Bonding over paints and brushes

The boy next door had just come back to Bangalore with his family after having been in Pune for more than a year. Sanket’s family and mine have been neighbours, sharing our stories and watching each other’s highs and lows from near and far (when they had to change base on official assignment) for more than six years by now. My son, Advaita, and Sanket’s older brother, Sankalp, have been close pals since they had met during their kindergarten days and their friendship has been going strong even after two year-long interruptions. On many occasions, a child needs a play-mate her age and the love and company of the mother doesn’t really help there, I knew. Obviously, I looked forward to a friendship between my almost-four-year-old daughter Diya and Sanket, six months her senior – a bonding something similar to what their siblings shared.

Diya is a lioness at home, but beyond her doorstep she puts on a cloak of shyness, breaking out of it only with a selected few or when her mood allows her to interact well with outsiders. Also, she is strong with children weaker than her, but doesn’t try to retaliate or even protect herself when confronted with aggression from children, particularly boys, stronger than her. Sanket had been growing up as a sweet, harmless, quiet three-year-old but one and half years at Pune had metamorphosed him into a chatty, bold, strong boy with shockingly a liking for throwing blows and pulling opponent’s hair whenever things didn’t happen his way, I discovered soon to my dismay!

Me and Sanket’s mother did try to bring the two kindergartners close, a little after I realized it would continue on this note if there was no intervention from the mothers’ side, but expectedly and unfortunately Diya ended up getting hurt in the sudden fights that ensued over toys and blocks and books each time they were together. I gave up slowly on working on building a cordial relation between the two. Sanket’s mother understood and kept quiet.

Recently, when sudden intermittent spells disrupted Diya’s plans of spending the evening at the park as usual, she found herself in the company of Sanket who was too bored to shun company of girls and came to our house, eager to spend some time with Diya. The two decided to experiment with colours and so out came colouring books and paints from Diya’s cupboard, and thus began a session under my quiet but watchful eyes.

“Will you give me the red paint?”

“No.”

“Then I’ll go back to my home.”

“OK, take the red. Give me the blue.”

“OK.”

Then again after some time……..

“I want the green.”

“I want the red.”

“OK.” Sanket complied, surprisingly.

There were no arguments, no fights, no blows and no tears or cries or screams. It almost seemed unreal with two young children who couldn’t be left on their own lest one hurt the other, were actually sitting side by side, paints and paintbrushes and colouring books their companions. Junior in years they may be, but they too found out over months by trial and error what interested them both and how they could enjoy each other’s company without adult intervention. They parted almost an hour – on amicable terms!

A few bottles of coloured paints scored where two mothers failed! Next time Diya gets confined to home at odd hours and I’m too busy to attend to her and she is too bored spending time with herself, and Sanket walked in like the other day, I could allow them to be together surrounded by bottles of paints, without me wondering who between us, the mothers, would have to drop the task in hand to peep in every two minutes for checking on the kids.

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As a mother who was a working mom and met the evenings ~4 years ago with her six-year-old naughty son along with frequent complaints about his acts of mischief from mostly mothers of daughters, fussing over my little daughter who is very vulnerable to aggressive boys (what an irony!) is almost instinctive for me. But this recent episode has taught us a few things one of which is I have to learn to detach myself from her now and then, to let her learn some lessons of life on her own, as her father too insists on.

Re-published with permission from the blog of ParentEdge, a bi-monthly parenting magazine that aims to expose parents to global trends in learning and partner with them in the intellectual enrichment of their children.