Tuesday, June 16, 2009

clean mud, playground sand, explorations and conformations

Dear Srila didi and Jayanthy,

Here is a little parenting dilemma that I am facing, which I would really like your take on.

During the parenting workshops, Sulochana didi always mentioned that what exposure we give to our children may be unacceptable to "modern society".

My husband and I have always ensured that our children get the utmost exposure to nature and experiences. When Anjali was five months old, we took her to the swimming pool. By the time she was six months old, she was getting wet in the rain and having loads of fun doing so. We always encourages her to play in the mud, go barefoot in the grass (regardless of my father saying in the background that the grass is full of insects, or that she would get a cold playing in the rain puddles etc). She has never gotten a cold, and the couple of insect bites she gets goes away after some moisturizing cream. I have never regretted doing this, as I know that by giving the children maximum exposure, we can allow them to grow harmoniously with the surroundings.

Now, even at home, i encourage her free exposure, whereupon, we have childproofed the house, taking the truly dangerous objects out of her reach and at this stage, nothing in the house is barred to her. She helps me with the cooking, plays around with the brooms and mops and things like that. And when I am around, I try my best not to resort to her toys, but to let her play with "out of the box things" - art, dance, acting, materials exploration etc.

There are some activities though, that I would prefer to take downstairs to the playground, because of their mess factor. Sand play is one of them. Yesterday, Anjali and I put together a tub full of clean mud (tissue paper mixed with soap and water to get a mud like consistency, that can be used for making mud cakes, mud sculptures etc). It was messy play and I took it to the playground. She had a load of fun exploring the materials, cooking dosas and chappati's with the mud for us, pouring water into the soap, washing her hands umpteen times etc.

Now, in the playground, there are a group of children that Anjali normally plays around. These kids, some of whom are considerably older than her, came to peek in the activities that we were doing. They see the mess and the fun, they are drawn to it, some jumped right in, got themselves messy. Others came along looked their noses down and said "so dirty". yet other children looked on fascinated, wanting to join, but were pulled away by their parents claiming that it was dirty/ messy/ their clothes will get wet/ they will catch a cold etc. When i asked one of the children if he/ she wanted to play the answer was a longing "no", my mother will scold me.

Generally I wont be bothered by these remarks. Afterall, I know that what we are doing is right. However, when one of her playmates walked by with her parents, her parents looked their noses down at the mess. Anjali, I think was feeling that she was not conforming to some unsaid protocol. Because, at that point, the child, who was having so much fun uptill then, stood up and said, "I want to wash my hands".

By the time we had washed our hands and returned, the playmate had gone home, and Anjali wanted to resume her play. But does non conformism in a conformist society affect the growth of a child?

I am not going to stop these explorative play sessions, but I may just keep them confined to home. Wont it be better for her to do these activities collectively though?


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