“Having that hyper active son was a big mistake of my life.” says Pushpa, a frustrated mother. On the other hand, a single mother Rita says, “My two daughters are the blessings of my life.”
Another couple, terrified of parenting, chose not to have children.
Where to begin the endless stories to the challenges of parenting? They are not bedtime stories that brought dreams when you started family planning. Theories of how to perfect parenting do not fit into real life and your little bundle of joy. The baby package contains chapters that wake you with nightmares, sweating and confused. If you are lucky, you can find a chapter indicating that you are on the right track and so can snore away through the night. However, thankful with a night’s sleep, you wake up the next morning with breaking news from the baby, something that totally amazes or drains you. Feeding reluctant babies is yet another nightmare that happens through seven days a week. A brand of baby food your little girl wolfed down yesterday is refused all day. You rush to the store, a new flavour to buy, arrive home and start your battle to fill her empty stomach and sooth the cranky mood.
As parents you have learnt one lesson: to keep your mind open. Your children can be angelic, moody, rowdy and compassionate. They can make life heaven or hell for you. One of them may be failing every quiz at school but you are not to comment. The other sulks in the playground, hates sports. But you have to say ‘cool’ and be supportive of her or him and the passing phases. In the meantime figure out how to work that out to the best interest of your children. For instance hold the failing grades, smile and say,
“Come on, these school quizzes are not the end of the world. Wait and things will work out.” Equally important is rewarding a child for each and every effort made to excel at his or her activities. As parents you can either be the magic box, having space for the never-ending troubles or you can put a lock and give them the notice of where the limit is. Expertise advice is on choosing the middle way in life but with parenting that often backfires. When parents quietly sidestep real issues and take a midway solution, children may think that parents are being “ignorant” of their problems. Say too little, say too much or keep silent, at times nothing seems to fit in. Peace with parenting comes like sudden gusts of spring breeze, soothes the heart momentarily. You are always on red-alert of sudden storms blowing over sunny days.
In Bangladesh, with media and Internet exposing different cultures and the freedom of choices to the children, parenting has become extremely challenging. Living in a transitional society the children also find the march to adulthood very daunting. There is a big world beckoning them with infinite dreams of success if they can grab the opportunities. However, the social, cultural and religious values often put walls between how they want to lead their lives and what the parents consider to be ideal. The all-time peer pressure is there, a big challenge to adulthood. Many parents have found that rigorous discipline or isolating them from the peers confuses the children and they are more lost than ever. With emotional and physical growth taking them on rollercoaster rides, they need some space of their own. The western society too is riddled complexities of parenting as family break ups and divorces go up. Societies have become competitive and yet violence and juvenile delinquency are on the rise. Our children are in need of emotional support more than ever and at the same time give them freedom to grow into their own beings. As Kahlil Gibran has said of children,
“They come through you but not from you. You may give them your love but not your thoughts for they have thoughts of their own.”
The children these days are gadget-oriented and digital acrobats. You cannot believe your eyes when the five-month old baby girl takes the TV remote and goes on channel surfing! Put a toy in your two-year old’s hands while taking away the cell phone that was grabbed from you. “No, Mommy, what’s that little thing in your hand? I want that thing!” Reluctantly you hand over your smart phone and then watch the magic. The toddler slides her baby fingers over the screen with “OOhs” and “Aahs” at the colourful screen displays. My little niece in USA dialled “9111” and had the police knocking on the door while her parents had to confess that they had given the cell phone to an under-aged user. At times wrong connections has the phone ringing and when you answer you hear, “Bla..bla….da….da….”. Next the mother comes in and says, “Please Apa don’t mind but my baby son does not eat without the mobile in his hand and he pressed your numbers. At night he watches Superman and for lunch he demands the mobile phone to be in his hands.”
The use of Internet by the children puts parenting to wondering how far we can control their use of it. Dangers of paedophiles lurk behind the screens. Parents and children need open discussions about the negative and positive sides of Internet. Experts suggest that educating the growing adults on sex and relationships are a way to keep them safe from misleading information from other sources. It is also a safety net against aids or other sexually transmitted diseases. Sound moral development of our children is the dire need of the moment when movies, video-games and thrillers come with violence, alcohol and drug addictions. Parents are on their toes, often giving up well paid jobs to be the stay-at-home Mom or Dad just to give time to the kids. Their intriguing question is,
“What is the best way to guide the children on the right path?”
Millions of books have come up with useful information on parenting. However, once on the path of parenting we realise that in reality set rules may not apply to this difficult task for each child comes as an individual being. When a new born cries out the first, “Waa…wa…” he or she seems to be saying “Here I come, your ultimate test to life: PARENTING.” Societies are changing to help with the unpredictable conflicts of parenting. Dads are learning to change the diapers, feed the babies, sing lullabies and put babies to sleep. Remember and don’t tell your kid to count the sheep when putting her to sleep. Your little girl will say, “Dady, sheep are too slow, I will count cars in my City Racer game.”
The riddle of parenting will remain unsolved. When you are a fifty-year old mother and your twenty-five year old daughter tells you, “Mom, you never understood me.” or when your son’s ten-years of marriage ends with a divorce, it sets you wondering, where did you go wrong as you taught family values to your children? You feel like starting life all over again, searching for the hidden panacea that makes parenting a little easier. If you are happy with your children’s upbringing and they are happy with life, and there is mutual love and respect for them all around, I’d say you are one lucky bird, you have reached the heaven.
Tulip Chowdhury writes from Massachusetts, USA.