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A class full of students looked down as I thundered on. Tardiness at their level is unacceptable. So while I was being all serious about my job, and demanding the assignments that were to be submitted today, the phone rang. First wave of giggles rang through the class. Damn. The boys had changed the ringtone for the home number again. Instead of the boring, neutral chirp, a full-blown minion gibberish rang out. When in a handbag, the phone is the last thing you find. Hence more giggles were audible now. I managed to somehow answer the call. A loud shriek, perfectly audible to the last bench, possibly waking the student at the extreme left of the row, rang out.
'EXAMS OVER, MA!'
More shrieks followed, and the giggles gave way to full-blown laughter. The boys' last exam saved the students since maintaining a scowl gets difficult if you have minions informing you about incoming calls. After this, I got a call every ten minutes stating the plan to optimize fun, taking requisite permissions, changing the plans, and making them grander. Some were made just to shriek. By the time I got home, I was dreading stepping in. A dog with a bindi stuck on the forehead frowned at me from the window. This looked bleak.
The moment I stepped in, two boys wrapped me in big teenaged hugs.
'It's over! It's over!'
Of course I smiled. One look around, and I could see that the entire house had been let loose. Books were now free to step out of the library, and finally breathe. Last month was mostly spent by them hiding in the shelves, and peeping out once in a while only to scurry back at the sight of the examination date sheet. The toys have finally tasted victory after slaying the textbooks, and they are in a celebratory mode. Even the chap on TV looked cheerier today. The house-help too is beaming for he doesn't have to cook today. The boys plan to gorge on junk food. This is the only fortnight in the entire year when they are in no man's land - no stress of impending doom and endless scribbling.
'So what's the plan?' I asked, despite the fact that the house was reeking of the plan already in the process of execution.
'Fun! Loads of it!'
'Want to join some workshop?' I threw a googly.
Deathly quiet. Abated breath. Even the house help scorned. The dogs too threw disapproving glances my way.
'Do we have to?' The shrieking voices were now squeaking.
I looked at the crest fallen faces, and couldn't resist laughing. It took a hug and more guffawing to convince them that I was kidding. But that is not the case with most of their friends they inform me. Quite a few are taking a fortnight long crash-course for excelling at one thing or the other. We are going to excel at taking it easy.
I look at it as a wind down time for them. Summer holidays have their share of anxieties with a gazillion projects to be done - some fun, some not. Winter vacations have unit tests waiting at the other end. But now is a time full of possibilities, of carrying out the experiments that have been lurking in the younger one's room waiting for the textbooks to vanish, of looking at clouds take the shape of dragons, bunnies, and monsters, and of counting the million stars in the night sky with a hope to spot a shooting star.
When I see them wind down, I step back and breathe too. I give my whirring brain a rest - always worrying about their handwriting, their future, and saving for the rainy day. I choose to stand, and let myself be enveloped by the fragrance of the rain soaked earth instead. When I look at others, I find myself forever questioning my 'parenting strategy' - heck, there is none! I shuffle at the sight of other parents being absolutely sure of the direction their offspring would take right down to the next two decades. I mostly am unaware of the shape their thoughts would take over the next two minutes. Decades are a lifetime away. Hence, I too step into the no man's land. I live for the day with them. The next grade will bring with it a new set of challenges, hurdles, victories, and failures. Now is not the time to worry. Now is the time to breathe, and be.
'Mumma, my friends say ninth grade is the beginning of the crucial years?' The older one is a worrier.
I looked up from the twig lamp that we were trying to create and said, 'Which year do you think is not crucial? All are fairly important. Ninth grade is just another year of your life. Just make the most of it, like you have done so far.'
He smiled, and got back to sticking the twigs and his fingers together. He added, 'Do you never worry about what I'd be?'
'Nah. Because you already are...' A twig came off, and unravelled half the lamp.
'What?' He asked trying to scrape the glue off his stuck fingers.
'Awesome. That is what you'd be. A tad bit less than me though.'