My heart sank. I was hoping to rest my poor head on the couch and watch the latest series of CSI crime to relax. “Ok, let’s hear it…”
“Once , I saw a little bird….” she began reciting from her memory. She was supposed to learn a poem every week.
As the poem was new, I found myself cornered. Teaching her could not be put off; the hubby was working late. I hated teaching…period. It took patience and a great disregard to the neighbours with their thin doors and sharp ears.
“Mummy, did you know … there are pigeons sitting on our AC? “
“Yes, now stop chattering and keep reading…” I said sternly. My tone was firm and gentle. I prayed that it stayed that way till the end.
“Once , I saw a little bird…. Mummy, you know … sparrow is the littlest bird ever”
“There is no such word as ‘Littlest’ and you can see Lovebirds who are just as small. Stop chattering and READ!” I repeated sternly.
“Ok…” she continued, “Once , I saw a little bird, going hop, hop, hop….. Mummy, I can hop too!! ” Before I could stop her, she began hopping all over the living room. My patience was slowly wearing thin.
“Oh Lord, why me? Why?” I muttered as I let her hop a bit before saying, ” Enough! Back to the poem!” my tone was sounding severe. I heard the next door neighbour shutting her window.
“Once , I saw a little bird, going hop, hop, hop….Mummy, does the pigeon hop?… Who taught it to hop?” she was still hopping around me.
“ANJALIIIIIIIIII …. We will talk of the pigeon’s schooling later, please read the poem….” My nerves were starting to act up and my voice was getting louder by the minute. I wondered if all the neighbours heard me.
“Once , I saw a little bird, going hop, hop, hop… so I said little bird will you stop, stop, stop …. Mummy, how can the bird understand English?”
My little girl was going to drive me crazy with the Little Bird! “It can’t understand English! Please continue with the reading….”
“Once , I saw a little bird, going hop, hop, hop… so I said little bird will you stop, stop, stop …. I went to the window to say …how did you do…”
“Hey!.. that’s not correct…it ‘s … ‘How do you do’”
“ No, mummy!… teacher taught me this way…”
“Anjali, that’s wrong English….teacher would have said ‘How do you do’, now say it correctly.”
One must always remember that correcting a five year old is not a small affair; neither is it a quiet one.
“Oh! Mummy, I was listening carefully…it is the same only... I went to the window saying …how did you do…” she continued.
“It is not”
“It’s ‘I went to the window to say …how do you do..’ ”
“No! … ’How did you do !’ ”
“The bird was not at an exam for us to ask …’how did you do’ …”
“Wahhhhhhhhhhhhhhhh” the wailing usually began when the fighter foresaw an eminent failure.
“STOP WAILING!!! The correct version is ….’ I went to the window to say …how do you do..’ .” By this time the neighbours were definitely covering their ears with stuffed pillows.
“ I want Dad to teach meeeeee” the wailing continued
“Oh! Stop this racket!” I bellowed. I could hear a few more doors opening in the corridor outside our door.
“What is a racket?” she asked between her wailing.
“Please sing the poem again and in the way I told you” I roared. I could hear several feet shuffling towards our door.
“ Please call my teacherrrrrrrrr…. that is how she taught…….” She insisted in a high pitch.
In half an hour, we called a truce with me fixing a glass of lemonade and both of us discarding the poem. The neighbours who were crowding outside my door decided not to knock. They had similar poems to teach and I had clearly started earlier than them, today. The chances of the same scenario being repeated at every house clearly played on their mind before they collectively decided to go home. I was sure that towards the later part of the evening; I would be at the corridor doing the same thing.
Silence prevailed and then…
“ So…I will try again…” Anjali said as she began to recite without giving me a chance to reply.
“ The Little Bird and I…
Once , I saw a little bird,
Going hop, hop, hop
So I said little bird
Will you stop, stop, stop…
I went to the window to say
How did …. no… how do you do…
But he shook his little feather
And away he flew.”
“Bravo! Well done!” I said with glee and relief. We could pack the poem diary away until next week. Thank heavens!
“What happened here?” my husband asked as he surprised us.
“The … Little…Bird….and …. Me … ” I replied dryly, before collapsing on to the couch for some blessed time off.