The Juvenile Pedagogue

Parenting technically speaking, is said to be the process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood. But when I pondered on the tremendous amount of things I have learned from my child, I agreed in toto with William Wordsmith “Child is the father of the Man” both literally and metaphorically.
Life is a great teacher but you have to do our part and show up for class each day !

Every experience good or bad, molds us in ways that we sometimes consciously comprehend and at times, fail to register.As years passed and life threw new experiences at me, I too kept learning.But it was the day I became a parent, that I truly learned to ‘look’ at myself – warts and all.

A tiny child grows physically and mentally through a natural progression, the way destiny intended it to be. The child acquires skills at a rate that can shame an adult. We can kid ourselves and feel completely responsible for the child’s development or we can acknowledge that we were mere conduits in the pre-destined journeys of our children.And in those fleeting moments of humility, we might perhaps sense the bigger purpose of things.

In a world, where wonder is considered akin to naivety, weathered with day to day travails, all that was left in the bottom of my cup were the dregs of cynicism.As I watched my son viewing a bug through a magnifying glass, mixing together his paints to discover new colors, saw the exhilaration in his eyes as he created a volcano with soda and vinegar, I found my lost feeling of wonder. To truly feel wondrous is to be in the moment fully.Being in the ‘now’, without a care for the past and future is something I saw in my son.Not for him, worrying about the homework waiting to be done and neither did any past success or failure leave much of an indelible mark. If the punishment or reward was not for that very instant, then it didn’t need to be bothered with, because the next moment would take care of itself. However much that exasperated me and contradicted all that I was trying to teach him about delaying gratification and learning from past mistakes, I had to acknowledge the carefree happiness that I saw in a soul unencumbered by the past or the future.

In my child’s world, I found bonds that were not formed on a worldly wise view of give and take.It did not matter whether his friend invited him to his party or not, he could still ask himself to be invited. As I struggled with my adult responses to these situations, I realized that the ego-less state that I was trying to remedy was exactly what I myself was aspiring for.

As I strove to teach and bring up my child, I forgot that under the harsh glare of my child’s eyes, all my shortcomings were clearly visible. I could preach all I wanted and still disconsolately fall short, did I not practice it myself.I realized if I had to stop my son from doing something , there was no way I could ever hope to continue the practice myself.Where my parents had failed, my son succeeded.This is one role where one can simply not be an armchair consultant.

I didn’t realize the extent of my hypocrisy till I was faced with my son’s questions.While I harped on social equality, was I okay to let my son fraternize with the street urchins ? There are ideals we mouth and ideals we actually stand for. Faced with uncomfortable questions, reason wilts and all that is left in the arsenal is the often impotent ‘Because I said so’ argument. My son brought me face to face with my own prejudices.

A child pushes your buttons like no one else does. I have alternated wildly between being an angel and a monster and been taken aback by my own anger. As I observed my reactions, I was both shamed at my inability to control my anger and amazed at my capacity for patience. It is in times like these, when I stood by and observed myself that I could really see who I was.My child showed me a mirror that sparkled with his innocence.It was now left for me to decide who I wanted to be.

My son bombards me with questions 24 X 7. Why does hot air rise ? Are humans still evolving ? Why should he not take the easiest route ? At times, I have to dig out the information from the dimly lit recesses of my mind and at times, I have to search. I google facts, learn new languages, examine concepts I had learned in an era gone by and wonder at questions that I myself never asked.

There is nothing that can hone your creativity more than trying to teach concepts to a dis-tractable child. How to convert ‘studies’ from a matter of duty to that of interest is a subject that forever fires my imagination.Every night, I tell stories to my child. Many a times, I read them from a book, but the ones he likes best are the ones I invent. The escapades of a boy with an alien friend, conjured up to catch the attention of a technology-savvy, science fiction loving kid and yet, to be grounded in day to day values.

My son with his uniquely simplistic questions of ‘are you happy or sad’ showed me that life need not always be a multitude of greys. Underneath all the hues,only the basic colors matter.Amidst all the complicated jargon, there are only life’s basic questions and underneath the subterfuge, there are only primal emotions.Life is only as simple or complicated as we choose to make it.

As I saw my son writing a secret letter in invisible ink to his best friend, a memory from yesteryear impinged on my senses – a similar scene – a similar thrill as I wrote a letter in secret code to my friend long long ago.My son brought back the joy of my childhood to me.

I am unsure about who’s bringing up whom.As I travel this journey of parenthood, the revelations and the knowledge that it brings forth puts the onus on me.More than learning to be a better parent, I can choose to be a better person and while I do that, I might perhaps end up being a better parent.

41 thoughts on “The Juvenile Pedagogue

  1. I am going to assume that this is the one you mentioned the other day, about us writing on the same topic. So first things first, the topic might be similar but your thought process and the way of expressing them – sheer brilliance I might say. Words certainly are your friend and not one of them is used superfluously anywhere. Coming to the subject of your post and the post itself, it is amazing how much they pick up and how curious they are? Mine hasn’t started speaking all that well yet, so it’s mostly gestures…but still, he asks. Yes, they push our buttons through, but at the same time, one look into those innocent eyes looking at you expectantly for your answer to their question, it’s a strangely blissful feeling. And yes, they bring back that little child in us every time they do something.

    1. Thanks Sid ! Your praise is overwhelming. Every age has something new to reveal and at each stage, they teach us something. Toddlers teach you more at the sensual level and their ability to experience.As they grow up, they start asking questions which will make you think – i mean really think.I have been asked almost all topics – questions about God, life, evolution, reproduction, right and wrong, science and what have you. At times I am almost tempted to answer like Calvin’s dad πŸ™‚

  2. Loved this post, Asha! I have been on the same roller coaster ride. Sometimes they teach; sometimes they learn; we each grow! No one shows you a mirror like your child! Very well penned!

    1. TF, thanks for commenting ! It will be definitely be very interesting. Every stage has its own charm – when they just make baby sounds and when they start talking. Personally speaking, I have enjoyed talking with my child more than any thing else.

  3. I like how you have put both past and present of being humans under your probing, meditative lens. Truly, our children remind us of the lost wonders, innocence, freedom and purity that childhood is made of. You have asked some really hard questions here: I am afraid I have failed them already. Maybe we should learn some of those lessons our children can teach us and enlighten ourselves.

    1. Thanks Uma ! I always look forward to your comment and observations. Instead of failure or success, I would only like to highlight the observation. After all, isn’t awareness the first step to action.

  4. Jigyasa Sharma

    Really liked this post…… at present I am also going through this phase of life and my 8 months daughter made me realize that kids learn things so fast. Their learning process is also a lesson for us. This is the most amazing experience of life.

    1. Thanks Jigyasa for stopping by to comment and appreciating it. I am glad that you share the same thoughts through your 8 month old child and I assure you the journey will just keep on getting interesting !

  5. Given the learnings that I have already had with a barely three yr old girl, am sure that the rest of her childhood, teenage and till the time she flies away, it is going to be one experience (or a series of experiences) that I am truly going to relish. Truly, there is no teacher of life than parenthood, is there?

    Lovely post πŸ˜€

  6. chsuresh63

    Wonderful post Asha! The line that particularly echoed with me, and one that I live by, by and large, is “Life is as simple or as complicated as we choose to make it” AND THAT’s a line that I never have written myself and wish that it was I who had penned it πŸ™‚ How true that we so lose ourselves in the grayness of our perceived world that it takes a child’s innocent view to actually let you know that a lot of that gray comes from your perceptions and not on what you are actually viewing.

    1. Thanks Suresh ! And its truly great that you live by that line. Sometimes we complicate things so much when they are simple and all it required was to view it the way it was. And that is one thing, you truly learn from children.

  7. Sakuntala Achuthan

    Well written, took me down memory lane to my son’s childhood (the green years ) of our learn many things with your child,from him& through him .your own life is enriched by this never ending process of guiding him&being guided by him as he grows up to be an intelligent adult.The child truly is the father of man.

    1. Really appreciate your comment Sakunthala Aunty. I am glad it could help you relive your memories with your child. And as you say, I am sure the journey will keep getting interesting as time passes by πŸ™‚

  8. Well written! Agree with most of it but for ‘A tiny child grows, perfectly formed, physically and mentally’ may not be applicable to all the children, unfortunately! Some of us are very lucky when it comes to that (debatable). Nevertheless they all bring joy and from what I have seen, special children teach their parents even more! And I have special respect for those special parents! I admire their parenting skills and would like to learn a thing or two from them. πŸ™‚

    1. Agree completely Mamta.Thanks for pointing that out. I think special children bring joy and richness to their parents in very special ways. And parents of such children,always inspire me to be a better person.
      PS: I think it was an oversight to miss this very crucial aspect and I am going to reword that a bit.

  9. Well, your post made me think that we grow, irrespective of what the relation is or how old we are. Btw, inviting himself, this ego-less state where sole purpose is to be happy should last forever. Ego kills a lot of things, first being your own happiness.

    1. Yeah, true Saru. Yes, ego makes everything so difficult, and yet, we are so afraid to let it go.Children somehow make it so obvious. The difference between what you are trying to be and what you actually are.

  10. How very true each sentences are! I have gone through these mental state of awe and still undergoing it seeing my kids teach me how to tame myself to be “just me”. I have learnt to reduce my anger, started learning and searching for answers and even in course of teaching them about life, I have learnt the essence of forgiving and to move forward in life. Btw, enjoy your parenthood !

    1. Thanks Uma for your comment. Anger management is one of the foremost things that you learn.Interestingly I also learnt there is a difference between showing anger and feeling anger. We do need to ‘show’ anger at times but can still be free of anger.

  11. I remember fretting about our delayed flight and the unnecessary hassle we all had to put up with and this is young girl hops and skips next to me and says – wheee, this is such an adventure!

    We are all born with the knowledge of how little it takes to be happy, yet we let go of it using the excuse of ‘growing-up’.

    1. Children having fun while their parents fret and fume while waiting is the most direct example. While we know there is absolutely nothing that can be achieved by being impatient but we still are. Thanks for your comment Purba.

  12. indrani

    This is so well told Asha. I have learnt a new way of looking at life more because of my Ds. Some are serious stuffs and some hilarious… like when the marks scored in test papers are no where near centum I am told: This is good marks Ma! I rethink and learn: yes 80 to 85% is good marks. πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Indrani. Glad it resonated with you. There are so many hilarious things we learn from children son uses my philosophies in situations I hadn’t bargained for and turns it on my face πŸ˜€

    1. Thanks for your comment ! Just saw that I had missed replying to this one..
      Kids surely know a lot more than we used to do at their age. Some of the questions my son asks me was quite inconceivable for me back then ! Thanks to internet and to an inter-connected world for that.

  13. I dont know how I missed this one.. but glad I got around.. completely agree Asha. this line esp. resonated really well with me *As I strove to teach and bring up my child, I forgot that under the harsh glare of my child’s eyes, all my shortcomings were clearly visible.*

    I have seen two different aspects of this – 1) where a mother’s way of living is affecting the growth if her child. for e.g. she is picky about food and is inculcating the same thing in her child. She exposes her child to books not meant for her age partly because she herself never read much. Now the child is growing way too fast and the shortcoming the mother inculcated in her through her own habits or lack of knowledge are now showing… ::( 2) My nephew is 5 year old and he asked me what is there under the skin? and the next question was what exactly does the heart do?? I was stumped, we never thought of these things at the age of 5

    1. Thanks Seeta ! A parent’s way of living definitely rubs off on the child for the good or the bad. There are few exceptions i have seen where the child grows very different from the parents and inculcates thoughts and interests of its own accord. Kids ask so many questions these days and i am always amazed at the extent to which my son questions me on so many things. there are so many times I have to say..I am not sure and have to google it πŸ™‚

  14. Hi Ash! I can totally relate to every line in this post! And yes we learn and sometimes its ok to be imperfect! As you rightly put we just need to try to be good people and we will end up being good parents!

    1. Yes, Jaish. That’s precisely what we keep trying to teach our son also.. that its okay not to know the answers to everything, its okay to be wrong at times but its important to accept that and move on. Thanks for your comment.

  15. This is a beautiful one Asha. I love the use of the quote at the start of the article. Life as a teacher which I agree is an oft used phrase, but the second part is pretty smart indeed :).

    And the importance of questions in life is almost always downplayed. Nice to know that they are viewed at the level of importance they really do deserve πŸ™‚

  16. This is one of the posts that I had wanted to comment on, but never got round to doing. I simply love the lucidity with which you have put forth the dilemmas and joys of parenthood. I have explored some in my posts too, but no so well or with such clarity. Children indeed are out mirrors and crystal clear ones at that. You are honest enough to admit that they expose the hypocrisy in us, bring us down to earth and destroy our egos in no time at all. You needn’t have any misgivings about your parenting skills, Asha. You are doing a great job and your son is growing up fine too. Does it really matter who is raising whom, as long as you both are evolving into better human beings? Wish you both the best πŸ™‚

    1. Thanks Zephyr ! Your comment made my day πŸ™‚
      True, we are both evolving and it doesn’t really matter..It just dispels the mistaken belief that I had that I was actually bringing up my child πŸ˜€

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