Care comes from a place of 'What is good for my child's development?'
Care is a long-term view of the child's flourishing in life.
Care is a sacred activity and it begins at home.
Kamlesh D Patel, below, who is called Daaji by his followers, in The Wisdom Bridge, following on the heels of The Heartfulness Way, which he co-authored with Joshua Pollock in 2018, attempts to put parenting worries in perspective with straightforward, sound suggestions and tips.
The fourth guide in the Sahaj Marg system of Raja Yoga meditation, Daaji is a spiritual mentor and also the president of Shri Ram Chandra Mission, a non-profit associated with the United Nations Department of Public Information.
Daaji, the father of two sons, moved to the US in 1980 to work as a pharmacist, while progressing in his spiritual career. He divides time between India and the US and according to his web site 'continues to excel in both his material career and spiritual life'.
Says Daaji in the introduction to his latest book: 'The Wisdom Bridge comes straight from my heart, and I hope it touches yours. Sometimes when the journey seems tiring and the skies turn dark, when you find yourself at the crossroads of indecision and doubt, I pray this book lights the path towards 'happily ever after' and away from the dark lanes of 'we've tried everything, but nothing changes'.'
For most parents today, the scene at home is different from when they grew up. If you are forty and older, you may have spent more time enraptured by stories from grandparents and elders than your children did. Families today lack support and are somehow DIY-ing parenting. The DIY-ing starts well before the baby arrives.
From breathing classes and setting up the nursery, to mind-numbing research on car seats, strollers and cribs, parents have to figure out everything on their own.
But most parents, especially mothers, have no help or prior experience in taking care of children. The first time they burp a baby or put one to bed is when their little one arrives. A few decades ago, the situation was different.
In those days, families were large and lived together or in proximity. There were uncles and aunts to help them out. Elder siblings doubled up as caregivers and homemakers. Life skills flowed serenely from the elders to the children. In contrast to the past, today's parents are toiling to make up for the support many no longer have.
As a result, these days, parents are present in their children's lives with more attention and intensity than ever before.
'Tiger', 'helicopter', 'lawnmower', 'free-range' and 'dolphin' are some of the terms used to describe styles of parenting. All the attention of the parents are well-intentioned. It shows the eagerness of parents to prepare their children: prepare them for STEM; prepare them for change; prepare them for leadership; and prepare them for success.
Prepare is the new care.
The prepare frenzy has swapped carefree summers with advanced math and science classes. Soccer mothers and chess fathers shapeshift into schedule managers and chauffeurs driving children from one activity to another. Many children start computer programming as early as grade 5, but I wonder how many are taught about their emotional programming with the same enthusiasm.
Parents strive to send their children to leafy private schools that can cost their savings and then some to improve their chances of joining an IIT or IIM in the future.
Again, it's all well-intentioned, but I don't think it's working as planned. Data shows that pre-teens and teens from affluent, well-educated families are an at-risk group. They are identified with the highest rates of depression, substance abuse, anxiety disorders and other emotional issues such as unhappiness when compared with any other group of children across the USA.
While I don't have similar data for India and other countries, my conversations with parents from these countries give me a grim feeling that they're trending the same way. We are feeding our children a super-sized diet of desire and ambition. The question is, are we doing enough to nurture a child's inner growth?
Parents are doing what they can. Given their stress and the lack of support, parenting can at times feel like a hopeless effort. Not to mention expensive.
The baby product industry in the USA alone is around $30 billion, and it shows the eagerness of parents to do a good job. They enrol in parenting classes, read books (including this one), learn from other cultures and make personal sacrifices, because deep inside, they want to be the best parents they possibly can.
The Wisdom Bridge will channel the parents' energies away from anxiety to appreciation. It will give them a new appreciation of how to tap into their heart's wisdom and raise happy and resilient children. The Wisdom Bridge will take the focus away from prepare and put the spotlight back on care.
Preparing children is like teaching them the block and tackle of surviving in the world --don't talk to strangers, follow a routine, study hard, don't eat junk food and so on. One may call it the transactional side of parenting. No doubt it's essential, and it's a lot of work. But on its own, 'prepare' is an incomplete idea.
'Care', on the other hand, includes nurturing the child spiritually, mentally, emotionally and physically. Prepare pushes the parents to 'do more, do more', while care guides the parents to 'do what matters'. Prepare is a transaction, while care is a deep relationship.
Care comes from a place of 'What is good for my child's development?' Care is a long-term view of the child's flourishing in life. Care is a sacred activity and it begins at home.
In its essence, caring is the real preparing.
Guided by wisdom, parenting becomes heartful
To learn how wisdom helps in caring, we must first understand the heart. Across cultures, the heart is the seat of wisdom. It is a source of feeling and intuition. We have all experienced the heart's inspiration. It cannot be contested, only heeded; for inspiration is the language of the heart.
When parenting is guided by the heart, we actively channel inspiration to guide us in our role. In reassuring silence and timely vigilance, the heart speaks. When we heed the heart's wisdom, there are only confident decisions instead of disabling doubt.
Does it mean that following the heart's wisdom is the antidote for all parenting problems?
Does it mean our children will always do the right thing?
That's not how it works. Children are affected by many things -- the environment at home, the neighbourhood they live in, the school they attend, their friends, the books they read, the media they are exposed to and so on.
Wisdom takes away the anxiety that comes from trying to control everything and helps the parents focus on laying a strong foundation for the child.
Parenting is many things, but the one thing it's not is a perfection pageant. There are no perfect parents. We all learn on the job.
Children see their parents as the best in the world, not because they won the best parent competition. They are the best because they are their parents. The unconditional, innocent love from the children keeps the parents going.
We all make mistakes. Each day we'll find something, no matter how tiny, that we might have handled differently. It's okay. Hug it out, resolve not to repeat it and move on.
Wisdom says the soul chooses the parents. We chose our parents, and our children chose us. In turn, as parents, we choose the best virtues and qualities that help our children design their destinies.
The Wisdom Bridge is a (guide) for this noble journey.
The Wisdom Bridge offers a simple framework of principles that are easy to apply. When you're in the dark and you reach for a matchbox, it doesn't matter which match you choose to strike. They all give light. These principles are like those matches. They come from a place of wisdom, and it doesn't matter which one you pick; they light up the road ahead.
In all, there are nine principles:
- Raising a child still takes a village.
- Be guided by wisdom. Seek it. Cultivate it. Share it.
- Preparation begins long before the children arrive.
- Happy mothers make happy families.
- Early childhood is the foundation of wisdom.
- Character builds personality.
- Youth are the future. Guide them, don't break them.
- Lifestyle is an expression of one's attitudes.
- Discipline your love, not love your discipline.
Excerpted from The Wisdom Bridge: Nine Principles to a Life that Echoes in the Hearts of Your Loved Ones by Kamlesh D Patel aka Daaji, with the kind permission of the publishers, Penguin Random House India.
Daaji has built a web site -- www.wisdombridge.in where the readers' guide can be downloaded and helps identify the parts of the book most relevant to you.