One Sunday morning, a friend invited me to his house for a cup of tea after we completed our jog. I like the positive vibes his house gives out and am particularly fond of his daughter. I asked if she was awake and he said “yes”. So I went over. I occasionally glanced at what she was doing while sipping tea and chatting with my friend. I don’t intrude in children’s private spaces unless invited. The sofa we sat on had wide arm rests, but I was visibly discomforted by keeping my arm on it while holding the cup of tea. His daughter noticed, placed coasters on both arm rests and said to us, “Now keep your cups here while you talk.” It was amazing how comfortable things became after that simple step. We sipped tea, placed our cups on the coasters and continued talking. Oh, did I mention that she was 2 years old then?
There are more incidents like this. Kamini Lakhani, who works with children on autism spectrum, informs me that some of the most profound insights on life which she has gained have come from 9 year olds on the spectrum. And it’s unbelievable how much they know. One of her students is a whiz when it comes to airplane models. The other - a splendid painter - knows when she is stressed without even seeing her.
I am reminded of Groucho Marx’s quote: “Why a four-year-old child could understand this report. Run out and find me a four-year-old child. I can't make head nor tail of it.” Do you know who invented the concept of SMSes, way back in the early 90s? No, it wasn’t Nokia. It was Finnish teens - boys who were too scared to ask girls out on a date and girls who wanted to keep their BFFs updated real time about what was happening on the date.
Since the event at the friend’s house, I’ve started asking more children for solutions to problems. As said before, I don’t treat them like children unless they are less than 1 1/2 years old. “Baccha hi toh hai" (s/he’s just a child) is no longer part of my lingo, and it is painful to see parents dismiss their children’s intelligent suggestions saying “Beta, abhi tum bacche ho” (you’re just a child now).
As parents, it is your responsibility to get your child involved with you as soon as possible. There is no ripe age to begin. The 1st 5 years are their most crucial ones. In fact, I have observed that children who are involved in their fathers’ and mothers’ interests from a very young age often turn out more confident than their peers and excel at something (to hell with research). Steve Jobs’ adopted father imbibed the importance of beauty in him from a very early age. See how the world benefited? You’re probably reading this article on a gorgeous iPhone right now. What if Paul Jobs had said “Steve, tum abhi bacche ho, tum nahi samjhoge” (Steve, you won’t understand because you are a child). I was delighted to see my friends Purvesh and Mital take their toddler to Comic Con dressed as Superman! That is the level of involvement I’m talking about.
|Shivansh (Superman), Mital (Lara) and Purvesh (Captain America) at Comic Con|
It has become awfully easy to ignore our children today. You want your child to stop disturbing you with endless questions? Simply buy her an iPhone or an iPad, install WiFi and banish her to her room. As Nouman Ali says, your child will use these gadgets to find a new set of parents online. Do you want to be a good parent? Then introduce your child to something good which has her hooked from a young age. And be with her, guide her, track her progress. Give her the “teachings” you want to impart constructively. Take care of her diet. More healthy food for the brain and body and less money for junk. And instead of spending time Facebooking about how nasty men are, imbibe values in your child to become a better human (yes, cranky moms, this is aimed directly at you).
It has always been a mistake on our part to be dismissive of children’s opinions instead of being inclusive. If you want your child to make you proud, listen to her. Value her opinions and suggestions. You never know where the next Oprah Winfrey is lurking, unable to show herself because no one will listen to her. Nor do you know which suggestion of her’s will solve a major problem in your life. And for God’s sake, stop counting your sacrifices. Unless Lord Indra begged you to give birth, it is your duty to endure for the child. It is your responsibility to make your child a better human rather than a better slave to the world’s status quo.
I hope we really understand what children need and deserve. They don't crave for fancy phones or junk food. They want to be heard, respected and most importantly, loved! Your thoughts on this? You don’t have to be a parent to have an opinion, you know.