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Values loves Rules. Rules loves Values.
This is a love story. And like all love stories it is mushy, slushy, pushy, and touchy. And like all love stories, it only begins, where it ends.
Values ran through the countryside in her long pleated skirt with innumerable prints on them, her pleated hair waving behind her, trying to catch up with her pace.
Values should have been happy. She was in demand. Everybody wanted her. Even if not for themselves, at least they wanted her for their children.
But she was not happy. She was sparingly understood, conveniently forgotten, and properly confused with rules. Like any other pretty one, she too sighed for her knight in shining armour.
Rules stoically sat in the right place. All buttoned up, creased at the right places, trimmed to the right order, he was a man of words. He spoke not what he wanted, but what he wanted others to do.
Rules should have been happy. He was in command. Everybody was supposed to follow him, fear him. Even if they did not follow for themselves, at least they wanted their children to follow.
But like Values, he too was not happy. He was scaringly used, conveniently forgotten, and properly confused with values. Like any other handsome one, he too sighed for his melting moment.
They met. Not how you would expect - under a starry sky, or among daisies swinging in a cool breeze, but at the periphery of a crowd which had gathered to argue over a conflict. One child had stolen another child’s toy as it was being shared with him.
Rules was not focussing on the arguments, his vision being smitten by the radiance of Values.
Nor was Values focussing, overwhelmed by the attention she was getting.
Between them, there was only silence.
Finally, someone from the crowd beckoned Rules, “Our community prohibits anyone from stealing. We have a rule, don’t we?” Another pulled in Values, “But this child was refusing to share, our community expects the value of sharing”.
Rules, startled, blurted out, “Values are really important.” A beaming Values quickly chimed in, “And so are rules!” Rules was excited, “We should all encourage developing values”. Values was excited too, “Rules are the lighthouse of any society, we depend on them.”
The radiance level on these two faces was going up. Rules added, looking straight into Values’ eyes, “If rules and values are woven together, we will all be happy”. “So true, So true,” rejoined Values.
“Silence”! The loud and clear voice of Mr. Doubt was heard till far. “You two seem to be only interested in each other. But, in most cases, including this one, Rules and Values contradict each other. If we push rules, values suffer and if we push values, rules are left behind.”
Values and Rules were not to be stymied so easily. First, Values spoke, “I think you have to give us a chance to be together, in sync.” Rules added, “Also, you have to see us not as two different beings- but as the same, a pair, almost like the two hands of a clock.
Mr. Doubt was not to be convinced so easily, “In which case let me challenge you both to a question and answer session. Let us all meet tomorrow at the town hall, and there if you two cannot convince us all, then your separation will stay a reality forever.
Rules jumped right in, all his heroics hemmed in, “We accept your challenge. What are your questions?”
Mr Doubt spoke slowly and emphatically,
Question 1: Values are not constant. They are always dependent on situations and contexts. A certain value maybe important in a certain situation but that same value may not be important in another situation. If we make rules to ride over this problem, then the very essence of making a choice and living its consequences is lost. In such a situation what should be more important - rules or values?”
Question 2: Should we teach values to our children, or should we teach them to follow rules?
Question 3: When we try to teach values to our children, they seem to learn the contra-value so easily. For instance, instead of learning responsibility, they seem to imbibe irresponsibility. Invariably we get fed up and end up enforcing rules. What is the solution to this problem?
And finally, perhaps the most important, “Why can’t children just follow rules and also live with the right values just so our job of parenting becomes simpler?”
Under the starry sky, among daisies swinging in the cool breeze, in each other’s warmth, sat Values and Rules pondering. Rules said, “Let's start with one question at a time and wrap this up quickly. Values disagreed, “I think we have to step out of our doubts and start at a different place altogether and see if what we build together in itself addresses all the questions.
Rules remarked, “This does not seem very methodical”. Why beat around the bush?
Values replied, snuggling into his arm, “Perhaps, like our love, we need not define it, we can simply build a life with it, together.
The word ‘together’ seemed to reverberate across the universe; stars hugging each other echoed its essence and the glowing moon just shone brighter in its fragrance. Together, our love birds started their work on the magical theme - together.
In the warm morning sun, arms interlocked, Values and Rules were ready, to share their togetherness with all. They had dreamed together, now they had to make all others do so. And they knew if they had to make others dream, they had to start when dreaming starts - in childhood.
They spoke together,
“In the evenings, when you open your window and look down at the sight of children playing, what you see is LIFE. This play is neither about goodness nor badness, about happiness or unhappiness. It is about living. If you watch them long enough they’re fair, manipulative, friendly, snobbish, soft, rude, simple, complex, loving, and hating. If you have missed seeing any ingredient of life then perhaps you have not watched enough.
They invent rules, break rules, change rules, rue rules, fight rules and yet at any given time they can’t live without them.
In a way, they are in love with both, Rules and Values.”
The crowd was silent, perhaps trying to absorb what these two were saying.
Values continued, “In love, I am learning what I need. Rules needs to understand me and I guess it takes time. Perhaps a lifetime. I guess that is why in love we say ‘till we die’. For children too it’s a lifelong journey of understanding how and what each value works in their life. And to understand me, Rules will have to talk to me.”
Rules added, promptly, “And that is what this affair, your affair with your child is all about - a continuous dialogue about every little thing that you would like to call value. Do I need to imbibe Values? No, I need to vibe with Values”.
Values was smiling, big time, “And for that Rules, my love, you do not have to confine, rather liberate to explore.”
“Let me elaborate on this”, Rules wanted to clarify, “Rules define the playing field, the court, and within these, we play with values as the continuous decision maker. Rules do not limit us, they actually let us spend time to focus on things that we really value.”
Mr. Doubt firmly raised his voice, “So we do not teach them anything at all?”
Values stepped forward, “Yes, we do teach them, but instead of teaching our favourite list of values, we push them to think, to analyze, to understand, to not get stuck, to question, to re-evaluate, to constantly churn in their minds what is of what value.”
And Rules stepped in with her, “We also teach them to make their own rules. The more we are together in creating rules, the more we enjoy playing by them. When thinking Rules, all we need is to think what we value. Remember the two hands of a clock. One hand makes the other move, but more importantly - both have to move in sync.”
Mr. Doubt still had a question, “But, ...”
Rules intervened, “We have not come here to answer your questions, Sir. We have come here to share our love story, err… life story.”
Values joined him, “It is in our togetherness, that we find each other, understand each other. Let us go back to the window and learn from children as to how to guide them.”
Without waiting for a response, Rules and Values moved away: they had so much work to do, so much love to search, so much life to live.
Before we discard rules or make them negative, let's understand them. When a child wants to ride a bike at the age of 16, ask what could be the reasons for making a rule of driving license at 18yrs age? What if all start operating from their convenience then what will happen at the signal? And so on – let’s ask and explore.
Often there is resistance for rules - some break them, some follow grudgingly, some criticize, some follow blindly - but what about understanding them?
Similarly values (caring for example) seem to have single perspectives. But I can care for someone or something by being rude!
When rules are broken, to fix that we have punishment (coming late get one red mark)
When values are broken, to fix that we fill guilt in the child (being greedy is bad)
Can we have a third path, the path of listening, understanding, and creating one’s own rules and values? Creating one’s own wisdom?