Let ‘em children be free

Kate, William and the Royal Baby
The arrival of a British Prince on the planet, as Kate and William’s first born, has whipped up such a frenzy. I read in one of the papers this morning an astrologer predicting how the child would fare as a man. There is speculation on what impact his birth, and new merchandize that is likely to be launched, will have on the British retail economy. And another point of view speculates that unless this Prince goes on to be 87, in 2100, chances of him being King are slim. One headline said “Royal Baby misses being Suriya (the Tamizh movie star) by a day!” – meaning, absurdly, that the baby was born a day ahead of Suriya’s 38thbirthday!
And then there’s this picture of the day-old baby on the front page of a newspaper – serene, unmindlful of all the attention, secure in the arms of its mother Kate.
                                                                                                                                                                                
That led to wonder why is it that we don’t leave our children alone? Bad enough we have been brought up without much choice. And now we are perpetrating the same abysmal conditioning on the next generation?
First let us understand what Khalil Gibran (1883~1931), the venerable Lebanese-American thinker and author, said so emphatically – that our children are born through us, not for us! We are only instruments that delivered them here. So, let’s stop being possessive about them. Children are not things to be possessed. We must recognize them as individual human beings __ like you and me. You don’t control human beings. If you do, you are a slave driver, a dictator. Not a parent.
Second, look at how choice-less birth is – yours, mine, even your child’s! A child cannot choose its sex or its parents or its home or its place of birth or even its name. Everything is given. In fact, everything’s forced. I am sure if each of us sat and thought about it, we perhaps may not really have wanted to have the name that we have been given. We may have preferred some other name. But since there was no choice possible, we endure our given names. So, obviously, we must give our children the opportunity to choose what they love – in all matters where it is still possible to exercise a choice! Looking after and raising children, with good values, does not give us the license to force them to do anything and everything we want done. But invariably we force a lot – what to eat, what to wear, when to sleep, what religion to practice and so on. Or as in the case of the Royal Baby, even his destiny is forced on him already. For all we know, when he grows up, he may not want to be King. He may just want to be a wanderer, traveling the world – and not want to be confined to the monotony and rigor of monarchy!
Third, we often confuse our parent-status with ownership. “My child” does not ever mean to us parents – “child in my care”. It has always meant “I own this child!”. So, where’s the child free? Isn’t the child enslaved right at birth? We mask this injustice in the garb of “protection and security”. Demanding obedience to a code of conduct laid down by us has become a universal basis for bringing up children. A child has to adhere to a parent’s “yes” or “no”. The child has no voice and even if it has, it is often bull-dozed into submission. I am not saying that we let children do whatever they want. But how about replacing obedience with intelligence? How about telling the child, through several conversations, what is right and what is wrong. How about empowering the child, over time, to take informed decisions? How about teaching children to learn from their mistakes – borne from indecision to poor decision to plain recklessness?
Fourth and finally, let’s not try to make our children like us. Let them be different. Just because you are a doctor, does not mean your child should be one too. Help the child understand her or his calling by allowing experimentation. By trying and failing. Maybe even a hundred times. Our current education system, in India at least, is very restrictive and taxing on children. It measures talent only in set parameters _ science, history, geography, a few languages and math. But what if the child wants to be an artist? Or an entrepreneur? Or an inventor? Or a writer? Or a politician? Or a photographer? A musician? Or an actor? Unless you have given ample choice to a child, and seen for yourself the level of proficiency and passion the child has in a field, do not force that study on that child. Grades and marks are not the only markers. Joy (how much joy a child derives doing something) and effortlessness (how easily is a child able to accomplish something) are key indicators too. Look for them always.
So, whether the new born is a King-in-waiting or a Princess of your family, allow any child choice, freedom and the opportunity to live his or her Life. Remember: as a parent, you are simply an instrument that brought your child to this world. Don’t ever mistake your being a parent for being an owner. Be a great friend and a compassionate mentor instead!