We have high expectation from the words like “Parenting”, childhood. We take them too seriously and it is biggest killjoy of relationship. Instead of dreaming about dream child can we see the dreams which child sees.
“I am not your Dream Girl” – screamed a teenager’s t-shirt. I initially laughed it off as another smart t-shirt message.
But somehow the line lingered on in my mind and it slowly emerged to me: what if every child wore this t-shirt for their parents:
“I am not your dream child”
And what if every parent took to it seriously?
At one level it is about what one wants to become, in terms of professional, education choices, career choices, and so on. While I do see a lot of parents open to children looking for different or non conventional careers, we as parents possibly still need to mature for some of the other more radical choices. One of them being the definition of success.
What if the child decides not be successful in the conventional terms, to live a simple life of an ascetic?
Why are we bent on success rather than enjoying what we do? Do we not build the stress for our children and then rue the same stress? Don’t many of us crib about the rat race and yet unwittingly shove our children into the same. Can we not let their intelligence and their own decisions drive them towards their own destinies?
At a second level it is about character. In workshop after workshop, I get to hear this from parents that they want their child to be of a great character. Perhaps I should rename it as “dream character”. They want their child to be ideal package of values. Is it our own insufficiency that drives us to yearn for such a child – who is perfect? Or is it that we are scared that the child’s character is a direct reflection of our character (or at least a indirect assessment of our competence as a parent?)?
A child’s character is built out of child’s thinking, not necessarily out of the parenting the child gets. We all know how the same parents, perhaps adopting the same parenting practices, have given rise to two siblings – one a knight in shining armour, and the other a black sheep!
At a third level it is also about the kind of person one is– one’s interest, temperament, even style. Just because he or she is our child, does it mean that he or she should evolve into a similar type of person? Or, alternatively should he or she not have the weaknesses that we have? If I am the shy kind my child should not be a shy kind. If I am the restless kind, my child should be calm and relaxed. Are we projecting a dream idealism into the child’s very being?
If you have read this far and if you think I am projecting a very pessimistic picture – then don’t worry -I am actually not so much worried what we think and do consciously.
Most of us parents, consciously, are actually quite okay with our children charting their own paths – be it success, character or the persona. We say so. Also any conscious effort can easily be met by children with stern resistance – hence putting us either on guard or back-foot.
However – my presumption is that – in many ways – we end up imposing subconsciously. We somewhere subtly and subconsciously influence our children into the dream which we harbor – either for them or for ourselves but projected onto them.
The proof lies in countless parents wanting (deep inside) their child – to come first, to sing well, to turn out a great artist, to be great in talking (even to strangers), to be one up, to be perfect! Our (parent) faces, even if we’re not aware, will give ample clue to my above assertion. Our embarrassment shows, our anxiety shows, our expectation shows – not just to a bystander – but more importantly it shows to the child. Is it that we just want good for our child – or is it that we want our child to be the BEST?
Do consider the following three propositions:
1. Childhood is possibly not about growing up – but about childhood.
Shikha, a parent
“Is it possible for a parent to see a child exactly as he is – not as what he could be or should be? Can childhood not be seen merely as a phase that leads up to being an adult, but be valued in itself, independent of adulthood? If somehow, somewhere, one is not constantly preoccupied (consciously or unconsciously) with how they will grow up to be, rather than being with with them completely in the here and now. Are our preoccupations with education, also not coming from that sense of ‘becoming’ rather than ‘being’? And are we not perpetuating that somehow in our children as well?”
Can’t agree more with you Shikha – I too wonder, why do we assume that the only (or even main) task of being a child is to grow up? My suggestion – once we give up this notion, and actually start just being with the child, parenthood becomes much more rewarding. Try it.
2. Parenting is possibly not about raising the child – but offering relationship to the child.
A relationship that will help the child chart his own growth path, against his own benchmarks, to fulfill his own dreams. A relationship of unconditional acceptance. Don’t we – as adults – would like to get unconditional acceptance from all significant relationships in our life. So does the child. And, if you want to learn unconditional acceptance – learn it from your child – he or she unconditionally accepts you.
3. Life is possibly not about perfection – we are already perfect.
Perfection can be a mirage or more like horizon – the more we move towards it – the more it (seems to) moves away from us. The more we see imperfection in the child – the more the child feels deficient. But when we tune to see our child as (already) perfect – then the child is able to recognise the immense resources inside the child.
I am not implying that every behavior or act of the child is perfect – rather I am implying that every imperfect behavior is coming from a child who is perfect. Every plant is perfect though every fruit that it gives need not be. I remember a Dennis the Menace cartoon where Dennis says – “What do you mean I don’t have manners – I just choose not to use them!”
Finally I would like the girl to add a rejoinder on her T-shirt – just to serve as a reminder to us parents. It could read:
I’m not your Dream Girl. I have my own Dreams.
Article by Aditi-Ratnesh