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Life lessons my daughter taught me

Ramananda Sengupta | February 02, 2006

When I was first asked to write something about parenting, I thought it was a joke.

I know it's fashionable -- particularly in these days when soundbytes rule -- to ask fashion designers to comment on foreign policy and zoo employees to speak on social evils of the day.

Apart from the fact that I am a proud -- and imperfect -- parent of a four-year-old daughter, I know next to nothing about this complicated and totally subjective issue.

When my protests were overruled, I decided to play safe.

So, instead of talking about what a perfect parent should be, I'll tell you what my little daughter has taught her father.

But, before that, I must confess that, even before she was born, I had certain notions about the kind of parent I wanted to be.

Now this might sound sacrilegious to those who subscribe to the 'spare the rod and spoil the child' doctrine', but I was sure that, no matter what the provocation, I would never, ever, raise an angry hand on my child.

Does this mean I condone indiscipline?

Let me put it this way; in my house, a raised eyebrow works far better than a raised hand ever will.

God knows there have been times when I've been sorely tempted to reach for the rod; when everything else just did not seem to work. I have, on numerous occasions, been forced to count to a hundred backwards, with my fists firmly clenched behind my back. So far, it's been worth it.

The other thing I was sure about was that, while fulfilling my duties and responsibilities as a parent, I didn't want to lose the chance of gaining a good friend.

Unfortunately, the duties of a friend sometimes clash severely with the responsibilities of being a parent. And, when they do, you will never know whether or not you made the right call.

But I digress; let me get back to what my little one has taught me.

One, to believe in miracles.

This began with her birth. Every parent of a child born with the right number of digits and organs knows what this means. Since then, it's been a miracle every day.

Two, that you cannot stop Time.

There have been innumberable moments when my wife and I fervently wished we could just freeze our daughter at a certain endearing age or moment, only to realise later that we would have been truly cursed if the Gods had indeed answered our prayers.

While my heart swelled with pride at each milestone -- the first tentative steps, the first attempts to jump two stairs without help, the first unaided visit to the toilet, deep down somewhere there was a sense of -- for want of a better word -- tremendous loss, of sadness, because I knew that she would no longer need my assistance for yet another action.

Three, that every minute you ignore her appeal for attention because you were busy with something else will come back to haunt you when you least expect it. And there's not much you can do about it.

I missed my daughter's third birthday. No matter how hard I try, there is nothing I can do, ever, to make up for that.

Four, that you get respect only if you give respect.

Now that should be obvious, but how many parents truly respect their children? How many times have we condescendingly dismissed their dreams and fantasies as those of a child? How many times have we told them to act their age?

Five, that you cannot dream for your child.

Instead of foisting your dreams on them, it is always better, though infinitely more difficult, to encourage them to dream independently.  Those seeing shades of Khalil Gibran here are absolutely right.

Six, that today's child is far smarter than we were at their age.

The pace of change, the advent of technologies like the Internet have had a major role to play in that. In other words, the age of innocence has become that much shorter. Savour it while it lasts.

Seven, that it is never too early to teach responsibility.
To reinforce the notion that every action has a reaction, ranging from pleasant to downright painful. 

I have been guilty of passing on my fears about the big bad world to my daughter through the stories I tell her every -- well almost every -- night. Like the one about that smart little girl who knew never to accept candy from strangers, and hence could fend off the monsters out to get her. In some of these stories, the princess rescues the prince.

Eight, that dragons, ghosts, goblins and monsters are as real to your child as income taxes and death are to you. Do not discount them.

Nine, that no matter how hard you try, there will be times when you will be totally, absolutely wrong.

And finally, ten, that there is a thing called unconditional love.

Do you have parenting experiences you would like to share with us? Do write in. Don't forget to mention your name, age, the place where you live as well as the age of your child.

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Number of User Comments: 22




Sub: Article by Mr. Sengupta

Fabulous piece of work. very touching. if only my husband spares some time to read this article, it would be more than worth.


Posted by Farheen





Sub: response to article - parenting by Ramananda

MOst excellent article. touched several chords inside. keep it up Uday


Posted by Dr UA Gupta





Sub: imperfect, unconditional love.

1.if one has realised that one is an imperfect parent,and 2.though "unconditional love more so filial love" is still bartered without ever being explicit, is ...


Posted by prasad





Sub: Nice

That was a very nice write-up Mr.Sengupta. As a soon to be parent, I will keep those lessons you learnt in mind while being a ...


Posted by Salil





Sub: Good

Amazing article. Small things, expressed so well.


Posted by Emma




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