Anyone who is judged for their actions and thoughts will hesitate to speak honestly and authentically. I find with children, it is of great importance that we allow them to check out their own intuitions and gut feelings. They will sometimes experience pain for their choices and sometimes joy. I feel as parents it is our need to protect our kids from pain or other people from pain, that makes us teach them wrong and right. The only issue with that kind of teaching is that the learning is hardly ever internalized organically. And children grow up with knowledge that cannot be relied on, on a sustainable basis. Safety issues like crossing the road or playing with fire or using knives is one realm. In those realms also I prefer personally assisting my child rather than completely banning. But in interpersonal communications and socialization, I try and simply observe and give feedback when they come to me and leave it that. I also try not to push my children to cross over their own limits when they express discomfort, in order to ‘make them independent’. I allow a child to depend if that is what they want and gently assist in taking a step at a time towards independence. I use the phrases..”It is my need that you do this or don’t do this..or I would feel more at ease if you did this or didn’t do this..” So that the child is clear that it mum’s need and she asking the child to honor mum’s need and the child of course has the freedom to not honor, if it is too tough. But I have requested my children this way many times and it has worked. And I have been willing to be okay (with a lot of initial resistance :)) when they simply could not honor my needs for them to be in a certain way!
I see that some human beings have a need to be accepted in groups and the larger society whereas some don’t. I am also seeing that I need to honor these different needs in my children also and myself. It is, I feel ok to do things to fit in, if that is what is real in the moment for our children or for anyone for that matter. My child might be doing things to fit in happily and joyously, whereas I might be fretting by projecting my own fears and frustrations that I went through in trying to fit in when I didn’t want to actually. I used to do this with Gourika, fearing she will also turn out like me, not listening to her heart, most of my life. But I soon realized that she was actually listening to her heart all the while and when she doesn’t she will figure out for herself!..I really feel all is well as long as it is not made out to be wrong or right way to live. For example I once read a beautiful piece by Shobha De, the renowned Indian columnist and novelist. She and her second husband have four daughters from past and present marriages. One of her daughters chose to be a homemaker. When Shobha visited her one evening, her daughter brought out a tray of tea, sensitively decorated with lace and flowers and pastries.:) Then as she offered that to her mother she said, “Maa I hope you are not ashamed of me that I am a homemaker.” Shobha wrote honestly how we have turned our children against their own hearts. She apologized to her daughter for her need to even say this to her mother.. She told her, “whatever you choose is fine with me and if I or anyone has ever made you or or other daughters feel that they need to be out there as career women, then they should be sorry.” May be this story will knock on your doors..
Ishaan gets mistaken for a girl every where we go because of his long hair!. Yesterday I took him to buy new clothes to a large store and they directed me to the girls section. I see the look on their faces when I say, “He is a boy with long hair. Can you please show us the boy’s section?” The other day we went to fine dining at a five star with their Dad who was visiting us in Pune from New Delhi, where he lives. The steward pulled out the chair for Ishaan to sit and then asked him, “And miss what drink would you like?” I have watched my insides during these moments and seen how I need to keep honoring the choices my kids make in the face of such mistaken notions about what, who and how of life and keep working at removing all traces of ’embarrassment’ ‘discomfort’ ‘self-judgement’ ‘moralization’ etc whenever such situations come up. Once we were visiting friends and Ishaan was sitting in a hammock and a dear old lady close to eighty years of age, came up to him and seeing a young boy put her hand out and said politely, “Hello young man!” Ishaan refused to give his hand by saying, “Hi, but I don’t like to shake hands.”. I see how such incidents are not acceptable to others socially, but I only work towards making myself stronger and clearer that I will honor my children and their needs. I don’t even give any explanations in such cases, unless the people ask me to explain. If my kids ask me to explain why people expect such things of them, then I have a conversation and tell them, “That is the way they were raised by their families and school, they are just being polite and nice to you and nothing else.” Some homes they like going to, prefer that the kids come with combed hair at least 🙂 I have asked Ishaan, if he would rather not go to those houses. He himself has then said, “I like them and so I don’t mind combing my hair for them..” 🙂