Parenting is as much about learning as it is about imparting values. Here’s how one parent began as a teacher and wound up as the student.
We were at the table, the husband, I and R, poring over Math sums, word problems that I remembered coming across in a much higher grade than R is in currently. The little guy was restless, as we plodded on, tweaking a number here, twisting a question there. His fingers went up clumsily as he counted, miscounted, rushing to arrive at the solution. His eager face fell as we pointed out that the answer is wrong. He was perturbed to learn from us that an answer (right or wrong) needs to be justified by being able to explain the workings.
“The session clearly wasn’t going down too well with him.”
I noticed his eyes prick with tears but blinked away bravely. I sensed the fear, disappointment, and insecurities masked by his defiant tone. Here was a child who was trying desperately to win a pat on the back, feeling embarrassed to admit he doesn’t understand, yet putting up a brave front. In an instant, my own childhood flashed out before my eyes. I signalled the husband and we changed stances instantly. From anxious parents trying to teach a kid the vagaries of numbers, we relaxed to reach out to the little human in front of us who was battling complex emotions.
“It doesn’t matter if you don’t know. What matters is you learn and learn it the right way,” I heard myself say.
“Why the steps and the explanation?” he protested
“When you break complex problems into bite-sized ones, it gets easier to find the answer and it’s also a validation that you’ve learnt the lesson rather than arriving at the goal without realizing the whys and hows. It helps to be organized and disciplined in Mathematics,” I elaborated.
The reply I gave was an epiphany to me. Didn’t this logic apply to Life itself? And, how easily I parted with the wisdom I struggle to ingrain in my life! I almost felt like a fraud doling out sage advice to a child when the adult in me forgets to apply the same tenets.
Yet, I was grateful for how this scene played out. It gave me a chance to pause, reflect, and take stock. It was not a chapter in Math but a reminder of life-lessons. I became the student rather than the teacher.
In another scene, R came back beaten, not in the literal sense, from the playground. Another boy had been bullying him, using the age old tactic of needling, teasing or even hitting him on multiple occasions without provocation. Incidentally, the boy is a part of the ‘friends’ brigade and I’ve observed R pandering to his whims and fancies soon after the boy offers an apology that is mere lip-service.
Again, I found myself mouthing wisdom that I had shied away from implementing in my childhood.
- Standing up for one’s defense and self-esteem needs to start early. Identifying the real friend rather than being desperate to fit into a clique will go a long way in having a healthy relationship with the self.
- A good friend will always encourage and someone who finds your weakness to hold it against you time and again will never be that friend.
- Asking for forgiveness isn’t the same as feeling repentant. And, one must be able to differentiate between the two.
These are Zen rules and I realize that I do not walk the talk at all times. I’m aware that my child will learn from observing rather than listening. In that sense, I’m being given a chance to redeem myself through the child and I hope to learn well and not squander away the opportunity.
This article was first published on My Musings.