Thursday, February 02, 2006

A Lesson in Letting Go

My parents' homeowners' association was having its annual Republic Day celebrations late last month and my parents wanted my son to perform something on stage. He had played his keyboard on the last two occasions and neither my son nor myself was keen on another keyboard recital.

It had to be something new, but what? By the last week before the big day we still hadn't decided. I was dragging my feet, as usual.

A couple of days before the function, I was at my parents' house and my dad said, "He's doing his speeches well, just make sure he practices some more."

"What speeches?" I stared at my dad blankly.

"He said he was doing a speech on Time and another on Temples. He has all the points, he just needs to practice some more."

I was speechless. I said I hadn't prepared him. I did not even know that he had thought about what he was going to do. Now it was my parents' turn to stare at me.

So when we came home, and I asked him to show me how he did the speeches in front of my parents. He reeled off everything he had thought about those two topics - how the clock tells us time, and how time tells us what we need to be doing at particular points during the day, how temples are decorated with elephants, and how people make temples very dirty by dropping things on the floor (that's his pet peeve about temples), etc.

The whole thing was just so cool.

I noticed, however, that everytime he recited his speech, the content changed. He would add stuff, he would omit stuff, he would just go off on a tangent (the prasada is too sweet and eating too many sweet things is not good for you, etc.). This was making me uncomfortable. If he did not learn them by rote, he would forget. What if he tried to make up something and he blanked out?

So I decided to teach him that skit about the hole in the bucket, that staple from school annual day functions. He got the story the first time I recited it and after a few practice sessions, he did it pretty well and was good-natured about learning something new on short notice.

But I could see that he was excited about his speeches. Everytime we talked about the function, it was his speeches he brought up. It was his baby.

I was torn between letting him do what he was excited about and making him perform something I was sure he would get right. So I decided to let go and gave him the choice. He went with the speeches, although, I have to tell you, not before agonizing a little bit about making me unhappy if he chose the speeches over my skit.

On the big day, he went up the the stage when his name was announced, grabbed the mike and started off. And what my parents and I heard that day was completely different than what we had heard before.

But he had fun. And I couldn't be happier. He came up with a plan and he executed it, pretty much all on his own. He wasn't afraid of going up there and goofing up.

And, he's promised me, the next time there's a function, he would do the "hole in the bucket" routine.

P.S. He just doesn't like the prasada, and so that it is sweet is just his excuse. He loves chocolate and ice cream, on the other hand.


Anonymous said...

Sujatha, it is great that your son went ahead with the speeches he had made up... at home, in schools, everywhere, we teach children what to say and how to think.. just so they think in a "regulated" manner... when children are given a free hand, they often come up with astonishing suff, their imagination is unstifled and free, unlike that of adults..
letting him do what he wanted to was a good decision (I guess also tough since there is a possibility he may have clammed up on stage after all the rehearsal at home!)

Anonymous said...

I agree with Charu ... it's so cool that he went up there and actually did something extempore. Not just kids, but all of us as adults are so terrified of letting go of practiced patterns ...

I'm sure you felt great watching him up there doing his own thing!

Sujatha Bagal said...

Charu and Anjali, thank you for your comments. It does feel great now (although my heart was in my mouth all evening).

M, thanks! :))

Sujatha Bagal said...

Quite a possibility MG. I never knew 5 year olds could talk as much as he does (may be he gets it from me. If you ask V, he would first describe me as a talker and then go on to my other sterling qualities :))). But right now, the things on his list are race-car driver, pilot, astronaut.

Zette Remi said...

So cute! How old is your son? That was very brave of you - letting go :-)

Sujatha Bagal said...

..., thanks! He's now 5 and 1/2.

Chitra said...

Ha ha loved the spontaneity, Sujatha !! Blogrolling you :) !

Sujatha Bagal said...

Thanks Chitra. Welcome to my blog.

Ananth said...

Lovely... :)I know the comment is too late but the content is timeless..