The other day I heard my colleague tell his 22 year old son, “Come on Ritesh! Stop behaving like a kid. You are grown up now. You should behave like an adult.”
This morning I saw a newspaper headline - ‘Parents should be good role models for their kids’.
The conversation and the headline set me thinking. Somewhere, somehow, aren’t we getting our perspectives muddled up?
We frequently confuse the two words childish and childlike. And the confusion is not because of semantics but due to our lack of understanding of the real meaning of the two words.
To bring out the difference let me use the concept of Transactional Analysis (T.A). According to TA we all have three ego states - Parent, Adult and Child. The child ego state can be subdivided into Rebellious Child/Adaptive Child, Natural Child and Little Professor.
The Rebellious Child is the one who throws tantrums, is unreasonable, who sulks. His obverse is the Adaptive Child who stifles his natural instincts and conforms or surrenders meekly to authority. The behaviour of the Rebellious/Adaptive child can be described as childish.
The Natural Child as the name suggests is fun loving, filled with amazement and wonder and is happy and gay. The Little Professor is creative. He is the one who is artistic, innovative. He is responsible for all the creativity in the world. According to me the Natural Child and the Little Professor can be described as childlike.
In mythology if Duryodhana symbolises the Rebellious Child and Dhritrashtra the Adaptive Child, Lord Krishna epitomises childlike qualities - that of both Natural Child as well as Little Professor. What we have to do is to control the childish Duryodhana/Dhritrashtra in each one of us and encourage the childlike Krishna.
If we observe children carefully we find that basically they are childlike. Their Natural Child and Little Professor is very high. Only when they come into conflict with Parental authority or Adult admonishments does the Rebellious Child/Adaptive Child - the childish streak surface.
Instead of encouraging their childlike qualities what we do is suppress them, put them in binds, thereby encouraging childish behaviour. In our confusion between childlike and childish behaviour we end up winning the battle but losing the war.
Not only should we encourage and nurture the Little Professor and Natural Child in every child we adults should reactivate these qualities which are lying dormant in all of us.
In our quest for attaining mature, responsible adulthood, we tend to stifle the child in each of us. We spend our lives in pursuit of happiness and peace of mind. We look for happiness in extrinsic things, little realising that happiness is very much an intrinsic quality.
Before I elucidate let me ask you a simple question? Tell me who amongst us is the happiest of all? To find an answer to this question observe any small child. Watch him in any activity- whether he is flying a kite, or climbing a tree, whether he is in a temple or in the middle of a puddle - he is totally involved. And happy. He gives his hundred percent to the moment and experiences joy.
Watch a child is looking at a rainbow. He is filled with complete wonder. Is he concerned about the heavy rain that preceded it or the scorching sunlight which might follow? No, he is just soaking in the glory of the moment.
When you take your four year old to the temple and tell him, “Now close your eyes and pray, Lord Hanuman will come and bless you.” What does he do? Does he question you, does he doubt? No, he accepts your word one hundred percent.
When he is playing with friends - does he pick and choose that he will play with only those friends whose fathers own a car, or who are Hindus or those who speak a particular language ? No, he goes by the language of his heart. He doesn’t, like you listen to the prejudices of his intellect.
We all were childlike once. We all possessed these wondrous qualities like unconditional love, trust, playfulness and simplicity. Somewhere on the road to adulthood we have shed these childlike virtues and adopted fear, mistrust, prejudice, doubt and selfishness.
Not only have we forsaken childlike virtues, we have also started looking down upon them as being immature and not sufficiently adult or grown up.
Does our culture celebrate complicated adulthood at the cost of pure and simple childhood? No, it doesn’t. Our most celebrated God, who for thousands of years has held men, women and children in thrall is Lord Krishna - the makhan chor Nandkishore. As mentioned earlier he is the epitome of all that is innocent, creative, pure, playful, pristine and joyous.
We have images of him as a child stealing maakhan, teasing Radha, flirting with the gopis, playing with the gwalas et al. But as a grown up too, Krishna doesn’t don the mantle of an adult and become severe, grave and foreboding. His interaction with Kunti, his banter with Panchali and his gentle leg-pulling of Balram and the mischievous taunting and teasing of Duryodhana and Shakuni, are all manifestations of the Natural Child and the Little Professor.
I think it is high time that all adults invoke the Little Professor, the Natural Child, the Kanhaiya within them.
And if this happens then very soon we will have headlines like - “Children should be the role models for their parents.”
And my colleague will probably be telling his 22 year old son, “Come on son. Be natural, be childlike, why are you curbing your impulses?”