Category Archives: creativity

Why did the tortoise not wake the hare? Questions on our popular fable.

I have been an avid reader all my life and it is safe to assume that as a child, I would have heard a lot of stories. However, I dont remember even questioning them. One could say I was too lazy or uncritical, or in a more positive light, I just accepted the story as someone’s worldview and did not think to question it.

In my thirties, and with a growing child now, I am now revisiting these stories, not as a listener but as a speaker and I am constantly questioned about them. My daughter is very unlike me. Every think I say in the story has to confirm to whatever she has been told or has observed and inferred for herself before. THis is how the rendering of the popular tortoise and hare story went.


Me reading the story from the aesop fable book : The hare would come near the lake and tease the tortoise.


Migu (my daughter) : Looking at the pictures, Where is the lake? I dont see any?


Me : They forgot to put it, but it was there.

Migu : BUt the tortoise I used to see in Aunty’s house (our neighbor had a tortoise) was always in water. WHy is this one not in water.

Me : It will go back to water soon.

Migu : But if it is in water, why should it do a running race?

Me : Good question, but somehow it did do running race.

We move on with the story till we reach the point of the hare sleeping

Migu : Why did hare sleep in running race?

Me : He was confident he will win, so he slept.

Migu : Did the tortoise not see him sleep?

Me: Yes he did

Migu : Why did he not wake him up then?


I dont want to overanalyze her thought processes while making these observations, but I do sometimes thin, Hey, that is a fairly nuanced understanding of equity (how is it even fair for a tortoise and hare to have a race) and fairplay (tortoise should wake up the hare) for a four year old.





You dont need to be correct all the time

Mrignayanee’s (my daughter)  adventures  with her shape sorter toy has been quite interesting.

For those of you who dont know what a shape sorter is, it consists of different pieces in different shapes (cube, pyramid etc) along with a receptacle with a lid which has shapes to match the pieces. The kid is supposed to figure out where to put which piece.

Now, Mirgnayanee tried doing it the conventional way a couple of times. Her trials were random. Then she decided there was no need for a lid to be on the receptacle at all. She removed it, freely put the pieces in and out, and was very happy with herself. The point that the rule of the game did not allow her to remove the lid was immaterial to her. She probably saw no need to adhere to a rule, when her primary purpose was to simply put and remove things from the receptacle.

There are two ways I can take this. I can feel happy that my daughter is a lateral thinker who sets her own rules. Or I can feel bothered that she is not paying attention and not getting it right, like other kids her age. I have now chosen to do the former, but  I think my natural inclination was to do the latter. I had to fight hard not to force her to play it the right way. I had to fight hard not to manipulate her into putting it in the ‘right’ way. I was so anxious she should get it right, I almost made sure she would put it in the right hole, by placing the correct hole at the most accessible location.  I had to  let go of my anxiety that my daughter is not doing something ‘correct’.

Similarly with her vocabulary. She is now at a babbling stage. SHe loves dogs and animals, and in general she chooses to call all animals ‘bow wow’. Her logic I presume is, if there are four feet and a tail, its a bow wow. She uses this consistently. In a friends house, she picked up a soft toy of a tiger, called it ‘bow wow’ and petted it. The other day, I pointed a camel to her, she stared at it for two minutes, before turning around and confirming this was also a ‘bow wow’. I had to tell myself for her to have made this abstract thinking that creatures with four legs and a tail is a bow wow is itself a great feat, and I dont need her to recognize every animal in the planet ‘correctly’.

I was greatly influenced by some of the thoughts of John Holt and read his work extensively, before Mrignayanee came. I really appreciate his point that children are largely self taught, and if we resist from hurrying up and trying to teach them things, they will learn from their natural curiosity. I decided this is how I will be as a parent. But trust me its easier said than done. We are each of us and so obsessed with getting things right that we cant help but pass on this anxiety to our children. Trying to let go of this anxiety may be the hardest thing I do as a mother. And yet, it may be the best present I can give my daughter, because I set her free to figure things out her own way.

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