WE ARE IN IT TOGETHER!

They say you respect your parents more when you become one yourself. How true is it. I would trade anything in this world to be like my parents and raise Aarnav (my 2 yrs old boy) just the way my parents raised me. But alas, that’s not how it’s going to be.

Just like how computers changed to laptops and iPads, landlines changed to smartphones, schooling changed to online schooling in just a matter of few years, parenting needs an upgrade too.

Honestly, I do not have a parenting plan for Aarnav. We live in a dynamic world and every day is different than the other. Parents in this age need to be on toes. 24/7. But if you ask me what is my parenting goal, I have an answer to it. My parenting goal is that, I want to raise Aarnav in such a way that he is comfortable to talk to me about anything under the sun. Just anything. And I want to build that trust in him that no matter what, we are in it together. That doesn’t mean that I shall coverup when he makes mistakes, it simply means that my behavior towards him should be such that he finds me approachable even when he wants to confess his mistakes.  Easy? Not at all…!!

The parent in me is naive, I cannot comment on what and how other parents are doing right now. But all I know is that, I want to raise Aarnav the way I mentioned above. This naive parent in me often worries about how I would handle a situation when hormones of my son would start tricking on him, whether he would love me as much as he does now, whether he will share things with me? And I dont have any solutions to this fear. But broadly, I do know what I must do to have it my way. Parenting in today’s age is tricky. You can’t be controlling but you are accountable!

There are some basic directions I have given myself to be a good parent. Only time will tell how a good parent I turn out to be but I trust this may work! Trying to share a few directions here

1. Values: The foundation of the character that we want to build is values. Above everything,  I emote to Aarnav the values like Respect and Gratitude. Respecting everyone around, be it peers or Elders is what makes you empathetic and if you grow to be empathetic you will never ever want to hurt anyone. Neither physically nor verbally. At the same time, being grateful for what you have is also very very important because it brings along other values like, being appreciative and humble and keeps negatives like jealousy at bay.

2. Being approachable: I think this is the golden direction! We as parents must make our children feel loved and trusted that they feel confident that they can come to us and talk about anything and everything. Just anything, like their first crush, their first date, their desires. Now this is more actionable for parents rather than the children I would say because the onus of giving them that comfort lies on to us. This is one of the biggest responsibilities of the parents I would say! Because it’s not easy to do what it takes to be good in the books of your child and still manage to do the right and just thing! The key here is communication. “Me time v/s We time” like Charlie mentioned in his post but mind you kids of this generation need their own space. Its tricky as a parent to make a place for ourself without invading their space.

3. Accept the change: We must accept the change the generation brings in. Like I am prepared for the time when I may need to allow Aarnav to use his personal smartphone while he is still schooling. This is a sober example. Let’s face it guys, there are many other changes that we need to accept like, hitting puberty earlier, normalising relationships, the desire for independence. It is very important that we dont let these changes overwhelm us and get upset with our children for the choices they make.

Like Kalpana said at the beginning of this week, parenting doesnt come with an instruction manual, it’s a tough job. I would like to add that It’s not about right or wrong, it’s about the choice and effect relationship. It’s about what we and our children choose that leads us to the effect. And it’s not the job of only parents or only children. We are in it together!

In the end, all that we must focus on as parents is eternal love for children, raising them to be a gentle and loving human being, raising them to respect all the genders equally and teaching them to make the right choices. How we do it is up to us really!

I would like to conclude this topic by a reminder to myself (and other parents too) to be with my child in thick and thin, each and every time he needs me, sometimes directly and some times indirectly, sometimes in face and sometimes anonymously.

The following quote summarizes my write up and my parenting goal:

“I can’t promise to fix all your problems, but I promise that you will not have to face them alone. – A loving parent.”

 

SUCH BAD BOIS!!!

When the ‘Bois Locker Room’ news flooded the media, it raised many eyebrows and caused many hush hush whispers. Perhaps most parents were probably thinking how bad and out-of-control those other boys were, maybe even questioning their upbringing and shaking their heads at the poor parents who had to put up with the shame. Some may have felt their hearts skip a couple of beats wondering what if their own children were into similar discussions without their knowledge! Let me ask a question right away, irrespective of whether or not you are a parent.

As a parent, how would you react if your son was one of the boys in that chat group?

Defend him?

Consider it to be a phase of flowing hormones which would ebb away with time?

Spank him black and blue?

Cut all access to mobile phones and computers?

Blame yourself for having given birth to such a son?

Blame technology, peer group or lockdown confinement?

Ground him for some time?

Do not let him be alone at home any time from now on?

Accompany him whenever he steps out of house?

Ask him why he let you down?

Weep uncontrollably and refuse to speak to him?

Shame him before others?

Act normally as if nothing of the sort ever happened?

Talk it out?

As a parent you could respond in one of the above or a combination of the above mentioned ways as an initial reaction. If you are like most parents who want to see their children lead value-based lives, your reaction to such an incident involving your son would be soaked with disappointment with the present and deep concern and anxiety for the future.

Let us dig into such incidents a bit to see where our boys go wrong and how can such future episodes be prevented.

What drives pre-teens, teenagers and adolescents to cheap sex discussions?

(I use the term cheap here, because the nature of conversations in the Bois Locker Room chat wasn’t mere curious sex talk. It was way more than that.)

The driving factors can be sheer curiosity gone too far or pornographic addictions or a desire for that occasional dopamine kick that their now growing bodies beckon them to or simply to appear cool in a peer group. Behind these surface triggers however, lie some much deep-rooted issues – skewed gender role stereotypes, societal objectification of women and poor role models.

In a largely patriarchal country like India, most households are comfortable with the age-old division of labour between men and women, i.e., the man earns the bread and the woman cares for and nurtures the family. Except for a handful of exceptions most households religiously follow this functional pattern. No problem to this. However, what contributes to the disturbing trend is the exclusivity thereof. Involvement of a man in household chores does not make him any less of a man. Neither does participation of a woman in the competitive workforce rob her of her femininity. Women very easily slip into myriad shoes when the need arises or out of personal ambitions/ choice. But, what makes most men stick to the cut-out-roles that they perceive to be theirs? Why is it that most often a tired man returns from work only to freshen up and relax, while a woman tired from work starts right away with snacks or dinner preparations and looking after children’s homework, at times even scarcely getting time to sit on the couch and sip a cup of tea? Such skewed stereotypic gender roles create the notion that a male is expected to boss over women and that females are made for male recreation and caretaking. Our boys grow up with these skewed impressions. That brings me to my next point.

Do you enjoy the popular item songs of movies? May be some of you have even performed on a few of them in social functions or competitions. No matter how melodious the music, there is no denying to the lechery evident in them, the irony being that there is a female lisping and dancing to those songs. How many of us have taken determined decisions neither to sing nor watch lewd songs with obscene lyrics and vulgar dance moves? We don’t even hesitate to use and popularize derogatory phrases such as ‘item girls’ for the heroines performing the ‘item songs’, and we lament how on earth can our boys talk cheap of women!! When women don’t hesitate to objectify themselves, where do you think our boys would learn to hold women in esteem? I don’t buy into the argument that objectifying women is an essential part of certain characters, scenes and roles. There definitely are other successful marketing strategies! What would happen if sensual scenes are censored from our movies, daily soaps and advertisements? I am not saying that by such steps, our boys would start according women the dignity they deserve, but they would definitely be saved from an erroneous depiction of females that restricts them to being mere erogenous objects. Women are neither ‘mast cheez’ (good objects) nor ‘classy maals’ (classy products), just the way men are not too. Females do not add colour to social gatherings so that men can have free access to ogle at them. Once the societal objectification of women is largely addressed, our boys will learn to respect women for ‘who’ they are and not enjoy them for ‘what’ they are.

And this needs to start from home. How a man treats his wife will show his son how a man needs to treat women. Most boys who speak cheaply of females are those who are exposed to ill-treatment of women (mostly their mothers and grandmothers) by men. In rural India most of the Sarpanchs (village heads) are women, because they fetch more votes when contesting against male opponents. But, that’s where their role ends. After the election results are out, the baton belongs to their husbands (either by happy free choice or by coercive humiliation). What role model does this set before the boys who are witness to such societal patterns? Very few rural women raise their voices against this. Children do what they see you do, more than doing what you tell them to do. As a father you may tell your son to treat his mother with love and respect, but the day he hears you abuse her, your years of teachings are wiped off clean.

So yes, let us not blame parents alone when their children (sons in this context) go wrong. We as a society have a cumulative responsibility in what generation we are raising to leave behind. We cannot on one hand hold on to mindless practices which glorify males at the cost of the self-esteem of females, in the name of preserving traditions, and yet expect the younger generation of today to treat females with equal dignity. 

Men and women turn each other on. It is a fact! That is how we are designed by the Creator. And this ‘turning on’ begins right from pre-teen years – now-a-days even much before, considering the media exposure. How we train ourselves and others to respond to the stirring of hormones within, is crucial. The jostle of hormones and neurotransmitters is normal. To suppress the natural development by oppressive disciplinary measures is to pave way for abnormality. Also, to think that the activation of such hormones before nuptial ties is premature, is foolishness. For this reason, helicopter parenting doesn’t work in this issue.

The one best way to help our boys, or for that matter even our girls have the correct gender descriptions before them is to talk it out with them and live it before them. This serves as both the preventive and punitive response to issues such as the Bois Locker Room chats. You cannot lock up hormones, but you can train yourself and your children how to deal with them. Sex education has always been and is much more now the need of the hour. Children know and discuss way more than adults think they know. When we allow our children to be exposed to all types of information, then why not start conversations on this vital topic? When we leave our children to discover sexuality on their own, we extend towards them the scope for cheap chats.

How many women suffer because of the sexual acts they are forced to perform by their husbands, boyfriends or partners! These are bedroom stories which maim many women internally for life while they continue functioning pretty much normally on the exterior. The origin of all these start from childhood. And so, while the onus lies heavily on parents, it does not lie solely on them. To be vigilant is our collective responsibility.

The Bible says, “Train up a child in the way he should go,
And when he is old he will not depart from it.”

But, what would you do if he does depart from the right way at an older age? Train him again.

Though we cannot stop certain shows from running or certain people from behaving the way they do, we can train our children to exercise discretion while we are still with them. Having done our part well, if they still choose to commit deliberate blunders, the consequences alone will be their best teachers.

The fact that God has designed males and females in such a fascinating way needs to be celebrated, not misconstrued to the peril of society. As adult men and women, we can start with ourselves by resolving not to participate in flirtatious conversations, functions, deliberate male attention-seeking behaviour, laughing at demeaning adult jokes that degrade anyone for that matter. Humans are the crown of God’s creation. Each one needs to be treated with esteem. To belittle a female is to belittle God in whose image she is created!

When our bois understand this, their locker room chats will definitely be different.

 

 

WHOSE FAULT IS IT ANYWAY?

As a parent hearing about incidents like #BoisLockerRoom have shook me to the core. I have two teenage sons. And like any other teenager of today’s times; they are very active on the Internet. Their talks are filled with words like RoBlox, Reddit, Insta, PewDiPie, etc. These might make sense to a few of you maybe. But I need to keep asking the meanings to keep up with their jargon. Let me give you another example. I forwarded something to my son yesterday on WhatsApp and he replied ‘GG’ and I was puzzled ‘What is GG’ He said ‘Good Game’. Now for a person like me who always thought that she was aware of the acronyms this was a new one.

Basically what I am trying to say here is that the children of today are getting so much information from the outside world – the school, the tuition classes, peers, online gaming, movies and the biggest source Internet. That I sometimes worry that the ethics and principles that we try to drill into them since their childhood will they be able to hold up against the torrent of negative information that they are getting from all over.

Coming to the boys locker room incident. Whenever such an incident comes to light the blame is put on the parents. ‘Ignorant parenting‘ ‘irresponsible parents‘ these are the words I came across in many news items that I saw. I agree yes the parents are responsible. But are they the only one responsible. No.

It is the total mindset of the society that is creating this problem.

Firstly there is a lack of Sex education in our country. If a child has a curiosity about anything related to sex he or she has to either go to his peers or go to some website on the internet. These we all know are not reliable sources of information.

Second reason could be Institutionalization of Patriarchy . The children have grown up in a house hold where cooking and cleaning and other house work is generally considered the women’s work. They have seen their Dads generally taking all the major decisions in the family.

Another major reason is lack of gender sensitivity. Our movies are full of objectification of women and sexist jokes. Children have basically grown up on a staple diet of movies and songs where the women are gloried as sex object or objects of desire. Movies have heroes that follow girls, molest them or even assault them are still considered to good guys.

All this desensitises them towards girls and they start considering girls not as fellow human or friend but only as a one dimensional view of sex object.

I really don’t know the solution to all this. Changing the mindset and viewpoint of society is a slow process. It has begun also. We have movies like ‘Thappad’ which is a major example of the changing times.

All I can suggest is start making changes at home. Bring sensitization in our day to day life. Be an example and the children will understand better. Like for example when a man is doing house work he is not helping his wife he is doing his own house work.

Let’s change the way we think and we will start seeing the changes in our coming generations also..

UNDERSTAND YOUR KID(S) PERSPECTIVE

No matter how old we grow, our parents will never stop telling us what’s good and bad for us. They will always be on their toes to keep a check on whether their kids are going in the right direction or not. They do this not only because they gave birth to us but also because they consider it to be their responsibility. The same did my parents and they still do the same. For them, I and my brother are still the same babies that they lifted for the first time.

I remember, like every other parent, my father used to say, “You have to be the first in your class and sit in the front row.” Upon being asked, he used to say that this will help you in scoring the first position. However, I was born rebellious and therefore, I did the exact opposite of what I was asked to do. I never had any liking for the front rows and I would be extremely happy to sit on the last bench. To my utter surprise, I scored good marks and was one of my teacher’s favourites too. When my parents said, “See how sitting in the front rows helped you in scoring good marks.” I said that I never sat in the front rows and I scored while sitting in back rows. I don’t remember what happened next but yes since then, my parents never asked me to sit in the front rows.

I understand why our parents laid emphasis on sitting with the topper of the class or sitting right in front of the teacher. But what I think can make things easier for children is that parents can use a different perspective. For example, instead of pointing at a beggar on the road and warning their children to study hard else, they may face the same problems as the beggar, parents can explain the benefits of studying hard. They can say, “Studying and working hard will help you in becoming whatever you want. You can also buy whichever toy car or dress you wish to have.” This is because children at their tender age cannot understand the harsh realities of life. For them, not having their favourite dollhouse, toy car or motorbike is much more painful than we think. So why can’t we do something to make them understand in a way they can grasp easily.

My parents asked me to score 95+in exams and said this will help me in getting into an engineering college. Trust me, initially, I thought it to be quite easy but then I couldn’t understand why is it so important for me to go into a college. My mom told me going to a college will help me in becoming an engineer and make everyone proud. But all I wanted was cookies, color pencils and regular visits to the zoo. I couldn’t see how becoming an engineer would help me in getting what I wanted. As a result, I decided I won’t become an engineer. Today I understand how going to the college or becoming an engineer could have helped me in getting my cookies and other things.

Let’s take another example. These days young children are often seen holding gadgets and replacing their play-time with YouTube and video games. Parents initially allow their children to watch cartoons or videos on their smartphones, thinking this would keep them (read: children) engaged. But in no time, they (read: parents) often scream at their children, thinking that this way the children will give up on smartphones. However, the reality can be different. Instead of screaming on your child to stop watching videos, you can invite him or her to play football, chess, or any other games. As a parent, you can make your child aware of the consequences with some real-life examples.

I am not a parent and therefore, I might not be knowing what a parent feels for his/her kids. But yes, from my experience, I can feel that instead of shouting, intimidating and keeping vague answers, you can never convince a child. You need to see the world through their eyes and explain them in their language only. They will never understand how scoring 90+ in exams can help them in becoming scientists or doctors and how important it is to get into a good college if you don’t understand their perspective. He/she may do the opposite of what you ask him/her to do.

I am not saying you are doing the wrong thing. But you can do something better by understanding their perspective and explaining things accordingly. This way you will be able to help your children in a better way.