Bringing up children

May 3, 2009 at 8:21 pm 3 comments


Bringing up children: Part 1: The Journey Begins:
 

Bringing Up Children

Bringing Up Children

 

 

Every union should produce results. Progeny is one of the results of marriage- at least an expected result. Every newly married couple face overt or covert questions about their “plans”. Any delay beyond 3 years causes great consternation to the families of the couple first and then finally to the couple. All this creates a psychological need to have a child or children.

 

The initial clarity during the mating period of waiting for few years, settling in respective careers, purchase of dwelling etc. may have been achieved or could be in process. But now the need for a child becomes supreme. The conception takes place. I have a vague impression that women do have hesitation or some apprehensions about the entire pregnancy and delivery process. Most males disregard these apprehensions and the emotional and psychological coercion is enough for the women to cross this hurdle. The child arrives. Respective in laws troop in with broad smiles and a realisation of being grand parents.

 

Those who become grand parents before reaching the age of 60, mentally tell themselves that “we are like students who pass CA or IIT Entrance in first attempt while others who still troop to school with their children or run around for admissions to colleges are slow starters. But we are young grandparents. Old age associated with the status of being grandparents is not applicable to us”. Mothers are conferred an almost divine status in India.

 

One story I heard in justification of this status is something like this. One young student questioned placing mother first in the statement “Mata, pita, guru, deivam.”

 

The guru who was smart delayed the reply. After a few days, the guru asked the student to take a brick, tie it around his waist and go to the well and fetch water several times. The well was obviously at some distance. After the student got exhausted, the guru informed the student that a pregnant mother carries the child similarly for nine months and hence they get this status.

A typical Indian story which justifies the age old statement. Western civilisation has not placed such exalted status on parents. Probably they are seen as the medium thru which the life is created on the earth and the medium is like a vessel we use for cooking. The food is more important than the vessel. The mother now gets to see the life which was floating around in her belly. She is initially wonder struck. Then the awareness sinks in about her primary responsibility. Feeding a child at 12.30 am or 4 am is not something any human being can get excited about for weeks and months. The excitement of working as an executive in an air conditioned office is more palpable than cleaning a baby who will learn sanitary habits after some years. She wonders “God, why does any one say all this is exciting?”. The situation of Indians who have emigrated to middle east or USA etc. is even more difficult. These countries have strict laws for child care. Some countries insist on full time attendant till one year of age (this is what I understand).

The role of father at this stage is crucial. Few have any prior experience. They are forced to learn by trial and error. Many families erroneously do not educate their sons to be aware of basic domestic chores. So they land up in family life without any knowledge of the drudgery involved in maintaining a house in a nuclear family. I believe that it is at this stage the next foundation of family life is laid. Couple who work together (whether both are employed or only one is employed) and share responsibilities build a stronger edifice of their marriage.

The children watch and instinctively understand how their family lives and adapt accordingly. If the responsibilities get shifted to outside family members like in-laws or servants, then the pattern changes. We see distorted behaviour from the children.  Excessive tantrums, need to seek attention of one or both the parents whenever they are present, inability to mix or be comfortable in a large group are some of the visible external symptoms. I cannot claim any memory of my two children’s early years. It all seems to be a blur now. When I watch my grandson grow, I feel a twinge of regret at not noticing and storing these memories at least in the brain. Cameras were expensive then and so there are few photos of those times.

Now Picasa contains a few hundred or thousand photos of various antics of my grand son. Most mothers would tell you that the first three years of the child are difficult but rewarding. Creation of life and its growth is still one of the greatest wonder in this world. The efforts we put in these early years yield visible results.

The exuberance of the child, its curiosity in exploring the world around it, lack of any fear or knowledge of danger gives the greatest pleasure. One of the memorable photos of my grandson (when he was less than a year) is his smile when he turns around to look at me before trying to pluck the AC plug from the socket. Today’s world does not give any educated person the time or privilege to think on such things.

Success brings its own material rewards and satisfaction. It requires great courage to step aside from such a path to enjoy such pleasures. Children demand lot of emotional attention. Our city life drains out our quota of Emotional Quotient leaving little for our family. This is where the distance with children/family starts building up.

 

                                          

Bringing up Children – Part 2: When do children grow up?

Perhaps when they start asking questions about the life we lead. Children consciously or unconsciously imitate parents in the early stages. At some point they question us- do we have to pray everyday? Do we have to write homework at 7.30 every day?

Cant’ we have the toy or something else his or her friend has? Slowly we have to set the boundaries within which we have to live. How does a parent explain that they cannot afford a particular expense as it is beyond them? I remember such a situation when my daughter asked for legitimate expense and I could not afford it at that time. I do not think I gave a correct answer. There is always a debate between quality time and quantity time devoted to children. In a traditional family, the father went to office to make a living and mother looked after the hearth. So father’s time was quality time. Children’s bondage with father was perhaps limited due to the then prevailing environment. This is evident from some of the movies we see of the 60s and 70s in any Indian language.

Today, with both parents employed in many cases, the distance or closeness could be the same. My belief is that children react well to a relationship where the parents are capable of receiving the confidences of their children. They should trust their parents sufficiently enough to exchange their innermost fears and receive emotional and physical support.

This is more easily said than done. This requires a long period of communication at a seemingly equal level without losing the basic authority as parents. Today’s parents do assist in homework, projects, exams and other burdens of today’s schooling process. Do they gain their children’s confidence in this process is a moot point. I saw one TV Debate program on parent’s involvement in their children post school education- Science or commerce, engineering or medicine and so on.

The program had parents and children on opposite sides of the debate. The vehemence of the children on the negative influence of parents on compelling choice of the education stream was quite an eye opener. The education expert – a college principal- said that we should trust over children with the choice they make and not second guess them. They generally know what they want and we should guide them only when they start expressing their doubts or seek help.

My wife has an interesting view on how teenagers and young adults fall in love. She says that when the children lack emotional support or live in an emotional vacuum in the house, they seek an alternative outside the house. This is how love develops. In many cases, this seems to be true. I have seen children whose parents live in a different era and perhaps are not able to relate to their children’s emotional demands. Parents live in an orthodox yesterday era- where passbooks are reconciled on monthly basis, eating out should be out sheer necessity, new dresses are purchased for birthday,  Deepavali and school re-opening.

Marriage anniversary means visit to the nearby temple and then going to office. For children, Mcdonald is a fashion statement to be made, Coffee Day is THE PLACE to be seen wearing a jeans and latest tops with members of opposite sex. Spending a few hundred rupees on such an outing is normal. Would we have spent the equivalent of Rs 450 for our birthday party (what is party by the way?) say 35 years or 25 years back? I am told this is quite normal today. Cafe Coffee Day is the place for a small birth day party- the Cappucino costs not less than Rs. 30 or Rs. 35 per cup.

It is in such environment that love blossoms. If not love, at least rebellion against the ESTABLISHMENT. Long hair, awful looking half pants or three quarter pants, odd upper garments, skin hugging dresses which give quite the opposite message of the person’s character ( an otherwise timid person may look like today’s starlet in some youth oriented movie).  Is falling in love wrong ? (QSQT with Aamir Khan and Juhi Chawla or Jane tu with Imran Khan to quote a more modern example).

No, love is a beautiful emotion without which life is not worth living. But falling in love at the age of 18 or 21 seems premature- especially in Indian context. Everything is a struggle here- unlike abroad. Choice of educational stream, admissions, quality of teaching, post graduate education, employment, choice of city or town or metro for employment, accommodation, transport- basic things in life which are taken for granted abroad, pose insurmountable problems for most young adults. Love seems to be a needless distraction in such an environment.

Take admission for engineering, Medicine or any other such professional courses as an example. Each State has got its own peculiarity. Every year there is some litigation to arrest or mar the admission process at the penultimate stage. There is some Government subsidy for such education, but there is something called private college also. In such an environment, the parent struggles to meet their children’s expectations, their own economic strength or lack of it and matching their children’s marks with that of the demands of the educational institution. In such a situation, when a parent hears about a love affair (of anyone else) then there is genuine astonishment on how does anyone get time or energy to get involved in such activities at such an young age.

Lastly, do children who have become full fledged adults (crossed the age of 25 in my belief) need or expect our influence or emotional help. I think yes. But this line is thin. We cannot aggressively intrude into their emotional territory (“don’t be pakao”), nor can we be in an indifferent stranger’s domain. We need to understand the turmoil going through their brain and heart and respond sensitively. We have ourselves passed thru this stage -perhaps without much parental support. So it is easier to assess their needs and probe gently –like a doctor examining an open or an internal wound. It is not easy as now they are a closed book written in a foreign language (or like prayers we recite in Sanskrit- we understand the meaning in a limited manner).

For eg. what do we tell a married son or daughter about the difficulties we face in a marriage? What do we tell about the screaming babies (see my earlier blog) and feeding them at 2 am in night and the support they can expect from their spouse? I often wonder about this. My feeling is that mothers are more forthright in these things and put the matter in a manner which would put their backs up. There would be grudging acceptance later.

I think it is a lifelong relationship. Children remain children for parents whatever be the age. When I used to come home late from office, my father, who was well into his 80s, would remain awake and pester my wife about when I would come. When I reached home, he would confirm that I have reached and then go to sleep. I could not then understand his anxiety. Today I understand it and want to tell him that I understand the deep love and affection that lay behind his non expressive demeanour. But for that I have to go to another world. Do you agree or disagree? Either way, do respond.

 

Image Courtesy: AnanthV

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Entry filed under: HWPL - Health, Wellness, Prosperity & Living, Life, Parenting & Society, The blog is personal again. Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , , .

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3 Comments Add your own

  • 1. shirley  |  May 5, 2009 at 11:51 am

    hi anjeneya

    superb article. very emotional and touching….

    regards

    shirls

  • 2. Marc K  |  May 31, 2009 at 8:18 am

    Hi Mr.Anjiniyan

    fabulous article. Very close and personal it was.

    Superb

    Marc K

  • 3. anjeneyan  |  May 31, 2009 at 3:22 pm

    *Mr. Marc K

    *Thanks for your comment. Do read my other blogs also.

    With warm regards.

    Anjeneyan

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