As children most of us who are now parents, were told to never trust our own wisdom as children. I can speak for myself and say that phrases such as
“You don’t know what you are saying or doing.”
“Don’t do as I say and you will be in trouble.”
“The world is unsafe and out to cheat and harm you.”
“Be weary of strangers.”
“Don’t go out in the dark.”
“You better do as I say or else..”
“I am older so know better than you.”
“I have been around more..”
“When you are older then you can do this…not now.
And my mom’s favourite was to do with loving a boy or having a boyfriend, she would always say, “Love can wait, first complete your studies.
The result of all this was that I sneaked around doing all the things I was prevented from or cautioned from doing. And as a result got more into trouble!
I have over the years stopped myself by simply observing my own speech and urge to blurt out exactly the same phrases. Once I did this consciously for weeks and months, I realised how much like my mother or father I had become. Where was my own voice? The same things that killed and suppressed my self expression and inner voice, was being repeated by me and I was going to turn my children into ME.
I have since rephrased the above phrases. If my daughter Gourika wants to come home late from her friend’s place after dark, I tell her, “Sure it is alright, just call me and I will fetch you.” Or ‘could you perhaps ask your friend’s mom to bring you half way.”
If my son Ishaan wants to skip his lunch and says ‘Mom I am not hungry.” I say,” That is fine Ishaan, let me or Naani know when you are.”
When Gourika wants to wear make up, I give her some of mine and help her wear it. And not say “This is harmful stuff and you can wear it when you are older.” When she asks me about love, marriage, sex and relationships, I talk to her openly and as simply and matter-of-fact as possible. I trust that she is asking because there is a need within her to understand something and I am privileged that my daughter seeks the answer from me rather than from some other ‘unreliable’ source.
Gourika often refuses to go out with me and Ishaan to the city. She likes being in the neighbourhood to play with her mates. I never force her unless there is no one to take care of her at home. I trust that this is more important for her than going to the library. Ishaan on the other hand enjoys a weekly trip to the city and library. However he refuses to go out and play with mates and rather likes it when some of his close pals come home. I respect that and don’t push him to go outdoors.
When my son falls down while playing jumping jack on the bed, I hold him and say “that hurts isn’t it?” And he is back jumping again. When a new friend Gourika makes suddenly dumps her and she is hurt I hold her hand and listen to her. I try not to judge or dissect her choice of friends. She often gets lured by new girls in the block, but falls back on her old friends. I allow her to go through this process gently and kindly, knowing all the time that she is exploring her options and in doing so she is discovering herself.
At home my children jump, run, scream, shout and make a mess. One day I took Ishaan to a puppetry workshop and there were many children his age and some older ones too. They were all school going children. Ishaan sat through the whole show, silently, laughing and nodding at the funny place. I saw some of the children were jumping, shouting, going close to the curtains and pulling at stuff. Their moms could not make them sit still. When the puppeteers started to help the kids make puppets, each child was grabbing, not wanting to wait for their turn, shouting, pushing and shoving other children. Ishaan and I did all that we went there for without much fuss and pushing around. Ishaan was ready to wait it out patiently.
And I was wondering how these children must be made to ‘behave’ at home, school and other spaces. The cry for freedom was almost unbearable to watch! It had already become aggressive and violent.
Whatever makes my children shine in their eyes and face is surely the best thing for them and they themselves have knowledge of this. I trust that my children know what they need and I support that need. I trust that the Universe is always taking care of me and my children and it is safe.
I often observe families, when I visit parks or parties or other public places, and simply try and witness how parents speak or interact with their children. There is a critical tone to instructions, a lot of judgement and a compulsive desire to ‘correct’ every move and speech of the children. I am not blaming the parents but simply observing how much damage ‘mainstream parents’ inflict on their children by simply mindlessly repeating the ways they were raised by their parents.
I feel a lot love for these parents, because I too was raised like this. I feel pain to watch parents and children stuck in battles of wit and control. I see how the child is withdrawing from the parent and will remain so for many years to come. One of my goals and aspirations is to help parents see that there is another way to parenting. A more loving, kinder and creative way to seal bonds of trust and confidence among parents and children exists.
I still often find catching myself behaving in unkind and manipulative ways with my children. But I stop myself now or correct myself. I often apologize to my children for being unkind in my words or actions and when I am aware that I acted out old habits.
There is often so much talk about ‘rebellion’ among parents when they speak of their teenage children, I wonder the word rebellion is just another label being put or judgement being passed my parents to stop themselves from seeing the real needs of their children. When my son is not willing to do something I know it is not rebellion, but his way of expressing his real needs. When my daughter wants to watch a Hindi romantic film like ‘Aisha’ every single day, I appreciate her choice. Because I see her shining and probably there is some need for hers which is getting fulfilled. I do slip at times and tell her ‘Oh Gourika not again.” But she now assertive enough to say…”But I love it mom.” So I actually watched it with her to realise that the movie is a Hindi version of the Jane Austen book ‘Emma”. And Jane Austen is my favourite woman writer too. The other day someone gifted her and old simple version of Pride and Prejudice! And she asked me what the story was all about and I told her it is by the same author who has inspired ‘Aisha’ and is again about women and very romantic.
She is already interested!
Being open and flexible to my needs and that of my children’s and respecting and honouring has been helping us to forge a relationship where there is mutual nourishment and affection. It is surely an easier way to live.
I see my children as co-travellers and not some task that I have to perform or feel burdened with. It is not my task to raise my children but to honour them and facilitate their journey which is closely and intimately linked to mine….So in honouring them I honour myself.