“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.
A sympathetic confluence of sweat flowed down the channels of righteous parenting. Grim, if you know what I mean. Click To Tweet
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.
The woman had no clue about her child's need for bolstering and encouragement. Click To Tweet
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.
It makes me mad when I see parents first build up mountains of expectations on the shoulders of their kids and then vent out publicly and privately demeaning them. It is quite common actually. We have a breed of parents today that is living vicariously through the ‘achievements’ of their kids. Their kids must excel at all costs. This is not to say that I don’t express disappointment or scold the kids when they don’t work to their potential, but berating them in public would kill me more than them.
Just like Riddhi, I have had multiple occasions when the kids have told me how grateful they are that I am not like this person’s mother. It is the best feeling in the world. May we continue to nurture our kids and always be there for them in success and failure.
Why do I feel that Tanvi is you?
I saw this incident just two years ago. Even today, I can feel the horror of it crawling down my spine. I can never forget the expression on the boy’s face. I know that boy. He he affectionate, sensitive and gentle. And his mother is brutal. She is! And I will not be politically correct and call her something milder.
You feel Tanvi is me? I guess you relate to Tanvi a lot too. All parents like us are Tanvis. We cant bear people like Anuj’s mother and wish desperately to throw them into boiling oil!
Thank you for sharing your outrage. <3
Loved the quote, it summarizes the post. Poor Kids who face the warth of their Parents. I am glad I am raised by a Mother like Tanvi. Now being a Motehr myself, I always try to encourage him but not bash him for anything.
Being raised by a mother like Tanvi is the best gift a child can possibly have. It is so awful to see a child being crushed by the very people who are responsible to building him up and nurturing him. I wonder why parents think being brutal to their child will help her toughen up! Such a wrong paradigm!
Thanks for coming by!
Dagny recently posted…Parenting: Building Up Your Child
Wonderful narration as you make some very important points about parenting! I was picturing Anuj’s face as his mother went on and on….I can’t imagine the pain a child would go through in such moments, and the life-long impact that pain and trauma has on the child. It is not just a case of undue pressure to excel or fulfill the parent’s dreams etc, it is also a case of parent not recognising the need for a balance between two parental responsibilities or duties — to properly encourage/support the child in pursuing his/her interests and at the same time to let go of the outcome of all that encouragement/support.
On the other hand, I have also seen parents who are way too hands off and never bothering to recognise or support the child’s interests and encourage or support the child. That too is a waste of potential, and in a different way leads to life-long difficulty for the child. That’s why I thought your character of Tanvi is so important.
Beloo Mehra recently posted…Faith that is Śraddhā