To raise a child who is comfortable enough to leave you, means you’ve done your job. Children are not ours to keep, but to teach how to soar on their own.
I came across these lines the other day while idly scrolling through my Facebook home page. It was a pretty bold statement to make and not that all would agree with. But there was an essence of truth in it that refused to be ignored. It stuck with me the whole day through.
Coincidentally, that day at the office cafeteria, I chanced upon a conversation from the adjacent table between three women, routinely cribbing about their mundane weekend activities revolving around their children’s summer camp schedules and the difficulties of intertwining them with their own weekend outing preferences. It occurred to me yet again, that at some level, all parents wish to see their children to grow up to be individuals capable of pursing their goals and dreams. And hence, make it a point to inculcate in them a habit of ‘Do what you what you Want.’ And I thought, are we really doing it the right way?
It’s one thing to reiterate to our children the importance of pursuing that which their heart calls for, and quite another to hand them opportunities sans the sense of responsibility that accompany them. Are we not then raising a generation of the Spoiled and Thankless for no fault of their own?
A throwback to my childhood, and I remember my mother, a single parent, battling each day to create a better life for me. Although too little and naive to fathom the depths of her struggles back then, I grew up to realize one very important fact of life. Real opportunities are made, not given. Nothing should be taken for granted, not the comforts nor the disappointments. She was never the one to spare a rod when time called for it, but also never the one to hold me back from dreaming, even though she knew how limited our means were back then. She would ask open ended questions about my plans for future and let me debate out my own answers. And everytime I told her about my ideal profession (which kept progressing from being an Air hostess to a Lawyer to a Journalist as I transitioned grades), she would remind me, “Pursue what you want, whatever you want, but remember, there is only so much I can do to support you. You’re going to have to walk the longer path yourself.” And That always kept me grounded.
I look around and see children demand their lives be a certain way and that their parents provide for it. And I see parents who feel guilty for not being able to send their children to those pricey math tuitions and fancy personality development sessions. I see children, not even in their teens, burn up in rage when denied the comforts they were hoping for and parents who break their backs to meet the ends while crushing their own dreams into a school bag.
And then when they come of age, these children drag through their adulthood, waiting. Waiting for things to get better, for the storm to settle before stepping out. They wait for the right people to come along and bring them happiness, like toys on Christmas. They wait for the world to present them with opportunities and wealth. They expect the right doors to be open always. They wait for a better life without taking an effort for one. And when that hope shatters, they cry foul and blame the unkind, non withstanding humanity for their failures. Eventually, some figure it out, but a great many spend a resentful life wishing away, for better times.
Exposing our children to hardships within a controlled environment is, what I believe, the need of the hour. The earlier a child understands, that life is as far as it can get from a bed of roses, the easier it will be for him/her to accept the unexpected blows and pitfalls, and survive them even. They must be taught to accept help when required with grace and gratitude, and to not throw tantrums when offered none. A realization that the safety net spread out by their parents or guardians can extend only thus far, will plant the courage to venture out of their comfort zones.
It is true. Children are not ours to keep. They are ours to teach and tend to during the initial phase of their lives. And in those few fleeting years, we need to paint the most realistic picture of this planet, that we can in their eyes. So when time comes for them to flap their wings into their own story, we can be rest assured, they are capable of fighting the battle and surviving.
My mother, she might not agree with all my life choices, but still fights for me where she can. And though she still worries for me from time to time when life throws one curve ball or the other, I am sure she understands that I am a survivor, just like her.
And I think of my son, turning 5 in a few months, and pray for the strength to be the mother who can fuel his dreams without tarnishing it’s value.