Whatever happened to mom and dad?
By Bikram Vohra
Published: Fri 11 Aug 2017, 12:00 AM
Last updated: Fri 18 Aug 2017, 9:38 AM
A generation ago, parents looked like parents and behaved like parents. My dad looked like a dad, either in impeccable uniform or in a blazer and flannels, approachable yet distant. There was meaning to the phrase "Wait till your dad gets home" and it worried us because he was the figure of authority.
A new-age dad walks around wearing frayed shorts and beach flip-flops with a scarlet shirt; it just doesn't add up to the same thing.
The idea of dad wearing jeans torn at the knee was laughable in the extreme.
Mothers were not fashion models, they were mums and they had a certain persona of security that children folded into when things got rough. They were not in competition with their kids and they certainly were not walking on the same ramp. It wasn't just the home they maintained or the food they cooked, they were towers of common sense and they had a responsibility.
Interesting how things have changed. I cannot even remotely visualise my father wearing a T-shirt with a big red apple on it or some clever saying slashed across the back and trotting about in running shoes. Which brings me to the first point: should parents dress like parents and not upstage their children? While taking care of your health and being neatly groomed are signs of character and cannot be overlooked as elements in the nuclear family - since you are making the effort and that's good for you - there is a price to pay.
In the process, the parent figure is getting blurred. If we see an increase in the young adult and parent equation and the standard teenage rebelliousness now becoming more contemptuous, it could be because the younger party is confused. Some parents try so hard to look younger than their children. Does it annoy the children or are they proud of it? I think a bit of both, though in many cases one safely guesses the children are appalled and even a bit awkward.
Now you might well say that I am being a bit of a fusspot and stuffy, and that clothes and looks have no depth to the quality of a parent-child relationship.
But it isn't only visual. Even parental speech has undergone a transformation. How would it look if a 60-year-old dad said, "My bad" or called people "dude" and knew what catfish meant. Conceded there are those who believe that apeing the younger generation generates more understanding between the two and fosters closeness. I am not so sure. We speak at 50 like we did at 20, no progress in 30 years.
The argument given is that parents are friends and isn't that wonderful? Thing is, they have their friends, they want their parents. And there we are telling ourselves we are so lucky, we are like friends with our children. In that, perhaps, we are making a mistake and do not know we are robbing them of parents even though we are there. It probably places a burden on children we do not register.
An easy defence to make is that 'looks' are not as vital as the connect between parent and child. However, the human race is visual and stereotypes its images. It is easier to love a grandmother who is warm, fuzzy and nicely plump than a modern equivalent who is wearing jodhpurs and a T-shirt that says 'Live a Little'.
We probably don't realise it but grown up children finishing school and going into college do get a little confused. If your current heartthrob and mum and dad seem to be dressing out of the same wardrobe, the element of competition does kick in. Would you be comfortable if a classmate said your mum was hot?
Add to speech and dress the third dimension of conduct. It is necessary for a parent to rise to that title by being a tad conservative and mature and adult and not go haring about like he or she were 20-year-olds.
Children who are moving into adulthood themselves may not express it but they do resent parents trying to be hep and 'with it'. This is usually accomplished by, literally and figuratively, joining the party. Don't, you are not invited. Trying to be a sport, a fun guy or a swingin' mom is okay in the movies, it just isn't the role children expect of us.
Many of us see the present trend as a right and why not, why should we strive to be mouldy, oldy but, that said, there is a lot to be said for ageing gracefully and bringing a certain 'act your age' dimension to one's parental style.
Men and women who have that sartorial elegance balanced with reserve and a touch of class and panache certainly cut a better figure than a dad with torn denims and a mum with a skirt that's above her knees.