I look back at my childhood with blissful happiness filling my heart and if I could, I wouldn’t hesitate to go back and live there again. Cornfields and a small orchard of different tropical fruits surrounded our house. During summer, the air was filled with sweet natural smells from fruits and flowers, and our ears were naturally lent to music from different insects and birds. Right next to the fields lay abundant forests, unrestrained and free. We feared the tigers, wild boards and foxes. We lost a few cattle to tigers, and corns and paddy to wild boars. It was hard work but we reaped abundant grains, vegetables and fruits. Some might think it is a life without happiness, filled only by backbreaking work. I don’t doubt my parents toiled, but in all my childhood, I did not see sadness creasing their faces. In fact, my mother told us that we were blessed to have abundant food.
As children, what is more important is a good place to grow up—with free spaces to play and run around, shout and scream all to our hearts content, soil our clothes, dig mud, jump in the muddy puddle, or play with insects, or anything natural without an adult’s interference. And that is exactly what I had as a child. I pity my daughter who is supposedly born in a better time. I sympathize with her when she laments of getting bored every single day.
I let her go to our neighbors’ house to play with their children. I take her to my friends’ house whose daughters are her friends. I take her to the park. I play with her numerous times everyday. But she sinks in boredom the minute I have to attend to something and can’t give her company. Is it really because she is accustomed to the fast images of electronic games and videos? One day, she comes back from a neighbor’s house and tells me this: “I told my friend that I will come back, but she asked me not to. Why is it mummy?”
I have to give in to her requests, but I do fear that the neighbors may not like to have her come to their houses frequently. When she sees their kids playing outside, she rushes out but her excitement gets crushed when they refuse to play with her. As a mother, I want to bring her back inside and pamper her right away, but this is how she must grow up. So I hold my heart tight and let her stay—praying that she will pick up the right social traits and she will grow up strong.
I am not boasting when I say I might be one of the many mothers who give’s a major chunk of her time to her daughter. I do. And yet, when she rolls in the boredom she says she is in, I can’t help but wish we had some free space where she could enjoy everything I did as a child.
She might have different dresses and food. She might have heard different fairy tales that I knew only when I could read myself and watched them come live without having to imagine but she still does not have what a child needs. I do not blame her for being bored. I do not blame her for getting restless.
If only I could let her grow without the fear of cars running over her, or a stranger carrying her away, she would have what I did as a child, and I could simply watch her grow. But it is a deprivation, the price today’s children pay for growing up in a town, blessed with bountiful modern gadgets.
By Kuenzang Lhadon
The author is the Deputy Chief ICT Officer at the Centre for Bhutan Studies and GNH Research. She blogs at kuenza.blogspot.com .