You might have noticed that it’s been a bit quiet on MrSikhNet for the past couple months as we ran the very successful "Camp Miri Piri," followed by participating in the Summer Solstice camp, a "marathon" of friends getting married, and then a few family reunions/vacation. Well, I’m back, though busy as ever, and with some changes in my family.
A few weeks ago before Summer Solstice my wife (Arjan Kaur) started talking to my son Narayan Singh about Miri Piri Academy (MPA) in Amritsar, India. I went to boarding school in India when I was about the same age and have been planning to send him in a few years when he was ready and wanted to go. However, a few weeks ago I was surprised with his determination to go this year. Many of his friends are already there, and with so many great MPA role models (and MPA "Uncles") it’s like the next step for many of our local kids.
Having spent about 10 years of my youth going to boarding school in India, I know the reality of what it is like, so did my best to try to make sure he REALLY was ready and still wanted to go to MPA. Narayan is one of those great kids who is a "leader of the pack". He is a Leo – The Lion (the Singh Lion!) so is very independent. He makes friends very easily and knows how to fend for his own (which is crucial in boarding school environment).
A month or so ago it really hit me that he was going to be gone for about 9 months (though we plan to visit him in India). It was interesting watching myself process this change and how I related to him with the thought of him being gone soon. It felt like I needed to make all my time with him count and not take it for granted. In recent weeks I have seen Narayan going through the same process as the time nears his departure for India (Aug. 20).
Today I dropped off my 3 year old daughter Charanjeet Kaur at school and one of the teachers asked me about Narayan going to school in India, and I could tell that she was a bit amazed that I could send my child half way around the world for nine months of boarding school. She isn’t a Sikh and doesn’t know all the details, but as I drove away I realized how different people relate to parenthood and their children. For her she couldn’t believe it. For me it was so natural and could see the value. All of the kids in our community go to MPA when they are ready. The only kids you see here in Espanola are either graduates or younger kids.
Going to School at Miri Piri Academy isn’t just some boarding school. The children that go to MPA are being trained to be leaders of tomorrow. It is unique because it gives them an environment that challenges them mentally, physically AND spiritually in a very balanced way. In most schools these days the main focus is on the worldly side of life and the spirit is left out. This is not so at MPA. Not only will he get a a great scholastic education there, but he will get a good spiritual education as well!
When I think of myself as a parent, I feel that my goal is to teach my children, and give them the best tools with which to succeed in life. I think that as parents we don’t "own" our kids, but are the caretakers. We are the "pay-rents". It is easy to get attached to our kids for our own purposes, rather then recognizing what is actually best for our kids. I find that at a certain point, many of us parents can actually be a detriment to to our own childrens’ personal growth. We dump our issues on our kids and they in turn take up our habits and issues. The kids know our weaknesses and play off of them, pushing our buttons and doing things that they couldn’t do with other people.
I remember SSS Harbhajan Singh Khalsa talking about parenting and the different teachers in life: The first core teacher is the mother (from birth till 3 years old). Then from 3-8 it is the father, and after that the "World" (read more). So it seems Narayan is right on schedule for his next stage of learning and adventure! (He turns 8 next week!)
I don’t think everyone needs to go to a boarding school, but I personally think sending my kids to MPA will benefit them MUCH more then if they were to continue going to regular schools here. Of course we all have different philosophies and practices, so this is what works for my family and for many others here in Espanola.
I think what is different for me from maybe an average parent in America is that I value a strong spiritual lifestyle. Everyday life in America doesn’t support a spiritual lifestyle for kids. The constant bombardment of the media (TV, video games) along with social pressures can be a big negative. The kids in India become VERY independent, culturally diverse, and it brings out their leadership. When I see these kids they have a light in their eyes that I don’t see in other kids. Having been exposed to the world in a much larger way it really makes them grow in so many ways. They are truly multi-cultural citizens of the world, not of any one country or another.
My many years of boarding school in India taught me a lot of things and it gave me the tools to be who I am today. I want the same for my son. This next year will probably be very different for our whole family as we adjust. I’m not quite sure if my younger daughter Charanjeet Kaur realizes how long he will be gone and how she will need to adjust to not having a big brother around. Luckily we have lots of other kids here in our community :)
Narayan is lucky to have many benefits that I didn’t have going to school. Back in the early 1980′s you couldn’t just pick up the phone and call America from India or vice versa. If there was something really important, you sent a telegram. Postal letters took about a month to be delivered if they even arrived at all. I remember getting a package that was empty with only some cookie crumbs. The postman must have gotten hungry, but still he felt duty bound to deliver the empty package. Or another time when a camera was sent, all the flash bulbs were used and the film was used and removed and then the camera was replaced in the box and the package was delivered. It’s funny looking back because you think that the person would just steal the whole package and not deliver the used stuff. I guess he thought he was just "borrowing" it.
These days the kids have the Internet, Skype, cell phones, email, yummy Punjabi food, and the Harimandir Sahib in their "backyard". Vah! If the kids complain now, I can’t help but say "Back when I was a kid….".
We’ll see how this adventure unfolds this year….
Kids grow up fast. It’s hard to imagine that not so long ago Narayan was just a baby…