I don’t think my life was easy as a child, a teenager, or an adult. I kept hearing this statement from elders that my life is ‘easy’, and I thought either there is something wrong with me, or my easy days are right behind the corner over yonder, and they will be here any moment now. They never arrived.
I disliked homework, I feared exams, I had nightmares about boys and girls who bullied me, I was terrified of some teachers, I dreaded lunch hour, I hated the kids who mocked me, I was jealous of some others, I was afraid my friends would abandon me, I… Well, the only good thing I can remember is the vacation, but they always ended too soon.
Life isn’t easy at any stage. It’s just that when we look back, it seems easier.
I don’t think my son’s life is simple either. When I pull him up from bed in the morning, he snuggles deeper into the blanket and says, “let me sleep some more.” I would have to pull and prod him out of it, get him to wash his face in cold water and make him swallow a little something before the school bus arrives. When he was in Kindergarten, I would watch him struggle to manoeuvre his pencil (with his tongue sticking out) to make a ‘C’ or a ‘D’, and do you know how tough a ‘G’ is! He would almost give up and say “I cannot do it”. Ask him if his life is easy.
He has to learn multiplication tables, he cannot play with some friends because they are “not talking to him today”, he cannot play football in the position he likes because someone else (usually an older boy) has taken it first. He has to wash and eat and sleep and read whenever he is asked to, even if he wants to play or watch TV, and if he doesn’t come back home after play at a certain hour, well, he knows what will happen.
He cannot eat what he likes because it is ‘junk’, he is forced to eat what he thinks is bland. He has to write with pencil when the rest of the world uses pens. He cannot sit late watching TV (though his parents can) because he has to ‘get up for school early tomorrow’ and in the morning he cannot crawl back into bed and say ‘I will call in sick today’ or ‘I will tell my teacher I am on a half-day leave’ or ‘I will go one hour late because we follow flexible timings at school’. When his teacher asks him to do his writing in class, he cannot say, ‘I will work from home tonight and finish it.’
He is expected to participate in drama, arts, sports, music, even though he doesn’t fancy some of them. He wants to play football twenty-four hours a day, but he cannot because the adults around him expect him to also learn the alphabet and numbers and addition and subtraction and the solar system. When he wants to do paper-cutting he is asked to do homework, when he wants to watch TV, it is time to go to bed. He looks at the word ‘building’ and reads it as ‘duilbing’ because even at seven years he is confused between ‘b’ and ‘d’, thus giving everyone a chance to laugh at him.
And this is only a glimpse of the iceberg that a child’s life is. Now you tell me whose life is easier.
Tell a child about loans and he would ask you, “Don’t you have a job? Don’t you have money? Just pay the loans, what’s the big deal?”
Tell him adulthood means many responsibilities and he will ask, “If responsibilities mean things you have to do, why don’t you just do them?”
Tell him about relationships and he will say, “Be friends with them if you like them. Don’t talk to them if you don’t like them.”
Tell him about the pressures of managing a career and he will stare at you: “You mean it is as bad as homework?”
Tell him about the travails of parenthood, he will say, “It looks easy enough to me, you get your way all the time.”
Tell him about your worries and he would ask, “Are you afraid of something that resides in your head?”
Remember, the little ones have not even heard of the late night parties and hangovers that adults employ to tide over the agonies of life.
But I do see why forty- or fifty-year olds keep insisting that a child’s life is easy and that they would like to return to those days. The keyword here is ‘return‘ – I had missed it totally.
They want to return to Kindergarten as adults, plant their big bodies amidst the real Kindergartners – the little ones battling with ‘C’, ‘G’ and ‘D’ with their tongues sticking out – and they can show off their writing skills to the wide-eyed four year olds and win with their hands down. They will be the class toppers, they will be the bullies, they will be champions, they will be the masters of the group. Yeah, that would really be the kind of return (and easy life) we can hope for.
But be a child again and learn how to hold a pencil and combat the alphabet and tackle the multiplication tables and learn the days of the week and be bullied, start it all from scratch?
I don’t think that’s easy at all…
So the next time you look at a child and sigh – think again.