what summer holidays?

‘Mumma please a little while longer…’ An earnest faced peered over the book I was reading.

‘Fine. Just a little while, okay?’ That probably meant that I’d hear the mad shrieks and songs for at least another hour before a repeat request comes in.

‘Yay! Love you ma!,’ squealed the little one with his muddy wet arms wrapped around me. That has become a kind of morning ritual now days. I sit in the lawn sipping tea with my book, while the boys run about in water from from the sprinkler getting wet right to the bone, followed by lying down on the grass for sometime. Obviously, our own Jeeves isn’t to happy with this new found activity, what with a pile of clothes every morning covered with mud and bits of grass!

Today morning was no different. Sprinkler, water, tea, two soaked, happy boys. Just then, a van crammed with kids stopped near the house. Most of them looked bored, some grumpy and two were busy pulling each other’s hair. The door slid open, another kid jostled for space as he got in and the door slid shut. Ah! The summer camp kids.

As you turn the pages of local newspaper, you have as many advertisements of summer camps for kids as are there for the steal deal of summer getaways. Personality development, sketching dancing, singing, sports – all crammed into three hours, a small room, complimentary transport and a neat amount of money. Depending on the amount charged and location of the camp in question, more exotic stuff is added on – robotics, celebrity theater workshops and sports camps….the list never ends.

Anyway, the point is that there are lots of concentration camps… oops, I mean summer camps out there to choose from. I decided this year to pause their personality development for 45 odd days. So my boys are not getting more intelligent, confident or skillful this summer.

As that child got on to the van, the boys looked at me and beamed and got back to the sprinkler.

‘No summer camp! So what do they do the whole day?’ ask many a shocked, disapproving mothers.

‘Yup, no summer camp and they do mostly nothing,’ is my reply.

Though in my head sarcasm mostly plays out but I refrain from blurting it all out aloud. I have nothing against these workshops (as they choose to call themselves) but I do have a thing or two against the mind set that ‘doing nothing is evil’. I read somewhere (in a research report by a reputed psychologist, mind you!) Ideas often come at times of “doing nothing.”  I am not only a believer of this line of thought but also a witness. Lets see what a child does while doing….well, nothing! The boys get up in the morning and play around in sprinkler for a while followed by a shower, break fast and then a whole day full of doing nothing! They don’t watch TV during the week. So after sometime spent with books, an innings (they complete it in an hour- that would be a subject matter of an entirely different post) of cricket interspersed with a blow or a two to the cheating sibling they come to me with ‘Mumma can we watch TV?’

A no followed by customary feeble protest leads them on to more ‘nothing’ to do. An hour later when I checked on them today, I found one with an elaborate army of action figures (some with missing limbs and some with no head – brave fellows I must say) ready to charge on the alien ship parked near the door. The other was sitting in a carton he found upstairs and, drawing shapes inside it.

‘Space ship eh?’ I asked trying to sound smart.

A frown and a disgusting look followed by ‘Time machine’

‘Where are you off to?’

With sparkling eyes full of possibilities, he replied, ‘Dinosaur land!’

That’s an almost daily ritual. If it is not the carton, it’s Lego. If it’s not the army, it’s making different paper airplanes out of a book they have.

Coming back to the camps-It’s not like I haven’t packed them off to one ever. I have-many a times. But as I look back, I see it as a royal waste of summer time from their perspective. Summer vacations are supposed to be different. If it as regimented as school time then what’s the point?  Take a moment and think back. Which enlightening camp did we go to as kids? Anyone? Thought as much. So basically we spent fourteen odd holidays in school doing nothing and yet we are mentally as sound as they come. Miracle, eh? Roughly adds up to two years of being brain dead by today’s standards!

So do you remember how you killed your time back then? I remember getting books from mum’s library and devouring them, playing in freshly dug up foundation of houses to be built in neighbourhood, aimlessly cycling with a group of friends and coming back home at least a kilo heavier. What do you expect after intense tunnel building exercise in the ‘mountain’ of Jamuna sand in the next street?  It was pure fun. That I think is mandatory for any child in holidays – fun.

Let the child choose. If the camps are his thing, let him do it. If not then what’s wrong in chasing frogs, running after butterflies, rolling in mud, reading random books and well, building a time machine?

After a day of doing nothing, by the time they hit the bed at night, the boys have debated whether the butterfly in the garden is a monarch or not, figured out the faulty aerodynamics of a new paper model of a plane, played a few ‘innings’ of cricket, made secret potions (don’t even ask what all goes in them , ugh!), read books, told me sick slimy facts about bugs, fossils and what not, listened to music, played football and had a dozen or so fist fights with each other. They didn’t go to three hours of personality building, character enhancing, IQ improving classes but I guess I will deprive them of all these ‘developmental opportunities’ this summer and let them be. I’ll just let them do what I did as a child in my summer vacations – nothing.

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