Writers are expected to keep a notepad and a pen handy at all times. A thought, an inspiration, or an opportunity may strike like a bolt of lightning at any time, and if not contained, can be lost as easily. I have heard of writers who would start writing on the bedside walls or on the mirrors, with wife’s lipsticks, in the middle of the night. These are the times when I wish that I had the Dumbledore’s magic wand to extract my thoughts and memories, and store them. I could review them later in a ‘pensieve’, as in the Harry Potter series.
I have been toying with various ideas for my next article, and parenting has clawed its way to the top of my list. A friend, a new mother, has recently started writing her experiences as a mother, on her social networking page. The posts are honest and interesting. However, my reason for thinking about parenting is completely unrelated. I have been a mother for more than 22 years now, and there are various achievements, and unrelated doubts that need deliberations.
I remember that even as a young teenager, I loved children. My first experience with a newborn was at age 12, when I got a cousin, who was so fair and lovely. There began my experience of mothering. Ever since, this role became the fabric of my being. When my first one was born, I was thrilled to bits. My daughter became my preoccupation. Full time motherhood has challenges that are difficult to comprehend when playing with another’s child. We were a young couple and I was all of 24, taking care of my ménage. Life was very interesting and fulfilling. There were household chores, entertaining family and friends, and millions of other things that needed attention. Being a bit of a perfectionist, I tried being a champion of things, knowing well that it is not always possible. It so turned out, I was not as patient as I imagined. Young moms have definite, inexperienced ideas about motherhood. We are idealistic and want everything to be picture perfect. I had set the bar so high for my daughter and myself. The result is not so bad. My baby turned out to be a well-behaved child, and yet, with a stubborn streak. Her brilliant mind and angelic (at times, devilish too) presence made motherhood so perfect. Did my reactions and outbursts define my children’s nature and reactions?
What makes a parent perfect? What are dos and don’ts of parenthood? Do all parents wonder about parenting? Do they ever worry about erring? Do they worry themselves sick over the detrimental effects of their actions? Do they realise that the children are parents’ reflections and imbibe all their qualities, reactions, and pre-conceived notions? I am not sure if similar concerns ever crossed our parents’ minds. Those were the times of joint-family setups. Children grew healthy by default. There was always some adult around to mind the children. Parents were not possessive and did not obsess. Which generation of parents started obsessing about their children? Did it begin in the 90s with my generation? Were we reluctant to cut off the umbilical cord? Is there a right time to do so? Do we ever succeed in cutting the cord? Does a parent ever stop being a parent? I think, it is easier to stop being a child, but once a parent, always a parent, even to all and sundry.
My second child was Godsend for my daughter and me. He was a saviour and a sunshine in our lives after our great loss. My daughter and I always remark that we would not have minded twins – double trouble. Sometimes I wonder if God’s timing is deliberate, so that every incident appears a gift.
Indian set up is changing, may be not at the same pace for everyone. We have become friendlier as parents, and children do not cringe as much at their parent’s behaviour in public. Are we less of an embarrassment and more acceptable to our children? Has media and communications played a role in keeping us informed and current? Is the parent-child equation changing? Are the love-hate challenges constant, or is the relationship changing? I think, being friendly is good, but have we blurred the line between acceptable and unacceptable ‘friendly reactions’ of children towards parents? When did it become acceptable for grown children to disrespect parents or shout them down? It is a parental failing if children lose their perspective between a right and a wrong behaviour. Is the balance missing between friendly and authority? Do parents get over-friendly, without setting the boundaries? Is there a way to correct the damage already done? Berne’s theory of transactional analysis (TA) for social communication gives comprehensive account of various ego states and behaviours associated with them. Practising the TA approaches in our everyday dealings may improve our interactions with our children. However, any communication requires a contract between the two involved parties. An attempt at positive transaction by one party may be limiting and not produce the desired results.
This brings me to another set of questions. When is a child old enough to be treated as a complete adult? When does a girl become an adult? Are the anger-bouts indications of an adult trying to assert her identity? Our parents and grandparents used to attribute anger and depressive behaviour to identity crisis. They would contend that the youth is ready for a personal family life and should be married-off. Can we measure our children’s behaviour with a similar yardstick? In this age of independence, does this interpretation not sound archaic? However, this young adult needs her own niche. How can parents provide the same in contemporary, yet conventional family system? These questions could haunt parents of twenty something. I wish that there were simpler answers.
||Sarvam Sri Krishna Arpanamastu||