Amrita finished with her daily house chores and sat down with her liquor tea to have some time to herself before her elder son Nik, returned from school. She checked upon the time once again, worried why her mother-in-law wasn’t home yet. She had gone out grocery shopping 2 hours back and should have returned by now.
The bell rang, and Amrita cautiously rushed to open the door for her panting mom-in-law.
‘It took you a little longer than usual. Isn’t it?’ Amrita asked as Radhaji handed over the plastic bags to the domestic help. Amrita signaled to the help to bring her a glass of water and ushered Radhaji in the living room to relax.
‘I met Shilpa on my way and spent some time chit chatting.’ Radhaji told Smita as she gulped down the cold plain liquid that the domestic help had just brought her.
‘Oh! Shilpa. How is she? And how’s Somansh. He is going to school now, isn’t it? He’s just 6 months younger than our Nik.’ Amrita inquired. Mention of Shilpa piqued her interest as a long standing family friend. Her husband Raghav and Shilpa’s brother had been classmates at school and Shilpa had come to live in their neighborhood after her wedding.
Radhaji widened her eyes as she let her hair lose to detangle it and tie it back into a bun. ‘Somansh is now going to the good old school where his father went. She was all praises about the school. Somansh seems to be doing very well there.’
Amrita narrowed her eyes into a slit and grinned with her lips towards one side, ‘Doing good? How do you measure the performance of a 3 year old who has just started school.’
Radhaji clucked her tongue, ‘It’s not that. She was telling me that Somansh nows how to write all his alphabets and number up till 70. I mean, I was like already, our Nik knows nothing in comparison. Do you think it was a mistake to send him to this new age school. I sometimes wonder what they teach the children their.’
Amrita listened to Radhaji, all amused about the way she was making it sound all dramatic. She nodded her head unalarmingly, ‘Mom! There’s nothing to worry. Nik is just 4 years and they have started with numbers and alphabets in his school just a month back. And what’s the rush, eventually every child is expected to read and write only when they reach the age of 6 years.’
‘No! But I did not like it when I had to admit to Shilpa that our Nik was lagging behind in his skills and abilities. It was almost mortifying. You must make a visit to the school and talk this out with the teachers as to why are our kids not at par with kids in other schools.’
Amrita arched her brows and bit her lower lip. She couldn’t believe her ears. ‘What was it with their parents’ generation? They seemed to be so tied down to my-kid-is-better-than-yours way of life.’ Amrita thought not daring to speak her mind, lest it may offend the old lady.
‘Mom! It’s OK. Seriously I am not too worried about Nik’s capabilities. I know for sure that we are raising him well and that the school he is going to is doing their job. He is developing all the required skills for his age. Please don’t get into such rat race kind of discussion on ‘my child knows this, how about yours’. It will do nobody any good.’ Smita folded the newspaper and got up to stack it on the shelf.
Radhaji puffed out a mouth full of air, ‘Leave aside this discussion. Go and have some rest. Once Nik comes home you will have no time to even breathe.’
Amrita nodded unenthusiastically, ‘I don’t know what’s up with this boy. I have to force him to his skating and dance classes every day. If I don’t drive him down to his classes, he just won’t go. How will I manage him once the baby arrives?’
Radhaji smiled empathetically. Raising the elder child with a younger one on the way always came with a mixed bag of emotions. There was joy of having a child and giving your elder child a sibling. But there were more anxieties about how to cope up with the elder child who seems to get into a war for attention from the parents. Smita sure had some difficult months ahead of her.
‘It’s OK. Nik is very young. He can re-join the skating classed once you are back in action after your delivery. Let him enjoy at home only till then.’
‘No Mom! It’s not done. There’s so much competition these days. Every child knows everything. And if we don’t start young, he will get caught in the rut of school and academics. He will never be able to develop any interests or passions. He ought to go for his extra-cirricular classes.’ Amrita sounded very determined.
Radhaji smiled at her daughter-in-law who stood with her hands on the small of her back. She observed that it was now just a matter of time. They may have to rush to the hospital anyday now. But she did not like the creases of worry on Amrita’s forehead. And for what reason? Because Nik hassled over going to his skating and dance classes!
‘Amrita! Aren’t you contradicting yourself here? Sometime back when I was fretting over what Nik was studying at school, it was you only who assured me that everything will fall in place with time. Then why are you now fussing in a similar about his willingness to go for his extra-curricular classes? You should be unfazed by competition and focus on the unique requirements of your kid.’
Radhaji’s words hit at Amrita. She realized that while she had internalized the fact that her son will come around academically, she was worried that he may lose the race of over-all development by not being very keen on his extra-curricular activities. Amrita then reminisced her childhood, where her parents had always been focused on the studies and often mulled that their middle-class roots did not allow them to think beyond academics. Extra-curricula’s and extra classes were for the affluent.
She was probably fighting her own demons when she pushed Nik to participate in activities other than academics. She was scared that her son may lose out on this very important avenue of learning and enjoying his life. Nik really was very young. She must give him time and nurture him to an age where he may be able to decide his own passions and have the courage to follow them. Her role was that of a facilitator, ad that she could do later too.
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