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Parenting doesn’t follow a plan

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Handbooks and primers are of no help, and as children grow up, we cannot ask them to lead lives tethered to our own dreams

There is no rule book really for parenting, the most daunting of tasks since the first child stepped into this wide world in its wide-eyed innocence. All the handbooks and the primers are of no help.

The first cry is fearsome, the first smile mesmerising and the first words enchanting. How does one bring up this tiny bundle into a worthy human being. There are Tiger Moms who bring up the child by the rule, there is also the overindulgent parent who allows her to have her way with most things. It is the most frustrating and exasperating task as well as the most rewarding and fulfilling.

The initial years of parenting take up all the time and energy of the parents, and as the children grow up with their myriad thoughts and demands, they are slowly fashioning themselves as individuals. In the middle of losing our minds over losing our hold on our children, it will be worthwhile to remember Kahlil Gibran’s wise words, “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.”

Children are by nature curious and like Alice, they get “curiouser” and “curiouser” and wonder why the stars sparkle, why the sky is blue, why trees shed leaves and flowers come drifting down? While we are answering their fathomless questions, we are confronted with the mysteries of the universe we have long since ceased wondering about. The fairy tales of handsome princes and beautiful princesses, scary dragons and gallant knights bring back our long-lost selves and help us connect with our child. We try to show them the way through the ups and downs of life till they break free.

All parents like to see their children as better editions of themselves, to succeed where they have failed, to have the courage they did not have and lead lives beyond their own.

But as they grow up, we cannot ask them to lead lives tethered to our own dreams and unrealised aspirations. To revert to Gibran, “You may give them your love but not your thoughts. For they have their own thoughts.” They must be seen as beings in their own right with the right to dream their dreams and think their own thoughts. They need not conform to the world’s standards or social approbation, and they must be encouraged to get off the beaten track and even take the road less travelled.

In the end, as we take a tally of their achievements and their failures, let us be kind and not judgmental. Everyone stands alone, there is no necessity for comparisons. A green blade of grass glowing in the morning light is as beautiful as the rose. The resplendent glory of the sun lands equally on both and each has a sanctified place under the sun.

Personally, I had to juggle parenting with a demanding job, tied to my desk, with seminars and meetings and training programmes thrown in for good measure. With crawling babies, hyperactive toddlers and later disgruntled teenagers, I had my hands full but I managed. Sometimes I came off with honours, sometimes not. My daughter says with a twinkle in her eye, “Were we ever brought up? I thought we were dragged up.” Bringing up sometimes involves dragging up. The bottom line is loving them through it all.

sudhadevi_nayak@yahoo.com

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Printable version | Jan 24, 2020 8:40:01 PM | https://www.thehindu.com/opinion/open-page/parenting-doesnt-follow-a-plan/article30543959.ece

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