A story for you: Once a guru (teacher) wanted to test his two disciples after completion of their spiritual lessons. He gave them a fruit each and asked them to eat it in a place “where no one would see them”. Off went the duo. But some time later, when they returned, one still had the fruit in hand. The other boasted:” I found the darkest of all the caves. Not even a bug could’ve seen me finish the fruit.” “And you?” enquired the master, “Why have you come back without eating the fruit?” “Sorry, sir”, the composed student replied, “I couldn’t find a place ‘where no one would see me’. You had taught us that god is everywhere. He would watch me eat the fruit, anyway.” This disciple was, of course, declared fit to proceed to the next stage of spiritual education.
Well, our question is not about the presence or absence of God. But let us find out if we take the position of ‘god’ of this story. Can the child behave the same way whether we are present or not? Or, do we need to be there, always?
The funny fact, as the old saying goes, “No one is indispensable in this world”. Not even you, not even me! Even the most affectionate pregnant woman has to cut off the physical bond at the end of the term. How well have we prepared the child for any planned absences (attending office, visiting someone outstation, going to parties…) or even unexpected ones (sudden trips, hospitalization, staying at a bereaving friend’s…)?
For the child below 4, separation from the parent is painful, unacceptable and depressing. Of course, it is natural, justified and understandable. But by planned up-bringing from day one, the child could well be prepared to handle himself in your absence.
During the first few months of birth, you could encourage him to touch and hear things that are pleasant – those which will calm him and make him feel safe: the favorite pillow support, a collection of soothing audio CDs, for example. These would take care of him for a couple of hours when you are away.
8 months upwards, the baby-sitter’s chatters or a grandparent’s lullaby could retain the young one for a longer period. You may in fact, introduce the list given below and extend the regular tactics. The child’s caretaker may –
encourage him to watch the movement of the fishes in a fish tank.
encourage him to play with your pet (if you have any).
encourage him to watch the traffic through the (safe) window.
teach him to stack not just his toy rings, but anything that you could offer him, and watch them fall after losing the balance.
help him improve his listening skills by reading small simple stories.
His bundles of toys may not interest him every time. So, the caretaker may show him to make a long queue out of them. That would keep him busy and engaged even while he learns
to place objects in order (hand-eye co-ordination)
to enjoy his sense of order (discipline).
It is most important to make these activities pleasurable. The ‘lining up’ game, I’ve observed in many children, never lets them get bored. Instead, it kindles creativity: Chances are that the little one would forget your absence if he is permitted to use the kitchen utensils, too!
All these suggestions would be successful with your own prior efforts – building trust and bonding with the child.
Never resort to bribing with goodies.
Never lie about the duration of absence or even about the absence itself.
Never show him your sense of guilt (if you feel it…)
Never absent yourself unnecessarily.
Avoid that extra dose of affection before and after the absence. It would weaken the morale of a maturing child.
If these preparations kept the child’s normal day when you were away, take this warranty: The child will grow up to be a trustworthy teenager and a responsible adult.
YOU are his guiding angel – invisibly visible.