My grandmother lived by one abiding dictum, “Daughters must never be left alone anywhere, overnight.” She was obsessive about Mom’s friends and rationed her rare friendly visits to the last minute. In fact, she is known to have chucked a pair of scissors at her once, over a five minutes delay, returning home from a class mate’s. My mother was chaperoned, supervised, guarded and watched over closely. She did not dare incur my grandmother’s wrath.
By the time I came around, the rules had bent more than a bit. I did stay over at one odd home of a colleague for an all night movie session; there was even a group detour to ‘Ghungroo’ at the Maurya, not leaving the bike ride to Mathura. I went out on school trips, as also outings to do with work. The peripherals had transformed but the core of parental approval still remained intact. Their sanction had to be sought for every little adventure and their happiness was personally important to us.
The tyrannical power of my grandma’s generation had given way to a watered down and benevolent form of authority, a progressive model of parenting tempered with caution. There were no diktats but Dad and Mom’s involvement and active presence was presumed. The heavily authoritative tone of the earlier generation had made room for a moderate, accommodating acceptance based on the premise of the parent holding the superior position.
Though we picked careers of our choices and married people mutually chosen for us, we led our lives with our parents as our lodestars. They were there with us, in all of our life’s events and it was important to keep them informed, connected and supportive.
It is 2012 now and a lifetime later.Children leave home early for college. There is a sense of independence, in personal goals and life’s markers. Many of their emotional needs are met by those outside of the immediate family. Parental approval may still be critical for some but there are likely a few riders. Home is a neater, more convenient hostel. Involvement with the household affairs is negligible. They don’t necessarily align by the family rhythm. Existing in the twilight zone of digital overload and emotional tentativeness, they inhabit rooms with the ‘do not disturb’ sign on the doors.
There is a new parent-child vocabulary at play. A parent’s affectionate concern could be construed as criticism. Beware of making that friendly but unannounced trip to their place of work. It may come across as interference. Gentle nudges towards life’s great truths may be taken as attempts to sabotage their life’s passion. The slightest tone of disapproval is likely to elicit threats of moving out. Heaven help those incorrigible optimists who set out to spell some home truths to their progeny…all their years of sleepless nights and diapering and fretting will smoke out under the burning reminders of their parenting disasters.Do watch out for the pitch and tone in the voice, it can rake up their childhood traumas that plenty gets traced back to, in any case. The degree of parental expectations have steadily declined over the generations. It is cause for celebration and gratitude today if the offspring are happy, chilled out and clear of trouble.
The kids did not ask to be born, remember! And now that you are beginning to feel a little bit irrelevant, well, lump the pain…….or well, go ahead...shed those tears!