My dad asked me this one unforgettable question few years back,”Who is the most important person in your life?” I looked at him, baffled “ You and mom” I replied in a single breath. My dad smiled at me and said “That is the wrong answer. I asked you, who is the most important person in YOUR LIFE? The answer is YOURSELF. In your life always put yourself ahead of everyone else, even us.” At that moment I was confused, and it seemed like a selfish thought. As time passed by, I realized what he meant.
Shefali , who I mentioned in my previous article had been brought up by over engaging parents. But I forgot to mention that she was also the only child. The impact of over engaging parents on their children was discussed in my previous article. But what does “over expectations” of parents from their only child result in?
The Juggling Act
I always remember Shefali running from one tuition to another, one class to another from the age of 5. She went for Taekwondo, painting, dance, badminton and piano classes. At the age of 13, Maths and Science tuition were also added to this list. Along with all these numerous classes she loved cooking during her free time. She would often try various recipes and get those dishes for us in school. I used to applaud my friend for being able to manage such a hectic schedule. But on the other hand, I empathized with her, when I used to see her tired, sleepy face whenever I met her. She hardly had any time to spend with her friends. And she didn’t have much interest in painting and dance classes either. Her parents would reward her with gifts and chocolates if she stood first in the class. And if she didn’t, she was reprimanded severely.
She was a brilliant student no doubt about that. Her parents had very high expectations for her, they even requested the Principal and promoted her from Junior Kindergarten to 1st standard, as she was able to cope better than her peers. Her difficulty in holding a pencil was overlooked due to her intelligence shown at such a young age.
She often complained to me that her parents wanted her to be an all rounder in every field since she was their only child. At that moment I grinned and told her that she was already an all rounder in my eyes. She was able to successfully not only juggle her rigorous schedule but also able to manage her parents’ high expectations.
After her 12th grade she declared that she wanted to pursue a hotel management course in Mumbai. Her parents were completely shocked. Her mom wanted her to pursue a career in Medicine, since she scored well in her 12th boards. After years of juggling her parent’s expectations, my friend finally reached a breaking point. She refused to pursue medicine at all cost. Shefali came to me and asked me with tears in her eyes, “Sanju, you tell me. Am I doing the right thing? Should I just leave this hotel management course and continue with medicine? Should I choose my parents’ dreams over mine as always?” At that moment I asked her the very same question my dad asked me few years back. As expected, I corrected her answer and gave a pause, waiting for her to realize the meaning of this answer.
A Message To All Parents
Yes parents, you love your only child and you would want him to be extremely multi faceted. There is a psychological mindset of you parents,whereby you expect all the qualities and talents present in three-four other children, to be all present in your one and only child. You want him or her to fulfill each and every dream of yours. As parents, you do have your own unfulfilled dreams. Stop and introspect for a minute. YOUR DREAMS are a part of YOUR LIFE. You got a chance to fulfill them, but due to various reasons you were unable to. Now it’s your child’s life .Doesn’t your child deserve to fulfill his own dreams?
Pressurizing your child to get involved in numerous activities, comparing your child with others of her age, over engaging in her affairs will not only lead to a low self esteem but also a constant frustration throughout her life. It is definitely a wonderful idea, to expose your child to various fields and streams in her childhood. Encourage her to make full use of every opportunity. But make sure that your child is interested and has the required mental and physical capacity to pursue that specific hobby or career.
Achieving The Common Ground
Shefali spoke to her parents and tried to make them understand her point of view. After many trials and tribulations, she finally got her parents to let her pursue her dream. Dear loving parents, we know that all of you would be extremely happy, if we are happy and satisfied with our lives. At the end of the day, it’s not what you do for us children, but what you have taught us to do for ourselves, that will make us successful human beings.