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What do we really want for our children?

success

It’s that time of the year in India, when you find students pouring over their books, papers, laptops. I see them with their noses dipped at the building gates awaiting the school bus, in the coffee shop with their ear phones on – to shut the noise out, on park benches amidst cawing crows and scampering squirrels. I see them at every turn. It’s that time of the year when God is busy with requests pouring in from parents of these children.

Its EXAM time! And it’s India – where marks dictate everything. It’s sad but it’s the truth. There’s no escaping it. It happens every year – year after year. It’s happened ever since the inception of schools – children studying and parents fretting. And while the world has progressed in every other way, there’s no change in terms of exams and our reaction to them. Parents blame schools and teachers and rarely blame themselves for being part of a society that builds pressure. Things are so competitive here that while children in other parts of the world are enjoying playing the game at the age of 6 or 7, here parents push their kids to play – to win. Competition begins early. Its the survival of the fittest. Unfortunately, we haven’t evolved much after Darwin’s theory.

But that’s not what I am talking of. I understand children have to work hard and must be taught early that they are not entitled to anything. And that they must work for what they want. What I am talking about is the expectations around exams – that hasn’t changed! Not in India – where marks is not about what children can do but about what parents want. Here exams are still looked upon as the sole determinant of one’s fate, character and life. Its sad but true. There’s a lot of hype around the board exams – the news channels and the newspapers cover the results. As soon as the results are out, photographs of those students who did exceptionally well floods the papers, tuition classes share photographs of successful students. With students getting 99.98%, that becomes the cut-off for some colleges. On the other side are news on suicides that also make the headlines – children who did not manage to get what was expected. And yet we continue to push hoping our child will never be the one whose spirit we break. I am sure if you ask any of those parents who lost their kids, they would say they wished they could turn back time and wish they did things differently. I am sure parents of children who were successful wished they had more fun time with them when they were young. I am sure those children who did well and became successful, wish they had enjoyed their childhood a little more. I don’t have the statistics to prove any of this but I feel certain about it.

How many people do you know who got the marks and are successful? How many did not get the marks and are still successful? What’s your way of measuring success?

While marks determine the universities children get into, options available to them in terms of subjects and the job they will get in future, does it truly predict ‘success’ in future?

What do exams determine then? Is it right for us to obsessed with it?

As parents we get sucked into the quagmire, however alert we are. And before we know it, we end up behaving like the herd. We fail to see what’s right in front of us, what we already know. For in the age of social media, none of us can claim ignorance- there are a lot of stories bombarding us everyday about people who made it against all odds, people who didn’t get the marks and yet went on to do great things, people who got the marks and failed. We watch it, talk about it and forward messages and videos to others. But do we bother applying it to those we love the most – our children? Or are we hypocrites?

Remember the day you decided you were ready to be a parent. Remember the day you brought the little bundle home. You loved it so much, you said you would be different from the rest of the parents – that marks did not matter to you – that you wouldn’t push so hard – that you would instill the values of hard work and honesty. That you would love and protect. Then you sent your bundle of joy to school. And the madness began…

Welcome to the rat-race – the world of teachers, neighbors and competition. Your bundle of joy became a key to your failed dreams and aspirations. S/he became a tool to prove your worthiness as a parent. The marks proved you were doing your parenting job well. So you pushed hard because the child’s report card was your certificate on parenting. You made your bundle of joy work for you – you loved it when s/he got what you wanted. You rebuked it when you did not get what you wanted. At times you realized you were wrong and when guilt took over, you showered them with love confusing them. And at other times you criticized. Is this how you wanted it to be as a parent when you held your child for the first time in your hands? Or have you changed or forgotten?

This post is not about children. Its not even about telling you my opinion of whether I think exams are good or bad. Its also not about success and whether marks actually determine success. This post is for parents – those who love their children so much they’re willing to do anything for them but forget what love means.

As parents what do you want for your children? Is it for them to be happy? To be successful? Healthy? To know they are loved? To grow into confident, good human beings?

I guess as parents we need to answer that and then work backwards. We need to see if what we are doing today achieves what we want for them tomorrow and how we want them to think of their childhood and us, as parents.

As parents, what memory do we want our children to carry of us, of their childhood, when they leave the nest? Is it memories of us yelling, frustrated, giving up and putting them down? Or is it memories of being loved, cherished, trusted and supported and disciplined when they were wrong?

The world out there is a jungle. We all know that. And once they’re out in the jungle, is there any way we would be able to protect them or give them all that we dream for them? The answer is ‘No.’ And if the answer is ‘No,’ isn’t it only right that when they are with us, under our care, we give them everything we want for them? That’s the least that we can do as parents, don’t you think? For if we don’t there’s nobody out there who will.

Through this post, I am not undermining the need to work hard or the need to discipline. I believe children should work hard and should be taught resilience among many other things. I am saying as parents we need to give our children a happy, secure childhood – not one they want to run away from but one they want to come back to once they’re gone, one that brings a smile to their lips wherever they are. When it is ours to write, why don’t we – parents , write a happy story in their lives before they write their own. At- least by doing so we can guarantee them a happy childhood.

Let’s not write our fears and insecurities onto impressionable minds. Let’s not lose out on our ‘today,’ for a ‘tomorrow,’ that we have no control of. For isn’t a strong tree, one with strong roots? Nurture and be there for them. Prepare them to fly -not by pushing but by strengthening their wings.

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36 Comments »

  1. It is a sad truth Smitha and very difficult to find the right balance, the world is changing at a rapid rate with the increasing automation of so many jobs and parents must be so torn, to allow a child to have time to grow and enjoy life and to be ready for what the future holds… But you are right the wrong kind of pressure can have consequences down the line..

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Sally for sharing your opinion on this topic. Its true the world is changing rapidly and parents are frightened that if they do not push, their children will lose out. But they end up pushing so hard that their children eventually do lose out – on their childhood, their confidence and faith in love of family. Again its probably because of the population here that its turned into a rat-race to get ahead.

      Liked by 1 person

  2. I especially like these words you wrote.
    ” When it’s ours to write, why don’t we – parents, write a happy story in their lives before they write their own .
    At least by doing so we can guarantee them a happy childhood.”
    Great post, Smitha.

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you Margie. Its been weighing on my mind – especially now when I am surrounded by friends whose children are giving the boards and I hear them talking. I just felt its the least parents could give their kids. πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Smitha I agree with each word you have written and as parents, we try to do the best we can for our children…that bundle of joy is no longer a blessing to be cherished when we send him/her out into this fiercely competitive, fast-paced world, which also plays its role in molding and what about the society and the peer group?
    While it is imperative to give a direction to the youngsters, we have to keep in mind the potential they hold. Without direction, which is overdone by Indian parents, they become rudderless. Don’t you see how much erosion has occurred in the values and discipline? The acceptance of the mediocrity, the short-cuts and earning easy-money lures even the brilliant minds.
    This topic entails endless discussion as many points are entangled. What we want for our child is not governed just by a parent once he steps out of the home. Many people influence his thoughts.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s good to get your view on this as you are an academician. I do see the erosion of values here. Its funny here, especially because parents actually sponsor the children’s ‘ supposedly western,’ ways without realizing that in the west, children are given the freedom because they also finance themselves.
      I understand when you say ‘what we want for our children is not just governed by a parent.’ I agree. But to be able to take the right decisions in future, as parents we need to help them gain confidence and that can’t happen with constant criticism, which some parents indulge in only because the child does not get the required marks. If we could focus on the good as well (for all children have good in them…though it may be different for each), we’d help in creating strong confident individuals. Like you said, ‘we have to keep in mind the potential they hold,’ and give them direction. Thank you again Balroop ji for sharing your opinion on this. I wish there were more teachers like you πŸ™‚

      Liked by 1 person

  4. In the present context regarding education in India, I believe one must go and watch movies like “3 Idiots” and “Chhichorey” to get a slight idea about the state of affairs. Did you watch them, Madam? Let me know what you think..

    Liked by 1 person

      • We do, indeed..!!
        Can’t say much about the prevention of the wired feeling of “competition” and “comparison”.. I feel comparison arises from things what you call as “aspirational” and the feeling of exclusivity.. One of the causes of such a feeling is a demand-supply mismatch.. Unless the population reduces to a level which is respectable, like in Europe or Canada, I don’t think the urge to “blindly compare” can go..

        Liked by 1 person

  5. Life is is often a whirlpool of conflicting and contrary emotions and thoughts, Smitha. It is incredibly hard to remove yourself from this cycle of pressure as we all desperately want the very best for our children. We want them to succeed and live happy and successful lives. I don’t think it is necessary because we want to live through our children but rather because we see the competitiveness of live and know about failure and desperation as we see it around us. We have to be disciplined in dealing with these both our own and our children’s worries and concerns, but it is hard. No one ever said having children was easy and it isn’t. You are doing great, Smitha, and your girls will be fine. Hugs.

    Liked by 1 person

  6. It is very much true that marks cannot be the only measure of a person’s abilities. But they are “A Way” nevertheless.
    Considering the ever burgeoning population of India and the utter lack of quality education Institutes (let us please not bring forth the ones offering an all round research based learning experience), there needs to be a method to filter out the candidates. Harsh it may sound, but as of now, marks are the convenient way to achieve that objective.
    What do you think can be the solution which is a win-win for Government, College, Student, Parents and Companies?

    Liked by 1 person

    • Some people can grasp the concepts without much effort. Some cannot despite the effort. Theoretically, we have to give credit to both these sets of people, but how to achieve the goals of offering seats, jobs etc on a practical level?

      Liked by 1 person

      • My post is not about children. Its not even about the education system. Its about parenting. And anyone who works hard and honestly will find their place in life. It may take a little longer than somebody smart but they will.

        Liked by 1 person

    • True…they are. For schools, colleges and companies to find out the best candidate. But they are only good for getting a job, not retaining it. Retention depends on the person – and that depends on how the parents have nurtured the child. My post is to say parents should not be over-pushy to the extent that it destroys the child rather than helps the child.

      Liked by 1 person

        • Absolutely. By retention, I meant smartness does not mean a person will succeed at the job. It depends on integrity and other values that are inculcated in childhood. I’m glad you agree on over pushy parents being toxic.

          Liked by 1 person

          • Thank you Madam for clarifying the point on “retention”.. You are right..
            I believe that the parents being “pushy” or forceful is a consequence of a plethora of factors, the biggest one being demand vs supply. Don’t you think?

            Liked by 1 person

          • Many a time, its more to do with a parent’s fear and wanting to achieve their unfulfilled dreams through their children. Its about status and how they see themselves, if their children do well in exams.

            Liked by 1 person

          • Well, if Parents decide to fulfil their unfulfilled dreams using their children as a vehicle then there can be no mistake bigger or more devastating than this. If the Parents could not crack the IITs, then they should NOT force their son / daughter to do so, else, who knows, they may actually be stopping a potential candidate for LSE.
            Children are NOT status symbols or vehicles to fulfill dreams. Nor are parents.
            Both are humans. Both need control, guidance and space. Nobody is all knowing.
            The time both parents and children agree to this will be the time the so called “generation gap” is bridged. I believe, as a Millennial, these observations may be valid.
            Parents have a right to be anxious. But I believe, excess of anxiety is detrimental for both the health of the parents as well as the well being of the children.

            Liked by 2 people

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