It is the 15th day of the kid's summer vacations. Not that I am counting.
I am lying in bed, eyes shut. I take a deep breath and try to meditate. Breathe in. Breathe out. Stay in the present, I tell myself, don't think of the future. Future being five minutes from now when a little somebody will climb into my bed and try to pry my eyes open with the recently acquired killer pincer grip.
Until 15 days ago, this very person refused to get out of bed until I was tired of my good parent cajoling and turned into the monster parent -- the one who shouts, bribes and ultimately (and inevitably) begs.
Smarter parents... pulled out their credit cards months ago and handed over a substantial chunk of their retirement money to the camp lady. They kept their sanity.
I could have had her join the many "summer camps" that sprout like fungus on the bits of food that I routinely clean out from her many "secret" boxes. Why didn't I? Because I was foolish enough to read the descriptions of the courses offered. Smarter parents did nothing of the sort. They pulled out their credit cards months ago and handed over a substantial chunk of their retirement money to the camp lady. They kept their sanity. I was running headless trying to keep the kid entertained, engaged and educated.
Now when I rewind and play back the conversations in my head that I had with other parents, before vacations began, I am utterly embarrassed. I can see them sniggering, turning away from me in slow motion, catching each other's eyes, stifling their laughs, eyes wet with hilarity, as I declared my grandiose plans for the summer.
I could let the child wander around like a free-range chicken, unfettered. She would learn essential life skills, gain confidence and win the Nobel Prize in 30-odd years.
I confess this wasn't a momentary lapse of judgement. I have a track record of not doing the right thing at the right time. When God was handing little bags of crafting skills to future mommies, I was busy looking out of the window. I cannot make owls from empty toilet paper rolls nor can I stitch teeny tiny dresses for dolls. I did try right at the beginning of the vacations to make a "treasure chest" from an empty cardboard box. I made a big fanfare, assembled glue, newspaper and other colourful doodads. After precisely three minutes I was bored out of my wits, so when my daughter asked, "When will this finnnnnish?" in that whiny, bored, nasal voice only kids and young girls in American sitcoms have, I jumped with joy. Together, we wadded it all up and tossed everything in the garbage with much celebration. She was squealing with delight, running back into the house to find other stuff to throw too, when my husband stopped her.
I walked back from the garbage bin with more confidence, shoulders squared, chin up. Maybe I did have a talent after all. A talent for finding fun in nonsense. I may not have a clean house, a "well fed" child or a decent (or any) plan for the vacation but I do have one sharp tool in my shed. I just need to let the kid be. Let her explore and whenever needed jump in with some tomfoolery.
I found her at the neighbour's, sitting with their kids in front of their TV. My chicken had just found another coop.
I told my husband my plan. That I was going to wing it. That I would find the fun in the humdrum and just be! "No more entertaining, engaging and educating!" My eyes sparkled. He looked at me, one eyebrow raised, "You're not trying that free-range parenting thing, are you?"
That sounded even better. I could let the child wander around like a free-range chicken, unfettered. She would learn essential life skills, gain confidence and win the Nobel Prize in 30-odd years. So the next day I woke her up, fed her, clothed her, opened the door and shooed her out. A half-hour later I found her at the neighbour's, sitting with their kids in front of their TV. My chicken had just found another coop.
That was four days ago. We are back to our routine of no routine. We still don't have any firm travel plans. All the summer camps are now full. Some days are better than others. We boil half a kilo of potatoes everyday because she loves mashing them and it keeps her busy for a good hour. This also means we are having way too many aloo parathas. To balance that out, when it's not furnace-like outdoors, we go to the park in the evenings to swat mosquitoes.
Next year, we'll probably get her into one of those classes. Or maybe like birthing pains, I will forget all about this year by then.
In the afternoon when I am exhausted from her constant buzzer-round-type questioning, I lie down on the bed and start yelping for the doctor. It takes her a good 40 minutes to bring me back from the dead. She'll make a skilled physician someday, bless her!
Next year, we'll probably get her into one of those classes. Or maybe like birthing pains, I will forget all about this year by then. Or maybe, just maybe, in the end we will find that it wasn't so bad after all to not entertain, engage and educate. We'll see.
I hear the door creak and pull the covers over my head and start the countdown to day 16.
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