Endless summer afternoons

It’s 48 degrees in the shade and Delhi is not baking but burning to a crisp, like bacon. The proof is the oil dripping off my face. I do my best to not fight it, to embrace the heat. I try and remind myself that there are people across the world who yearn for a bit of the bone warming sun. And I do my best to make the home comfortable, with thick drapes, chilled aam panna, cool creamy lassi and the good old desert cooler that fills our home with the lovely fresh scent of khus. But it’s an undeniable fact that the North Indian summer is deadly and kids on a school break feel trapped inside the home.

For years I’ve flip flopped between summer camp or not. Last year a friend ran a special summer camp at a very special school and suggested I send the kids with her. It suited me because the kids travelled both ways with her and I didn’t have to organise the logistics. Her kids and mine are friends and it worked out well for everyone. I’d even sent them in the earlier years in Delhi because we were locked into our third floor house and the kids couldn’t get out of the house until 6 pm. It just seemed cruel.

This year, now that we’ve moved into our lovely little house with a garden, I decided I’d keep them home. The entire point of a summer break is to give them a break from routine. To let them lounge like lizards and come up with something of their own to do. To let them whine, ‘I’m bored, mama’. And then tell them what my grandmother often told me – ‘Only boring people get bored; interesting people have a whole world of fun going on inside their heads.’ My brother and I hated it when she said that. And yet it taught us so much. We learnt to entertain ourselves. And we learnt to be still.

They say an idle mind is a devil’s workshop, but I disagree.  Left to themselves kids can be amazingly creative and I’ve been pleasantly surprised with some of the things they’ve come up with. It’s not easy, particularly since I work from home and that means the kids bang on my door ever so often with a ‘What shall we do?’ or a quarrel to settle. But I soldier on without succumbing entirely to the tempting air conditioning of malls. Remember this post on keeping kids out of malls?

What is lovely about the new locality is that there are so many parents who parent just like I do. We may have nothing to say to each other (but funnily we do!) but we agree almost blindly on matters of parenting. So each morning the kids go off to have lunch with someone and every 3rd or 4th day I have about 4 kids at mine. They play hide and seek around the house, they paint, they create entire farms of playdough, they lose their tempers and throw the ludo board at each other with accusations of CHEATING!, they drag bedsheets over chairs and create castles and pirate ships and put on feather boas and masks and create stories. On a Saturday the OA plays math games with all the kids while another mother runs them through their Hindi workbook for a quick revision. I do a storytelling activity followed by a quick art and craft session. In case you don’t know how to come up with stories, you can take a little help from this game the kids were gifted (thanks Aneela!) that I thought I’d share with you. It is called Shape Your Story and is very handy to keep the kids entertained. There is a set of cards, a dice and a marker. All you need to do is add to the shape and create something. And that is the starting point for your story. Much fun and much inspiration for the wildest of stories.

What is nice about this system is that each house has it’s own set of games and at another home located at a dead end, they play cricket and football. A third home is  bang opposite the park so they run out and play in the shade. The kids learn to eat pure vegetarian at one home while the vegetarian kids learn that meat will be put on my table even though I will ensure that they don’t touch it. But every single one of these homes offers only healthy homecooked food and fresh fruit. And very limited TV viewing. I couldn’t ask for more or better.

In another two weeks the kids are off to spend 3 weeks with my parents while the OA and I take a much deserved trip to Istanbul and the US. Before we know it, these long lazy summer vacations will be over. Real life will begin and they will never know more than a 20 day break in the year. Until that happens, I want them to know what it feels like for a day to seem endless, a night to be cool and restful, a break to be never ending and a week to be full of possibilities.

I leave you with some pictures of what they’ve been up to.

Breaking a lump of clay to discover Dino fossils. Some of the toys you get these days are amazing. Just right for my geeky son.

The Brat creates an octopus from a couple of sticky straw thingies.

The Bean draws the Taj Mahal from memory on the chalkboard I’ve painted in a corner of their nursery.

The Brat’s latest obsession – big cats. I think he was trying to copy a Serval or something here.

A friend joins them on the mess mat for an afternoon of finger painting.

The Bean’s ladybird on canvas

Planting veggies for the summer

49 thoughts on “Endless summer afternoons

    • Yes – she saw it in a storybook and drew it almost 2-3 weeks later without opening the book. Her memory worked like a charm here – but she forgot which book it was!

  1. Loved your grandma’s saying ! So true !! And that Taj Mahal from memory…just wow !! The painted chalkboard idea is so nice ! Just like the mess mat and dinosaur fossils 🙂 So many cool ways to keep the kids busy in summer really !!!

  2. Loved loved loved this post! 🙂 And that saying by your grandmother is so true! I think kids are at their creative best when they are left to their own devices (though that can sometimes be destructive as well 😛 ) rather than letting them watch TV or go to malls and play games all day long.

    Love the idea of the mess mat. And the activity group in your complex sounds divine! I would have loved to have one in our apartment when I was a kid! 🙂

    BTW what is a desert cooler? Pardon me for my ignorance, but I would love to know. It sounds heavenly, with the smell of khus and all that!

  3. I want stories and my own chalkboard! Will you adopt me?

    Have fun on your vacation, and please take lots of pictures! From all I hear, Istanbul is beautiful!

  4. What? So my idea all along of suing my family and claiming cost for therapy, for all those summer holidays when they told me that being imaginative was the coolest thing and that I should have fun in my head, is going to go to waste? You mean *gasp* they were right all along? Tch, tch, MM, you just broke my heart.
    You are lucky I don’t stay in Gurgaon. I’d have taken permanent residence as your in- house baby sitter :).

    • You mean I’m unlucky, don’t you? I’d give anything for a baby-sitter I trust. Cousin K has his exams on and I haven’t had a minute away from the kids in weeks.

  5. Wow..what a lovely way to enjoy the summer holidays.

    Bean has an amazing memory and I admire her drawing skills…too good for a 5 yr old. I guess it runs in the genes, having a mom who is so creative and artistic always helps !

    I feel sorry for my kids…but I keep trying my best 🙂

  6. What I’m completely delighted to see is the Brat and Bean and friends playing together. So many of my littler cousins these days are totally at a loose end when they have to play WITH each other, or with girls and boys of around the same age. “games” these days are far more individualistic and kids have far more options of keeping themselves entertained alone (PSPs, iPads, etc etc), and I see parents giving in so easily because its a sure shot way to keep them out fo their hair. So much so that when theyre in a mixed group, they dont know what to do with themselves!
    When I was growing up we didnt have too many toys, but were innovative with things around the house that we were allowed to get our hands on, and most of our games were make believe or pretend play and kept us engaged for HOURS on end! Im damn kicked to see a bit of that here 🙂 especially since most kids have forgotten what it is to actually “play”..

    And yes, I still owe you that email 😦

    • Oh yes… the house is bursting at the seams with kids. I just avoided posting pics of them coz they’re not my own kids and I should check with the parents. Yes, you’re right. We didn’t have half as many toys when we were kids, but then we had our parents or older adults around. I for one, don’t let the kids into the kitchen because I’m not there. I can’t expect the cook to take responsibility for them as they pull out a bowl or a spoon. They might get hurt and its unfair to make the poor cook bear that guilt. So they’re banned from the kitchen but otherwise my belts are snakes, my chopsticks are swords and what not. And yes missy, where is that mail?

  7. Lovely post MM! I rmbr endless summers during my childhood, no TV at my grandparents house, we used atta to mould into figures (no play-doh in those days)…

  8. This post reminded me of my childhood summer hols! I used to be out playing with the neighbours every single day… seven tiles, hopscotch, catch the cook. And we all used to be running in and out of each others’ houses. 😀
    The afternoons were quiet though. I’d make myself a lovely cold glass of chocolate milk and settle with my book collection to read until the harsh sun had set and it was time to go out to play badminton or cricket.

    It’s good that you’re not sending them off to camp. My folks didn’t either, and although at the time I used to grumble about it, now I’m glad I never went.

  9. All this sounds so magical, this is what every parent would wish for, living in the vicinity of like-minded parents with kids who play in each other’s houses. It is only a dream these days although as kids we were doing exactly that– playing with friends under the shade of jamun trees with self-made mitti ke bartan

      • So true, I would have never imagined then that one day all that I had in my childhood — the tall eucalyptus trees outside our home, walking with friends to school, stitching clothes for dolls and playing whole afternoons and then evenings with friends till the parents got tiered of calling us back home — would all vanish in just two decades 😦

  10. Honestly MM, when I have kids, I’m going scour over all your posts once again and pester you for parenting tips! I think you make one fabulous mom! I hope I can be half the mom you are when the time comes (madness et all). There’s a lot of the old world charm and beauty that you’re giving your kids that most of today’s kids miss out on. Most of my younger cousins are transfixed on the tv/psp’s/ipad and I feel bad that they perhaps won’t have the lovely memories that we had of summer vacations. Honestly, I can’t remember what I watched on tv when I was 10! What I do remember is the hot summer afternoons, stealing pickles, raw mangoes and tamarind when mom was asleep in the afternoons, sharing the loot with the gang coz everyone would’ve stolen one forbidden item, having the weirdest combinations….i vividly remember dipping biscuits in tamarind sauce (we must’ve been mad!)…. building castles, trains with spare mattresses and bedsheets…eating half done rice crispies that were drying off the terrace…Sigh! Let me go look for that time machine…

    • You won’t need to. You seem to have had the same childhood that I did. All of our generation and maybe a few years later did the same stuff. Its just that no one wants to make the effort with kids anymore. Its so much easier to just hand them an iPad or a TV remote. Or put them in to some classes and get them out of your hair.

  11. Hi MM,
    wish I live in your community!! It seems so much fun….kids seem to have grown up from the last pictures! love bean’s Taj Mahal.
    Enjoy your stay at Istanbul and US… Hope to see lot of headless pictures 🙂

  12. 6th time iam trying to leave a comment..hope atleast this works..

    ur post brought back so many memories of summers at kerala with all my cousins ….amazing fun…
    and hey njoy ur trip and come back with lots of pics and notes(in ur head) for loong loong posts ok? waiting eagerly for that.. have fun 🙂

    brat looks very grown up in the last pic..

  13. Luv the garden where the kids are having so much fun…reminds me of my small town bachpan…:)….
    Istanbul is pretty as a picture…do try to land up at their local markets- grand bazaar and spice market ( its like khadi baoli and sadar bazaar mix) but very very well organized….Have fun and we want loads of pictures….

  14. Wow, a summer full of fun, I want those days back. DD is looking forward to her summer vacations. We’re two weeks away from vacation time and this year she wants to try theater, so besides the theater camp, I think DD will be staying home with me and me and a few other parents have decided to swap kids per our convenience. So the whole being bored is for boring people will come in handy. You’re going to be in the US. Wow, have fun and do let us natives what part of our world you’re visiting.

  15. Hi MM,
    I’ve been reading your blog for years and have randomly commented on a couple of posts now and then. While, I’ve always enjoyed reading your posts, this latest one has to be my favourite. I recently found out that I’m pregnant- it was completely unplanned, being just 5 months into my marriage. Ever since, I’ve been dealing with a lot of conflicting emotions and “practical”, “hard-hitting” articles about how your life is basically over once you have a kid, did nothing to put me at ease.
    Yet, reading about the seemingly effortless way in which you manage to divide your time between parenting and having fun gives me hope. I love that you’re visiting Istanbul with the OA, sans kids (not to be mean, but I think couples need some time off, alone). My husband and I were supposed to go on a trip to Spain this year, but we’ll probably have to postpone/cancel.
    I’m still confused, scared, overwhelmed by the whole pregnancy thing, but reading your post definitely made me feel a lot better. Cheers!

    • First off, congratulations!
      Second, kids are the best thing ever. They’re innocent and they show you what matters to you. I think kids bring out the extremes in you. I didn’t know what was important to me until I had my kids and I began to pass on the most relevant stuff (i thought) to them. Brings about a crazy amount of clarity as to what the essence of you is.
      Third, kids come when they are meant to. This baby might have been unplanned, but when you look back, it will all fall into place and you’ll be glad it happened right now.
      Fourth, travel with a new baby. Its great fun. Specially if you nurse the baby yourself. No hassle of washing bottles, carrying formula, nothing. And I see that babies who begin to travel early, are really fuss free and fantastic travellers. At this stage they can be carried and put anywhere. I walked all over London when I was expecting the Brat. It was tiring, but I did have my fun. After he was born, we travelled with him in a sling – good fun again. Specially because this time his weight was on his father, not me 😉
      Fifth, dump the baby on one of the grandparents early and get some time to yourself too 😉 Its not mean at all. I give everything to all I do. When I’m around the babies, I am hysterically their mother. When I leave them with my parents, even though its just once a year, I am the OA’s girlfriend in overdrive!
      and last – lots of hugs – you’re going to have a blast 🙂

      • ” Brings about a crazy amount of clarity as to what the essence of you is.” – This is so brilliant, you know I wanted to yap about what fun their summers look like and all, but then I read this and it bought me a moment of clarity I needed, specially today.

  16. The bean’s Taj Mahal is adorable! Definitely an artist in the making and a smart one, to be doing it from memory!

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