The hardest thing about parenting is deciding at what age a child stops being a child. Perhaps children too are always under pressure to “grow up” or “act their age”. Yes, there are reams written about milestones and what a child should know by the time he/she is three, five, ten and twelve. I still get emails on baby milestones from websites years after I stopped reading them. But for lack of a better term, here is a list of what I think every child or student should know:
1. If something doesn’t feel right, it usually isn’t right. Your instincts are more valuable than you think. Grown-ups may look like they have thought things through, but they are mostly relying on instinct.
2. Coloring within the lines is overrated. It is usually the beginning of boundaries. It is usually a trap for other things. Looking like everyone else, talking like everyone else, also thinking like everyone else. Soon they will say, “You can’t do this” or “you can’t do that”. Soon they will say, “you are this” or “you are that”.
3. They may tell you that the sky is the limit, but they may still frown if you paint it purple. The fact is, the sky is whatever color you want it to be. There is enough of blue in our lives anyway. Go paint it orange!
4. Adults can control how you speak or what you wear or what you eat or read, but they cannot control who you are.
5. Books are not fiction, non-fiction, thrillers, fantasies or mysteries. They are things that let you inhabit a world and stay there as long as you want. Don’t label books, let them mark you.
6. There is something about you that is uniquely different from anyone else in this world. Keep it. Cherish it. Learn to love it. And don’t let go of it easily.
7. Happy is not a default state to be. Feeling sad, angry, lonely, jealous is as natural as feeling happy, elated, generous or chirpy. Although people will seldom ask you why you are happy, they will always ask you why you are sad.
8. It’s okay not to have an opinion when everyone else seems to have one. It just means you are still making up your mind on it. Take your time.
9. The teacher is as intrigued by the quiet ones as by the talkative ones. So may be it’s a good idea to conserve your energy sometimes.
10. Adults are people who have been in the universe longer than you. It doesn’t necessarily mean they know more. They are still fumbling around with many things, but they won’t tell you.
11. It is important to laugh, or act silly sometimes.
12. It is totally okay to not love numbers.
13. Or poetry.
14. If you were read to as a child, you probably are luckier than most people in this world.
15. Every time you ask a question an adult laughs at, they probably haven’t had the guts to ask it themselves. Or perhaps they have been caught off guard and never really thought of it and don’t know the answer. Or it perhaps takes them to places they don’t want to go to.
16. The world is a magical, amazing place and there are a lot of secrets you will uncover. Some will make you happy, others will make you sad or angry, but you will always be happier when you find this out on your own.
17. Very often, the things you think you love will not be the things you love when you are 18. That’s what growing up is all about. Finding new things to love.
18. More often, the things your parents think are good for you may not be the things you like. But you don’t have to dislike them just because they came up with the idea.
19. It’s seldom an either/or. Sometimes there is more than one answer to a question. That is how it’s going to be in life.
20. Zero has gravitas. Wear your zeroes proudly. But help them take you someplace you like to belong.
21. You are more powerful than you know.
22. You are going to create more long term memories in people than you possibly imagine.
23. There will always be someone who doesn’t understand your point of view. There will always be someone who does.
24. There will be times when your questions will remain unanswered. That doesn’t mean you stop asking questions.
25. Sometimes, you may touch someone’s life, but they may forget to tell you. But it still happened.
(This post first appeared as my column in Pune Mirror on 8th September 2014)