If the technological revolution has transformed man’s outer world, the metamorphosis of parental ideology has completely dyed his inner milieu. Parenting may have been far more fun than it is today. It was less burdened with high expectations and the endless modern, psychological analysis. The period of childhood has come to be viewed as such a favoured time that kids are virtually lording over their parents today.
There was a time when they functioned as an extra pair of hands in the household, contributing in some manner to the family assets. That may still be the case in the hinterland but in the urban jungle, the ‘me’ factor is here to stay. The reason: it is far more significant in aspiring, middle class families (like mine) to stay focused on how well the children are doing rather than on who or what they are.
I am not surprised therefore when Aqseer and Asawari ask me with an obvious and genuine bafflement, “WHY on earth would anyone ever want to raise kids?!!” I am not sure. I do know that my parents never gave it too much of a thought; it was just the done thing to marry and make that leap of faith right away. I remember as a teenager, wondering if they did not lead slightly dull and uninteresting lives, vowing to myself to guard against it in future! I did not realize back then, the extent to which they had given up their personal selves for me.
To come back to the question, why does mankind even bother?! Children are a source of joy yes, but they are also massive, gigantic stressors. In their teens and young adulthood, they can even be nonchalantly brutal; reminding the anguished parent the exact number of times they had voiced during the clamorous years the thought, “I wish I had not had you!” As for the dampening effect on the couple’s friendship, well it’s no secret that a great percentage of marital discord is centred over progeny issues.
And yet the population clock only ticks faster! There is this whole media and culture based huge deal, built around parenting that all good people subscribe to. So even while modern parents lament the fact, “We have just become ATM cards”, the truth is they would not have it any other way. That is parenting for you and there is no way of knowing its bittersweet joys without going through the associated labour. It’s like learning to play the violin. There are mind numbing moments of frustration and fatigue with brief snatches of wonder at the potential but once the latency sets in, the notes prepare to flow. As the music surfs to a crescendo, well, that is the moment when retrospective reminiscence and an enchanted gratification set in.
So every minute is not happy girls but there is this gleaming, silver edge to the occasional cloud born of love, believe it or not, that casts a spell and keeps the Homo sapiens going.
Parenthood is a phenomenon you may get to relish only in snatches while it is underway but the day you are way up enough to be able to look back, you will be glad you kept your date with it !