Lily and I were old friends. We had been together in school for almost five years. Our mothers were old friends too.

Lily’s sister was two years elder to her. Her name was Lola. She was very sharp in studies, whereas Lily was not. My friend was quite intelligent too, but considerably less as compared to her sister.

Lily possessed qualities which aren’t considered praiseworthy by some people. She was reserved and quiet. She observed a lot and spoke little. She loved reading general knowledge books, as well as novels and she liked writing articles and stories.

On the other hand, Lola had no interest in reading and writing. Although she was very intelligent and sharp, she never read anything except her course books. She was interested in taking part in different competitions though. Lola’s teachers were very happy to have such an active and bright student. They always appreciated her because she never failed to secure the highest position in class and took part in co-curricular activities at the same time.

Lily’s teachers were also satisfied with her performance in school, however, her mother wanted her to change herself and be a star-child like Lola.

The mother was rather strict regarding her daughters’ studies and performance in exams. Lola was always appreciated by her, but Lily always got scolded and discouraged. No matter how much she scored, her mother never seemed satisfied because Lola’s scores were always higher. So Lily wasn’t bad in studies, she just wasn’t good enough for her mother’s standards.

Lily felt quite upset because of her mother’s attitude. My mother also told her mother that all children cannot be the same and that parents and teachers should accept them as they are, while working for their character-building all the time. Mama tried hard to make her understand, but it had no effect and Lily’s mother became stricter day by day.

I remember an incident when she displayed her attitude towards my friend’s achievements. Lily excitedly ran to her mother and told that the teacher had just given the class a novel to read and Lily had already read that over a year ago. Her mother was not impressed because, in her view, this was not something to be excited about or proud of.

Soon after, Lola came in running and declared that she had gotten the second position in a swimming competition. The lady felt proud of her brilliant elder daughter and promised to give her a present on this achievement.

Poor Lily felt ignored, but there was nothing she could do about it.

The situation got worse gradually and a time came when Lily was not allowed to read books or write articles. Her focus was made to be her studies only. Her mother had brainwashed her so much that she started studying even during the lunch break and sports time. She had so much pressure on her mind that she could not study properly and began cramming facts into her mind. This way, she obviously could not figure out how to solve her exam paper and started gaining marks through cheating.

One day, Lily was asking an answer from a girl in the examination hall and quietly the principal came in. She saw Lily cheating and asked her to leave the examination hall.

Lily was suspended from school for a week for cheating during the exam. All her exams were cancelled, and it was written on her report card that she had resorted to unfair means in the examination.

Lily’s mother was too upset at this. Lily and her parents were called for a meeting at the school. Before meeting her parents, Lily’s class teacher and principal had a talk with her because they were surprised that a good and well-behaved student like Lily had acted in such a wrong manner.

Lily broke down and apologised for her mistake and poured out everything that she had been feeling but had kept locked inside her.

Later on, the principal met her parents after sending Lily out with the class teacher. She told them that Lily had gotten into the habit of cheating because of the pressure she felt, to meet the unrealistic expectations at home. Even when she did her best, she faced discouragement and degradation due to which she felt it necessary to resort to any means to meet the unfair expectations put on her. The principal felt that the fault was not hers.

The principal explained to Lily’s mother that all children are not the same. Each has their own skills and every one of them is good in their own way. If Lola was excellent in studies and took part in extracurricular activities, Lily was good in a different way. She was not dumb or clumsy. She got good grades and had remarkable interest in reading and writing. Her abilities were different and she did the best she could, in her own way.

Realising her mistake, Lily’s felt very sad that unintentionally she had pushed her daughter too hard to meet her unrealistic demands. She realised that each child is perfect in their own way and there should be no comparison among children.

From then on, she started helping both her daughters in their studies and appreciated them for what they were and not what she wanted them to be. Now for her, their happiness was more important than their achievements. She accepted and loved them just as they were and thanked God that she had such brilliant daughters.

Published in Dawn, Young World, June 27th, 2020