I quite like the idea of comparing children to plants
Last Wednesday, over a quick cup of morning coffee, an acquaintance shared an interesting anecdote. I can't recall if the topic of conversation was indoor plants, but we somehow got talking of lucky bamboos. Maybe you know them as Chinese Water Bamboos or Belgian Evergreens. My acquaintance is an interior designer and her home is adorned with a bunch of fresh, cheerful bamboos.
The beautiful, slender green beings can shoot up to a good height; in her home, they've reached greater heights. You must have spotted them at various locations, in varying sizes (tiny to medium, usually) though, mostly in glass vases with pebbles at the bottom. She's often asked how the bamboos in her home have not just grown taller but also look healthier and happier, and last longer as well. "Well, it's the environment that I am nurturing them in," she said. She spoke of filtered sunlight, well-drained, rich soil, and more. "Much like how you create the right environment for raising a child," she added.
As I headed to work, I kept thinking of the scorching sunlight that we sometimes expose the plants too, and how they wither over time. My mind played a game and I got thinking of the evil of exposing our children to the smoke of tobacco; even as we struggle to quit, perhaps. Or the loud music they get to hear when we drag them to eateries, not the quite children-friendly ones. Yes, we're not perfect parents. None of us. We have vices to deal with and unavoidable situations do pop up, so let's leave them aside. Let's talk simply of the basics - soil, water, and air - you get the drift, right? It's a different matter that we are struggling to provide clean air and water to our children. Will come back to it, another day.
As of now, ask yourself a question. What environment are you raising your kids in? Do you scream at the nanny if she breaks a bowl? Are you teaching them to respect the elders, even the ones who work for us? Disagreements between couples are part of the course, but how often do children witness mommy and daddy engage in an argument? Sitting with them to explain the difference between a disagreement and a fight is a good idea.
Parents often complain their children don't read, paint, or play a musical instrument. Okay, as a parent maybe you are not creatively inclined, but why not create an ambience where they imbibe such interests? A book corner with good reading light and muffins. Or a canvas and colours for them to paint or even make a mess. Introduce them to good music - play a Mozart in the car or sing along A R Rahman. Give them access to enriching activities, let them make their choices.
I quite like the idea of comparing children to plants. Nurturing a sapling to a shrub, and finally to a plant or tree requires a lot of hard work, patience, experimentation, guidance, and forgiveness. Sometimes, you have to uproot a shoot for a new one to grow - so don't be afraid to trim the wrongdoings of your children, and be generous with your compliments. The fertilisers help, right?
The environment does include the physical surroundings - trees, beaches, lakes, et al - and yes, we don't have easy access to nature in our urban lives. But how about a trek on a holiday or a picnic under a tree on a cooler evening? Start small.
Creating a learning and loving environment is easier than you imagine. The greatest gift of this act would be the homes they'd make when they grow up. You can take all the credit when the guests remark on the loveliness. After all, your work began at the root level, literally.
This piece was first published in Khaleej Times.