So the Brat and Bean had their Sports Day in December. When the Bean started school, we chose another one for her but that resulted in us going nuts – taking the day off for each of her events and then for his. So we swore that we’d put them in the same school when they went to big school so that there would be only one PTA day and one Sports Day. Little did we know that this wouldn’t help either. Both had their events in two different parts of the school and the OA and I kept timing and calling each other, coordinating and swapping like high level police officers escorting a VIP.
The Bean marched in all proud and ready to take on the day, the Brat wandered around looking rather lost. As though he’d never been to the place before – typical Brat. Then he saw some friends and went charging at them, parents forgotten. The OA and I hugged and kissed and bid each other a teary farewell and then went in opposite directions with a child each.
We reach the arena and the Bean suddenly loses it. She clings to me and refuses to go to the teacher. Suffice to say, she spent the rest of the morning in the teacher’s lap. We begged, we cheered, other parents joined in. Yes, this is one of those shiny happy schools where we don’t compete, we all participate. *koff koff*
Towards the end she suddenly sat up and took a shot at the obstacle race. The crowds sitting around cheered, she took one look and skittered back to the teacher. At the end I held her hand and took her to the arena and hey presto, off she went, slithering through hoops like a snake, walking the fine line, climbing ladders, she did it all. Sadly, it was after everyone had a shot and this was during the break. But she did it and I saw that she was fantastically light on her feet, faster than anyone else, well-balanced and very sure of herself. I was proud and I thought to myself quietly, oh well, at least she’s fantastic and her mother knows it. And then, the entire group of parents clapped for her and I realised everyone else was watching too.
I called the OA on his phone – what was the Brat up to? Dreaming in a corner, watching dust particles in the sun and chasing dragonflies while his classmates burnt up the track, no doubt. Apparently not. The son was kicking some butt. In a non-competitive way. What? I refused to believe it. And so we both left our posts and went sprinting across the school to exchange notes. And he showed me pictures of the Brat doing the relay, doing yoga and holding the position far better than anyone else, a look of fierce concentration on his face. This was my son? Really? The one who can’t hold a thought for a minute if it doesn’t interest him? Who will walk away mid-conversation? Really? He was enjoying this? I had to see this with my own eyes.
By the time I got there, the PT display was over, the exercises and yoga were done, the relay and the ball passing were done. All that I caught was the high jump. And I watched in awe. Some kids show their sporting spirit early in life. A tall-for-her-age girl took her place, and I saw the steely glint of determination in her eye. She reminded me of Arjuna and the bird’s eye. And then she took off like lighting and cleared the leap. Another little boy took his position and I was a little nervous. He was short and I was sure he’d not make it. It was as easy as pie.. he just sailed over. I remembered that most little girls are taller and bigger than boys of their own age – other than the Bean who looks like a 2-year-old but sounds like an 82-year-old.
It was also rather sad to see how many kids in India are already obese. Some couldn’t run because of their weight. They landed on the hurdle and brought it down. At age 5 most should have lost their puppy fat or else should be sent out to play some more. Or fed healthier. It’s not easy for them to fall over and realise that their weight was a problem. It’s unfair that they’re too young to know what to do about it and those who are in charge seem to be doing nothing.
Anyway, soon it was time for the Brat. He had wandered off from the queue and was doing something completely pointless I am sure. And then he ambled to the line when his teacher called, looked around aimlessly and then focussed on the hurdle. Ah? This? Okay. And then he began to run in the weirdest way possible. Legs in every direction, arms all over the place, he spotted me in the crowd and grinned the most beautiful grin and said – Hey look Mama, I’m a dinosaur. I groaned and then laughed in spite of myself. Never mind if he never wins a race or takes to a sport, I told myself. He knows how to enjoy himself and that itself is a rare gift. And then he reached the hurdle and took it with ease, ambling off, the whole crowd of parents holding their sides and laughing at this kid who was playing dinosaur.
The hurdle was raised and the rounds began again. The sporty girl took it. The spunky little tiny boy took it. The obese kids fell over again and cried and I wanted to smack someone – their parents maybe. And my son came again – this time as a water lizard or something. I was by now laughing so hard I had tears running down my cheeks. He waved cheekily, threw himself over the hurdle and went back in line. By the third time the parents were looking out for him and waving. He came as a crab or something, sideways, took the really high leap with ease and ambled off again. And that’s when it stuck me. He was good at this. He has his father’s sporty genes, (not my lack of coordination that ensures I can’t catch a ball flung from 6 inches away) but no real interest yet. It comes too easy to him. But more than that, the school has taught him to use his body and his muscles and do this and he does it – he just doesn’t think it’s a matter of life and death. Fair enough – let him do it as fun. He’s only five.
He kept doing it till they took down the hurdles for kids. And then – it was the parents’ turn. I looked madly around and promptly dialled the OA. “Come fast,” I said.. “family honour at stake and all that jazz.”
I would, he said, “if I were not crawling into a tube as we speak. Family honour at stake here too. ” He was doing an obstacle race with other parents and of course aced it.
Right. So I hung up, retied my shoelaces, pulled up my tracks, took off my sweater and said a prayer for my knees. The hurdles started with some fathers and a few mothers. I took the first jump and as I soared over it everything I’d ever learnt during my school years came back. Where to build speed, when to lift off, the angle at which you raise your legs and in that split second I was thrilled. It’s such a small thing and yet for someone who a year ago was writing off her legs, it was more than a giant leap. I landed smoothly and sprinted back to my place.
I looked around and I saw a bright-eyed Brat looking at me. Then he smiled, and told his friends - Dekho, meri mamma. Kitna achcha jump karti hai.
Ma ka dil and all that jazz, I made up my mind not to stop until I was dead.
The hurdle kept rising, the other mothers dropped out and I was the only woman left doing this. No biggie when you consider how unfit and overweight most of the parents are. Sadly, in spite of being slimmer than many, my knees tell a different tale.
After the first jump I checked my knee. No extra pain. By the third one, I had people congratulating me on how athletic I was. And I was fine. Raring to go. High on my son’s adoration and general junta’s applause. I’m a sucker for such stuff.
After about 6 raises I couldn’t do it anymore. It was just too high and only the really tall men were able to do it. And I dialled the OA once again. Thankfully the Bean’s events were over and he was free.
And so my knight in shining armour came to save the day.
He did it of course. Over and over again he took the hurdles, landed with grace and ambled off in a way that reminded me of the Brat. They finally called it a day with him being one of the last 2-3 dads doing it.
The Brat threw himself at us. The Bean arrived and we headed home happily with their little gifts. Apparently she’d done a great job of walking a rope too. I suppose she’d shed her stage fright by then.
The OA grinned at me that night – Well baby, even if we have two useless kids, at least we overachievers saved the family honour. I grinned back at him.. well, it was a grimace really, because my thighs were already killing me from stretching them to leap so high.
The next two days I limped around. And everytime someone asked me, I proudly said I’d done the high jump and done it brilliantly, buggered up knee and all. The muscles healed in a couple of days and the knee was no worse for wear.
As for the moral of the tale – I’ve learnt not to underestimate my son. That my spunky daughter sometimes gets stagefright ( I learnt and forgot these two lessons last year). To always trust my husband to save the day (damn, but I knew this one too). And to never let my knee stop me from having fun - this one is new.