To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Reopening Of Schools Is The Final Frontier In India’s COVID-19 Unlock

Minister of Education, Ramesh Pokhriyal, announced on 10th August 2020 that there shall be no zero academic year for Indian students. However, he did not divulge any detail/plan for the reopening of schools. The Central Government covered all the sectors in COVID-19 Unlock but did not make a single statement about the reopening of schools – how and when, the nitty-gritty details.

Finally, on 5th October 2020, almost 2 months after the Minister’s proclamation, Union Education Ministry issued guidelines about the reopening of schools. Given the high stakes of the learning and education for the nation’s future citizens, in the backdrop of COVID-19 pandemic, there were high expectations from the Government.

A parent would expect that the Government will take concrete steps in creating a safe and protected environment for the country’s children when they resume their physical schooling. A parent would expect that the guidelines will evoke trust and conviction about sending their wards to schools. In short, parents expected an assurance that their children shall receive the utmost care and caution.

So, what do the guidelines convey?

Only Exams Matter

As per the guidelines, students can attend schools only with the written consent of parents. This is brilliant, outright exceptional. With the COVID-19 cases at its peak, this is the same Government that pushed the students to give JEE and NEET entrance exams. The students protested, the parents objected but the Government would have none of it.

The Government made noises about the future of students at stake. The Supreme Court concurred. Why did the thought of “parental consent” not occur to the Government for these entrance exams? How are schools and exams different to warrant dissimilar treatment? How can the Government have different yard-sticks for similar contexts?

The Government might say that exams are one-off and schools are daily. So, does it imply that one-off exam/stress/travel/risk does not entail parental concern? Does it mean that parents do not bother/care for the well-being of their children when they go out to give exams?

In short, the Government considers itself empowered to take decisions on behalf of parents and students for entrance exams. However, when it comes to daily attendance in schools, it brings up the charade of “parental consent” being supreme.

Is this hypocrisy/incoherence or a simple fact that it is only the entrance exams that matter in the Indian educational system, the rest is optional. In this case, “parental consent” is not a guideline at all, it is a pretence. Irrespective of a student attending the school or not, s/he will be forced to give NEET and JEE, next year.

The Central Government Would Not Take Any Responsibility

For every Unlock measure, the Central Government has been the final authority. It decides, announces and ensures that everyone, including the opposition-led States follow the suit. However, when it has boiled down to the reopening of schools, surprise, surprise, it has left the final decision to the respective State Governments. It is a bit more than the sovereignty of exams that is driving the Central Government in its decision-making of reopening of schools.

This is the authoritarian Government of a one-man show. It does not trust any meaningful decision-making to even his Cabinet Ministers. It leaves no stone unturned to make everyone fall in line for its one size fits all approach. And, now suddenly, this control freak Government cedes control of the decision on reopening of schools. What’s going on?

Have you gone through the guidelines on the reopening of schools? None of them, repeat, none of them has any deliverable listed against the name of the Central Government. Apart from handing down far-fetched and absurd directives, it does not have any other tasks. No responsibility, no onus, no accountability.

The Central Government seems to have learnt from its utter failure of dealing with migrant workers’ plight during the lock-down. It has understood that it has no clue about the ground situation and it has no bandwidth to influence the outcome/solution of the problem. Better to stay away. This is showing up in the most unlikely field: reopening of schools.

If anything goes wrong, which it might as well, why to come in the firing line of parents? Why bear the brunt of the irate parents? Leave everything to the States and schools. In case of an outbreak, play the blame-game of not adhering to the guidelines, which are beyond anyone to follow.

Reopening of schools is the final frontier

In nutshell, all of us know that Indians will bear all the pain when it comes to their progeny. We live and die to better the prospects of our offspring. There is no wrath worse than that of the offended parent. So, better not deal with them for a problem that you cannot solve but can only theorize. Yes, the promise of a career of an engineer/doctor matter even more, so entrance tests are acceptable.

Nobody knows this better than Narendra Modi. Hence, reopening of schools is and shall remain the final frontier in India’s COVID-19 Unlock; no matter everything else has been unlocked.

Just that, this is neither going to help the future of Indian children in any manner by impacting their learning and education in a positive manner nor the state of the Indian economy.

Will anyone take the responsibility of educating India’s children, equitably and fairly, by owning up reopening of schools?

Parenting Is Growing Up Together

Does parenting impact a person’s world views and her/his inner self? Would spending time and engaging with child/children have bearing on how a person would have conducted herself/himself otherwise? Is parenting all about raising children or does it influence parents too? Everybody will have their thoughts. I can answer for myself. For me, parenting is growing up together.

O +ve and B +ve have turned six. I have completed three and a half years as a stay-at-home father. What started as an impulse has turned into a full-fledged passion, with my wife’s staunch support. Turning back, I don’t think I would have done anything different than choosing to be a part of my children’s growing up years (yes, the finances pinch, that’s another real-life story).

What have I learnt with this experience? Was I better off in the corporate rat-race? Has this been the time of reckoning that I had been trying to find all the years before? Is it worth the deriding looks and scorn that I generate with my answer that I am a stay-at-home father? How has it been for the girls, their mother and me?

My answer, again, would be the same – Growing Up Together. Not anything but Growing Up Together. Why? Here we go.

Parenting is a never-before experience

Look at it like this. Whatever we do in life, we are taught/trained/instructed all along. Everywhere, school/college/job/profession, there would always be somebody’s watchful eyes over our actions. There are text-books/manuals/SOPs for outside/professional world. We have norms/customs/rituals for family/personal world. But what about parenting? Nothing but the instincts of parents.

Yes, the grandparents get involved. But, apart from their physical babysitting, their value-addition in other spheres is a matter of debate for parents. When parenting is such an experience without any precedence, without any prior preparation, without any hand-holding; how can there be no learning at every step?

In a job/profession, when done long enough, the surprises aren’t many. The situations/decisions repeat themselves. But for a single-person enterprise, there are dedicated functional teams to take care of peripheral stuff around you. You are the boss of your work.

Compare it with parenting. Here, no two days are the same. Even two hours aren’t the same. The situations, routinely, are never-heard/never-seen before. And, there are no teams to support a parent, except for an equally exasperated life-partner. You are the subordinate to your off-spring.

Tell me, how is it not possible to learn in situations like these, day-in and day-out? Every competency listed out in the performance appraisal charade will find resonance in the parenting. Every management jargon taught in, alienated from ground realities, B-Schools will find an echo in parenting. All the life-lessons emanate from life experiences and parenting is a key on-going life event, should you choose to be a parent.

The above is what I encounter/feel every day, hence I feel parenting is growing up together. At least for me.

Learning happens from children, too

On the face of it, adults teach children. Children are the receiving party to any learning and parents, along with schools and society, strive to make children life-ready. Can there ever be anything that parents can pick up from their progeny on whose education they end up spending a fortune of money, time and efforts? Unlikely, one might say.

My wife is an ardent believer that there is ample enough to learn from children. Only if, children are given a chance to express themselves and parents keep a receptive mind. Do not believe this?

Try teaching curiosity to children. What about exploring? Playfulness? Resilience? Spending an evening or morning with nature/plants/insects? Try teaching “having fun” to children. Or the dreadful “happiness” as defined by the equally dreadful Delhi government (do adults need to be taught to be happy or children)? I have not even reached innocence, simplicity and the likes.

Accept it. There are enough and more things to be learnt from children, only if we are game. We might teach them the hard skills, they can teach us the soft skills that we have long forgotten and stopped attaching any importance to. We can learn from kids if we get rid of the fascination and urgency to make them reach adulthood and be our replicas, sullen and inept.

I have bought this concept of child-led parental learning. It needs a lot of re-programming of the mind, my mind that is, and I am trying hard.

Growing Up Together

All of family/social/school/corporate learning is not of much use to me in hands-on parenting. I have nowhere to hide my weaknesses in front of my children. Even worse, they pick up from me. If I do wish good for my children, I have no option but to improve on myself, which I avoided/cooked up excuses not to do, all these years.

To do this course-correction for self, I also have the biggest of enablers – my daughters. Through their daily actions, I get a dose of what all is possible should I try and see the world through their eyes. Life is not as convoluted and mind-numbing as I have made it out to be. I can live a life if I give life a chance – my daughters’ teaching.

Needless to say, the change is not easy and there is a lot of friction as the old self refuses to let go.

In nutshell, parenting for me is – Growing Up Together.

Factors To Consider When Buying A Kids Bicycle

We bought bicycles for our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve. Based on our first-hand experience as parents, below are the factors to consider when buying a kids bicycle. Few of these reasons may seem counter-intuitive. Believe me, they will help the child and you in the long run.

Child’s feet should touch the ground

The innumerable charts on the net shall depict age, height and in-seam of the kids and accordingly, will recommend the size of the wheels for the kids’ bicycle. This gets confusing. To keep it simple, I suggest taking the kid to the bicycle shop and making her/him sit on each available model.

Now comes the tricky part. We are bound to think that the height of the kid will increase in a not-so-distant future. Hence, we might as well buy a bicycle that s/he can use for 2-3 years or even more. This will mean that, when the bicycle is being bought, the child’s feet will not touch the ground while sitting on the seat of the bicycle. This will necessitate the side/support wheels.

All the cycles in the shop would already be fitted with side/support wheels. If you look up on  Amazon, all the kids’ bicycle images will also show side/support wheels. If you happen to look around in the apartment/colony, the majority of the kids’ bicycles, if not all, wherein the kid is learning to cycle will have side/support wheels. My suggestion – Please do NOT buy a bicycle with side/support wheels.

The reason is simple. The child has to majorly learn two things when learning to cycle. Balance and Pedal. With the side/support wheels on, the child will surely learn to pedal but will not learn to balance. The day these side/support wheels are removed, the kid will have to re-learn cycling from a scratch. The only benefit of having them is that the child will not fall and the parent does not have to run behind the child.

We decided that we would want our daughters to learn how to balance, as a first task. They have had enough of pedalling experience with their tri-cycles. It is also time that we do some running around and get much-needed exercise. So, no side/support wheels for them. Yes, we spoke to our daughters in advance and kept explaining to them, why their bicycles will be different from their play-mates.

This also means that we will have to buy new bicycles for them within a year. That’s fine. The first bicycle is meant for learning and not lasting 2-3 years or more.

The accessories

As the bicycle does not have side/support wheels, the kid is bound to fall once-twice even after the best of the parent’s efforts. Moreover, all the bicycles around with side/support wheels will lead to suspicions in the child’s mind about her/his safety.

Hence, it is advisable to buy the accessories of the helmet, knee guards, elbow guards along with the bicycle. This may look like a needless additional expense. However, apart from keeping the child safe, this will go a long way in instilling the aspects of safety and precautions in the child’s young and impressionable mind.

Remove the paraphernalia

Predominantly, kids’ bicycles will come in two variants. Adventure and Regular. Adventure version will be light-weight and heavy on pocket. Remember that this first bicycle is being bought with the sole purpose of learning to cycle, so the adventure version will not make sense.

The regular version will come with all sorts of unnecessary paraphernalia which only increases the weight of the bicycle. Without the side/support wheels, the child is going to find it difficult to manoeuvre and this additional weight will make her/his life miserable. So, please remove the back-seat, basket and other such stuff, after buying the bicycle.

Keep the back-support

I would have removed the back-support to the kid’s seat on the bicycle to further reduce the weight but for my back. Without the back-support, I would have had to hold the seat from below when my daughters pedal and that would have meant bending quite low. My back did not permit it, hence I am continuing with the back-support to the seat.

If you are game for bending low while running behind your kid’s bicycle, removal of back-support will help her/him with a further reduction in the bicycle’s weight.

Factors not to consider when buying a kids bicycle

Remember the purpose of the first bicycle for the kids is to learn how to cycle and not to make it last longer. So, the brand of the cycle should not matter.

The kid is going to bang the bicycle quite a few times. Do not look for resale value.

You can opt for accessories of light, bell, basket once the kid has learnt to cycle. Not before that.

Don’t get into the detailing of frames – steel/aluminium/carbon/plastic. It is not worth it for the bicycle that will last less than a year.

Don’t bother about the maintenance and the spare parts, but after-sales service does matter. Majority of the kids’ bicycles come with tubeless tyres. So, if you buy one of those, the hassle of filling the air in the tyres will also be taken care of.

There is no separate bicycle for boys and girls when you buy them their first. Please do not fall for this needless gender segregation. It is a unisex buy at their age.

In nutshell

Remove those side/support wheels and all the other unneeded stuff. Don’t fall for the dictum of bicycle lasting 2-3 years or more. With all the safety accessories in place, the kid won’t get hurt even if s/he falls. It is fun to run behind the child when s/he is learning to cycle.

Just ensure that her/his feet are touching the ground when stationary and s/he will learn to fly in no time.

5 Important Things To Speak And Do With A Child More Often

This is Part 2 of the article – 5 important things to teach a child, also the things that a parent can speak and do with a child more often. Click here for Part 1.

I don’t know. Let’s explore.

Children ask questions. They ask questions all the time. Expect them to ask unexpected questions at the most inopportune times. Till the time they indulge in their questioning, thank your stars. The innate and profound child in them is still alive. They haven’t yet started on their journey to silly and juvenile adulthood.

No sensible person would expect any adult, even an Einstein, to come up with answers to all the queries that a child comes up with. To a child’s question, the answer is, of course, important. Equally important is the process of handling and managing the question. To the child, her/his query is a matter of life and death. So, unless I know the answer, by trial and error I have ruled out the below responses.

Myself: I know the answer. The girl: So, tell me. The bluff does not work.

Myself: I will tell you later. The girl: When? When? When? Kicking the can does not work.

Myself: Ask me some other question. The girl: No, I want the answer to this question only. Diverting attention does not work.

Myself: You try and tell me. The girl: Um, um, um (thinks). Why are you asking me back (shouts)? It works once in a while, but recurring use backfires.

Myself: Behave as if I haven’t heard the question. The girl: Belittled, stomps out. The communication breaks down if done repetitively, very difficult to revive and get back the trust of the child.

Myself: Give an unconvincing answer, which in all probability is incorrect. The girl: Will keep raising queries, till I admit that I have no clue. To repeat, bluff does not work.

Myself: Shout. The girl: (unsaid) You are killing the curiosity and the child in me.

Suffice it to say, I don’t know. Let’s try doing it/read the book/search Google for the answer together.

Nothing better serves the quest for knowledge than the humility to own up and act in front of your child.

Speak Up

On the face of it, there is nothing more hazardous for a parent to teach a child than this: ‘Speak Up’. Even without teaching, the kids answer back. On top of it, when taught to ‘Speak Up’, the first victims of this newly taught and eagerly learnt skill will be parents. Who in a sane mind would want to increase her/his headache?

Believe me, if there is any learning that is going to hold the children in good stead in future when we are long dead, it is this: ‘Speak Up’. ‘Speak Up’ applies to the moral and ethical values that you would want your children to learn and hold on to. ‘Speak Up’ applies to all the discriminations, biases and injustices that the world will throw at your children and their resolve to face that head-on.

It is, of course, a matter of choice to teach this trait. The attribute to ‘Speak Up’ may not be considered a desirable quality in today’s world, wherein the ability to suck up to the powers-that-be is considered a virtue.

Given the current scenario of hatred and bigotry perpetuated by the right and the left, by the liberals and the radicals. I am convinced that without this quality taught to future generations, there won’t be a future left.

Childhood is the time to sharpen the cub’s claws, though the first blood that will get drawn will be parents’. For you would want your cub to grow up to be a fighter for the right, which may go against the might and the spite, teach them to ‘Speak Up’.

You are Unique

Right from the moment the baby is born, the parents/grandparents/relatives try to search for a bit of their selves in the baby. As the baby grows on to become a child, this search intensifies from the similarity of physical looks to the likeness of emotional and mental connect. The seeker, the adult, rejoices when s/he finds any parallel with the child, no matter how vague/made-up it might be.

As the child goes on to become a teen and an adult, the lurking world would want to co-opt her/him and bracket into already existing factions. The society would not let anyone enter the sanctum unless the norms are adhered to, the customs are followed, the rituals are respected, the rules are abided, all with staunch and unflinching allegiance.

This, again, is a matter of opinion. I get restless when anyone tells me not to raise questions but to follow. What good has ever been done by a person who accepts the status-quo, finds comfort in being a part of the herd and stays contented within the limits set by others?

Unless the boundaries are pushed, how will one ever feel the need to come out of the comfort zone/explore and determine/stand up for one’s self? Raising questions just for the sake of it is, of course, not the purpose.

The ultimate gift that a parent can give to her/his child – Individuality. Teach a kid to discover one’s self and have a unique identity.

These are the five things that we have been doing with our daughters in varying proportions. Hope to build on it further in time to come, speak and do with a child more often.

What would be your views? What would be your points that a parent can speak and do with a child more often?

5 important things to teach a child

Parenting means different things to different parents. As our twin daughters turned six years, my wife and I took stock of what parenting means to us. How we have been going about raising our daughters. Along the way, there has been un-learning and re-learning, going back and forth, sticking to the conventional, trying out the un-tested and a lot more in between.

We asked ourselves what we could have done more/less with our kids as parents. It turned out to be a never-ending list. To keep it simple and do-able, I classified the list into different sections. This article is about one such section of 5 important things to teach a child.

As parents, we want our children to do better than what we have done/are doing. We want our kids to be better human beings than us. In short, we would want our kids to be more than the sum of the parts (parents). If this is to happen, if it is to have any real chance to happen, it surely needs a conscious attempt from the parents. A lot of attempts, lot many times, and on a lot many things.

Below are the 5 important things to teach a child, that we wish we could have done/spoken about more to our twin daughters.

Take/Give No as an answer

Setting rules and indulging kids are two sides of the same coin – parenting. Doing one without the other can have disastrous results. There is absolutely nothing wrong in saying a ‘No’ to a child. Subconsciously we say ‘No’ to our kids quite often. It is just that when we have to mouth a conscious ‘No’ that leads to doubts in our minds if we are doing a correct thing/denying a child.

It is not just about preparing the kids for the external world, wherein they are going to get snubbed and slighted. Even within the four walls of the house, the kids need to get it straight that few things a strict no and few things are a maybe dependent on factors. They better learn to take ‘No’ as an acceptable answer. It is for everyone’s benefit.

Remember that the kids grow and that too, fast. S/he is going to be a teen and an adult, very soon. Imagine the situation if a teen has not been taught to take ‘No’ as an answer in her/his childhood. Of course, the ‘No’ has to be explained to children with logic, reason and clarity. Else, it will serve no purpose other than being a parent’s convenience/ego trip.

Giving and taking ‘No’ as an answer is again the two sides of the same coin – parenting. It is not a one-way wherein only the parent can have the liberty to say ‘No’. One might say that children say ‘No’ all the time, what’s to be taught in this? The real test is to teach a child the reasons and the judgement to exercise the power of ‘No’.

Taking and giving ‘No’ as an answer is what teaches children to give and take respect and also to develop and apply reasoning. An important thing to teach a child.

Get up/Do it yourself

One of my daughters has fallen/tripped. What would be my first reaction as a parent? I stay put where I am, I don’t rush to lift the girl and console her. I know, I get nasty stares from people around who doubt my capability as a parent. At times, even my family members don’t get my response. I tell them and the girl, if she comes to me at all, that she is fine and it is fine to fall, now that she is up.

I strongly believe that children are inherently resilient and brave. Time and again, my daughters have proven this to me, people around and their selves. Just that our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

I too used to rush when my daughters were toddlers. I realized that more often than not the girls interpreted the fall basis my response and not the fall, per se. Hence, I started to hold myself back to see their reaction and it turns out that they are fine taking care of themselves. For every fall, I do take a mental note on the severity of the injury, if any, so that I can rush in future if need be.

Not the same context as above, but imagine the child trying out a new activity. For that matter, even a tried and tested pursuit. It did not work out as the child thought/planned/made it out to be. S/he starts getting fidgety, the murmurs start and a full-fledged howling follows. I again teach myself to hold back and not do the stuff on my girls’ behalf.

Falling and failing is not a chance to wail and wallow. It is an opportunity to rise by self, again get going and try not to repeat what led to the fall/failing.

The child’s learning of independence and self-belief comes at a price, at times blood and sweat of parents and child, too. Another important thing to teach a child.

 Click here, for part two.

Lockdown Friends And Experiences For Our Children

India is in the middle of a COVID-19 pandemic since March 2020. Irrespective of the Government’s lockdown/unlock, one aspect of the response remains steadfastly constant – children remain locked up in their houses, but for entrance tests. In such a scenario, what can be lockdown friends and experiences for children?

The scientific evidence shows that coronavirus spreads predominantly in closed surroundings with poor ventilation. The outdoors has the least risk in spreading infections. The countries that have reopened have done so with outdoor lung spaces i.e. the parks as a first candidate to reopen. However, in India, the children parks remain in shut down mode, they would be the last to open.

The scientific evidence shows that children are at the least risk of COVID-19 infections. Yes, they can spread it to the adults, a risky proposition. In India, the Government lockdown has clubbed the children < 10 years with elderly > 65 years, who are at the maximum risk and have ordered them to remain at home ever since.

The Government refuses to understand that the children not getting fresh air and sunlight, a chance to play, social interaction opportunities also represent a risk in itself. In addition, kids get bombarded with online education, in a like-to-like replica of school time-table but on a screen. It is a tough time to be children these days in India.

Fortunately, for our soon-to-be six-year-old twin daughters, they are saved from the perils of online learning. The simple reason being, they are not enrolled in a school, yet. However, not being allowed to venture outside, an anchor to our lives could have played havoc to their young minds. But it is not to be. Courtesy their lockdown friends and experiences.

A stray cat and her kittens

Within a week of the starting of the lockdown, a stray cat descended on our home. The cat was not at all afraid of us. She kept demanding food, which when given to her, she graciously decided to adopt our family and home.

The girls were excited beyond limits. They suddenly found themselves to be the proud owner of a pet cat. They named her Licky; the reason being she licked the milk. The girls’ day started with Licky and ended with Licky.  They ran around her, patted her, fed her, sang songs for her; Licky basked in the attention.

The girls were over the moon when Licky gave birth to two kittens. Girls gave nonstop commentary on what the kittens were doing, how they were growing, how Licky was tending to her litter. Then, the lightning struck. Licky left the house with her kittens. The girls were crestfallen.

After 3 days, Licky resurfaced, terribly hurt and without her kittens. We got to know that the kittens were on our neighbour’s terrace. Licky had abandoned them, stopped eating food and died. We brought the kittens home, the girls were again over-joyed. We fed the kittens every 3-4 hours, stimulated to pee and poop and kept warm. The girls were learning how to tend to their young pets.

Throughout, the kittens kept looking for their mother. One of them died after a couple of weeks. We realized that a kitten should not be raised single. A kind acquaintance helped us find a foster home for the single kitten and we gave him up for his good. It broke the girls’ hearts, but they understood.

This entire episode lasted for about four months. It was an emotional roller-coaster ride for the girls, the highs of delight to the lows of sorrow. Till this date, they remember Licky and the two kittens with warm fondness. They have also come to learn that in life, nothing is forever. We lose someone close to us, but the remembrance of the time spent together is a joy in itself.

Shiva and Rakesh

Shiva was my wife’s colleague (was, because Dirty Feet has had to temporarily shut down due to COVID-19). He stays in the office. Rakesh is Shiva’s friend, who came for a day to the office on Janta Curfew and then got stuck due to the lockdown. They come to our home daily for meals. Rakesh has since left, Shiva continues to be there.

The girls have become very fond of both the guys. They have become their play-mates for the age-less games and endless talks. It is to the credit of Shiva and Rakesh that though they are in their early 20’s they play with amazing ease with the six-year-olds. They have made the girls so comfortable that they think that it is absolutely normal for kids of their age to play with 20+ year olds.

Yes, the children should play with children. But, that has almost never happened with our daughters. Whenever we go to any outdoor places/parks, children of any age are rarely present. In the neighbourhood even under normal circumstances, children hardly come out for playing. Lockdown has become a blessing that they have actually got play-mates, who have the ability to bring out their innate child when playing.

Plants, bugs and birds

Every walk with the girls is an opportunity for a nature walk. With the lockdown, that is also ruled out. My wife is extremely particular about the exposure to nature for our daughters. We have realized that plants are friends of a lifetime for children. So, she put the ample space in the front yard of the house to good use by getting pots and doing gardening.

The girls have a great time mixing soil with coco-peat, putting seeds, watering and seeing the blossoming of their sweat. The plants (a majority of them veggies) also bring with them a fair share of butterflies and bugs. A bulbul tried making a nest in the gourd creeping around but left mid-way after incessant snooping by the girls.

Hoping that the girls and we further grow our small kitchen garden even after the lockdown ends. It takes a lot of time and efforts to keep up with the gardening, but raising eco-aware children are a just reward. There is no other activity/experience with a bigger multiplier effect than nurturing nature-friendly kids. It does good to them, Mother Earth and everybody’s future.

Street Vendors

We stay on the ground floor of an independent house in the by-lanes of a busy neighbourhood (even now!). Barring the most strict phase of the lockdown (earliest 2 weeks), the area is thronged by 10-12 street vendors during the day. This turned out to be a window to social interaction for our daughters and us.

In the scorching summer of April, May and June, we taught the girls to stop each street vendor on the road and ask, if they wanted water. It might look like a poor cousin to regular social interactions, which lockdown has left no occasion for. But, it did a lot of good to build empathy and caring in our children.

The girls asked the reasons for the vendors to be on the road even during severe heat and lockdown, what happens when they get tired etc. We, of course, did not have answers to all their queries. It is a learning curve for all of us.

Lockdown friends and experiences

The above are the lockdown friends and experiences that helped maintain our sanity during the lockdown.

As I write this, I realize that irrespective of the lockdown, they could have become a part of our lives, and enriched our being. Just that, we may not have allowed it to be.

What have been your lockdown friends and experiences?