Recently, at the end of a successful but gruelling sports tournament, my 16-year-old daughter threw her arms round her father and thanked him, amidst the celebration. I was very happy to see that, because it means that we are making progress and have probably arrived at our destination.
Children and teenagers are, by nature, self-absorbed and selfish, more so if they are privileged, living lives where everything is handed to them on silver platters and do not have to experience hardships. My children are extremely privileged in that they want for nothing, be it home comforts or parental attention. In fact, they had always had a full-time parent at their disposal, sometimes two, throughout their childhood. Though we have never been wealthy, we created a magical childhood for them through our sheer dedication to this most important job of our lives.
Yesterday, I spent the whole day preparing a magical lesson in chemistry for 16-year-old Georgina, because I know she is frustrated by how the subject is taught in school:
Dear Georgina, here is a quote from Rumi for you, from your father and I:
I will be waiting here ….
For your silence to break,
For your soul to shake,
For your love to wake!
We are grateful for this opportunity to parent our amazing kids, and we make sure that we let them know our gratitude. This is reverse psychology of sorts: instead of parents reminding children to be grateful for what they have, my children’s father and I show our gratitude to our children for our beautiful experiences. We live our best lives because of them.
Does this backfire? Of course it does. Occasionally. Like when G gets annoyed at our helper for not ironing her school shirt. Like when she cajoles her father (and he gives in all the time, much to my annoyance) to go out for dinner, completely disrespecting the fact that I had spent the whole afternoon preparing dinner. Like when she expects us to pick her up from a friend’s house halfway across the island at some ungodly hour.
But I would rather too much love than not enough. If a child grows up with lack, he or she will leave childhood with a cold and empty heart. Because we learn from our parents, not only from their words but from their daily actions and how life is lived. Children’s ears are often closed to parental advice but their eyes are always opened to examples, watching us like GCHQ. How you live your life becomes your child’s norm in adulthood.
I have known a couple of people who are totally oblivious to the sacrifices that others have made for them, who do not see the sweat, tears and toil that drench the path they walk on. It is all too easy to get angry with this entitled attitude, but spare a thought for how this came to be: ungrateful people have not been shown gratitude when growing up. A child with a resentful parent, always reminding him that he is a burden, will not be able to recognise selfless giving of others in adulthood, because selfless giving is not something he is familiar with.
Everyday is an opportunity for us to learn to be kinder, gentler, internally stronger. With a strong foundation built on love, kindness and gratitude, I am positive we will get there following this beautiful road ❤