I’d always been an ace student and laid claim to a spot in the top 5, year after year. Grade 5 was a turning point in my life. Secondary school was a different ball game compared to the sheltered primary years. Grade 6 proved to be equally life changing. For the first time, I failed in a subject. Maths. It was a shocker to all those who knew me. I had managed to do the unthinkable. In my defence, introduction to Algebra was giving me a hard time. I had plummeted to a 27 out of 100 in the first term. My teachers, friends and classmates were equally flummoxed. Funny thing was, even with a 27/100, I was still ranking 3rd in class with all my other subject scores. However, a red line meant ‘no rank’. It was a very difficult time for the 11 year old me.

I did not tell my mom my scores. When she came for the Parent Teacher Meet, her face fell. For a woman who always questioned me on the missing mark on a 99%, she was silent. When she spoke, which was after eternity, she gave me an unwritten commandment. “You should have told me. I would have known how to deal with this better. But since you did not, I gather you know your way from here.” For the first time, it was not about the marks. It was about me. She seemed to know for sure, this too would pass and I’d emerge in flying colours. I was determined to prove her right.

Back then, tuitions was not such a fad and was meant for ‘weaker’ students. Guides and Self-study books too were a strict no-no. But then again, I was at a crossroad and any place would be better than ‘here’. So, first things first. I bought a Navneet guide for Rs 20/-. My problem, I figured, was understanding the concepts and hence execution. Blaming the teacher would take me nowhere. So, I worked and reworked the sums. My Rakhi brother came and tutored me for some time. I learnt that no one is invincible. Help, at times, does make the distance doable. Final term was around the corner. I accelerated the pace. I scored a whopping 81 out of 100.  I finally reclaimed what was mine all along. Yes, I stood third in class.

If you asked me then, I wasn’t particularly proud of this academic year. Today, in retrospect, I feel I learnt a whole lot about life in that one term. My mom came to accept that I could fail, at least academically. And when she saw me rise like the Phoenix from the ashes, failure did not look so bad. I think, I learnt that you need to fall to learn to focus. Failing did not scare me. I’d broken the jinx. Mom knew I could take care of myself. So did I.

In present times, I see parents struggling with curriculum. Yeah, it’s a BIG thing. They keep a tab on who scored what? Which kid goes for which classes? Who teaches the kid at home? Play dates directly from school become a ruse for first-hand information on school books. That a particular kid might just be interested in a subject and hence does well does not cross their mind. They want their child to be ‘like’ that kid! I have just one question…………………….WTF? So, if your child isn’t acing the class, s/he is not worth it? Are marks an indication of WHO your child really is?

On the other hand, kids are also protected for their own good. A teacher was loud. Go to the principal. A classmate was brash. Go to the principal. The principal was strict. Go to the police. Bottom line, how dare they say that to my child?  If you are going to molly coddle your child, how do you expect them to fall and then get up without howling? And heavens help us with what the kids are making out of this jamboree via the precedents we set. We have little regard for rules and regulations. Everything is just a phone call/chat/sms away. We forget that kids learn the most by example. Why does failure scare parents so much? Is it because they feel it reflects poorly on their social report card? Or they have a dearth of topics to discuss in their innumerable soirées?

Kids inherit the pressure from their parents. So much so that they feel beneath them to ask for help. Correct them and their eyes have a flood of tears that threaten to break the dam of common sense. The older ones learn to keep this inside and become rebellious. And if these kids are not taught to introspect, we can’t leave them any less uneducated. As parents we ought to teach them to participate and not to win. Teach them to learn and not go by rote. Teach them to apply rather than just reply within set parameters of definitions. Eventually, all kids will have a mark sheet. Teach them that they are beyond that piece of paper. Teach them that the first 20 years of their life will be memorable. But the rest of their lifetime has just begun. And every day is an unwritten chapter with a twist in the tale. Look out for the plot points.

Today, as I try to balance being a mom and an ambitious writer (yes, I heard that smirk), I struggle on similar battlefields. The princess is nothing like me (or my husband for that matter, but he is the father, be rest assured). She is more than glad to take one day at a time. Academics don’t drive her car. Creativity does. In fact, she is a replica of my sister. I just went through the labour.  My sister, at the age of 12, wanted to travel the world. I thought ‘holidaying’ did not seem like an apt career path. But, present day, as part of the international aviation industry she is doing just that. She did not know big words. But she knew the directions to get where she was going. And if the princess is going to be anything like her, I am sorted. And even if she doesn’t, she will find that one thing that makes her happy. And irrespective of whether she does or doesn’t, I’ll always be a proud parent. For I have a crown that fits my head perfectly…..

A friend suggested this video for this post after reading it……I thought it was perfect!



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