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‘Hi mom!’ A very exhausted voice said to me. I was busy with some urgent presentation coming up that week. I was engrossed and busy. I randomly looked up at that stained face and smiled for a nano second and went back to my work. ‘How was school?’ No reply. The clattering of the keypad filled the air. I looked up and saw no one. He must be changing I thought.
Routine instructions followed. Milk in the microwave, snacks on the table and a break for 30 minutes. From the corner of my eye, I saw him sit wearily on the couch. He blabbered something about school...arguments with friends, whose lunch box was yummier, someone forgot a project, someone tripped on his school bag, and how some teacher always encouraged her favourites.
I listened...well did I? Cause if I had, I wouldn’t be writing someone. I would know the names. I shrugged my shoulder which is the easiest thing to do and told him how fun school can be and challenging too. When I looked up again, he was gone. I buried myself deeper in the laptop. ‘I am going to play’ he said. My hand waved a casual good bye. I looked up again...he was gone.
After an hour, satisfied with my work I looked at the clock. Almost dinner time I thought. A peep in his room ensured that he was studying. But his face looked lost and his eyes had a vacuum. Something that bothered me then, but oh yes...I had to cook. I brushed aside my thoughts.
A goodnight kiss sealed the day. After a few weeks I sat down with him to discuss his project. I was annoyed by the distraction the TV was offering. I sensed that familiar wave of annoyance rise inside me. Trying to curb it frantically, I asked him about school. Replies were mostly mono syllables. That annoyed me more. I looked at his face. He has grown so much I thought. I have missed this, my heart said. You were busy said my head.
I switched off the TV to a rebellious NO! You must look at me when I talk, I said. All eyes on me. How do I know if you paid any attention to what I was saying? When someone talks, you must look at them I said. And he kept quiet. I was the parent here, wasn’t I? An unfair parent. He was the child. He had fewer options.
He said ok ma. Something was bothering me and I knew what it was. The scenes from previous day came flooding back to me. I knew I was wrong then. Kids learn by observation. Kids learn from us.
Though I couldn’t do anything to bring back that day, I promised myself....I would look at him when he spoke. All eyes on him. I promised myself that I would definitely keep aside some quality time for him. I promised myself that when he wanted me, I would be there.
Childhood is meant to be happy. But it comes with struggles, challenges and pressures that are huge for our kids. They deal with it everyday. Being a parent comes naturally to us. But being their friend, we have to work on that. Someone they can trust, someone they can confide in and someone they can share with. I wanted to be his buddy parent. Look at things from his perspective. Seal these bonding moments for life. That’s what Khuljaaye Bachpan is all about!
He was a bird who was stretching his wings, ready to scan the skies. Sooner or later he would fly away....my nest would be so cold and empty. I would miss him then. But for now...my time was his time. I would not miss this for anything in the world.
I am doing my bit to ensure that my child has a fearless childhood, full of bonding moments with me. Khuljaye Bachpan for my kid!
Now, 'Are You Listening?'