(Photograph: Poornima Sardana)
Just like the “common man” illudes us into believing that they are people sans identity so does “children”. We begin to fit them in roles carved out by the myths we dwell in. They could be objects of display/paintings of adult understanding of the perfect /marketing gimmicks/urban consumers/subjects in rural photographs/images for activists/punching bags/teddy bears/pets/heroes/stars/performers/trophies/flowers/clowns/fashion statement/pillows/pain/monkeys to be caged…anything but human!
“Children”, apart from the fact that this term is generic and emanates romanticised visions of angels and candies and balloons, there is much more to them. They are living, thinking, and human beings like the rest of the adult world. Much more observant, agile and sensitive though.
Now on reading this, most of us would say, “Obviously!” Regrettably, in practice, this obvious isn’t so obvious. I do not wish to undermine the existence of excellent parenting, but this is an attempt at highlighting the nuance of the other extremes.
We over protect them and act silly with puckered lips/ senseless (and comic) baby talk or/and become absolutely indifferent to our own behaviour and responsibilities as facilitators in their holistic growth and learning. Though I much condemn unnecessary celebration of esteemed unreal innocence, the latter is much worse.
How we build our relations, how we deal with our situations, our reasoning and reactions have an influence whose roots spread deep enough to sustain for years together in the minds and hearts of our children. They watch, they hear, and it gets stored in the conscious as well as the unconscious.
I shall narrate a few recent incidents:
An irritable father, after a long day at work, shrugged off his boy as troublesome and foolish. The boy generally scores above 90% if that satisfies the judges of intelligence. He is quick at picking up languages, and has an astounding general knowledge. He is brilliant at acting and enjoys sports. He has a tendency to win friends. But for his father, and an equally irritable grandfather, that boy is to be treated like some mosquito that drinks their blood. Every time the child reasons he is asked to maintain silence. He has begun to sulk. Now exactly ten years later, these are the very people who would be complaining against him being shy/introvert/coward.
A mother whose daughter has her board exams is a nervous wreck. She cannot sleep well. She talks about it day and night to her daughter. She keeps a check on her daughter while she studies. She compares her with others who had done well in their board exams. When the daughter’s grandparents call, she discusses what subjects she must choose next year because she will have to appear for the entrance exams of coaching accordingly. The situation has become so, that the daughter is unable to think beyond her performance. She is uncomfortable at social events and is now being teased by others for the same. Another reason for the mother to be a nervous wreck, right? The moment that girl will start with her job; this mother won’t care about her performance, but would want her to become a little less ambitious and graceful, so that a nice boy would marry her.
A Couple has violent fights. They shout, abuse and at times break things. They do not feel the need to maintain their unity in front of their children. Given a chance they involve their children in it as well. They both speak ill of each other with their children. They are not a unit. The children do not know whether to bank on them or not. Whom to respect? Their daughter has borrowed her mother’s temperament. When she gets angry, she does a public display. At that time, the parents unite in scolding and reprimanding her. But the roots lie somewhere else.
Though I can narrate one incidence after another, which is not the purpose, I request all of us to be responsible. Be aware of the gravity in words and actions. Know that life is too huge to be spoilt over trivial issues. Our children, their emotions and love are real, nurture in them true happiness and reasoning and empower them to sustain it. Careers and futures they will manage, they are smarter than we are.
A post on Kafila by Sohail Hashmi: