“As soon as you trust yourself, you will know how to live”- Goethe
Standing outside nursery and kindergarten to pick up my first-born during the early years of his schooling was always a bit tricky. Most mothers waiting along with me were also first-time mothers and they were eager, confused, stressed and busy: parenting can be one of the most challenging, thought-provoking and demanding vocations. Invariably the topic of discussion would veer towards nurturing, and very often involve heated debates on the efficacy of several “classes” in the locality promising to develop the child’s potential in various ways. I always felt inadequate in such discussions because my child did not attend a single “after-school” class. This being unheard of, I was always looked at with disdain, and ended up feeling isolated and “different”.
I believed very strongly that after attending school for half a day, (in the Indian system of education even the pre-school years have a lot of structured learning time), the child needs time for unstructured play and exploration, value building through extended family time, and a lot of idle time to fantasize and dream as only a child can. Childhood dreaming and associated free play are inbuilt natural learning modules and form the basis of future hobbies and interests. We are each of us unique in our natural skills and aptitudes, and recognising these becomes impossible when overwhelmed with varied external structured stimuli.
As children grow older, they have a series of outside influences trying to correct them, change the way they naturally think, coach them in the subjects they are naturally “weak” in, and teach them the importance of issues they inherently dislike. In fact so strong and persuasive are these advices that young adults lose their natural instincts and forget who they really are.
Most of us have encountered “crossroads” in life where crucial decision making is called for. Sometimes these decisions are easy and insignificant, but sometimes they are critical and require us to think instinctively as well as rationally. In such situations it would be in our favour to know who we really are, what we like and dislike, what our goals and values are, how we define success, and what our real strengths and weaknesses are.
If we know who we really are, we can easily trust our instincts making decisions for ourselves with confidence and faith. But obviously you cannot learn to trust yourself if you do not recognise yourself in the first place, and those who dither while making such decisions are probably confused from years of baffling data obscuring their basic instincts.
As parents it is important to remember that children have a vivid and colourful imagination and they learn through various seemingly unimportant events and influences.
Structured learning and coaching are important of course, but personality development, self-awareness, and the first hints of true talent show up not in a classroom, but in solitude and leisure.