Of the many things that have undergone a generational shift, one is parenting. You may not have listened firsthand to the parenting accounts of your grandparents, but if you had the luxury, you know it was not as meticulous as today but something that came naturally.
Those were the times of joint families, as family planning had not yet caught on. What a child would finally evolve into was the result of the influence of uncles, aunts, and grandparents as well. Seeds in those times were sown in the anticipation of good monsoon and their ability to withstand the forces of nature. Only the worthy ones would reach the harvesting stage. Similar was the case with children. Parents never did any brainstorming while picking a school for their children. They sent them to the nearest one. For the young ones, it was more like learning to swim after being pushed into the pond.
A mention needs to be made of the strong value system of the children of that generation. It didn’t come from any crash course but the natural home environment. Children are natural learners, who observe what their parents practice and what they preach; and imitate. When the sheep go wrong, they lead the lambs astray. Morality, love, bonding, humility, and fiscal prudence were not alien words to that generation. Parenting was then a fruitful, fulfilling experience.
Then came our parents’ generation, and with it, a transitional phase in parenting. Joint family setups started giving way to nuclear family. Two children became the norm. Parenting became focussed. Quite often, our parents had to strike a balance between the orthodox views of our grandparents and our modern outlook. When cable television arrived, we were exposed to it in a regulated manner, lest we went astray. But parents still had the reins firmly in their hands and their feet placed well in the stirrups. The proof of the pudding is in the eating.
When we became parents, parenting transformed into a full-time job. From choosing a nanny to hunting for the best school, everything was thorough long planning. We are bringing up children in an era of consumerism, where it is natural for them to be demanding. Coping up with these demands is the challenge, especially when the child believes that anything that is not available can be downloaded, and that the ATM has cash for every need.
We have to cope with children who are exposed to multiple media, not just television. The challenge is to give children just the right amount of exposure amd let them discover their true calling. Let the words of poet Muhammad “Allama” Iqbal addressed to his son be your guiding light: Mera tareeq ameeri nahin, faqeeri hai / Khudi na baich, ghareebi mein naam paida kar! (The way of the hermit, not fortune, is mine/ Sell not your soul! In a beggar’s rags shine)
The writer is a Patiala- based freelance contributor.