“Mom! Can you help me with this?”
Pattu calls plaintively as she focuses head bent on a word grid. I turn the gas down on the vegetable I am sauteing and move behind her. Circling what she asked for, I lift my head and notice Ammu on the floor, her feet in the air playing with Laddu’s blocks. She is a picture of concentration as she stacks and orders them in a way that speaks to her. I stand mute, watching her squint, throw her head back and wiggle a block in place. I nudge Saathi and he joins me. We are distracted by a squeal of joy as Laddu rips apart the flyers that came in the mail. I sigh contentedly, give her a loud smacking kiss and head back to the kitchen.
It has been almost a month since school ended. I looked at camps half heartedly, mulled finding a nanny for a couple of days a week to give me respite, explored a membership at the YMCA and gave it all up in defense of doing nothing. For three glorious weeks, we wake up to the tune of our internal clocks, eat a hot breakfast, play on the swing set, come in sweaty and muddy and cool off under the whirring fan. Sometimes we take to the cool basement and play make-believe games till lunch. Rinse. Repeat.
As I navigate notepads, pens, dolls, cars, singing and beeping toys as I climb the stairs with Laddu, I feel annoyance reach a new high. Shoving them to the side, I walk upstairs to be stopped by giggles and raucous laughter from below. This wild abandon of childhood topples the annoyance and replaces it with an irrepressible grin. I smile as I walk down.
The landing now has a few more books, they are arranged in order down the front stairs. The twins are playing student-teacher. Echoes of a conversation from the morning ring in my ears. “Read to them” exhorts a friend. I survey the scene in front of me. I realize there is value to this nothingness.
I should probably print worksheets out, sit with them and prepare them for first grade. I should in hindsight be reading to them each day. I should have enrolled them in classes like I planned. Swim. Dance. Music. The regrets are fleeting and replaced by something tangible. I watch the girls learn to make the most of their time together. They invent games, come up with rules, take turns to lead and find innovative uses for almost everything in their field of vision. They also complain they are bored a million times. As I learn to ignore the grumbling, they become resourceful. They annoy their little sister a lot, but they also form a team, making faces and engaging with her as I juggle chores around the house.
When summer is over, they may not have acquired skills that a camp or a new class might have taught them but they will have become experts in making do with what they have. Perhaps, a few years from now, they will look back fondly on their first summer of indolence and sigh longingly.