Reclaim Open Spaces For Children: Car Parking

Children lack access to open spaces to play, have fun and live their childhood. Everyone agrees that open spaces are important for a wholesome and enriching childhood. But, the key ingredient – open spaces are in short supply. So, what can parents do about it? How can parents help the children to run around and well, be children?

It is a hard task. On the face of it, parents can say that children do not have access to open spaces simply because there aren’t open spaces around. What can they do about it? It is the Government’s responsibility to ensure the availability of open spaces and make it accessible to children. That’s all. The buck is passed and we, as parents, can have the satisfaction of having done our duty.

I also thought like this. What a single person or a group of people can do for a civic amenity? Then, I happen to look around. You also look around wherever you stay. Can you locate the open spaces? Actually, they are right outside your house/below your apartment/round the corner. Ok, they may not be huge but there are open spaces all around us, good enough for children to play and enjoy.

Where and what are these open spaces hiding in plain sight robbing the children of the opportunity to indulge in their childhood? If there are open spaces all around us, why cannot we see them and make it available to our children? Well, these open spaces have been taken up by a certain thing that has come to rule our lives.

Cars

Walk the area surrounding your house/apartment. We may or may not find the trees and bushes, or the stray animals. However, we are sure to find lots and lots of cars. The parked cars, stationary and lying idle, not going anywhere. These cars, in the process of going nowhere, take up lots and lots of open spaces.

All of us are aware that cars are hazardous when they move. Cars cause pollution – air and sound, traffic snarls, road rage, accidents etc. Yes, the cars on their own do not do any of these, the people driving them do. Similarly, when the cars are parked, they don’t do any good either. Again, it is not the matter of the cars per se, but the people owning the cars that create the issues.

A car owner shall not allow any play involving a ball in the vicinity of the parked car. Actually, a car owner shall not allow any play equipment to come near the car for the glasses may get broken.  Even worse, a car owner shall not allow a child to touch the car or even come near for the car may get scratches. Leave aside football/cricket, even tag/hide and seek are not allowed when a car is parked.

The car does not just occupy space as per its dimension/size when parked; it actually occupies space as per the car owner’s whim and fancies to keep the car unscathed. And, this space is much larger than the physical size of the car. After accounting for this mental space of the car owner around her/his car, there aren’t any open spaces left for children to play. Rather, even stand and talk.

Car Parking

One might say that cars are a required evil. But, how can even the parking of cars be evil? Per capita land availability in Indian cities is abysmal and that gets further compounded by cars parked indiscriminately, everywhere and anywhere. Why a dedicated underground parking lot is not considered a mandatory requirement to buy a car?

Some people might get offended by the idea of compulsory underground parking that it is too expensive and not a practical idea. For that matter, aren’t cars pricey enough to deserve a covered and committed parking? Why are cars parked on road-sides like stray animals and they can’t even be shooed away? Be it RWAs or commercial establishments, cars will be chaotically strewn around.

Have you ever tried speaking to a car owner about moving her/his car so that children can play? We try, the responses have been stares and outright indignation. For the car parked in front of our house, the truant owner removes the entity in question mumbling under the breath. For other cars parked in the lane, we are told to mind our business and not disturb the resting place of the prized possession.

If the cars have a utility to be driven, why can’t it be parked unobtrusively when not in use, without trampling upon the right of open spaces for children?

Reclaim open spaces

Imagine the open spaces that would be available for children to play and fool around if there are no cars on the ground except for moving on the roads?

Imagine the sounds of children revelling in joy and banter as compared to the ghastly silence of the parked car. Both of them vie for the same space in India and the car wins outright, as of now.

Along with children, imagine the space available for trees and plants, shrubs and bushes, if not for the idle cars lying around?

All the above and more are possible if we reclaim open spaces for the sake of children from cars.

What are your thoughts about the availability and accessibility of open spaces for children? Have I tried to over-simplify the problem by blaming the cars? What will it take for children to reclaim open spaces that are rightfully theirs?

Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter: Parenting Lessons

The latest book in the Asterix series “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” is full of parenting gems and wisdom. The comic book is as enjoyable as always and the parenting counsels are a pleasant addition. It has been interwoven with the narrative so brilliantly that the reader barely notices them, yet the impact is hard-hitting and remains with the reader much after s/he has completed the story.

The book is about Adrenalin, the teenage daughter of the defeated Gaulish chief Vercingetorix. Julius Caesar wants to capture her. For Adrenalin’s safe-keeping, till they raise an army, her two foster fathers bring her to the little Gaulish village, we know so well. Vitalstatistix orders Asterix and Obelix to keep a watch on Adrenaline. However, the girl, who is a bolter, has other ideas. We are also introduced to Blinix and Selfipix, the teenage sons of Unhygienix and Fulliautomatix.

The above context, which could have been a regular Roman bash-up story, which it is; and in addition the author also gives parenting lessons. Some parenting advice is mentioned explicitly and a few of them are embedded throughout the storyline.

Here we go:
  • Violence won’t get you anywhere with children. Remember, talk and nothing else.
  • The teenage years are a difficult time. Be gentle and don’t upset the kid.
  • It won’t do the parent any good, over-parenting the young like that.
  • The main thing is that the child gets plenty of character.
  • All that really matters is our children’s happiness.

The above is mentioned clearly. The below requires a context and we have plenty of it in our daily lives.

  • Her father told her to resist conquest and to be free, and that’s what she did…in her own way.

The parents can wish and have ambition for their children. The children, in turn, should be free to have their own interpretation. The parents’ desire to having a safe and sound future for their kids can be fulfilled by children in ways and means that parents may not have even imagined. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • I am not wearing girls’ tunics.

Girls do not have to wear pink. Boys do not have to wear blue. The identity is not shaped by what is worn by norms and traditions, but by what is carried by self-belief and conviction. The parents can get bound by gender stereotypes; however, there is no such need for kids to be shackled down to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Wherever I go, Alesia breaks out all over again, I can’t take it anymore. / I’m so over people using me and my torc to start wars.

The kids are not the means to further the hostile cause for the warring adults. For that matter, the kids are not the means to further any type of cause for any kind of adults, even well-meaning ones. The children have to be free to choose the cause of their liking, and even not to choose, should they want to. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • Blinix and Selfipix have no interest in their fathers’ battles and vocations. They actually fancy exchanging their trades.

The parents’ task is to give exposure to their kids, enable them to think and act. The parents’ have to facilitate the kids to grow up to be the individuals with their own judgement, identity and application. The kids are not the means to further the parents’ reasons, leave alone the vocation. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

  • What are the Gauls like? A throwaway society, they consume and then boom, they throw away.

Remember, what is broken is not repaired by people who have been party to it and allowed it to rot to reach its current stage. The adults do not, always, get it right. The kids have a stake in tomorrow’s society and the world for they are going to inherit it. The children may not have a charitable opinion about the social order they are growing up in. And, that has to be actually fine for parents.

I am sure that there are more parenting lessons in “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” than what I could muster above.

To be honest, it is not easy to imbibe the above lessons in me. As a first step, I have kept the book away from my twin daughters’ reach. They are sure to ask uncomfortable questions about me and my behaviour basis their interpretation of what they read in the book. They have every right to do so. I am doing a soul-searching to arrive at potential answers and show perceptible changes in me. After all, parenting is growing up together.

Never had I thought that apart from the usual dose of fun and laughter, an Asterix comic would have so much to offer in parenting lessons.

Please do read “Asterix And The Chieftain’s Daughter” and share your thoughts.

Open Spaces For Children In India: A Myth

What is the ultimate joy of being a child? What should be the perk of being children? Where and how children get to live their childhood?

Few more questions. What is the most blissful for an adult in watching over children? What is it that delights adults, which a child engages in? For adults, what would be their childhood memories?

These are no trick questions. Think hard. A hint – All the above questions and even more questions that you can think of, similar to the above, has a single answer. Irrespective of who you are, where you are, varied social/economic class, the answer remains the same and yes, again an only answer.

For me, the answer is children in their natural surroundings, exploring, interacting and playing with other children, oblivious of the world around, just being children and having fun. There cannot be any other answer.

A child is not going to remember gadgets and toys, clothes and gifts when s/he grows up. A child is surely not going to recollect when s/he first saw the mobile and the countless mind-numbing screen time s/he had. But, a child is surely going to remember the experiences and the events that s/he has lived through; outside the home and more so, with other children. Come to think of it, these are the memories of your childhood that you still carry with you.

By default, these memories and experiences will have a common thread – open spaces. There is no exact definition of these open spaces. They can be a playground, an empty plot of land, a vacant parking lot, a gully/road with less vehicular traffic, with/without shade, but open nonetheless and also, safe and secure for children to mingle and goof around without adult/parental supervision.

Importance of open spaces for children

Open spaces and children obviously go hand-in-hand. Childhood connotes freedom and being self, uninhibited and natural. What better place to express this, than open spaces? Not just outside the confines of the four walls, but also beyond the endless directives of overbearing parents/adults?

Open spaces expose a child to all kinds of environs and interactions. It gives an opportunity to children for hands-on and experiential learning that no amount of simulated and artificial set-ups can ever do. And, yes it is free of cost, available any time of the day, never stocked out, fresh and novel every time and a lot more.

I can go on and on about the importance of open spaces for children. But I suppose, each one of us is aware of it and that’s not the point. The point is that even though all of us know about the benefits of open spaces for kids, all of us are blissfully unaware about the conspicuous absence of the open spaces, anywhere and everywhere, for children to express themselves.

Where are the open spaces?

Try to recall open spaces for children in any of India’s cities of today. Try harder. Come on, there has to be at least one, hidden somewhere, in the neighbourhood, in the ward/locality, or maybe in the entire city/state/country. Sigh, I cannot find any. You are lucky if you have found one for your child.

Mind you, similar to a spontaneous childhood not amenable to exacting adulthood, open spaces do not fall in the realm of adult understanding.

A playground is not an open space. It is not accessible to children across age-groups/it may not be free. More so, most of the playgrounds have now been taken over for some sort of sports coaching or the other purposes.

A park is not an open space. Do not believe me. Try visiting any large-enough park that is open from dawn to dusk. The trees will be taken over by swarming couples in dire needs of privacy. Surely, they are no places for children to be left alone. A community park is a shared resource between the retirees and children. Retirees do not like to have any kind of disturbance in their eternal chit-chats. The result – children of all ages are driven out from the parks or caged in one corner.

A play-area of a gated community is not an open space. Yes, it is open and accessible, but selectively. It is not within reach of the children of maids and drivers working there, children cutting across social and economic strata. This is a must-have condition of open spaces – kids getting diverse and heterogeneous exposure and not a mono-culture of ivory towers.

Vacant plots and parking lots, empty roads and by-lanes hardly exist in today’s urban India. If they do, they are not safe and secure.

Options, Choices, Future

In such a scenario wherein open spaces for children in India have turned into a mirage, what could be the options, the choices that we could have made and have actually made? What does the present herald about the future of open spaces for children? I have written about this in the second part to the current article. Publishing soon.

What are your thoughts on the open spaces, rather the absence of it, for India’s children?

Parenting Is Having An Opinion, Getting Involved And Trying To Better

I have written about LSRW, lockdown for children below 10 years, reopening of schools etc. I have no domain expertise to comment on any of these issues. Such topics are not usually on a parenting blog. However, I do write on these subjects. Why? For me, parenting is also about having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Parenting is change

Parenting brings change to parent’s lives. The physical routine changes. The financial calculations change. The priorities change. Most of all, the freedom to do things change. Is that all about the change? There has to be more. Yes, parenting also changes the perspective of looking at the world around us.

Would these changes be limited to the four walls of the house? Would the change be limited to within the family? Then, it cannot be termed as a change. A change has to be universal/complete across all the spheres of life, for the entire being, to classify as a change. The changes brought forth by parenting fall in this realm.

The changes encompass all the aspects of the child’s upbringing. It covers the wide spectrum of subjects till the time child becomes an adult. Whatever is related to the child or whatever the child relates to, either way, is parenting for me and hence, a candidate for change. After all, parenting is growing up together. And, to grow is to change, to change consciously.

An adult cannot change unless s/he has a stake in the new game. To have a stake means to have a view, to have a belief, to stand up for. Once a person has an outlook, a person cannot remain indifferent any more; a person will get drawn in. It is for these reasons that I say parenting is having an opinion and getting involved.

Making the world a better place

A parent wants a future for the child that is better than theirs. Is this future limited to a certain status of academics/finance/social hierarchy etc? The future surely includes all these aspects and hopefully goes beyond, as well. The generations to come will live a more inter-connected life and cannot go on in a bubble/cocoon unaware of the world around them.

We have been polluting our planet and degrading our society as if there is no tomorrow. Climate change is a real existential threat and so is our hatred and extremism. The child of today will be able to live a life tomorrow only if the earth becomes habitable, society becomes tolerant, and mankind becomes kind and accommodative.

How is this going to happen? Leave aside happening, how is this going to even get started? Surely, not only by focusing solely on JEE/NEET but also by working together constructively on all the aspects that affect kids and their childhood. Of course, it goes much beyond and covers all aspects of our adult life on this planet.

This is my interpretation of making the world a better place for children to live and lead a life of purpose. Everybody will have their own version of a change for the better. Everybody’s methodology to achieve change will be different. However, one thing will remain constant for everyone. That is, having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

Well-intentioned as the only criterion

In this journey to trying to better nobody is a know-all. Everybody learns along the way, by trial and error, by moving back and forth. An only qualifying criterion is a person having an intention to bring about a positive change in the immediate surrounding and the world at large.

Of course, one need not be a parent to have the mind and heart in the right place. But again, it requires having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

You will not be taken kindly

This is the most difficult and tricky of all. You have formed an opinion, want to get involved and surprise, surprise, you will be snubbed. You collect all the details, apply your mind, come up with a plan and more often than not, the service/product provider would be unreachable for feedback/comments. And if you do get through, they will not take any interest; worse, you will be rebuked for taking the initiative.

Somehow the domain experts in child’s learning seem to think that the parents’ role is limited to paying the fees. Any active involvement further, other than volunteering, is strictly discouraged. The parents are made to believe that their child is in good hands and they have done their parenting duties by handing over the child to them.

This is the scenario that dissuades the parents to play an active role in the day-to-day upbringing and development of their child, apart from the payments and the logistics. This further gets accentuated by the society in denial. Seemingly, there is no need for change. Or, if a change is required at all, change at such a pace that it won’t make any difference to the status quo.

Come to think of it. There is actually no incentive for having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better.

The only one that will keep you going is a relentless desire to make tomorrow better than today. I could have learnt this lesson without parenting as well. Nonetheless, now that I have learnt, I have to keep going.

What are your views on having an opinion, getting involved and trying to better?

Girls Can Do

“Only boys can do it” is a pet phrase of my twin daughters’ playmates. And I get red hot angry whenever I hear this. A background: B +ve and O +ve are six-year-old twins. Their playmates are two nine-year-old boys. They are grounded due to COVID-19 lockdown, have nowhere else to go and end up at our home.

What earth-shattering tasks would lead to boys saying “only boys can do it”? Scaling walls, climbing gates, driving a bicycle without support wheels, running down to the dead-end of the road etc. Even a try at playing cricket or an internal gossip between the two boys that they don’t want the girls to over-hear can lead to the girls being told: “only boys can do it”.

Suffice it to say that whatever the boys feel that only their tribe can do, the twin girls are equally adept at doing, if not more. But, even then, the common retort continues. The boys find newer avenues to mouth their conviction. This has led to so many unanswered questions for me and my wife about the upbringing of our daughters and the society surrounding us.

No idea how, where and why does “only boys can do it” comes from

We have tried to reason out with the boys on what makes them say their slogan. They keep repeating their adage in reply. There is no logic/explanation given for their notion. There is no corrective action either in their opinion when the girls do exactly what they proclaimed that they cannot. They evade the discussion, best come up with some fancy proposition to further their claim.

My wife and I understand that nine-year-old boys can only be a symptom. The genesis of this theory has to be elsewhere, that only their parents might know. It might be a coincidence that both the boys have no sisters, they come from sons-only families. That, of course, does not give them any right to have their “only boys can do it” concept. Or, does it even matter?

I am not a sociologist to hazard a guess about the current societal norms, theory and practice. We do not have a TV/OTT connection at home, so we are protected from the barrage of pre-historic era soaps and the mud-slinging media. As a working professional, I never bothered what was going on apart from the rat-race I was in. I have no memory of my life before the job.

I am clueless about what could lead to the nine-year-old boys having and holding on to their boys-only machismo?

No idea how to say “Girls Can Do”

Being a hands-on father has led me to develop some basic level understanding of gender stereotypes prevalent in our social structure. But, I am not an activist of any type. I am not into gender-neutral parenting or any of the feminist ideas. Yes, my daughters do not wear pink. Apart from that and my being a stay-at-home father, I have no further role in advocating women’s rights.

I want to speak to the parents of the two boys about the pre-conceived notions of their sons. But, I am afraid to do that. I do not know how to broach the topic with them. I am anxious that they might take it as an offence to their child/pointing a finger at them and it might lead to a squabble. I do not have the courage to do that.

More so, it is not just about the two sets of parents. They are not an island of exception, rather they are the norm. I know that they are just a part of the society that we are – unequal, biased and having blatant differential world-view for women and men. But for being a father to two daughters, I would not have even had a second thought on hearing “only boys can do it”, which today is making me lose my night’s sleep. I too wore the male-dominant shoe and it is hurting me, now.

I want to shout at the top of my voice – “Girls Can Do”, but I am clueless on whom to address, how to speak, what should be the articulation etc.

I want my girls to fly

I do not want any comparison with boys for my girls. I do not want to say that girls can do better than boys, I do not want to say that girls can do everything. Rather, I just want to say that let the girls do whatever they want to do. When they grow up tomorrow, I do not want them to hear “only man can do it”. I do not want my daughters to feel inadequate/inferior in any manner. That’s just about it.

I know I might be told that the situation is changing slowly, that there is gradual improvement. Nowadays, girls are getting equal opportunities. Yes, there are winds of positive change. But when one considers the generations of women sacrificed at the altar of manhood, the transformation is too slow to have any meaningful impact on the future of each of India’s daughters.

I know that this is only a rant of an ineffective parent. India is not going to change, India does not change. I and my daughters will have to fall in line with “only boys can do it”. After all, India is no country to raise daughters.

What is your belief on “Girls Can Do”?

To Teach A Child To Ride A Bicycle, 5 Things Parents Should Know

Our twin daughters, O +ve and B +ve learnt to ride a bicycle. Basis of my first-hand experience as a parent, this is what I have to say on how to teach a child to ride a bicycle.

According to me, the process of teaching a child to ride a bicycle is as much about the parent as it is about the child. It is the parent’s approach and his/her application that determines how bicycle learning will pan out for the child. There are things that a parent should know/learn and be conscious of, before embarking on the bicycling escapade with the child.

Parenting Is Growing Up Together, and to teach a child to ride a bicycle is no different.

The Ground Work

The advice on when the child should learn to cycle is omnipresent. There will always be a child in the family/neighbourhood, you will be told, who has learnt to cycle when s/he was younger to your child. A parent might be made to feel that sooner is the better. Please remember, there are no bragging rights attached to when a child learns to cycle.

Each child is unique and learns at her/his pace. The same principle applies to learn to cycle. There is no point in starting early, seeing a child struggling to cope with and losing interest in the activity. A parent should be realistic about the ability of her/his child, learning curve and accordingly, decide on the age to introduce cycling.

Our daughters learnt cycling when they were 6 years, the right age for them, we felt as parents. My wife and I are at peace when someone tells us that there are children who learnt to cycle when they were 4 years old. Good for them at that age, good for our daughters at 6.

We involved our daughters in buying their bicycles, took them to the shop, they sat on various models and chose the colour. We spoke to them when we were delaying the process till they turned 6. They were also told that their bicycles won’t have training wheels and they might as well fall.

The Child Will Fall

No child has learnt to walk without falling. And, no child shall learn to cycle without falling. We equipped our children with safety gear – helmet, knee guards and elbow guards. We told our daughters that despite our best efforts to hold their bicycle, they might fall. It is fine. They just need to dust off and be back to cycling.

This point is applicable more for the parents than the child. As parents, we tend to get paranoid when we see our children fall. Our fears and worries get the better of us. We panic and rush towards the child when s/he falls and in the process; the child learns fear from the parents and the society.

Yes, the training wheels will ensure that the child will not fall. The same training wheels will also ensure that the child will not experience an actual bicycling ride. Our daughters’ bicycles never had the training wheels. All of us were prepared for the imminent bruises and cuts. Surprise, surprise; a few falls, scratches, one bruise which required first aid and our girls were cycling.

Trust The Child

When a child is introduced to an age-appropriate activity, s/he will hardly take time to learn. It is just about hand-holding, conversing and giving confidence to the child. We have witnessed this time and again in our daughters, and cycling turned out to be no different.

We had realized that the training wheels cater to the insecurity of the parents. Children have no need as such for the add-on/paraphernalia. They have the innate ability to learn, take care of themselves along with and what’s more – enjoy the process.

We kept re-assuring our daughters that they can, kept telling them that we are right behind them, trusted them to fly and flew they did, in no time.

Parent Has To Put In The Hard Yards

Not having training wheels also meant that Shiva, my wife and I got much-needed running exercise. Too bad, it got over soon.

Leaving the bicycle from behind without telling the child is a strict no-no. If you feel the child is ready to cycle independently, ask if s/he feels that s/he is ready. Only if the child says yes, let go of the cycle. If the child is scared to take the leap of faith, speak to them about their fears and help them develop confidence. In the meanwhile, keep holding the cycle from behind.

When our girls drove away independently from our outstretched hands, it was a moment to cherish for a lifetime

It’s Ok If The Child Takes Time / Doesn’t Learn

We have twin daughters. As with everything that they have learnt at their individual pace, one learnt cycling before the other. It was a tough time for us to handle. The one who did was on cloud nine, the other was crestfallen.

It was a life-lesson for them and we took it as an opportunity to discuss that even for similar efforts, we get dissimilar results. Both the girls were trying equally, one of them learnt before the other. It doesn’t matter how soon you learn as long as you learn. Life is not just a race, much more than that. There is no value to learn to cycle in 45 minutes/7 days and the like.

We told them to enjoy the efforts, the process, the journey; and the destination of learning to cycle did arrive 2 days later for the other girl.

This taught us that if a child takes time, does not learn as expected, it is all right. May be, s/he will learn after some days, some weeks, some months, it does not matter. As long as, the parents and the child persevere, there will always be the next day. And yes, even if the child does not learn, that is fine too. After all, as an adult, I haven’t learnt many a thing and I cannot have double standards.

Balancing Not Pedalling

To teach a child to ride a bicycle is to get the priorities right. Remove the training wheels and get the child to learn balance.  The rest – braking, stopping, starting, turning etc will just be a matter of time.

This is how we taught our children to ride a bicycle. Alongside, all of us picked some life lessons too.

What are your thoughts to teach a child to ride a bicycle?

 

Parenting Is Growing Up Together

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.