The Rich Vegetarian

An Examined Life

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Tag: parenting

Equal and Separate

One of my nieces is a high-school teacher. She was asked by a student, “Do you have a favorite student?” She responded, “Do you have a favorite teacher?” Her point was, yes, of course. She had some students who were absolute darlings, and then there were others that she wished would stay home more often. But as a teacher, she was clear that her personal feelings about the students were separate from how she treated and evaluated them.

Perhaps it is the same for a parent?

As an adult, I often reflect on my own childhood. It was perfect. Or was it? Well, what is perfect? Perfect does not exist. We are groomed to put a positive spin on every experience. Perhaps it is a technique to stave off pain, to prevent an emotional setback. So we layer the prettiest colors over all our experiences, refusing to see the blacks and dark greys underneath.

Who’d relish knowing that perhaps, they were the less favorite (or less favored) child?

I think each parent relates to each of their offspring in a different way. Maybe you share a passion with one of your children. Or maybe both of you have similar aspirations. And then it could be that you share nothing in common with the other child. Or maybe s/he is so similar to you that it becomes a bit of an irritant, a sad reminder of some sort. Perhaps you have a dream that one of them looks poised to fulfill. Perhaps there is a natural reserve in one of the relationships that simply cannot be overcome, despite your best intentions. Maybe one of the children is a natural attention magnet, and all of it flows in their direction.

After all, parents are human too.

I know it is common to evoke compassion at this point. To encourage adult children to forgive and forget, to focus on the present, to let go.

Perhaps these actions, if undertaken in a spirit of sincerity and empathy, serve their purpose. Perhaps they bring closure and peace. Or maybe they take a lot of effort and energy, and you end up empty-handed, right where you started.

I think truthfulness can help. By not pretending, not hiding ugly emotions behind positive affirmations, by not prettifying unpleasantness… we may hope to gain closure. It sometimes feels long and arduous, but it will ultimately heal hearts and minds, I think.

A Strong Case for Children

A long time ago, I wrote a post making a strong case for marriage. Well, I am qualified to write/talk about marriage… but kids? No experience, I agree… but insights, I do have. Here is my inexperienced and somewhat intuitive take on why kids can be a good idea.

Daddy, me

Daddy, me

Parents are likely the most unselfish people on the planet. A somewhat easy way to experience unconditional love is to birth/raise a child (The other easy/difficult way is to attain enlightenment, I jest not). The child-parent relationship is beyond logic and reason. Parents can move mountains, walk through fire, swim across an ocean… give up their life for sake of their child. Yet these very parents sometimes become the most obnoxious individuals ever. They lose perspective completely… yes, on account of their little ones.

Part of the problem lies with conflating love and attachment. Attachment is binding and restrictive, while love is utterly freeing. Children cannot be bound to their parents against their will. That, in a nutshell, explains the parent’s dilemma. Learning to love without attachment is probably the lesson every parent has to learn.

(Read Gibran’s “On Children” where you can read a fluid and poetic version of my awfully clumsy and cumbersome explanation.)

Yet, children can be a medium for the lesson that Life wants parents to learn. To give without expectation, to understand the meaning of love, to let go – every second, again and again.

Children have the capacity to bring innocence and freshness into our lives. A parent gets the opportunity to view the world anew through the eyes of their child. Children can grant purpose and meaning to a dull, boring existence. They shake up the mundane/banal elements in a relationship.

And for those among us who are not parents? No fear, we get our lessons through other means.

Blessed I am that I have parents who have always granted me love, freedom, space and independence…

Amaram, A Father’s Love

Amaram is a poignant tale of a widowed fisherman who raises his daughter with much love and devotion. She is a bright kid, and he dreams that she would be a doctor one day, saving the lives of women like her own late mother who died giving birth. Sadly for him, life has other plans in store for the family. The girl falls in love with the son of another fisherman, causing much distress to her father. He sees a bright future in store for her, but she only sees her lover. Nature takes a turn for the worse as a storm hits the seas, causing the lover to be lost at sea. The girl is distraught, she blames her father for everything. Finally, all loose ends are tied up although the ending is no typical happy one.

The film does not make for happy viewing but it has its beautiful moments. One of my favorite songs ever is ‘Azhake Nin Mizhineer Maniyil,‘ sung by Yesudas and Chithra in their golden voices, laden with meaning and emotion.

To me, this song is simply about the love of a father for his daughter. It is unconditional; it cannot but be otherwise. Yet, expectations weigh it down, causing the love to distort and lose its freedom and capacity for joy. A child can show us what it means to be totally and truly free, completely dispassionate and live in the moment. In a way, a child is an adult’s gateway to seeing enlightenment in action. Yet the parent’s love for his child can serve to bring him down, dejected and lost. That’s where knowledge comes in use. Yes, they are our children, but didn’t Gibran say that they are ultimately the children of God? By setting them free, we can experience freedom ourselves.

Easier said than done and no, I am not a parent. But I know parents who have walked this tightrope of love and freedom gracefully. Like my own.