Wednesday, September 7, 2011

Subversive manual for kids

Kids, you’re only going to be reading this when you’re 18, not before!!! So, I feel I can pass on some words of subversive wisdom from my experience as a teenager and beyond, though as the parent of an 18 year old, I may not be that happy at you following through!

At 18, the country thinks you’re old enough to decide its future, by voting. And that you’re old enough and mature enough, physically and emotionally, to be legally married. I’m assuming that by the time you’ve spent 18 years under my roof, I’ll have done as good a job as I’m ever going to do in terms of teaching you the right values – respect for others, tolerance, integrity, being sensible, not drinking and driving, not doing drugs, safe sex…I also hope I’ll have taught you enough about thinking for yourself by then.

So, if there’s a conflict that comes up between us from here on, be it in terms of what you should study, how you should dress, whom you should fall in love with, what kind of career you should choose, whom you should marry, where to live…listen to my opinion – as someone who loves you beyond belief, I deserve that respect – but make up your own mind on what’s important to you. Make your own decisions. I hope I’ll have become mature enough to let you go and not try to force you into obedience, but in case I haven’t, ignore me. And yes, you can refer to this blog post and hoist me with my own petard at that point.

Here’s why I think it’s important that you should make your own decisions:
1. It’s your life. You have to own it. It’s better you take responsibility for it sooner rather than later and shape it as per your dreams…I’d hate for you to turn that around at some ripe old age when you feel you haven’t lived it as per your dreams and hold me responsible for ruining it.
2. As a parent, it’s possible I might be over-protective, like my parents were of me. I might want to spare you from the consequences of your choices, emotional, mental or physical. But here’s the thing. Experience is something that can’t be passed on, it can only be personally bought, and usually at the cost of some pain. If I try and spare you that pain in a misguided effort to keep you safe, you may never learn how to deal with pain that comes at a time that I can’t protect you from it. The only way you’ll learn to survive in life is by taking risks, emotional and physical, and dealing with the fallout.
3. Your life and your growing years are in a completely different milieu than the one I grew up in, and the world you live in is very different. Try as I might, while I may understand some parts of it, I can never comprehend the whole of it. In a way, that’s what the generation gap is all about right? Firstly that I can’t be 18 again and feel the same emotions again, and that therefore my perspective on what you’re going through is different. And secondly that society and the world have changed from the time I was 18. Therefore if I try to guide you based on my past experience, my point of view is bound to be either outdated or unrealistic on many things. You really think Sergei Brin’s mum told him to start Google? Or Amelia Earhart’s dad told her to go fly a plane?

And here’s some advice for me:
1. Be proud of your kids not for achieving things that you wished for them but for achieving their dreams
2. Be happy when your kids are happy, not when they are following your wishes
3. Don't feel hurt if they decide to do something contrary to your advice - they're doing what they need to do
4. Be grateful that your kids can think for themselves and that they dare to counter your point of view. It’s going to be critical for them as they grow up and go out into the world that they be able to challenge the establishment and have independent ways of thinking.
5. Remember to have Band-Aids(physical and emotional) and champagne, both handy at all times

Cross-posted at