Let them struggle! A parenting adage for our times- Sep 2, 2012
The last Open House session at Shikshantar, which is where my kids study, was about ‘autonomy and boundaries’. Many relevant things were revealed and discussed through case vignettes assigned to parent groups as exercises.
It’s clear we live in stressful times. A consumption driven economic philosophy is pushing the world towards a me-myself-mine mindset and each of us wants to succeed within this paradigm, creating a stressed and performance-oriented life. Our kids are at the receiving end of this lifestyle. We fail on two fronts here. We curtail their autonomy by being over instructive. The luxury of negotiation is no longer a part of our lives. It’s simply too tiring and time consuming! We also are unable to clearly set boundaries. On one hand, we expect discipline, but we also give in to demands easily. We end up confusing our kids about right and wrong, what’s ok and what’s not!
In all of this, what’s most critical is that by controlling children’s lives, over protecting them, over monitoring them, we are not letting them develop some of the most critical life skills. Ability to resolve conflict, confront bad situations, just ‘deal with it’ basically. As parents, teachers, coaches, we need to recognize that children must go through their own struggle, on their own. We may help them out if we see they are stuck and seeking help, but a lot of the sorting out needs to be done within themselves, through self-reflection, goal setting, prioritization and other critical skills we all covet and use (or not!) daily.
I had the opportunity to experience a heart wrenching moment this afternoon. Udai and me were in music class. We have individual lessons, one after the other. Each of us sits in on the other’s class. He is starting afresh and has been having a hard time with getting a couple of notes right. These notes, the Sa and Re, are critical. It’s impossible for the teacher to move ahead unless he perfects the essential saptasura. This concept was being drilled into him again and again, in a firm but nice manner. He was just not getting it right! I could sense the struggle, sense the tears welling up. I watched him fight them back, control himself. He snapped himself out of the emotional web, concentrated on instructions and managed to improve his rendition within the half an hour time span of the class.
Through this, much as my heart ached for him, I said not a word. He did not once look to me for help or support. He chose to bond directly with his guru and leave me out of this. I am proud of him for making that choice, for showing the maturity and for taking a challenge on directly and forthrightly.
It’s a small example, but I really do feel my kids benefit hugely from me staying out of their hair! All those of you who have the opportunity to influence a young person, all those who are role models in whatever way, it’s a great adage to hold on to- Let them struggle! It’ll be a lot more helpful than making life unrealistically simple for the little ones, who must grow up one day, soon enough, too soon in fact!
Weighty issues on my mind: Craving for fitness- May 27, 2012
I’ve wanted to write about this for the longest time, but never had the guts to. It’s my weight problem! I’ve been overweight for as long as I remember, precisely since higher secondary school. Even in college, weight was a hugely sensitive issue with me. Someone had to just make a passing joke about it and I would sulk the entire day, mulling the comment over and over, killing myself with guilt and low self-esteem.
And then I got married to Rahul, who always loved me for what I was and never ever ran me down on the weight aspect. Two kids down the line, my struggle with my weight has become more realistic and less paranoid. I’ve tried various things and I kind of know what works and what doesn’t.
I have to say this, though. My motivations for losing weight remain a strange mix of three things:
Health-I worry about the slight knee pains I have now and then, weak ankles, and the usual lifestyle disease worries.
Looks-I really do want to wear what I want without worrying about how the outfit will look on me, or worse, whether the shop would have it in my size…hugely embarrassing and depressing experience when they give you that sheepish but unapologetic look!
Self-esteem- I have this self-image of myself as a reasonably thin person. When I look in the mirror, that’s who I see. When I break the illusion, on some days, I see this obese person who is me, but isn’t me really! I don’t want to be schizophrenic. I simply need to thin down into my real size!
Of late, I’ve started realizing that I truly crave for fitness as well. Its a new target, one I am turning over in my head and hoping to really internalize in the next few weeks. Come July, I intend to develop a more holistic training routine. 2013 will see a new me, for sure!