Which School Do You Go To? Why Children Are Asked This Question?

I have written Why I Stopped Asking What Do You Do. I realized that this question has an equivalent for children also. Similar to adults equating their life with what they do for a living and not with life per se, adults also equate a child’s childhood with schools. Rather they equate not childhood, but children themselves.

You do not believe me / agree with me? Witness any conversation that an adult is initiating with a child. What will be the first question of the interaction? I bet, the child will be asked – “Which School Do You Go To?”

The life as a stay-at-home father has revealed quite a few societal stereotypes to me, which otherwise were a part of my own life and I never realized it. This is one of those.

Our twin daughters do not go to any formal environment, not as yet. They continue to be at home. Any conversation, (at times, it is not a conversation at all), with anyone and everyone, relatives / friends / strangers / people who meet us on the road / shop / park / public transport / lift / anywhere – our daughters are asked the first question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

By the way, as on date, our daughters are not even five years old.

Education / School

I have never questioned back anyone who asks “Which School Do You Go To?” If I would have done so / do now, I am sure I would be answered back – what is wrong with the question?

Well, I suppose, the school is a means to an end – Education. If the people are so concerned about education, why not ask children about what they know / what they are learning and what they are not. Why the question about school?

The contra argument to the above would be that the adult does not have the time or the energy to go in detail about a child’s learning. So, the easy question about the school. In that case, if the adult does not have the time/energy to engage in a meaningful conversation, why to ask a question in the first place? And that too, only about school?

Schools are, of course, an important element of education. However, I am not able to understand, how / when / where / why, the schools have got a sole proprietorship on education? That, people, ask only about which school and not education, per se.

School – A status symbol

I realized that the girls are not getting asked much about their grade/class (leave aside their learning), but only which school do they go to. I am getting a feeling that this question has become a measure of at what level of social/economic hierarchy a family exists / lives.

People have a fair idea about schools and their fees/infrastructure/claims/lineage and what not. I suppose nobody will ever share their income, but knowing about where their children study, people, at large, can figure out where to place the family in the societal pecking order.

Schools are, I suppose, means to education, for a just and fair society. Then, why would I equate the schools with a status symbol? Why would I raise suspicion on a simple question – “Which School Do You Go To?” Because, right from Government schools, Hyderabad (a city where we currently live) has schools having fees up to 7 lacs per annum and more. Welcome to India’s economic disparity and a defunct educational system, rather a redundant state. But let us not digress.

If people want to know whether the children are going to school, the question to be asked is – “Do You Go To School?” However, people ask – “Which School Do You Go To?” and hence, as mentioned above, I have reservations about the underlying objective.

A Ruined / Missed Childhood

The girls are playing in the park. They are in a zoo. They are in the shop for buying groceries. The girls are having their nature walk – collecting twigs, leaves and flowers and their all-time favourite stones. They are jumping in the rain puddles. They are shopping vegetables in the Sunday Market. The girls are making their mud mounds in the court-yard. Anywhere and everywhere, the aforementioned question pops us – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Give the girls a break. Give me a break. And the person asking this question should also take a break. The girls are not even five years old. They are enjoying what they are doing and also learning in the process, I suppose. It does not matter even if they are not learning. They are children and they are not going to get their childhood ever again. Let them have it.

Why do we limit the child and childhood only to schools?

What are your thoughts on this question – “Which School Do You Go To?”

Little Moments: How do fish learn to swim?

Little moments of life with B +ve and O +ve. Moments that are memories of a lifetime.

How do fish learn to swim?

The girls have a pet at home – fish. The fish stays in a fishbowl; we do not have an aquarium. It is a daily task for the girls to feed the fish. They also spend time, once in a while, looking at the fish for an extended period. Whatever they do/undergo, they extrapolate it to their pet and ask questions related to fish. The favourite question is – How do fish poop?

One day, out of nowhere, B +ve asked a question – How do fish learn to swim? I was completely taken aback. This question never occurred to me. As an adult, I just took for granted that fish swims. I never thought as to how, why, when and where fish learn to swim. I checked the internet and tried explaining to the girls. However, that is a side point.

I get this question even in my sleep – How to fish learn to swim? And, why this question never occurred to me.

How do crayons get their colour?

The girls were colouring in their books. Again, out of nowhere, O +ve came up with this question – How do crayons get their colour? What makes a pink crayon pink, a red crayon red and so on? I was again taken aback.

I checked the packaging of crayons; of course, there was no information. The children are supposed to colour and for sure, they are not expected to ask how crayons get their colours.

Hanuman is God. Why does he pray to another God?

B +ve was speaking about her favourite Ramayana. We knew she was going to drop a question that will leave us scratching our heads. And, she did not disappoint us.

B +ve said – So, Hanuman is a God. We nodded our heads. B +ve said – So, Rama is a God. We nodded our heads. She connected the two data points, and asked – So, both Hanuman and Rama are Gods, then why does Hanuman pray to Rama?

We have told her that we will check and let her know. I am checking on the concept of junior and senior Gods, but not getting any hang of it.

Why the men are not wearing shorts in Ramayana?

The girls were watching Ramayana movie in Telugu. O +ve came up with this question – Why the men are not wearing shorts? On one hand, it is a silly question and at the same time, it is also a deeply profound question.

I suppose nobody around has witnessed the Ramayana era, provided it existed in the first place. How can people assume the dressing in any particular period without any proof/evidence?

It might be considered sacrilegious to even imagine in wildest of dreams that Lord Rama might be wearing shorts or something on similar lines. However, I do feel  O +ve has a valid point for a child not shackled by beliefs and hand-me-down rigid ideas.

My take

I keep questioning myself why the above questions and many others that the girls ask on a daily basis do not occur to me. I suppose it is a disadvantage I face having grown up.

We just want our daughters to keep coming up with questions like this. We do not know as to what leads to their questions / how they come up with it.

I assume their questions are a confirmation that they are still children and their initiation to worldly ways – to accept the things, the way they are; is still some time away.

How I am learning to deal with my parental anxiety

B +ve and O +ve were born pre-term at 33 weeks. They both weighed around 1.8 kg at their birth and went down to 1.5 kg before starting to gain weight. The doctor told us that till the girls turn 2 years, they will be considered 2 months younger to their birth-date to adjust for their pre-term birth.

I still remember how they looked at 1.5 kgs. I also remember the reactions of some of the people on seeing them, who had only seen babies born full term with normal weights. One of my wife’s friends, who has 2 children of her own, commented that our girls look like aliens.

Even after leaving the hospital, our visits to the doctor continued on a regular basis. The girls used to fall ill quite regularly with their immunity being on the lower side. And when one fell ill, her sister invariably followed her. It was very frustrating that whatever weight gain they had in a month’s time used to get almost wiped out in a week.

Till the time the girls turned 6 months, we could visit the doctor only during designated hours that the hospital called “high-risk children clinic”. The doctor told us that we should visit him every 6 months so that he could check on the developmental milestones of the girls.

All these led to lots of lots of parental anxiety. It is easier to look back now, rather even forget those days, given that their development has been normal, so far.

However, I suppose, each phase has learning attached to it. And it is always better to keep a tab on the learning so that history does not repeat itself.

The first year

The girls learnt how to neck control, turn around, sit, crawl, walk and the assorted. Each development milestone was a celebration for us, just like any other parents. Just that, we moved from one stage of parental anxiety to the next.

I read in the hospital lobby from the numerous leaflets that whatever growth issues the child has will manifest in the second year. I kept waiting for the second year to arrive.

The second year

The girls started learning to speak, their initiation to solid foods, potty training and exploration of the world around them.

We kept visiting the doctor every 6 months to check on their development milestones. Sometimes, one girl was lacking in some aspect, whereas at times, the second girl was missing out somewhere. The doctor kept giving us feedback for the correctional measures.

At the end of the second year, the doctor told us that our twin daughters were growing normally. Now, their age had to be considered as per their birth-date.

I thought that it was the end of parental anxiety about the child’s growth. How mistaken I was?

Each thought/question about the child leads to parental anxiety

As the girls started going out more often and met more and more people, the questions came flying thick and fast. Most of these questions were on a set pattern. Which school the girls go to? Do they know their ABC? How many nursery rhymes they know? Have they learnt how to write? What are they doing in a park during school hours?

I suppose all these questions are well-intentioned. When we do not have positive answers to most of these questions, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety.

When we see children around the same age strutting around in school uniforms and going to the school for 6 hours, the thought that our children are going to lag behind does lead to sleepless nights.

Even though it has been a conscious decision of on our part as parents to keep the girls out of the formal learning environment, it leads to a lot of parental anxiety if we are doing the right thing.

I was thinking on these lines quite a lot. Suddenly, I got some questions. When did B +ve speak her first word? When did O +ve learn to crawl? Which date did B +ve had her first solid food? When did O +ve learn to jump? I, of course, do not remember any of these dates. Just that both the girls do these things as on date and more. That is it. I got my answer.

The answer to parental anxiety

The answer that I got is that there is no end to parental anxiety till the time a parent keeps expecting more and more out of the child.

Once O +ve and B +ve did a certain task, immediately I expected them to go to the next level. They learnt how to pick blocks, I expected them to connect the blocks. They learnt how to connect the blocks, I expected them to make a building out of it. Once they learnt how to make a building, I expected them to make vehicles and other objects. Now that they know how to do it, I expect them to make a real building out of cement and concrete. There is no end to it.

Once the girls learn a certain task, I do not even care to remember how and when and where they picked up. I do not even stop to cherish the moment rather I rush to the next level of the game of pushing the girls furthermore. I treat them as an object of giving shapes and making adults when they are actually four and a half years old.

The answer I am getting to my parental anxiety is that the question is not what a four-year-old should know, but what the parent of a four-year-old should know. Am I letting my child enjoy her childhood? Am I letting my child be a child?

Conclusion

O +ve and B +ve may learn their ABCs and nursery rhyme a bit late, it has to be fine with me. Once the girls enter the rat race, they are not going to find their way out of the maze soon; but if I can delay their entry for some time for that they are children and not rats; I have to learn to be fine with it.

I have to learn to manage the parental anxiety for that it is mine and I cannot pass it to my children.

Interesting questions asked by children

I wrote about the questions children ask. Our twin daughters, B +ve and O +ve, ask us continuously about everything under the sun and the sun, itself. Here is the list of their interesting questions, that stand out for the periodicity and the intensity that they get asked.

Death

The girls ask us – what we are to them. We answer – we are their parents. They ask – where are your parents. We identify them to our daughters. Again we get asked – where are the parents of our parents? Of the 8 people, only 2 are alive now. So, the question – where are the remaining 6?

Earlier, we told them that they have gone to a far-off place. This led to a barrage of questions. How far is the far-off place? Why cannot we go there? How did they go to this far-off place?

Unable to bear further, now we tell them that they have gone to God. My wife and I are agnostic but other than invoking God, I am not aware of any other option. This also raises further questions. Why have they gone to God? Have they gone on their own or have they been called? What are they doing there?

From somewhere, somehow; they have understood that elder people die. So, they want to know at what age one goes to God. We have been asked when we will die. We get asked whether we will be around when they grow up. I have warned my parents and in-laws that they might get asked about their demise, out of nowhere, so that they do not lose their balance.

There would hardly be 2-3 days gone-by without the question on the inevitable. I suppose they care about their own security and safety as to what will happen to them if their parents are not around.

We tell them that either of their parents will be there, if one dies, to take care of them. If both the parents die, they will have their grandparents and my wife’s elder sister to take care of them. Other than this, I do not know how to deal with this topic further.

Money

This has been an inadvertent addition to their questioning repertoire. The girls see that men are travelling on the roads. So, they ask what they are doing. I answer them that they are going to work. So, they ask why they work. I tell them that I suppose, they like to work, and they get paid money for that.

Now, comes the trick question from them. They ask me why I do not go to work. I tell them that being with them is my work. So, they ask me if I get paid for being with them. I answer no. So, a follow-up question – If I do not get paid, it means that I do not have money. I am stuck on how to deal with this.

In the meanwhile, they drop the sentence around that their father does not have enough money. I do want to stop this. However, it is also a reality that we are going to run out of money and I will be searching for a job soon. I cannot tell them that their father has good money. My wife disagrees with me that what is the use in telling it to children who will not understand this.

While we debate, the message is gone. I keep getting asked on a repeated basis if I have enough money.

My blogs

This is a result of my being unnecessarily over-smart. Whenever I am sitting idle or not doing anything worthwhile, according to them, I get asked what I am up to. I told them once-twice that I am thinking about my blogs. They asked me what I was thinking. I told them about how to make people read my blogs and that I do not know marketing. That did it.

Now, whenever, wherever, they see me sitting silently even for a moment, they start discussing with each other that I am thinking about my blogs.

They come around to me and tell me that someday, somebody will read my blogs. They are our little bundles of sunshine which keeps my wife and me going.

Poop, Action of strangers on the road, Mythology

Why is my poop pink in colour? Need I write more?

Raising children and being responsible citizens

Introducing Hindu mythology to children

Questions related to nature

This has been a recent addition to their questioning. B +ve asked that if animals and birds can drink dirty water on the roads and do not fall ill, why we cannot drink. O +ve asked that we can drink the water that falls from the sky, the rain, but once it falls down on to the ground, why does it become dirty? The question that both of them asks – The trees are so good, so helpful, why do humans cut them?

There is so much more to write about their questions. I will cover it in another post.

Conclusion

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to raise interesting questions for everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked?

The questions children ask

There is complete silence. Both the girls are looking at me expectantly. I look completely lost, ready to tear my hair apart, breathing heavily and speechless.

What is going on? What has happened? You guessed it right.

It is another of those questions that B +ve and O +ve have come up with at the spur of the moment and I have no answer to satiate the curiosity of the two ignited minds.

I have understood that the two most used words by children are WHY and HOW. At times, it almost feels like, both the girls are non-stop questions floating in the environment. They will not stop battering me till they feel that they have received a convincing answer to what they feel is their right to know.

Normally, neither of the two girls is in a mood to yield to her sister. So we always have thin ice to walk on. However, when any one of them comes up with a question, which is often, the other girl always seems to join forces with the questioner to force an answer from their miserable father.

There is no guarantee that once an answer is given, the Q&A session will stop. The answer will be followed up by another question. Again, once answered, there will be another bomb dropped. It will continue until they find another set of questions to ask. And if God forbid, I do not answer, the same question will be asked incessantly till the time I feel that anyone else listening to the conversation / the wall in the room will also ask me the same question.

It is, of course, great that our two daughters have innate inquisitiveness. As a parent, it is our duty to answer them. I understand that this process plays a major role in their learning and building conversation skills. Given that they are still not a part of a formal learning environment, raising questions is a key avenue for them to make sense of the world around them. Just that, at times, I see question marks in my dreams.

The girls have understood long back that their father is not a knowledgeable person. So, if they feel that I am silent for more time than acceptable to them / I am giving evasive answer / I reply that I do not know and that I will have to check, they themselves advise me to check Google. I wonder how parents of non-Google generations would have dealt with this in their times.

The intriguing part of these persistent innocent questions is that the same set of questions will keep getting repeated. I have tried questioning them back but now it is not working as a satisfactory response any more. They have told me that when they ask questions, it is my job to give answers and not theirs.

I have tried giving philosophical answers to their questions, using words and principles that they would not be aware of. I got ripped apart for this strategy when the girls kept stretching it to a point which was unbearable. To make matters worse, they started using these philosophical answers in front of an unsuspecting audience and my wife would stare at me to confirm the adage that looks can kill. I have stopped being over smart with my answers, now.

There have been a number of instances when we have provided enough entertainment to on-lookers and passers-by with our back and forth questions and answers. I have seen people nodding at me, looking at me mercifully, commenting internally about us. However, no good Samaritan has stepped up till now to answer the two little girls.

It has happened a number of times when after the girls’ sleep, my wife / I go on an exploratory spree over the internet to figure out what we have been asked during the day. It is fascinating to be asked about something where we felt no questions existed.

I came across this article that the study discovered girls aged four are the most curious, asking an incredible 390 questions per day – averaging a question every 1 minute 56 seconds of their waking day.

I understand that all the children are inquisitive by nature. Wondering, when and how this process to question everything around slows down eventually and children start accepting the things, the way they are, without the urge to tear them apart. That is, when children become adults?

How did you handle the questions your children asked? How do you deal with incessant questions every minute of the day?

5 must-do activities for 4 years old in Parks

Indira Park has been a favourite destination for O +ve and B +ve since their first year. It is not close to our house, yet the attraction of the greenery all-around and the complete freedom to wander makes it a preferred outing location for the girls, almost once every 2 weeks.

For the last 3 years or so, the girls have made their acquaintance with quite a bit of the park space. As the girls turn 4 years old, I have listed down the 5 time-tested must-do activities for B +ve and O +ve in Indira Park that makes it a much-loved place for them.

Chasing the squirrels:

The girls are in awe of the hop and running, getting up on the tree, running after each other, standing up on hind-legs, putting food in the mouth – whatever the squirrels do. They want to participate in each of the squirrels’ routine affairs and run behind them to be a part of their team. Alas, no squirrels have come to terms with their idol status with the girls. They jump and run away to protect their space to themselves.

It is O +ve’s fervent desire to caress the squirrel’s tail. Needless to say, she has been a complete failure in this task. Yet, she pursues it with total commitment each and every time.

Rock climbing:

Almost twice a week the girls tell us that we should take them out for rock climbing. I am unable to understand from where they get their fascination with rock climbing.

Before you visualize that there would be large rocks in Indira Park to get the rock climbing enthusiasts going, it is none of the sorts. Indira Park hardly has 8-10 rocks, most of them 3-4 feet in height. Our little rock climbers scramble on these rocks from all possible directions and claim their supremacy on reaching the summit. The descent is by sliding down the rocks into the sand.

Snooping on the Centipedes

A wild-life in any form is sure to get the girls excited. None better than a centipede. Like an eagle that can spot her prey on the ground from the sky, both the girls can catch a sight of centipede from a distance. They are occupied tracing the movement of centipede on the ground, following the insect all along till it decides to get swallowed into the ground. The girls have actually tried counting the legs of the centipedes but to no avail.

The girls have not been brave enough to hold the centipedes in their hands. The day they do it, we are sure that they would want to bring it home as their pet in their small flower pots. BTW, a snail is also as charming as centipede to the girls.

Collecting leaves, twigs and seed-pods

This is a major activity for the girls anywhere and everywhere, particularly in the parks. They carry their nature bags with them and start hauling their collection once they step into the park. They understand not to pluck the flowers from the plants. Hence, their attention has always been on dried leaves, twigs of all shapes and sizes and seed-pods lying on the ground. This collection gets used for their colouring activity and other arts and crafts everyday stuff at home.

The girls want to know the names of each and every tree and seeds and flowers and fruits, how and why a leaf’s design is what it is – what all these should be called. I realize with each of their questions that I am no good in my botany or biology.

Rolling and Sliding over the grass

The girls engage in this activity when they realize that their sojourn in the park is coming to an end. It is a pleasure to watch the girls rolling in sliding in the grass without inhibitions – unabashed.

The best a child can be.

It is not that these activities that can be done only in Indira Park. Any of the public parks with a green space to run around will suffice for the 4 years old girls for their 5 must-do activities.

A joy to watch the 4-year-olds at their best.

PS: Public Parks also double-up as a survival guide for children by teaching life skills.

Little Moments: Memories with our children – 3

Little moments of beautiful memories of life with O +ve and B +ve. For the first part, please click here, the second part is here.

Using a map for hide and seek

O +ve has seen maps – in her books, in Uber and Ola apps, in videos, in our house as well. She has forever been fascinated by them; she feels that maps lead to a secret destination. O +ve keeps drawing lines, curves, circles and triangles on whatever she can get hold of and says that she has drawn a map. One day, just as we decided to play a game of hide and seek, she asked for some time, picked up her pencil and paper and set to work. After two minutes, she said she is ready with the map of our house and was pretty sure of seeking us out from any corner.

My little girl is gung-ho about discovering the world with her own maps.

Ramayana – an unfinished story

Who is Sita’s mother? What is her name?

Whilst on a walk, ‘If I touch this stone with my feet, will it turn into Ahalya?’ ‘Which stone should I touch so that it turns into Ahalya?’

Why didn’t Rama and Lakshmana take Jatayu to the hospital?

Why did Ravana take Sita?

What is the name of the squirrel which helped in building the Ram Setu?

At every point of the rendition of Ramayana, the girls had questions. We tried our best to answer them all, but Google also couldn’t throw up answers for the last one. The squirrel continues to remain anonymous. B +ve refuses to hear the story without figuring out the name of the squirrel. So, the Ramayana story-telling has been stalled for now.

Just as I am penning this down, it occurred to me that I could give B +ve the option of naming the squirrel. Maybe the story of Ramayana will continue after that!

Why doesn’t a bull give milk?

We were reading about farm animals. Cows give milk, buffaloes give milk et al. When the bull got introduced, B +ve immediately popped up the question – Does the bull give milk? Even before I could answer, O +ve came up with another question – Does the bull have an udder? I said ‘No’ and O +ve immediately turned towards B +ve and remarked with all-knowingness, ‘Bull does not have an udder, so it doesn’t give milk.’

On every occasion that we accost a member of the bovine family, O +ve and B +ve look down first to ascertain the presence of the udder to ensure correct identification of the animal’s gender.

Aadhaar Card as an all-in-one solution

The girls like watching videos of Australia Zoo. One fine day, they announced that they would like to visit Australia Zoo in person. So, we started explaining to them that to go out of the country, we need a passport and that we do not have one. To our utter surprise, B +ve said that we have an Aadhaar card, so what do we need a passport for? On thinking further, we realized that she is actually right. Why do we need multiple documents when we have already proven the citizenship of the country? When PAN card is seeded with Aadhaar, we can obtain passport basis Aadhaar, what is the need for dual paperwork in all such instances?

To be honest, we do not find any flaw in B +ve’s logic; just that the complex and convoluted Government of India will not see any sense in a child’s simple take.

A world trip with B +ve and O +ve

In the above Australia Zoo discussion, I also explained to the girls that going to Australia is an expensive affair and that we do not have money to afford a trip currently. O +ve quipped that I can go to the ATM and take out the money. I told her that one can withdraw money from ATM only if it is there in the bank account and I don’t have that many in mine. She gave me her ATM card (the girls carry our expired cards in their wallets) and told me to withdraw the money from her account for the tickets.

We have begun planning for a round trip of the world, courtesy – our girls’ ATM cards 🙂