I pulled this out from my archives to share with the young parents of today who deserve all the appreciation they can get. Read on to find out why.
Parenting has been getting tougher with the passing generations. When we were kids, large joint families were still the norm and the children grew up with several siblings and cousins and uncles and aunts galore. While some sets of parents were stricter with their children when it came to disciplining, the general rules were set and everyone was expected to follow them. Going by the way my generation has turned out, I think our parents did a good job, don’t you think?
In small towns and villages, children roamed free and sometimes even ate in the house they were playing in at the time of a particular meal! Children were also allowed to mix freely with the neighborhood children. This still happens in such places where people know and feel comfortable with each other. The only difference today is that the mother of the family where your child might be, would call and inform you that your son or daughter would be having lunch at her place! Contrast this with the formality involved wherein we have to get an appointment even to call someone on the phone, lest we ‘disturb’ them!
Though not so relaxed as my parents’ generation, mine too took the bringing up of kids in its stride. We took care to involve them in special activities, introduced them to the joys of reading and planned outings and trips with the aim of giving them the exposure the changing times demanded. The large joint family had given way to the ‘nuclear’ joint family, with our kids growing up with their grandparents and making yearly visits to their uncles and aunts.
I was happy if my kids had eaten at their friends’ house (usually eating better than what they might have eaten at home) and would gladly return the favour for the neighbour who had fed them. During my visits to my parents in the village when my elder son was a toddler, I would often not see him from the time he had his bath and breakfast in the morning till late in the evening – all grimy and dusty from playing under the trees and in sundry houses of his ‘friends’ and admirers! Needless to say he would not have missed a single meal or the mandatory glass of milk in the evening.
By contrast, today’s parents have a tough job raising kids. Often coming from small families themselves, with just another sibling or even being a single child, they don’t have much opportunity to see small children at close quarters or participate in activities of raising a child. Nuclear families are the norm now, with grandparents having become part-time ones — either they visit their children and get to spend some time with their grandchild (yes, most are single-child families now), or have them visit for short periods.
Parents today have to contend with dangers that were unheard of in the olden days or at that had at least not assumed such horrific proportions.
When I used to travel by train with my young boys, I would happily allow them to play with a friendly co-passenger; did not worry too much if I couldn’t pack food for the entire journey, relying on the train food or what was available at stations to fill the gaps; ignored the racket when they tore around the compartment with a bunch of other kids. Though the cold virus was always a danger, one was not so worried about the likes of swine flu and such, that make parents think twice and thrice about exposing their children to sundry co-passengers today.
When we were travelling in the interiors of Tamil Nadu during a pilgrimage some time back, a group of girls oohed and aahed over my little granddaughter and one of them patted her cheek. Had it been a quarter century ago, I would have felt thrilled that my child had brought joy to someone, but that day we were all agitated. What if the girl was carrying a virus or two? What if her hands had been dirty? You understand what I mean, don’t you?
We hear so many horror stories of molesters that we have to be wary of everyone we meet. Deviant behaviour is rampant and one has to be constantly vigilant about safeguarding the children of both sexes from any such person. So naturally we look at everyone with suspicion and teach the kids to be a wary of strangers even if they smile at them, chuck their chins or try to touch them.
It makes it all very stressful for the parents. One of my friends used to go to the bus stop at the end of the road to drop and pick her daughter up till she was almost a teenager for fear of eve-teasers and perverts lurking about.
Then the schooling itself. It used to be a relaxed five years before one went to school in my time and three and half years in the time of my children. Today ‘play schools’ and Montessori’s have advanced it to an unbelievable 18 months of daily sessions. Children are given ‘tests’ before being admitted even to play school, when they are asked their names, alphabets, colours and rhymes and God knows what else. Though the better known schools have supposedly dispensed with such tests, the rest still follow them. My father never came for any school admission in our days since admissions were easy. Today parents are interviewed, given tests separately and the replies tallied for any discrepancies — even while discretely gauging their incomes!
Present generation children are so much smarter and sharper than their predecessors that they require the parents to be on their toes just to answer their questions satisfactorily — to the children that is! I have seen my son and daughter-in-law take care even to regulate their activities including TV viewing so that their child is not affected by them. And most of the young parents today give a lot of thought to what their kids are watching and reading and even observing! I don’t remember being so vigilant when my boys were younger! That of course could also be due to the fact that information and books were not available so freely and we could oversee what they were consuming.
As disposable incomes and standards of living are going up, parents have to grapple with keeping up with the Joneses when it comes to buying things for their children, the amount of pocket money to give and the places they take them to on vacations. Children have to face an incredible amount of peer pressure too, which they pass on to their parents. Sometimes things work in the reverse too, but this post is not about those situations.
In short, what used to be just a routine thing for my parents’ generation, became a little more involved with mine but has become a lot more complicated and tougher today.
All things considered, I would say that this generation has risen to the challenge admirably. I think it is unfair to compare it with my or even older generation of parents and find it wanting, for this generation has more things to contend with than the older ones ever did. Kudos to you, young parents of today!
Homepage image: www.examiner.com