26/06/2015 8:17 AM IST | Updated 15/07/2016 8:25 AM IST

The Grinch Who (Almost) Stole The Summer Holidays

Shadows are made of children playing on swings at a playground during the evening in the village of Toroni, northern Greece, Thursday, Aug. 15, 2013. (AP Photo/Darko Vojinovic)

Just before the children's summer vacations began, a friend called me to her house for an emergency meet. She wanted to discuss what she called a contingency plan. We hadn't, she declared ominously, made any arrangements for the holidays, and doomsday was almost upon us. When I told her that I didn't see reason for panic, she wondered if I was in denial, or if I had some delusions about the fact that the children were going to be home, all day, for two straight months.

This was also about the time when my WhatsApp started to beep incessantly. Blithe digital flyers from all and sundry descended, without warning or approval, in my messages box. They offered miraculous solutions for getting kids out of your hair, while simultaneously involving them in unique cerebral activities to transform them into the geniuses that they were meant to be. No matter what a child's interests and leanings, there seemed to be a class for everything -- from baking, art, dance, singing, theatre, and robotics to personality-building, soccer-training, creative writing and Vedic mathematics (whatever that is).

"Is it me, or has the idea of letting kids use their imaginations to play, read, stare out of the window, scrape a knee now become passé?"

For someone who hadn't really planned much for the summer, this was all extremely overwhelming, not to mention pressurising. Tempting as the idea was, I didn't intend to pack off the kids to myriad classes just so they'd be busy and kept out of trouble. Call me old school, but for me summer vacations meant hours of endless make-believe games, fighting with siblings over a battered old scooter, kissing stones while playing pithu, running in the park, praying for rain, making paper boats when our prayers bore fruit, and last but definitely not the least, going through a stack of Enid Blytons and Archie comics (from a hole-in-the-wall library near the house). OK, so maybe I am acting my age, but I do subscribe to the let-kids-be-bored theory. Our parents didn't fret over our constant brain stimulation and building our motor-skills (I love that one), and we turned out all right.

Plus, there was another thing. The cost of these classes were stratospheric, a minor fact that seemed to elude everyone else.

Constant text-haranguing by strangers aside, matters were made worse because an equal number of mothers started to frenetically text back and forth, first with unending queries about the classes and then with details about the logistics. Was I sending my kids to the theatre class? If yes, then what time? Who was going to accompany them? Could we car pool? What days suited me? Was my driver reliable? Did I have a photocopy of his license? Would the maid be there? How long had I had this maid? Would my mother go in case the maid could not? Was my mother-in-law a possible back-up resource?

Suddenly I was answering more WhatsApp messages than mails from my boss. My phone beeped incessantly to the point that I put it on silent mode and even contemplated uninstalling it. I didn't though -- such rare clarity of thought is usually brutally transient.

And then I had a moment of self-doubt (it had been coming). I wondered, albeit fleetingly, if I was depriving my kids of some great opportunities by closing my mind to something that might benefit them (the mommy guilt had finally kicked in). Reluctantly, I decided to act on the guilt.

However, for once my procrastination bore desirable fruit. The classes had filled up. By the time I called one of the mothers back, in a half-hearted effort to appear interested, it was all over. Groups had been made, excel sheets been drawn up, assorted family and maids been summoned, drivers been put on standby and maid's leaves been indefinitely postponed. All because the kids were going to be home.

Is it me, or has the idea of letting kids use their imaginations to play, read, stare out of the window, scrape a knee now become passé?

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