My son will be five in August this year. Even after completing two years of his pre-school, he is reluctant and depressed while going to his new school. This is an account of day four of his school for how I try to prepare him for a school day.
He wakes up. Stays in bed. Active but quiet. Reluctant. Thinking. Almost apologetic for looking the way he looked. I stand close to his bed and volunteered to make him comfortable. Pick him in my arms. Help him feel fresh.
Very few words.
Like a damp morning that made a fake promise for more rain.
I took him downstairs and soon we were walking in the society premises. It is a quiet and spacious place for early morning walks. His legs were as heavy as his heart. His eyes were as wet as his blocked nose.
Reluctance was like fresh air, all over.
“Why you did not drive with my school bus, yesterday?”
I saw the spilled beans.
[He had requested me to drive with his school bus, and after he had insisted strongly, I had told him that I will follow his bus.]
I did not follow the bus.
His annoyance was multi-fold. School where he did not want to go. Father whom he was not sure to trust. The moment he was incapable to deal with.
We sat on a public bench. I adjusted his shirt. He looked at me with full eyes. As if he wanted only to see me. I looked at him and saw too many questions. Wet questions. Drenched questions.
“You need to understand that my driving with your school bus is not at all required. Why do you want it?”
“What if I am lost?” “What if you do not pick me in the afternoon?” “And I miss you.” “And I am scared.” “And why you cannot go to your office at my school time?” (He is a good storyteller as he won the first prize in the storytelling contest in the neighborhood, and he won a few “show and tell” in pre-school as well.)
“Son, it is not required.” I knew that his thoughts of getting lost or separated were more of a story. He was doing well in storytelling and I was trying to stop it going in the wrong direction.
“If you do not go to school, how will you learn going to a store and buy a can of milk? How will you know how much to pay and what to ask for the balance amount? How will you learn to drive the car when you cannot read the road signs? How will you switch on the TV channel of your choice if you cannot read the channel name? How will you purchase your favorite toy when you cannot read the toy label or instructions on the box?”
A few more examples.
“We learn everything in a school.” “We start learning life in a school.” “Everybody goes to a school.”
Quietness. Same Drenched Questions.
A ray of brightness as sun intruded our quiet morning talk. “Look at the sun, the greatest source of energy and discipline in our life. He is here in time. It goes in time in the evening. There has to a natural order. Likewise, a school is part of our own order….”
He did not like it.
A confused silence. As if a smoker has thrown a half-burnt cigarette out of some fear.
“Well, if you do not go to school, how will you learn what the teachers are teaching? You learnt so much in your pre-school, how will you learn all that at home?”
[Sob gets little stronger]
“But Papa, why you cannot drive with me? Why you cannot go to your office early, when I go to my school?”
“Son, first you should stop sobbing. You are saying all this because you do not actually feel like going to school. So, we need to fix the root first.”
I continued with another side of the story.
- “I work on my laptop and I can work only because I too went to a school.”
- “If you are not happy to go to school, you will not really learn and grow to do things that you want to do.”
- “If you are depressed the moment you get up early in the morning, you skip your breakfast, you tend to vomit if you try to eat something, and ultimately you will be unwell. It means a possible visit to a doctor.”
- “No kid in the society asks his father to drive with his or her school bus. None of your friends in the school bus ask for that.”
Naman — “But why not driving with my bus?”
I could identify that the moment was not particularly about school. It was something else. It was between me and him. I did not want that he should stop trusting me for any reason. After I had gone through such exercises in the past too, I was sure not to hurt him by enforcing something by the name of discipline. My only approach is to try to make him understand, persist with logical statements and give him some food for thought. I saw it remotely working though.
“Ok, I can do that if you promise me something.”
“What is that?”
“I will drive with you only for today. Never again. Will it work?”
The sob mixed into a delightful nod. As we welcome mild sunlight in the winter drizzle. I noticed the confusion for how much he should feel happy.
We were back home. Brush. Potty. Bath. Small steps.
I saw him sitting in a chair waiting for breakfast. Alone. I was not sure whether he was loving being alone for a moment. Whether he needed time to gather his thoughts. And courage?
His full eyes were in constant battle with his courage to stop flowing these. He lost. I saw it on his cheeks, drawing towards his chin.
Something was flowing down his cheeks.
“I promised you that I will drive with your bus, today. Can you cheer up now?”
I saw a somewhat fake widening of lips. He was scared to not to trust me and I was vulnerable to his calm stare.
We both questioned each other, without words. While he was ensuring if he can trust me, I was trying to hide my vulnerability. In the quietness, the pieces seemed to start connecting though.
Breakfast done. He was in uniform. He had given up by now. As if he handed over the fate to me. For a minute.
I took over. Breakfast. Laptop. Car keys.
We reached the boarding point and while waiting for his bus, I parked my car ready for following him.
His legs were dressed in reluctance and his top was dressed in doubt.
We saw the bus coming. As he was about to burst into tears, I told him to board the bus (asked my wife to help him), and took to my car.
The minute he looked out of the window seat. Me driving with him. Following his bus. I overtook once to make sure that he sees the promise. And he saw.
The few seconds when he saw me driving with his bus. This was all he needed.
As if nothing else.
These 2 hours and 10 minutes sums up:
- What a son actually wants. As if the life folds and unfolds within the minute when he asks me and expects a response. As if I was the wholeness for him.
- The day when I could live up to my promise even though it may seem unreasonable to a few.
- We are not here to make everyone happy. We are not here to worry about what the neighbors think, what the security thinks, or what the school bus driver thinks. We are here to strengthen the bonds that are important to us.
The next minute while I was driving with his bus, I realized that I did not switch on my car AC. I was also drenched.
Vinish Garg | @vingar
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