|   Oct 22, 2015

It was Diwali and Shushmita, my cousin had come to spend the vacation with us. My son who was 11 then was thrilled because Shushmita had a son, Neel, exactly his age. Both of them got along like a house on fire. That could have been great except that Shushmita was a stickler for discipline. She lived by the clock. Few could debate her wisdom of ‘discipline’, and so we all lived up to her expectation (hopefully). As expected the day would end at 9:30 pm and after some chit-chat, the lights would go off at 10:30pm. Almost an hour earlier than the case in our family.

One night, I woke up to some noise, and could see some flickering lights from under my son’s bedroom door. I walked towards the door quietly and tried to hear what was going on. I realised they were watching something on the desktop. Wondering what it might be and fearing that Shushmita will wake up I decided to get in and shut it off. I opened the door to a strange sight. Both my son and Neel were bundled up inside their bedsheets. Both were hugging on to pillows and sat sticking to each other. The moment they saw me, they were scared. Tanmoy my son, jumped out of bed and shut the door and pleaded to allow them to finish what they were watching. Neel on the other hand was too scared and pleaded not to mention it to his mom.

I asked them what they were watching and they replied, ‘Conjuring’.

It was my turn to be shocked. ‘What?!? That’s a horror movie,’ I said.

Neel guiltily admitted that they wanted to see it for a long time but couldn’t because mom wouldn’t allow him to watch movies. And Tanmoy couldn’t because I am too scared to watch horror movies.

Their genuine appeal and innocent faces melted my heart and I decided to surprise them. I decided I would watch the movie with them, and that Shushmita aunty didn’t have to know about the movie. It will remain our little secret. But in return they would have to still wake up on time and take a nap in the afternoon, and also that next time onwards they would not hide such things, but take permission from me.

Both the boys squealed with joy and drowned me with hugs and kisses. I shut the door and snuggled up between them, just as they let go of their pillows and held on to my arms. I don’t remember having enjoyed any other movie as much to date.

If you follow all the rules, you miss out on a lot of fun!!

The adage applies not only to children but also to adults. Ever so often, we parents get so entangled in our responsibility of perfect parenting that we forget to have fun with our kids. We tend to overlook the fact that this ‘fun’ thrives only in the grey areas of childhood, when their acts are not judged as good nor bad, but simply as being naughty.

Children being children, are unable to gauge the impact of their actions and simply follow their heart.

Petty crimes of childhood are clearly just that, ‘petty’ and can be as harmless as stealing mangoes or flowers from the neighbour’s trees, eating sweets from the fridge when you have said no or eating ice creams or pani-puris without your knowledge. It can also be that they drift away into some spontaneous research instead of sticking to the original plan or reading comics instead of completing the studies. Or simply not having done what you had asked them to do as they found something more interesting to do.

Some bending of rules are in fact essential for their normal and healthy growth as individuals, as it gives them the wings to fly to their goals. It teaches them to take chances and imagine possibilities. It allows one to explore, experiment and experience things first hand, rather than being ‘told’ all the time. And how can you expect kids to think out of the box, if you penalise them every time they stray outside the box?

As parents our happiest memories and strongest bondings happen when we have been partners in their crimes. No wonder then that you have not been able to forget that friend with whom you bunked your first lecture, or went for the first movie. Nor can you forget the friend with whom you went around randomly ringing doorbells and dashing off to hide. These mindless yet joyous events of our life remain etched in our minds, and become our fondest childhood memories. In years to come they become the moments of respite from the hectic routines of our day to day life. And how wonderful it would be if you were a part of those memories in your child’s life.

So when next time you find them do any of these, cease the moment. Don’t preach… just join in. It’s fun!! Let the power equation between you and your kid ceases to exist. Let them see the child in you and find the friend in you. Be the buddy parent!!

Of course you have to make up for the damages (if any). So make sure there is a clear discussion of how to make it up and what is expected. That’s teaching responsibility. Another very important lesson of life.

What is probably important here, is to show kids how to bring back order into things once they have had their fun. So if it is studies or homework that has been compromised, then help them complete it soon after. Or if it has annoyed someone then apologise to the concerned person along with the child. Show them through practice how to take care of the situations.

After all, childhood is so brief, and in today’s context very stressful too. Allow children to experience being that child that they would have heard of in the stories of Lord Krishna, our favourite ‘naughty’ child.

'Unlock' childhood and let it be the way it should be. Let children experience life at their own pace while you accompany them. This partnering today will take you miles ahead when the little child turns into a young individual and leads an independent life. Not only would have you taught them how to be an ideal parent, but you will also remain the buddy in the prime of their life.

Khuljaye Bachpan!! The simple joys of growing up.

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