“Neither of you are hungry!” I declare to my son. I have just finished commenting upon my child’s lack of hunger for pursuing academic knowledge. It frustrates me no end that he is like me. Like, how I was, when I was his age. In desperation that mistakes of the past should not be repeated, I have continuously appealed to the boy to become more mindful of his situation. Usually, my pleas, threats and fury fall on deaf ears and a rock-solid head, molded by acute stubbornness.
In yet another attempt to woo this young one, I bring his friend into the picture. Unlike my own divine blessing, this other lad is not wont to run away from academic health. Rather, he makes every effort to escape his physical well-being by walking away from his required measure of food. According to his exasperated mother, lunch-boxes come back without getting unpacked, meals amount to one unholy serving of micro-amounts, and well-paid for buffets are completed in the salad round itself.
Things would have worked this young fellow’s way if his football coach had not cornered him over his rapidly decreasing stamina levels. Concerned over his star protege’s performance on-field, his coach instructs him to eat better, only to be met with an imploring “How can I, when I am not hungry?” question from the young chap.
“He is right,” declares my own young chap. How could he possibly study when he is not interested, he remarks. And I am left fumbling to form the right sentences that would leave the desired impact.
Over the years, I have learnt to pick my arguments with this child who can come back two days later with a thought that could leave you convinced that he is the genuine one, and justice thrives on his side of the building.
He can make a great lawyer, I tell him. He scorns because his heart is set on becoming a karate grand-master. Fair enough. I reckon he still needs his academics to help him set up a chain of popular karate dojos when he is ready to begin his show as a coach. He needs to earn, after all. By the time I finish my grand imagination of his future, I can see some light in his eyes. Hope flickers in mine.
The child makes heavy declarations later that night. He solemnly promises to see himself though college, but reaffirms that karate will remain the priority. My husband shoots me that well-worn look. I pray that the hand of providence keeps whacking sense into my mildly-rebellious, pro-self pre-teen offspring. But I keep getting drawn to the words that came out of the young fellow’s mouth a few hours earlier – how could he study when he is not interested?
I am reminded of how I could spend a life time reading comics and doing little else, and my heart syncs with this free-willed child of mine.
A loud tweet of strong, and fatigued chirps pull me away. My sight is drawn to the birds that are returning home, to their nests. I wonder how many of them are young and free-willed like my son and his friend – wanting to stay out a little more, flap around a little more, test their boundaries a little more. Instead, they all head back home, reluctantly chasing after the older, wiser, birds.
Is rebellion and free-will only a human thingie?
Then again, aren’t the birds playing the field during daytime?! It makes sense then, when they have to rest and regain enough energy to play the field once again the next day. They do something that they might not want to do, just so they can continue to do what they wish to do. I imagine the plight of a bird that has been frolicking all night, only to lose its navigational sense the next day. It would be as lost as my son would be without an academic backing for his future goals, not only as a karate-champion, but also as a champion of karate. It would be as lost as that lad would be without his health to back up his future as the captain of a football team.
Our children need to learn to fly like the birds do, their personal well-being enveloping their free-will in its loving embrace.
I realize that dreams agog, the children also need to ground themselves to their own sense of navigation, for, in their navigation, lies their sustainable future.
Free-will, I conclude, needs to be backed up by responsibility towards well-being – well-being that will see our will through.