A blog about my thoughts on the journey of personal mastery towards discovering greater happiness, balance and fulfillment. These thoughts are based on my learnings from reading and research, coaching people from diverse backgrounds, and my personal experiences.
We get brutally tested in our closest
personal relationships – while they offer the greatest source of joy, somehow
they also have the potential to bring out the best and the worst in us. Parenting
is a good example of that.
Firstly, among all our roles, we
invariably find ourselves least trained for the responsibilities of parenthood.
Second, children have a mind of their own and often their behavior is at odds
with our expectations. Finally, our heightened attachment with their progress,
although founded in love, actively interferes with our ability to be objective
in our interactions.
Teenage years are particularly
As children start growing up, the
generation gap between them and us can be a recurring source of communication
breakdown. Teenage years are particularly tough. Children’s transition from a
state of dependence to newfound independence, accompanied by the biological and
psychological changes they experience during this time, is usually
exceptionally taxing for the parents.
We routinely lose patience, get upset,
worry excessively about their future and feel dejected when they talk back or
break agreed rules. As someone wisely quipped, "Adolescence is a period
of rapid changes. Between the ages of 12 and 17, for example, a parent ages as
much as 20 years."
Being curious instead of judgmental
While I would like to believe that I
have been a loving and supportive dad to my son, I have noticed that the
keenness to see him build a strong foundation towards fulfilling his personal
potential readily clouds my thoughts and perceptions. I am then more prone to
judging his actions and results against my own beliefs and expectations.
I have lately been trying a different
approach though. Letting go of the temptation
to judge, I have been practicing being a bit more detached – choosing to
merely watch his thought processes, actions and behavior as a neutral
bystander. This has been revealing!
Children are a powerful mirror for
Taking a step back has not only allowed
me to see some of his strengths more clearly, but equally, it has also
offered me a peek into myself – my own biases, perceptions and limitations.
What we like or dislike in others is what we like or dislike in ourselves –
impulses that only get amplified in parenting. Viewed this way, our children
are an honest mirror of our own inner selves.
In the process of observing my son with
a curious and open-mind, besides better appreciating his deeper positive traits, I have been
learning a bunch of life lessons as well. Here are the five that stand out.
Five lessons I found useful
I have noticed that my son doesn’t get
nervous that easily. Whether he is going under-prepared for an exam or serving
to claw his way back into a competitive tennis match. In his early teens, I
often dismissed it as teenage bravado- and maybe there’s still some truth in
that- but in recent months, I have begun to appreciate his fearlessness.
Reflecting on how I would be in similar
moments (I can get nervous just playing a tricky golf shot), this has been impressive.
I am slowly learning to be more courageous in my own tests now
2. Emotional resilience
He is a born optimist and I can assure
you that he doesn’t get this gene from me. Losing in the second round of a
tournament that he wanted to get to the finals of, he would feel down for an
hour and then be quick to point out how well he played and how he would do
better the next time. It’s the same story when he underperforms in a school
Yet again, my wife and I have often
wondered if his self-belief is misplaced and whether he has a realistic
assessment of his chances of success. But then, as I have pondered over this, I
have begun to admire his ability to look at the positives
in everything. As I am sure my wife would say, if I can appreciate all
these positives in him, I am definitely learning to be an optimist! 3.Authenticity For the longest time, I was perplexed
at what appeared to be his complete disregard for following some
suggestions (from where to put away the dirty laundry to how not to do things
at the last minute)
– thoughts of his being irresponsible and inconsiderate
crossed my mind on more than a few occasions.
However, on the flip side, as I have
gotten over the initial discomfort of dealing with this challenge, I
to appreciate his authentic nature. His willingness to admit his
vulnerabilities and laugh at
his own quirks is admirable. Further, I have
silently appreciated his inner strength to withstand any
pressure to conform
and I believe all this comes from high self-esteem and self-confidence.
4. Living in the
Here is a guy who has no sense of time
– routinely underestimates the time it would take him to finish an assignment
or prepare for an exam and abhors the idea of any kind of long-term planning.
Judging it as a serious limitation and a teenage trait of seeking instant
gratification, I had been quick to preach the need to plan and have a better
sense of time. Until it dawned on me!
Wasn’t he actually living in the
present as much as we all aspire to? He never relates to time as finite or
limiting (many of us often do and feel stressed as a result) and never felt
pressured to keep planning everything (the belief that it would be all right
and that it’s important to enjoy the present).
He is never the one to look back or
have regrets of the past – always keen to move on to what we need to do now. He
has a genuine gift to be immersed
in the present (even though its generally in more fun activities than
serious work) and watching him is a sure reminder of its attendant joys.
5. Being happy
Finally, I am grateful that he is a
happy soul. I feel the principal bit here is that his happiness, while perhaps
influenced by his environment from time to time, is not greatly correlated with
his circumstances. It is a part of who he is.
Faulted by my wife and me many times
for not inculcating the right work ethic or building the appropriate level of commitment
towards eventually fulfilling his potential, we have been learning a different
lesson. If being happy is one of the core goals of life, he’s already living it and
we can surely take a page out of his book.