Zen lessons from unexpected quarters

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Parenting teaches us many things, and sometimes, the Zen lessons our kids teach us can be both satisfying and eye-opening.

I can’t quite recollect where, but I remember reading a piece of research that stated that every little thing that kids see, is stored away in their subconscious memory. And this sort of bubbles up to the surface when the time is right. So all that talk about ‘kids saying the strangest things’ isn’t actually malarkey, but rather has some truth. You do, often, find that they are capable of imparting Zen lessons to you. Of course, I’m no scientist and since I’ve succumbed to the fact that kids say the strangest things at the ‘perfect’ time, I’m going to believe it.

People who know me well and have known me for a while can vouch for the fact that I’m short-tempered by nature and a loose cannon when agitated. Of course, both of these are far from ideal traits for a parent. In fact, as I’ve repeatedly said, if there was a test for measuring the eligibility criteria to be a parent, I’d perhaps fail with flying colours. But perhaps the ‘real’ truth is that I’ve adapted rather well to fatherhood – in fact, much better than I thought I would.

However, unless you’ve been blessed with one of those ‘rare’ goody-goody little ones, any parent worth their salt can confirm that they have at some point lost their cool with the kids. And with a temper like mine, it happens quite a lot in our household too. Perhaps more than I care to count. In fact, some days I wonder if neighbours think the name of our kid is ‘Stop It’ or ‘Don’t touch that!’

Humour aside, my anger scares me some days. It’s a lot more in check than it used to be, but there are times when my patience melts quicker than the frozen stuff in Ice Age (yes, the animated movie). And at those times, I hate myself. But as a parent, I’ve now started to put a lid on it, so to speak. Yes, it sputters and spews and threatens to jump out like the mustard seeds when tossed into a pan of sizzling oil, but it’s largely ‘safe’.

One of the mechanisms that I employ, when it comes to not saying or doing anything that I might regret later when angry, is to make sure that I walk away. I usually make it a point to close the room behind me, as if to cordon off the area. To help you picture it, imagine a rotund, green and furious Hulk surrounded by the yellow ‘Do not cross’ tape.

As the parents of any three year old can vouch, the simplest things can cause them to go into a meltdown. It could be something as simple as cutting their sandwiches into squares instead of triangles , even when they said they wanted it to be square pieces. And somewhere on the top of that list of things that cause them to turn them into ‘wailing drama queens and kings’ is – yes, you guessed it – shutting the door to a room. Even if they’re watching their favourite show, if they catch you closing the room, all hell breaks loose. Well, in my house anyway. You’d often hear parents say that if you have a toddler or a pre-schooler at home, even going to the washroom and closing the door becomes a Herculean task. For, no sooner than you close the door, they come running and knocking on the door. So, you can well imagine the plight when the ‘door closing’ is amidst anger, drama, tantrums and some yelling. He’d come running, tears streaming down his cheeks and keep knocking as if it was on ‘heaven’s door’.

But that’s all old news. If you remember, I started the post talking about how kids tends to say the wrong things at the right times, but it sort of seamlessly fits in and helps diffuse the tension and anger? So recently, during one of our ‘fight-club’ phases, as is the norm, I went into one of the bedrooms and shut the door behind me. Now, I’m not sure if this is a ‘Libran’ thing, but I cool off, almost as quickly as I get angry; which is perhaps a good thing. So, there I was, suddenly feeling all cool and relaxed, waiting for the incessant knock on the door. But it never happened. I was confused, even concerned. Especially since my wife wasn’t around. And worst of all, I couldn’t hear any cries or any other sound.

As a parent there’s only one thing more suspicious than strange sounds – that’s a toddler who is silent.

Trying to remain calm, I open the door and peek out. As expected, my son is standing outside the door with a stern look on his chubby face. In his hand is a stick, that I identify as one of the left-overs from a toy that breathed its last a few months back. On seeing me, he raises the stick slightly. I panic briefly; the last thing I need is for him to pick up violence. Yes, I used to throw things before I became a parent. Nothing dangerous – just to emphasise the anger. But I’ve stopped since.

All of a sudden, he taps the door gently, but firmly. I squint through the tiny slit of my closed eyes. His face now sports a wide grin. Confused, I open both my eyes and raise my eyebrows, as if asking him for an explanation.

He gently taps the door again and then says, “Papa, Inner Peace.”

And then runs off to continue watching Kung Fu Panda for the umpteenth time. It would appear that my son has coolly overtaken me on the highway to Zen Kingdom.

*This article originally appeared on the author’s blog.

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