An experiment in freedom

An experiment in freedom

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Saturday began on a very very sour note. H threw a huge tantrum bemoaning the fact that he had to follow too many rules. Washing his hands before eating, wearing his chappals all the time, putting his clothes for washing after changing, wearing his night suit, brushing his teeth, not getting enough screen time (computer/TV) ….. Apparently I was forcing him to play, to eat, to sleep… 
To be fair to him he is a pretty independent child. He enjoys his studies and is very meticulous about them. He’s not a fussy eater either. In fact I have few complaints other than his computer addiction and his resistance to rules. He likes to do things his way which is often not the right way, of course according to me. And he argues! Gawd how he argues!
The Husband and I reasoned with him for about an hour. Then we both gave up and left him crying.

Freedom Day declared!

I got chatting with friend and blogger Shailaja and she directed me to a blogpost here by Sangeeta Sundaram on Freedom Day – a day with no rules, which children could be left to do what they wanted. Since we were at the weekend and as a mum I am always ready to try anything for a happier more peaceful home I decided to go with it. Besides, it was just a day, I reasoned, how bad could it get?
So Saturday was declared Freedom Day with just two rules.. No fighting and no messing the house.
H was ecstatic, though a bit unbelieving. N also thought it was a super idea. 
The computer was switched on right then and H flitted between the television and the computer all day without signs of fatigue or boredom. He would come to check on me periodically to make sure I wasn’t angry. He’d dart in for a hug or an ‘I love you mama,’ every hour or so.
N meanwhile ran off to play throwing an ‘I-can-come-whenever-I-want-na, mama?’ over her shoulder. ‘Yes,’ said I and that was that.

At lunch time…

I have to admit I am a bit of a Nirupa Roy when it comes to food. I strongly believe that half of the crankiness of kids is either food or sleep related. A little after 1 pm H was hungry and just as I was about to suggest lunch he said he wanted to eat mangoes. So mangoes it was. By 2, though outwardly calm, I was pacing up and down mentally.
N turned up after 2.30 and sat down to watch TV.
I’d made their favourite Aaloo-puri in a sly bid to tempt them to eat on their own. I even filled my own plate, pretending to eat and sat watching that wretched Doremon with them to no avail. Finally H picked up pooris, just pooris, and munched on them sitting on the sofa while watching TV… And I kept my mouth shut. 
N, the non eater was celebrating by not eating at all. Finally at 3.30 I left them to the tele and walked off.

Freedom is not everyone’s cup of tea

A little later N came in.. Crying. ‘My head is hurting ma’, she said, ‘may I sleep with you?’ I agreed then suggested.. ‘Maybe your head is hurting because you haven’t eaten anything’. That brought around a fresh bout of tears..

‘I don’t want this freedom say sobbed N. May I have lunch?’
I have to admit I felt a smug kind of happiness!!
And that was it for her.

But some truly take to it

Televiion junkie..

H continued to have a ball till about 10. He refused his friends when they asked him to come down to play. N crashed by the television. H had major plans of staying awake till after 12 but exhausted by the marathon computer session he too agreed to go to bed when The Husband suggested it.

What now?

Now I am a bit confused about the outcome of the experiment. N told me pretty categorically.. She preferred an ‘Angel Day’ .
But what about H?
I have to admit there was total peace at home. The children didn’t fight at all which is just so rare, it might be the single reason I try this out another day. They coordinated with each other taking turns at the comp and the tele. In any case since N is a more outdoor person there was barely any clash. 
However, is it okay to let H spend the entire day at the comp? Or for N to stay outdoor for four or five hours at a stretch? Maybe it is, since it’s just a day… I’m not sure at all. What do you say guys? Is it okay to have a Freedom day say once in a month?
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41 Replies to “An experiment in freedom”

  1. Loved reading this!! I think a Freedom day once in a while is fine. I think it teaches us and the kids valuable lessons – in controlling our temper, cooperating, giving each other their space and understanding the other side of the coin. I'm tempted to try this out with Cub too!

  2. Interesting experiment! Perhaps it could be made a monthly feature with some rules added each time after discussion. Give-and-take works. In the school where I studied, the last working day of each month was "No uniform" day, the condition being everybody MUST speak only in Hindi outside the classrooms on that day. This was introduced by our principal because he found that students struggled with spoken Hindi.

  3. Ohh tough question…maybe yes…maybe no…I'm not sure Tulika..Maybe I'll be able to answer this once I have a child…as of now I feel so clueless …But all that I can gather is that you have two very well behaved children so you don't have to worry at all.. 🙂

  4. your little angels are really wonderful … they didn't turn the house upside down on freedom day 😛 But I loved your experiment. The kids surely must be looking forward to few more freedom days. Maybe you can give them a freedom day as an incentive for some good work 🙂

  5. Probably it could be a Freedom Day with some basic rules, like, no skipping lunch, a compulsory break of 20 to 30 minutes after 2 hours of play outside , or something like that. And yes, they'll learn in a short while that this freedom is not the kind of freedom that will benefit them always 🙂 At home, all days are freedom days for my 2 year old, with complsory food breaks 😀

  6. You are brave to do that 🙂 if it was my dad OH BOY just one sentence.. "BANDE BAN JAO" and all went silent

    but I think it was a good experiment the kids behaved for sure 🙂

    Bikram's

    1. Sorry to have to say this Bikram, but this is the new generation.. Wholly entirely different. And I'm not implying you're an old man at all.

  7. That was bold, Tulika. I really can't bring myself around to doing this. My six year old and two year old will end up trashing the whole house!
    But I think I am going to give this experiment a try too.

  8. I'm wondering who enjoyed the 'Freedom Day' the most! Wasn't it you? No fights, no need to keep them occupied, one kid packed out of house for hours, no meals too! Sounbds great! Hehe… Just kidding dear!

  9. Having no experience with my own children, I have tried giving the boys I taught, freedom. I must say that young people do like rules even when they rant against them! 🙂
    I'm sure you all learnt loads from this experience.

  10. Tulika, you are brave. Yep, I've gone through that everything-is-fine-but-for-the-basic-rules and tried Freedom Day. I was confused too – somehow it left me with a feeling of blandness that was not at all comfortable. Not one to keep quiet about it, I sat my boy down and explained why he must do the things he has to do. We made a deal. Yes, I am ashamed to say we bargained. But being Mom, I had the expertise of negotiation anyway, and we agreed on the major things. He'd claim he "forgot" to do things. So I tackled that by sticking reminders in strategic places where only he could see them. Long slow journey, but over the years – life is good now. That's all I can say. Much later, he told me Freedom day wasn't so great. I also recall how he kept checking to see if I was "happy" 😀

    1. Oh you too have a good boy with a mind of his own! They're hard to handle, isn't it? And reminders are such a great idea. Another thing on my to-try list.

  11. kudos to you for trying such a bold experiment. I'd have been hyperventilating each moment of this freedom. Though my kid is still young enough not to realize what "freedom" might mean to him. Maybe, once a month may not be bad maybe to just put things in perspective.

  12. I think freedom days are good and basically that is how we roll in the summer time. When school is in session it is a different story entirely. Homework to be completed and supper to be ate, reading before bedtime then sweet dreams. You have to have some rules..like no fighting what so ever. Keeping the peace is important. ♥

  13. Freedom with a few rules should be the plan 🙂 You are a patient mom, I can't do it. Thank God There weren't so many temptations when my kids were growing up 🙂

  14. ha!! Some things work and some don't do they?! 😀 But, it was an interesting experiment and its interesting how each child reacted differently…
    when my mom got too tired of our fighting/whining – she used to throw her hands up and say "I resign from being your mother!" and walk off with a book. We usually behaved after that!! 😛

  15. Such articles really give an insight of how how dramatic a mom's life is! I have just begun my journey as a mum…and have already imagining situations with my little one! Though I love the current phase of life…I still have to go a long way & such articles are for sure of a lot of help.

  16. Love you for trying this out with such gusto! Straight off the bat! I think we can do with some 'Freedom' Days every once in a while, so that they understand the value of the 'rules' that we otherwise lay down. Maybe H will understand when the time comes. We live and learn, Tulika. We live and learn. . .

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