Grey World!

“Winnie always makes plans with her team against us… when we are searching for things in the playground during our lunch time, she sneaks up from behind and pulls up our underwear”… blurted my 7-year-old son Aarav when I asked him if there is anything he did not like about his school in Singapore.

I continued and asked him if there was anything in the condo that bothered him… and he said, ya… I don’t like Kabir… he is a big boy… and he is always teasing me… once he even kicked me.

Aarav had always been in a cocooned school in India. He was in a Waldorf Steiner school that followed a very different philosophy. Bullying was the last thing that could possibly happen in that school. We were aware, that once we shifted out of the school at this impressionable age, Aarav might feel a lack of confidence due to the difference in formal education… and we prepared him for it… but we did not prepare him for the kids in a realistic environment.

In his goal setting in the Singapore school, Aarav mentioned he wants to make more friends… he was known as Mr. Popular in his school in India. Maybe that shadow made him feel like an underachiever in the social space here. He was always a compassionate child – making kids laugh, being the first one to play with a lonely child and so on.

Here in Singapore, the teacher on assessing his goals mentioned that he had to be less… well for want of a better word, “righteous”… he needed to stop correcting other people’s mistakes or telling on them for small things they do wrong…

How do I tell Aarav to stop doing that… when just a few weeks back, he went through a unit of role models and the virtues of doing the right thing had appealed to him.

How do I tell Aarav that he should not give in to bullying… what solution I give him for it? Online, there are quite a few articles which mention that the steps to redress bullying are first to share and not feel embarrassed about it, then to escalate the matter to an adult and lastly to avoid the situation in which it occurs as much as possible…

But isn’t that trying to teach a kid to point out the issue and then run away from it… somewhere deep within me, I want to tell Aarav, that he should do the same to Winnie… he is physically in fact, stronger than her… just for once, give her a taste of her medicine… For once, push Kabir in the pool and come home and tell me… Then we try and sort the issue out… that instead of him crying and feeling sad, let the other person feel like that and then we can try to amicably resolve the issue…

But then that is my emotionally charged up, adult… somewhat devious… and a lot more immature mind speaking… Aarav’s heart is so pure… he believes that these are wrong things… And anything wrong… well that is to be avoided, chided and not embraced.

He is to the extreme where, like his teacher said, he cannot see and accept even small things that people do wrong… for him, its either black or white… and without any intention of sounding racist… but in the general terms… anything black… even if a little, should be corrected.

He is like God Ram of Hindu mythology… trying to be a man of pure virtue… but then even Ram did kill Vali through a little bit of deceit for his friend Sugriv. That the real world follows the philosophy of Lord Krishna of Hindu mythology – where all means are acceptable as long as the end is achieved. What the more recent yet historical Chanakya preached – Sam, Dam, Dand, Bhed.

How do I… and the bigger dilemma I have is… what do I teach my child? Do I retain his innocence and purity… Waldorf schools have this philosophy of kids between 7 to 14 years being in the realm of goodness or “Sundaram”… and they should only be taught about truth / reality or “Satyam” post they are 14 years… but then the kid needs to be in that bubble for him or her to grow in that way…

Or do I start coaching him to face reality and become street and emotionally smart… manipulate a little… tell him that the doctrine of utilitarianism works i.e. the end justifies the means (and forget the Hindi taunt that goes – after killing 100 mice, the cat goes for pilgrimage)… that he understands that things are not black or white… and black does not mean bad nor is the pursuit of white always beneficial… that kid’s (and all humans) can be and are grey… and that it’s perfectly normal to be one!

– Written on 5 December 2016


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