The holiday homework saga

Come May and Maam'ji starts dreading the holiday homework saga. It is a biannual epic in numerous acts with two main protagonists: Utpal and his Maam'ji a.k.a me! It has many props: copybooks, charts, all kinds of stationery ware and more. The two yearly performances are unpredictable and can go from dramatic to melodramatic and even tragic. It is a surprise package that the unwilling spectators - people living under my roof - are compelled to witness.

Holiday homework in Indian schools is always voluminous and sometimes quite inane making one wonder how it helps children better themselves. I am often amused at the opening paragraph of holiday homework sheets that extols the 'virtues' of holiday homework as something fun while also highlighting the importance of visiting other places. Now you are supposed to do all of it. I wonder if the teachers who plan the homework have actually sat down and done it to see how much time it takes, keeping in mind that the child on vacation and at home is not the compliant kid within the precinct of a school.

I remember one year when Utpal had to make Roman Numeral Charts from I to C with matchsticks. It was a nightmare as even I was not able to do it. We had to dip into the pwhy pool of skills to be able to finally make them. Now holiday home work looks something like this in all subjects: revised chapters X to Y;  prepare worksheets for unit test X; make x number of charts,  x number of models; do x number of experiments; write a page each day; cut newspapers articles; visit x shop and write your experience etc. Tires me even reading it and let me tell you no child under 12 can do it by himself.

This time Utpal stayed in school for a study camp and I was hoping against hope that most of the homework would have been completed in the 5 weeks camp. I even sled his academic in charge who informed me that most of it would be done. So my stress levels were lower till the day he arrived with the homework and lo and behold though he seemed to have done the revision and copy work, all the rest was waiting or me. How could our saga not be enacted in its summer 2014 version and how could my summer be complete without the homework epic.

It turned out harder than ever as this time, Utpal having come home later Agastya was already here! Last year I had been able to use the Agastya handle to push Utpal as he too wanted to be free for Agastya and version 2013 turned out to be a good stress buster for me!

Version 2014 is quite the opposite. The mercury is soaring and the heat is on in more ways than one. My nerves have been 'on test' since many months and are on edge. Utpal feels he has earned his holiday after an extra five weeks at school and he is spot on. Yet the homework looms on our head and it is a bataille royale every morning and evening. I have prepared all the material but only Utpal can write what needs to be written.

Over the years I have remarked that Utpal uses the holiday homework to test me and he does believe me. This time as we had to meet his psychiatrist as we are hoping to taper out his medication, I shared this problem with him. He just smiled and told me that this would happen as I was the only constant in his life and he needed to reassert his place in my heart. Children being clever, he had found my Achilles tendon. This would continue till he grew up in his head and felt safe without the need of having recourse to challenging behaviour. Dr G told me to find a strategy and that I could even resort to incentives if that worked. It is only when Utpal feels secure that he will stop.

Dr G went on to explain that every meaningful relationship needs to be put to the test and we constantly do so in life, often without realising it. Come to think of it this is very true and almost surreptitious.

Most of us have several meaningful family relationships whereas Utpal has just one. I will just have to play along.

So this version of the saga will be done as patiently and indulgently as possible and I hope we both survive it with a smile.