Children as educators

“Appa, you have to watch this movie. It is on Netflix. I will WhatsApp details” my daughter told me last week. Since her suggestions have started to make sense of late, I saw the movie “Wonder” starring Julia Roberts the same day.

I liked it.

There is a particular scene with a dialogue in the movie that moved me deeply. It made me wish that I could have somehow communicated the same advice to my eldest daughter Yogita;

 “You can’t blend in when you are meant to stand out” whispers the teenaged sister in her brother’s ear on his first day to school. Her brother Aggie has a severe facial deformity due to a condition called Treacher Collins Syndrome that makes the community around him ostracize him and avoid him with ugly stares. But the boy braves it and ends up a hero by winning the school’s annual bravery medal for his strength and courage. The movie ends with a voiceover narration telling the viewers “Be kind, for everyone is fighting a hard battle. And if you really want to see what people are, all you have to do is look”.

I learnt another new thing about life from my children.

While we think we teach our children all about life, we do not realize that our children regularly teach us what life is all about” said a wise mother once.

True.

We seldom give enough credit to our kids, taking little cognizance of their roles behind the lessons we learn from them. When I reflect with honesty, I realize that I have learnt so much more than changing nappies, cleaning noses and making a ponytail during my role as a father from my three kids.

These are some of the important ones;

My kids spent countless hours with their cousins running from yard to yard, playing games, watching frogs and on swings. They would spend an entire afternoon and evening together with their cousins without being bored. They loved it; love it even now when they are at my brothers’ houses, watching me talk to my brother while they chat with their cousins.

When he was six, my son wanted a bicycle badly, and I wanted to surprise him. I bought a new cycle and took it home on a Saturday evening. He was excited and was eager to sit on it just as his cousin came home to pick him up for a sleepover. He ran out and joined his cousin and drove off. My anger turned into a smile as soon as I saw his excitement when he joined his cousin. The company with his cousin was worth much more than his dream cycle.

LESSON: Relationships are always more exciting and fulfilling than possessions.

When my son was 14, he broke his wrist. He screamed out when the radiologist, chewing his gum, insensitively twisted my child’s arm to get the right angle for the XRay. My son screamed in agony, and it pierced me so profoundly that I pounced out and pushed away from the radiologist’s hand from my son. The radiologist glared at me, took off his gloves and walked away. I ran behind him with folded hands apologetically. My son in between his sobs and tears said: “Appa please, I am OK. Let him finish”.

LESSON: Children are often wiser than grownups.

None of my kids ever knew what religion or creed their friends were from. My kids played and bonded with their friends with absolutely no idea or clue of their roots. When it came to understanding characters in movies and stories, my kids had only one question;” is she good or bad?” The only thing they notice about people was their propensity for being friendly and nice; not a race, religion, appearance or whatever anyone is. All kids see are a world of people, most of who are friendly and nice.

LESSON: Judgments based on colour, creed and religion are products of our conditioned adult minds, minds that remain unaware of our inter-being that existed before our minds came in the way.

“You know Appa, more than any gift or vacation that you gave me the thing that I cherish and remember even now is the moment I heard your voice from the ER when I had to undergo surgery,” my daughter has said many times. She had been admitted with a complex ankle fracture that needed immediate surgery in Bangalore. Even though she was surrounded by her cousins and colleagues, she could relax and go to sleep only after I drove all the way from Mysore immediately, and she heard my voice outside the ER. 

Children care most about our company through their struggles, their celebrations, and their achievements; much more than our gifts or fun time with us. Progress and success mean nothing if you are not available to your children when they need you. Be available rather than be merely concerned.

LESSON: Your personal and emotional availability is more critical to your Children than anything else in the world.

My children watched what I did much more closely than what I said. Whether it was how I treated my employees at work, the ball boys at tennis courts or the elderly around me. They watched me. They closely watched how I treated money or my material possessions and in a way, indirectly governed my actions.

LESSON: Children make us set much higher standards for ourselves.

My son helped me tackle the perils of my hidden grief in a manner that took me entirely by surprise. When I wept on his shoulder on the day he turned 18 thinking of his diseased eldest sister who would have been 25 had she been alive, he consoled me by rubbing my shoulder having grown a couple of inches taller than me!

While I was caught up trying to make my kids good adults, they made a man out of me.

Exactly a month from today is world children’s day. Let all of us adults join together in thanking the children of the world for their lessons.

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