“Study hard, Vishal! You have to become ‘something’ in life someday. Don’t waste your time roaming around here and there with your friends. Remember that these are the two most important years of your life. Go and make full use of them.”
These were my father’s words as I was packing my bags. I was leaving for Mumbai to attend an MBA course. This was the year 2001.
I had heard such a sermon from him so many times in my life earlier. Being a civil engineer and a topper from his batch, my father was a well-educated and well-read man. He had been a very caring father, but in those days, I often took his extra care for me as interference in my life’s decisions.
He knew the payback for hard work, despite the fact that he himself could not practice engineering due to the needs of joining the family business. But he was very particular that his son needs to study hard and become “something in life someday.”
I was tired of his tirades and thus an MBA from Bombay was akin to ‘freedom’…from the bondage that I thought my parents had imposed on me. I was weary of the daily rants of “Do this…do that!”
“It’s my life! Why are you worried so much? Let me do things my way, and you stay clear of it!” I would imagine myself telling them at so many times.
Well, this was till the time I became a parent myself.
I have a daughter of 17 years, and a son of 10, and I can feel the pressure of being a parent – the immense responsibility accompanied by fear that comes from knowing that there’s someone who, if not guided by you carefully, can end up losing his or her way in this big world.
I’m sure the way I felt the pressure of my parents being behind my back, pushing me to ‘behave well, study hard, work harder’, my daughter must already be feeling it.
It’s now that I realize the importance of my parents’ upbringing – the values they taught me, and the way they guided me through life’s think and thins.
And not just me, I can see this realization in a lot of my friends who are going through the same pressure of being parents…the ‘pressure’ that that they mocked at when they were children and ‘bore the brunt’ of their parents’ consistent ranting and lecturing.
It’s now that I feel that grown-up children must change their views on parenting and treat their parents exactly the way they want to get treated at their children’s hand. I know it sounds selfish, but there’s no other way for this world to get its lost love and compassion back.
“Your parents, they give you your life, but then they try to give you their life,” said Chuck Palahniuk, the noted American fiction novelist.
In today’s world, where people are so tied up in work that they can see and think nothing but themselves, the parent-child relationship is standing at the brink of a deep crisis – and that’s what I understand is the reason why many of us children keep our parents out of your priorities.
As a young, modern society, we seem to have lost a huge part of our compassion towards our parents. We’ve become insensitive to the core values we were taught as children. Like me, even you must have been raised by parents who believed in the validity of a handshake and touching elders’ feet, and the importance of treating others as they themselves expected to be treated.
But tragically, as our parents age, they are faced with the realization and loss of these basic rules that binds our lives.
Just step back and reflect on the dignity that is owed to your ageing parents. Keep in mind what is hard for us as children, is ten-fold harder for our parents. Know that the process of growing old brings with it moments of freedom and joy, but it also carries fear and loss of personal worth.
The “what if’s” of life has become a reality and the ageing parents find themselves torn between living an independent life, and being dependent on their children.
Remember they never left us alone or afraid, and never ignored us as children. Instead, they always kept us close at hand and heart…always watching us carefully…always present for us through all our pains and trouble…always there.
When the roles reverse (like for me and maybe you, it has already reversed), we must remember to love and treat our parents with dignity and honour — for without them, we would be nothing.
We must change the way we treat our parents – physically, emotionally, financially – by preserving their dignity as they surrender to their ageing body and weakening soul.
This is probably the best gift of gratitude we as children can offer to them. After all, most of what we’ve learned…we’ve learned from our parents. If for nothing else, they have earned the right to earn our compassion, our gratitude, and a place in our priority list.
I can imagine a world where every child respects his parents and gets respect from his/her child. It would indeed be a wonderful world!
What do you say?