Children are the parents, I'm just a kid

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Children are the parents, Im just a kid

Published: Thu 12 Dec 2019, 11:00 PM

Last updated: Fri 13 Dec 2019, 1:00 AM

Whenever my son and daughter met, he made it a point to remind her how lucky she had been growing up. He was, of course, passing a judgment on my parenting. He would then act out, with a grimacing face and a scream choked in his throat, how painful my pinching had been when I taught him A2+B2 = (A+B)2 - 2AB.
"Dad changed by the time you were born," he would tell his sister, reminding her that she had missed the "great benefits" of the wild side of my parenting. I never coached her academically for two reasons. Corporal punishment never suited the Singapore education system. Secondly, I did not want to break the incorporeal umbilical bond we both had developed. I left her free as a bird who enjoyed anything but textbooks, but expected her to keep the trust.
Raising kids, or parenting, is considered one of the toughest but most fulfilling jobs in the world. The word parenting refers to the intricate "process of promoting and supporting the physical, emotional, social, and intellectual development of a child from infancy to adulthood". This definition is a bit confusing to me.
"The word parenting itself is not right," I told wifey when we were raising our first child in the 1980s.
"What's wrong?" she queried, sipping tea in our Chunabhatti flat in Mumbai.
"Some grammarians got it wrong."
"What do you mean?"
"See, darling, we are the parents. Logically, parenting should mean the process of someone taking care of us parents."
"You make sense, dear. So what should we call the process of taking care of kids?" Her face creased in confusion.
"Kidding," I said. She spilled tea on her Colaba T-shirt.
Jokes apart, the importance of the word parenting is back in focus in the wake of increasing sexual violence against women in India. I am not sure how successful I have been as a parent, but from a psychologist's checklist of "Ten Steps to Effective Parenting", I ticked off three items, namely unconditional love, constant communication and consistent discipline.
Moving to Singapore in 2000 opened up a whole new cyber world to my son. As our Yahoo surfing history showed adult sites, I installed a parental lock on my PC to curb his screen time. The lock was found in the trash box a few days later, which forced me to take a different tack. I invited him to a coffee shop on a weekend and discussed the topic of adulthood at length.
"Sex is not what you see on all these adult sites." His jaw seemed to drop to the floor as I started to talk.
"What you see there is repulsive, whereas natural feelings are a divine bliss that should be chased in your nuptial life." He nodded in appreciation. We talked about the need to respect fellow humans, especially women; to love and help people unconditionally; to have self-esteem, and to live like an evergreen gentleman. I ran the same programme with my daughter when she became an adult. I may not have been a role model for them but my constant communication and interaction have kept our bond as strong as ever.
"Dad, I have a party tonight. Is it OK if I take a drink?" my 25-year-old daughter would ping from Bangalore.
"And you agreed? You are the one spoiling her." Wifey would throw tantrums.
"Yes, I trust her. She has self-control and won't cross the line," I would say. My son frequented pubs with his friends and never drank or smoked with them as a matter of principle, but we privately enjoyed a pint once in a blue moon.
"You know where your son is now? I am shocked." Wifey sounded desperate when she called some time back.
"He and a lady doctor from Nagaland are sharing a motel room in Fort Kochi. He already pinged me," I preempted her. That's the trust we have.
The most difficult part of parenting is when your parenting succeeds to mould a well-mannered, well-rounded and altruistic generation. It's a nightmare when the refined young adults try to parent you back. This is the trauma I am trying to endure now. They would not allow you more than a drink and force you to quit smoking; they would scream if you dare spit in public; they would force you to pick it if you litter; they would ask you to be respectful to erring salesmen or waiters.
"For God's sake, please stop quarrelling with taxi drivers after your binge drinking," my son once pleaded with me. So, I changed as I realised the process of parenting involves give and take. I have realised parenting is the process of transforming yourself in order to transform your ward.
Children are the real parents.
I am just a kid.

By Suresh Pattali

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