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Weekends mean cleaning up the mess piling over the week, enjoying a clean house for a day and then getting into the grind once again. On a Saturday morning, when my daughter was lazing in front of the TV, I was busy dusting, picking dirty laundry scattered below the sofa, bed and picking up her toys, books and putting everything into place. Her toys were strewn around and I stumble over her doll who is in shambles. My eyes fall on her other dolls, soft toys, all a mess; most toys she hasn’t even played with for months. I picked one of her Barbie dolls and while readjusting her hair and dress, my mind went back many years. Being born and brought up in a middle class household, my childhood was comfortable though not lavish. At a very early age, I learnt or rather was taught to value money. As a child, money mattered less. What mattered more were my possessions; books, toys, couple of party dresses, crayons, paints, felt pens and other nick knacks that I knew would not be easily replaced. Birthdays were extra special and I was careful to choose what I wanted or wished for. A loss of a crayon would make me look in all corners of my home and I wouldn’t rest until I found it. Water bottles were bought once a year and school bags replaced once in 2-3 years. A new bag gave me such joy and it would stay for months. I took utmost care for my possessions and even if I shared them, I would remember to take them back. A lot of you born in the 80’s will relate to this. In spite of all this, my parents always thought I had too many toys.
Now that I am a parent, I can understand why they felt this way. Yes, times have changed. I stress many a times that I wish to give my daughter a very normal upbringing, yet cannot at times stay away from providing her with too much. Throughout my childhood, I had one Barbie doll whom I guarded with my life. I treated my Barbie like a baby, stitched clothes for her, brushed her hair and treated her as real. I have lost count of the number of Barbies my daughter has and she doesn’t really care much for them. The day she gets a new one, the doll is treated with utmost care for maximum one week before she falls into the same pile of toys only to be discovered few months later. She hasn’t even turned 4, and has had 8-9 school bags already. The other day, she was colouring and couldn’t find her orange crayon. She promptly went to the cupboard and opened a new set of colours and started using them, the old set ignored. Such a thing would be criminal during our time, yet I let it happen because I have encouraged her or somewhere have not taught her to value things.
If I lost something, my parents never replaced it immediately. I have used broken stuff only to wait for the appropriate time to get a new one; an important occasion or a good result. Sadly, I have not been able to pass these values to my daughter. The other day, she forgot her water bottle in school. We had purchased it just a week back and it was one of those cool ones where the straw comes up on the push of a button. I had readily paid an exhorbit price for it for maybe it amused me for than anything else. I inquired about her bottle and she shrugged her shoulders and said, “I don’t know where it is. I couldn’t find it. Maybe someone else took it” It did not affect her much as she knew I would replace it. Eventually she did find it but this incident reminded me that we as parents were responsible for this whole new value system. Children learn more from what they see than what we tell them. She made an effort to look for her bottle only because I made her use the old one till she found it. My idea was to wait for a few days, maybe the weekend when we could head out to get a new one, but she realized that she isn’t getting a new one. So she asked her teacher, the maids, checked the lost and found and finally brought it back. Ever since, I see a change in her when it comes to taking care of her belongings.
I went to my mother’s house this summer and brought back many gifts for my daughter. Among them, were some story books that I used to read as a child. Nostalgia kicked in when I saw my name written in broken letters. The books were old but in crisp condition, seen almost 30 summers. Not even a couple of months gone, now I see them strewn here and there. My daughter is very fond of books and I read them to her every night, but that care and value for them is missing. I am to blame, too for the same. It puzzles me on how to pass it on to her, how to teach her the importance of valuing one’s possessions. Nothing compares the happiness to see her flipping through the same pages as I did. I want her to experience this same joy, this nostalgia that I feel, when she runs through her fingers these pages when she is grown up.
Everything is so dispensable these days with little emotion and value attached. Incomes too, have gone up and living standards are on a high; all the more reason to keep our children grounded. I want her to be thankful for what she has, understand that she is privileged and at no point of time takes life for granted. Since we are both working parents, she has questioned her stay at daycare many times. We explain to her that we work and so we earn money, and before we finish she completes, “So that you can buy toys for me!” We correct her by saying, not only toys, but food, clothes and vacations. Hence we need to buy essentials and save money so that we can enjoy vacations and for our future. By repeating this many times, somewhere it is grilled in her head. She observes street children, notices that they don’t have shoes or pretty dresses. She realizes now that she might have less than few children but has more than most kids. She is a child and does throw an odd tantrum, but our endeavor to teach her value of money continues. It is a continuous process and I am sure I will say this to her many times, “Paise ped pen ahi ugte!!!”