It is that time of the year again. It is the season of Superlatives. Exam results with Beyond Belief percentages, pictures of the Highest Scorers in the papers, magazines listing the Best Colleges, coaching classes advertising Record-breaking Achievers. So many wonder-kids? Are there no ‘average’ children anymore?
Even several years ago, I remember meeting my children’s classmates’ mothers when we were summoned to meet the teachers after the exam results were given. I heard exchanges about the achievements of the respective prodigy—prizes for painting, dancing, skating, swimming and more. Class toppers, school leaders all. I wondered, if every child is so brilliant, are there any simply ordinary children in the class?
I began to have doubts about my own parenting responsibilities and skills. Well, I did try to get the children to go for swimming coaching, largely because their cousins were going too (50% success—my daughter picked it up, and my son did not), dance lessons (my daughter did last a couple of years, but never made it till an arangetram!), and karate (my daughter made it till the first camp, my son till the white-one belt!). Neither they, nor I, seemed to have the endurance run the gauntlet and emerge a Winner every time!
As parents who followed a relatively laissez-faire style of parenting, our considerations were mainly that the children were given the space to simply be, and blossom as they will. But as they grew, it became increasingly difficult to cope with the expectations of a competitive system. Still we thought that we were managing ok within the larger environment. We got a jolt one fine morning, when our son was denied readmission into Class 11 in the same school he had studied in for 10 years, because he missed the “cut off” by a couple of marks. Imagine the devastation for a fifteen year old. The experience that followed is a story in itself. One of the outcomes was that we decided that we did not wish our daughter (who was even less equipped to cope with a mindlessly competitive system) to go through this. Despite being told that “this is the system, your children and you will need to learn to swim with the tide, or sink”, we actively explored alternatives….and found them.
The children made it through! Today they are in the ‘system’ as it were, without being sucked into its vortex. They may not meet the generally accepted norms of Mainstream Success. (“Settled” so to speak, with six-figure earnings, car and apartment, designation, the skills to compete ruthlessly …and burn out at 35). They are following somewhat unconventional paths; they continue to explore, and discover new passions, new horizons, and new accomplishments. They are rich in experience, life skills, and relationships. They have the confidence to be themselves, and “not just another brick in the wall”.
Perhaps the greatest freedom we can offer our children is to allow them to think differently, and more importantly, to act differently. Gunter Pauli
From Peanuts by Charles Schulz