Parenting - The Stable Bow
by Jamuna Rangachari
I think one of the most difficult and thankless jobs today is parenting,” I heard a lady say at a social get- together while all the other parents in the group nodded their agreement forcefully.
The conversation then turned to the books the children read, the classes they attended, and so on. Each of the parents seemed to be obsessed with how many competitions the children won, how many marks they scored, how many activities they took up, and so on.
As I mulled over the scenario, and my own role as a parent, I realised that the problem was that we have become obsessive about a threatening, competitive world. It is this world that we seek to prepare our children for. Wasn’t this a classic case of one’s perceptions shaping one’s world?
“I will study when I want to. Please do not fix a timetable for me. If I need help, I will tell you,” my son, Siddart said, irritably after one more lecture on disciplined habits.
Yes, I was anxious and concerned, but I had to realise that he had his own tempo, and would have to learn from his own mistakes. I decided to surrender to God’s will, and let him be. There were a few hiccups but soon, he began asking to be woken up in the morning, and studying at his own pace.
“Amma, I don’t ever want to be a singer, though I like music. Please don’t keep asking me to sing when someone comes home,” my daughter, Samyukta, said, with a touch of anxiety.
Truly, I was becoming quite obsessed with ‘encouraging’ her to sing and this had actually put her off music! I had to give her the space she needed. I vowed to stop prodding her and amazingly, with the pressure gone, she actually began singing more!
It was then that I realised my whole definition of parenting was flawed. It had become one more job, one more activity undertaken to produce desired results with mental appraisal forms, goal statements, and a pat on the back for achievements!
However, isn’t parenting a God-given opportunity to experience a wonderful relationship with a budding, blossoming human being? Surely, one cannot have any preconceived notions of what we want this tender being to be! For the child charts his own path, carves his own destiny.
I read Khalil Gibran’s timeless ode again, this time with complete reverence:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you, yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts.
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite, and He bends you with His might that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as he loves the arrow that flies, so he loves also the bow that is stable
To be a stable ‘bow’, all I needed to work on, was being a person my children could look up to with respect, and could turn to if they required help.
Stephen Covey says in his book, Seven Habits of Effective Families,
“In a Chinese bamboo tree, after the seed is sown for this tree, you see nothing for four years except for a tiny shoot. The growth is, however, taking place underground in a massive root structure. In the fifth year, the Chinese bamboo tree grows to eighty feet.” Yes, I must continue nurturing the root with unconditional love and unlimited patience, for that alone can form a solid foundation of positive values, I realised.
“For once, please let us all watch the movie together,” say my children to us and play a family movie.
As we all laugh and enjoy the movie together, I resolve to enjoy the journey completely, with the newfound wisdom and perspective of parenting being a joy, not a job.