Monday, September 14, 2009

60) Never Ending

Old movies end with the words 'The End'. I have watched many movies with those familiar words. As an old-timer, wistful memories come back of a time that will never return. Memories come back also of February 23, 2009, when I started this blog. It took on the dimensions of a huge challenge, as I set out to write each post. With time(seven months), the dimensions changed and I felt more at ease. After post 59 I felt relieved. It seemed as though I had climbed a mountain and was on my way down; doing the easy part.

I have captioned this post 'Never ending'. I have some reasons for doing that. Active parenting stops with the death of the parent, but memories inspire the children even after Eternal Life has claimed another prize. Parenting, as a subject, is never finished. Since every child is unique and every situation different, the multi-faced diamond, we call parenting, continues to dazzle, and we are struck with its never ending brilliance. Your parenting experience will be different from the experience your parents had. It is the uniqueness that makes parenting an exciting journey. Then, there is the part of practice - practising what the blog advocates. And practice, as we all know goes on and on.

An area that I have not addressed is the parenting of children with special needs - those challenged in one way or other. I have neither the knowledge nor experience to offer any thoughts on this key area. I appeal to parents who have such a situation, to seek expert help and not adopt means and methods suggested by well-meaning but poorly informed folks.

When you revisit the blog, you may find points leaping off the monitor to touch you - something that did not happen the first time you read the post. Stop and take note, for the sake of your children. When you like what you have read, please tell your friends. The whole purpose of starting this blog was to reach out to parents who could do with a little help. As I wrote the blog, thoughts rushed into my mind, but ran out like frightened cattle. I had to lasso them and confine them to the safety of the blog. That was not easy. I owe it to God that most of the experiences my wife, Mabel and I had in parenting and my reflections, found a place in the 60 posts.
I praise and thank my Lord and Master, Jesus.

I would like to close this post with the words of Mary Crowley: "God does not take time to make a nobody". Let your children grow up with the belief that they are special, because God planned it so.

My son, Leo, created the blog for me; formatting it and helping me edit it, when necessary. My daughter, Teresa, actively supported him. My wife, Mabel, with unmatched keenness, checked every post for content, sentence construction and punctuation. She has a remarkable skill for copy-editing and proof-reading. My other children enthusiastically support my initiative. I am deeply grateful to all of them.

Thank you for staying the course with me. I do appreciate your support. God bless you and your family.

NOTE: Until now, every week I put up two posts. That phase is over. After this, I shall write for the blog, now and again, to share some stories that reinforce the points already made.

Monday, September 7, 2009

58) The Parenting Journey

"We are loved not because we are good. We are good because we are loved." Desmond Tutu

The sooner we discern the wisdom in the Archbishop's words, the better. Children turn out good, not because of the things or riches we give them, but because of the unconditional love we give them. Parenting is all about loving children without taking time off, and expressing that love in more than a hundred ways - through example,wise instructions and discipline; by building self-worth and inculcating good practices in them; by shepherding them through difficult phases in their lives and letting go of them, when they can manage life on their own. With great wisdom, Hodding Carter wrote:"There are two lasting bequests we can hope to give our children. One of these is roots, the other is wings". When they have sprouted wings, they should learn to fly and not be nest-bound. The whole thing is epitomized in our lives. The lives we lead will largely determine the kind of lives our children will follow.

When we have stuck to the code, our children will develope some sterling virtues.
1) CHARITY: They will have a loving, helpful and forgiving disposition.
2) PRUDENCE: They will be guided by sound principles, and live fearlessly.
3) JUSTICE: They will be fair and defend the truth, even when tempted with riches.
4) FORTITUDE: They will endure hardships for a just cause, without complaining.
5) TEMPERANCE: They will live disciplined and regulated lives.
Since they are enriched by these virtues, they will hold us in high esteem, trust us, share our concerns and be emotionally close. Because they are genuine, these qualities will find scope and expression outside the immediate family. The Golden Rule will be part of their code. By living such lives, children will bestow on parents awards that surpass public recognition.

When all is said and done, what kind of a family are we left with? A healthy family, with a strong sense of oneness; rich in tradition; where respect, responsibility, praise and forgiveness are woven into the family fabric; where success and the lack of it, are accepted with composure; where a sense of fun keeps the family in good spirits; where each one pursues his or her own special interest, supported by the rest of the family; where frequent and purposeful communication keep the links in place; where time spent with one another is valued; where faith in God is the anchor;
and where trust in one another is silently and strongly built.

A.J.Cronin, in his book, Adventures in Two Worlds, extols the virtues of a nurse, who through selfless service gained the respect of her patients. With such splendid performance, he finds it difficult to understand why she is underpaid. A gross injustice, he thinks. But the nurse's response, which spoke of her purpose in life, had him admire her all the more. She said: "If God knows I'm worth it, that's all that matters to me". When we can say that, we would have travelled well on our parenting journey.

Thursday, September 3, 2009

57) Problem Situations (continued)


"People have not learned to live, who have not learned to die." Jim Elliot

Kisa Gotami, the wife of a rich man, was the mother of a fine-looking little boy, whom she loved dearly. He fell ill and died. Carrying the limp body of her beloved son, she went from person to person begging for help. Would someone do something to bring back her son to life? A kind person suggested that she meet The Budha. Patiently listening to her tale of sorrow, The Budha told her to fetch a mustard seed. But he placed a condition on the errand - the mustard seed had to be obtained from a house that had not known death. The hopeful mother went from door to door. Not one house could help her, because Death had visited every one of them. After much pleading and some thinking, she returned to The Budha, a reconciled woman. She learned that no one escaped death; not even children. In a way, confirming Gotami's finding, Jim Elliot, the Christian Missionary, preaching at funeral of his own young son, said: "God is not populating heaven, just with old men". Children also figure in God's plan.

Grandparents die; parents die; children die. How do we react? Are we devastated by the loss? Do we find it impossible to walk away from the ruins of a world that crashes around us? When we view death as a disaster, our children also will be at odds with it. However, if we have the good sense and courage to come to terms with death, our children will live without a morbid fear of it. So far we taught our children how to live; now, we shall teach them how to face death with equanimity.

Strickland Gillilan tells the story of a man and his much loved daughter, who died.
In a dream the man sees a procession of children before the Throne of God. Their candles are burning bright. Only one child has a problem keeping her candle burning.
He looks hard and finds that the child is his daughter. He rushes to her to find out why she has trouble with her candle. She says that her attempts to keep the candle burning are doused by his tears. The man wakes up in a sweat. He realizes that it was only a dream, but pledges immediately not to waste his life in tears. To lift the pall of sadness that death lets fall on people, expressions like, 'the king is dead; long live the king', and,'the show must go on', were coined. They state the case in a matter-of-fact way. Steve Jobs, who had more than one close encounter with Death, conveys the same thought in a more acceptable way: "When I was seventeen, I read a quote that went something like this, 'if you live each day as if it was your last, someday you'll certainly be right'. It made an impression on me, and since then
I have looked into the mirror every morning and asked myself, 'if today were the last of my life, would I want to do what I am about to do?' And when the answer has been 'no' for too many days in a row, I know I need to change something. Remembering that you are going to die is the best way I know to avoid the trap of thinking you have something to lose. You are already naked".

In the context of Steve Job's reflection, we can conclude with Douglas MacArthur: "Only those are fit to live, who are not afraid to die". Philip, father of Alexander the Great, had a peculiar way of reminding himself of death. A servant at the Palace faced him every morning with the greeting: "Philip, remember that you must die". We do not have to go to such lengths to remind ourselves that death is certain. All we need to understand is the truth - death is the beginning of eternal life. Most religions teach that there is life after death. When we are convinced of the eternal life to follow the short life here, our priorities could change. Our way of life could be different.

Not many moths ago, a plane from Brazil to France crashed into the Atlantic Ocean. There were no survivors. A few weeks later, a Yemeni Airbus flight with 153 on board crashed into the Indian Ocean. Only one girl, in her teens, survived. Should she not ask herself: "Why did I survive? Is there a purpose in the rest of my life?" In truth, we all have to ask ourselves a question every morning: "Why am I alive today,
when so many who went to bed yesterday have not been given the gift of a new day? What do I have to do today that will make a difference?" The more we understand the gift of life, the less we will fear its end. The more fruitful our lives, the greater the satisfaction in living it. When it ends, after a short or long term, we can say with eternal gratitude: "I thank God for a full and happy life".

Instead of doing that, we busy ourselves chasing wealth, power, fame and possessions. We carry on this hunt at the cost of others, smug in the accumulation that we can count. But when death comes knocking, we cannot conceal a thing in our hands. We will have to go empty handed. Aware of this truth, Alexander the Great left orders that when he would be carried on his last journey, his empty hands would stick out. None of his conquests would go with him.

There is a ring of finality to the words of Saint Teresa of Avila(Spain): "Let nothing disturb you. Let nothing frighten you. Everything passes except God".

Tuesday, September 1, 2009


"Work is the keystone of a perfect life. Work and trust in God." Woodrow Wilson

R.G.Tourneau, inventor and philanthropist, was once asked, when a child should start work. He replied that a child could start at the age of three. Rejecting the view that it would be seen as child labour, danger to the child's health and the curtailing of a child's play time, he said: "If anyone does not learn to work as a child, he will never do much when he grows up". He cited his own childhood, when he learned to saw wood and shovel sand. "I do not know what it means to lose a day through sickness", he continued, defending the point that the child's health would not be harmed, through work. For good measure, he added: "I think that, almost without exception, the ones who get things done are those who learned to work as children. We need to teach our youngsters the dignity of labour and the pleasure of accomplishment. They must be made to understand that only by determined effort do we create things worthwhile. Not only does our work keep us from mischief, but the more we sweat and toil, the bigger the kick we get out of our labour".

Thomas Alva Edison, who got his early education from his mother, has a few lessons for children:
01) Always be interested in what you undertake.
02) Don't mind the clock; but keep at the task.
03) Failures, so called, are finger posts; pointing in the right direction to those who are willing to learn.
04) Hard work and a genuine interest in everything that makes for progress, will make men and women more valuable and acceptable to themselves and to the world.

The intangible benefits of work, which Edison stated, are packed into John Ruskin's pithy conclusion: "The highest reward for a man's toil is not what he gets for it,
but what he becomes by it". Better persons, we presume, is what he had in mind.

To Edison's list of points, what shall we add?
05) Children should realize that there is no perfect job. They will have to learn to like imperfect jobs, because they cannot wait for the perfect job to arrive. Coming to terms with reality, they could strive to contribute successfully to the job they take.
06) That the essence of hard work is concentration; to put heart and soul into the task.
07) That excellence is attained by hard and unceasing work, which leads to satisfaction.
08) That they should do more than they are paid for.
09) That their work life will test their relationships and character, when they are short changed, denigrated, falsely accused and passed over. The example of Zen Master Hakwin should be a lesson to them. Hakwin was honoured by his neighbours as a good and pure man. Nearby lived a pretty girl, who was found to be pregnant. Her angry parents wanted the name of the man responsible. The girl would not speak. After much pressure she confessed. She accused Hakwin. Furious, her parents stormed Hakwin's house and demanded an explanation. All he said was: "Is that so?" When the baby was born, it was taken to Hakwin's house, who took good care of the child. A year later, the girl could no longer suffer in silence; she divulged the name of the father of the child, a young man from the fish market. Ashamed, the girl's parents rushed to Hakwin's house to apologize. Even then, all he said was: "Is that so?"
Embarrassed, the girl's parents took the child home. Like Hakwin, our children could be falsely accused and let down, even by colleagues. Like Hakwin, they will have to brave the situation, without accusing others and stooping to conquer.
10) Why are live crabs left in an open basket? Certainly none will escape. Why? As one tries to get out, the others will drag it down. The pull-down mentality is common in the work place. When our children are forewarned, they will be forearmed.
11) Failing is not failure. From failing or many failings, they could learn to succeed and not wallow in self-pity.
12) In the work place there is only one dictum: WIN. Win sales, win profits, win market share. Winning is fair as long as the means are not unfair. If ethics, dignity and social norms are flouted, then winning is losing. Our children will do well not to align themselves with such compromises.
13) Ability alone is not enough. They will have to demonstrate loyalty, sincerity,
enthusiasm and co-operation, to succeed in the long term.
14) Their growth and happiness will depend on the relationships they build with those they transact with - in the company and outside of it.
15) The best way to initiate such relationships is to look at things from the other person's point of view. Step into his shoes, so to speak.