Vedant and KAA outstation trips

Mugdha (Mother of 7 yr old Vedant) writes

Learning with KAA …

KAA trips are part of the curriculum in Aarohi. So when, as a parent, 2 years back, my 5 year old said that he wanted to go for his 3 day KAA trip, I thought that I needed to allow him, since it’s important for his learning. Little did I know that the KAA trips would be an ongoing learning experience, not just for him, but also for me as a parent. Aarohi is as much about learning for the child as about learning for the parent – understanding the child, believing in him/her, supporting and enabling him, and especially, not imposing our needs on him.

When it was time for the first 3 day KAA, it was more about me calming my mind and believing that he could take care of himself, and that the children would take care of each other. 2 faculty, 15 children ranging in ages from 5 to 13 – the first thought was, how will they manage? How will they ensure that my child eats, brushes, cleans himself after toilet, sleeps without me, changes his clothes, takes a bath? How will he manage without me? I spent half an hour worrying about what to pack – even with the complete list we were given. The packing list paper said – give this list to the child and let them pack. I completely dismissed that statement. I selected the clothes, other items, packed them neatly in his bag, and showed him where everything was, then sent him off for his trip. I spent the next three days missing him, worrying, wishing for more updates on what they were up to. When he was back, I unpacked his bag, saw that everything was mixed up, clean clothes, dirty clothes, he had ignored my instructions to keep the dirty clothes in a separate compartment. The strange thing (which I realized later), was that I was looking for him to follow my instructions exactly and manage as per my expectations.

The next few couple of KAA trips were similar. In each trip, he would wear his night clothes out and they would be covered with mud. After one trip, he told me a story – he was wearing his night dress and they had gone to the river. He was holding his pants up carefully because he didn’t want to get his night dress wet. And then he fell in the water and the whole dress got wet. While telling me the story, both of us ended up laughing uncontrollably. It made me realize what was important … not the night dress getting dirty or wet, but this … his growth and mine through such experiences.

Then, in one trip, I decided to try giving him the list and see what happens (by this time, we had gone through a few Manthans and were a bit more familiar and in tune with the Aarohi philosophy). He took his own sweet time, went through the checklist, and took my help when needed. But still, I packed it neatly in the bag. I unpacked his bag too. His KAA book started having more descriptions of his trip, and he started telling us some of his experiences when he was back. We started understanding, accepting and appreciating his growing independence. He started owning what he ate, how much he ate, and even became more adjusting in eating different things (which earlier he would refuse). A lot of it we could attribute to the KAA trips.

And then finally, in the last few KAA trips, he took the list, went through, chose what he needed, got the bag himself, packed everything on his own. And then when he was back, unpacked the bag himself, kept the unused clothes back in his cupboard, the dirty ones in the washing baskets, the bag back in its place … All on his own. I was watching and reveling in the joy of this unexpected independence of a 7 year old. Even now, other parents ask me, how can I send my son out on 3 or 5 day trips, and I feel how can I not? When I see the changes in him, and in me, and his growth and learning all through … yes, there are a few worries of sending him off with a group of children and 2 adults, especially when they travel in a commercial bus or train. But I do what I can to make sure I’ve taken adequate precautions, have him learn our phone numbers and address, do role-plays on what to do if he gets lost, if some stranger tries to take him away or talk to him. But above all, I’ve learnt to have faith … in the children (to take care of each other), in the accompanying faculty, in myself, and above all, in my child.