Yesterday was Eva’s birthday party and Eva is my daughter’s best friend, neighbor and daily playmate. From the moment the kids woke up, they were in the party mood and wanted to be part of everything, hanging out at the neighboring house watching the balloons go up, the streamers being put, the food being cooked. We had to drag them home for breakfast and barely was she bathed, Aadyaa was back at Eva’s place!
As a new mom when my son was two or three, I thought kiddie birthday parties were the most boring events ever. Of course, now things have changed and I look at them with a completely different eye.
Yesterday, I was struck by the innocence of the children, the sheer joy they got from each others’ company and how deep their friendships and loyalties run! All the little ones there (average age 5) went out of their way to make the birthday girl happy, rallying around her and participating in every activity with gusto. Some kids were shy, others were remarkably outspoken and there were some who were simply on their own trip! Aadyaa waited politely for all the ‘guests’ to get their tattoos done before she got hers. Avandeeta thoroughly enjoyed the pasta, eating on her own silently and with great focus. The boys from Eva’s class explored the house, while the girls had great fun at a messy glue and paper sticking activity.
Later at dinner, we talked about other older children we know- the teenage variety and the kind of showdowns they were having with their parents. In a classic generation gap situation, the girl we spoke about was being subjected to unreasonable curfew times because she saw hanging out at a coffee shop a worthwhile thing to do while her parents simply do not understand it!
I wondered about what was going through the parents’ mind? Fear for our children and suspicion about their activities are closely interlinked and while no one denies we parents take action only in the best interests of our children, are we, by complicating the rule book, actually forcing them to lose their innocence earlier than necessary? When I tell my child he needs to fear and be suspicious of everyone, I am forcing him to think ‘why’? And kick-starting the sort of thought process that explores a variety of possible negative scenarios.
So what do we do? And how do we achieve the right balance between providing our kids with a secure environment and yet offering them sufficient exposure and presence of mind to recognize danger when they face it? I don’t think we will find an answer, every family would have to set their own rules.
As for me, every night, I look at the innocent faces of my kids when they are asleep, and thank the powers that be (which, ironically, I’m unsure I believe in!) that they experienced another peaceful and happy day!