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Enjoying the 'small joys' of the past with Gen Z in lockdown

The lockdown has introduced children to simpler things such as a game of hopscotch, long afternoons spent devouring books, and homemade pizza

Life under lockdown has led Gen Z to discover children's games from another era, like hopscotch.
Life under lockdown has led Gen Z to discover children's games from another era, like hopscotch. (iStockPhoto)

Having grown up in an India of fewer privileges, most parents today tend to romanticize the simpler days of their childhood. It has been my experience that the generation of ‘too much’ cannot fathom how a childhood spent without the internet, fancy gadgets, on-demand entertainment and shopping malls could be a happy one.

I have seen my children look at me with sympathy when I tell them that my summer holidays were spent reading books and swimming with my friends, and that travel or television was only a very small part of these. They are unable to comprehend the joys of playtime that only ever involved board games, the thrill of going over your stamp collection over a languid summer afternoon, and the delicious anticipation of a homemade pizza.

Earlier this year, during one of our bedtime conversations, my younger one told me that she imagined my childhood in black-and-white. To add insult to injury, my older one asked me in jest if we had electricity in our homes back then.

I told them that although the wheel had just been invented, we were still banging stones for light, much like the Flintstones.

They decided to laugh it off with a parting chorus about the spectacular deprivation of a childhood spent without technology.

Not one to let it go easily, I boastfully informed my children that in the absence of mobile phones and multiple television channels, we played outdoor games with our friends which made our friendships far more stronger than sending streaks on Snapchat ever could.

And this is how most of these conversations end between the kids and me, with them feeling mournful for my childhood and me lamenting that their generation will never truly know the importance of ‘small joys’. As parents of Gen Z kids, we can all agree that the thrill we experienced whenever a new ice-cream flavour was introduced, a new kids’ cartoon got beamed into our living rooms or when Benetton first opened in India, will never be felt by the ones who are swamped in a sea of thrills so many, that not one of them really counts.

We held onto stationery and clothes brought by our parents from trips overseas like they were rare treasures we wanted to carry to our graves. Gen Z only has to turn to Amazon or go to the nearest mall to buy the latest, and the gratification from that purchase lasts only as long as it takes to chomp down a burger from McDonalds.

Also, unlike our generation, most of our children living in concrete cities of today are estranged from nature. I have often despaired that no amount of exposure to forests or national parks has been able to imbue them with a sense of awe for the cosmic miracle that is our planet.

But these lamentations now seem to be a thing of the past. This quarantine has introduced these kids to small pleasures and an appreciation for simpler things.

Miraculously, during this seemingly interminable stasis, they have come to enjoy the same things we used to as children - homemade pizzas, and long afternoons spent devouring books. My older one, a self-professed nature hater before corona, suddenly enjoys walking on the grass in our garden. Just yesterday she squealed with delight on spotting a rare bird chirping away from the branch of a tree there. It was a Red-vented bulbul.

From doing online school on Zoom, some amount of digital fatigue has set in for my younger one. Last week, she suggested we go outside and play. We tried a game of badminton but it ended in the dog taking off with the only shuttlecock we had on us. Still, it was fun. And then I taught her to play hopscotch, which we drew with coloured chalks on our building terrace. Aside from the fact that hopping around on a leg is not for the middle-aged—I do start panting like a dying dog every time we play it—it has become the high point of our evenings now.

There are other wonderful changes as well that I am witnessing in my children since the lockdown. We are spending more time talking to each other and playing board games in the evenings. Home cooked meals are finally being appreciated, except for the time I burnt a pizza and the other time when I put too much vodka in their pasta.

While growing up, the responsibility of grooming our dog was entirely mine. Now in the absence of a professional groomer, my younger one has taken to bathing our dogs.

The two of us even attempted giving the dog a haircut with the husband’s beard trimmer that unfortunately ended in the canine looking disfigured. That minor experiment aside, our pets are beside themselves with joy. I might have even heard them tell each other that they don’t want corona to go away anytime soon. Can’t blame them!

My older daughter is a typical teenager, who has spent the better part of the last two years socially distancing herself from her family, even without the spectre of a pandemic looming over the planet. The child who was always making plans for social outings tells me that she has started enjoying the ‘nothingness’ of staying at home with us. I never thought I would live to hear these words from her!

This will be the first summer for a lot of children, including mine, that isn’t going to include any exciting travels. I am sure this is breaking their privileged hearts but I also know that one day in the future, just like us, they will speak of these days of their childhood with sepia-tinted nostalgia. Corona has taken away a lot from humanity, but in return, it has given us some of that lost innocence back.

All things considered, this is a very faint silver lining to the large gloomy cloud of doom and disease, but one has got to learn to take what one gets and be grateful for it.

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