“Because The Rolling Stone Gather’s No Moss”

I loathed even the thought of going to the hospital. The air always rife with the stench of antiseptics, people with grim and sombre faces moving around in a state of being stretched tight mentally. It gave me the perpetual creeps. But the top contender of hereditary ailments passed down generations in ‘S’s family had struck one fine evening. I had witnessed many of his relatives go down battling their way against this faceless monster. It felt as though an ominous bank of dark clouds had suddenly gripped my unsuspecting mind when ‘S’ complained of a pain on the left side of his chest. The feeling was quite stifling and I didn’t want to take any chances. So the next day we booked an appointment with the GP and headed straight to meet our health commitments.

We had barely made it into the reception area when a beaming young nurse in her spotless light blue hospital uniform barged in and called out ‘S’s’ name. As ‘S’ foundered clumsily to raise his hand up in the air in acknowledgement, I threw him a weary look and let out a sigh of disappointment cursing him silently under the breath. He is always late for appointments especially the ones that are medical in nature. The nurse immediately gestured him to follow suit, and ushered him into the ‘Doctor’s Room’.

As I watched ‘S’ wading through the jam packed reception area and disappear behind the doors of the ‘Doctor’s Room’, I digged into my bag; pulled out the earphones and the e-reader, slid a bit forward on the chair, made a comfortable trajectory with the back rest and started reading.

Half way into my book, I looked up to scan through the ever increasing crowd around me. Howsoever I detested a visit to the hospital, a congregation of people always fascinated me. These are excellent places to pick characters and dialogues for your stories especially if you are an aspiring writer. So I closed my e-reader and started looking at the people around me; observing them; eavesdropping on their conversations and trying to spot characters for the story that I intended to finish for quite some time now.

There is something about a wait, it seems endless. People try all sorts of positions, shift places, check their watches every minute, in an attempt to shorten it, yet the wait goes on, unperturbed and seamless. It’s amusing to see how in our oh-so-ever busy lives, just stopping for a while makes us so restless; even if that stopping means gallons for our own health.

I watched her as she slowly tried to make her way through the sea of impatient people. Her hands were shaking, legs trembling and there was an unfading forlorn look on her face. She meandered slowly through the crowd to the reception bay which read ‘Hjerte Patient Afdeling’ in bright red. Her walking aid would occasionally clamber up on someone’s ankle or bump into someone’s posterior. She would apologise immediately for her mistake, flashing a warm sunny smile.

She finally made it to the desk, where a lady with blonde hair and wheatish skin, flaunting a sparkling silver ‘Christiain Dior’ sports watch sat, busy talking to someone on the phone. Must be an angry enquirer on the other side for her face was all flushed up!

As the ‘lady behind the desk’ finally placed the receiver back, ‘my old lady’ murmured her query; her frail voice lost amidst the swelling voices of the crowd. I watched her as she repeated her question. The ‘lady behind the desk’ heard her this time, answered it and gestured her to take a seat handing over the token.

She turned around to find herself a place to sit. My eyes scanned in toto. Unfortunately the place was teeming with so many people that you should consider yourself lucky to find a place to stand, leave alone a place to sit. I watched her as she looked around once more in desperation and suddenly the waves of guilt drowned me. Although I was reluctant to let go of my chair because the sole electricity points that matched the pins on my charger were right behind it; but somewhere my conscience beckoned me and I obliged.

She saw me get up, smiled in gratification and budged towards me. With my place taken and ‘S’ nowhere to be seen, I assumed that it will be a long wait. So I sat down beside the old lady, re-plugged my earphones and resumed my read.

Through the corner of my eye I could see two hands frantically criss-crossing. As I followed the hands I saw that it was the old lady who was making futile attempts in catching my attention. So I quickly removed my ear-phones.

“I am sorry I took your place,” she said in her frail voice.

Her apology drowned me in shame, once more.

“Never mind,” I said. “I am sorry; I shouldn’t have taken the seat in the first place. But my mobile phone had conked off and I wanted to charge it a bit.”

We chatted for some-time. She was particularly curious of my presence in the ‘Cardiology Department’ since I was young. I told her that I had accompanied my husband for a cardio check-up because he had a family history of heart diseases and he was complaining of a chest pain last evening.

“Even I have a daughter,” her voice pepping up as I told her about mine.

She told me that her daughter works in the Danish Labour Market; and her office was in Copenhagen where she lived with her husband and a 5 year old daughter. The old lady had lost her husband 2 years ago following which she had shifted to a senior citizen home, about 3 hours from Copenhagen.

“Why don’t you live with your daughter and her family?” I enquired curiously.

“Oh no-no,” she said her face flushed in exasperation on my proposal. “She has her own life and her own family. They come to visit me every month though. Moreover I can very much live on my own and fend for my living. I have worked for most of my life and the pension money sustains my daily needs,” she said proudly.

Realising that my honest concern might have offended her amour propre, I immediately swung to the damage control mode.

“I am sorry if I have offended you which definitely wasn’t my intention at all,” I said. “I come from a country where taking care of your aging parents comes naturally,” I continued. “We don’t wait for our parents to ring us and tell us to come over; we do it anyway. Most of our parents are financially independent; they can take care of themselves and might not be dependent on their children. However, the presence of the children when they are in the hospital is a moral reinforcement for them if not anything else. It doesn’t matter who pays the bills finally, the presence is what matters.”

She seemed to comprehend the point I was trying to make here. “Copenhagen is too far dear and I have to visit the hospital atleast twice a week for a check-up,” she said.

“But isn’t it her duty to take the day off and accompany you to the GP?” I retorted.

“I like it this way dear,” she said. “I like doing my own chores, doing my doctor’s visits, carrying my own groceries, sending my mails and helping myself to a glass of red-wine once in 3 days. It gives me the feeling of empowerment as well as spares me the guilt of becoming a burden on someone. My husband was bedridden for 7 years before he passed away and there wasn’t a day when he didn’t regret it and felt sorry for me. He was an athlete all his life, a national level triathlons champion, never skipped a day of run in the hope of remaining fit throughout his life. Yet he became paralysed waist down following a lethal stroke and was completely dependent on me. I know I won’t be able to continue for long on my own this way but I want to carry on, and enjoy my independence for as long as I can because ‘A Rolling Stone Gathers No Moss’”, she finally said and got up.

Her token number was still flashing on the overhead display as I caught ‘S’ finally emerging out from behind the ‘Doctor’s Room’ doors as ‘my old lady’ dissapeared behind the same, with the beaming nurse in tow and her final words still ringing in my ears.

Why do children lie?

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Image from Shutterstock

Five year old Surbhi was a great story teller. Her parents, Nitya and Devesh were proud of their daughter’s story telling skill. They would often tell their friends and family about her talent, sometimes adding little bits and pieces here and there. A bit of harmless bragging won’t harm, will it; they thought, rather it carves out a much better picture of their daughter and her talent.

As children genetically are Surbhi picked up the hints left by her parents and mastered the art. It wasn’t long enough when apart from mastering the art of story-telling, Surbhi inadvertently picked up the habit of lying. For her it was just another form of story-telling. At her age she was ignorant of the consequences that her benign story might bring; a story that was just a figment of her innocuous brain.

Surbhi would imagine she was having pony princess parties, dress them up and would weave stories around them. She was excellent in making up stories around simple things. During her primary schooling, she would often come home with little Lego figurines from her school. When Nitya asked her why she was bringing home school toys, then she would say that the teachers have asked her to take them home. She would cite tall tales on how good and well behaved she was at school and how impressed her class teacher was with her that she gave the little Legos to her and told her that she was being rewarded for her good behaviour. The unsuspecting Nitya would hardly read between the lines and would in turn be proud of her little princess. However, after some days Surbhi refused to go to school anymore because it seems the ever appreciating teachers had suddenly turned villains. According to her they would scold her for no reason and also would tell her that she was a badly behaved girl. Yet everyday Nitya would find the Lego figurines in Surbhi’s pockets only to be told that now her friends have started giving her the toys.

It was only on one of the PTM’s that Nitya discovered her daughter’s habit of lying. That day Nitya and Devesh sat down to have a long chat with their daughter.

Young children like Surbhi spinning stories around unsuspecting and simple things don’t come as a surprise for us. In fact manipulating the truth for personal gains is viewed as a ‘developmental milestone, much like learning to get dressed by yourself or to take turns.’ Some studies have shown that bright kids who are able to pick up the nugatory and trivial data from their everyday life and spin phenomenal stories around them pick up the skill from a very early age, as early as 2-3 years. For older kids of age 4 and 5, the game is on big time and slowly they start mastering the art. Fortunately, just because your young child is a frequent fabler doesn’t mean that she’ll grow up to be a big, fat liar. However, as parents it is our job to identify the problem early and nip this bad habit before it becomes ingrained. Freaking out and screaming at your kid or punishing her won’t discourage her; in fact she may simply become a better liar to avoid getting caught the next time.

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Image from Shutterstock

Before the spin begins:

  1. Being Pro-active. As parents we should always play on our front foot; be pro-active rather than reactive. So we shouldn’t wait to catch our child lying for the first time to teach her the importance of truth and its consequences. He/she is in a much better position to listen to the parents if he/she isn’t on the defensive.
  2. Reading books. Books can help introduce the subject in a way that doesn’t seem accusatory. Books like Princess K.I.M. and the Lie That Grew, by Maryann Cocca-Leffler, or Tell the Truth, B.B. Wolf are some books that are good in introducing the concept. Stories like Pinocchio and his Growing Nose are also best examples to introduce the little ones to the consequences of lying. Citing personal examples on how you lied when you were a child and what consequences followed will make the learning more at home.
  3. Setting examples. Children love to imitate their parents so citing personal examples and setting examples for them to follow through your daily behaviour on how you deal with situations and come out of it can give them a moral boost and encourage them not to lie.
  4. Talking to them about special cases. When children reach certain age say about 7 or 8 years, they begin to understand the nuances of being ‘prosocial’ or telling white lies. These are lies which are said in order to protect someone from getting hurt, (like you tell you love the present given by your mom or someone close to you even though you do not like it). In such cases as parents it is our duty to explain to our children that although we are telling a lie to save someone from getting hurt yet these are exceptions to honesty that cannot be resorted to on a regular basis to bail them out from difficult situations. A clear demarcation of boundaries is as important as conceptualization.
  5. Spending quality time with your children. Sometimes children lie to get your attention or when they feel that they are being neglected. They lie to cover up their insecurities; whether inside the house or outside; insecurities about school or about friends and peers. Talking to them about their fears and helping them over come them can only be done by talking to them and spending quality time.
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When There’s a Whopper in the Works:

You walk into your house after a bad day at work and find an elaborate drawing, made in permanent marker, on your bedroom wall. Uh-oh! The culprit knows she has invited trouble big time. Can’t you just see her little brain toiling extra time to come up with a way to wriggle out of situation? Even if you sense a con job coming, it’s not too late to help her come clean.

  1. Stay Calm. Although you are already in a battle within yourself but staying calm and not losing your temper is the only key to pull back your child from falling prey to the temptation. Children often take the easy way out when they fear your response.
  2. Don’t manipulate the little mind. The ice-cream that you bought yesterday is no-where to be found. When you walk into her room you see her playing with her toys, the ends of her lips still bearing the remnants of the ice-cream that she had tried hard to wipe clean with her tongue. Asking her whether she has done it or not is pointless for although you see it she doesn’t and she will try her best not to own up to it. So the best you can do instead of accusing her directly is tell her that ‘it is okay to catch a sweet snack in between meals but it is always the right thing to first ask Mommy about it.’
  3. Appreciate her honesty. Children love to be appreciated for the little good gestures and behaviour they do. The appreciation gives a positive vibe to them encouraging them to carry on the good work. So next time your child is honest make sure you do not miss the opportunity of appreciating her honesty. Little things can go great lengths.