( This piece has been written for ConnectMyGurgaon)
'Go on, go on, you have Taekwondo now! GO!' I bellow at my kids.
'Yes, Mom, I know.' yells Peanut, ' But Pickle can't find his belt!'
There's some more argument about Uniforms and finally I shove them out the door. They rush out and I heave a sigh of relief.
Whatever happened to free time? You know -just chillin', hanging around, reading - basically, doing nothing?
Gurgaon, like many other cities, offers a whole range of services and I for one have been availing of them for myself and the kids - and how. I started a bunch of things during my sabbatical - guitar class, piano class, yoga class. On top of it all, I took Zumba classes and ended up an instructor myself. All of this still goes strong for me even though I'm back at work - the music classes are once a week, and Zumba is on weekends, while Yoga has moved to a fortnightly or even monthly instruction rhythm with my excellent teacher. It's manageable - but just about.
For the kids - I'd started a couple of years ago with Piano and vocal classes for 8 year old Peanut, and then got Taekwondo going twice a week for all three kids. My husband happily added Tennis three times a week on the available days. And then, Pickle & Papad started clamouring for music classes and I found through Urban Clap, the same instructor who'd got Peanut started years ago, and he now comes home once a week to teach them guitar and piano.
In the meantime, as the kids have become older, their timing at school has increased. Now they barely have an hour at home before running out for class. Surprisingly, there has been no rebellion from them as they seem to enjoy most of their classes. But now, Sunday is the only day when we're all free ( wait, no, crap! I teach Zumba on Sundays but never mind) - it's the only relatively relaxed day for all of us.
Vijay seems bemused by all this. He doesn't feel the need to add any skills to himself - he talks about joining a Gym or taking up Yoga, but that's all more talk and less action. He hasn't said anything about the schedule that the kids are following, apart from some mild surprise on the days that they say they didn't really get enough park-time.
Now that summer's here, we're all signing up for swimming too. The kids aren't good swimmers yet, and I'm tempted to use the weekend to get them a little bit of instruction time. But it's really all getting too much.
It's worth a mention that all these classes add up in terms of cost too. I just did a quick calculation and it's almost thirty grand a month to keep all of this going. I'm super-lucky that my Zumba classes offset some of these costs while still keeping me fit, and they're great fun too - but after the rent & the Zumba license fee I pay, and given that I'm restricting classes to just ten students, they'd cover only a third of the cost of of all our classes.
But the main question is - why should it be like this? There really isn't actually that much pressure that we take from the outside world on any of this. We're not really the keeping-up-with-the-Saxena's type of family anyway. The classes just seem to have been added organically by themselves. Young Peanut isn't the least bit perturbed -in fact, she's been asking 'What class do you think I should take on Sundays, Mom?' She pushed me for joining Ballet a while back, that was the one which I said no to.
It's also not that big a deal in terms of transport or coordination because most of the classes are at home or around home. In a way, it's tempting to continue since it does seem to be a good way to just have the kids doing something apart from watching television or 'wasting their time.' Sports build character. Music will be a friend for life. Taekwondo would be really life-saving especially if they're faced with another pint-sized attacker who moves in slow motion. Discipline. Perseverance. Grit. All the good stuff. Yeah.
But what about just being bored? What about coming up with creative things to do out of that boredom? I remember being bored a LOT as a kid. Hot summer afternoons watching random insects buzzing. Pulling out books which suggested projects - spray painting with toothbrushes, creating colourful cane-baskets and other such random things.
What about me thinking about all of this was a conversation with a senior colleague, with older kids than mine.
'I've told them horse-riding, and for my elder one, guitar, and that's IT.' She said decidedly. 'And when I got home yesterday, my younger one had decorated her entire desk with nail-paint. She asked if I was mad, and I said - NO, it's BEAUTIFUL.' She turned to me. 'See? That's what comes of being bored! Isn't it great?'
It's great, I murmured, feeling confused. The fact is that some of these classes, especially music, they just don't work or mean anything without at least a little bit of daily practice, and that then further adds to the amount of 'structured time' that they have at home. Where really is the time to be bored?
I wouldn't say my kids aren't creative because they seem to be making a lot of stuff at home too ( read: messes) - Peanut especially draws a lot, now teaching herself a surprising amount through Youtube Instructional videos. So I can't quite put my finger on the problem, but I get the feeling that kids should be allowed to do more 'nothing' than always doing something.
But it's all so convenient, so easy, so productive, that there just doesn't seem to be a good reason to stop anything right now.
So I have now come up with the perfect solution.
We need to move out of the city. That's all.
P.S - I'd love to hear what you have to say about this subject! Comment? Share your experiences and thoughts.