I was at the Sub-Registrar’s office in Bangalore a few months ago.
It was a new office. Although it was a Government office, in keeping with the popular office look in Bangalore, the new structure boasted of granite flooring, tinted window panes, and a shiny stainless steel handrail that went up the stairs. The elevator doors closed softly and the ride was quiet.
Inside the office, in the large hall, the furniture along the walls was brand new and so were the partitions and the computers and printers. The office smelled of fresh paint. The staff was dressed in new clothes or so it seemed because everything around them was new.
However, right in the center of the hall was a large, ancient and rusting steel almirah. The blue paint on the almirah was peeling and it had ugly dents on all sides. It looked dirty.
The almirah itself stood unevenly on the floor. Its steel handle was crooked. Its bent and rusted doors could hardly close and I could spot piles of old and dusty files through the gap between the doors. The almirah stood there awkward and graceless in complete contrast to its swanky surroundings.
Sitting on one of the black steel chairs at the back of the room, I watched people entering and leaving the hall. The moment they suddenly came face to face with the almirah, they appeared shocked. They stepped back to avoid brushing against it. Maintaining a respectable distance from the almirah, more so to avoid soiling their clothes, they entered and left the hall.
As I looked at the almirah’s position in the hall and everything surrounding it, something struck me.
As parents of grown up children, sometimes, we appear in their new world like that ancient and rusting almirah.
With our own perspectives and opinions, we stand rigid in their world of fluidity. Our perspectives and opinions were formed in another world when the context was so different. In comparison to today, many of our life battles were fought with spears and clubs and our survival strategies come from such battles. Our grown up children are also fighting their own life battles but the context is so different and their technology so evolved. But we expect our baggage of views to be respected, and better still, followed by them.
While, like the steel almirah, we have come to occupy the center of their life by default, our thoughts and ideas could have collected dust. We could demonstrate no or low enthusiasm for their fresh ideas. In contrast to their high energy, we could come across as lackluster. We could be offering stock low-energy responses when they call from out of town. Sometimes, we could make their life difficult with our idiosyncrasies and habits.
Just as the visitors to the office were reluctantly accommodating the almirah in their midst, our grown up children could be tolerating us. They could be maintaining a respectable distance from us to avoid any conflict.
Instead of being that closed and ancient almirah, could we be an open book shelf in our grown up children’s lives? We could be that book shelf on which new books regularly replace old ones, where our children could place books of their choice for us to read and vice versa.
If we are a bonsai tree, our children represent a new shoot on the same bonsai tree. While it still emerges from the same bonsai tree, it is a fresh shoot with a new promise, a new destiny. The bonsai tree nourishes the new shoot and never comes in the way of its growth.
It is always a happy sight to watch a bonsai tree bear a new shoot.
It tells us that the old can celebrate the new.
As a Life Coach, I recall working with the parents of a teenage daughter who were struggling with ‘generation gap’ issues. I helped them spot areas of convergence even in the conflict. The parents had to let go of their black and white notion of ‘right’ and ‘wrong’ because it was coming in the way of the teenager’s life. The wheels began turning and it was a happy conclusion in terms of the relationship.
Are you already spotting areas of conflict in parenting while dealing with the next generation?
Urgency is key.
Sometimes, a detached and external perspective helps. You can contact me at [email protected] or click on the ‘Services’ tab on www.ksramanan.com and sign up for Life Coaching.