toddler talk Society

Scribbler on the loose

A recent news item that went viral hit rather close to home. A four-year-old Chinese boy got himself and his father stranded in South Korea after he scribbled all over his father’s passport. It appears that the Korean airport officials weren’t cool with the carefully-drawn whiskers and cat ears on daddy’s passport picture (I personally thought it was a good look, but, hey, what do I know!).

For parents with young children, this is the stuff of nightmares. Every parent reading that article probably dashed to the cupboard where their passports were kept and checked to make sure their photos hadn’t somehow sprouted whiskers or bows or buckteeth or random rainbow squiggles. I know I did.

Because, with a toddler around, graffiti is a way of life. I used to find it funny that my mom’s old recipe and song books were covered with my childish drawings and scribbles. I don’t anymore (consider this my formal apology, mom). Once your child learns to hold a crayon or sketch pen or pencil, she is to be considered armed and dangerous. All bets are off and all available surfaces are fair game.

They start, of course, with the walls. What to us are load-bearing structures covered in expensive ‘Royal White – Pearl Finish’ paint is to them vast, empty canvases just waiting to be covered in beautiful art. I have to admit that when my little graffiti artist first got started, I actually enjoyed the squiggles on the wall. “Look!” I cooed, besotted first-time mom that I was, “look at the use of colour and form! She’s a genius!”

Fast-forward a year and a half, and we lived in a forest of squiggles. My enthusiasm was considerably dampened (only her doting grandparents were still convinced of her genius and regularly commissioned artwork), but the artist was undeterred. Since she’d pretty much covered every inch of wall at her eye level, she took to the floors. This seemed like a reasonable compromise, at first. We didn’t have carpets, and a quick wipe got rid of the drawings. It was on the floor that she first ‘drew’ mummy (proudly captured for posterity by daddy on camera). The gleaming tiles seemed to be taking her to new heights of creativity and if anything, the extra wiping was just making our floors cleaner. It was a win-win. Until, that is, she got this rogue batch of sketch pens that simply refused to wipe off. We soaped. We scrubbed. We rubbed the floors raw. My maid threatened to hand in her resignation. And so the floor experiments came to an end. All that remains of that phase is faint, fading henna-like marks on the drawing room tiles, and photos of bobble-headed floor drawings of me.

Next was the ‘body art’ phase, where she discovered the joy of using her legs and arms (and by extension, any exposed portions of mom and dad’s limbs) as a canvas. This time I drew the line. This time I was firm. She only wandered around with big blotches of purple and green on her arms and legs for a couple of weeks (earning me some very disapproving looks when we went out), and daddy only went to work a couple of times with smiley faces on his ankles.

Now, since she’s a ‘big girl’, she prefers to work with paper. Like her little male Chinese counterpart, any paper lying around is converted into a canvas. Just the other day, I stopped her from doodling on some important property documents left on the table (needless to say, I had nightmares about it for days afterward). I routinely write my daily to-do lists over red and green crayon masterpieces in my appointment diary, and take notes during interviews alongside portraits in bright pink in my reporter’s notebook.

And so, to that Chinese father, I say, I feel your pain. Whenever I travel next, the passports will be kept in a safe, undisclosed location that toddler fingers can’t reach (when I discover such a location, I’ll let you know). Should that plan fail, well, I hope we get an airport official with an appreciation for avant-garde art.


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Printable version | Oct 25, 2021 7:21:45 AM | https://www.thehindu.com/features/metroplus/society/Scribbler-on-the-loose/article11634660.ece

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