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Education need not be only about marks and ranks, and should not stigmatise working moms who cannot find time to push their kids towards these.
A dear friend calls me on Saturday evening. She sounds shattered. The reason, the feedback she has received at her daughter’s PTM. No not about her child but a critique on her performance as a parent.
My friend, who works as a product manager at an IT firm shared that she was in tears while listening about her poor performance on the so-called scale of parents’ involvement. The teacher had on her side the many glorifying stories of parents who were super actively involved with their children. My friend had been singled out as lagging in her responsibilities which seemed to be directly impacting the opportunities for her daughter.
As I soothed her, I couldn’t help but think about many people around me who I could easily say fell on the other side of this so-called ‘scale of performance’.
Those who followed the school year planners as a bible, ensured perennial availability on their child’s WhatsApp groups, spent hours researching the internet and networking with the parents of elder kids and school teachers. Parents who had taken up to subservience and passively played to the tunes of an unknown Pied Piper.
But was I not one of them? But then was there any option?
I see most of us; the millennial parents are on a relentless mission: plan, projects, competitions – winners, trophies and accolades. Something which is a result of a newfound passion for ensuring every opportunity that knocks at the door is leveraged and converted in a winnable fashion.
We are bringing up our children today in a world where there is an illusion of a ring. Over the past many decades, we have done our best to ensure that this conditioning goes deep inside them. Such that, there is a sense of competition that you can win if you kick someone out of this ring.
But then, what is the purpose of this education because if it didn’t teach us to be kind, compassionate and empathetic, then it also won’t give us happiness and peace in the long run. And if happiness is not what we are seeking for our children, then what is the meaning of this pursuit called education?
It may be beyond just the helicopter parenting but about an entire gamut of things part of the education system. The result- we are trying to live our ambitions and past through our children’s manicured present to make them future-ready citizens. But it is like a bubble ready to burst as soon as they are out of the secured environment.
Are we doing enough to prepare them to face failure? Playing their part or over-performing as a parent for the so-called accolades and achievements, isn’t that what adds to reinforcing this bubble.
Yes, instilling the streak of ambition is essential. However, competition may not be the only way. Perhaps, collaboration can be a guiding force. This constant need to apply a maximise function on academics, extra-curricular and everything else may be doing more harm than good for the children.
How about teaching them empathy and gratitude so that instead of scores and activities, they count the number of good deeds they did. Or consider if the pressure on performance and comparison doesn’t drive the system, but compassion and kindness set the benchmark for happiness? Perhaps, we may have raised a better generation.
I am a parent to two kids – nine and six. And like all of us on this parenting journey, I go through my phases of self-doubt and guilt. But the question that haunts me often is if we are raising children as they are or as we want them to be. Perhaps, not many things but our children need the roots to be resilient when the winds of conflicts blow. And, the power of strong wings to soar higher and get what they are seeking?
This race and the pressure on performance, is it really needed? Like most of you, I am also figuring… In the meantime, I leave you with these beautiful lines, the poem Roots and Wings by Denis Waitley which I go back to whenever in doubt…
If I had two wishes, I know what they would be.
I would wish for Roots to cling to, and Wings to set me free
Roots for inner values, like rings within a tree
And wings of independence to seek my destiny.
Roots to hold forever to keep me safe and strong,
To let me know you love me, when I ‘ve done something wrong.
To show me by example, and help me learn to choose.
To take those actions every day to win instead of lose.
Just be there when I need you, to tell me it’s all right.
To face my fear of failing when I test my wings in flight.
Don’t make my life too easy; it’s better if I try
And fail and get back up myself, so I can learn to fly.
If I had two wishes, and two were all I had,
And they could just be granted, by my Mom and Dad;
I wouldn’t ask for money or any other store-bought things
The greatest gifts I would ask for are simply Roots and Wings.”
Image source: a still from the film Secret Superstar
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