Today’s been very interesting. Zo had a birthday party to attend at a farm. Now this farm is this special set up, mostly used for school trips, and also let out for birthdays on weekends. The concept was extremely nice. As the name suggests, it’s an open farm, and has a farming area and an animal area. The kids had numerous things to do – like pottery, wading in muddy waters to plant rice, adding manure to plants, watering them with cans, and actually sitting through a mini farming session including, ploughing, sowing etc. They then got to feed all the animals – goats, buffalos, sheep, cows and play with rabbits, guinea pigs and one very friendly beagle named Hyper, who I fell in love with.
Needless to say, she loved it. Zo has still not completely recovered, but when it came to this, she refused to stay put and participated with an amazing enthusiasm, though the sun was being extra generous at the time. It made me think about (again) how much we exaggerate this whole ‘today’s kids don’t get to enjoy real childhood cliche’. Because, children, quite frankly aren’t choosy at all. They throw tantrums, yes, but left to themselves, they enjoy anything and everything they are provided with. So if your kid is addicted to television and loves that more than anything else, it’s because he has been given the opportunity to get addicted to television. If your kid wants a tab all the time, it’s because when you had to keep him/her busy because you had something else to do, you have been handing over the tab to them by default.
Back when we were kids, yes, we used to play outside more than anything else we did. But that was because that was pretty much the only entertainment we had. TV was limited, and even when we did watch, we ended up watching a lot of grown up stuff like Buniyaad, or Hum log, in my case. And quite honestly, if I found it boring, I would walk away to do my own thing. Now, there is a lot of choice. Zo hasn’t watched anything except for Disney Junior, Nick Junior and Baby TV till date. There are specific movies I have shown her and she has loved them, but she can’t even get herself to watch anything that is not animated. I am not strict, but I do restrict TV time to an hour, which might seem long to some, and nothing at all to others. But I am ok with an hour of TV – her unbelievable command over spoken english is a direct result of these channels. I also, out of personal choice, keep her away from Doraemon and Chota Bheem because I don’t think they are great.
She is also allowed the iPad once in a while, and she usually plays games on it. Zo is a completely girly girl and she chooses princess games and doll dress up games and while I don’t want her tastes to be so one-sided, I do let her make her choice. But in both cases, TV and iPad, she get’s bored as soon as she would with say painting. An hour, and she needs something else to move on to. So this kills the possibility of an addiction. Perhaps the only thing I make a point of trying to get her interested in, is reading. I have always been a reader, and I can’t wait for her to enter the enchanting world of Enid Blyton’s and Russian tales that ruled my childhood.
Eventually, I think when as a parent there is a mix of things we ensure the child is involved in, getting fixated on one is a distant possibility. If in the middle of Max and Ruby, I ask Zo if she wants to go down to the slides, it is always a yes. If in the middle of an iPad game, I ask her if she wants me to read a story (or 4!) to her, she never says no. And neither does she say no when I need a break after an hour of Junior monopoly and ask her she can watch Frozen for a while.
So it all comes down to no, children today are not losing out on the amazing childhood that we got to have. Some children, maybe, but it’s because their parents haven’t had the time to keep them away from the TV. In the past, these kids were the ones creating a ruckus on the roads, because neglect will show, in one way or another. Today’s children in fact, just have a lot more options, and they are making use of it. Add to it the additional effort we as parents put to ensure that they do everything, and they actually end up doing everything. And till they grow up enough to have their own choices, they are good with trying everything out.
I mean, if you think about it, how many of us have had the chance to mix fodder and feed it to the buffalo out of our hands, like Zo did today?