Why Lockdown For Children Below The Age Of 10 Years Continues

India’s coronavirus lockdown has had many relaxations. Currently, in the Unlock 1.0, exemptions far outnumber the activities not allowed. The Indian Government has come up with several options to restore “normalcy”. However, all the Government orders, Central and State, are unanimous in one aspect:  The lockdown for children below the age of 10 years continues, i.e. they will stay at home.

Coronavirus is particularly lethal for the elderly. Hence, the Government advisory that persons above 65 years of age shall stay at home is logical and understandable. However, how and why the children below the age of 10 years are getting lumped together with the elderly. What is the rationale for the children to remain confined indoors?

I wrote why children parks remain shut in coronavirus lockdown when they should be the first ones to resume. As I thought more, I realized that it is not just about the parks. The issues and reasons are far more deeply entrenched, systemically and psychologically, that the Government keeps advising children below the age of 10 years to remain indoors without hardly any opposition to this hare-brained suggestion.

Infrastructure for children below the age of 10 years

Have you ever been to a public park with a children play area? Did you notice the size of the play area? Or, the number of slides, swings, see-saws, monkey bars, jungle gyms? I will tell you. We, my five-year-old twin daughters and myself, are frequent visitors to public parks. Children play area will have 2-4 slides, 2-4 swings, 1-2 see-saws, 1 monkey bar and 1 jungle gym irrespective of the catchment. These numbers are on the higher side, with a majority of them broken and non-functional.

Have you ever been to a Government Anganwadi in a city? Did you notice the size of the room and the number of children crammed into it? The same goes for Government schools. Poorly ventilated tiny rooms, dimly-lit or worse with no electricity, the unwanted saving grace being full attendance only at the time of meals; else minimal children.

Even the private schools, except for the top 10%, are plagued with limited space being jostled by a far higher number of children. This issue of apparatus not able to cope with the number of users, children, is chronically present in all the fields – zoo, museum, play-grounds etc.

Manpower for children below the age of 10 years

Children below the age of 10 years require supervision and monitoring. This requires trained and motivated manpower to be present all the time a facility is open for children. This is conspicuous by its absence in India, the numbers as well as the quality, in public as well as a private domain.

There are, of course, teachers, support staff, resource persons etc truly interested in the well-being of children. However, they are few and far in between. The institutional bandwidth devoted to their training and happiness is fairly limited and barely invested in.

Simply put, the manpower required to implement the coronavirus do’s and don’ts in public places for children below the age of 10 years is not present in India.

Mindset for children below the age of 10 years

The malaise runs far deeper. The infrastructure and the manpower can only be the manifestations. The driving factor is that children below the age of 10 years lack the consideration and attention they deserve.

For us adults, a child is seen only from the lens of school-induced existence. Rote learning and crammed lessons get accepted as education in our society. A carefree and playful childhood gets swapped with rat-race for grades and marks.

We cannot foresee children having fun and being themselves. A child has the right to be outdoors with nature is a completely neglected notion. An idea of learning for children when they interact with each other in a non-formal natural environment bereft of instructions does not appeal.

The underlying mindset: What is there to invest in children apart from preparing them for JEE/NEET?

 Summing Up

During regular times, the creaking infrastructure make did with jam-packed children. The manpower managed the show with middling results. Now, suddenly the coronavirus has laid threadbare the limitations of the Indian set-up.

India is not designed and prepared to keep the children safe and happy. The Government knows this, so the lockdown for children below the age of 10 years. The parents also know this, so no opposition to the Government.

Anyways, the coronavirus is not going to change our mindset. The Government is busy preparing for JEE/NEET. The Cabinet Minister for HRD and the private schools are busy with online education charade. Who cares if children below the age of 10 years cannot play outside? They were not supposed to, in the first place, in the Indian scenario.

#UnlockChildren.

Existential Questions Asked By Children In The Times Of Coronavirus

Children ask interesting questions. Coronavirus has ensured that their armoury increases further. Though, the areas that they venture into asking these questions are, at times, not easy to manage. Our twin daughters did ask about death and illness in their regular queries. However, in the times of the coronavirus, the existential questions raised by them have increased in frequency and intensity.

Needless to say, coronavirus has impacted our lives. Apart from us adults, it also affects young minds. We, as adults, try to comprehend and interpret what is going on around and try to be in control of the narrative. However, for children, I have no idea how their impressionable minds are trying to figure out the happenings.

Children fall ill, so do their parents and adults around. The mention of the diseases and medicines are limited to the sickness period in the house. It is not a subject that gets discussed daily for an extended duration. The coronavirus has suddenly changed this context. Even though everyone in the family is in sound health, the virus ailment gets spoken about daily.

Our soon-to-be six years old twin daughters have now been hearing about coronavirus for 4-5 months. They understand that people fall ill due to the virus and that it can be life-threatening. Out of the blue, their happy-go-lucky world has been turned upside down. No more parks, no more field visits with Dirty Feet team, no more outdoors.

Why people die because of the virus? Would people be alive if the virus was not there? Why death?

We have no idea what to answer and how to answer. We cannot shoo them away, we cannot engage in a discussion with them, we cannot bluff our way out. I keep mumbling about numbers, hygiene, masks, social distancing and they do not get any hang of it. They keep asking and then they get busy in their play leaving us with their unanswered questions.

Unexpectedly, they pop up a question if they/us are going to get affected by the virus. Either one or both of them look at us expectantly to hear that they will be fine, all of us will be fine, all the people they know will be fine, all the people in the world will be fine. It is extremely difficult to face these moments that pop up out of nowhere.

A below incident happened 4-5 weeks back and it makes me wonder about the impact of the coronavirus and the discussions thereof on the small minds.

During Lockdown 2.0, one of the girls developed a certain medical condition. We spoke to her paediatrician and sent him the videos of the child. He told us to see a super-specialist ASAP and helped us get an appointment the very next day. With the help of a family friend, we worked out the logistics to and fro.

Suddenly, the kid said that she will not come to the hospital. Going to a hospital is a routine affair for us; the girls are used to the medication as well. Why would she refuse all of a sudden? We kept asking her but she would not answer. Finally, she said that with the coronavirus around, we should not venture out during the lockdown. She was afraid that if we go out we might catch the infection, and she was scared. She was too scared.

We kept explaining to her that we will take all the precautions and hopefully, we should be fine. Also, the visit to the super-specialist cannot be postponed for her health was at stake. She just would not listen and kept on crying that she does not want to go out of the house. It was so terrifying that thinking about this incident even now brings tears to my eyes.

She did not say in as many words, but we could hear her saying that she did not want to die. It was so terrifying for us. The fear of coronavirus had crept into her thinking and would not let her go.

(PS: We did manage to convince her. The super-specialist cleared her of any serious issues that would require medical intervention).

This keeps me thinking about the impact of coronavirus on young minds. What are they thinking about it? How is it impacting their behaviour? What is going to be the future consequences in their lives? How will they be able to soak in the new normal of living with the coronavirus? And, again making a change to their routine when the vaccine/medication finally arrives.

I fear that the coronavirus has hastened the exit of childhood from children. With all the existential questions clouding their minds, the virus is fast-tracking children to sullen adulthood, much before they should.

I have no idea how to answer their existential questions and help them deal with this frightening phase of life.

Do help with your thoughts in these trying times.

5 Ageless Games Children Love To Play – Indoor/Outdoor

The games that can be played inside or outside the house.

By any number of players, from two onwards.

The games that require a minimum of props or no props altogether.

No need for teams and scores either.

Minimum of fuss with rules and extremely easy to understand. Rather, the regulations can be flexible and change as per the participants’ wishes.

There is no limit on playing time and requires set-up time of a minute, at maximum.

Teaches a whole lot of skills and competencies.

The only requirement for these games is lively children full of energy.

To top it all, these ageless games are liked by children of all the ages. For that matter, even adults like these games.

These games are an all-time favourite of O +ve and B +ve, our five and half-year-old twin daughters. They have never had it enough playing these games. Come rain and sunshine, be it the coronavirus lockdown or the outside of the house, the girls just love to play these games.

Hopscotch

Hopscotch requires just a patch of land cleared of obstacles, a chalk piece and a stone for each of the participants. Indoors qualify too.

The hopscotch course can be drawn up to any numbers. We started by drawing up to number 8 and have now extended to 12. The girls throw the stone at the number, hop till the end number and pick up the stone in their return, without putting their foot inside the number, to & fro, where they threw the stone.

The children learn to aim and throw, balancing, turning and bending down while hopping on one leg and also, falling down in the process. There is no more fun than watching children hopping non-stop.

Hide And Seek

As an adult, one might think that multiple hiding places must be present to play this game. Just that, children do not share this thinking. They are capable of playing hide and seek everywhere and anywhere. Leave it to their imagination and they will conjure up hiding places out of nowhere. Just see them play for proof.

The catcher closes the eyes, counts to a pre-determined number while the other players hide. The catcher then attempts to locate all hiding players.

The children learn to count, hide, observe, sneak up and most importantly, to remain silent. Many a time, I wonder if the two girls know how to sit still and silent; I see them playing hide and seek and my question gets answered emphatically. Just that, they do not seem to ever do it for their parents.

Four Pillars

On the face of it, this game requires five players and four pillars. We have played with even two players and two pillars and believe me; the game still retains all the charm. No pillars, even corners will suffice. No corners, no issues. The children will make do with imaginary ones in their minds.

The game has one catcher, standing in the middle, and the other players touching their pillars. They try to change their pillars and the catcher tries to get hold of them / the pillars they are running to. It can vary, as per the rules agreed before the game.

The children learn to be alert, try to see and rush in all the directions conceivable, and bang the pillars in the process.

Ice And Water Or Surface And Water

Though the name of the game involves ice and water; none of the two is required to play the game. It is all imaginary in the minds of the children. Again, just a patch of land cleared of obstacles suffices to play this game. Maybe, a piece of chalk to differentiate the ice and water, but children are fine even without the visible boundaries.

The catcher is in either the ice or the water and the other players in the vice-versa region. The players try to step into the catcher’s territory and the catcher tries to catch the infiltrator.

The children learn to observe and be alert to protect their turf, run and catch the person stepping inside without permission.

Blindfold

A prop is required to play this game – handkerchief, in addition to the obstacle-free playing area. Want to increase the fun – play the game with two catchers.

The catcher – blindfolded child counts or is turned around in the centre of the play-area and is let loose. The other children can choose to stay still or give directions to help or bluff, as per their liking and not get caught by the catcher.

The children learn to make use of senses other than eyes – ears, nose and hands to find their way when being a catcher and learn to remain silent, otherwise.

More Than Just Games

As an adult, I do not understand why and how these games are so popular with my children. That shows that I am an adult and it also shows how easy and uncomplicated childhood can be and is.

Being Children And Having Fun Is The Right Of Every Child. The above games play an undeniable part in the exercise of this right for children. The plain, simple and easy games, full of fun, enjoyment and excitement and also teach a host of life skills in the process. It is also a memory of a lifetime for the rapidly vanishing childhood in today’s fast-paced world.

What would be your addition to the above list of games?

Labeling Children – Needless Childhood Hazard

He is aggressive. She is shy. He is studious. She is mischievous. Whenever there are children around, even a single child, one is bound to hear the above statements. These statements are made by adults, at times, by parents too, in front of children themselves. This is labeling children.

Labeling is a simplistic way of expressing what a person is seeing of a child’s behaviour. A child is acting in a certain manner, the observer is making a statement basis the evidence available, that too in the presence of the parents themselves and not clandestinely. What can be wrong about it?

Well, all of it. As far as I am concerned, everything about labeling children is outrightly wrong.

How about labeling adults?

We hear all about the children. How s/he is and how s/he is not. Does anyone talk in similar words/terms about an adult? An adult, who is present and is a part of the conversation. Will anyone ever refer to an adult that s/he is stubborn, is a hypocrite, not having certain manners and all such stuff, in her/his presence?

We know as an adult that one should not talk about the other adults regarding their personality traits in their presence. In that case, why do we mete out such a treatment to children? Just because the children do not retaliate and do not describe the adults as a return favour.

This is a double standard of the perk of being an adult – getting away with labeling children but not a fellow adult and surely, not one’s self.

Adults have diverse characteristics, so do have children

One can argue that grown-ups have many facets to their personality. We may not even know about the majority of them as a part of knowing a person. If we do not know the person in entirety, how can we go about describing the person in labels?

This is a valid reason for not getting into labeling adults. In that case, what makes an adult think that s/he knows children in total, in simply one interaction, and ends up branding them?

One might say that s/he spoke about children after multiple interfaces. Again the same question. Do we speak about a fellow adult even after numerous dealings? No. Then, why do we speak about children as a know-all?

Adults have varied moods, so do have children

We know that one can have a bad day at work, freak incidents happen, or maybe, one just got out of the wrong side of the bed. In this case, it is very much possible that we may not see a side of the adult that we are used to. Face it, we behave differently basis our mood swings.

It is not exactly breaking news, but even children have mood swings and not just temper tantrums. Simply put, children are not expected to show-case the same behaviour throughout the day and to all the people, they come across.

Similar to the benefit of the doubt to adults basis their frame of mind, children also deserve respect for their disposition. And, one may not come to a conclusion basis one incident or even several.

There are no good labels, only bad labels

One may say that labeling is a well-meaning exercise if positive labels are used. I beg to differ. Any label, constructive or not so charitable, strait-jackets a child. There is no need for children to behave identically, all through-out.

A responsible child wants to have a good time but being told that s/he is responsible feels under obligation to not be an over-the-top. A studious child wants to play but being told that s/he is studious feels under stress to finish the homework first.

The worst of labeling children – Being told good girl/boy. Adults can always compliment the behaviour of children if they like and be descriptive about it. However, from where does “good” come into the picture?

Getting refered to in a certain manner, even if affirmative does not let the child develop into a multi-faceted personality. Life is all about shades of grey and not black and white; which labeling is contrary to.

An adult looking for acknowledgment of labeling

I find the labeling of my twin daughters annoying, even by well-intentioned adults. What is even more infuriating is the adult passing a remark and then looking expectantly at me for the favourable reception to what s/he has just said.

Seemingly, the adult is pleased with one’s self for making a sense of the child in front of her/him in a single word and wants an affirmation from the parent.

Suffice it to say, I find these conversations most difficult to handle. I have never dared to tell the speaker that few things can be said about her/him as well.

If the parents are right in their way, why not children

It is often said that parents know best about their children. A parent cannot go wrong in the upbringing of their children. Nobody can and should comment about a parent’s parenting.

Similarly, why cannot we contemplate that children are also fine in their way? Why cannot we consider that children should not be commented upon? Why cannot we just be with children without labeling?

Adults, take a break. Give the child a break.

Our Children Do Not Go To School Because They Are Children

Our five-year-old twin daughters do not go to school. We are asked by acquaintances and strangers, alike, the reasons that they do not go to school. My wife and I also keep asking ourselves, at times, why we have not enrolled our children in a school so far.

The answer is simple. Our children do not go to school because they are children.

Just that, this reply does not seem to resonate with the person raising the query. The question gets repeated. I am unable to understand where and how we are getting it wrong.

Adults and Childhood

“We really enjoyed our childhood and miss those golden days of our life”. “I have cherished memories of my magical childhood”. “Why can’t I get to be a child again?” “I would love to relive those carefree and joyful days of my life”. “Nowadays, children miss their childhood”.

I am sure the majority of us would have come across the above statements/emotions in several discussions about children and childhood. Leave aside a conversation, when a person thinks about her/his childhood, I suppose the feelings would be the same as above.

Now, if this is what an adult feels about her/his childhood and longs for the same; why would the same adult feel completely the opposite about the childhood of the next generation?

Why would the adults have different parameters and yardsticks about being a child and enjoying childhood, compared to their own? What kind of memories about childhood would the parents want to have for their children?

Long live the lost childhood.

Schools

There is a well-marketed notion that children enjoy themselves in a school. We have been told time and again that we are snatching the joys of the childhood of our five-year-old twin daughters by not sending them to school. We heard this for the first time when our daughters were about a year and a half old and we have been hearing it ever since.

I do not get this. Since when childhood and school have become synonymous with each other? What kind of a childhood is this that is not possible outside the confines of a school? Why cannot we visualize children, who have a long way to go to their sixth birthday, outside a school and enjoying their childhood? This is what our parents and grandparents have done for sure and even some of our current generation has done if not all.

Another answer could be that times have changed. Children better get a head-start else they will be a left behind in the coming age. Do you want the children to have a better future or not?

Educational System

Does anyone remember 3 Idiots by any chance? Majority of us do. When the movie went on to be a super-hit, almost everyone spoke and agreed that our current educational system stinks. Everybody concurred that our schooling system needs change. One and all said that a child’s potential cannot be defined by what s/he scored in JEE (now, there are two JEE to beat the stress of one).

All of us have the same opinion that rote learning taught to children in schools does not do any good in real life. Each one of us says that each child is unique and s/he should get an opportunity to excel in what s/he is good at / has an interest in.

Then, what happens? A child gets straitjacketed into the same schooling and educational system that the parent was cribbing till now.

The childhood in a place where it was never meant to be.

The Sham

The adults miss their childhood, after they have lived it, and they want their children to miss their childhood before they live it.

The adults criticize the current educational system and the schools and ensure that their children become a part of the same, at the earliest.

For us, yes we do want a better future for our children but not at the cost of their present and we disagree to be a part of the system we do not believe in.

As on date, our children do not go to school because they are children.

What would be your thoughts on this subject?

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.