This article is part of our ‘Lockdown Diary’, where we invite women to share their experiences at home during the COVID-19 lockdown.
By Poonam Kirpal
We had invited my daughter, Neha, her husband, and her in-laws for lunch at home just a day before the lockdown, and she had decided to stay back for a couple of days with us along with our two-and-a-half-year-old granddaughter, Kaavya, before she started preschool on April 1. It seemed like a wonderful idea.
Then the national lockdown announcement locked all our plans. So, here we were with a toddler bursting with energy locked in with us, deprived of her very first school and playmates. The onus of compensating for her loss weighed on me the most. So, I, an M.Sc. degree holder in child development – the expert grandmom – took it upon myself to transform this limitation into an opportunity.
First, we decided to toilet-train Kaavya. She is quite conversant but the diaper allowed her the security to not tell when she needed to relieve herself. So, we removed the diaper and told her the consequences of not wearing one. The first two days were traumatic as she refused to sit on the pot when we wanted her to.
But miraculously on the third day, she began to shuffle and indicated her need to use the toilet. A big victory, and my husband, Sanjay, marked it by opening a bottle of wine for all of us after she had slept.
Next, we wanted to train her to wear no diaper at night too. I slept in my daughter’s room and put an alarm for 3 am to put little Kaavya on the pot. She refused and went back to sleep. There was no bedwetting. The next two nights, we repeated the ritual but she still didn’t oblige.
Finally, we realized that she could hold for the whole night. It was time to rejoice again with Sanjay opening another bottle of wine. A second celebration within a span of four days! If things continued this way, we would be alcoholics with euphoria by the end of the lockdown.
By then, Kaavya began looking up to me as a mentor, philosopher and guide. I wanted to strike while the iron was hot. Next on the agenda was to replace her milk bottle with a glass. She loved her milk in a bottle, in the morning and before going to bed. The fear was that she might give up drinking milk altogether.
We took a chance. The first day, she refused to drink from a glass. The second day, she had half a glass. The next day, she gave up the bottle suddenly, saying that we could give it away to a little puppy. That was our third victory – and you guessed it, Sanjay was ready with our third bottle of wine – all within the first week of the lockdown!
We then began a volley of question-answer sessions with Kaavya. “What is the capital of India?” “Who is the prime minister of India?” “What is our national bird, animal and flower?” “Where does a dog, lion, hen and a pig live?” “What are their young ones called?” and “What sounds do they make?”
It seemed like an overwhelming task but my pupil was unrelenting and kept soaking in information like a sponge, and soon started comprehending the knowledge and blurting out answers like a parrot.
Now, I needed to be on my toes to find more interesting facts for her to assimilate. So, she learnt all the rules of the COVID-19 lockdown: “staying at home”, “social distancing”, “wearing masks/gloves” and “washing hands”.
During our ‘talk time’, she memorised the seven days of the week, the twelve months of the year and the sensory organs and their uses. In our play time, we cracked jigsaw puzzles while singing songs together. Surprisingly, she picked up the Gayatri Mantra, a bhajan and Papa Loves Mama in no time.
It was impossible to keep screen time away from her, which we had been doing quite effectively earlier. So, I decided to incorporate a little education in this too. We introduced Kaavya to a tablet, the Surface. She learnt to enter the code to turn it on, how to click on the Word document, get to the keyboard, recognize letters, numbers, symbols and emojis.
On the phone, she learnt how to open the Scrabble app, push the letters in the box, recall and shuffle them and move on to the next game. She can even click candid pictures and selfies as well as delete them if they are “bakwas” (not good enough).
There were many things I had planned to do during the lockdown, like knit (which I love), crochet (which I wanted to learn), make masks (which I wanted to distribute), resume cooking exotic cuisine (which I had forgotten) and organize my cupboards (which are always a mess), but instead I ended up spending the most fruitful as well as enjoyable time with Kaavya.
This prolonged period of containment has taught us many important things. There is more compassion and willingness to help others who are older as well as support the less advantaged, while being thankful for one’s blessings. We have realized that we can do without so many things that seemed essential for us earlier.
People have even commemorated weddings, landmark birthdays and anniversaries during this time. For instance, Sanjay and I had a lockdown milestone 40th ruby jubilee celebration. A lot of our friends and relatives called and wished us, and we didn’t feel as if we were in isolation. It was a pleasure to have Neha and Kaavya with us for what will be one of our most memorable anniversaries.
We still have many more things to work on. Kaavya likes to read several stories and sing a number of songs before sleeping, and needs much animation during mealtimes. So, for the remaining days of the lockdown, we still have our list of challenges to conquer!