Today has not been a good day for me. For one, I woke up late. Which in turn, meant my plans to cook a nice spread for lunch went down the drain. I was still determined not to order in, and so proceeded to whip up some easy dishes for lunch, whereupon I managed to slice two of my fingers open. After mentally cursing myself and bandaging them up, I got back to cooking. TS was heading out and he asked me a couple of times if he needed to stay back, or order something for me and the Peanut. But I was determined to cook, and that was what I was going to do. Yeah, I can be extremely bull headed at times; and for the weirdest of reasons.
TS heaved a dramatic sigh and walked out, leaving me to my own devices and the Peanut. On weekdays, I manage to cook easy meals; and I usually reserve my cooking for the evenings when TS is also home, so I don’t have to handle Peanut all by myself. If at all I cook in the mornings, its something easy like a peas pulao or some vegetable fry that I can manage when the Peanut is splashing away in the tub or playing with his toys. Worst case scenario, I put him in front of the TV or the iPad. But since the past week, I’m on a mission to reduce our reliance on gadgets to keep Peanut occupied, so I was determined not to put him in front of the TV today. Suffice to say, the ensuing three hours were crazy. I was interrupted every ten minutes with some request or the other- Pick up my toy for me. I need water. I am hungry. I need to pee. I want to see what you’re doing. I want a bowl and a spoon to play. I need to pee. Watch me throw the toys all over the living room floor. And now the couch cushions as well. I’ve gotten garlic from the pantry. You can fish the garlic pods from under the couch tomorrow maybe. I need to pee. Watch me spill water on the couch. Oops, accident on the carpet.
My head was reeling and I was this close to whacking him to keep him from bugging me. I finally had to give in, and plop him in front of the iPad. And through the red haze of my anger, I realised something. I realised I myself was extremely dependent on gadgets. I read on my iPad and the first thing I do in the morning is check my phone. Plus, most of my friends being in different time zones, I’m always on the phone checking and replying to messages. I have thought many a time that I would restrict gadget time to just a few hours a day, but I haven’t been able to manage that. And I realised Peanut was dependant on them too.
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Having just moved to a new city and living in an apartment, Peanut gets to go out very little. And he’s bored at home. I have to depend on gadgets to keep him occupied. But that got me thinking. is being bored so bad? After all I grew up without any of these gadgets. Even my TV time was severely restricted. And if I complained I was bored, I was made to help out at home, or find means to entertain myself. The Peanut does help out at home. I’ve made sure of that from the time he was about two, but when he’s bored, I almost always resort to gadgets. Before Peanut was born I had made up my mind that he wouldn’t be one of those kids who always had their head in some gadget. And till a certain time, I managed that. While I was with my parents, Peanut was never interested in gadgets. But then, I was at home. We had space for him to run around outside. There was birds and bees and butterflies and flowers. We would go to the temple and temple festivals. We would take him to my mother’s and father’s ancestral homes where there was enough and more space for him to run around and play.
Once I was back with TS, the amount of time I got to spend with Peanut dwindled. I was taking care of everything at home and I had no help. We were stuck in a high rise apartment. Peanut got to go out everyday, but he got tired of the slide and the see saw at the play area pretty quickly. Meal times became crazy for me. While back home he would have his lunch watching the neighbourhood cats and dogs and the crows, there was nothing now to hold his attention except the traffic on the road and that got old pretty quickly. After bouts of screaming and tantrums and wheedling, I had to give in and put him in front of the iPad. And so the tradition of eating in front of the gadget started. From then on, it got worse. If he was out and we were eating at a restaurant, he wanted the iPad. If we were out shopping, and he threw a tantrum, only my phone or the iPad would calm him down. If we were out on a long drive, he got bored after a while and demanded a gadget. After a while, it got so bad and so routine, that I would just give it to him before the tantrum started. And unconsciously I was teaching him that being bored was not acceptable. Something had to fill the void all the time. Giving him a gadget was easier for me as well. I didn’t have to try hard to keep him occupied. I didn’t have to think up stories and games and ideas. I didn’t have to clean up messes. I didn’t have to endure glares from people when he threw a tantrum in public. And it also gave me time to do things that I wanted to do- like watch a movie, or read a book, or talk to my friends.
But these days, I’m making an effort to let that not be the case. I’m still dependant on gadgets for his mealtimes and such but I’m also making the effort to spend time with him. To tell him stories I made up, to show him stuff I cook or explain it to him, to do puzzles or read books together, to paint, to actually laugh and play with him when we are at the park and not check my phone then, to not capture everything we do on the phone, to play car games with him or sing along with him to nursery rhymes when we are out on long drives, to put on some music and dance with him, to just chase each other from room to room, to play hide and seek, to stop if I’m using a gadget to actually listen to him when part of my mind is irritated at the interruption. To think of something to do to fill the time when both of us are bored, and annoyed, and not to fall back on some gadget to keep us entertained. The Peanut is hardly three, so some days, things go my way and some days his tantrums and crying get so bad that I give in. But as he gets older, I hope to teach him that being bored is ok. That you needn’t be occupied with something or the other all the time. That sometimes, you can just watch the rain fall or the wind blow, or trace the path of a falling leaf, or watch the trees sway in the wind, or just lie down on the grass and stare at the blue sky, or talk about random things, or ask me a million why’s, to find shapes in the clouds, to count the stars, to try and see the girl in the moon. That sometimes its good for your mind to just be in the moment, and stay still, and take stock of things and maybe even be bored and not do anything at all. Someday…