A father and daughter duo waiting for the school bus early in the morning, daughter sporting a smile on her face looking attentively at the small screen of the smartphone almost oblivious of the surroundings. Father is carrying the school bag (obviously of the daughter and a big cup in his hand, which I assumed to have his morning tea until the daughter asked for it, took a sip from the cup and shoved it back in the father’s direction).
Two boys (perhaps in their pre-teens) in their school uniform playing badminton across a movable net which is being held by two men on either side. The school bus takes the turn on that street and these boys just flick their badminton racquets in the direction of their ‘ball boys’ who happen to be holding their school bags too. They grab their bags from their respective porters and rush towards the bus. The ball boys who are left behind (are their respective fathers) collect the racquets, fold the make-do net and walk away happily discussing about cold weather, perhaps.
These are a couple scenes which I witness almost every school day during my morning jog (actually more walk than jog, though I wish it to be otherwise). I was kind of amused to see this on the first day, especially how parents make all efforts to take up the role of any filler for their wards but repetition of the same scenario day after day made me think - what kind of kids are we bringing up or rather what kind of parents are we becoming? Actually my belief just gets reinforced, we are confused parents, we want to be friends to our kids, provider of all possible facilities, we want the best of the world for them, we want to be available for them whenever they need us (even when they don’t need us) but we also feel disturbed when these same kids do not imbibe the very basic of ethics - ‘to value what they receive’. And this actually applies to everything, from very small material thing to the loving care and affection that is so generously showered upon them.
So Gen X (which is primarily parenting the pre-teens and young adults currently) is caught in a quagmire where they want to be good to their kids by being with them and for them - in thoughts, spirit and through things but are yet to see a glimpse of gratitude in the eyes and gestures of their progeny. In fact, I guess, they want to see it more as a feedback on their parenting (that they have raised sensitive kids) and not so much for personal acknowledgement.
No, it doesn’t imply that kids are expected to parrot out ‘thank you’ for every small thing, rather these words when unmindfully spoken take the seriousness away. A thinking person who is usually a recipient of so many favours (even without asking for them), needs to be more polite, humble and down to earth instead of being progressively more arrogant, indifferent and insolent.
Moreover, we parents feel proud that we are the educated generation, well connected, aware of what it needs in the world to be successful and hence know what is best for our kids, so we ensure the best schools and the best hobby classes for our kids. Not able to see what we expect in their responses, expressions and gestures, we try to find faults in the school system. What do they teach students in such good schools, if the kids don’t even learn to be respectful, we question. After having been a part of school workforce for a couple of years, I know it is a blame game on both the sides - teachers who are hard pressed on time for various reasons, conveniently blame it on the parents - how do they raise their kids when a kid typically spends maximum number of hours at home?
While the two significant sections of adults in a kid’s life keep trying to relinquish their responsibility on the other, kids continue to grow up from being innocent babies to arrogant and haughty young adults. Here, I must say that this is not in 100% of the cases but is surely a prevalent trend.
Oh my, have we messed them up? Where did we go wrong? When we pose these questions to ourselves, they come piggy backing on a big guilt - a perfect recipe for double whammy situation. And who doesn’t know that guilt inspired actions or thoughts can seldom be, well, right. In this state of mind, we become even more indulgent, trying desperately to undo the damage.
While we shuttle from being wronged by our kids to be doing irreparable wrong to them, we forget that we actually need to first bring within us - virtues that make us worthy of being a parent. Individually we need to work to increase our personal stability, calmness, naturalness, patience and composure while trying to weed out maladies like possessiveness, over-protectiveness and over-indulgence. In short, we need to live our lives and let them live theirs instead of trying to expect them to be our key-driven-toys and letting our emotions tightly tied to the whims and fancies of the minds which are still in situ.
We do have a role in their lives but it needs to graduate to that of being a guide and a mentor and not an assistant ready at their beck and call for anything and everything. Preaching, scolding, screaming, cajoling and pampering are futile exercises, the only tried and tested methodology to convey anything is by setting an example, by implementing the same in personal life first.
It’s not a bad idea to go through Kahlil Gibran’s words whenever in doubt or in need of a guide in parenting :
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life’s longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.