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No Personality Development For My Boys This Summer, Thanks For Asking

06/06/2016 8:42 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:27 AM IST
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Little boy wearing a cape jumping from a rock. Magic glitter around cape.

"Mumma, please, just a little while longer?" An earnest face peered over the book I was reading.

"Fine. Just a little while, okay?" That probably meant that I'd hear the mad shrieks and songs for at least another hour before a repeat request came in.

"Yay! Love you mumma!" Squealed the little one with his muddy wet arms wrapped around me. That has become a kind of morning ritual nowadays. I sit in the lawn sipping tea with my book, while the boys run about, getting sprayed by water from the sprinkler until they're soaked to the bone and must recover by lying flat on the grass for a while. Obviously, our "Jeeves" isn't too happy with this new routine, especially the piles of wet clothes spattered with mud and bits of grass!

Today morning was no different. Sprinkler, water, tea, two soaked, happy boys. Just then, a van crammed with kids stopped near the house. Most of them looked bored, some grumpy, and two were busy pulling each other's hair. The door slid open, another kid jostled for space as he got in and the door slid shut. Ah! The summer camp kids.

"No summer camp! So what do they do the whole day?" Ask many shocked, disapproving mothers. "They do mostly nothing," is my reply.

As you turn the pages of the local newspaper, there are as many advertisements for summer camps for kids as there are for holiday getaways. Personality development, sketching, dancing, singing, sports -- all crammed into three hours and a small room, and for a neat amount of money. Depending on the amount charged and location of the camp in question, more exotic stuff is added on -- robotics, celebrity theatre workshops, sports camps. The list never ends.

Anyway, the point is that there are lots of concentration camps, err, I mean summer camps out there to choose from. I decided this year to pause their personality development for 45-odd days. So my boys are not getting more intelligent, confident or skilful this summer.

As that child got on to the van, the boys looked at me and beamed, and got back to the sprinkler.

"No summer camp! So what do they do the whole day?" Ask many shocked, disapproving mothers.

"Yup, no summer camp and they do mostly nothing," is my reply.

I have nothing against these workshops (as they choose to call themselves) but I do have a thing or two against the mindset that "doing nothing is evil". I read somewhere (in a research report by a reputed psychologist, mind you!) that ideas often come at times of "doing nothing." I am not only a believer of this line of thought but also a witness.

[W]e spent 14-odd school vacations doing nothing and yet we are mentally sound... Miracle, eh? Roughly adds up to two years of being brain dead by today's standards!

Let's see what a child does while doing... well, nothing! The boys get up in the morning and play around in sprinkler for a while followed by a shower, breakfast and then a whole day full of doing nothing! They don't watch TV during the week. So after some time spent with books, an innings of cricket interspersed with a blow or a two to the cheating sibling they come to me with "Mumma can we watch TV?"

A "no" followed by the customary feeble protest leads them on to more "nothing" to do. An hour later when I checked on them today, I found one with an elaborate army of action figures (some with missing limbs and some with no head -- brave fellows I must say) ready to charge on the alien ship parked near the door. The other was sitting in a carton he found upstairs and was drawing shapes inside it.

"Spaceship eh?" I asked trying to sound smart.

He frowned, cast a disgusted look on me and mumbled, "Time machine."

"Where are you off to?"

"Dinosaur land!" The sparkle in his eyes made doing nothing absolutely worth it.

That's an almost daily ritual. If it is not the carton, it's Lego. If it's not the army, it's making different paper airplanes out of a book they have.

[I]deas often come at times of "doing nothing." I am not only a believer of this line of thought but also a witness.

Coming back to the camps -- it's not like I haven't packed them off to one ever. I have, multiple times. But as I look back, I see it as a royal waste of summertime from their perspective. Summer vacations are supposed to be different. If it is going to be as regimented as school time then what's the point? Take a moment and think back. Which enlightening camp did we go to as kids? Anyone? Thought as much. So basically we spent 14-odd school vacations doing nothing and yet we are mentally as sound as they come. Miracle, eh? Roughly adds up to two years of being brain dead by today's standards!

So, do you remember how you killed your time back then? I remember getting books from mum's library and devouring them, playing in freshly dug up foundations of houses to be built in the neighbourhood, aimlessly cycling with a group of friends and coming back home at least a kilo heavier. What do you expect after an intense tunnel-building exercise in the "mountain" of Yamuna sand in the next street? It was pure fun. That I think is mandatory for any child during their holidays -- fun.

Let the child choose. If camps are his thing, let him do it. If not then what's wrong in chasing frogs, running after butterflies, rolling in mud, reading random books and well, building a time machine?

My boys are not getting more intelligent, confident or skilful this summer... I'll just let them do what I did as a child -- nothing.

After a day of doing nothing, by the time they hit the bed at night, the boys have debated whether the butterfly in the garden is a monarch or not, figured out the faulty aerodynamics of a new paper model of a plane, played a few "innings" of cricket, made secret potions (don't even ask what goes into them, ugh!), read books, told me slimy facts about bugs, fossils and what not, listened to music, played football, and had a dozen or so fistfights with each other. They didn't go to three hours of personality-building, character-enhancing, IQ-improving classes but I guess I will deprive them of all these "developmental opportunities" this summer and let them be. I'll just let them do what I did as a child in my summer vacations -- nothing.

Originally posted at Random Thoughts

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