Being best friends with your young adult children

The relationship between parents and children, especially with teenaged and young adult children, must be like that between good friends. There must always be honest conversations, mutual respect and the freedom for both parents and children to make informed choices.
A young friend who is in a relationship is pregnant. She has been carrying on with her boyfriend without her parents’ knowledge because she is certain of her father’s disapproval. Now, with the pregnancy coming up, she’s at a loss on how to handle the situation. She’s all confused and depressed. She’s not sure she wants to marry her boyfriend. “At least, I am not ready for marriage just now,” she says. And she’s fearful of her father’s reaction should he come to know of her pregnancy. She’s thinking of aborting the pregnancy but is apprehensive of both the process and her ability to deal with it. She’s the only child of her parents and feels guilty that she has perhaps let them down.
My wife and I advised her to take one step at a time. Since she’s clear she doesn’t want to get married immediately, she has to think only about having the baby or aborting the pregnancy. If she chooses to have the baby, she will have to keep her parents informed. And if she wishes to terminate her pregnancy, she can choose to be transparent with her parents and seek their support or she can go through the procedure with her boyfriend by her side. Whatever she chooses to do, our young friend has to own the outcome of her choices. She can’t escape it. That’s what we told her. We also helped her understand that there was nothing immoral about being in a relationship or having premarital sex or even getting pregnant. All these experiences are part of growing up in Life! What is important is that she treats everything she’s going through as a learning experience and simply moves on, without imagining social stigma and being ridden with guilt over letting her parents down. In fact, we advised her to have a heart-to-heart chat with her parents. She’s old enough (she’s 26) to be able to tell them what she wants to do with her Life. Even if she chooses to continue be in a relationship, without a commitment to marrying her boyfriend, we felt, she must keep her parents informed. The key is to be able to convince her parents of her ability to live with consequences of the choices she makes – whatever they may be. Well, if her parents remain unsupportive and unconvinced, she can still go live her Life the way she wants.
I think all of us parents who have young adult children have to understand that we cannot expect our children to necessarily toe our line. Not anymore. They are independent people in their own right, and they must be allowed to evolve into confident folks who lead their lives on their own terms. And all young adults who are beginning to explore Life through relationships have to realize that it is perfectly alright if they choose not to take their parents’ advice on any subject – be it relationships, marriage, career or investments or anything. However, they must have the courage to stand and live by those choices. And if their decisions backfire, if they fail at something they try to do or if they get into an emotionally messy situation, they must have the option to share their experiences with their parents. This is not so much to do a post-mortem but to help distil and imbibe the learnings better. This calls for an open, nurturing environment, a great friendship and mutual respect – not fear and reticence – in the relationship between parents and their young adult children.
Life is a continuous learning experience. Every choice you make leads you to an outcome. Both the experience and the result teach you something. It is through these learnings, often coming from failing and falling down, just as they do from succeeding and flying high, that you grow and evolve in Life. I don’t think any parent, however caring and experienced, can ever simulate a learning for a young adult child by substituting a Life experience with (sound) advice. Further, what happened to you – a relationship break-up or divorce or a business failure – need not necessarily happen to your young adult children. Each person has a Life path that is unique. So, don’t try to come in the way of your young adult children. Teach them however to be strong and to face their realities and own their outcomes. And tell them they are welcome home even if they should come back battle-weary, bruised and battered. Never tell them “I told you so” when they fail at something, instead tell them to get up, dust themselves, take it easy and move on. Being your young adult child’s best friend is a privilege. Don’t lose it by trying to be an over-protective, over-zealous parent!

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Live and savor the experience of this lifetime

Learn to love whatever is happening to you.

Live for the experience. Don’t live for comfort or for an easy Life. Don’t live hoping for no problems. Don’t live expecting something or the other. Expectations always bring agony when they are not met! Just live for the experience. And you will always live happy!

If you examine the source of all your unhappiness, it always boils down to one thing. Your Life is not what you had expected it to be, therefore, you are not happy! Now, where does this thinking come from? Perhaps, from a naïve perspective – from a futile expectation that you were created to live in comfort, in the security of a good job, an assured income, an ever-present and ever-caring family, meaningful relationships and to be in perpetual good health. Nothing can be farther from the truth and you cannot be more ill-informed. When did Life guarantee any of these ‘ideal’ conditions or anything that you want? Life guarantees only the experience of this one lifetime. And it is within this experience that we must find happiness.

So, the simplest way to live will be to experience and savor each moment, each phase, each episode in your Life. Some of it to your liking. Some of it not to your liking. But whatever it is, know that it is always what it is!


Don’t label Life’s experiences; learn from them

Defining events as “good” or “bad” or “ugly” is a human trait. The truth is that there are only experiences in Life – irrespective of what label we stick on them!

Everywhere that you turn, every social media platform, all newspapers and magazines, all over television and on FM radio – there’s so much review of 2013 as it winds down. Events and memories are being categorized as good, bad and ugly.

I don’t think that’s a very productive exercise. In fact, at one level, it’s entirely pointless. Whatever has happened is over. It’s dead and gone. Why review? Why analyze? And, more important, why label what has happened? You come across a fortune. So, it is good? You get laid off, so it is bad? Someone you know dies, so it is ugly!? Life is just a continuous set of events. Or happenings. Each of them teaches us something more, something new about Life. It is up to us to learn from them. This is the essence of Life. There’s nothing ahead of or beyond this. Period.

So, when you can learn something from Life, from each moment, from each experience, how can you label such an event as bad? Which is why you often hear the older people in your family say, with alarming equanimity, when they are faced with a grave situation: “Whatever happens, happens for the good.”

People, including my children, often ask me how can something painful – like the bankruptcy we are going through – be something that’s good? And I direct them to what the experience of being bankrupt has taught me. It has taught me Faith and Patience, it has taught me the value of money, it has showed me how kind and compassionate people are in this world, it has brought me closer to my wife and children, it has made me feel grateful for all the abundance (integrity of purpose and the powerful intent to rebuild the business and repay all our creditors) in my Life in the face of apparent scarcity (lack of money)! So, the truth is that while the events in Life may be painful, ghastly and numbing, experiencing Life through pain can teach you a lot. Provided you are open to learning from it.

But how does one learn through pain? That’s, undoubtedly, a fair question. When you are socked by Life, when you are down in the dumps, when everything you held close to you has been snatched away, the last thing on your mind is to seek a learning from that experience. But in its apparent impossibility lies the opportunity. Now, you can’t do anything – in most Life-changing situations – to put things immediately back. So, the only opportunity available is to ask yourself what you can learn from the experience. When you seek to learn, you gain. And that learning makes the experience of enduring the pain worthwhile!

I remember learning long back that Life is a great teacher. Because she always gives the test first and the lesson later. Each experience in Life therefore is nothing but a test. In this test, there’s no GPA (grade point average – in any case, no one bothers about your GPA once you leave school!). You neither pass nor fail in Life’s tests. You only learn. The faster you learn – and internalize – the faster you graduate to the next test and to the lesson it has to offer!


We are all works-in-progress!

Everyone who comes into your Life is teaching you something, somewhere, all the time.The learning may not be always packaged as one, but if you are tuned into Life’s experiences, you will pick up the learning nevertheless.
Yesterday, I had to request for a service to be delivered to my home by a reputed brand. The company sent me a service representative who was impolite, impudent and, to top it all, was inexperienced. He was a young man who had little patience to understand the problem that he had been sent to solve, let alone solve it! Predictably, I had to turn him away. But the urgency to find a solution to the problem we were facing and my own desire to provide feedback to the company’s management, led me to escalate the matter to the brand’s senior management in my city. The person who took my call was apologetic and immediately sent me a more diligent and experienced representative. The man, in his mid-30s, fixed my problem in some time. And when he was taking my leave, thanked him and I narrated my unfortunate experience with his younger colleague. He apologized, and then, sheepishly smiling at me, he said: “Sir, to be honest even I was like him. I was very ineffective with customer service. But I guess you learn from each experience – good or bad – in Life. As long as you learn, you are growing. I take your compliment as a sign of my personal evolution. Thanks!”
His mature and profound articulation blew me away completely. He was the most unlikely candidate to extol the virtues of learning from Life. Or to be honest about his own learning curve. Yet what sets him apart are precisely those two factors – that he is a learner, and he is not afraid to either make a mistake or own up one!
We are all works-in-progress. No one’s born perfect or experienced. As long as we can learn from each experience in Life, we will grow. Our personal evolution is truly a function of how much we are learning – no matter who we are learning from!

Guts and Glory don’t matter: Experience and Learning do!


Guts and Glory are mere perceptions. The reality is in experiences and in learning from them. It’s through the experiencing and the learning that the soul is enriched.

 

When we watch a movie and admire a hero for the way he or she has fought for justice, against perpetrators of evil or crime or injustice, we come back feeling good. We loved the movie. But don’t really think any of it is real. Because it’s just a story enacted for our entertainment. In real Life when we meet the actor, we do say we admire him or her and their ‘acting’. We know little about who they really are for us to be able to see the person behind the actor.

 

So it is with real Life heroism. Often people look at others around them and call them courageous and celebrate their valor or the stance they have taken in Life on fighting injustice or simply meeting a challenge head on. Someone who has found a deadly disease like cancer is often seen as a champion. Someone who has lived on despite the passing away of a loved one is believed to be very bold. Someone who fights injustice is seen as a ‘fearless’ crusader. And someone who refuses to run away from a seemingly impossible situation is believed to be incredibly resilient.

 

To be sure, everyone who has ever lived has had to encounter fear. Fear spares no one. Interestingly enough though all of us have the ability to be courageous. Because courage is NOT the absence of fear. Courage is what fear delivers when you face up to the fear. Because only when you face up to something, will you realize that it cannot harm you. Only what you run away from chases you, haunts you.

 

 

In a health challenge like cancer, you can feel fearful of death. But as long as you run scared of death, it will torment you. But the moment you discover that death is a non-negotiable eventuality that all of us who are born have to confront, you will no longer fear death. Then you start living. And despite your speeding to death, owning to your personal situation,  you begin to feel blessed that at least you reasonably know how much time you have left to live. And you start investing in the living than obsess with the dying. Fear of death has delivered to you the ability__courage__to live simply because you stopped running away from death.

 

 

So, it is with every Life situation. The more you run away from a problem, the more fearful you will be. When you face it, the problem, even if it doesn’t go away, will at least stop tormenting you. When you stop feeling intimidated by the problem you face, with courage playing a catalyst, faith is born. Faith is the light that drives away the darkness of fear. Remember, darkness cannot drive away light. Only light can eradicate darkness. You cannot project darkness on to anyone or anything. But you can light up a Life, including your own. And faith is that light!

 

Where there is faith, fundamentally in yourself, triumph is certain. You will ultimately prevail. Even if you die, while attempting to get on top of your Life situation, it is a triumph. Because you are now free, liberated from bondage to this world and its worldly attachments, responsibilities, consequences. But often times, the triumph happens again in the real world. And the world will glorify you. The world will see you as successful. True wisdom though lies in knowing that the fans of your success don’t see your struggle or don’t want to see it. They only see the finished product (at least for the moment): the successful you. And that glory can be humbling, relieving, gratifying and, often, heady. Beware of this tricky moment. And stay grounded reminding yourself that all this glory is a mere perception. A perception of the world. The truth is that the experience of getting here has been the reward. Not the material reward that all this glory brought you.

 

Jayakumar, an autorickshaw driver, with his topper daughter Prema! Pic Courtesy: Mid-Day

 

Yesterday India celebrated Prema Jayakumar, daughter of an auto-rickshaw driver from Mumbai,  for topping the national Chartered Accountancy exam. Glory followed suit. Media attention, cash rewards, job offers. And suddenly, overnight, the young 24-year-old, who shares 280 sq-ft of living space with her dad, mom and younger brother (who also passed the same exam this year), is feeling on top of the world. She knows that in a matter of a few weeks or months, she will be able to hoist her family out of the difficult Life they lead and offer them a more comfortable one. In her story, instead of living fearful of the same difficult Life she has led for 24 years, she decided to face her fears, and had the guts, as we see it, to dream big. And her guts led her to her glory. But unless she realizes that what the world sees as her guts is actually her ability to have dreamt big despite her deprived circumstances, and that her glory is only momentary and will fade away once the newness of her story is dead in the public eye, she will get caught up in this perceptional game. (If she indeed does, that’s will be another experience, another learning for her and another story!) The reality for now, in the context we discuss, is that she met Life, faced up to it, and triumphed one phase of it. The entire experience has enriched her. And now, a new conquest, a new experience awaits her.

So, don’t let all this talk of guts and glory, of whatever you do in Life, ever kid you. It’s all hot air capable of blowing your ego bubble. Only so that it can be pricked by Life and circumstance again! Your greatest reward, and your ONLY wealth, is what you have experienced in Life and what you have learned from it! Live with this understanding and focus. And you will be both in bliss and unmoved!