Thursday, April 30, 2015

Don't go by looks!

I knew from the way he asked me a question this morning, that things were juicing up for a rich, sweet conversation :)
"Amma, do you remember the day when I had only 'vadaams' the whole day, and you even called up appa and told him how worried you were because you did not know what to do because I was not wanting to eat anything else?"
(For those who don't know, 'vadaams' are like rice pappads, which I often just roast and give it to Raghav as a snack)
"No, I don't remember that at all", I told him, smiling to myself and thinking about what a long, beautiful journey it has been through these years and the rich landscape we have all traversed through it all.

"Have you written about in in your blog?", he added.
I shook my head.
"Well then I think you should.....and also about how I started eating other fruits which I never used to," he prodded.
I smiled and listened on.

"It is too late to have breakfast today....I think I will skip breakfast", he added, looking at the clock.
Oh yeah, things have changed so much! From a time when he hated looking at the clock for anything, he now has his own ways of following it :)
"Shall I make some fruit salad for you?", I asked.
"Yes, I love that now....I love almost all the fruits....I can even eat papaya plain if you cut it up and give it to me....I am now okay with that," he said.
"But how did you suddenly start liking all these fruits? Do you remember how some years ago, you stopped eating many fruits that you used to eat before? And then suddenly some weeks ago, after never tasting pomegranate before, you suddenly wanted to taste it! How did that happen?," I asked.
"Yes, I remember...I don't know why I stopped eating them.....but I know how I started you remember the day when you made 'noughts and crosses' pizza in a different way by mistake and I refused to eat it because of the way it looked.....and then you asked me to try it out even if it looked different....and see for myself if it tasted the same? In the beginning I was angry that it was not the way I wanted it to be.....but then later I decided on my own not to go by the way it looked....and so I tried it....and then I realised that it tasted the same! Right from that day, I knew that I should not go by looks but by the taste," he said.
And I smiled. I knew I was speaking to a little person who had to live his truth. I remember how many times I had told him the very same thing - to not go by looks. But I didn't know then that it had to emerge from within him. I also know as I share this, that knowing and understanding this in this instance, does not mean that he will apply it to many other things in his life. To feel that he has to, is my opinion. And I am clear that I don't want to force my opinions on him. That too has to emerge in its own time from within. And all I can do is to wait and watch that beautiful unfolding to happen, if it does, and whatever that is, on its own.

Anger, Forgiveness and Compassion

A few days ago, Raghav asked me what compassion meant, and I told him how I didn't know and was still figuring it out for myself. That word has been on my mind ever since, flitting in and out like a butterfly, as I watched it come and go. And I was reminded of a beautiful para that I read a few days ago, on the website of a learning space, that stayed with me just like this little 'butterfly-word' - 'compassion'. :)
"A child sees a butterfly sitting on a leaf for the first time in her life. Her own thinking powers are being exercised at a pace comfortable to her. She is absorbing the shape, the colours, the patterns on the wings and so many more things that we cannot even imagine any more, as conditioned adults. The child is thoroughly fascinated by the butterfly. The next time she sees another butterfly she notices the same things and, perhaps, a few more new things. She might notice that this creature is so much like the one she saw some days ago. She might notice that this, too, has the same pattern on its two wings, yet it is a different pattern to the one on her last butterfly, and so on… Over time she sees more of these creatures. She continues to make her own observations, comparisons, and she begins to draw certain conclusions.

This is a deeply satisfying experience for every learner. We, as adults, need to be careful that we do not deny children these very valuable experiences and, thereby, limit their perspectives as our own have been limited by teachers who taught us too many facts too soon in our lives."
And I was quietly happy that I did not interfere with his own learning process by feeding him ideas of what I thought 'compassion' was, which would have anyways been only second-hand knowledge. I also for the first time realised perhaps that there was probably something happening inside him, which he could also not perhaps express in words, and I saw how I was happy to stay with that experience of not knowing, and enjoy the deepening mystery of my own and his inner world.
Sometime ago, we had one of Raghav's friends over for the day, for a play date. Raghav has a few deep friendships and this was one of them. It has been beautiful for me to watch the unfolding of these relationships, and the understanding that has deepened in both over time. So yes, these two were having great fun playing with each other after a long time, until of course they were having a squabble.

I was busy doing something, when I heard a few screams from the bedroom, where they were playing 'hot' and 'cold'. It is a game where each one takes turns to hide an object, and gives the other the word clues - 'hot' and 'cold' to figure out whether one is near the hidden object or far away from it. I went in to see that Raghav was flat on his stomach on the bed, and his friend was pulling him holding on to his legs, and dragging him across the bed. I thought Raghav was screaming helplessly and asked his friend to stop what he was doing. Raghav then told me that he didn't like what his friend was doing to him, but felt powerless and could not do anything. I asked his friend why he was pulling Raghav like that. He immediately pouted his lips, his eyes welling up, took Raghav by his hands, held them tight and punched him on his hands with his fist. I stopped him by grabbing hold of his hand, and told him sternly that he could not do that. I also told him :"You seem to be very angry and it seems like you really want to show your anger. But you cannot hurt another to show your anger. Please use your words to tell him how angry you are."

He stopped what he was doing and told me how he was feeling."Raghav hid it in a very difficult place. It was too difficult. I could not find it all. That is why I am angry," he said. My heart went out to him. I was torn between my son and his friend. I could see how the anger was making my son feel powerless, and I could see how his friend was so angry, and how I could not find a safe container for that anger, simply because I was not okay with it deep inside and wanted it to go away or change. I waited until Raghav was ready to express to his friend how he was feeling because of this behaviour. And then, we all decided to step aside from each other for a while and cool off a bit.

Later, I was telling both of them how I felt that they seemed to have a lot of energy that was perhaps coming out as anger, and asked if they would like to go down and use up that energy by playing in the park. Raghav did not want to go. "Well, both you seem to be getting irritated and angry very quickly now, and I am worried if I will be able to handle it again. It has been too much for me today to deal with this anger that has been coming up again and again," I shared with the two boys. Immediately, his friend said that if it was a problem for me, then he would do push-ups now and expend his energy. I was amused and touched by his care and concern. "It is my problem, not yours. I am finding it difficult to handle the anger. You don't have to do anything. I have to figure it out for myself," I told him. I really wanted to make space inside to hold this anger, but also felt helpless that I couldn't. They of course got back to playing with each other again quite soon, as if nothing had happened. And I was sure I did not want to give my son a lecture on bullying and violence or compassion and forgiveness. I wanted him to form his own ideas about them. Perhaps then, he would not hold on too tightly to them or use them as a filter through which he could see the world. Perhaps then he would know how to listen to and watch and learn from the 'butterflies'.

The following day, I asked Raghav if he had felt like hitting his friend back when he had punched him. I guess I was wondering if there were other possibilities....other ways of seeing and dealing with what had happened. And this is what my son said: "No....I didn't feel like hitting him. I don't think I will ever hit him, even if I am angry and even if he does it again. I just don't feel like doing that. I don't know why."

And there were those words, flitting around like little butterflies inside my head again....'anger', 'forgiveness', 'compassion'...maybe some day I will be able to notice the intricate patterns and the ethereal beauty of these 'butterflies', when I am still and they come and sit with me on my drooping shoulder and whisper their secrets in my ears.....

Tuesday, April 28, 2015

Seeing Reality Through The Eyes of a Child

There were some questions bubbling inside me, which I wanted to ask and share with Raghav today, just to find out his perspective, and open my eyes out to other ways of seeing.

I was talking to him about the earthquake in Nepal and how many people had died and how many things were simply just rubble now. And then, I asked him what he felt about it, and what he had to say. Here is what he said:

"Yes, it is sad that so many people died and so much was destroyed. It is weird that so many earthquakes happen here in India. But earthquakes have to happen. That is what makes the Himalayas grow. That is what helps reshape the land. So if you look at the Himalayas maybe a few hundred years later, it would look very different. It would have changed. Things will probably change a lot near the area where the two plates meet, but maybe not so much far away from it."

The other question I had in mind was this:
"The other day you wanted to go with Armaan out to eat lunch. If I had told you then, that there are so many children and people who are so poor that they don't have even one little meal to eat in one day, what would you have done? Would you still want to go? What or how do you think you would have felt or thought?"

Here is what he said:

"I would have still gone, because I love eating out. Yes there are people like that who are poor and don't have food, but they can get money somehow."

Me: "How can they get money when they are poor?"

R: "Well, they can perhaps find some work to do or beg...."

Me: "Would you want them to beg?"

R: "Yes, that is one way..... like at the traffic signal we see so many people who do that,
and only because there are people who beg, are there people who can be kind and give them money. Some people may not give them money, but some people might. But there might also be people who dress up like beggars, even when they already have a lot of money, because they are greedy and want more. You will never know no? Do you think there might be people like that?"

Me: "Maybe. I don't know. But how did you think of this?"

R: "Well, that's just something I thought of....that's my opinion."

This conversation stirred up something inside and left me exposed and vulnerable. I saw how deeply entrenched I was in ideas and concepts about poverty and begging and kindness and compassion and right and wrong. I sat with those thoughts and feelings until I felt ready inside to share this with the world. It wasn't easy for me as a mother to listen to this from my child. It wasn't easy because I realised what 'fixed' notions I had about these things and so I was seeing my child through that filter. What he said, threw away that filter from before my eyes, and then I was in a space, with more spaciousness and freedom, to share this vulnerably.

Today, I am happy that when he asked me a few days ago, I couldn't answer his question "what is compassion?", and was able to tell him that I simply didn't know yet and that I too was wanting to find that out. And that I didn't feed him with someone else's idea of what that was. 
Today, I am happy that in spite of all the 'wrongs' we did with him, there was something larger than all of that which had a 'rightness' to it. 
Today, I am happy to have set him free, as I set myself free yet again from this tethered world.

So how would you see my son and his words right now?
Would you see this as an expression of 'insensitivity', 'compassion', 'ignorance', 'arrogance', 'immaturity', 'maturity', 'humility' or 'loving what is'?
Would you be able to watch yourself and your feelings and thoughts, as those words came and 'pierced' or 'rested' in your being?
And would you open yourself up to sharing those with me?

Tuesday, April 21, 2015

I Have to Show My Anger

Two days ago, Raghav and A were playing together, after their first experience of a sleepover. Raghav had built one of the characters from the movie 'Planes' with Lego and A had taken off a few pieces from it for something, unknowingly. Raghav was very upset about that. It was a special plane and he did not want it broken.

He somehow could not say what he felt to A and so wanted me to tell A that, which I did.
"But I didn't know," said A
And I went back and shared that with Raghav. But it didn't help.

He said that he was still angry and that if A had broken his special plane, he was going to break the ship that A had built. I told him how I could understand that he was filled with anger about what had happened, but was wondering what he would achieve by breaking that ship. He agreed that he would not achieve anything, but that he wanted to do it. Just then, I had to leave him and the conversation midway, as I had to attend to someone who had just come home.

While I was away, I did not know what happened. When I got back, Raghav was sitting in the bedroom, and was sitting on the bed covering himself with his sheet, not wanting to see or talk to anybody. Meanwhile, A decided he would look for those pieces for him, found them and gave them to him. But Raghav was not in a space to even acknowledge that or even receive that. They parted ways for the day, without saying their byes happily to each other. And I too crashed early that night, too tired to listen to or talk to him about anything.

The next morning, I started up a conversation with Raghav about what had happened. He shared with me how he had in fact broken a part of the ship, and that he had not told A before, that the plane was special to him and that he should not touch it or break it. I pointed to him as to how A would not have known because he was not informed of all this. He agreed and came up with the idea of telling him what he could touch or not, from the next time.

"But did you break his ship like you wanted to?", I asked.

"Yes. I did," he said. And I fell apart a little. I did not expect that from him. I had thought that my conversation with him would have had some effect. I felt responsible for his 'meanness'. "Did you feel any better after you did that?", I asked. He said that he didn't. And like a 'good mother', I told him how I felt about what he did and how I did not like him taking 'revenge' like that. I shared with him how I too used to get so angry earlier with him. And how it always made me feel terrible inside later.

"Why did you get angry with me? Tell me more about it," he asked me. And so I told him how helpless I felt when none of the ways I had thought of had worked with him. How my anger simply reflected my fear of losing control. How I was scared of the future - how he would turn out. How I was scared that if I didn't control him then, I would never be able to control him.

"And how did you deal with your fears?", he said hugging me and kissing me.
"All that I know that I did was to face them...see them in the eye.....and know and understand which fear was ruling my mind.....after running away from them for years", I said. "Most often when we get angry, I think we are ruled by our fears," I added. "Maybe you could think about what you were scared about when you got angry," I said.
"I think I was scared because I could not remember how to build it again, and I wanted to because I did not like it broken," he said.
And we discussed ways he could try and recall how to build it, before the conversation drifted off elsewhere.

After a conversation with a friend, I realised even more clearly as to how I had responded to his anger from a space of not being okay with it and judging him and myself for that. I also wanted to find out from Raghav what he felt he had got when he broke his friend's ship and why he wanted to break it. And so I went back to him and asked him. This is what he said:
"I wanted to break his ship because I wanted to show him how angry I was and I could not think of a better way to show it."
Me: "So does that mean that if you found a better way of showing him how angry you were, you would not have done that?"
R: "Maybe.....but I also think that I could not have shown my anger in any other way....sometimes, you can't help can't control your anger."
Me: "What did you think you would get when you broke it? And did you finally get what you wanted?"
R: "I only wanted to show my anger. I didn't want anything else. I didn't get anything by breaking it."
Me: "So what do you think you would do the next time? Would you do the same thing or try something different?"
R: "Try something else maybe......but maybe not. Because sometimes you just can't help it....I have to show my anger."

This incident and the conversation left me with many questions...
  • Why is anger such a mistreated emotion, which is almost treated like an be done away with?
  • Can I make space to hold anger in myself and the other? By making space I mean getting comfortable with it......just like being with noise instead of running away and seeking out silence?
  • As a mother and a fellow human being, can I see and stay with another's 'meanness' instead of putting it down as something that needs to be changed or fixed according to my idea of what is not 'mean'?
  • When we are sad we cry and even wail sometimes, when we are happy or excited we laugh out loud and even scream sometimes, but when we are angry, we are not allowed to show it in a way we want to (without physically harming another person).....why? 
  • Why do we have this idea in our heads that anger harms? Is there another way of seeing anger?
  • Why do we look for moderation in everything, including emotions, and yet use the metaphor of emotions being like the waves in the ocean? Well waves can be wild and tempestuous too, not only gentle and cavorting isn't it?
  • Why do we want to control everything? Is it because we are too scared of losing control?

Sunday, April 19, 2015

Physical Self Assessment

Some conversations from this morning....

R: Why is it that when I play darts, I rarely get to hit the target, how much ever I try? But when I am just casually throwing something, I most often hit my target?

Me: Why do you think it is so?

R: Maybe because when I am playing darts, I think too much about the target and wanting to win or score points. But when I am just casually throwing something, like my clothes into the washing machine, I most often don't miss the target because I am not thinking about it so much.


R: Why is it that usually young people are more agile than old people?

Me: I guess due to a lot of reasons like age, lack of exercise, etc...But what do you think agility is?

R: Agility is when you can do some good tricks with your body....when it is the acrobats and Ussain Bolt and the circus people.

Me: So do you think you are agile?

R: Yes. In some ways.....I can run fast, I can gallop, I can do my own cartwheel.....but I cannot also run fast through bends.....I don't know why. But I can gallop. I don't know why, but I think galloping is a more efficient way of moving than running. When I gallop, I can go fast and use less energy, I can stop and start easily and I can do it for a longer time than I can run. I don't run out of breath so fast.

Me: Ok. But what is efficiency?

R: Efficiency is when something is a car or a machine...when it keeps resources for a longer time, like the lava bucket in Minecraft doesn't run out so easily when you put it into furnaces.........and it is also about when you lose less energy when you are running, then it is more efficient.....also if you can stop as easily as you can start.

And for me it was simply this.....

“I met a boy whose eyes showed me that the past, present and future were all the same thing.”
Jennifer Elisabeth

Wednesday, April 15, 2015 look!

Yesterday we were at the 'Shell Museum' and small aquarium at Mahabalipuram, with our friend and his son. While they were still engrossed in the shells, Raghav, who was more interested in the aquarium and feeding the fish, pulled me away there.

He was amazed at the 'collection', and was going 'wow' every few minutes, as he moved from one tank to another, admiring each fish's colours, shape and mannerisms, and talking to them like to his friends, while stretching out his palms and fingers against the glass. He was beaming from ear to ear, imagining them trying to suck his fingers and nibbling at them :)

While I enjoyed watching him and his interactions, I was filled with sadness as I thought of what limited freedom they must be enjoying, stuck up in a little rectangular space to call home, when they ought to be 'free' in the oceans and rivers where they really belonged. And I shared my sadness with him, and how that was a reason why I disliked zoos and aquariums.

These were some of the thoughts that flowed through....
  • Zoos and aquariums confine animals/creatures to small spaces, where their freedom is limited.
  • But through the sacrifice of this one creature for each species, if the majority of humans are able to understand them and want to take care of them and protect them, then is it okay to have them?
  • Maybe we need animal communicators to go back and talk to them and tell us what to do and how to do it
  • Everything rests in our seeing....what we can see and how much we can see, now. So there are no right and wrong ways of seeing, but just different kinds of seeing.
"Yes, I know how they must feel or how they would want a bigger space. I too feel that way. But now look...look at them beautiful they are!", he said with his whole body lighting up. And I wondered to myself, how simple and beautiful the 'now' is, if only we learn to be open to it fully. Yes, I do need to see all points of view, look through all the windows that I possibly can, and then, when I have explored that fully and honestly (to myself), the present unfolds in all its glory and it did for me through the words of my son.

' look..." is all that I need to do in any given moment. For that is all I have.

Sunday, April 12, 2015

Mistakes - that's how we learn what we already know

Yesterday, I was continuing the conversation I had had with Raghav the other day, about how babies learn. He had mentioned how he thought that babies learned from their mistakes, and not so much from their successes. Here was the conversation that ensued....

Me: So what do you think 'mistakes' are? When and why would you call or think of something as a mistake?

R: I think a mistake is when you do something which you think is not right.

Me: Ok. So when you think that something is not right, that means that you know or have an idea of what IS right no?

R: Yeah. You know what is right. So when you make a mistake you know that it is not right.

Me: Ok. So what is this 'right' that you are talking about? What makes you feel that something is right? Can you give me an example? Like say get very angry, frustrated or irritated when you try and write something....and you start screaming saying that that's not the way you wanted it to look, or that that is not right.

R: Yes. It is how I feel about something, or what I think about something. That it should be or look a certain way.

Me: So that is an 'opinion' right? Your opinion of how something should be or not be? Or is it that someone else told you that this is how it should look?

R: Yeah.

Me: Ok (writing the alphabet L cursive) See, what alphabet does this look like?

R: I don't know.

Me: It is an 'L' to me.

R: That does not look like an 'L' to me. (and then writes an 'L' for me like the turned handle of an umbrella) This is what 'L' is.

Me: But that looks like a half written 'U' or a 'C' to me. So see, the same thing looks different to both of us. What would happen if a person who did not know English at all came and saw this?

R: Yes. When I think of 'L', I think of it like this. He would probably not even know that it is an 'L'!

Me: So when you get irritated or upset when you are writing 'L', is it because you know what it should look like to you, but it does not come out that way when you write? And so you call it a mistake?

R: Yes. A mistake is when you do something that you didn't mean to do.

Me: Does that mean that you make a mistake when you are not thinking, or that it was something like an accident?

R: Yes.

Me: So how would you explain how babies learn by making mistakes?

R: Because they learn by trial and error. They explore things around them, make mistakes and learn.

Me: So when you said that babies learn through making mistakes, are you saying that they know what is a mistake? And if they know what is wrong, then that would mean that they already know what is right, isn't it? How do you think they would know that?

R:  I think they learn through trial and error. Like they learn to walk by first crawling around and then sitting up and then trying to stand up and then they fall down and they stand up and fall many times, before they get it right....I think they already know what walking is, and when they see their appa and amma walking around, then maybe they try to do the same thing until they get it right.

Me: Ok. So how would they learn how to speak in the same way through mistakes?

R: I think as soon as they are born, they hear all the sounds around them.....they hear people talking and all....and all those sounds go in through their ears. But in the beginning, they can't make those sounds, even though they know what they are. Then they keep trying and trying until they finally get it right.

Me: So you are saying that they keep trying till they match the sound that they make with what they have already heard or know?

R: Yes. Something like that. That is what I think.

Me: Ok. So what you call a 'mistake' is an attempt to get this 'matching' right?

R: Yes.

Me: So you are saying that they learn by 'seeing' or 'hearing'. But then what would happen to babies who are blind or deaf? How would they learn?

R: They are not born deaf and blind no? It happens later sometime to them?

Me: No, blindness and deafness can occur at birth. They can be born with that.

R: Oh! Then that would make it more complicated. But they can still learn. But I don't know how.

And then today, my sister called on skype in the afternoon. To me, it seemed like Life's way of completing this part of the conversation, and validating his thoughts in a way. Because my sister told him similar things!

I was telling him how his little brother was now making so many sounds and babbling. "Oh my! A can now make sounds to get her attention? And to ask for things that he wants?", he had said to me just a little before she called.

Raghav was all excited to see his little brother making sounds and babbling away. "He is talking so much!", he said, absolutely fascinated with what he was seeing and hearing.

"Yes, I heard what you had said about how babies learn. I think you are right you know... A learns by trial and error, by making mistakes all the time. Like now, he is crawling all over the place....yesterday he tried to go under the table, and bumped himself, and then kept trying and trying," my sister said to him.

So yes, my son gave me a few insights into what he thought was learning, and how we learn. Things that in a way flipped what I had learned about child development on its head, where the emphasis seemed to be more on success or a 'positive response' to what a baby did that facilitated learning, rather than a baby's 'failed' attempts to match or ratify what he already knew.

This conversation left me with so many questions and thoughts....and a heart that was opened a little more to love....a love for Life and its beautiful ways of bringing precious messages to us, time and again.

Perhaps 'mistakes' are how we learn what we already know.

Saturday, April 11, 2015

On Opinions

I was getting the water ready for Raghav's bath this morning. And like he usually does, he relieved himself, washed his hands and went off to dry them out with a towel. And like I usually do, I asked him why he would want to do that, when he was anyway going to wet his whole body, including his hands, just a few seconds later, when he was going to have a bath! Usually, he would just smile to me and not even consider answering my question. Well, today he obliged!

Here is yet another priceless conversation we had, and of course while he was sitting in his tub of water....where he usually gives his morning durbar! :)

"I just like to do it that way!", he replied with a smile.

"Does that mean you can do whatever you like just because you like doing it that way?", I joked.

He of course smiled and answered me very seriously.

" is not bothering yes, I can do it because I like doing it this way," he said.

Me: "So as long as it doesn't bother you, you can do whatever you that what you are saying? But what if that bothers me?"

R: "Well, if it bothers you, then it is your problem!"

Me: "Does that mean I can do anything I want to, as long as it does not bother me? Like say killing someone or hurting someone..."

R: "No....not things like killing, punching someone, and all that kind of stuff....but getting angry, long as it does not bother me."

Me: "So what makes you think that killing or hitting someone or hurting them physically is not what you can do?"

R: "I don't know. That's just my opinion."

Me (surprised that he used that word): "What is an opinion?"

R: "It is what you think or feel about something."

Me: "So you think or feel that hurting someone physically is something that should not be done?"

R: "Yes...that is my opinion. We all have opinions on things no?"

Me: " how do you think having an opinion helps, or doesn't help?"

R (after some thought) : "I don't know. I don't know how they help us. But when we have different opinions, and we want to change the other person's opinion, it usually leads to an argument."

Me: "How? Can you give an example?"

R: "Like for example if I think that the earth is round, and you think the earth is flat, we each have an opinion about how the earth is....and when I feel that what you are thinking is wrong and want to change that, it leads to an argument....because our opinions are different."

His words left me quite stunned and defenseless. Later however, I went up to him and asked him where he had heard this word, how he had discovered its meaning, and how he had figured out all this about opinions, and this is what he shared with me:
"Well, I have heard Blitzwinger use it in so many of his videos in MineCraft. I figured out the meaning on my own. He keeps saying 'if you have an opinion, please leave it in the comments section', which I never do! The rest, I just figured out on my own. I just know.....and I don't know how."

When and how does learning happen?

More than a year ago (may even be more), Raghav came up with this desire of wanting to share what he had gleaned and learned about the planets, the solar system, and the earth, with his friends and other interested adults (age no bar!), in the form of a talk. We discussed many ideas and he finally decided that he wanted to do a PowerPoint presentation with pictures, videos etc. included in it, besides some other things like a model etc.

I was very excited with the idea, and realised quite soon that the reason for my excitement was also because my mind finally had something to do! Yes, it loved organising and planning and would have so much to do while helping him build and create his talk! :) Unfortunately, the excitement was short-lived. :(

Well, I remember how I was telling him how it was important to decide on a time and place for the talk and get down to working on the presentation, maybe doing a little bit everyday. While he agreed to all that, I also remember what he said to me that day.....something which I had never thought of in this way, despite having made and having listened to so many presentations before!

He asked me how he could or would be able to include all the things that he would have learned in the 'in-between' time.....i.e. between the time he had finished creating the presentation and the time when he was actually standing there and sharing it all with his friends. What would happen to the learning in between and even as he was sharing with the others? How would he be able to share all of that, if he just went by his presentation and that predetermined content? That was his question, asked of course in his own simple words.

And I realised then how and when learning happens, and how so many of the tools that we use with the pretext of aiding learning or evaluating it, actually aim to 'freeze' learning in space and time....when in reality, learning is dynamic and is flowing all the time....and is uncontrollable, often intangible, unquantifiable and unstoppable...

And by the way, just to share this with all of you, he is still planning and still hasn't 'given' that talk:)

Thursday, April 9, 2015

How Do Babies Learn?

Ever since my sister and her family left a few months ago, after a few weeks of being here with us, Raghav has had this fascination for babies and how they learn. For the first time, he showed a keen interest in babies, read up a little before they arrived, and absolutely enjoyed playing with his three month old little brother while he was here. And after that, off and on, he has been talking about baby-related stuff and expressing a desire to visit them soon.

Yesterday, while driving back home, he once again told me how he was waiting to see A and how excited he was to know that he was now crawling around. What followed was yet another interesting conversation about babies.....

R: " I can't wait to see A.....he must have grown so much already.....he must be now moving around on his own....what fun! I can't wait for him to start speaking! When do babies speak? When they are about one year old no?....I can't wait to hear his voice! I wonder what it will sound like!"

I must say that I have also had a fascination for babies and how they learn, but I have never thought about hearing what their 'voice would sound like'! What he said reflected pure, child-like wonder that is so beautiful in its simplicity.

And then out popped this question from him:
"How do babies learn? Does it all come from their genes? How do they babble and then speak? How do they learn that?"

Me: "I think it is partly to do with genes, and partly to do with the environment. They start with exploring their bodies, their tongue, mouth etc. and then the people around them respond to that, give meaning to that, which affects what the baby does the next time, and the next and so on. How do you think they learn?"

R: "I think they learn by making mistakes. They explore their environment and while exploring, they make mistakes, and that tells them what to do or not to do the next time. Like for example, if a baby crawls around and bumps into a chair or a wall, then by bumping his head and getting hurt, he comes to know that if he crawls like that, he will get hurt, or that it will make him feel that way the next time he will be careful, or change the way he moves...or he learns that he should not do something."

Me: "So you feel that mistakes are important, because they help us learn?"

R: "Yes."

Me (smiling): "Then why is it that you get so upset when you make a mistake? Like when you try and write something and it does not come out the way you want it to.....why do you get upset? Isn't that how you will also learn?"

R (smiling): "Yes....I don't know....maybe it's because with babies it is different...and when you become big like I am, it's different...."

And he went on to talk about a video he had recently watched, which spoke about the speed with which our brains react to something from outside.... :)