P T A
a good boy. Very quiet, and reserved”, the principal of
the school looked up from the performance sheet of my son
and said to me. She continued, “actually, at this age, we
see it in a few kids, but he's a nice boy.” My son is two
years, two months and five days old. On the day of the PTA,
he was five days younger.
“You think it's okay to be that? Reserved, I mean?” I was
attending the first ever PTA (the urbane term for parent
teacher meetings) of my life as a parent, and I was jittery.
We put our little one into school a couple of months ago.
Not exactly a schooling school, but what in modern parlance
gets sugar coated as a 'playgroup'. Kids play there. At
least they appeared to be doing so the day I was “shown”
around the premises before I put him in. Swarms of children,
barely few centimeters tall, ran around the mad house chasing
a scared cat. Some sat in a corner playing with modeling
clay, others rolled tires, some were busy defacing an already
mutilated doll. Someone bawled in a corner, the other screamed,
“miss wee wee!”, still another jumped from the slide landing.
I looked at my tiny boy. He seemed a little fazed by the
ruckus around him, nervously sucking at his thumb, but I
felt confident he'd fit in with the rest. Okay, I'm lying.
Not confident, but when so many children his size seemed
to enjoy themselves, I saw no reason why mine wouldn't.
Besides, it's fashionable to have a playgroup-going child
in the house.
So here I was discussing his progress report, and the principal
didn't seem too happy with it. I'd heard her crack jokes
and seen the face turn purple with loud guffaws while talking
to the other sets of parents. The smile had disappeared,
and she frowned as she continued in a slightly patronizing
“Yeah, we've had a few children like him before. He likes
to be with himself. He stands in a corner without disturbing
others, he's a quiet boy” . My mind raced back to the numerous
scenes of delightful baby crime at home. Quiet, this boy?
“You mean he doesn't mix around with other kids?”
“Not much. Actually, we want him to talk. Though it is not
all that late for him, it would have been better if he'd
started speaking a few words by now.”
Few words? I was shocked! We hear him talk all day at home.
Ma'am, I wanted to tell her, he can tell you how Mr. Jumbo's
bus got stuck on the narrow bridge and how the dinosaur
cried for it's binkit; how his cars have a bath when it
rains and how the birds chirp every morning. But she didn't
ask, so I didn't say.
All I said was, “Oh, that's strange, because he speaks at
home”. The principal shook her head as if to say she knew
what I meant by his baby talk: uttering a few 'mamma's and
'pappa's doesn't count as speaking. She, however, didn't
say that aloud.
“Maybe he's a very shy baby”, she added politely.
Shy! That is the last thing any parent wants to hear about
the child. Is that why we're sending you to school dear?
I, like any mother, would have swelled with pride had the
principal said he's a brat. And the big bad bully of the
school. Let's face it. It's infinitely more dramatic for
parents to have children who strut and swear and push the
little ones and make them holler. Doesn't half the joy of
parenting comprise sifting through ream on child psychology,
and reading what Dr. Spock's mother opined on difficult
children. There is so much literature available on it simply
because children are meant, and expected, to be devil incarnates.
Therefore, in the middle of all this if you are confronted
with an angel, a shy one at that, in the making, you as
parents feel lost. You could as well be making more babies
and hope and pray they give you enough work worthy of harried
Maybe she was right in her assessment. He was behaving shy
now. And maybe, he is a good boy.
he cry here?” I wanted to know more.
“At times, yes, but that's all right. Very natural. You
see that girl there? She's very outgoing and all that, but
even she cries when her mother comes to pick her up every
day. She cries. Even when she is such an intelligent child”.
BOOM! Okay, I get what you meant by that. Let me put that
word in your mouth.
“Oh, do you think he is dull?”
“Ahhh, I wouldn't say that. He'll learn, and soon catch
up with others. I think he's a slow learner, so let's not
push him…don't worry…”. Her words no longer registered in
my mind. At this playgroup, my child was certainly being
ranked below average, and he wasn't even a trouble maker!
I wished she felt there was something he was good at, other
than being a “good” boy.
I wanted her to ask me, “but how is he at home?” I had gone
prepared with the reply. I wanted to tell her how we feel
he's a gifted child. That he is intelligent, with an exceptional
memory, and loves reading his books and building cars with
his blocks, and so on. That like any other child his age,
his numerous 100 meter dash(es) and his prattle fill our
house, and, yes, yes, he is naughty at home…. But the principal
did not ask the question, and I didn't get a chance to showcase
my child as such.
On our way back from school, I looked at my son. He was
busy spotting vehicles of different shades and makes on
the road. Suddenly he squealed with delight and said “vite
amulans” (white ambulance), and started imitating the loud
siren. I smiled back at him, reassuring myself with the
belief that he is special. My mind was already on the flower
vase he'd broken that morning. “He's normal”, I said to
myself. “Who cares what the rest of the world thinks!”