“At 15 months old, my daughter has 6 teeth, your daughter? 4? Oh!”
“Both our children are 1.5 years old, your daughter already recognises animals from pictures, my daughter can’t do that at all”
”My son got 73% in his previous year final exams, so this year I am sending him to tuition classes for 5 hours daily to improve his exam performance”
”My mother insists that I study for 3 hours continuously every day, I can’t do that. I can focus better when I take periodic breaks.”
“My son got only 83% in 8th std, how will he get into IIT?”
”My grandson has only 8.8 CGPA in X std, what will he amount to?”
”My son’s CET ranking is more than 15,000, his life is ruined”
”I got 75% in Chemistry in my XII boards. I am happy but my mother expected more and is unhappy about it”
”My daughter wants to be a teacher after her studies. What does a teacher earn at the most? Rs. 20,000/- a month? How will she make a living on that? She needs to get into IIT.”
Over the last few weeks, I have heard these statements in close quarters from parents and children. This got me thinking, why are parents of today so obsessed with numbers? Whether it is a child’s age, number of teeth they have, their marks, their ranking, the salary they may earn in the future; it never ends. From 18 months to 18 years and beyond, we obsess with these numbers to identify, to compare, and to even value our own children! To what end? You know where else individuals are identified by numbers? In prison!
It so happens that I know some of these children personally. It is a delight to know and interact with each of them. For instance,
- The ‘75% in Chemistry’ girl is cheerful, articulate, extremely energetic, and kind-hearted; all of this I know from teaching her once a week over a period of 6 months.
- The ‘doesn’t study for 3 hours continuously’ girl is the most confident, assertive and straight-forward 12 year old I have ever come across. This I know by talking to her for half an hour, I hadn’t seen her for almost 6 years before this.
- The ‘15 month old baby who has 4 teeth’ is a joyful, determined and social being who exudes warmth wherever she goes.
I understand parents’ concerns to some extent. Yes, children need to be pushed, encouraged and disciplined so that they can do more than what they believe is their best. One reason that parents give for this extraordinary micromanagement of their children’s performance is that they themselves did not have much guidance about managing their studies and exposure to career options when they were younger; so, children should be grateful that they (the parents) are ready and able to provide guidance.
Nevertheless, can we be less paranoid and more accepting of the beautiful individuals that our children are? By constantly focussing on such numbers, aren’t we sending them the wrong message of how we value them and what they are worth? These numbers that we attach so much importance to, no doubt have their place in particular contexts, but are not nearly so significant as we make them to be; not in the more meaningful journey of life itself. I think it is imperative for us as parents to teach our children the values that no marks card can give them – curiosity, openness to learn, adaptability, hard work, sincerity, level-headedness in the face of success, resilience in the face of failure, kindness, empathy, and contentment to name a few. Even better, if we lead by example.
While we want the best for our children, it pays us well to remember that they have minds of their own, dreams of their own and they will carve out their own lives either because of us or in spite of us. It is best for us (our sanity as well as our emotional well-being) to give them good values, love them intensely and let them be. They will find their own paths, make their own mistakes and lead better lives for having done so.
In the immortal words of Khalil Gibran:
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.
-Dr. Soumyashree S., Co-Founder, President-Research & Development BRAINSTARS