Is a clean home more important than your child’s happiness?

Click…attach…send…there, the pic was gone! Swati had just sent her husband a picture on whatsapp. It was a beautiful landscape sketched by their seven-year old. It was a masterpiece, if she said so herself. The boy surely had talent! Swati smiled as she saw the two blue ticks appear in the corner of the sent pic, indicating that Tarun had seen it.

“My goodness, this is amazing!” came back the instant reply. “Yep!” she replied with a smiley; and then, “but he has a class test tomorrow, he has not studied for that! :(“ she sent the next message feeling guilty for not making Adi spend more time on studies. But Tarun promptly replied, “Oh, Swats, please don’t worry about the test, he will have that under control, I know; but seriously, I am just happy you see to it that you expose Adi to so many different things and help him discover his talents and interests….” 

That evening, Adi was waiting for Dad to come see his beautiful picture! And as the bell rang, he rushed with it behind Swati as she went to open the door for Tarun. Even as Tarun entered the house, Adi jumped on him and hugged him and showed him the picture. Father and son spent a good five minutes admiring it and Tarun praised Adi for a wonderful job! He said he had never seen a child so little sketch so beautifully; and said that he would love to frame the picture and hang in their home! 
Now, that was the best compliment anyone could’ve given Adi and he was super happy!

Tarun was still hugging Adi and his picture as he entered the living room and immediately his mood changed! The carpet was littered with colours and sketch pencils and white sheets of paper; there were also earlier attempts of Adis’ discarded for a better sketch and the one better than that and so on till he had finally been happy with his end result. 

The sofa was also littered with several of Adi’s half read books placed face down on it. Swati was a big reader and she was getting Adi in the habit too; but where Swati barely found time to read a mere few pages of a book in a day, Adi had taken to reading several books at one go – after all, his books were much smaller than his Mum’s and he preferred to have a few close to him so he wouldn’t have to keep getting up all the time to get new books! Tarun saw the coffee table littered with empty water bottles and even a bowl of nuts that Adi had been eating from as he sketched; and Swati’s phone right there on the coffee table, precariously close to the edge! 

It was that, the sight of the expensive phone, carelessly flung on the coffee table, that was Tarun’s undoing! "My God! What a mess Adi!” he shouted. “Would you mind clearing a bit of space so I can at least keep my bag somewhere? Where am I supposed to sit, huh? There’s barely any space on the sofa! And all these water bottles are empty, Adi; how am I to drink water? Come on son, clean up this mess – right now!” Tarun was getting angry by the minute, Swati knew. But no matter how angry he got he had never once said anything to her, all his anger was always directed at Adi. He was setting an example, Swati realised; not wanting to scold the mother in front of the child; that was nice; but scolding Adi this way, was not.

Poor Adi, who had just five minutes back seen his Dad’s smiling face and had been basking in the praise, suddenly scampered around, trying to put things in order. He stacked up all his books and threw away all his discarded scketches and began picking up all his pencils. He saw Mum was trying to help him; but he was really sad now. Gone was the joy of a few minutes back; overshadowed by a feeling of inadequacy and a feeling that he had meant to make his Dad happy but had made him angry, instead. When he looked at Mum, she smiled at him from the other end of the room where she was packing away a few toys of his that Dad had missed seeing; but he saw that her face too had lost all the joy of just a few minutes before…

As Tarun freshened up, his anger slowly subsided. Raised by a meticulous mother, he remembered how his childhood home was always kept spick and span! A place for everything and everything in its place – that was how it had always been. Used to seeing only order and organisation, Tarun prided himself on always keeping all his things in order. 
But Swati wasn’t like that. She was a free spirit, a creative person who couldn't be bothered with order. She painted, she wrote, she read, she embroidered – and she was disorganized! She never kept things in place (although she miraculously always found whatever she was looking for, no matter how bad the mess). Sometimes she forgot to even do laundry and then they had to do a quick wash in the night and iron the half dry clothes the next day using a steam iron.

Tarun didn’t mind it much; he loved Swati, after all. In fact, maybe had even fallen for her because she was everything he was not! She was inspired while he was meticulous. She was laid back while he was ambitious… She was an amazingly creative person, but she was not a very great homemaker material - and that would’ve been okay; if Adi hadn’t followed in her footsteps! But now things were getting really bad. Swati at least cleaned up before Tarun was due to come home; but Adi had no such qualms. He just littered the place and left it like that! How was the boy to ever learn organisation if Tarun didn’t scold him for it?

By the time Tarun had convinced himself that he had scolded Adi today for his own good and entered the living room, the place was looking beautiful! The sofa, the coffee table, the TV console, even the lighting was set to a lovely soft yellow glow; and Swati was waiting for him. Adi was nowhere in sight.

"Where’s bachchu?”

“In his room…”

“Well, he cleaned up nice…”

“Yes, he did. Shall I warm up the dinner?”

“No, sit for some time. We’ll have dinner in a bit…What happened? Why are you so quiet?”

“Adi is sad. He feels he made you more angry than happy today. He was really excited to show you his sketch and have his Dad appreciate him. But all he got was rebuke for not keeping the house clean…”

“Come on Swats, I don’t like seeing a disorganized house, you know that! He has to learn to keep a clean home sweetheart, I scolded him for his own good!”

“Yes, but now he thinks keeping the house clean is more important than his talents. Tarun, when he grows up, he can employ people to clean the house, keep it organised – but if he loses interest because of not being appreciated for his talents, he won’t get that interest back; and he can’t hire anyone to get it back for him either…I know you like to keep things in order, but neither me or Adi are like that. We feel comforted in chaos. We find solace in disorganization. Some days I forget to do laundry because I am writing a story that consumes me completely. Some days Adi reads up to ten books a day or makes dozens of paper planes and goes to sleep exhausted! Sometimes Adi and I spend entire days in the library or just watching people and sketching them!

Tarun, every person is different. I am trying to acquaint Adi with his interests and expose him to so many different things! So yes, we forget to clean up the mess at home. I know it isn’t the best thing; but it is still better than having no interests in life…”

Tarun knew Swati was right. He had probably over-reacted. Without a word, he got up and went into Adi’s room; and soon Swati heard noises of laughter and banter from in there. She went in to warm up the dinner for her husband, who she knew will come out in a bit, hungry and happy.

But she was thinking – maybe she had saved Adi today; but for how long would it last? How would Tarun react the next time he came home to the mess? Was she wrong in spending so much time exposing Adi to all these interests at the cost of teaching him the importance of cleanliness? But how could that be, she was teaching her son the importance of the extraordinary! So then was Tarun wrong in expecting his family to be as meticulous as he expected them to be? What was the price that Tarun was ready to pay to see his home clean? Was a clean home really more important than their child’s happiness? 


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