The kids had the kind of summer that I am sure I had when I was a child (my recollections are quite hazy). The kind where there is absolutely no structured activity, a lot of free play and lots of idle time, where time hangs heavy but the days just fly past, where one pigs on what one's mother generally doesn't allow (lots of chocolates, anyone?), where one can get away with a mite too much TV......get the picture? With me locked up in a room for hours and unable to moderate their activities, Ads and Y spent a large amount of very high-quality time with both sets of grandparents, visiting the beach and the park, various relatives, several temples etc. They'd spend a good hour wandering about my parent's apartment complex before breakfast everyday, armed with nothing much more than a couple of sticks and a few pebbles. Chaperoned by my father, they quickly established a routine where they would first "clean the entire complex" (my father joked), kneeling down on the ground and using their sticks as brooms. They'd then be spotted sitting on the roof of my brother's Zen, Y's high voice easily carrying upto the third floor where we live. They'd then go for a stroll around the park abutting the complex, chasing butterflies and peering at the odd leech and chameleon. The grand finale would be a ride on my dad's Scooty, with an impromptu stop at a nearby wayside temple.
At my parents-in law's home, they had the company of a few cousins (all much older and therefore better at babysitting!). Ads ran errands, went up to the terrace and plucked tons of raw green mangoes and was very proud to see them converted into pickles and patchadis. We took them to the crocodile farm in Chennai, a PC Sorcar magic show and to Kung Fu Panda 2, and really, that's all the organized stuff that we did. I look back and realize that I couldn't have given them a better summer if we had lived outside India, and if I had tried to structure "productive" activities for them. Probably I should use summer 2011 as a template for all summers to come!!
How true it is that all children need is people to talk to and interact with, a couple of books, some sheets of paper, pencils and crayons, and only the toys nature can provide them. If I needed any convincing at all about the uselessness of most of the toys and gadgets parents buy kids nowadays, the last few months would have done the trick. Even as I write this, the children are happily occupied. Ads is animatedly explaining to Y each element of a drawing he has just finished and they are having a real conversation. Ads will do some of his holiday homework, Y will potter around, they'll splash around in the pool in the evenings, ride their bikes, maybe take in Cars 2 (which I am very excited about!!) and before I know it school will resume. They'll still drive me nuts every now and then and when I try to buy some alone time, Ads will press the GUILT button by exclaiming 'But amma, your exams are over....you have to spend time with us!".