Does parenting impact a person’s world views and her/his inner self? Would spending time and engaging with child/children have bearing on how a person would have conducted herself/himself otherwise? Is parenting all about raising children or does it influence parents too? Everybody will have their thoughts. I can answer for myself. For me, parenting is growing up together.
O +ve and B +ve have turned six. I have completed three and a half years as a stay-at-home father. What started as an impulse has turned into a full-fledged passion, with my wife’s staunch support. Turning back, I don’t think I would have done anything different than choosing to be a part of my children’s growing up years (yes, the finances pinch, that’s another real-life story).
What have I learnt with this experience? Was I better off in the corporate rat-race? Has this been the time of reckoning that I had been trying to find all the years before? Is it worth the deriding looks and scorn that I generate with my answer that I am a stay-at-home father? How has it been for the girls, their mother and me?
My answer, again, would be the same – Growing Up Together. Not anything but Growing Up Together. Why? Here we go.
Parenting is a never-before experience
Look at it like this. Whatever we do in life, we are taught/trained/instructed all along. Everywhere, school/college/job/profession, there would always be somebody’s watchful eyes over our actions. There are text-books/manuals/SOPs for outside/professional world. We have norms/customs/rituals for family/personal world. But what about parenting? Nothing but the instincts of parents.
Yes, the grandparents get involved. But, apart from their physical babysitting, their value-addition in other spheres is a matter of debate for parents. When parenting is such an experience without any precedence, without any prior preparation, without any hand-holding; how can there be no learning at every step?
In a job/profession, when done long enough, the surprises aren’t many. The situations/decisions repeat themselves. But for a single-person enterprise, there are dedicated functional teams to take care of peripheral stuff around you. You are the boss of your work.
Compare it with parenting. Here, no two days are the same. Even two hours aren’t the same. The situations, routinely, are never-heard/never-seen before. And, there are no teams to support a parent, except for an equally exasperated life-partner. You are the subordinate to your off-spring.
Tell me, how is it not possible to learn in situations like these, day-in and day-out? Every competency listed out in the performance appraisal charade will find resonance in the parenting. Every management jargon taught in, alienated from ground realities, B-Schools will find an echo in parenting. All the life-lessons emanate from life experiences and parenting is a key on-going life event, should you choose to be a parent.
The above is what I encounter/feel every day, hence I feel parenting is growing up together. At least for me.
Learning happens from children, too
On the face of it, adults teach children. Children are the receiving party to any learning and parents, along with schools and society, strive to make children life-ready. Can there ever be anything that parents can pick up from their progeny on whose education they end up spending a fortune of money, time and efforts? Unlikely, one might say.
My wife is an ardent believer that there is ample enough to learn from children. Only if, children are given a chance to express themselves and parents keep a receptive mind. Do not believe this?
Try teaching curiosity to children. What about exploring? Playfulness? Resilience? Spending an evening or morning with nature/plants/insects? Try teaching “having fun” to children. Or the dreadful “happiness” as defined by the equally dreadful Delhi government (do adults need to be taught to be happy or children)? I have not even reached innocence, simplicity and the likes.
Accept it. There are enough and more things to be learnt from children, only if we are game. We might teach them the hard skills, they can teach us the soft skills that we have long forgotten and stopped attaching any importance to. We can learn from kids if we get rid of the fascination and urgency to make them reach adulthood and be our replicas, sullen and inept.
I have bought this concept of child-led parental learning. It needs a lot of re-programming of the mind, my mind that is, and I am trying hard.
Growing Up Together
All of family/social/school/corporate learning is not of much use to me in hands-on parenting. I have nowhere to hide my weaknesses in front of my children. Even worse, they pick up from me. If I do wish good for my children, I have no option but to improve on myself, which I avoided/cooked up excuses not to do, all these years.
To do this course-correction for self, I also have the biggest of enablers – my daughters. Through their daily actions, I get a dose of what all is possible should I try and see the world through their eyes. Life is not as convoluted and mind-numbing as I have made it out to be. I can live a life if I give life a chance – my daughters’ teaching.
Needless to say, the change is not easy and there is a lot of friction as the old self refuses to let go.
In nutshell, parenting for me is – Growing Up Together.