Wednesday, December 28, 2016

TAKE THE PASSENGERS' SEAT AND HELP YOUR CHILDREN NAVIGATE

           
              



 Parenting is a tough job… Just as letting go is!


       Letting go of our anxiety and fear about our children’s education, career, character and future…
       Letting go of our need to control them… their choices…
       Letting go of our need to constantly monitor their actions by hovering over their heads as helicopters…

       Involved parents! Oh yes, we parents need to be. But, more than being ‘involved parents’, I think, we need to be ‘evolved parents’. Our children need our love, guidance and support… But, certainly, they don’t need our obsessive control which stems from our deep-rooted insecurity and lack… Children can sense that quickly!

      My last Post - ‘OUR BROKEN DREAMS… AND OUR INNOCENT CHILDREN’ - was inspired by the movie, ‘Dangal’. I received a lot of feedback from many parents… most of it privately. Almost all parents  were uncomfortable with the idea of ‘letting their young-children be’… What if this happens… and what if that happens? When is the time to let our children take the drivers’ seat and let us take the passengers’ seats?

       Not easy, sir… Not easy… There is no easy answer to this…

       All that I can say is this: Have we all not been taken care of by the Universe?
       If we as parents are earnest – and if our children are reasonably responsible and clear in their heads - take it from me, the Universe will surely bless them… Just the way you and me have been!

       So, essence of parenting is all about letting go that need to be in the drivers’ seat all through our children’s journey… It is setting them free and letting them belong where their destiny wants them to be…

      Parenting is all about our own growth… our own evolution…
      It is about making peace with the inevitable circle of life!


       Stella*, a dear friend of mine who lives in the US with her husband and two boys (age 18 and 17), wrote to me after reading my last Post. It carries that universal anguish of a sincere parent…





Hi  Gerry, hope your Christmas was joyful. I read your post about the movie ‘Dhangal’ and thought I would share some of our (my husband and I) struggles and our journey in parenting specifically with the notion that we should allow our kids to drive their passion and choose their paths. Would love to hear your thoughts..

Our parenting style has been very conscious ways to ensure from a very young age that our two boys were never pressured to follow our aspirations for anything… whether to play sports, make top grades, friend and religion choice, hobbies etc. Until they were about 10 years old, we exposed them to many opportunities in the above mentioned areas and other areas; but, once they were 10 or 11 years old, they started showing strong independence in opinions, wanting to make decisions for themselves etc. Basically, it was clear to us, as the years went by, that they would be in the driver’s seat for most decisions which we felt confident we should let them make. We had to remind ourselves to be in the passengers’ seat though to help them navigate. They have mostly made great decisions so far…  some that we would not agree with, some that made us a bit uncomfortable , other decisions that led to some setbacks which they needed more support from us to navigate.

Our 18-year-old decided for himself that he wanted to pursue medical school and is now doing all the pre requisite classes for that. He talked about how he arrived at his decision with us. Our 17-year-old announced to us, 4 years ago, that he wanted to do a music major in college. This was when he was in 7 th grade. My husband struggled with accepting that. Being somewhat traditional, he felt that a music career was not going to be a sustainable source of living. He tried convincing our then 13-year-old and over time, accepted that we had to be supportive of his dreams. We have done everything as parents in supporting his interest in music and helping him move forward in working towards his goal. But, with this boy, despite our best efforts,  at this point of time, we are struggling with knowing if we did him a disservice by being too supportive or whether we should have not let him be such an independent opinionated decision-maker early on in life… Don't know if it was a choice at all. He will be in 12 th grade next year and will have to apply for colleges and if he applies for music, he will have to audition and such. We have been preparing and supporting him for this all these years... to fulfill his dreams to learn music. But, lately, our conversations with him make us feel like, he still wants to study music, but he is not sure he is ready to go to college after 12 th grade. He wants to take a ‘gap year’. Well now, it's becoming more common for kids to take a gap year to ‘figure out’ what they want to do in college or do some ‘volunteering’ before they start college. When asked what he wants to do in his gap year, he is not sure. We are not opposed to having this boy take a ‘gap year’, but here is what is keeping us sleepless at nights:
1. He knows he wants to do music; we support him 200%; he is more than capable of getting admission in at least one reputed school of his choice; so, why does he feel he is not ready ? (He will not talk much to us about this).
2. He has a couple of friends ( older) who took a gap year , never went to college after the year and are working odd jobs at fast-food places and do occasional music gigs at bars. We are worried that our son may choose that as a path for himself in that case, do we not intervene in some way? What is our responsibility as parents to support him? Is that just a lazier approach to handling growing up for him?
3. What house rules should we start planning for if he is not going to college? Some of our friends who have had a kid take a gap year or two have shared their experiences in what works and what does not for them. What we are not going to be ok with is for this boy to sleep all day, eat ,go meet random musician friends at random times and not be productively engaged in school or work or something else. How do we determine all the details?

Clearly, with 18-year-old... our parenting style seems like - can be called - a semi success … maybe! But, with our 17-year-old… it might take another 6-8years for us to know. I truly wish we had a crystal ball to know! In our case, molding them according to our aspirations was never a choice for us, nor does it fit with our values. But, how do we support and to what extent do we support their dreams for themselves is a journey that we are finding it very challenging to navigate through.

I am grateful that our both boys are mostly healthy, growing up well and, generally speaking,  good human beings. I hope my long description of our challenges did not make it seem like I am not grateful that we get to enjoy watching them grow... Just wanted your thoughts on how to navigate when the course direction changes in unknown ways and unexpected times.


Dear Stella, trust me, your 17-year-old will figure it out for himself… Be by his side as he navigates through  this maze called ‘LIFE’! That’s love… That’s peace!

*Name changed

GERALD D’CUNHA

Pic.: Azriel D'Souza

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