Updated: Oct 16, 2021
As our children return to school, many of them striding up with backpacks for the first time in nearly 17 months, my loving thoughts are with them.
What a period of disruption and adaptation this has been for them!
Let me, therefore, begin by first giving our young ones the credit they deserve for pulling through what even we as adults found insufferable.
Notwithstanding the fitful starts, the arduous online sittings and all the attendant frustrations, they have prevailed. I can’t think of one single word to appreciate their resilience. I hope this piece will serve as a citation for the commendable manner in which they have swum through the currents and got till here.
As a children’s coach of several years, I have observed that parental concerns about children are mainly twofold. One is associated with grades and career, and the other about a frivolous attitude, an apparent lack of enthusiasm and serious interest in ‘things that matter’.
It is true that the world has changed many times over from when we were in school, but every time I see a parent getting excessively keyed up about their child’s future, I harken back to the old times. Did my parents really go through such concerns? Did they worry that I may not make the cut in a dog-eat-dog world? Not the least bit in my memory. And if in secret they did, they darn well made sure that it didn’t get to me. Which probably explains the luxuriant manner in which my faculties grew on its own, as if led by nature’s forces to where I now belong.
Extended discourses on this topic have yielded some results, though. Most parents now aver that they don’t subject their children to duress. They are now less articulate about their concerns, and the pressure on the children, it seems, have become covert. Note this, become covert, and not gone.
Our children still feel that they are fighting vexing battles and we have often seen how the feeblest ones crash and crumble like cookies. Others carry on, joylessly, slogging on to curry favours with their parents and enjoy the inducements they offer.
This is true. And it is time that we dropped our sneaky ways to coerce them to accomplish things that match with our definitions of success in life.
On the other end of the spectrum is the case of parents who stress over the lack of ingenuity and motivation in their children. I again look back on my past and remember how listless I used to be in my teens. There was a thorough lack of convention marked by a slapdash manner of doing things. My actions were characterised by indifference and there was no thought of the future anywhere in my scheme of things. Isn’t that how those growing years are naturally configured? How justified are we in portraying our children as ‘irresponsible’ and ‘sloppy’ when they are struggling to figure out changes which are often baffling and frustrating to them, when they are unable to process their thoughts, and voice them appropriately?
We have been through the impressionable stages too, and we barely had a recognition of it then. As we transitioned to adulthood, we learned from our trials and came up trumps alternately. We calibrated our ways to suit the needs of the changing times, and we became ‘responsible people’ by our own definition.
Our children too will.
It is pertinent that most of what we find objectionable in them are part of our own nature too. Just that, as adults, we have the liberty to overlook our manners, whereas, in their instance, we raise the red flag instantly.
At this point, I am reminded of Khalil Gibran’s poignant words. ‘Your children are not your children. They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.’
Let life take them in its fold and lead them through its winding ways. Our duty as their guardians is to help them distinguish between good and bad, to instil kindness and love, to teach the value of hard work and last but not the least, help them know what will help or harm them. These are the basic tenets of life, and to infuse these fundamentals should be our first and foremost priority.
As they go back to another academic session, let us — as parents, teachers and guardians — give them the freedom to be themselves, opportunities to explore life and the space to bloom naturally. Responsibility, career, future — these will fall in place as time passes. Our constant fussing over them is a mere waste of energy.