I have two children, and both of them are just about ‘normal’ as they get. That is to say, they are good at a few things, not so good at a few others, and just about get through at other activities – whether it be studies, sports, or the gazillion other things that kids do these days.
What this also translates into, is that there are kids out there who play better tennis, swim much faster, do much better mental math, sing much better and dance more gracefully than my brats. Or on the other hand, there may be instances where they have bagged the first prize for a beautifully rendered poem, or a delightfully enacted Rani Laxmibai, or got accolades for scoring an ‘A’ in the science paper.
As a parent, we are all aware of the highs and the lows of such ‘reward mechanisms’ that our current educational system bestows on the parents…… err…. kids.
As a brand new parent, I was yet to understand the concept of ‘separating’ myself from my child’s achievements – this meant that I would gloat over her successes and wallow in self-pity when she did not match up to the skill levels of the child who topped scores in an activity. Unconsciously, I would associate my child’s accolades as those of my own – and ditto with not-so-good performances too.
Gone was the holier-than-thou attitude I used to harbour about parents who fought for marks with the teachers. I found myself prodding the little one on why she lost the first position, and why Tina has a better backhand shot. I realised I spent agonizing hours wondering what it is I could do to ensure the little one’s diction was just perfect – not because I wished for her to be a good communicator, but more because I wanted her to win that prize in recitation.
Initially, the little one came home and rattled off all the incidents of the day – whether they showed her in good light or not. So I often got to hear of how she got a star in her alphabet writing, and how the teacher made everyone clap for Dev for correctly reciting the table. And of course, as a conscientious mother, I would applaud her success, and gently remind her that she needs to be ‘as good as Dev’ in her tables the next time.
With time, I discovered the little one’s stories began to be edited versions of the true incidents at school. Her stories now were only half truths, where her achievements were highlighted. Her forthright appreciation for her classmates had now diminished, and she was careful to omit any activity where she had not fared too well.
I had taken away her will to appreciate her friends. I had, instead, slowly and steadily brought in a feeling of insecurity within her, where she would only tell me stuff that showed her in good light – even though I had never, ever scolded her. Apparently, a parent could take away confidence from a child without ever even raising voice!
As a parent, separating my child’s life from my sense of ‘success’ and ‘achievement’ has by far, been the toughest introspection of my life. But thankfully, this introspection came just in time to prevent any long term damage to the little one’s ability to laugh at herself, and her ability to appreciate her peers.
Meena Bhatnagar is a mother of two, with a passion for the written word. She dabbles with fiction, a couple of them finding their way into published work, is an avid blogger, and works as a corporate trainer to pay for all the damages. She blogs on parenting, social issues and humorous incidents of her life and on hotel & restaurant reviews and corporate training.