Parenting: Then and Now
Children matter much to all parents. They are our assets and they make our lives complete. They are our conduit to the future and they carry forward our generational legacies.
We expend great patience, empathy, and kindness to take care of our children with tender loving care. As parents, we derive enormous joy from them even if, at odd times, our feelings are akin to, ‘can't live with or without them.’ Often they are high-maintenance, and occasionally they are troublesome. There are moments of over elation, joy, along with exasperation, and bull-headed arguments. But, when they are around we take them for granted and when they are away we worry about them and feel the emptiness. When they succeed we feel ecstatic, and when they fail we feel their pain. Such idiosyncrasies make family life healthy, happy, and endearing.
Raising a child isn’t easy. Parenting requires a host of skill sets including that learned on the fly. As part of parenting, we use many tricks and tools to guide the children and mould them to become, at least a few steps, ahead of us in all aspects. We command, demand, and coerce them to do things the right way. We repeatedly ask, argue, and attack their motives as if they didn’t know much. We unpretentiously force them and deprive them of the things they love in the name of whole-hearted goodwill. We threaten them with punishments, but seldom follow through. We play good cop-bad cop and apply Sāma, Dāna, Bheda, Danda mind games throughout to make them understand and grow boldly. Of course, Bheda and Danda are the extremes, and do not belong in the current social norms. We offer or impose our morals and ethics on them so that they become good citizens. We apply parental prerogatives since we believe in the old adage, ‘father knows best’ philosophy to guide them in the right direction.
As children grow older, we hold their hands and hope to show them the ropes for a brighter future, but sometimes they see them as entangled liabilities. We teach them life’s essentials: the ABCs of thriftiness, common courtesies, and fundamentals of clean living, but they opt for roads well-travelled by their peers: the highways of spend, borrow, and highlife.
However, children’s needs and wants are always far greater than ours. They see their freedoms and comforts above others.’ Thus, we save so that they can spend and we stay home so that they can go for movies, games, and eat at fancy restaurants. We look for sales, bargains, and discounts so that they can wear brand names.
Children invariably read parents inside out. They know who is vulnerable and who is not and on what subject, and at what times. They know how to play us. They charm, pretend, plead, beg, barter, and bargain their way to get what they want. At the same time, their understanding of their responsibilities is way at the bottom of the totem pole. They try to blame their parents for their mistakes and failures. They make us feel guilty by twisting and spinning the words we spoke to suit their whims. Thus, we get no credit for the good deeds, but all the blame for their missteps. Often, ‘you made me do it’ is their credo. And at the end, we ourselves blame us for their failures.
Every parent in each and every generation had challenges raising children. Unlike today’s parents, older generations faced situations that were perhaps more calmer and tamer simply because of the docile and confined nature of the societies. But they had their own sets of challenges that today’s parents might not even recognize or imagine. The old African proverb, “It take a whole village to raise a child" made famous by Hillary Clinton, is absolutely true in many senses. My parents’ generation had many physical resources, from the extended family units, to lean on. Thus, my parents had a simpler time in managing us, kids. Of course, they had constant worries about feeding, educating the children, and managing a household with limited finances. In spite of the adversities, they managed it well, with less monstrous stress than their counterparts of today.
It is interesting to see how parenting changed over the years. The society has grown so over-burdened by commercialism, materialism, and rat race to gain maximum wealth at a shorter span; it started overlooking the core component, the nucleus family. Moreover, two income families are a norm these days that adds additional pressures in every way possible. Today’s parents are constantly challenged by the geo-political-cultural-generational-globalization factors on top the omnipresent rights, freedoms, and economic issues. However, today’s millennials have every resource on child rearing at their fingertips: books, videos, support groups, the Internet, Social Media, etc. As they are tech savvy, and digitally connected they bring up their children by the book.
Suffice to say that the anxieties and apprehensions about the children and their future experienced by the parents, irrespective of generation, have many shared values. Values like, love, affection, keeping them out of harm’s way, and the anxiety to make them somebody are the real strengths behind every parent.
(The author, a technology professional, resides in Toronto, Canada with his family)