I read something today that made me want to write to you.
I’d like you to imagine a crowded public square, filled with people. They are busy, happy, engrossed in their own concerns. You stand among them, unnoticed. You’ve just realized that you have poured your future, every minute of everyday of the rest of your life, into a endlessly deep sandpit. You didn’t do that for some noble ideal- to save neither life nor honor- but because you were told by those you trusted that this was the way to live a life of joy. You just realized, as you stand in the crowd, that you were misled. The enormity of your loss has just hit you. You scream in pain; your cry like that of a mortally wounded animal.
They ignore you. None of them so much as turns to look at you. When you go on screaming, a few people glance your way- exasperated. They tell you to grow up. They tell you this is the meaning and purpose of life. When you ask them why life had to be so full of pain they laugh at you and don’t answer.
Now you know the fate of your child.
You snatch away the childhood of your child so that his nose is kept to the grindstone. His adolescence is blighted because you have pushed him into a dark, single- track tunnel. You clip his wings and show him the clipped wings of his peers when he tries to rebel. Day after day, night after night, his life is made to drip away so that he can study. Why? So that he gets admitted to a premier institute like the IITs. This is because you think the IITs (or any other premier institute) are the gateways to a land resplendent with rivers of honey and milk. Well, guess what? You’re WRONG..!
Yes it is a competitive world. There is always competition in a herd. After endless scrabbling, even if you get ahead of the competition, what of it? You’ll always be a part of the herd.
Why are you pushing your child to become a part of the stampeding horde? Why don’t you show him the paths that lead to vibrantly rich areas, paths yet uncharted and untouched by the herd? You are the parent; it is your job, isn’t it? Don’t say you didn’t know about these uncharted paths. Don’t say you didn’t bother to look for people who could guide you and your child better. Please, don’t say you were too scared to investigate those paths because they did not match with your own mental map. Don’t say you failed in your responsibility as a parent.
Do you have the courage to look at the gruesome statistics your obsession has engineered? Do you know the instances of suicides amongst teenagers which happened only because your pitiless pushing told them that their worth to YOU was measured by a number written on their report card? Do you know how many kids have become emotional cripples because you told your beautiful, graceful, delicate fish that she was unworthy of your respect and concern (no, not love… that’s too big an emotion) if she couldn’t climb a tree? Who gave you the right to demand that fishes must climb trees?
This obsession about premier institutes and colleges, this inhuman fixation for a particular profession, do you know what kind of statement it makes about your own life?
In the course of a lifetime’s association with students of all strata- school kids to under grads and post grads- I have never seen that a particular college/ institute/ course has determined the quality of an individual’s life. I have seen simple graduates attain enduring, robust success through sheer grit and hard work, just as I have seen students of premier institutes lead absolutely mundane and obscure professional and personal lives.
An individual’s success in the professional arena is no benchmark of his contentment with life. What’s even worse, it doesn’t even give one a kick- start, or an extra edge, towards creating a life of contentment. The obsession with (material) quantifiable success has only one consequence. It divorces the individual from all other facets of his personality. It cuts him off from the needs of those facets.
He gets to a state where his relationships wouldn’t bear scrutiny, his health is on the brink of breakdown, his insecurities are rampant. His ethics have been laced with such a heavy dose of ‘pragmatism’ and skewered to such a degree by a constant focus on the ‘main chance’ as to turn them into an entirely new system of counterfeit ethics. From ‘me first’ he moves to ‘me only’. His self- obsession is phenomenal, his narcissism turns him into a shiny, plastic thing. Is that what you were trying to make of your child instead of a flesh and blood human being?
Along the way, she discards all that doesn’t serve her in her single- minded pursuit of materialistic success. More, faster, better… becomes her mantra. Her human-ness was the first thing she throws away. With it, she throws away the opportunity to make a genuine, unique contribution to the world. She cuts away her ability to connect with people in deep, fulfilling ways. She doesn’t know she is crippling herself that way, you never taught her the value of her humanness, did you? Perhaps you didn’t know it yourself- which makes it all the more pathetic.
His life, which could have been rich and vibrant, becomes unforgivably lonely. He hasn’t developed the trust or the ability to build bridges with other people. Do you realize that you’re raising a generation of islands- not people?
And so, I want to ask you parent- why did you do this to your child? Why did you tie these terrible, lacerating stones to his neck even before he learned to stand straight and lift his head? Didn’t you know you would kill his spirit?
I read something on an obscure confession page on Facebook that has made me terribly sad. This write is a result of that. What I have said here is my opinion. You may not agree with me, and I am fine with that. When you see an endless field of maimed and dying children in front of your eyes, children maimed by their own doting parents, garnering agreement or approval of people is irrelevant. My language is strong and perhaps I sound pugnacious. So be it.
If you are really offended though, perhaps you should ask yourself why.
We would be horrified if we saw a mother bird pull the feathers out of her tiny chicks’ wings, pushing them out of the nest and expecting them to fly. What are we doing to our children? And WHY?
I just wish that somehow, I could go back 6 years in time, and make the old ‘me’ read this. It would’ve been a liberating read for that old version of myself. Also, it would have saved me from 6 years of pain and heart-break.
But, it was not to be. I had to learn my lessons the hard way.
Very well-written and hard-hitting. I hope all parents get to read this.
I have a theory about this. The things that you learned the hard way, things you wish had happened to you but didn’t, they happened now for a reason. They happened so that you will never do to your children things you had to endure.
Now tell me, aren’t you glad you went through the agony? 🙂
Parents will read it my friend; then pretend they haven’t. You wont see many comments on this one. 😀
Agree with every word, Dagny. For once :D. Though I find your style just superb, as always.
Its getting futile for you to say DLIGTYH… it has made a room for itself there, put up ornaments of the wall and a carpet on the floor. It has made itself cozy… I don’t think it can be moved out anymore.
For once, he says! When did you ever disagree with me?!
I absolutely LOVE this! Though I don’t personally relate to it since my parents allowed me to choose my own career, I can totally understand the frustration and sadness that led you to write this piece. I hope I always give my kids the freedom to be all that they want to be!
I too was fortunate. I was allowed to choose my own way. My children too are pursuing their own dreams. I did the only thing I could for them- I showed them all the avenues that were open to them. After that I stepped aside to let them choose as they wished.
I see so many lives ruined because of parental misguidance. It makes my heart bleed.
Thank you for coming by. 🙂
Dagny, I agree with every word you say. Luckily, my parents were almost detached — no pressures, no compulsions. And, I am hopefully doing the same for my kids. Here is a similar post that I had done: http://cybernag.in/2012/07/has-the-child-in-childhood-disappeared/
Your post was awesome Rachna. Your term ‘helicopter parents’ made me grin with clenched teeth. You know what I mean, don’t you? It is criminal, what parents are doing to their kids. And these are the obsessed kids our children have to deal with… talk about secondary contamination!! Dammit!