Walking on a tight rope, skydiving, surviving in a jungle, all seem like easy feats as compared to parenthood. Here the fear factor rules! The fear of failing as a parent is so great that most of us end up transferring that to our children. Any questions on that account is often answered with, “Tum jab ma/baap banoge tab samjhoge.” (You will understand only when you become a parent) But do we really?
I had a lot of fear instilled into me as a child. The fear of getting physically hurt, the fear of being blamed for something gone wrong, the fear of being judged. Set parameters of what was permissible and a strict diktat of how one should conduct oneself were set upon me and I adhered to most, often wondering though whether it was what I wanted. Were there things that I would have done differently, experimented, would have tapped into a greater potential, without the fear of failure? This question often ruffles up my plume. Retrospectively analyzing, I don’t blame my parents because I guess, each one of us are programed to do things a certain way right from the start and when we step outside our own comfort zone it can be scary. Maybe they were afraid that if I faltered or failed, I would blame them. But I wanted to break that barrier for myself, willing to bear the consequences of my own actions and I did in my own way, with an unconventional marriage for the starts. Sometimes consciously, sometimes unknowingly, but I have always stood ground for what I believed in, voiced my opinion, and borne the repercussions. There were times that it worked in my favor and there were times when I questioned myself, the tug of war in my mind between fear and freedom continued.
Then,… then I became a parent, and then the very same parameters that I wanted to stretch and break free from became the ones that bound me. I started doing the same things that we as parents are programmed to do, till I saw that little rebel spark of individualism in my daughter. As a fearless 5 year old, stopped at height markers at one of the rollercoaster rides in L.A., she stood her ground with unphantomable determination. She began her intelligent argument with the 6 footer security personnel, “I am only one inch shorter than the mark, but I am braver than you, and I am not foolishly going to tell you to stop the ride midway because you can’t and I will wear the seatbelt properly and my parents don’t mind!” The last one actually shocked me as the officer looked at me in disbelief as I shrugged my shoulders, while a loud voice in my head slammed my conscious, “You are even afraid of the small Ferris-wheel at Juhu Beach.” Well, my daughter got her way and had a blast. It was then I decided that time had come for me unlearn certain things, to wrap up my own fears and see things with an open perspective.
Being less restrictive and receptive to their opinions, it was simpler to talk them out of certain thought processes with logic and a little emotional wangling was my idea of parenthood. Having said that, sometimes it also worked to vice-versa, wherein in I got bludgeoned into doing what my children wanted to do. All said and done, I must say that bringing up my kids was far easier than the kind of pressure parents have today. For example, taking a gap year was never even thought of during our time as it meant failure. Now a lot of students take a year off their studies to figure where and how they wish to stream line their energies. Many don’t even pursue education again! Had my daughter wanted to do that mid-degree-college, it would have given me palpitations, I am just glad she didn’t. I’m still trying to work these new liberating thoughts in my own mind but at least I admit that I have become more aware. Somehow with our first-borns, we do tend to be a wee bit more disciplinarian while the second gets off the hook a lot more.
While her revelations were more nerve wrecking, like free-fall jumping off a mountain cliff for the adrenalin rush, or crusading for the LGBT rights in London, wearing a pantsuit to a traditional family sangeet or publicly arguing why Indian parents obsessively start looking out for ‘decent boys’ as soon as you turn 21, my son was more subtle in his varied thinking patterns.
My funda of “Kal kare so aaj karo, aaj kare so ab!”,often left me perturbed me when things were left to be done for the last minute. My son would reason, “I know it has to be done but how I prioritize it is my decision and if the consequence doesn’t have any effect on you, why do you get affected!” In not wanting them to suffer the consequence of their delay we make their life miserable by nagging them now itself. But now I’ve learnt to take the chill pill.
Every child is like clay, we try to mold their minds with a lot of our thought processes, of what we thought is right and wrong, of what we think would make them happy, what success means to us. We sometimes even let our fears rub off on their psyche. We need to stop. Parenthood is about giving wings to fly, not maneuvering a kite.
I often think about the Mountain Eagle who does not just bring its kill back to its nest, but it feeds its fledglings, putting each morsel into their tiny beaks. Yet, when the time comes for them to learn to she pushes them off the cliff, so that they can spread their wings and take flight. I remind myself each day that in their formative years I have given them the basic principles of being a good human being, that one shouldn’t hurt another, should be respectful, helpful and kind, be proactive not critical and work hard towards your goal and in the end, that’s really all that matters.
When we worry about what degrees they earn, what job they take up, their choices about life-partners or their daily routines, we want them to emulate our thinking processes. We would end up clipping their wings or making them skeptical about their own decisions and choices. Well, it is easier said than done when one has more at stake to lose. We as parents don’t want them to get emotionally hurt, lose productive years, or get wrongly influenced. But we forget that we are there to guide them not live their lives, we cannot control destiny. A reminder for us from time to time is the fact that one learns to ride a bicycle only after a fall and that’s life! “Unki zindagi hein” and it is one life after all and what’s the point if they can’t lead it the way they want to.
We should infact, allow them to grow into their own individual beings without being encumbered by our expectations. Having given them the correct upbringing, the right value system of being good human being, we can only add to future by providing them a right platform perhaps and assist them once in a while when they ask for it. The more we allow them to become self-reliant, we stop being their crutches and allow them to gather wind beneath their wings to fly. Parenthood is about raising trailblazers not cloning fears.