Gandhi said that we should be the change that we want to see. It’s a wonderful sentiment. I love Gandhi for his strength and his gentleness. But it asks a lot of a person to live up to his pronouncements. He is not offering any of us an easy life, and maybe that is part of his attraction. We know we aren’t really meant for an easy life. It makes us nervous and uncomfortable when that’s what we choose.
I’m not saying we all should have difficult lives, too many people have to struggle to survive awful situations. I’m just suggesting that maybe, as a risk taking, problem solving, species, we need a taste of risk, a grain of difficulty, to keep us feeling right with the world.
If you look at children who are brought up in risk free, sanitised homes, what do we find? Are these kids well adjusted, happy, great examples for their peers? I suspect not. We need many different forms of experience and stimulation to make us well rounded human beings. These children are deprived of some essential opportunities.
To grub around in the mud is a wonderful play time and learning experience for any small child. To meet people from different backgrounds can give huge insight and humility. To be exposed to normal human interaction, in (nearly) all it’s glories, helps us realise what is important and what is not. But we need a safe place to retreat to to analyse and absorb these lessons.
Our home should be that place. It’s very sad that it frequently is not. Too many people have children because they had sex, rather than because they thought about the risks and rewards of parenthood. Too many people have children because… they want to… with no thought of the responsibilities of parenthood. Too many people repeat what their parents did with no thought of the effect it had on them and their siblings.
No child asks to be born. If you did not choose to be a parent, you need to think about why you allowed yourself to become one. If you have chosen to be a parent you need to think about why. To my mind it is a privilege and a responsibility to be a parent, and once you have become one I think you should put your child’s needs first.
That’s a lot more difficult and complicated than it sounds. Your children will not be learning what you think you are teaching them. They will be learning something you do rather than what you say, so it’s important to be a role model as well as a parent. It’s important to think about just what your behaviour toward your children is really teaching them.
Privileged children learn that many things can be bought, but they struggle to learn the real value of anything. Parents who spend huge amounts of money on gifts for their children without spending time with them are teaching their children a variety of things, firstly that they think money is more important than spending time with people, that spending time making money is more important than relationships… do you see what I’m driving at?
It is our responsibility to give our children what they need, not what they want, not even what we think they want. What they need is our unconditional love, but NOT our unconditional indulgence. They need to be respected as individual human beings, but they also need to learn that we deserve some of that respect as well. It’s all about balance.
Life is all about balance, give and take, win and lose, being centred and happy with who we are without being self-satisfied and self-serving.