Last Saturday noon Bangalore was cool after refreshing showers. I waited on a broken creaky steel chair in front of a roadside cobbler-shop to get a pair of shoes repaired. As accepting a request of “come later to collect” would have ended in repeated “go again” rituals, I thought it wise to wait out. And, this time the wait was worth it.
I was appreciating the skills of the cobbler as he was repairing a pair of shoes before taking up mine. Then appeared from nowhere a little 6 year old cute girl – daughter of the cobbler. She had brought about ten biscuits to share with her father.
“Is the school over dear?”
“Yes, appa,” and the girl started narrating stories of the school and the episode of shopping for biscuits.
The father gleamed with appreciative smiles and talked little. The girl wandered around the shop, straightened a few things, sprinted across the road, and returned with a triumphant smile. By now the language of conversation between the father and daughter turned from fluent Kannada to native Tamil. The girl took out her lunch box, got fully engrossed with mixing rice with curry, repeatedly making rice balls and then flattening out. A while later she declared that she would feed it to a stray dog. In answer, her father smiled warmly.
I did not hear any cajoling, warning or admonishment from the father:
“Careful, beware of the traffic, men on the road, and vehicles on footpath. Don’t cross the road. Don’t visit the shop alone …”
“Don’t you have any home work? Why do you while away your time here? I don’t want your fate to be like mine. I want you to grow out to be …”
“Your clothes are getting dirty. This place is not hygienic to eat a meal …”
“You need to eat your lunch. Don’t stay hungry …”
“Don’t waste food. It is hard earned money that you are wasting …”
After this event, when I drive near the cobbler shop, my eyes search for that little girl – and a smile escapes me when I find her around.
Let children be children. Let us help them with structure and support, but not shower suffocating concern. We have to allow a sapling to grow in to a plant and not habitually pull it up to monitor growth of its root. Let us not water the plant in excess, causing the root to rot. Let us not weaken the plant by over-protecting it from sun and wind.
When I visit friends or relatives, I am drawn to young children. In some homes, children make a swift guest appearance, mechanically wish “Hi, uncle,” and escape to the world of friends through mobile phone and face book. The dry chatter of the elders does not interest them. “In the West, children can even drag their parents to courts. What a freedom they have! What facilities they have! Let us imitate them and teach a lesson to our elders.”
These children are clueless about their parents’ profession – nor are they interested to know. They do not know how the house is lit, how water comes in the taps, and how the school fee is paid. If the home food is boring, there are scores of restaurants – and often the home food is uninviting. They know the new model of fashionable gadgets in the market and that the parents have a responsibility to get them before the peers’ parents. When they have to face the realities of work place and raise a family, they have to learn the realities afresh. If only the children be children, but spend more time in the company of elders, observing them and understanding, that would help them grow gracefully. The adolescents quoting their counterparts in the West do not reflect on the accountability and responsibilities thrust on those children. Is it enough to show arrogance and cynicism on parents and elders?
Parents strive to shield their children from all the ‘strains’ of the real world and in effect hide realities and throttle growth. The parents take an attitude of sacrifice instead of partnering with children. Later on a day of bad mood they feel that the children are not understanding and caring. We do not prepare our children for the realities of adulthood, work, and life. Craze for instant gratifications, seeking pleasure rather than lasting joy, short-cuts to “success” of their own definition, desires not matched with self effort, not accepting or resisting realities – all lead to difficult emotions.
Many people enter adult life still trapped in adolescent mindset. They expect someone else to be responsible for their happiness and to shower rewards like the doting parents once did. I hear comments like “workplace is a torture” and see people changing jobs by semester unable to find meaning what they do.
We do not allow the children to be children, nor allow them to blossom in to adulthood the natural way.
Some aspect of these would apply to some of us – not everything applies to everyone.