/work profile. The fear that we will not learn the skills to survive in life and also make a ton of money.

I can see that if i love something, if i really, really want something, if i feel a deep connection with something…. then the rest follows… all the hard work seems easy… the consistency and perseverance are natural. And there are no fears when one works from the heart.

And as children remind us constantly… “just doing it” is easy and part of the flow of life. Living in expectation and fearing the unknown (partly a result of knowing how much shame there was in not doing well on an exam) is unnatural and mostly counter-productive (if not in the short run… then in the long run).

Learning.

The biggest challenges in RU’ing for me and Ravi have been learning to parent peacefully, to be fully present in the moment and seeing the shine in each of us all the time. Sad huh? These should have been the easiest. Anyway…. we became parents without truly understanding how to be with children. Glad we are figuring it out and working on our path.

Funnily we never discuss if the kids are learning. Why? Well its so, so obvious to us. Learning is like breathing… you don’t teach it to kids. Its natural to ask questions if you need an answer and otherwise natural to just live and experiment and ‘do’… and hence learn.

We don’t divy up the kids’ activities into subjects or think… cool now he’s doing math. Instead we see it as ‘cool… he discovered addition as a means to an end’ even as he worked on some lego creation. The word Toys is used in a not-so-serious way. But they are only things. Things that children use to learn. Things like paper, color, books, work tools etc… all are just things. Everything is used for a purpose. So it does not make sense to divy up and say toys are less than a book.

The characters in a fav show, the conversation about mirrors in the elevator, the intense emotions you feel as you leave a friend, the 1/2 cup of flour you measure out for baking, the strong words exchanged over a toy, the food you eat, the airplane ride, etc… everything leads to something. There is no line dividing up the day. No bell and no authoritative voice telling you that you need to learn. Just making choices and doing. Everything is connected and overlaps during our conversations. So we see the water-cycle-aspect in so many aspects of our world/daily life.

In Zoya’s case… there is an intense need to label everything… “what that called?”, a need to paint everything near her when there is paint in front of her, a need to jump and do flips and other tricks, etc. In Raghu’s case… an intense need to make sense of large and larger numbers, geographic distance, time lines, pedaling as fast as is possible, etc…

These needs cause the learning.

Further along on the RU path….

My connection with the children has shifted a bit more in just the last couple of days. There seems to be a pause before each reaction i have. I am able to stop and listen to the sound of water falling outside our bathroom and not have a knee jerk reaction 🙂 I tend to think of either solutions or conversations first. So i might ask the water-thrower… if i can close the bathroom door and remove the tissue roll… so they can enjoy. Or perhaps i’d go make a funny face and see if they did it with intent… in which case i have to close the door (our bed is opp the bathroom door).. and maybe join them inside for some fun.. OR if them seem to be as shocked by the water jet going out the door… then we laugh adn clean up…. and they continue playing.

either way… its a win-win situation. and the energy in this house is light, airy and joyful.

Seems to me my conditioned self is disintegrating. Anything is possible.

I could focus on the lacking

There are no museums here…. practically no public libraries for little ones, no national treasures maintained with real feeling, practically no public restrooms, no playgrounds (unless you count the metal junk with bird droppings excuse for one), no wide open green spaces within easy access of all where one can commune with nature and still be within a short ride of home, and on and on the list goes in my head.

Yes, in many ways India sucks. Had to say it at some point despite my upbeat, lets get with the india beat mode until now.

I hope my friends and family in NJ and other parts of the US appreciate the treasure trove of basics that lie all around them. Within a short 10 minute car-ride of our old home in West Orange, NJ, (not a fancy town… just a simple suburb) i had access to at least 4 different libraries, 3 large parks, plenty of little ones (each park had at least one if not 2 play-climbing equipment, a reservation area with streams, etc. If i drove a little longer i was at the Liberty Science Center, I had access to NYC’s multitude, access to a community toddler’s museum, a chilrens museum, etc…

I miss all that so much. But I am very grateful for that experience in the US. People here can’t imagine supporting that sort of a community need. I know how much more can be done and enjoyed by all. Here Schools become a way to get access to libraries, gyms, etc. Outside the schools is an adult treasure trove maybe…but not really for young kids.

Anyway… like i said… i could focus on the lacking. But I choose to focus on the stuff i can do. My parents live in the neighboring state and bring me and the kids much joy. My m-i-l lives closer still and is very loving. Other family and friends whom i had only met occasionally over the years are giving their time too.

We get to see a less polished reality here… if you want to get craft material… you have to buy things and make your own kits,,, no Rag Shop here… so it makes us look at things differently. I have a helper who helps me out everyday now. I am able to read for a longer time to Raghu and can support Zoya in her endless painting of herself adn the floors. There are places to go and see… albeit too far away for quick morning outings. There is a small, only-one-of-its-kind-children’s library near by. You can only take out one book per person at a time… but still its something. It even has the Magic School Bus series that Raghu loves.

There are many things out here…. but India needs a few more RUers… and a lot more respect for children’s needs.

Anyway… grateful for this opportunity and for the abundance in our life. While i may have very few friends with whom i can be candid about our RU path… still there seems to be something within that is embracing the isolation that is inflicted upon us. Isolation within this crowded, teeming with humans place. Where the first and usually only question people ask of children is “which school do you go to?” We can afford things like house-help, travel, seasonal organic produce, wooden carpentry tools, etc at a fraction of what it would have cost us in the US. All this amounts to a comfort level we never had in the US that leads to larger chunks of time and energy available to spend with the children.

I could focus on the lacking (that list is now growing larger as Raghu asks for lego clubs or at least a friend who has an intense lego interest)… but that does not help me be a peaceful, joyful person. So i’ll go make a list of wishes and see if we can manifest some of them out here in India.

Halloween… we miss you

Seems to me like Halloween has permanently taken residence in our house these days. Ravi has brought back wonderful Halloweeny things from his trip to the US. And Raghu loves it all. Raghu asked me to video shoot him scaring me…. and this was the result.

Raghu really wanted to go to NJ for the Halloween night. We had just returned from Bangalore and were recovering from the lack of sleep (6 am flight from there). We missed the spirit of Halloween that we remembered from our years in NJ. Its lovely to go trick or treating in the cold evening air. And have visits from friends and hand out all the candy/treats. Another post for all the things we miss. And what we have come to appreciate about this place. Raghu was not quite into the Halloween spirit when we left the US. In Singapore it was a strange half hearted affair.

Back to the present… he’s been going around as Raphael from Teenage Mutant Ninja Turtles, Batman, the Devil, Flash from JL and a Vampire. The folks in our complex don’t quite know how to react. The kids seem to think its okay for them to tease him. Some of them enjoyed talking to him but mostly they wanted to fight.

Raghu loves the occasional physical encounter with the boys who are his age. It freaks me out a bit… but I’ve learnt to keep my thoughts to myself. I just trust that Raghu will let me know when he needs me to intervene. But this is hard to guage when i feel he is being tricked or taunted by boys older than him and more experienced than him.