PARENTING WITHOUT BEING A PARENT

There was a girl whom we both had loved and cared for. Even she was quite fond of us as well. But it was very difficult to reach her as she didn't have a phone then. That was the time when big smart phones were very expensive and was in an introducing mode in India. Even the bar phones were expensive that time. All her friends had phones in their hands only this girl who used to call me Papa ji didn't have one. 

One day when she visited us with her boyfriend, we both gifted her a phone. She hugged me and was overwhelmed with joyful emotions. Now after 12/13 years, she is happily married with her boyfriend and already  a mother of two beautiful babies. 

Sometimes as human we display that excessive care and concern for another human exactly as parents would do to their children. I have seen people who have that love and concern for others even when they have enough engagements already. I wonder, how we do that in a self-centred world of today. I feel it is a heart’s matter which is instilled in us through our parents, elders, teachers and guardians over the years as we grew up to a compassionate and loving adult.

The more we grow as compassionate individuals, the more we transition better as caregivers.

I have written many times in different articles about how I was brought up in a very cosy family environment with so much care and love engulfing me from all sides and probably I grew up being a very compassionate human being. And I have noticed I become very authoritative and commanding like my mother when I offer my help to another. I would say it was like imposing than offering my help. I have seen my granddad, my mother’s father used to be like that and then I saw that attribute in my mother as well. So I can say, I was quite influenced and inspired by their lives and became what I am today.

There can be another reason why we display that excessive care and love to someone else who is not even our blood relation. The following reflection from my life might shed a little more light on the same which I am going to explain…

The more I get to know her the more I get amazed by her personality. Our interactions were casual till that day when she was sounding very distressed and downcast. I am kind of sharp about understanding people’s mind even through chatting. I insisted her to share with me and she shared her problem. I prayed for her and we had talks over the phone couple of times and became closer. She found a confidant in me, as a spiritual father and I find a sweet daughter in her. Her innocent queries about life and other issues fascinated me… made me feel like a father more and more she asked me matters to understand about the life.

I remember when we finally met each other in person a joyful glee formed in both of our faces as I spread my arms wide for her to come in for a hug… She put her one arm around me as I wrapped my arms around her hugging. I felt all my burden, my pain, my sadness vanished in no time. I was not cold any more as the warmth my heart felt at that particular moment was indescribable. She giggled and spoke gently as I released her from hugging… “I knew you will be coming Papa…I heard it yesterday and I was delighted.” The word ‘Papa‘ made me climb cloud nine. I felt like floating in the air. 

I feel, when someone lacks something in life, he or she desires the same more than anyone or anything else. Like the other day, I was extremely stressed out and while sharing my heart to Kalpana over WhatsApp she sent me her daughter’s video saying, “She is my stress buster and maybe you will feel better watching her doing things“. And that made me sadder even as I replied, “Wish I have one such stress buster too… I miss a daughter in my life… Because the one I have is too big to be cuddled or play with and she is far away from me… Sometimes, I feel envious of you for having such a cute little girl of your own which I can never have any more in my life.” And probably that lacking in me made me display that love and care to someone like Aparna, Vipra and many others who have come into my life.

All these situations were negative, depressing for him. He was negative about his life but he had a hope always, that one day God will do something for him.

Throughout his life he had go through depression or negative situations but he tried his best to come over them by accepting whatever came in his way. 

He played games alone when loneliness tried to overpower him. He invented new games to amuse himself which at times attracted others too. He involved himself in writing stories and songs when he was downcast and depressed. He kept himself busy in drawing, colouring and painting to combat his loneliness. He kept himself busy reading beautiful novels. He started preparing sermons which he never preached to anybody but to himself. He loved to listen to others when he had ample amount of heartaches hidden deep within himself. He made fun, and was humorous to give others happiness. He learned to enjoy within himself.

The above excerpt was from an article where I have reflected how God took me through negative and depressive life experiences to fashion me into a caregiver which I feel can be the third reason why someone expresses that love and care to his or her fellow human being unconditionally.

God, whom I trust has been with me all this time, teaching and guiding me through different life situations as I know and believe that – “He heals the brokenhearted and binds up their wounds“.

Over the years, I have been attending many that I came across apart from my relatives and family members. And have become their parent in some or other way, whether I call them friends, daughter, sister or brother… I give the care they need at their most vulnerable times. I may not become a father biologically but have been a father figure to many in regards to the love and care I show them. It is not something great I do but it is something that mends my brokenness and fills the gaps I feel in my life. As Rajnandini once commented on one of my articles – “God knows the deepest hidden desires of the hearts of those who love Him and He takes care that the desires are fulfilled in His time…in His way“.

Friends! Are you sad because you don’t have kids or you won’t be able to have a baby of yourself? Are you depressed because you won’t have the opportunity to become a parent? Trust me, parenting and caregiving are not limited only to those who have children biologically but to those who have the heart to be a mother and a father to many who desperately in need of a caregiver or parent today. Are you ready to fill that gap as a caregiver or a parent?

Keep pondering on these thoughts that I incited in you today…

Stay blessed!

THE INDIAN ‘SANDWICH’ SITUATION

At 65 years of age, Sandhya (name changed) is a busier woman after retirement than she was when she worked as a teacher. Before the lockdown, in her native Allahabad, she would care for her octogenarian in-laws. Every six months she would shuttle between one daughter based in Singapore, who can’t afford child-care for both her children while she works at a meagre salary, and the other six months she would spend with her son, caring for her granddaughter in Delhi, while both her son and daughter-in-law work in an MNC. Between all this shuttling from one country to another, her husband, at 70, having his own health issues, stayed at Allahabad because he couldn’t leave his aged parents alone at home.

Sometime into the lockdown in 2020, Sandhya’s in-laws passed away and Sandhya alone moved to Delhi because her son and his wife were having trouble taking care of their toddler in the absence of a nanny. Sandhya’s husband is still in Allahabad, left at the mercy of a few distant relatives, while Sandhya keeps shuttling between Allahabad, her maternal aunt in Meerut who is suffering from a terminal disease, and back to Delhi. All while she herself has high-blood pressure and runs the risk of being infected by the Coronavirus.

Sandhya is a classic example of a growing tribe of humans called the Sandwich Generation – caring for both their children as well as their parents.

When I was in school, as part of our Geography lessons, we were taught that the Indian population has a younger, thereby a more productive population. That was in 2001. The 2011 census shows that our aged population is growing and might double up by 2041[1]. That, coupled with the fact that we still have the highest youngest population in the world (below 14 years of age), means that our shrinking productive population (between 25-60) has to bear the burden of caring for both the children as well as the elderly.

Joint families often share the burden of caring for the young and the elderly in the family. With the advent of the nuclear family in India, the burden falls hard over the able-bodied, earning members. The closer you are, the more the expectation of helping out and besides, in a matter of family, these things come with a heap of obligations and feelings attached to the care involved.

The example above is one from my own family and I know several others, myself included, who balance their limited time and earnings between caring for both generations while they handle their own life issues. The lockdown has exacerbated the problem for many Indians who can’t even depend on house-helps and caretakers anymore.

My own experience in the last one year during the lockdown has taught me that I need to take care of myself better because I’m responsible for both my child’s as well as my aged mother-in-law’s care. I was recently hospitalized because of a gallstone that required immediate removal, and I have never felt the loneliness of my responsibilities more acutely than when I was lying on a hospital bed, worrying over who was going to take care of my daughter while my mother-in-law needed to go for her own dental operation. With my husband gone for work six months out of twelve, I am often the only ‘able-bodied’ person in my household. If I fall, everyone suffers. I’m sure many of you are in the same situation as me and they frequently find themselves stuck in a situation where they are unable to choose between sides.

The converse is also true. Parents being handed over grandchildren to care for while their children work. One neighbour complained to me how she missed her free weekends because her daughter brings over the children, just so she can have her own weekends free.    

India may have progressed in many ways but she is still ill-equipped to handle the rapid swell of the aged population. While our healthcare has become better, it isn’t affordable or accessible to everyone in the country. While families become smaller, parents are left to worry about where they should stay and who to depend on in the twilight of their lives. Old-age homes are not a feasible option for all families and most old-age homes in India are not well-equipped or maintained to cater to the elderly. But old-age homes also have a stigma working against them, that of thankless children kicking out their aged parents, which is why shifting parents to an old age home almost always raises eyebrows. But I have several people in my own circle who have had to shift their parents to an old-age home mostly because they work in different cities and don’t have the option to shift their parents in with them, or because the parents themselves refuse to join them. In the absence of senior citizen insurance, care and assistance schemes facilitated by the government, it is imperative for the children to care for their parents.

Often the sandwiched find themselves being forced to meet demand after demand from both ends, yet unable to meet their own needs. Lost career opportunities, missed social events, ignoring their own medical requirements, but mostly the lack of time for oneself leads to growing discord, apathy and a feeling of unhappiness in life. A candle burning at both ends and fast.

In such situations, no side is wrong or right. Children need our care and parents do too, rightly so because they have cared for us. More than medical and monetary aid, the elderly need emotional and palliative care. Add to that the Indian fixation with patriarchy means that while the able-bodied may earn money for the family, they don’t get to make decisions for the same. They feel like ATMs for both children and their parents. Like a friend who confided in me said,

“I never married so I could care for my widowed mother and Nani. Now I feel trapped in my own life because they think I only exist for them.”

In India, Shravan Kumar is the ideal child who sacrifices his life for his parents. In my opinion, the current generation is full of such Shravan Kumars who have given up living their own lives to maintain the lives of others.

Everyone finds their own path through this trying transition where you straddle both boats. What works for one family, may not work for you. But I’ll leave you with a few pointers that have worked for me while I work through my roles –

  • Wellness and Exercise: Because this generation has to care for two, maybe more generations, it’s imperative to care for your own body. When your body breaks down, no amount of love and care from family will set it right except your own capacity to recuperate.
  • Saying ‘this is my best’ is not Selfish: Everyone has limits and you are free to set your own. Children may not but adults should know when enough is enough. Remember, you are not there to baby your parents.
  • Give your Parents Space: Your parents are not tools. You wouldn’t want to be treated as such either. Let them live their lives while you live yours, regardless of whether you are in a joint or a nuclear family. Mutual care and respect are all everyone needs.
  • Take help: As much as it kills our ego, every once in a while, we must accept help from others.
  • Make Arrangements in Advance: You are already running against your own body-clock and your time is stretched thin. Plan your day and expenses and stick to those plans. Invest in your own future. Someday you will be in the same position as your parents and you may not have help that they have.
  • Me Time: Every once in a while, unwind, relax and find something that’s all about you and no one else. At the end of the day, you were born to live your own life. Become responsible for your own happiness.

[1] https://www.livemint.com/budget/economic-survey/eco-survey-warns-of-india-s-ageing-population-says-retirement-age-should-rise-1562248716749.html

PARENTING FROM A DISTANCE

With more and more Mommies and Daddies working away from home, parenting is a huge challenge of the hour.

Take this colleague of mine as an example. Let’s name her Mrs. Smily. Mrs. Smily had been a stay-at-home-mom for twelve years in her fourteen years of marriage. Her world revolved around her corporate-working husband and two children that she doted on. One fine day, she received the news that she has qualified the public service exam that she had appeared for, seven years before (systemic delays in govt. machinery is an interesting topic to write on!!) With an enviable job in her kitty, she stared at a transferable job that would invariably involve parenting from a distance. The thought terrified her, now that she had two teenagers to think of! It was a massive parenting transition!

Numerous Daddies and Mommies around the world face this predicament. While both parents working away from home is an inescapable financial necessity for many households, having a formidable career is a personality need for others.

Distance parenting doesn’t always involve working parents, however. Let’s break it down.

Case 1 – Either or both parents work at a different location from where their child/ren live.

Case 2 – The child/ren are enrolled in boarding school or residential college away from the parental home.

Where financial necessity is not a concern, parents go for the easy way out – SACRIFICE. One parent (mostly the mother) quits her job to take on a major chunk of parenting responsibilities. The other alternative is to compromise with children’s education and enroll children closer to parent/s so that parenting is not hampered.

This works well for a lot of people. However, many parents are left with pangs of regret years later somewhere deep down their hearts having not been able to achieve much career-wise. Many are left with regrets of having not been provided access to quality education as the educational institutions were far from home.

So then, how do we handle parenting from a distance?

There aren’t exhaustive fix-it-all strategies. That’s precisely because familial and societal/ cultural dynamics vary widely along the diameters of the world. However, there are certain general age-specific tips that work to a great extent if followed diligently.

I’ll write about parenting teenagers from a distance.

Needless to say that teenage is a hurly-burly phase between childhood and adulthood – with silent prodding whispers in the minds of some and roaring tempests within others. Myriad challenges rock the boat of teenagers. In such a phase, parenting is all the more important.

KNOW YOUR CHILD/REN

Most parents experience the ecstasy of observing their infants take the first steps or utter the first word. In the midst of many such firsts, the developing infant enters into teenage. This is where most parents lose touch. From being the guiding lights in their children’s lives, parents start feeling pushed to corners. And this is where, parents need a firm grip on their teens’ lives. The personality and individuality of teen is forming shape, but the teen is not an adult. Parents, show interest to know your teens well – their likes, dislikes, strengths, weaknesses and passions.

COMMUNICATE OFTEN

No matter how busy parents might get, communicating with their distant-living teens ought never to get a backseat. Stay away from the peering eye of parents unleashes them to enjoy and experiment with life and its choices. This is where parents need to be vigilant by communicating often, though their teens are not before their eyes. Phone conversations, mails, video calls – use all media of communication to interact with your teen. Since, this is the age when most teens start hiding part of their lives, parents need to master the art of reading between the lines and also to be prepared to receive certain shockers without falling off their chairs.

ENCOURAGE FREE EXPRESSION OF EMOTIONS

Though all parents desire to have well-mannered teens, many will end up being disappointed. There is no point in having a courteous teen, who is suppressing a volcano within. It is only when teenagers express their raw emotions, can they be guided to regulate them. Even though the teen stays away, a non-judgmental relationship of trust would make him/ her express emotions across the miles.

MAKE YOUR TEEN AWARE OF THE LAWS OF THE LAND

This is an often neglected area. Though it is applicable to all individuals and all teens, it is all the more important for teens staying away from parents. Your teen ought be well-versed with Emergency Helpline numbers; laws against bullying, eve-teasing, cybercrime and ragging; traffic rules; grievance redressal bodies and common acts of justice and justice so that s/he does neither commit errors of omission or commission due to ignorance nor is victimized by mindlessness of others.

HELP YOUR TEEN GAIN FINANCIAL LITERACY

When teens stay away from parents, an often tempting way of compensation is to give too many monetary freebies. This is where parents need to guard their temptations. Giving only as much as a teen requires and guiding him/ her to be accountable for anything that is received and spent along with tips for wise saving and investment would help raise a financially literate teen.

WATCH YOUR WORDS

Though is not something unique to parenting teens from a distance, it is definitely important by several more levels. Harsh words and criticisms from you might make your teen disconnect all channels of communication for days or months on end. This would not only increase parents’ heartbeats, but also embolden the teen to get into an unacceptable pattern of behavior which is not healthy. As parents staying away, may your words be edifying, encouraging, compassionate, coupled with persistent exhortation and wise admonishment. Do not avoid informative conversations on love and relationships with opposite gender.

INGRAIN IN YOUR CHILD THE FEAR OF GOD

Accept it or not, God is the anchor in the storms of life. A teen might be away from the vigilant eyes of parents, but can never be out of the purview of his/ her Creator. In times of loneliness, hopelessness, frustration, dejection, failures, temptations, this anchor will pull your teen through. Having the assurance of the love of God and a fear of wrongdoing will provide stability to your teen in difficult times.

These might not seem to be anything different from the regular ‘handle your teens well’ stuff. But when away from your budding teen, the significance of these seem all the more profound.

PARENTING A PUP

I still remember the first time I looked at those innocent and scared eyes. She was just so tiny wrapped up in a blanket. Her eyes had opened only a few days. She is a combination of black, brown and white. Long hanging ears on her side, she entered my life like the most amazing blessing. I was still mad when my brother in law carried her inside. As soon as she stepped on the floor, she peed because she was so scared. And to my surprise, I forgot that I was supposed to be angry at this. I just looked at her in a complete awe. She was trying to bark but it sounded like a tiny little scream. I took her in my lap right then and fell in love with her forever. There was no way I could even think of driving this little baby out of my home. She was here to stay, no matter what. 

This was the first time ever that my emotions took a 180 degree turn in such a short span to time. I still knew that house is always going to be a mess now, I had no idea how to take care of a baby dog. I was as scared as that little baby was. But I knew that she and I have created a bond in just a few seconds that could never be broken now. 

What followed was no less than a wreck. My favorite sandals, all the cables, old newspapers, a few pair of earphones, my specs, corners of our furniture and so many countless items in the house were no broken as our little darling who was teething had to chew on almost everything. Carpet, sofa, bed now always had a layer of dog hair – no matter how many times I cleaned it. Training her to pee and poop outside made me so frustrated a few times, house almost always was stinking. We had slowly got used to it but any guest in our home simply asked – “Why do you guys live like this?” 

I had no clue what was it that we were doing wrong. The problem was that we simply could not train her. Beagles are difficult to train – this was something I read in google. We tried so many different ways to train her and she slowly got the hang of it. The only problem now was that she is a big time foodie. She is such a foodie that she would get sick of eating but wouldn’t stop eating if she was given unlimited supply of food. This also made her a food thief in house. We couldn’t keep any food item on the dining table because she would such flick it so cleverly that we would all be surprised. Later on we were told by the vet that beagle is one of those breeds of dog that cannot identify with full stomach. They didn’t have the natural instinct to realize that her stomach was full. 

She is almost 10 years old now and have multiple old age issues. She isn’t half as playful as she was back in 2011. I still remember the way she would just come and curl in my lap anytime of the day or night. For a long time, she didn’t use her own bed but slept on mine (I know, not very hygienic but I loved sleeping with her). She has been my powerful source of love during the most difficult times of my life. She has awakened a million desires in me to be the best person. She has instilled hope in me because taking care of her was one of my strongest missions few years back. 

Taking care of her made me a responsible and disciplined human being. Of course, it was not as cumbersome as having your own child but it was indeed a different challenge altogether. She slept on my bed, went out on trips with us, cried with us, made merry with us, loved all of us, played with us and most importantly have been a part of us. 

She is my first child and she made me a parent for the very first time!

BEING THE LIGHT

A shout out to all those, who for even ONCE in their lifetime, has ever taken the initiative to lead, teach, guide…show the way ahead or simply be the light to a fellow HUMAN being – This post is dedicated to YOU.

While the whole world talks about Parents being the backbone to a growing individual – it is the ‘Mature-Adult-figure(s) in one’s life that create, mold, and transform the behavior, life, and social patterns of an individual. The paths leading to it are many; however, the goal remains constant

– A Good Human Being.

Parenting isn’t something which can be taught, it comes naturally with age, maturity and responsibility. And by parenting, I am not ONLY referring to the roles a ‘mother-and-father’ play n the life of a particular individual, BUT for each one of us, going about setting another onto the correct path.

With every young person, there is always a young-er person to guide and show the light to, in the same way, we have an older person for every adult – to learn from.

Let us stop for a minute and think – about the journey from being a child to looking after one – the positive changes, the open mindedness – and as we think back to the ‘good ol’ days’ we can’t help but say to ourselves;

“it wouldn’t be such a bad idea to embrace some of the simple pleasures rather than the indulging in today’s fast-pace, tech-driven world.”

Oh! What do Parents have to go through these days!

While we live in a world where there are researches being conducted on the different aspects of life – it shouldn’t come as a surprise that ‘parenting’ is right up there with being one of the most widely researched topics –  as to what are ‘good parenting techniques’. Whether they’ve set down a to-do list or added a few pointers that will work for the ‘millennium parent’ – one thing is guaranteed for sure – As role models we need to keep innovating and re-inventing ourselves every day, for children look up to their elders and copy them, modeling their lifestyles with what they see hear and witness from situations around them.

The responsibility of raising healthy, happy, well-adjusted kids can sometimes feel overwhelming, being constantly bombarded with expert advice and societal expectations, often missing out on the informal support that parents half a century ago received from neighbors’ and extended family. Of course, times have changed, and then along with time, people have changed too. We are after all living in an ever-changing world. Our parents and grandparents had different approaches to raising children than probably what we use nowadays. Their ways were not necessarily ‘bad’ but rather. I would say ‘different’ simply due to a rather different cultural and social scenario than what we face in today’s day and age.

While we can note down reasons as to how life has changed for the millennium parent;

  • Balancing family & career,
  • The competitive world in which a child is found in
  • The repercussions of a ‘NO’ answer on a child
  • The situation of Activity = Productivity

..what we fail to understand is, while a child needs all of the above – yes, he still is very much a child and needs to enjoy this phase without the pressure of expectations. As parents, sometimes we tend to over think and in turn overdo.

I am going to go a step further and say: The Explosion of information available, has made it extremely hard to parent kids nowadays. Child Psychology, yet another branch of study that is being researched a lot. So, if we think that our kids are blasted with tons of information, waiting to be grasped – parents are no less oblivious to what is out there, which even at the age we are at, the learning never stops, however different the subject may be.

As a parent however, I would want to ask myself the question:

Do I . . .

  • encourage an open communication between ‘us’?
  • build enough trust and safety between ‘us’?
  • help my child be trustworthy in relationships?
  • keep ‘us’ close even when there are conflicts?

Our parents and grandparents had excellent ‘parenting skills’ back in the day, and that’s how we turned out to be great – didn’t we? I’m sure we are doing the best we can – of course not necessarily in the same style. The perfect concoction of ‘a little of the old and a dash of the modern’ we are sure to make ‘parenting’ look good. 

A friend once asked me, How does it feel living with parents? A world traveler that she is, is often found to be living out of a suitcase, briefly perched at different locations across countries & continents. I didn’t have a ready made answer to give her – but I did remember saying something like “We take turns playing parent” and that is the beauty of living with the family, it isn’t necessarily about 1 or 2 persons holding down the fort, but for anyone who can, on any specific day show us the way.

While at the beginning I mentioned:

…anyone who has ever taken the initiative to lead, teach, guide…show the way ahead or simply be the light to a fellow HUMAN being – the ‘Mature-Adult-figure(s) in one’s life that create, mold, and transform the behavior, life, and social patterns of an individual. The paths leading to it are many; however, the goal ALWAYS remains constant

The Good Human being.

In the week ahead, we look forward to reading more about the same, and by that, I do not always mean the conventional way.

 

CRISES OF TRANSITIONING INTO ADULTHOOD

Transitioning into adulthood is momentous – almost like completing the finale of the first lap of life and embarking into the genesis of the climax. There isn’t any demarcated interlude called ‘transition’ in between shifts from one stage of life to another. I wish there was!

Though each of us is sculpted by the Divine Sculptor, how we for our parts, handle the life events of various stages would be a lot different if we can be prepared for them. When sculptors carve or painters paint, they essentially give shape to an etched mental/ physical imagery. Artists who start randomly and end up with masterpieces are few and far between. So is it with our lives!

Guided transitions are less stressful and less chaotic. By guided transitions, I do not mean to refer to cut-out modular paths to be charted by individuals. Nor do guided transitions pertain only to the transitioning individuals. Along with an individual, it is the family, the society, the nation and the world at large that transitions. Hence, guiding the minds of people to be part of transitions into adulthood at large is vital.

Have you ever tried pushing a door open with all your strength, only to be met with an even greater force holding/ pushing the door from the other end, thus preventing the door from being thrown open? What happens eventually? Either you give up and resign yourself to the fact that the door won’t open or you garner even more strength and break open the door, in the process damaging the door (and any other thing or person that is holding it up at the other end) but letting yourself free. What if someone at the other end realizes that you are trying to push a door open and opens it up for you? You are let free and the door is saved from damage as well, plus you are grateful to the one who opened the door for you.

Transitions are crucial. They involve constant pushes and pulls. As individuals we constantly evolve. Guided transitions help the transitioning individuals and those witnessing the transition to be on the same page.

According to me, four transitional crises commonly hit adults. Understanding, acceptance and adjustment of these are vital.

BODY DYSMORPHIA – Who hasn’t gone through a morning before the mirror wishing for a little bit, if not massive, changes here and there in the body? These wishes are more or less guided by societal standards, media promotions and the infrequent taunts by significant others. Even five year olds are too conscious of their looks these days! Intentionally or not all of us have surely gone through this. Transitioning into adults, girls and guys alter their looks to be attractive enough for their prospective better halves. Though I do not intend to be gender-specific, the reality is that it hits females the most!! Having to continue in their efforts to be presentable and beautiful is a pressure most women carry with them till their dying breaths even if the men in their lives don’t bother much about the retracting foliage on their heads or about the paunches that enter doorways before their feet. While taking care of the body and remaining fit and healthy are essentials, obsession about one’s own body image or body shaming others is an unwanted baggage of adulthood. The crisis of body dysmorphia can be better dealt with if adults realize how the body functions and ages with time, how certain sicknesses force one to look a certain way, how child-bearing alters a woman’s body, and so on – rather than expecting an ideal look from adult men and women.

ROLE PERPLEXITY – The once carefree fun loving daughter faces the daunting possibility of managing an entire household as a married woman. The once nonchalant son is caught between the dilemma of being an obedient son to his parents and a dutiful husband to his wife (in which sorry to say, most men fail miserably). In this transition into adulthood, the spices and condiments thrown into the pot by extended family and society play a crucial role in making the dish delectable or rendering it tasteless for life. Breaking stereotypes is no small game!

WORK – LIFE EQUILIBRIUM – We live in demanding times. Bosses at each higher ladder have families, but rarely realize that their subordinates have families too. The family fabric is being stretched into the extremes with each generation focussing on earning the livelihood that they cannot enjoy spending. Children have parents who are MIA. Wives have husbands who are MIA. Husbands have wives who are MIA. The crisis is individual-specific in certain cases and organisation-specific in most of the cases. Some adults who wish to devote time for their families, hobbies and adventures find their hands tied due to the work commitments, whereas, other adults do not realise the importance of family and hobbies.

SOCIETAL IDENTITY – No longer is the Bunty next door addressed as Mr. Sharma’s son, but by his own name, occupational and societal identity. This identity creates a sense of responsibility which is new for most adults to shoulder. Also, there is the added pressure on singles to “settle” down. The young person may be quite satisfied with his/ her occupational identity in society, but till s/he gets married, the poor person is considered “not settled” by people with sorry faces as if they are genuinely burdened by the singlehood of others around them.

I had my mother share once how my father used to fuss over the sarees that she picked to wear, soon after they had married. His wise father who had been observing this for a while, gave him a piece of his mind, much to my father’s amazement (who didn’t know that his father had been noticing all along). Well, my father hasn’t let go of that habit to this day, but my mother surely felt a hand of support and understanding from her father-in-law that time, in a new house with less known people away from parents.

Facing such and many other person-specific crises, is a huge load on the shoulder of the transitioning adults. Role of adults themselves, caregivers, society, media and counsellors is of paramount importance as to whether the adults that the world will be home to, would be well-adjusted ones or those who would continue to pass on the generational legacy of crises over the years.

I AM THE MAN, HOW GOD WANTED ME TO BE…

I sometimes wonder whether I am truly grown up as an adult according to the generalized societal standards or not. I rarely bother about what should we eat the next day, make a financial plan for the future and what will happen if there is a crisis. Usually, any adult man will poke his whole nose into these matters but I stay aloof about all of them.

So am I still a young boy and haven’t matured to be a man?

Adolescence is a liminal stage—it is the transitional threshold between childhood dependence and adult responsibility. The hard part is knowing when you’ve arrived.

Nancy Darling Ph.D.

I was and am aware of that threshold very well; then why am I wondering about my being a man?

From the very beginning, I had always relied on some or other person to accomplish something or other concerning me considering my ill health. I struggled to lift a heavy school bag, so my aunt and friends helped me to carry it. I found it difficult to run while playing cricket so someone else was appointed to take a run for me. I was not allowed to carry my own bucket to wash or take bath, so someone else at home did it for me. While travelling I rarely carried my own luggage, forget about helping others. I never rode a bicycle to my school or college so I used to go to my classes either by rickshaw or on a friend’s bike or bicycle. I never had the guts to stand for my friend when there’s a fight while studying in my school or college. I was scared considering my health. I used to back off or ask my friends to protect me.

According to me, the standards for reckoning a boy becoming an adult or man depends on his THREE M’s – Muscle, Money, Mind.

The growing muscle power or strength of a boy makes him a man. So when I look at myself in the mirror then I find myself to be the same boy who has never grown up to be a man in regards to his muscle power. I mean, I am not that same boy, I have grown up but I am talking about the degree of the growth in my muscle power.

Considering my health, I studied what would be easier for me than what I was interested in really. And I started working which was never very strenuous or fetch me good money. So I never had that mindset of financial plans considering what I have been earning. Though earning or working in a certain place was not primarily because of my health but it was because of my desire to do something. So whatever may be the causes behind my working in a certain place, the planning in regards to money has never been my mindset. Living in the present, finding joy in whatever I have, leading a simple life and in faith have been my ways. So if money is the major aspect to qualify as a man from a boy, then I haven’t grown to be a man yet.

But!!!

I grew in the midst of pain, suffering, rejection, weakness and sickness which made me mentally very matured and tough. I didn’t become hard-hearted but very sensitive to the pain and suffering of others. I understand a particular person and consider his certain behaviours or actions leniently than how others would react to his misconduct. I grew up to be more compassionate. I grew up to be forgiving and I have always believed in reconciliation than resentment. So considering Mind as one of the standards to qualify me as a man, I am a matured man. I grew up well. My transitioning from a boy to a man in regards to the strength of my mind was absolutely great. I praise God for that.

As I still struggle with my Muscle power, sometimes I curse my not being so manly in regards to physical strength. Sometimes I feel bad when I could not do something for my loved ones or help them financially. But when it comes to the mental toughness, maturity to handle stress, taunts, negativity, I always express my gratitude to God for transitioning me to be an adult this way.

I am the man, how God wanted me to be, and I have transitioned in a special way, only for His divine purposes. I don’t question anymore but take pleasure in them.

Stay Blessed!