If a man does not keep pace with his companions, perhaps it is because he hears a different drummer. Let him step to the music which he hears, however measured and far away… – Henry David Thoreau
We become parents by default. Today we know better than to take our role of parenting for granted; lest the joyful opportunities for celebration and personal growth pass us by and the threats loom larger than they may actually be.
Did we know that parenting would be a unique opportunity to witness the life of our own precious creation? That our children would be the driving force for all the choices we make?
Parenting is a phase in which our daily lives are a combination of ups and downs, pulls and pushes at such an intimate and intense level that parenting is no longer a phenomenon of choice. ‘Once a parent always a parent’: our energy, skill sets, conditioning, creativity and innovation define our own experience and the impact we make on our children.
I feared my destiny, until I realized that I had the power to change my life. I feared change, until I saw that even the most beautiful butterfly had to undergo a metamorphosis before it could fly… – Author Unknown
As a mother of three daughters, one of my most important missions was to create a learning environment which would be a combination of the nurturing environment of a home and the challenging environment of a school. Homeschooling was the obvious answer, and I even felt excited and confident of taking up that challenge! However, my need for financial independence as a single parent did not allow me the luxury of staying at home to ‘teach’ my daughters and explore the world of science, arts, languages and more with them. Thus began my journey to guide them on their search for knowledge through the least ‘damaging’ schools, fearlessly changing schools if I found a better alternative.
I believe a good school can offer a healthy, creative, encouraging and intellectually stimulating atmosphere for a child to explore various facets of life, as she steps into the real world. It can offer a non-judgmental space to children, to make mistakes, learn from the outcomes and be responsible as well as emotionally strong. It may not be able to offer complete protection from conflicts, accidents, failures, and unnecessary exposure as a nurturing home can. I hoped to inculcate values of honesty, empathy, co-operation and commitment to hard work in my daughters. I wished that they would have the ability to face the repercussions of their truth. I knew there would be gaps in any learning space and took the responsibility of filling up the gaps rather than blaming or accepting it as a compromise.
I had some fears about them hating the process of learning and feeling blocked due to the ridiculous and de-motivating processes in the formal education system … I kept my heart open and tried to stay connected with them to understand and see them through the ups and downs as they faced the challenges … It has been tough but they have resilience, perseverance and the ability to adapt to change, as well as a knack to make the most of their circumstances. I wonder how much of these qualities would have developed in a safer homeschooled environment. I have used my experiences and techniques of non violent communication, Vipassana, and insights from the Journeys with Kabir through the Kabir Project, personal explorations through The Artist’s Way and replenished faith and hope by chanting, ‘Nam Myoho Renge Kyo…’
I believe my girls are raised by the community of friends and family that I created…deliberately since I uprooted them from Ahmedabad and shifted to Pune 14 years ago…
Today, at 27, Natasha the eldest, is an Art Critic and a Curator, living in Amsterdam. At 21 Tanya is dreaming of being a clinical psychologist, a healer and has a bent towards Indian Psychology and at 20 Simone is studying hard to become a Vet in New Zealand and work in the area of Animal Welfare and Wild Life Conservation.
I guess I am sharing all this cause there may be some parents who may not have the privilege of un-schooling or homeschooling and may feel disheartened or left out, as I used to feel and still do sometimes. I guess most of us look at the larger picture and feel really blessed to have children of our own to invest our energy in. We open our hearts to experience the sheer joy and amazement as we witness their lives … and see images of them in other children whose lives we touch!
As a token of validation to my way of parenting, I’d like to end with excerpts from ‘Working Mom’ an article written by Natasha, my eldest daughter at age 22; “…but no matter how busy she was she made every birthday special, and transformed each minor achievement into a moment for celebration. She taught me to always give more then I take and to share that last piece of chocolate I was hoarding in my cupboard. When I lied she always found out. There was no punishment; always a thwarted silence. I learnt that truth is not a matter of convenience. I was encouraged to dream fearlessly and work tirelessly; to grit my teeth in the face of adversity and keep moving forward.
Mom juggles between a multitude of roles in the most brilliant manner, every single day – single mom, adoring ex-wife, devoted daughter, reliable sister and committed employee…”
No parent is perfect and all children will have to overcome some setbacks and implications of their upbringing.
I feel very happy sharing … feel graced and seen for who I am … even if I cannot see all of you who are reading this … it is in a sense, a victory over the fear of the unknown, which has been the essence of parenting for me!
The author conducts workshops on Parenting from the Heart, Reinventing Self and Compassionate Communication through her initiative Soul Spaces in Pune and Ahmadabad. She can be contacted at [email protected].