Monday, November 7, 2011

The Little Things That Matter…

Last evening Nikki and I attended a Hannah Montana themed birthday party. There was a large Hannah Montana cake, Hannah Montana balloons, goody bags, paper plates and cups, Hannah Montana streamers on the walls; by the end of it I pretty much had the effervescent Hannah coming out my ears. The party was rather nice, if a little impersonal, and it was probably just me, but I found the sight of several little three year old girls dressed up as Hannah Montana clones a little disturbing. I told the husband about it as we trudged home bearing a large (Hannah Montana, naturally) goody bag and we found ourselves reminiscing about the vastly different birthday parties of our own childhoods. The simple, do-it-at-home affairs where you would plan the party games yourself and spend the afternoon of the party feverishly making chits for the passing-the-parcel planned for the evening while your mother worked in the kitchen to provide the few guests, each of whom she knew by name, with homely fare.

There are very few, if at all, of these parties anymore and you can’t really blame the parents. It’s a little difficult to explain to your young child, after having attended a Winnie the Pooh themed birthday party complete with the Hundred Acre Woods, that she should be happy with a simple party at home. Having given in to one of these themed parties myself for Nikki’s first birthday however, I’ve emerged from the experience weary but wise, and with a rock solid resolve to try and pass on to Nikki the simple but soul satisfying birthday parties of my childhood.

This got me thinking of a few other things that I would like to pass on to Nikki from my childhood. The simple, little things, that you could easily overlook, but when you really think about it, went a long way in making your childhood special.
A love for reading and books would most certainly top the list of these. There are very few experiences in life that can surpass the joy derived from a good book and a rewarding and enriching relationship with books is something I definitely want to pass on to Nikki. A lot of people scoffed when I began reading to Nikki when she was just about three months old, but when I peek into her room now and see her little head bent in rapture over a book, and when we bond over the adventures of Silly Sally or Bubbles the Monkey at bedtime, I know that with books, it is never too early to begin (or for that matter, too late!).

Next on the list would be the family dinners my parents imposed on us when we were kids and whose value we realized only years later. Every evening, come hell or high water, or to be more apt, exam or new TV soap, all of us were required to show up at the dinner table to have the evening meal as a family. The television and phones were strictly off limits during this time and we were all required to participate in some dinnertime conversation. It was a simple, routine thing to do, something that we did every evening without really thinking too much about it, but when I look back now I realize that back then, no matter how much I overtly resented this intrusion into ‘my space’, subconsciously I looked forward to these dinners as a time when I could just switch off from the rest of the world and connect with my family, and those shared meals helped us grow closer.

And so in my own little family now I try and recreate those family dinners of yore by putting Nikki firmly into her highchair at the table and dragging the husband there as well, and insisting that all phones and the TV are turned off. It can get challenging at times with Nikki insisting on using the rotis to play Frisbee with and the husband twitching nervously with severe BlackBerry withdrawal symptoms, but we manage to emerge unscathed from most meals and feel only the better for the time spent together. As the years pass and Nikki grows older I hope we can use this time to strengthen the bond we share and practice the fine art of conversation and the finer art of listening.

Which brings me to the next item on my list; the art of listening- really listening, to other people and taking a genuine interest in their lives. I’ve met so many self obsessed people in the last few years that I can almost sense it when a person genuinely interested in others walks into a room. I’d like Nikki to be one of these few, increasingly rare, but precious people, something that I’m sure will go a long way in developing her personality and helping her forge real, lasting friendships.

And lastly, I’d like to teach Nikki the ability to be comfortable in and to enjoy her own company, because at the end of the day, no matter how large your circle of friends, you are alone with your own thoughts.

There are many other things I’d like to pass on to Nikki as well, and like every other parent if I had to list them all out I’d probably end up with a compendium in several parts. But if I had to list just a few, I would choose these. Little things yes, but things that will help build a rewarding childhood, filled with the simple pleasures of life, the way childhood should be.

What about you? What are the things from your own childhood that you would like to pass on to your children? And if your kids are all grown up already, what are the things you think you did well to pass on?

Originally written for "The Punekar"

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Manasi Vaidya, Author of "No Deadline For Love"
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