We live in decadent times. Hedonism starts early where parents fulfil needs and wants even before children realize they have needs and wants. They are given easy access to mobiles, gadgets and tabs which ensures they get to tap into a host of information at the touch of a fingertip. How will that ever leave room for creativity and curiosity to find roots? I too have been guilty of leaning on nursery rhymes to soothe a bawling toddler. Yes that is the trouble. We’re so busy strutting about like zombies starved for time that we look for quick fix solutions for everything. Even the things that matter like relationships, parenting, friendships. We think we can compensate for the poverty of time by amassing material possessions. We think we can punctuate our emptiness by acquiring brands and gadgets we’re going to lose fascination for soon. We are so gladly ignorant of the long term ramifications of all these quick fixes. Our parallel existence in the realm of social media is yet another space where we seek instant gratification by getting instant likes for our rants and rambles, narcissistic selfies or vacation snapshots.
As a parent and a bystander I shudder to think about the self-gratification seeking monsters we’ve become and the little monsters we’re in process of rearing. We’re heading towards a world where we’ll find it hard to think beyond our own needs and wants. A world where we’d want instant solutions for all our troubles. We’ll be men and women who’ll find it hard to look beyond their own noses and whose sympathies will be narrower than Kendal Jenner’s nimble waist. Where nothing will hold our attention and instead of finding solace and satiation in real human interaction we’ll depend on the deceptive virtual world to seek companionship and derive sense of self-worth.
Is that where we’d like ourselves or our children to be?
I still remember being this child who would break into tears at the slightest admonishment. I would internalize other people’s opinions and judgements and try my best to be accepted and liked.Being reared as a cosseted and overprotected child made sure I was oversensitive to criticism and rebukes. I used to be someone ever ready to take these to heart. And then life happened. Life has a way of making sure we grow up and evolve. It dawned on me if there was one recipe for disaster in life,it was trying to please and placate everyone. The futility of trying to be someone to everyone. Allowing ourselves to be steamrolled and ride an emotional roller coaster depending on how people blew hot or cold. We’re never the people we once were. Forever changing, evolving and sometimes wondering how could we metamorphose into someone we never thought we could be?
With time I learned being too thin skinned was like handing over the world ammunition to judge you and hurt you. By being too sensitive one was allowing oneself to internalize and reflect other people’s opinions of you. And experiences drove home the fact we are all much more than people’s opinions of us.
As a friend puts it,motherhood helps us become more immune; almost indifferent to what people think of us. We become so used to being scrutinized, judged and harangued for how we choose to raise our kids.
And then we gradually develop a veneer of indifference and devil may care attitude.It can be a rather liberating experience to decide what we choose to accept from other people and what needs filtering out. The realization comes with time that how other people evaluate us is none of our business, it is their problem alone. Perhaps the first step towards emotional empowerment and autonomy.
Nothing drills in us a sense of inadequacy as does parenthood. Or rather motherhood. Especially in a country like ours where we’re always bothered about what will people think and we’re forever poking our nose in everyone’s business. As if in India we are programmed to play on people’s sense of insecurity and inadequacy. Relatives and ‘well-wishers’ hound you with comparisons of how XYZ’s kids is smarter, healthier, chubbier, quick to meet milestones! The list never ends. And as a first time parent you descend into a pall of gloom fearing you’re no good at this parenting jig.
But what is worse is when we as parents internalize these comparisons and start looking at what is missing in our children. When we allow these comparisons to get the better of us and we become exacting and demanding of the little beings that need nothing but unqualified love and acceptance from us. When we begin to view our children with society’s lenses, we dilute their sense of individuality and uniqueness. Constant comparison is the death of uniqueness. We begin to treat our kids as projects instead of individuals. We enforce our standards of judgement and success on them rather than allowing their individuality to flower and for them to discover their own path.
There is absolutely no harm in reveling in your child’s achievements but no point turning them into puppets and asking them to conform to societal expectations of success, beauty or achievement.
Children are the happiest and most successful when they are allowed the space to make mistakes and the courage to make their own choices. We as parents forget we don’t own them; they are their own little people. Loving them does not mean we control them or not let them fall. It means a safe space where we don’t judge them or compare them with someone else’s child.
More than a homily or rant, this is a reminder for me as a pre-schooler’s parent to allow him to grow at his own pace and set his own standards. I am hoping somewhere I don’t turn into a parent who expects her child to bear the burden of her unfulfilled dreams and half-baked desires. Sometimes hope is all we need.
Back in college when I was an idealistic feminist, I was always told we women have to work twice as hard to prove we’re half as good as men. I would roll my eyes in sheer disbelief! And then the words echoed true when motherhood happened. Along with being flooded with a plethora of emotions primarily the nurturing instinct I became familiar to a perpetual feeling of guilt. It became a constant companion when I went to work leaving a cranky toddler or came back from work. Till it dawned on me, we women often prey to paralysis with over-analysis. Life is best lived when we go with the flow. What needs to be done has to be done sans guilt. I realized how millions of working mothers walk a tight rope and often the noose is of their own mind’s making.
We allow ourselves to be shortchanged, when we aren’t considered for challenging assignments and are often given the excuse, how will you manage ? No one has the gumption to ask men how will they juggle parenthood and careers. Then why does the buck stop at women alone? Why do they get derisive stares when they want to leave early to pick kids from daycare or when they are on leave to tend to sick kids.
It is okay to delegate and ask for help. Both at work and on the personal front. You can’t be a lone ranger fighting a solitary battle. Having a strong support system works and what really helps is the close circle of non judgemental women who look out for you and egg you on to get it all done. Let’s lean on each other as we juggle the balls of work and life.
From smoothening the jagged edges
Of raw emotions
To have ourselves catapulted into
A volatile emotional jazz
Scouring the world to seek equanimity
To striving to become it
Meandering for meaningful existence
To finding it in the eyes
Of a pint sized doe-eyed baby
From looking for warmth
To find it in the tiny fingers that tug
At your heart strings
Traversing the globe
To have tiny footsteps
Leave eternal imprints
In erstwhile unknown
recesses of your heart
Pursuing warmth of home
In unknown alleys
To becoming your child’s safe place
Emotions are so transient and yet we allow them to get the better of us. Getting swept by a pool of tears or swamped by joy, or to experience soul seething rage, they govern so much of our existence. We deny, digress, avoid hoping these emotions disappear. Yet they surface and erupt like volcanoes, when we try too hard to escape them.
But the trouble is not expressing emotions, instead being asked to repress them. Ours is a society that exists on brushing everything under the carpet and pretending all is hunky dory. We’re judged when we say what we feel and often are conditioned to express ourselves in how society would like us to respond. Which is a sure-shot recipe for disaster. As I juggle the role of a parent I make a conscious choice to let my child express all emotions; the pleasant ones as well as the non-pleasant ones. Because with age it dawns on me it isn’t an anomaly to feel and express ourselves rather it is the lack of feeling and expression that is an aberration.
If there is anything I have learnt from life lately it’s been by observing my 1 year old gallivant about the place from close quarters. It keeps reminding me how societal conditioning and upbringing curbs our natural instincts. As children we know what life is all about, we just lose the plot during our journey into adulthood!
My son’s teaching me to wake up with a smile each day.
Seek pleasure and soak in joy in the small things in life
Cry when I fall but get up the very next moment as if nothing ever happened
Ask to be comforted when I am upset instead of expecting others to understand my need
Explore, be curious and be fascinated by everything new I encounter each day
Express my displeasure and delight in equal measure
Stand on my toes to reach greater heights and never give up
Be my unabashed, unrestricted self sans bothering how others judge me
These are just a few that come to the top of my head as I watch him scoot around reconnoitering and scrutinizing about the house with an endless energy, while I huff and puff to keep pace with my diminishing energy levels.