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Vicarious, adjective

When I cradled my newborns for the first time, I said to them: You will shine and we will make sure you will.

We will make sure you will. A brilliant commitment at the time, yet utterly clueless!

The proclamation missed what the little fellas were wired to be, what they want, what makes them happy and, instead, focused on"we" the parents. Living vicariously through the children came naturally to me, thanks to the Indian-mom gene. The immigrant experience and youth-related delusion contributed in heavy doses as well.

What I couldn't do, I wanted my boys to do. What I succeeded in, I wanted them to replicate. What I left behind in the old country is what I wanted them to continue, even though they dropped into the continuum with zero context. Thank goodness, Tarun is more centered than I am.

Neil's days were structured, his books were educational, every moment of his waking hours had to be a learning experience. You know why? Because I was the biggest goofball on the planet (my brother will say certifiably so) and my children were going to outshine, outdo, and outperform me.

Make this Dad a Mom and you will have me from a few decades ago.

The cure for my madness came from a totally unexpected source - the kids!!

Through a diabolical mix of grit, capability, affection, manipulation, and duplicity, they neutralized me. They put me on a need-to-know basis and made sure I never had a need to know unless it was visible damage to the car or a final grade. Each learned to inform us after decisions were made to say forcefully, "Ma, you will just have to trust me!" By the time Josh hit teen-hood, I had begun to piece together the puzzle and (arguably?) was a better mother to him than I was to Neil, but don't ask him!

My boys changed "living vicariously" from an obtuse phrase to "vicarious" an adjective to be kicked in the butt.

Thirty-odd years into child rearing and adult-watching, I can tell you with certainty what I missed in the early parenting years - the best learning is bi-directional, not just from us to them. As immigrants, we spent our risk-taking quota in that first big move. After that, we didn't want to deviate from the tried-and-true. Our kids jarred us out of the slumber, took risks that induced anxiety, and did ok. Through it all, the only lesson we may have imparted is that grit and empathy were to remain front-and-center.

The kids came home recently and I marveled at the adults they have become. Of course, we have our share of disagreements and lively debates. What's life without that spice! In the end though, what matters is that we took what each of us contributed and created recipes that work for us individually, as a family, and in our professions.

If I could go back in time, I'd cradle my newbies and say to them: Together we will shine.

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