Don’t come in the way of your children. Let them journey through their lives and find their own paths.
We try to possess our children just because we gave birth to them and therefore we are ‘rightfully’ (that’s a delusionary claim, in my humble opinion!) worried for them. The very idea of possession is so vulgar. It reduces the child to a thing. You possess a thing. You don’t possess your children. You have them in your Life because you are blessed! Parenting is a blessing and is not your birthright!
I read some very tragic stories in the media over the last couple of days. That got me thinking on parenting, responsible parenting at that, all over again. And when I refer to parenting, I am not just referring to biological parents here. I am addressing the role of teachers, society and media, besides the natural parents.
The first story is of a 15-year-old school boy from Chennai, R.Ashok Kumar, who was the runner-up in the National (Indian) Badminton championships. When he returned to Chennai with his medal and certificates, his school admonished him for missing too many classes ‘in the name of sports’! His mother, who works as a maid in households in the neighborhood, is at a loss on what to do. She says her son loves the sport but is ‘worried’ because the school threatens to throw him out. This was also the fate of young Indian cricket star, Unmukt Chand, 19, who led India to victory in the U-19 Cricket World Cup a few months ago. His college, St.Stephen’s in New Delhi, initially did not allow him to appear for his exams because he did not have enough attendance! It then took some backlash in public for the college to revoke its insensitive and senseless stand!
At least, in these two cases, we can see that the children as still in a younger age group, and therefore having __ not mandatorily, in my humble opinion again__to be answerable or responsible towards a school or college, apart from their own families.
But take the case of this young post-graduate, Gaurav Jain, from New Delhi. The Hindu reports that after picking up a Master’s Degree from the Indian Institute of Mass Communication’s Amravati campus this year, Gaurav realized he needed to live the Life of a poor person if he wanted to honestly critique public policy. So, on September 10, 2012, he hired a cycle rickshaw from Roop Nagar (a New Delhi suburb) for Rs. 40 a day, giving his driving license as collateral. Apart from actually living the Life of the folks on the street, Jain also writes a blog on his daily learnings. Titled ‘The other side of the Fence’, his blog, cycletorickshaw.blogspot.in, chronicles his Life and times. And Life on the street is not easy. It has his own upheavals. Jain, given his education, started to mobilize the unorganized cycle rickshaw pullers into a team so that they could demand better fares from customers and better treatment from the high-handedness of the cops, who normally give members of this trade a raw deal. A few weeks ago, Jain was assaulted by a cop for “parking in a no-parking zone”. The story made it to the papers in New Delhi. And Jain’s family flipped! They had no idea their son was a rickshaw puller. And so they actually threw him out. They disowned him! And Jain found himself sharing a 100-sq ft space in a small tenement with six other daily wage earners! The Hindu further reports further that since this incident, his family and Jain have made peace. Jain is now back home. Enriched with his experience, he is now looking for positions where he can apply his real-world perspective in matters of public policy!
Can you imagine a family actually disowns, even if for just a few weeks, an adult son, just because he dared to be different __ with a good reason to boot?
This brings us to a larger question, a common thread, that passes through all three stories and is possibly playing out in your own homes too! And that is the rather sick trend of parents (and teachers) coming in the way of their children’s dreams! If you have adolescent children you will relate to this even more. You are finding now that your child, who until now, was listening to you, does not want to be told ‘anything’. You are beginning to wonder if your child is focused on academics. You worry, therefore, for your child’s grades and job prospects. If this is happening in your home, let me tell you that YOU are losing it! Your worry is understandable. But you acting from that worry __ what you fear about your child’s future __ is totally unacceptable. Instead why can’t you act from faith __ in your child’s desire and ability to make intelligent, independent choices about her or his Life? And why can’t you have faith in your ability to guide, counsel and support your child’s vision for herself or himself? Your children want to live THEIR lives. Get this straight. If you have taught them good values and share a good bond with them, then, you have raised them well! You have got an ‘A’. Beyond this, please, let us__that you and me__not come in their way.
If a child wants to take up badminton or tennis or cricket as a career or act in movies or ride a cycle rickshaw or be a ragpicker, what, pray, is the harm? How many more doctors and engineers and lawyers and software programmers do we want to produce in this world? And if children don’t take those decisions how will we have next the Saina Nehwal or Roger Federer or Sachin Tendulkar or Amitabh Bachchan or Gandhi? How will we have a better world if we keep championing conservative, secure careers, accepting mediocrity in thinking and limiting the aspirations of our children?
Here’s a simple test that you may want to take in your private time. Do it with just yourself. If you are a parent, ask yourself:
- Am I doing what I enjoy doing and love doing or am I just earning a living?
- Given a choice wouldn’t I want to be doing something totally different from what I do to earn a paycheck just now?
- Do I want to see my child as a well qualified professional or do I wish for her or him to be a well-rounded human being?
- Will I feel proud my child owned a villa and four cars or will I be happier if she or he touched the lives of people, made a difference to this world and inspired millions?
You know what you answered. You know what needs to be done. You are not dumb-headed because you are the parent (or teacher) of such a beautiful, intelligent child! So, please, for heaven’s sake, get out of the way of your child’s future. Your child needs your love, your understanding, not your ‘help’ and certainly not your decisions that are born from your insecurities, fears and worries!