When my daughter was younger and we lived in a small industrial town where almost all the adults worked in the same company and all the children went to the same school, a weekly feature was a film show at the club every Thursday. Not being a film buff myself and also because going for the movie would mean that my dinner and bedtime schedule would get delayed, I rarely ever went. What surprised me was that my daughter, then a precocious preteen, would never mention the movies or ask for permission to go. I silently wondered if she was not aware of what movies were being screened but that seemed highly improbable as all her friends in school would be talking about it. Be that as it may, we stayed home week after week and stuck to our schedule the way I liked it.
Several years later, I asked her how come she never mentioned the movies or asked to go? Was she not aware of them? Her answer shocked me! She said “Of course I knew! How could I not know? But I knew that you didn’t like to go and if I went with friends I’d be late coming home and you would be uncomfortable with that. So I kept quiet.” This level of empathy and understanding from a 10-11 year old floored me. I imagined myself in the same position. I would have thrown tantrums, been upset and sullenly given in and obeyed my mother resentfully. I was amazed at her level of emotional intelligence. It opened my eyes to the fact that our own children can be so different from us and if we keep our minds open there is so much we can learn from them.
As she blossomed into an accomplished, sensitive, caring, socially and politically aware young woman, I have learnt so much from her. She has called me out numerous times for insensitive, prejudiced or thoughtless remarks and actions. Over time, I believe, this has made me more aware and sensitive and, hopefully, a better human being. I believe I have become more accepting and open to ideas and ways of living that are different from what I am familiar with, life choices and situations diverse from my own.
So true what Khalil Gibran says about children:
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls live in the house of tomorrow, which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may try to be like them, but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children as living arrows are sent forth.
So fly my arrow, find your place in this world. I am indeed privileged to have you as my daughter.