To be a good parent, be a strong one in your child’s moment of crisis!


Give your children strength when they are in pain and are suffering. Don’t suffer for and with them!

The only joy we parents want is to see our children happy, healthy and successful. No parent will want their child to go through any pain. And least of all will want to see them suffer. Yet, the nature of Life is that the destinies of our children are different from our own. They will have to live their Life’s design__no matter what we may wish for them. So, intelligent living in the context of parenting is to be able to feel their pain, when they do encounter it, give them strength to endure it, teach them how not to suffer and show them the way to a courageous Life! 

Your first reaction to any pain your child may have to face is one of shock, grief, agony. In your grief-stricken stupor you will plead with each source of emotional succor for mercy. You will offer yourself in place of your child, to a higher energy, and wish that your darling angel be spared. This may well be a noble point of view, but in Life’s scheme of things, it hardly cuts any ice. The truth is, just as you have faced Life, learning from your every living moment, your child too has to go through her or his own learning curve. You cannot circumvent that process. It is both illogical and impossible.

So, indeed, the best thing you can do in an unfortunate situation, when pain is inflicted on your child by Life’s inscrutable design, is to replace your own suffering as a parent with acceptance. From this acceptance you will derive great strength. It is this strength that your child needs. Remember, irrespective of how old your child is, or how old you are, to your child, you are a hero. Your children grow up looking up to you for everything. Initially for food, security, warmth, love and care. Pretty soon, with their first ‘real Life’ experience, they again look up to you __ this time for strength, for hope, for faith and for understanding. It is more important for you to deliver on that expectation of your children than for you to mourn their fates.

A friend spoke to me yesterday about his daughter. At 18, she was going through phenomenal turmoil on the academic front. She had been a topper in all years at school, barring her last one. Resultantly, she did not get the kind of grades she needed to have to get into medical school. Besides, she did not qualify in the national entrance test to medical schools. Since then, she has taken a year off and has been preparing, at a special residential turtorial, which is five hours away from where the family lives, for the 2013 national medical school entrance test. My friend reported that his daughter was continuously in a state of confusion. She feels confident one moment and diffident in another, he said. She doesn’t want to live away from home but she also laments that her focus on her preparations flounder whenever she is at home. My friend and his wife have told their child that they are not keen she studies medicine if she can’t make the grade or cope with the pressure of the intense competition she has to face in  gaining entry to a reputed medical school. They have counseled her. They have talked of alternate career options. They visit her frequently. But, says my friend, the child’s sense of insecurity over her ‘seemingly uncertain’ academic future and confusion prevails. “I feel so helpless watching her suffer. I try to put up a brave front. But I wish there was a way to help her understand that what she grieves over, the uncertainty and homesickness, will be inconsequential in just a few more years,” said my friend. Indeed he is right. And he is doing, as a liberal parent, the best he possibly can. I would any day recommend that parents have honest and uplifting conversations with their children just as my friend has had, than bull doze an opinion or decision. The easiest thing for my friend to do would be to bring her back home, order her to quit making attempts to enter a medical school. And force her to study something which is more easily achieved than let her go after what she loves so much __ which is to study medicine! Yet, my friend is choosing the better way__of letting the child decide while placing all options in front of her__in the interest of his child’s longer term learning. And as he makes his choice he is finding a, perhaps difficult, way to overcome his own suffering of seeing his child ‘needlessly’ suffer.

My friend’s predicament is far more simpler. It is an academic situation and borders on above-average performance and brilliant performance. It is a dilemma between doing something more comfortable yet unexciting (from the child’s point of view) and doing something against all odds but that which is bound to give the child great joy! Many parents have to deal with failed relationships in the their childrens’ lives, horrible health complications, lay-offs, death of their companions or their children! On Sunday I read a heart-rending story, in The Hindu’s Sunday Magazine section, of a young mother’s valiant effort to quell her own suffering to help her 5-year-old daughter fight acute leukemia. The mother differentiates her own suffering of seeing her daughter suffer from that of her daughter’s. She says, “(My daughter) has fought her lonely battle — lonely because cancer pain is unique in its ability to wreck you.” And how she __ and through her, her daughter __ derive strength and succor in listening to A R Rahman’s unputdownable music of over the last two decades. She concludes her piece saying: “Two-and-a-half years on, the promise of a healthy life (for my daughter) is within reach. Jai ho, Rahman bhai. Her (my daughter’s) healing, like your music, is the hand of God!”

To be sure, my wife and I too go through our own dilemmas of having to worry for or agonize, over choices our two young adult children have begun to make or over situations they are faced with, or to let go. We have learned that there’s no easy way to this. Acceptance is the way. We have learned to accept that our children are separate from us. That their destinies are different. We have learned to accept that we cannot live their lives for them __ not anymore. That we cannot decide for them or direct them. That they must learn of Life, from Life, in their own unique ways. So, we do, what we can perhaps do best. Which is, we give them strength. We tell them what we feel and never force a view or enforce a decision. We remind them that no matter what the outcome of their choices will be, they will not be judged or rebuked. We tell them the doors to our hearts and our home is always open to them (and to their families when they raise them). In the last few years, at least a couple of events in our childrens’ lives, based on decisions they took,  were avoidable. We may have saved some money and some sleep had we prevented them from taking those decision. But in doing so we may have robbed our children of a wealth of wisdom that they have drawn from those experiences that their decisions landed them in. That enriching awakening for each of them is worth far, far more than what we perceivably lost!  

Almost always, the most quoted Prophet on Parenting, Khalil Gibran’s words have inspired, guided and led the way for us. Here’s the most significant extract from one of his poems “On Children”:

Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.They come through you but not from you,And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.

I hope his words lead you too to letting your children go and find love, experience, learning and meaning in Life__in the way it is ordained for them!!


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