My daughter was sick last week. She missed school almost the whole week. Missing school means missing out on lessons and falling behind your studies, a whole lot of homework and catch-up when you get back to school and a whole lot of worry for the parents and children. This seems like a pretty common scenario. Right? In fact, as the weather changes up, kids and falling sick by the dozen and class attendance levels are falling. I noticed a very curious trend in her school WhatsApp group. You know the one meant to discuss projects, lost and found, test preparation, holidays etc. etc. That group was literally flooded by requests from parents asking others to share what was done in school. Fair enough, engaged parents would like to know. But what surprised me was that the topical lists soon transformed to photos of note books and text books! Sympathetic parents, knowing the trauma the fellow parents are going through, would click picture after picture of class work and home work and share on the group. My first thought at such interactions was:
Stop!!! The children are only six years old. So what if they missed a few school days. Let them be!!!
I was like, has any child not learnt counting or ABC if they missed a few days of kindergarten? Has any kid not learnt double-digit addition because they fell sick in class one? No! They catch up. Yes, there will be an effort involved later; even from the parents but it gets done. Why add to your worries when the child is sick? Or even if you have to travel and take the child along, why add to the stress? I mean, it is not like the parents will make the child study at these times!
Then, as my annoyance over these interactions lessened, I began to think of what drove the parents to this much anxiousness. And more importantly, my daughter was missing school for a week. Why was I not palpitating thinking about her missed schoolwork and assignments? Why was I not sick with worry that she will fall behind? Why was I not posting to the group and checking in what her fellow students had been up to?
Am I not a good enough parent if I don’t worry about her keeping up in class when she misses school?
Then I had to pull myself back from the brink of this dark abyss of self doubt. There was no point doubting my parenting if I was not doing what a few others were. I realised that I wanted my child to learn and get exposed to many things and of course I want her to do well in all these, but I did not want to push her into stress. It is not that I don’t care about her studies. I care more about her mental well being. As she struggles with an infection and recurring fever, changed diet and everything that comes with falling sick (including mommie on your head 24×7), I do not want her to worry about what she is missing out in school or her classes. This has nothing to do with her age. I want this to be my top priority even as she grows older and feels the stress of education. I do not want to be the one adding to that stress. I want to be the one relieving her of it.
Because I have been there. I have been into a place where I was so caught up with the pressure of expectations (my own and everyone else’s) that it was affecting my health and well as my performance. It is not a good place to be stuck in. It took considerable effort from my parents, teachers and me to get out of it. This was in my crucial SSC year. Later, it took me a few years to realise that I get stressed out when expectations and performance does not match. I handle that kind of stress badly. Very badly. I do not want my daughter to go into it at all!
In this age of hyper connectivity, where FOMO is an everyday reality, I want to be the parent who lets the kid be. Who lets her grow and learn at her own pace, rejoicing in her accomplishments and her achievements. I do not want the taint of someone having done faster and seemingly better than her mar my smile or my pride for her. I want to celebrate being her parent! To be able to do that it is very important that I let go of my anxiousness. That I keep my fears and sometimes my advice to myself and let her find out for herself what she wants. I want to show her the options and let her explore. I want to be there when she needs a hand to hold or a lap to rest in.
I may be a part of this generation of Anxious parents but I most certainly do not want to be one.