Children(ting) – what my son taught me at 4 years of age
Parenting is what parents teach their kids and how they handle them and hope to contribute to their upbringing and development in the childhood years. I last wrote an article on parenting and its conflict some time back but I think I made a mistake – if I take stock of the last six months (June-November 2017), my son, Ehaan has taught me more than I have taught him. Yes, I did introduce him to the Hulk, Thor and Iron Man. I did try to teach him Maths (2+3, 3+2) and yes, I have been trying to teach him how to be an obedient, respectful child. However, I think all this pales in comparison to what he has taught me – 5 key reflections of life as follows:
■ Fear is to be overcome by ‘just doing it’: Ehaan is afraid of water – or atleast was till sometime back. His sister, Asya, is a very good swimmer and can do all kinds of acrobatics and strokes in water. He used to hate water – even water splashed on his face would make him cry. I often pushed him to go swimming with Asya, in India and then in Indonesia. He realized that everytime a swimming coach (or his father) push him to swim, they will invariably make him put his head in the water and force him to take out bubbles inside. He used to howl for sometime – and then suddenly, he just started doing it for 5 seconds at first, then 10 and now 15 secs. He is still as afraid of putting his head in water and of swimming without a float – he has yet to master the technique but he just ‘does it’. He knows resistance is futile and has now trained himself to do it before anybody tells him. He still shakes when water is splashed on his face during bath but instead of crying, he smiles and laughs it off, almost saying, “Bring it on, I am not scared”. Can I ever ‘just do it’ since there is no option and do it with a smile on my face? I will try to take the easy way out for sure!
■ Fate hands you a lemon, make a lemonade and drink it: We have just relocated to Jakarta, Indonesia after staying in Mumbai our entire lives. My wife cribs and is often very upset given the unsettling this has done to our lives. This makes me guilty and I often question if I am putting my family through something that they don’t deserve. Everything is so new – we have no social circle, no friends, nothing. I cope up through my work but my wife is often left holding the can. Ehaan, on the other hand, has adapted – he does not refer to Mumbai but focuses on the pleasures that Jakarta/Indonesia has to offer. I can always rationalize that he is a child or maybe, he has not stayed in India enough to feel the difference. My daughter, does get nostalgic and talk of returning back when she is sad. Ehaan NEVER does that – he is focused on making the most of the situation he is in!
■ Attachment through detachment: On a related note to the earlier point, Ehaan is very close to his nanny, who has taken care of him since birth. She has been with him for over four years and used to accompany him everywhere. The nanny came with us to Indonesia but got bored there since there was really nothing she could do, given the language barriers, lack of her family around etc. She decided to return home – for a few hours, Ehaan was sad. He refused to eat food, saying he wanted to be fed by her. In some time, he declared that from then on, he will eat with his own hands – here was a kid who had always been fed by his nanny or mother. He outgrew the attachment so quickly and now eats with his own hands (which is a separate blessing in disguise for my wife and me). Similar is the situation with his cousin, with whom he used to play day-in and out in Mumbai. He has accepted that his cousin won’t be around him always and never says a word. When we do video-calls, he joins to talk to his cousin but after that, it is as if the cousin never existed. Another remarkable pointer is his relationship with his paternal grandmother – when she is around, she is the centre of his life but when she is not, he does not miss her. He gives his 100% to the present – to the person or situation he is in and does not focus too much on the past or the future
■ Compete with yourself, don’t over-analyze – just enjoy: Whether it’s a running race or any other competition, he does not focus on how strong or big his opponents are. He just does his bit, enjoys it and pushes as hard as he can. Hence, he is not hindered by self-doubt or the strengths of his opponent. He compete to win and just gets a thrill of doing it. Moreover, he never leaves the race midway, despite being way behind – if he started it, he will finish it, be it several minutes after the winner. I am not sure if I can ever do this…..
■ Be curious – uncover the mysteries that life has to offer: He asks 100 questions an hour and hassles us completely. However, behind these questions is a phenomenal quest to understand the mysteries of simple things – why does a lemon taste sour but an apple doesn’t? Why does gravity pull us down – if so, is it ‘bad’? If God created us, why are some of us bad and some of us good? The list is endless… As I face his incessant barrage of questions, I often wonder if I have stopped asking many of these questions; if I have learnt to accept the ‘ways of life’ without trying to be inquisitive and be prepared to be surprised everytime with small things. Ehaan does not need a ‘play area’ to play nor a ‘designated time to enjoy’. He seamlessly converts a staircase into a play area and dinnertime to playtime (much to the exasperation of my wife and me!). If you are around him, he plays with you – if not, he creates a parallel world, with objects or without them – with just his imagination
I could go on and on but that defeats the purpose. Maybe this is not unique to Ehaan and kids are like this. Maybe it is I who am discovering these through Ehaan for during Asya’s time, I was too engrossed in ‘being with her’ that I forgot to observe and learn from there. Whatever it is, I am grateful to Ehaan for teaching me a few valuable lessons – I just hope he remembers them going forward!