You watch an infant having a tantrum, holding her breath and getting blue in the face. You tell her screaming mother not to panic and try to divert the child’s attention. Instead, the mom turns on you with: ” What do you know? You have no children!”
It’s the same thing you hear when you advise a friend that her 14 year old son is old enough to take the school bus or public transport. But no, she insists on dropping him and picking him up from school herself.
When a 17 year old, obviously has serious issues at home, gets into a fight at school every day and is eventually imprisoned for petty crime, you counsel the parents. You tell them that their son is actually a soft-hearted kid and very smart. He’s hanging out with the wrong crowd because he wants attention. They look at you as if you’re insane. They know their son is a no-good fellow who needs a sound thrashing. After all, what do you know, you don’t have kids.
Yes, I don’t have kids. It’s not by choice, but by circumstance. However, it does not mean that I don’t understand children. It does not mean that when I tell you not to panic about your child turning blue that I am not worried too. No, I’m telling you that your panic is going to transfer to the kid and make the situation worse. When I tell you to let your son go on his own to school, it does not mean that I am heartless. No, it just means that I believe you’ll be teaching him independence. When I tell you that your son is a soft-hearted kid, it’s because I’ve taken the time to talk to him as a person and listen to his cries for attention.
I know that if I had children, I would have loved them as fiercely as you do yours. I also know that I would make some errors in judgement in their upbringing. I know that there would have been times that my children would open up better with an uncle or aunt or a teacher. I know I would never be a perfect parent – because there never was a perfect parent.
I am childless and that’s a fact that I’ve come to accept. However, please know that you do not become a parent, the moment you give birth to a child. Parenting is something that is learned from practice, but also from openness. Parenting is the skill of relating to a child in such a way that s/he feels secure, loved, cherished and has the freedom to be who s/he is.
I am childless. But my phone rings early in the morning, on a particular day every year and a young man, now in his thirties says, “I want you to be the first one to wish me for my birthday”. When that young man, who used to be a misunderstood 17 year old, and now a successful manager in an MNC calls you ‘Mom’, you know that even a childless person can be a parent.
Corinne Rodrigues used to be a teacher to teenagers and has a lot of experience counseling and working with troubled youth. She is now a full-time blogger at Everyday Gyaan.