A recent encounter with a concerned father, an excited mother and a clueless child prompted me to write this. We have all been through this. Sycophantic parents doing their best to place their sweet lips on your rear end, while making their own children look like lepers. An abomination when done in the company of many.
The conversation was meaningless to say the least but something they said hit a nerve. In between the father’s mind numbing droning, the mother yelps and interjects like an agitated puppy with this: “ Can you tell my son the secret of your success. He is a great disappointment to us. He is finishing high school soon and he has no idea as to what to do with his life.”
The father turned toward his son, jowls shuddering and bellows, “ Look at him (he gestures towards me). See how far he has come in life. Aren’t you at least a little bit ashamed of yourself.”
“Please doctor. What is your secret?” the mother repeated as she cast her eyes on me, batting her multicolored eyelids like a schoolgirl meeting her first crush. It was very disconcerting to say the least.
The room fell silent. All eyes were on that boy. If the ground could open up and swallow him whole, I’m sure he would have no regrets. The other teenagers were shifting uncomfortably in their seats. Target practice. They knew. And I did too.
I took a deep breath and said as calmly as I could, “ The secret…. Very simple. I have better parents.”
A collective gasp went around the room sucking the air within. The mother nearly fainted. The father stopped talking to me. And the boy volunteered to reformat my desktop. All was well with the world once more.
I am no expert at parenting but I will never treat my child that way.
This incident underlines the most glaring failure of our education system. The abject inability to recognize a person’s worth and judging them based on the myopic views of others.
This reminds me of a conversation I had with my late dad. He was never one to yield to unnecessary expectations and pressures placed on his children. I remember his analogy of our education system and values; “The fish is judged by how well it can climb a tree and a squirrel on how fast it can swim.”
Let me first define what I mean by the term ’education’ for fear of being misquoted or worse still, misinterpreted. I am not only referring to what is being taught in our national schools, international schools and universities, within or abroad but the core values and practices that should be embedded in a child by the parents.
A child should first be given a sense of comfort and orderliness. They should be encouraged to make mistakes and learn from them. Never be afraid of making mistakes. The parents should learn to become the safety net; to catch them when they fall. Through mistakes they grow and develop an identity, preventing them from remaining an empty and hollow shell of themselves.
A parent’s love must be unconditional. Don’t blame them when they do not communicate with you. If you judge their every action, invariably they will shut you out.
Encourage your children to try and learn new things. Get them to learn new skills and meet new people. Let them travel and immerse themselves in different cultures. Never be afraid of going beyond established boundaries.
Invest your time and money on your kids. If you are never around during their formative years, don’t blame their friends or the internet if anything goes wrong. You reap what you sow. If you have conveniently forgotten that, it’s time you remembered.
If judging them is bad, it is a crime to compare. Comparing a child with another individual is detrimental to their growth. No child is alike and each has a different set of talent and ability. The onus therefore lies on the parents to nurture and guide them and provide a suitable and stable environment to harnesses a child’s untapped potential. It is imperative to treat a child as an individual, devoid of comparison with others.
I leave with a quote by Mitch Albom, “All parents damage their children. It cannot be helped. Youth, like pristine glass, absorbs the prints of its handlers. Some parents smudge, others crack, a few shatter childhoods completely into jagged little pieces, beyond repair.