Children’s Day is celebrated in India on 14th November, which marks the birth anniversary of Pandit Jawaharlal Nehru, fondly remembered as Chacha Nehru. Universally, Children’s Day is celebrated on 20th November every year.
Our children – our pride, our joy. Spend time with children and they teach you. They inadvertently make you realize how foolishly we lead lives as adults. Children – fascinating creatures indeed… little balls of infectious jovialness, naivety, innocence and mischief – all rolled into one tiny ball of energy!
Life for us all has gotten busy. As days go by, we have longer to-do lists and shorter spells of relaxed leisure. Our priorities take precedence and drive us into mangled, nervous, time-driven beasts-of-burden and stress, with hardly any time left for sport, leisure or relaxation. How many of us consciously spend quality time with our families, with our children? And by children, I also mean the grandchildren that live a floor above, or the nieces and nephews – a corner away. What about your friends and their tiny tots?
We grew up in times when time actually meant something. We spent long, lazy Sundays with friends and family, creating memories and picture postcards. Days were spent on laid-back picnics, or exciting expeditions to remote outdoor places. We tripped, skipped and bounced on rough horsebacks and camel rides; we lapped on waves and stared at the blue sky and bright sunshine from our lazy beds of sand… ’twas a time of rejoicing and languid pleasures.
Most places etched in our memory banks no longer even exist. It was a time when Juhu Beach was a picnic ground and Alibaug – a remote destination getaway; a time where children could roam free all day and discover the gems hidden within the precincts of our city limit, without fear or even parental supervision. Today, it’s a carnival of people, a rodeo with wild throngs and not a square inch of this city left where one can breathe free. So, what are we leaving our children with?
This Children’s Day, let us pause with some moments of reflection. After all, your children are the purest reflections of your investment. Our children are our future – the future we leave behind with our imprints. Are we doing enough for them, for the world and the planet? These truly are not unrelated. Global warming, climate change… the votes, our leaders, our political alignments along with our ideals, our beliefs, our value system are things that your children, and the countless you touch, upon may emulate.
Our education systems may need revamping; our own rigid inflexibilities may need some shaking up. Perhaps we need more contact with nature as part of a sustainable education, especially in early childhood and care. This could develop an appreciation for Mother Earth and all her inhabitants. Teach children not only to co-habitat with others but also with nature. Educators in childcare settings could perhaps incorporate a learning culture where children could develop skills worthy to take care of nature and nurture it as well. This type of care and creativity, through play and interaction, could prove beneficial to both.
Let not education be bound to schoolbooks and classes. Let the open fields and spaces provide a learning experience of awareness and curiosity. Let the trees and the birds speak to them instead of audio notes and disgruntled voices in boring monotones of textbook content and things we need to know. Instead, teach them things they would want to know… maybe the song of the wind and the chirping of birds, the change in colours from fall to spring may lighten their loads while filling their cup of enthusiasm and zest… maybe they learn more from that spider crawling up that wall, or the honeybees and their hives, than indifferent classrooms and indolent teachers.
But more than all else, talk to your children about compassion and empathy, integrity and respect. Teach them science and math, but also to speak up for the voiceless. Teach them geography and history, but teach them to also protest against any form of bigotry, racism and misogyny. Endeavour to teach them to become better global citizens and encourage them to participate in all forms of community service. Teach them dance and culture, but advise them to follow their values and wisdom sensibly. Express your love – the more you show them you care and love them, the more mentally and emotionally strong they grow. Spend quality time with your children – it helps them become more rounded, well-adjusted adults later on in life.
Spending time doesn’t mean hovering helicopter-moms and over-enthusiastic dads. Just connect daily with your child. Near or far, a daily connect shows you care. Never neglect to tell them you love them daily but follow it up with the little things that mean something to you. Let them know you love and value them, take pride in them for things they’ve done. Don’t hesitate to let them know when they could have done better. Children are smart like that. They can pick up insincerity a mile away.
Reinforce positive behavior and never neglect to voice your concern on their wrongdoings. Schedule routine rituals – a Sunday breakfast at your favorite café, or a regular movie night in the week, an afternoon with grandparents or an evening off for some fun family activity. Play with your children even if they’re all grown up. Tell jokes, laugh, share a little secret that’s all your own. Sit, talk and listen to them. You may be surprised at how much you learn from them and how much of what you teach sets them on the right path. So, this Children’s Day, let us celebrate the fruits of our womb. And in the wise words of Wordsworth, remember:
‘The child is the father of the Man;
And I could wish my days to be
Bound each to each by natural piety.’