All parents, I am sure, have gone through many such episodes with their own children just as I did. This period of frank exchange of ideas, unfortunately, gets over all too soon, for in their preteens the children already know everything there is to know, and after condescending to teach their parents briefly, soon give up due to impatience with the slow learning curve of the adults. They then retreat into their esoteric and impenetrable world of the net, peculiar music, Korean pop culture or whatever is the latest in thing. I guess our parents thought of us in the same way.
Anyway, I am trying to share some of the gems that our kids with which our kids regaled us in the happy old days.
She had just started preschool in our neighbourhood playschool. One day we met one of her teachers in the local park. My child’s piercing voice announced to the world…
“Look, the teacher has escaped from the school.”
To her mind, teachers belonged to the school and had no business outside.
After her first school picnic, which she was very excited about attending, she announced her review to the eager parents waiting to collect their wards….
“There was no picnic; we just went to a park, played some games, ate some food and came back.”
The poor kid had imagined the picnic to be some new exciting adventure, not something we did most weekends.
She was very curious about the time before her arrival in the world, when mummy and papa were younger, but not children. One day, she spied an elderly couple walking ahead of us, both of quite short stature.
She very audibly asked us, “When you were smaller than now; but not as small as me, were you like this uncle and aunty?”
She had equated height with age.
When taking her to the park, my eyes may have been straying at things of beauty by the roadside. Her sharp eyes missing nothing, and not being judgemental like her mother would have been, my ever helpful daughter pointed out in her piercing voice…
“There’s a didi ( elder sister ) in that balcony too!”
Ever since then, when walking with her I kept my eyes downcast like a demure Indian bahu.
She used to be looked after by a babysitter as both my wife and I had full time jobs, and had been exposed to a great deal of television, often forming her world view from them. With the uncanny intuition of children, she had also unravelled the formula for a successful film. Thus when we were at a theatre, watching an iconic film, and there was absolute silence in the hall while the heroine was alone, crooning some poignant melody, my baby shattered the mood with her piping voice….
“Koi ladka wadka kiun nahi aa jaata?”
Loosely translated…Why doesn’t some guy show up? Her experience had taught her that songs in films have to be duets to brighten up the mood.
She was curious about the world before her existence, and accepted the fact that many things like television, cell phones and computers were not around. She also assumed, going by the old black and white photographs of our childhood in old family albums that the world was black and white in our youth, and colour was subsequently invented.
She was also enamoured of the cycle rickshaw, and thought poorly of my spanking white car, my pride and joy. She would constantly demand I trade up, acquire a rickshaw in exchange for my car, and take her for rides on my rickshaw instead. I tried to explain how a car was better, being larger, faster and covered. Then she stumped me with her counter, that I should get a bus instead. It was even larger, and all her friends could travel with her.
She had seen a popular film based on Kramer versus Kramer about a family breaking up and the consequent custody battle, and the father’s struggle in coping with being a single parent. But contrary to our fears she was not at all perturbed. Instead she came up with a practical solution.
“When you and mummy separate, I am going to be with you papa, don’t worry. I can do everything and will take care of you. We can give the little baby to mummy, she’s too much trouble. Anyway she is small and needs mummy. Then mummy won’t be lonely either. And we can give all the furniture to mummy. We will just keep the television.”
Kiddo has grown since, and has a larger audience for her views, which are as refreshing as ever. The little baby too has grown up, and has left home for college. As I was telling her of my proposed post, she demanded to know what embarrassing secrets I plan to air. I confessed that as she was a silent observer in childhood, the anecdotes all relate to her elder sibling. She retorted that this is exactly why she was a silent kid, to prevent such future embarrassment by a garrulous dad.