The kids lined up to board the school bus like they always do. Ram got in and had a conversation with the driver, which was unusual for him. Just as I was wondering what it could be about, the little chat we had that morning hit me.
Ram had misplaced his mittens a week back. He was nonchalant about looking for it. Over the course of the week, we had a number of conversations around the curious case of missing mittens. “I don’t need an extra pair of gloves amma. I have another pair.” “I don’t want to look for it mommy.” I explained to him that we all lose stuff. It happens. It means we need to get better at taking care of our things and it starts by searching for what we lost. So check in the Lost and Found box at school, check in the Lost and Found box in the bus, I had advised.
He checked at school. No luck. When I asked him about checking in the bus, he confessed, “I am feeling shy to ask the driver amma. I don’t want to ask amma. I am ok with just one pair of mittens.” I told him it made sense, I too feel shy about talking to people sometimes. I then tried to reframe the situation for him. “Think of it as something that you need to do to find your mittens instead of thinking of it as having to talk to the driver.” I was not sure if he understood, but he nodded and asked me to remind him to ask at the bus stop.
Needless to say, I had forgotten all about it. But he had remembered. He had mustered all his courage to go up to the driver and talk about his missing mittens. It was not easy but he did it anyway. And guess what? The mittens were sitting snugly in the Lost and Found box! Quickly grabbing them, he waved at me, his heart puffing with pride and his eyes shining with confidence.
Ram joined Boy Scouts this year. The much dreaded popcorn sales was upon on us sooner than we thought. As part of that effort, Boy Scouts are expected to dress in their uniforms, explain their mission, and sell popcorn to random passersby.
One fine hot Fall afternoon, Ram went with his dad to sell popcorn. I went for a brief few minutes to see the child in action. For the first few times, it was hard for me to watch him get rejected. How could someone reject a little child’s plea for buying popcorn? Soon the mommy bias faded and good sense prevailed. Not everyone likes popcorn. Not everyone believes in Boy Scouts. Not everyone has money to indulge a child that’s not theirs. And rejections build character, it’s good for him in the long run. As I was building these stories in my head, Ram and his scout buddy did not let rejections deter them from going to the next person. They did what they had to do. Ram took the rejections in stride, in spite of the inhibitions he was feeling within. It was not easy, but he did it anyway.
These two images are etched in my memory. They remind me of how the child pushed himself beyond his comfort zone and did what it took, not without inhibitions but in spite of his inhibitions. They inspire me to reach out when the easier thing would be to hold myself back.