I arrived home this afternoon to find Mia and JJ having a conversation in the bedroom. Well, it wasn't really a conversationJJ was crying quietly, and Mia was in the midst of lecturing her. Apparently, JJ was not keen to continue taking swimming lessons. She doesn't mind to swim every now and then; just not the swimming lessons. Mia was adamant about the swimming lessons, and was explaining at length why JJ should continue.
I sat there quietly for a while and listened to Mia's justifications on why JJ should continue taking swimming lessons. Some of the reasons were good ones; some not so good. But I remained silent until she's finished.
This reminds me of the time when I was a teenager, a few years after I escaped from the living hell, and was living with my father. My father wasand still isquite a man. He is blessed with the thought that he is a very clever person, and he can do no wrong. Yet most of the things he does in life would end up in failures. I could easily write a book about his failures, but for this post I just want to talk about his parenting style.
Dad simply hated seeing his sons doing the things that he didn't enjoy doing. When I went jogging, he was fast to say that that's a stupid activity. He preferred his sons to play with catapults (lastik), play with rubber seeds, or go fishing for karuk or jalak in the swamps. In fact, he expected his sons to be exactly the carbon copies of him. It never crossed his mindand he doesn't get it even up to nowthat not everybody likes or enjoys the things that he enjoys.
Now there are some things that I'd impose upon JJ, whether she likes it or not, such as going to school and maintaining decent grades, because I know that that will be very important to her in the later stages of her life. So there is nothing to discuss about as far as education is concerned. The only thing that will be discussed is when it's time for her to choose a career, what field of expertise to go into.
As a kid, many of us might have wanted something so much, but unable to get it; maybe a toy or to learn a skill like playing the piano. There is the tendency to impose upon our children whatever opportunities that we've missed. It's very easy to forget that our children may not like the things that we liked as a kid.
Swimming is an important skill, mainly on grounds of survival. So I imposed upon JJ to learn it. But beyond that, I'm not expecting her to be an elite swimmer, unless of course if that's what she wants to achieve. Whatever she wants to achieve, if I can afford to support her, then by all means.
I have to frequently remind Mia not to force JJ to live her dreams, unless if those are also JJ's own dreams. The kid will be turning 14 soon, and she has her own dreams to pursue, not ours. We need to learn to respect the kid as a person, by letting her grow up, and with very little of her life plans dictated by us. In other words, I'm trying to correct the mistake that my dad made all those years ago.
As a general policy, I very rarely overrule Mia's decision on what JJ should or should not be doing. For I don't want JJ to think that whenever her mommy says NO, she can come running to me in the hope of getting a YES. But sometimes there are exceptions to the general rule. And this case about the swimming lessons is one of them.
I sat there listening carefully to the lawyer explaining to JJ why she MUST continue taking swimming lessons. After the lawyer had finished with her arguments, JJ, still sobbing, said, "Mom, I don't want to continue with the swimming lessons."
I asked JJ why. She gave me her reasons, and I said, "OK, you don't have to continue with the swimming lessons. It's up to you."