Never come in the way of your child’s Life choices

When your child makes an unconventional choice, celebrate, rather than worry!

Yesterday we met a gentleman who said he was concerned that his son, after his 12thgrade, wanted to pursue a career in art. What the man was perplexed about was that his child had never “demonstrated artistic talent” and yet he wanted to join a foundational undergrad program in art and follow it up with a two-year Master’s degree at some point.
I asked the gentleman what exactly was his concern.
He replied: “I wanted my son to have a basic qualification before he embarked on a career in art.”
By basic, what the man really meant is, doing a conventional degree in medicine, engineering, pure sciences, math, law or literature and such. And why does such a basic qualification matter? Because, as popular perception defines it, starting career plans in these fields are more stable and income, earning a living, doesn’t pose a challenge.  
But what about doing what you love doing? What about passion?
“Well,” said the man, “Passion won’t go anywhere. You can always pursue passion later on in Life after you earn some money and save enough to last your lifetime!”
The gentleman is not alone. This is how most of the world thinks, works and lives. A majority of the people believe Life must and will progress linearly. Which is you finish school, go through college, get a job, earn an income, raise a family, build a house, put your kids through school and college, retire and post-retirement you try to follow your bliss – health and time (on the planet) permitting – and, eventually, you die. Even assuming that this linear progression and its attendant monotony is sufferable, there is no guarantee that anyone’s Life progresses along this straight path. A health challenge here, a relationship issue there, a career low or a fundamental skills issue (because you have opted to do something only because it pays you and not because you love doing it) – all this and more makes your Life path look like an ECG reading, often even treacherous to survive! So, after battling Life’s ups and downs, when you finally have reached a point when you can afford to go do what you love doing, you are either too exhausted and Life-weary or you just have run out of time! 

Now, this perspective is not just about the career choices that your child may make. It is the best way forward for you – for your own inner peace – for all your child’s Life choices.
A fundamental principle of good, mature, intelligent parenting is to not try to live the lives of your kids. Simply, don’t come in their way. Don’t try to protect them. Yes, it is a natural tendency to tell them what you believe they must be doing. But say it suggestively and be done with it. Don’t impose your views. Don’t sweat over them. Don’t worry for them. Remember that they are individuals in their own right. They have an independent, intelligent mind – after all, they are your children! So, they want to go out into the big, bountiful world and experiment. They have a right to do what they love doing. And we must never come in their way.
What is the worst that can happen to your child if your child’s choice – of career or relationship or whatever – doesn’t work out? Critically time would have been lost during the tenure of the “experiment”. But how can you ever compute the value of the learning the experience will give your child? The experience of immersing in what she or he loves doing, the experience of selling a value proposition to the world, the experience of being rejected, the experience of thinking out of the box, the experience of stumbling, struggling, falling and standing up again. And how can you even put a value to whatever is making your child happy?
Yes, if a child is embracing a ruinous habit or when, for whatever reason, the child is straying on the wrong side of law or going against the principles of humanity, it is your duty as a parent to stand up and red flag that moment. But again, there are no guarantees that you will be heard or that your sane counsel will prevail. So, we come back to the same principle – suggest, advice and be done with it. Remember, in such cases, when you are not heard, you have not failed. It is just that your child’s learning curve is steeper!

I believe we can give our children only two things – roots, foundational values, on how Life can and must be lived and wings, freedom, so they can fly away. Why would you want to keep your child entrapped in your shadow? Why would you not let her or him just be, let her or him free, to fly away and touch the sky?

If you are walking around a puddle and not through it…well…the child within you is dead!

Awaken the child in you. You will never have a problem living__and you will never feel old!
While it may be a good idea to choose a successful adult to be a role model for our dreams, ambitions and professional aspirations, in terms of our attitude to Life__and to practice intelligent living__it may just be a great idea to make an infant our role model too! Children teach us innocence, to forgive and forget, to trust and to be joyful at all times!
British author, known most for his science fiction works, Brian Aldiss painted a bleak, but awakening picture of adulthood with the words: “When childhood dies, its corpses are called adults and they enter society, one of the politer names of hell. That is why we dread children, even if we love them; they show us the state of our decay.” This is indeed the truth. As adults we have stopped being innocent. There’s a lurking suspicion we hold on every encounter, judging motives and evaluating people all the time. We carry baggage of past hurts and often want to avenge insults and betrayals. We are never happy in whatever moment we are living through __ always choosing to wallow in the past or worry of the future.
Look at the children in your family, up until the age of 5 at least. Don’t they deal with people as they are? Never judging. Always trusting. Full of energy and enthusiasm. When you are child-like, and see the world with curiosity, with a raging quest for each new experience, you will find your creative juices flowing, your imagination soaring and you will find bliss in every moment! As the late historian Papiya Ghosh said, “In my soul, I am still that small child who did not care about anything else but the beautiful colors of a rainbow.”

So, if you are walking around a puddle and not through it, if you are worried about what people at the table will think if you dropped sauce on yourself, if you are conscious of people looking at you at an airport while you peer at and count the planes, if you are unable to sleep deeply, peacefully, instantaneously, it’s time for you to go back to your childhood. And do all those things nowthat you did then. There is still the child in you__rediscover your true Self!

Parenting is a responsibility that must be ‘owned’ and ‘shared’ by both parents

Marriage and parenting are an immense responsibility that always go hand-in-hand. The best gift parents can give their children is a happy marriage between themselves. 
Pocket money cannot, movies cannot, the internet cannot and poor quality schooling cannot ‘corrupt’ any child’s values and behavior as much as poor quality and insufficient parenting can. Parenting is not about breathing down your child’s neck and dictating what’s right and what’s wrong. It is about having qualitative, continuous conversations on what your experiences have been. It is about letting the child discover her or his own way of living and reminding the child that you are there and will be there __ no matter what.
Often times, given the stressed lives that most parents lead, there’s no communication (or it is inadequate) between parents and child. ‘Did you eat?’, ‘Have you done your homework?’, ‘Why are you late?’, ‘Get off facebook, will you?’ are not the conversations that add up to quality communication between parent and child. ‘How are you feeling?’, ‘What about your homework is bugging?, ‘Why are you so uninterested in making your room or doing the dishes?, ‘What was your learning from the movie?’, ‘What’s do you feel about the girls or boys in your class?’, ‘Are you attracted to any of them?’ __ these are good questions that give you an opportunity as a parent to engage with your child’s development. To share. To allow her or him to seek clarifications, to venture an opinion.
Also, if you actually pause and reflect, there are no difficult or scandalous conversations ever with children. Kids see an ad for condom or a sanitary napkin on TV and obviously want to know what it is. Changing the channel immediately is only going to provoke their curiosity. And, in today’s Google era, they are going to find what it is all about__one way or the other. Whether you like it or not. You may instead want to stay with the channel and use it to ‘educate’ your child on sex, safe sex and personal hygiene__all of which are important biological aspects of evolution in any case.
Similarly, when a child performs poorly in a subject it does not mean she or he is a loser. It only means the child is not interested in that subject. And perhaps is interested in something else. So, when a teacher sends a report home saying the child is lagging in studies, the conversation with the child must involve these possible questions: ‘Doing what else would give you joy?’, ‘What about this subject is incomprehensible?’ ‘What about the teacher don’t you like?’ and such.
Money makes people responsible. Not irresponsible. We too have made wrong choices and decisions involving money and learnt from them. If you believe money can ‘corrupt’ your child, I am sorry, that’s a poor view you hold of your own creation. And let’s not try to pontificate if schools can be any better. Let’s review how can our houses can become homes.

Parenting is a twosome responsibility. In the event that you are having a bad marriage, be open about it. Don’t fight. Disagree. Share with your children the reasons for your disagreement and tell them individually how your relationship with them (the kids) does not change despite your relationship with each other changing. Parenting is a great opportunity to build the next generation of global citizens. That’s why it is a responsibility that must be ‘owned’ and ‘shared’ by both parents. Being a parent is being a good gardener or farmer. You always will reap what you sow.

A Life Lesson from Darin Zanyar – Be what you wanna be…!

Be what you want to be. Do what you want to do. You will make mistakes along the way. You will fall. But be sure, you’ll rise again. That’s what Life’s really all about!
It is that time of the year when most parents are all keyed up about what academic program their young (almost adult) children must pursue. With amazing consistency, most choices are made basis the “earning potential” that careers promise. Very few parents actually let their children choose what comes to them naturally and what they can do best. Sometimes, children don’t know what they are good at. Or don’t know what they want to do. Which is also totally fine. Life, despite all its unpredictability, still offers a lot of time for people to decide what they want to do and then actually allows them the time to go do it too! To agonize over the (perceived) “indecisiveness” of a teenager, in my humble opinion, is neither appropriate nor is it sensible!
My experience as a young adult who had to fight for doing what I wanted to do and as a parent who has allowed his two children to do whatever gives them joy has taught me some simple lessons.
1.   However much you plan, Life has a way of taking you to where you must arrive. And that destination may not have even been on your radar or in your wildest dreams!
2.     There’s nothing called a zero-defect career or even a perfect career. Everyone makes mistakes. S@#T Happens!
3.     Having money and job security doesn’t necessarily mean you will have fun doing what you do and enjoy Life!
So, the best way to approach your career is to ask yourself:
                                                          i.    What am I extremely good at?
                                                         ii.    What do I love doing? What comes naturally to me?
                                                        iii.    How can I create value and make a difference, doing what I (will) do, every single day?
Even as you answer those questions honestly and then choose to follow your dream, be open to the surprises that Life may throw up. It may be a breakthrough or it may be an unprecedented challenge. Go wherever Life’s taking you and go with whatever comes you way. There’s only one thing you can really control in your Life. And that is, getting better, every single day, at doing what you love doing! In the last scene of the iconic movie 3 Idiots (2009, Rajkumar Hirani), the narrator’s voice over quotes “Baba” Ranchhoddas (Aamir Khan) as saying: “Kabil Bano, Kabil. Kamyiabi Phir Jhak Marke Tumhare Piche Ayegi”. It means: “Strive to become capable or skilled (actually the best) in whatever you do. Success will then come, chasing after you.” The movie’s message is inspiring. Unfortunately, too few parents have internalized it. And fewer still have had the courage to let their children do what they want to do.
What inhibits parents is a sense of insecurity, a “what if” fear, an overzealousness to protect their children. Naturally, if you are a parent who has overcome challenges to be where you are today (in fact, who hasn’t been through tough times?), you don’t want your children to face the same situations and hardships. So, you begin with advising career choices but soon start directing and managing your kids’ careers. Children, on the other hand, respond in two ways. Either they rebel – like the way I did or they just do what the parents advise them to do, out of “respect” for them.
Parents and children both must understand one thing – that each Life is unique. There is no template to Life. Each of us is entitled to our share of experiments, adventures, mistakes and genius. The best way to live then is to live loving what we do. Then everything, in the end, always falls in place!
I was very impressed listening to a song by the young Swedish pop singer Darin Zanyar. The lyrics went somewhat like this ~
“Doctor, Actor, Lawyer or a Singer,
Why not President, be a dreamer,
You can be just the one you wanna be…
You never know what Life could bring,
‘Cause nothing lasts forever…”
Darin’s all of 26 and to imagine he sang this simple yet meaningful song (‘Darin’, 2005) when he was barely 17! That’s what’s really possible when parents don’t rein in their kids’ latent talent!
If you are a parent reading this, you may want to drop your inhibitions and insecurities. Go listen to your children, understand what they are deeply passionate about and then trust them to go follow their dreams. If you are a young adult reading this, know that it’s cool to be yourself. So, go be that person you want to be! The world needs people like you – who are alive, happening and happy!

Let’s learn to let our children be who they are

The biggest support that you can offer to your children is to never compare them with others.  

Each child is unique. Each child is independent. And each child has a different way of experiencing and making sense of Life. We must learn to appreciate this difference, this uniqueness, and to allow our children to grow up – and evolve – into being good human beings. This is our “only” responsibility with regard to our children.

But most of the time your parental concern for protecting your child from Life’s truant ways comes between you and your child’s journey to explore – to touch and feel – Life. From taking time, or even being unable, to appreciate a child’s dyslexic condition to forcing a science curriculum on a child who is interested in arts to forcing a young adult into a software career, when all he wants is to create music, to insisting that your daughter marry someone from within the community than someone who loves her deeply – there are a million ways in which you – and I – often fail to support our children. Or, for that matter, even understand them.

Therefore, I was very encouraged to read renowned theatre actor and film director, Chitra Palekar’s (who is divorced from Amol Palekar) views on a “different” choice her daughter made many years ago. Chitra shared her personal story with The Times of India (TOI) yesterday saying how her daughter walked up to her one day in the early ‘90s and reported that she was a homosexual.

Chitra Palekar (right) with her daughter
Pic Source: Internet
“Would you love your child less if he is left-handed? Would you hate her if she is dark? You don’t. It is the same case here. Nothing changes because she has a different sexual orientation. Science has proved it’s not a disease, it is merely a difference. She is your child. And you want her to flower,” Chitra told TOI. She added: “She told me: ‘Amma, I’m a lesbian’. I wasn’t shocked. I was just surprised, taken aback. Heterosexuality is what we’ve all grown up with. My only knowledge about homosexuality was through films and some literature. But I immediately accepted her. Because she was the same that she was till two minutes ago. Nothing about her had changed for me.” Chitra says she was only hurt that her daughter had not shared this ‘difference’ in her with Chitra any earlier. But being the mother that she is, Chitra forgave her daughter and moved on. Her daughter, now 41, teaches at the University of Western Australia, and lives with her partner of 14 years.

When it comes to our children, not all of us have to always deal with situations as difficult as the one Chitra had to. But her maturity and her understanding are indeed an inspiration. Comparing our children with other children and pining for them to “not be different” is ruining our own happiness and that of our children. What we can learn is to just let our children be who they are. We can teach them good values, we can invite them to learn from our experiences by sharing with them openly – but beyond these we must cease to have any expectations from them. They have been created to experience Life in their own unique way. That way may not be the one we know or understand. I believe the only blessing we can ask for, is for our children to be happy doing whatever they choose to do in Life – whoever they choose to do it with!