Of late there are a whole slew of parenting websites. They contain well-reasoned and well-written articles about the many challenges parents face when bringing up their offspring and they give all kinds of suggestions and advice. Friends who have been through the mill and raised a couple of children contribute to those websites and in the process learn what would have stood them in good stead all those years ago. “All our research has taught us so much,” they say. “Wish we had something like this to guide us at that time.”
Yes, perhaps this abundance of good counsel would have helped when we were in the child-rearing stage. But then again, with all the minor — and major — crises that arose on an almost daily basis, would I have had the time to go through and absorb all of it — and actually put some of it to use? Or would I have grabbed my forty winks to re-energise myself for the next debacle of the day, and just let that article slide out of my line of vision?
Today, I am reluctant to read all that good sense because I really don’t want to know how badly (most often) or how well (probably rare) I handled the situations that were thrown up from moment-to-moment during our child’s childhood and teen years. At the time I thought I was fair and sensible and practical and loving and a whole lot of other things. Maybe if I go through those websites now, I will discover that I was none of the above.
Do I want to know that?
Questioning parenting skills
I cannot recall my parents ever questioning their parenting skills or style when they were with their friends (and we were eavesdropping on their conversations). They never confided details of what went on with us three kids. They probably knew that whatever crisis had occurred, it would blow over in a couple of hours — or a couple of days, at the most.
Perhaps they too had their misgivings and their uncertainties but they never let us, or anyone else, know. We were encouraged, when a parental decision was reached, to take it for granted that that was the way the cookie crumbled, like it or not. Of course, we didn’t accept it. We grumbled under our breath. If we had the courage, we argued with our parents. If we were particularly riled up, we railed against their conservatism and lack of understanding of the new ways of our generation.
Graceful and mature acceptance was probably the last thing we did in those years under our parents’ roof.
Therefore, we understood that it was the most difficult thing for our child as well and we did a lot of explaining and reasoning with him in the hope that he would understand our motives, his alternatives, and so much else. Somewhere along the way, the child probably stopped listening to the explanations, knowing full well that they would go on and on. All he was interested in was the “Yes” or the “No”. And then he would take up his case, depending on whether he agreed with us or not.
Were we too lenient sometimes and too strict at other times? Or strict when we should have been lenient and lenient when we should have been strict? Should we have intervened before some of his crucial decisions or were we right to let him forge his own path?
The questions are endless.
But, right or wrong, over-loving or overbearing — it is over and done with. We — and our children — have no choice but to live with the mistakes that were made.
After all, we cannot go back and undo wrongs, or give better explanations, or take firmer decisions.
We don’t get a second chance at parenting, do we?
— Cheryl Rao is a journalist based in India.