The Happiness Contest…

Ms A gets into the car with a sense of urgency when I pick her up from after-school care. “I am going to be busy this evening, I have so much of Easter stuff to do”, she announces. She tells me she will need to borrow my laptop and hopes we have enough paper for all her printouts and cards and thank-you notes. I wonder aloud why the normally wonderful teacher has handed out so much work and left it till the last minute.”Oh,these are my ideas, this is not school work”, she informs me.

“You want to make Easter cards for the girls, yes?”
“No, not really. It will be a contest. For happiness. Everyone will win”
“What will be a contest?Who is taking part?”
“Claire is going to be my helper”
“A, WHAT contest is this? And who is Claire?”
“I told you, I want everyone to feel happy about easter. Claire is from Year 3. She is nice.”
I gather that Ms A, with her tendency to spread cheer, has decided to organize an Easter egg colouring contest for the girls. My heart does somersaults.

“Ummm, is this like a class activity?”
“Nooo, I thought of it all by myself. We need printouts. And everyone needs to win. Because it is all about happiness”.

A part of me begins to see the grand plan this tiny person has hatched. Another part of me begins to worry about this tiny person’s grand plans.

We get home and she switches the laptop on and connects the printer even before she has changed into her home clothes. She talks excitedly of how she needs a “demo” copy for herself.She wonders who her helpers will be. She hopes she has enough copies for the whole class.She tells me how she plans to encourage all the girls and say something nice about everyone’s work.

I am caught between wanting to hug her for her meticulous planning and hoping she gives up this idea of pulling off something way that I deem beyond her years. When she says she wants to hide easter eggs around the corridor for the girls to find, I do hug her tight. “A, you have 10 mins of recess, how can you do all of this?”, I ask.

“I will not eat my fruit, I will just get started as soon as the bell rings”.With each declaration of selflessness, my heart sinks a little bit more.

The innocence of a child is capable of hurting you like no pain ever can. I realize this in that blinding instant.
In my mind’s eye, I see her do all this just to realize that all the other girls have gone off to play and that no one is interested in her plans. That after all her planned printouts, and egg hiding – there is no one to take part in her happiness contest. The thought stabs at me, makes me want to protect her from the pain of rejection and indifference and scoop her up and take her back to babydom again.

“A, ummm, you know not all the girls in the class will take part. Some of them may have other things to do!”
“I know, I dont mind. Some of them will think it is silly” (this being said with a giggle)
“And you don’t mind?”
“No, because I am doing it to spread happiness, I am happy, Mommy. And some of them will do it, wont they?”
I suddenly want the whole class to join in and help her. I also know that while hope is a great filler of the empty spaces in the heart, it is no panacea for the voids.

So, we make the cards. And the games. And the cutouts. And store them carefully. I tell her that if no one participates in her contest,I will colour in every single Easter egg and play all the games she has planned and that I hope to get a card from her collection.

“Oh, Mommy, thank you. I hope I have a card left, because everyone will love the contest, won’t they?”

No one tells you that motherhood mainly deals in the territory of vulnerability. That your heart has areas so fragile that love often blows it into smithereens.

I worry about her the whole day. I make up theories of how all of us as children, had disappointments and friends that let us down. How we had days that pushed us closer to reality and to growing up. But all the while, my heart is beating, my hope is fighting itself and I wait for the school day to end so that I can look after her. I stare at the clock all day and hope she is not too hurt, not too scarred, not too put off by cold responses.

“How did it go?”, I ask her, as soon as school is done for the day.

“It was FANTASTIC”, she squeals. “Three girls did it with me, three. Three girls were happy with the happiness contest”.

I gulp in the evening air and heave a sigh of relief. Three from the 18 girls in her class. Three is less than 18. Three is better than none.

“And T was sorry she didn’t know about the contest, so she took it home – that makes it 4”. Four is better than three.

“Awww, A, I am so proud of you” I tell her. Feeble really -but words evade me at that moment. I am fiercely proud though, because she has chosen to see what has achieved and what didn’t work out was never a part of the equation for her. “I am proud of me too”, she giggles.

The reality is that, the minute a child spies a star, makes a new friend, dreams a new dream or hopes a new hope – hurt ,rejection and failure present themselves as options and hitch along for the ride. You stand there and watch your child with your powerless heart, with vulnerablity peering over your shoulder, with a band-aid in your hands and a prayer on your lips.

You can protect your children all you want and try to keep them safe as you point out the stars through a window. But they will venture out someday and go out to claim their share. And they will do it on the premise that it is a tough world out there. You cannot gather you share of star-dust from a window sill – the journey begins only when you leave the confines of safety…and when that journey begins, all you can do is be ready to look out for a grazed knee and a wounded heart, so that you can heal them and send them out to gather their bounties again…


11 Comments (+add yours?)

  1. aniruddha pathak
    Oct 14, 2009 @ 12:44:14

    i feel so blessed to be reading such posts..thank you for the experience you all pass on..god bless you…love your daughter..a child has the heart which has no impressions..and this world will try to make all kinds of impression on her is up to parents like you to nurture them well..god give you strength..more strength 🙂


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  3. arvind
    Oct 15, 2009 @ 02:51:08

    Loved reading this! Glad she was not disappointed. Hopefully, she’ll stay lucky enough to be shielded for a few more years. What’s so great about cynicism anyway. We need more optimists!! Spreading HAPPINESS!!!1!!


  4. Scarlett
    Oct 17, 2009 @ 06:35:00

    Aniruddha, thank you for your very lovely comment. It is a huge responsibility indeed 🙂
    Arvind, you are so right! What is so great about cynicism anyways? I am trying to let her see the wonder behind everything for as long as I/she can 🙂 Thanks for dropping by.


  5. enig
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 01:04:09

    🙂 adorable…can you mail your daughter to me, please? I can use some good cheer, happiness and all that jazz…your post reminded me of the movie ‘pay it forward’ …someone somewhere randomly doing something nice for you…I think us grown ups can use some sense of innocence and trust from lil ones like yours….

    ur words bring some sanity in my otherwise insane world, Scarlett…really, no kidding 🙂



  6. Scarlett
    Oct 23, 2009 @ 02:28:10

    Awww, that is such a sweet comment, Enig 🙂 My little one is _normally_ happiness and jazz – but sometimes the imp gets the better of her 😛

    And thank you for saying my words bring sanity. The best compliment any fledgling writer can ever recieve 🙂



  7. Vidya
    Oct 27, 2009 @ 10:27:56

    Lovely is the word! You have an adorable angel for a daughter and she has one for her mom:-) Continue spreading the cheer…


  8. scarlettletters
    Oct 28, 2009 @ 23:34:28

    Thanks Vidya 🙂


  9. Aria
    Nov 01, 2009 @ 05:20:47

    “No one tells you that motherhood mainly deals in the territory of vulnerability. That your heart has areas so fragile that love often blows it into smithereens.”

    enthralled, as always by the way you write.


  10. Scarlett
    Nov 04, 2009 @ 05:42:41

    Thanks Aria 🙂


  11. IW
    Nov 20, 2009 @ 07:12:21

    >> It will be a contest. For happiness. Everyone will win”

    Sweet stuff like this can only be conjured up by lil girls.. (as against lil boys) I wonder what contests lil boys come up with ?! Will have to wait until Master. Shaurya (the laughing Buddha) & Master. Rehaan (the musing mystic)grow up 🙂

    Oh yeah, another thing worth waiting for is when Lil. A will have a online diary of her own. You should seriously groom her towards that. Would love to read about her grand plans for world peace & happiness 🙂


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