I am infamous for my love of people watching and eavesdropping. The latter may sound a bit atrocious but usually I am just listening in on a conversation happening next to me. A conversation that I am part of while still not being in it. 

Twice a week, life gives me that opportunity now. The daughter takes a swim lesson and I have a full 30 mins to watch her swim from behind glass windows, while watching over a toddler and eavesdropping into conversations happening around me. Earlier this month, three moms were discussing going “back to school”. Two of the moms engaged themselves in an extended conversation about what the school is doing right and what it is not, which teacher is best and who is not, how learning is lacking creativity and how their child will fare in the new year with a new set of friends. Questions and anxiety that we are all too familiar with already. 

The third mom was listening intently but not commenting at all. Her eyes were focussed on the pool. She was nudged by the fellow moms to give her opinion or share her experience. She cooly remarked that nothing matters more than the children being happy and joyful and enjoying their childhood. Ah! Such a cliched answer I thought to myself. 

“It does matter what kind of school they go to, what happens in the school. These are the formative years after all,” said one of the other two moms. 

“We all came here for the academic advantages and opportunities, “ added another voice. Indeed, this was the voice of many immigrant parents in this country(US). 

“I agree with that. But my expectations are a little different. My son has some special needs and the fact that he still goes to the public school system and is learning well there, that is an opportunity. He can swim a lap in the pool now and he is the happiest when in the water. Every small thing feels like an opportunity,”  said the third mom her eye fixated on the pool. 

There was a moment of pin drop silence after that. That humbling moment in life. Instant reality check as well. Every parent has a set of unique expectations. But the apprehensions and expectations are mostly ours, the parents and not of our children. 

Children go to school, learn a sport or a musical instrument or any activity for that matter without any benchmark in mind. They want to have fun, they are eager to learn something new, they want to be treated well by peers and teachers and they want to feel appreciated. Most of everything that they “want” is enveloped in those few things. They adjust to a new teacher, make new friends and play along with everything new in the school year. 

The maths olympiad, the band or orchestra, the swim or the soccer team, the solo piano recital, the art exhibition – much of it is driven by what we want our children to do. A fact that is probably a hard swallow. If left to our children, they will want to choose and do many things differently. 

Every once in a while, a conversation like this, a blog post or an article that I read somewhere or  a few words of wisdom from my own mother grounds me and helps me retrospect on how complicated we sometimes tend to make everything surrounding parenting.  A happy, fun, curious childhood is a great gift that I can give my children.  But it gets overlooked and forgotten very often. 

I think my mom rightly puts it. She tells me, “You have too many options and thus too many expectations.”  You must never argue with your mom, so I don’t. But I know she is right (which I don’t tell her on the phone). 

That was my “stopped in my tracks” moment last week. And if I had not eavesdropped on the conversation, I would not have done all this retrospection and shared it here. So eavesdropping is probably not as bad as you think it is. Listen in to a conversation, you never know what you may learn. 

Written by : Piya Mukherjee Kalra. A mother of two, a blogger and in her own words a people watcher and a eavesdropper. Her posts are mostly from the observations she makes in her day to day life. You can read more of her posts here.  

Photo credit: Soumi Haldar