My preschooler has now reached the stage where he looks forward to going to his school. Most days he wakes up before I do and encourages me to laze around in the bed a little less, which is good on weekdays but not a whole lot of fun on the weekends! And with his growing interest in school, I have noticed major developmental changes too in him within a very short period…in terms of language skill, picking up on the tone of the teachers, using specific words to convey certain things and his body language. It makes me happy and proud and reassured to see my little boy taking these strides and becoming his own little person slowly. We all know that kids imitate adults and how it is important to model the behavior we want to see in children. Kids are excellent observers and pick up things in no time. These new skills they practice and master over time and the new experiences that they gain through interaction with important people in their lives are crucial to their cognitive and social development. We have all gone through these stages but I wonder if our parents were as focused on noticing and chronicling behavioral developments, and doing things by the book like we do today.
While parental behavior and teaching has evolved over time and there is probably a palpable inter-generational tension when it comes to the do-s and don’t-s of parenting, it is quite comforting to see that kids’ behavior has not changed significantly, at least in the early stages of development. While they are much more adept at handling gadgets and have a lot more ‘developmental toys’ at their disposal than us, things like hop scotch, jumping ropes, silliness at monkey bars, the good old see saw, board games likes the snake and ladder are still a major hit with them. And when it comes to pretend play, the imagination knows no bounds!
Growing up, my favorite thing on the weekends was ‘playing school’ or as we used to say ‘teacher-teacher’ and I am pretty sure I was not an exception. I remember being in awe of all my teachers, especially class teachers (home room teachers) from grade one through six or seven and imitating them at home while ‘teaching’ imaginary kids, was what kept me engaged. I had my own ‘roll-call’ register which Baba had very lovingly bought for me where I had written the names of most of my classmates and neighborhood friends, and before ‘class started’ I would call out the names and mark ‘present or absent’ with blue and red pens respectively against each. I also had a set of chalks to write on the big wooden door of our living room and an eraser. My parents never objected to this action of mine and while at the end of my ‘teaching period’, that lasted a good six to seven years, I had almost destroyed one side of the deep brown door, they never got mad. As you can see, I had all the props needed for teaching and as if to make it official, I would also wear Ma’s saree every time I went to ‘class’. It also helped me learn on my own things that were taught at school, and that was something I enjoyed much more than the routine ‘porte bosha’ (study time) every evening.
My little guy is in his own world of playing ‘teacher-teacher’ at the moment and this is his current favorite thing after playing guitar with his Baba, being silly with his Dada (grandfather) and being busy with his cars. He imitates his teacher almost immaculately and keeps himself busy ‘teaching’ his friends and at times ‘coaches’ them on school rules! He also goes over the things he learns at school and it makes me smile thinking about the fascinating parallel. He ‘practices’ his rhymes, his Spanish, concert songs (with December just a month away!) while being totally immersed in his world of pretend play and I listen with a happy heart.
It gives me hope that all has not changed yet and when we play snakes and ladders and he does all the things that we used to do when we were his age, it reassures us of the wonders of childhood that our little guy seems to be living and enjoying. When he hides during ‘hide and seek’, he makes sure you know where he is hiding before you even begin to find him and at times when he manages to keep that a secret, the giggles from behind the curtains or from under the table are priceless and timeless. In this ever changing world around us, I sometimes question my ‘parenting approach’ that creates some needless confusion and clutter. But my little guy steps in unequivocally, albeit unknowingly and relieves me of my futile perturbation. I quiver a little at times when I think if he is growing up too fast and whether we are letting him enjoy his childhood to the fullest and at moments like these too, my little guy comes up with goofiness that makes me toss away my silly thoughts without any hesitation.
(The picture on the left is what he said at school when asked how he thinks he is a good friend and the one on the right is where he was being a tortoise hiding in his shell, giggling away the whole time!)