Like all mums both old and new, I was trying to brush up the etiquette quotient of my little one ( note how I call her little one, in typical Indian mommy fashion kids just don’t grow up, we just ..well sort of pull them up) After listening to my sweet and rather long lecture all of ten minutes, she says “ok whatever” and walks off, and she’s 8! I’m like Huh? “Whatever!” what’s that supposed to mean I could smell Hanna Montana walk all over my (what I thought of as well preserved Bengali home). Welcome folks to the Indian Confused Parenting Inc. Her sudden giggle and my precautious bond with my little one reinstated the faith that this was indeed a one off line she had picked up & decided to use on me for effect!
Having said that, it set me thinking about the travails of Indian parenting today. For those of you like me who have grown up within certain traditional frames & mind sets, we find ourselves in the rather strange confusion that questions how much tradition & how much modernism should we filter into our children. Most parents like me are saddled with a set of children who are way smarter that we ever were (blame it on evolution or the ever optimistic ‘whatever’..) we are in a fix about how to handle our kids. First things first they are much more exposed to the so called realities of life than we ever were. Again to go back to my little one.. cartoons showing mushy mush, boy girl scenario isn’t uncommon and I often see her looking at me apprehensively when such a situation arrives, confirming my horrors that she knows its something not to be talked about! As confusing situations go I am silent and take it as it comes as if it were a part & parcel of life as it indeed is..However the ever dangling question withing our home grown Indian minds that are yet to be global, harbours on the question that how much really is too much or how less is too less. Interestingly, the problem is not only an Indian phenomenon but a global one keeping in mind different scenarios but definitely more so in the case of Indians, probably cause yrs truly is TRULY still Indian. Many of my friends living outside who want to hold on to their traditions through their children lament the fact that as their children grow it becomes more and more difficult to avoid certain things as in the Indian way of parenting. A Tamilian friend of mine says that having lived the better part of his life abroad ( and now back home for good), he finds his child now (close to 13) more of a US citizen than an Indian one. Sadly the young one can’t speak his native language and resists the same. Though that’s not the case in every house hold (there are plenty of those who have imbibed their cultures as well or more so while staying outside too).
When our children start asking us questions about the birds and the bees (to put it lightly..note the reference to the birds & the bees..man- woman & sex is still such no no), what do we do, do we in true Indian tradition avoid those questions and tell them that their brothers and sisters have incidentally dropped from heaven or so as we were told…or do we as modern parents tell them the truth behind human evolution! Every new parent at some point or the other falls back on what their parents had taught them and how they had taught them. This probably causes even more confusion, with a generation trying to imbibe what their parents tell them to do, even as they see their parents grappling with these systems & loosing them largely themselves. (NOW u can see all my confusion sprouting forth in this line! phew hope u've got that)
The cross cultural currents and the present mid way there- mid way not, status quo of the India social scenario is a confusing one. There are many of us brought up in joint families and married into nuclear ones, who find ourselves fighting the strange dilemma between the benefits of the joint family while relishing the privacy, the nuclear family affords. It is indeed difficult for the kids to understand the mind set of their parents who seem to have enjoyed a nuclear family set up, finally waking up to the joint family system and its advantages as they grow old and preach its benefits to their offspring who knows nothing about it.
Thankfully some of us have actually discovered a middle path that leads to the rather precautious tight-rope balancing act and brought up a rather mature and balanced bunch of kids who are not only intelligent but also culturally aware and take pride in their own traditions and up bringing and probably call themselves Global citizens too.
Rather than blame it on Gen next who can only imbibe what we teach, a judicious thought towards what we teach our children and how that would lead to less confusion as parents and the process of parenting, is probably the order of the day. Not forgetting the fact that we are learners still, let’s bear with the ‘Take a chill pill dad’, ‘Whatever’, ‘Sexy Momma..take a swirl’ and in our own home grown Indian ways…’Chill will ya?’