“Come on Anuj! Come on, buck up! Faster, faster, FASTER!” The woman leaning over the railings yelled hoarsely in a passion of parenting frenzy!
The venue was crowded. A brown cloud of dust hovered over the tents under which parents sweated it out while their progeny sweated it out on the field.
Tanvi glanced at the vociferous, melting woman in alarmed concern. Might this woman not burst a few blood vessels at this rate, she thought. Surely someone ought to tell her to take it easy?
Tanvi herself was blessed with a monumental calm. It wasn’t easy to get her all worked up over things- specially things like her child’s performance in the academic or sports arena. Her daughter Ridhima was an enthusiastic track athlete. She had just finished running in a 400m hurdle race. She had missed the first place by just three seconds.
While Ridhima’s 400m hurdle race was on, Tanvi, hadn’t uttered a single shout of encouragement. Instead, she had wielded her camera and captured the event from start to finish. They would study the race in the evening to see where Ridhi needed to improve. Since that was the only event Ridhi was participating in, she had come over to where Tanvi sat. They sat together, enjoying the rest of the school sports meet in each other’s company.
In a trice, Anuj’s race was over. His mother flopped down on the chair behind her, exhausted. She wiped the sweat and disappointment off her face in one rough, impatient gesture. Her eyes flashed fire. Her lips moved soundlessly. It was obvious she had things to say to her son. Despite her enthusiastic encouragement, the child had not done very well.
The boy arrived with reluctant steps, breathing still ragged. He was a tall, well-built thirteen year old. The upturned corners of his mouth bestowed an endearing, natural good-humor to his countenance. At present, though, his mouth drooped just as his steps flagged. He was in for it, and he knew it.
The mother turned to glare at her son. The boy lowered his head, eyes on his shoes.
“So!” the mother hissed in fury. When the boy did not reply, she prodded him roughly. “What? Have you nothing to say, you stupid boy? What’s wrong with you? Aren’t you ashamed of your abysmal performance? Is this how you repay me for all my hard-work? Did I not take you for that two-month long training camp in Delhi? How could you bring shame upon us like this?
“I left my home and lived with you in that poky little servant’s quarter for two months, leaving your poor father to fend for himself! I cooked for you, washed your clothes and fed you six-times a day, scrupulously following the diet chart your coach had shared with us! Do you think it was all a picnic for me? Answer me, you idiot!”
To the acute discomfort and embarrassment of the unwilling onlookers, the woman got increasingly shrill as her temper mounted. Her child’s silence seemed to goad her to demonic rage. She looked as if she had completely lost all connection with sanity. It did not matter to her that others were listening. She was oblivious to the shock and sympathy of the other parents and children sitting nearby.
Your kids require you most of all to love them for who they are, not to spend your whole time trying to correct them.
~ Bill Ayers
She did not care about the trauma she was heaping upon her child with her public humiliation. All she wanted was to punish the child for the ‘insult’ he had caused her with his less than stellar performance. She was oblivious to the child’s own disappointment.
Tanvi couldn’t bear to witness the rest of the cruel dressing down for another second. Her hands twitched. She desperately wanted to close the woman’s mouth- if not slap her tight. The urge gained momentum in her. She leaped out of her chair…. and rushed out of the tent before she could follow through on what her outraged sensibilities begged her to do.
“Mom!” Ridhima called, rushing after her. “Wait up Mom!”
Tanvi rushed on, tears stinging her eyes. How COULD that woman do that to a child who was already disappointed? How could people be so brutal to their own kids? What kind of parenting was this, to mortally wound a child who dared not defend himself, and who was himself suffering disappointment? The last lines from Rumi’s poem on children kept hammering at her as she tried desperately to put some distance between Anuj’s mother and herself.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer’s hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Where was the stability in this parenting? Where was the nurturing and building up that is the job of parents? When a child is feeling down, the parent is supposed to give her courage to stand up again. In the midst of a battle of principles, it is for the parent to give gumption and courage to their child by saying, “Stick to your guns and don’t back down. We’ll deal with the consequences.”
She had reached the parking and was fumbling in her purse for the car keys when Ridhi finally caught up with her. Wordlessly, Ridhi hugged her. They clung together, both giving and getting support from each other, both upset.
“Mom, thank you for never being like Anuj’s mom! I couldn’t have borne it. He must be so hurt and sad.”
In response, Tanvi hugged her tighter. “Yes, he must be so sad Ridhi. We’ll think of a way to do something about it, don’t worry.”
They stood together, helping each other calm down.