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As parents, we get to both teach our children and learn from our mistakes. But what of the wonderful process where we learn together, with each other? In this eloquently-written guest post, my friend and blogger, Pooja Priyamvada, explores the nuances of this idea and explains how it has helped her as a parent and a person. Pooja, it is my pleasure to host you here today.
I became a parent about a decade ago and ever since it has been one hell of a roller-coaster ride with no pauses or breaks in between. In just a couple of months I realized there are no blueprints, no set patterns, I will need to carve my path as I walk along and there she was the Little Buddha to walk along and learn together with; that’s when I started seeing her not just as my daughter but as my most esteemed co-learner.
Parenthood,believe me, like everything else in life, doesn’t come with a user’s manual. We rejoice just like it is showcased in the happy pictures passed on to us in media and by families/friends but we also falter and fail as often and get bruised and hurt in this most challenging assignment that life offers us- bringing up another human being(s).
Often teachers, especially in modern and inclusive education are more easily seen as facilitators, collaborators, and, significantly, “co-learners,” rather than people who merely regurgitate information.
Parents rarely step into those shoes despite the fact they remain a child’s first window to this world. In these highly complex digital times effective parents of digital-age children according to me need to move away from models of parenting and learning as isolated endeavours.
To again borrow a teaching analogy, parents need to move away from the traditional “stand and deliver” model to the “guide on the side” model. Though it takes a lot of conscious effort to dismantle the parent-child asymmetrical power relationship in the conventional family in order to build a genuine “community of co- learning” where there is dynamic and increasingly participatory engagement for both the parent and the child.
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Letting go of that Parental Pedestal
Traditionally the parent is the provider and the child the dependent of all physical needs as well as intellectual/emotional stimulus. But I learnt that I connected more with her when I was ready to admit that I don’t know the answer to everything. I think that it is extremely important for every parent to check their adult ego at the door when they walk into the child’s mental space.
As a co-learner, I strived to give her the confidence and learning tools that she can later use to independently answer most of her own questions and resolve her own problems. I have always told her I don’t have all the answers, but I will support her in the endeavour to find the answers. This created a comfortable learning environment for both of us, sans any fear of feeling embarrassed at my lack of knowledge and any undue idealisation of me by her.
The concept of co-learning this way changed the role sets of parent-child, giver-recipient to partners/sojourners on every quest for understanding and wisdom.
Multi-dimensional – Multi-Cultural
Thankfully my late father did not raise me in a particular religious way so to say and the religion of birth remained only a formality in my legal documents, but with my child I further extended this to being multi-dimensional in her spiritual outlook and a multi-cultural global citizen.
I always insisted that we must find common ground, especially with those we find different to us in any way. About religions and rituals I have always encouraged and practiced an approach that is academic and not devotional. We together focus on the awareness of religions rather than acceptance of any one religion and often create our own new brand of it for instance doing Sufi whirling on Tibetan chants.
I have been lucky to have friends/family who are multi-cultural to facilitate this process for us and have us exposed to a diversity of religious views. So ever since she started understanding the concept of prayer and worship I tried to educate her and myself about all religions and not promote or denigrate any religion.
The benefits show in times of crisis often for us, we derive strength and inspiration from not just any one practice or belief but multiple beliefs. Sometimes even contrary beliefs from which we derive one important life lesson for all situations- agree to disagree respectfully and peacefully.
New eyes, New World.
I had been in this world for almost three decades before parenting dawned on me, but with her I decided to start seeing the world afresh with her from her perspective, sometimes lending my own learning and experience to it but most often let her choose the completely new lenses for everything be it flower census, bird watching or chatting with the ants.
With a child there is so much to see around us that are so interesting – a bird’s nest, a flower growing out of crack in the wall, a rain cloud, how pigeons interact. In a world full of screens with my child I went back to the world sans screens! I started seeing life as a master class 24 x 7 open for both of us – at home, in the market, riding a rickshaw, or just even looking out the window. Once we started receiving life lessons from everywhere there was no stopping us and life was never the same!
Tame the Technology
A unique challenge that I faced with this co-learner that the previous generation parents might not have ever encountered was taming the technology. It is said American kids on an average spend far more time watching TV or playing video games than they do on any other activities. Internet use is also increasingly common, now even schools encourage it.
I realised early banning these kinds of media from her life isn’t the answer. However I tried to mould these to spark her curiosity and open up new worlds to her. I often looked up for age-appropriate programs and games and became a kind of buffer through which I passed everything first that I wanted her to see, learn, and imitate.
Only TV shows and internet sessions that taught us something, held her interest (travel shows), encouraged her to listen and question (cookery shows), helped her build a vocabulary, make her feel good about himself (films like Frozen, Malala) and introduced her to new ideas and things (science shows).
We limited our TV and internet time and learned to do everything else along too such as reading, playing with friends, making DIY projects, or just talking.
Becoming a co- learner requires a lot of unlearning of cultural conditioning as it challenges the traditional authoritative, dominant and subordinate role sets in families but it has been one exceptional journey which I believe has shaped me and her in myriad ways for the better.
About the Author: Pooja Priyamvada
Pooja Priyamvada believes that she is a poet’s soul who is an online content consultant/writer/editor/translator by profession and a blogger by coincidence, formerly also radio announcer and lecturer.
All her formal education has been in the English language though her soul babbles in Hindi as much as it does in English. Issues of gender, race, and identity always intrigue her. Her poetry is about her conversations with life and the pauses in between. It has been published in several reputed online journals and print anthologies in India, UK and Canada.
A voracious reader, she is a tea connoisseur, loves to travel and has been deeply
influenced by Sufi and Zen philosophy. Both her blogs have been awarded at the OrangeFlowerAwards and is a self-proclaimed eternal co-learner @ Life. She is a regular contributor at reputed online addresses like Women’s Web, Feminism In India, Bonobology, Momspresso and The Mighty.
You can find her on her blogs and on social media too.
Blog: Second thoughts First
Blog: Hindi Blog
Facebook: Soul Versified
Twitter: Soul Versified
Pinterest: Soul Versified
Instagram: Soul Versified
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