Parenting By Letting Go

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Jan 30, 2015

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My husband, cricketer Ajit Agarkar, has recently taken up golf as a passion. He came home the other day with this story: His coach‎ had been asked to counsel a parent of a 3-month-old on what needs to be done so that the child can take up the sport by age three!

The coach was all at sea. He wanted to tell the parent that the child should first learn to crawl and then walk before running. But he felt forced to offer guidance. In the end, he suggested holding a plastic bat and golf ball for the “experience.” (My husband, on the other hand, said had he been present, he would have advised giving the child a bottle of milk to drink!)

Ajit, visibly concerned, asked me if this is the state of parenting today, if the modern parent takes such plans for a child as young as three months? He described another incident, this time a discussion with a parent of an 11-year-old who sought his autograph. The parent wanted the child to give up football, cricket, and badminton in favor of golf, so by the time he applies to pre-university courses abroad, his handicap is competitive! Ajit asked the child what he wanted to do; the child responded, “I want to play football.” The parents explained to Ajit that their son was no good and the competition with football was too intense to give the child any advantage. The advantage was all in golf. All this, they narrated matter-of-factly and in the presence of their child. (This, of course, raises the obvious question: how can he be confident if his own parents aren’t confident in his abilities?)

I’m hoping your reaction to these stories is similar to mine. As adults, when we are blessed with children, we must realise and recognise that our dreams cannot be fulfilled through their lives. Our children must be allowed to do things, especially in the earlier years, because they have fun and enjoy it, rather than because it may provide them some ambiguous advantage for the future.

As I was addressing a group of parents a few months ago, and I reminded them that how we expose, teach, and nurture our children today is responsible for how adaptable and balanced they turn out tomorrow.

Here’s a scenario I shared with them: A 28-year-old from one of the leading educational institutes in the city, a topper who went on to attend the best universities in our country and in the U.S., achieved every possible academic laurel along the way.

But before he turned thirty, he struggled with depression, and was treated at an expensive private clinic in Europe‎.

What do you think went wrong? An inability to cope with the real world? A weak soul? Too much pressure? Failure?

If you look further into this story, you learn the young man loved to paint, but was told at a very young age that this was not an acceptable profession; money had to be made in finance, banking, or real estate, so that’s what he pursued instead. Since he’s been in rehab, however, the young man has churned out more than 400 paintings, and has attracted quite a following. He paints with emotion and sadness, and while his parents are longing to meet with him, they are denied access because he gets panic attacks when he sees them.

The young man’s parents live in regret and another kind of acceptance—that they had parenting choices, made the wrong ones, and it cost them dearly.

I asked the parents in attendance to think about the choices they have today—to love, nurture and accept their children, rather than pressure or try to fulfill their own dreams through their children.

I will leave you with those thoughts. Do choose wisely.

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Written By Fatema Agarkar

Fatema Agarkar is an educationist and the co-founder of JBCN Education. After graduating from the University of Birmingham (Central England), she worked in a variety of roles as a banker, with the Times of India, and a Swiss executive search firm. She has received awards for her outstanding contribution to education, and has plans to set up foster care centres across India for less fortunate and physically disabled children.

See all articles by Fatema

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