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Every child makes us experience parenting anew. Each presents his or her own set of problems and reactions that leaves us just as confused with the second child as we were with the first one
One day, during summer vacation, I realized that my daughter had not gone out to play and seemed listless. Some gentle probing revealed that she had been told by her friend’s grandparents not to enter their house. I knew the reason, and I also knew that she was not to be blamed.
The previous day, the two girls had brought home a paper lantern they had made in the craft class. My daughter was in a skirt. Playfully, to see it flare up, she was twirling around in the elevator lobby, when her friend ran up to her with the paper lantern in hand. By mistake, my twirling daughter’s hand went through the lantern, tearing it.
She apologized immediately, but naturally, her friend was upset. I stepped in and my daughter happily agreed to part with her lantern, since I had already seen the handiwork. But her friend forgot to take it back home. I guessed that her grandparents would have thought this had happened deliberately and seeing their granddaughter in tears, would have felt upset with my daughter. It drove a knife through my heart, and I wanted to rush to their house to set the story right. But I refrained from interfering, letting time take its course.
The great healer worked its magic and though she was still barred from entering the house a week later, at least the two started playing again. Three to four months down the line, my daughter tells me that the grandparents are very friendly with her now.
Soon after this episode, my younger son who had turned five started playing cricket with boys whose ages ranged from five to eleven years. One eleven-year-old boy was a notorious bully. Other mothers had often complained about him, but the children seemed to flock back to him despite being hit and pushed.
Scared for the safety of my child, I had warned the bully that I didn’t want to hear of anyone being pushed or hit by him. Sure enough, I had to intervene on behalf of another boy who had been badly hit by a ball thrown by the bully onto his chest, because the victim was too scared to tell his mother. This was not taken kindly by the bully.
Predictably, my son became an easy victim. One day, he came home crying after being hit hard on the head by a ball. Which mother can take this? Evenings soon became a period when I used to warn the bully for such transgressions before I went on my customary walk. His mother was known to ignore complaints from other mothers, having taken the line that everybody was targeting her son!
Finally, she told the boy to keep away from my son. I heartily approved! But then, my son would be sent home as soon as the boy came down to play. My blood boiled, but I did not want to push the other friends to a corner, by asking them to choose between the two boys. I told my son to play till the boy came and then cycle or play on his own, or with my daughter.
But cricket is an addiction with my son, and my sane advice, meant to help me more than my son, didn’t do any good. He started crying at home for everything, and it would invariably end up with “That boy does not let me play.” It hurt him to be sent off from a game. Worse, the bully continued to sneak a slap or a whack, which he later denied completely. To add insult to injury, another boy of my son’s age was allowed to play in the game. Finally, I walked up to the older boy one day and made my son and him shake hands. Play together, but don’t hit each other, I advised the former. Play with him, but keep a distance, I told my son.
I cannot help wondering – should I have kept away from this fight? Children will fight, have differences, but can we ignore violence? Is the age mix right? Who can dictate what groups get formed as children play? The questions are endless. The answers are never clear.
We trudge as best as we can on the road to making our children independent and responsible as they grow.