Picture this: (A father and a son)
I go to a playground with my 5 years old child. We sit down at a bench. My child is hanging around with an unsure expression on his face holding the corner of my shirt.
And we wait………..
Alright, it has been 10 minutes since we are in the ground…..
The other kids are going on the slide.
My child stands looking at them. Why is he not going and joining them?
Why is he just standing here? Is he scared of something? Is he a loner? Is he low in confidence?
I tap at his shoulders- Go son. See how all other children are having fun.
He keeps looking at the kids. Not showing any motivation of joining them. I decide-Alright, motivation is all that my child needs. He probably is apprehensive.
I tell my son-Manu, come lets join those children.
I take his hand and we walk towards the slide. My child walks with me and stops just short of the stairs. I look at him and he is looking at the stairs and other children.
I play in my mind: Well, we are in a park, next to the slide. And once we are there the next step is you got to climb on the stairs. My child doesn’t know, it would be fun.
With a big encouraging smile on my face, I coax him-Cmon Manu, climb on the stairs. You will enjoy it.
He looks at me and then at the stairs. He holds the railings tight and then climbs a few steps up and stops midway, looking back at me.
In my mind: He doesn’t know what to do next. I need to guide him.
I shout out from below collecting all the excitement-Yes Manu, you are doing good. Don’t look down, look ahead and climb to the top.
He looks ahead, totters the last few steps and reaches the top. Once there, he looks at the slope ahead. Now he seem to have changed his mind. He turns back and readies to climb down.
In my mind: No no child. This is not what we do once we are on the top of a slide. We slide down.
I correct him: Manu, you don’t come down this way. You got to slide down. Look how other children are doing. Even Viha, younger than you, is doing so well.
He appears to take a deep breath, looks away from me and again is on the slide’s top standing.
In my mind: He is not really getting it. Why is my child fearful? I need to remove his fear. I know he can do it. It is my teaching moment. I will have to show him now.
I stretch myself on my toes and reach out to his hand-Alright Manu, hold my hand.
He holds my hand.
I guide: Now sit down.
He follows to the T.
In my mind: See I knew he can do it.
I say-Now come down gently. Hold the railing the other side.
Holding my finger with one hand and the railing with other, he slowly slides down.
He is not smiling. I am smiling.
As he comes all the way down, I cry out-See Manu, I told you, you can do it. Wasn’t it fun?
He looks at gleeful me, a big smile spreads on his face and he gives me a big hug and says-Papa, let’s go home now.
We walk back home hand in hand.
I am a little disappointed. I couldn’t explain why my child didn’t go for the slide again. I know he CAN do it. He could have gone a few more rounds to practice it better. Anyways we will do it again the next day. I think he will become better with practice and one day-He will have fun.
My son is now 18 years old. I am a proud father. He holds a black belt in Karate. He has many awards in drawing and painting, and he is a good orator. He doesn’t socialize much, but it’s ok. He will learn it, I have put him into dance classes and I think he is improving in that front.
I am a doctor and my son is appearing for NEET this year. He has been a scholar getting grades in 90s all the time and I am sure he would do well this time as well. The results of NEET come and he couldn’t make it. Our neighbour’s daughter makes it. I am a little disappointed, sitting with him and wondering-Son, what went wrong?
He looks at me and cheers me up-Papa, don’t worry I will prove myself to you this time.
He works hard and again sits for NEET. He makes it this time. I am elated. I throw a party in a hotel to celebrate it. I am so proud of my son. I always knew HE CAN DO IT.
Once the party is over, my son comes to me and says-Papa, I am sorry, I don’t want to be a doctor.
WHAT? I see my world crashing.
He continues with his eyes on the ground: I want to do architecture. I love that. I didn’t tell you before but I have cleared in the exam as well.
Again we walk back home hand it hand.
I am disappointed. I can’t explain why my child doesn’t want to pursue medicine after working for it so hard. I know he CAN do it. All it needed was just a few more years.
This child got his calling, but would this be the case for another child? In a bid to prove to us, the parents, how they can match to the perfect image of a child that we have in our mind, could the child be distancing away from his own sensibilities and judgments of his identity? Is it a small price to pay to EARN a parent’s love?
My child felt the twang in my heart when he said,”Papa, don’t worry I will prove myself to you this time”. While being too busy with my disappointments, did I miss his twangs?