Just the other day, I was talking about our recent shift to Homeschooling with a close friend. Like most people who are not Homeschoolers themselves, she was in awe of the decision to Homeschool. She said, “But Shilpa, that’s a huge responsibility! How do you manage that?”
My response, “What makes you think I am capable of taking up this responsibility? I am definitely not the right person for this. I am not taking this responsibility because this is not mine to take. It belongs to my children. They are their own responsibility. I am just transferring their rightful responsibility back on them.” There was a silence for a few seconds on both sides of the line. As I said these words out loud, I, myself, realized that this was indeed much deeper than the way I had just said it.
When I started homeschooling, it was more from the point of view of giving more freedom to my children. Even in those days, I had felt that ensuring their end to end learning and readiness for the future was my responsibility. But as months have slipped by and I have seen my son bloom in all respects, I have slowly let go of my beliefs and started transferring his responsibility onto himself. For example, he decides which classes he wants to keep and which ones he wants to let go. For now he likes Taekwondo and Piano. We just gave up Kumon. He decides which books he wants to do for the day for read/write/math. He decides how much he wants to eat and when he wants to sleep. He decides how much he wants to study and what games he wants to play thereafter.
Like most mothers, in the initial days, I was scared of giving the freedom. I was sure given the choice, my son would never want to study. Given the choice, he would never stay inside the house. Given the choice, he would never sleep. But I was wrong. The more freedom I gave, the more responsible he has become for himself. Likewise with my daughter, even though she is yet to start Homeschooling. Six months into this journey, I see a world of difference in our household. I do lose my logical mind some days and step back into my “Responsible Parenting” shoes. This is when our household resembles a mental asylum with me being the primary patient in need of care.
So why is that we don’t let children be responsible for themselves? Why do we think that children are the parents responsibility? This is essentially because we think that children cannot be responsible on their own. We do not trust our children to take care of themselves. Of course we have a million examples behind us when they were irresponsible and landed in a mess which we had to clean up later. But honestly, don’t we, too, make mistakes all the time? Don’t we get messed up all the time? Now that our parents are too old to look after us, no one cleans up after our mess. We just have to sweep it up ourselves and learn not to make the same mess again. So why don’t we allow our children to fail, make a mess and pick up the mess themselves? What is so wrong about messing up, when it is such a wonderful opportunity to learn. In fact the more we fail early on in life, the more lessons we would have learnt for latter life. Adults, of today, go through mid life crisis at 30 and early old age crisis at 40. Followed by diabetes and blood pressure by 50 and heart attacks at 55. All this because we have not learnt how to deal with failure, even today.
Another parent also confided in me that her children are not capable of taking right decisions. She has no choice but to decide for them. I thought, “Well! that goes for me too! I am not sure I can take right decisions! This is because I am no one to decide what is right. I just know that whatever decision I take, I have the wherewithal in me to see that decision through.” It is only because of the mistakes and learning from my past decisions that I have the confidence to take my next decision. If someone has never had the freedom to make their own life choices, then how can they ever learn to take decisions on their own? How can they take a right decision?
Of course, this rule should not apply to life and death situations and we should definitely step in if we see a child crossing the line into dangerous territories. Just like a lioness would intervene if a predator was out there to get her cubs, we should protect our young ones from life threatening situations. Let us also agree that rolling in sand, climbing trees and zipping down slides do not fall under such situations.
I hope I have stuck a chord with parents who are burdened under the responsibility of parenting. I hope you can, even if it’s just for a day, trust that your child is smart enough to take care of his/her life. While you may not notice the change in her in just one day, if you have been able to create such a day for you and your child, I am sure you have already started your own journey to be free.