Summer of 2003
Children in the city are burdened with the parental pressure to attend several summer programmes simultaneously. Vacation, for kids, is all work and no play...
Come summer, and parents are often at their wits end, trying to conjure up activities to keep their children occupied.
`Summer' once meant ice cream, story sessions and playing in the sun.
With the advent of Cartoon TV and Nickelodeon, parents have begun to scour the advertisements to zero in on the most suitable way to add some zing to the child's life. Lazy summer holidays seem to be out. Instead, the two-month long summer vacation has, over the past few years, come to mean activities such as roller skating, swimming, basketball, clay modelling, painting and soft toy making.
Kids in the city spend most of their time scurrying between various summer camps, personality development workshops and spoken English classes: all designed to make your child the neighbour's envy!
"I love being at the summer camp. I enjoy the dance, light music and painting classes. I also attend my spoken English classes and study Hindi at home. My dad wants me to improve my English," says nine-year-old S. Ravisha, a student of Carmel Girls School.
Her friend R. Devi nods in agreement and adds, "We're having fun, it's a break from studies."
Send the kid to more than one of these summer camps and you'd become poorer by well over a few thousand rupees.
The Jawahar Bal Bhavan is running almost 26 such workshops this summer. "We have the advantage of possessing a sprawling campus with a lot of classrooms," says M. Nandakumar, administrative officer of the institution. "Parents come in droves and there is a deluge of applications. Most of the children who join our courses do so on their own will. In some cases, parents force children to opt for a particular workshop, regardless of the child's aptitude."
Psychologist Dr. Arvind Thampi attempts to explain why the craze for summer camps is taking on ridiculous proportions: "Parents in most nuclear families are employed and are unable to devote adequate time to the child."
Those parents who have little `quality time' to spare, tend to `dump' the kids at one of the camps, employ a maid to pick them up and drop them off at another camp. "Some parents attempt to mould the child according to their own unfulfilled wishes," observes Dr. Thampi.
Intense emotional and social pressures to raise a `tres perfect' child and be a `perfect' parent is what drives some to enrol the child at more summer classes than the child can handle. Six-year-old Noel Mathew (name changed) laments, "School has closed but there's no time to play; the camp is like another school. I wish I could just laze around and watch TV. I'm bored with these classes."
Noel's parents are employed and his grandmother "is too old to play" with him.
`Boredom' is fast finding a place in the child's vocabulary, even though s/he may not understand what the term means. Each time the child howls, "I'm bored!", frazzled parents try to placate the child with promises of chocolates and video games.
In certain cases, parents use the child's achievements as the yardstick to evaluate their own worth. But this is not always the reason why parents send children to such camps.
As T. Balakrishnan, Tourism secretary, reasons: "I send both my sons for swimming classes. It's a good exercise for them. Moreover, it'd be a break from sitting glued to the TV and watching cartoons till night."
Dr. Yamini Ganesh, is quick to point out why she chose to enrol her child on summer courses, "I'm busy with my hospital duty, so I am unable to be around my son, Aditya, all the time. He wants to learn swimming; it's the best way to beat the heat. I've discontinued his roller skating classes because the classes weren't good enough."
Dr. Suma Mathew has enrolled her sons, Dylan and Alan, at swimming classes (at Akkulam) and drawing classes (at Kalagramam). This, she explains, is a good way to keep the kids occupied. "I thought it'd give them the opportunity to learn something they are interested in," adds Suma.
The demand for art classes has led many an institution such as Chitrakalamandalam to conduct such classes for children of various age groups. The little ones have to be content with crayons and colour pencils, while the school goers can graduate from watercolour to oil and Indian ink paintings. Five-year-old Amreen is sent to a summer camp because her mother firmly believes it would help the child overcome her shyness. "I felt mingling with kids of the different age groups and social strata would do her good. She is fussy about cleanliness, so I've enrolled her on a clay modelling course," explains advocate Sheeba Jaffer, Amreen's mother. Back from one such jaunt, young Andrew Trow gushes, "I like dancing and have made new friends here."
His mother, Anita, says, "In a few weeks, we'll go back to Dubai when his school re-opens. Until then, it's fun time at the camp."
However, not all parents are happy with the `quality' of these summer camps. "I wanted to send Aditya to a trekking camp, but couldn't find one. Since he loves to read, we picked up a few books from the library. He wants to learn cricket, but there aren't any camps for kids," says Archana Arun.
Some parents too have are having a whale of a time at these summer camps. George Jacob, a former teacher in the Republic of South Africa, says, "I take my son to his swimming classes. The authorities told me I could also join in. It's now doing wonders on my health."
Parents always want the best for their child. At times, the desire to provide the best results in cramping the child's space to learn and grow. Parents who fill the spare time with too many summer camps could spare a thought to the child, lest these camps for summer pleasure turn into one of `summer pressure'.
Photo: S. Gopakumar
Graphics: C. R. Sasikumar
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