During my college years, liberation meant- when my parents would leave me alone in the house for five whole days every year to take their Pandharpur Yatra. I think that is when I really understood what freedom meant. I could do whatever I want without having to be answerable to anyone, well except the innumerable phone calls from friends, trying to make plans on how to abuse this short-term independence to the fullest.
And it is also during these days, I realized what responsibility meant. While I enjoyed my freedom I had to make sure the house was taken care of. My mother is a stickler for cleanliness and it was my responsibility to keep the house in order. This feeling of responsibility was a by-product of the trust they had in me and also due in part to the love and respect I had for them.
Post marriage and motherhood, this sense of responsibility somewhat deepened. I still have the freedom to do what I want except that I feel some sort of ownership for my actions and the example it sets especially for my child.
This sense of ownership reflects in not just my actions, but also, speech, behaviour and the choices that I make as a mother and a wife. In fact, I know that everything my husband and I do/say/chose as parents is making an impression on our daughter’s mind and so this responsibility can seem daunting at times, yet it is always rewarding.
I remember how, just a few hours before my parents were to arrive back to Bombay from Pandharpur, I would clean up the house, cook a fine meal and eagerly await their return. Their happy faces, grateful remarks about how in their absence I took care of the house were a reward no amount of money could replace.
Likewise, fulfilling my parenting duties although daunting at times is extremely rewarding; when my little one leaves surprise thank you notes, when she senses that I am tired and helps me clean up after dinner; when she without a fuss eats her meal; when there is a downpour of hugs and kisses and when she finishes her homework without any resistance.
However, I know that as she gets older, being a responsible child is going to take much more than the above. And as much as her teenage/adult years will demand freedom/space/independence so much so will it also command immense responsibility.
And if I want to raise a dutiful adult who takes responsibility for her actions and is committed to putting her best foot forward, be it any situation, I need to give her the freedom to chose and grow with the choices she makes, provided I equip her with a ‘how to’ manual, not by mere lecturing but walking the talk as well.
Here is how-
Freedom of Speech
I want her to learn that with freedom of speech comes the responsibility to listen.
This being the most fundamental of all human rights, can be the most dangerous if not used with caution. The tongue which executes the function of speech is most difficult to control. Many times as parents we tend to abuse our designation and speak in a harsh, unpleasant manner to our children. Many times we even yell at them, misconstrue facts and most importantly hardly give them a listening ear. I read somewhere that; “listen earnestly to your children no matter what, if you don’t listen to the little stuff when they are little, they will not tell you the big stuff when they are big, because to them, all of it has always been big stuff.” This is the reason why, we have one mouth but two ears.
So as a parent, I want to make sure that, when I use this most basic human right, I am
Speaking the truth
Stating facts as clearly as possible, not twisting them
As far as possible, not speaking in an unpleasant or agitating manner
When speaking for the benefit of my family, I am honest and forthright
Ready to listen without prejudice
Refraining from shallow gossip and badmouthing
Freedom of Choice
I want her to learn that with freedom of choice comes a responsibility of consequences
Our lives are defined by the choices we make. Our children could not choose their parents, their siblings, their school, in some cases their college and careers even. But they will have to make important choices when peer pressure sets in, they will chose their friends, life partners and in many cases their career path and ultimately the life they want to lead. As parents we obviously want them to have this freedom, but with it also comes the responsibility to take ownership of its consequences; good or bad.
So as a parent, when I am making choices, I want to make sure that
Every choice I make is after reflecting upon these 4 aspects
How is it going to affect/help me?
How is it going to affect/help my family?
Will it uplift me morally and spiritually?
Am I willing to face the consequences that will follow? Either good or bad.
Freedom of Action
I want her to learn that with freedom of action comes a responsibility of commitment and ownership
It is amazing to note how all of us have a little bit of our parents in our behaviour. I react sometimes just like my mother. My actions many a times are reflective of my father’s personality. And I observe that in my daughter too. Some of her mannerisms are just like my husband’s and some just like mine. So while I want her to have complete freedom in the way she wants to live her life, I want her to learn that she needs to take ownership for all her actions and not resort to the blame game or this is how I am, take it or leave it. She should be committed towards her actions and be bold enough to walk the talk.
And if I want her actions to speak volumes of her character and hence ours as parents, I must
Be respectful in my dealings with others (however big or small)
Express gratitude at every opportune moment
Be tolerant of others
Be committed to my word
Take ownership and apologize when I have wronged
Act in a way that can inspire and motivate others
Forgive and forget
If I am able to set an example for her by following the above, I know for a fact that when she is older and ready to fly on the wings of freedom, she will never let go of the roots of responsibility.