By Dr Jyots Bhattacharjee
It is funny and inexplicable as well. But it is a fact that a person’s attitude to life changes with passing years. The person whom I knew as a fun-loving, vivacious and cheerful girl has turned into a corpulent matron with sedentary habits, a doting grandmother and also a cantankerous woman constantly finding faults in her children. Perhaps so have I, and others will say the same things about me as well. A person seems to go through a metamorphosis in the passage of time. I myself feel that I have changed into another person, as appearance, behaviour, ideas and everything has changed. Sometimes this realization is painful and sometimes amusing, if we can take the change in the proper perspective.
History repeats itself. Everywhere we see the same things happening—children defying their parents and thinking that parents are outdated with oldfashioned ideas. Once we also thought that our parents had no ideas about the modern trend and that they had fallen into a rut. Now our children think in the same way about us. The ideas of the present crop of young people all over the world are almost identical. Possibly all of them regard the old people as some freaks with antiquated ideas. They belong to the modern scientific age, and the old people seem to belong to the pre-historic age and to another world. Young and old do not appear to have a single common idea. For the young people the old persons are irrelevant in their world and they have no right to live for so long. They merely cause problems for the youths with their incessant demands and admonitions.
On the other hand, parents think that they know best and young people do not have sufficient wisdom to take any decision. In the opinion of the elderly people, you can not expect an old head on young shoulders. The young generation believe that the parents are conservative, adamant and hard-hearted. Hence we see this love-hate relationship between parents and children. Both of them feel frustrated as they cannot understand each other. Parents wonder where they have failed and the children wonder what they ever did to be saddled with such a pair of unfeeling stone-hearted parents. None tries to realize the feelings of the other side. It is so easy to blame another person for something or other. Nobody likes to think that he/she is in the wrong. That is the problem. To realize one’s own fault introspection is very necessary. But very few of us try to alyse our own feelings, because everyone thinks that he or she is always right. That is the reason why we never try to correct ourselves, as we do not even imagine that we have any fault. If parents point out the faults in their son’s or daughter’s behaviour, the criticism, however justified, will not be taken kindly. The same goes for the parents as well. They also will be offended if their imperfections are pointed out. That is the tragedy of life. Constructive criticisms are beneficial and we have to accept them, so that we can correct ourselves to be better persons. For better understanding and better relationship there is necessity of dispassiote reflection of one’s own character and behaviour. But neither the children nor the parents ever try to do that. That is why so much misunderstanding and bitterness have origited in the relationship between the old and the young.
I have heard many young persons moaning that they could not achieve success in life simply because they had to toe the line laid down by the parents. One young girl once told me that she simply had no head for mathematics—yet her father had insisted on it—and in consequence the poor result was inevitable. Another boy also told me a few years back that he had always been squeamish about certain things. He hated Biology. But his doctor father wanted a succession of doctors in the family. The boy was forced to do what he hated. So what can be expected of an unwilling frustrated youth? Hence they turn to drugs, drinks and other cork-brained larks. And the parents shake their heads in despair condemning the unfilial attitude of the son. But most of them do not see their own destructive role in the son’s future. Undoubtedly the parents want only good for their children. Their welfare is the chief motive of the parents. But I think there should be proper discussions between the parents and the son or daughter, regarding the choice of the career. Parents should not force their will on the children, as the result of parental pressure may be disastrous.
I believe that parents are responsible for many of the children’s misbehaviours. We never realize how much harm we may do by forcing our ideas on the children. Because of discontent they behave in such atrocious manners. Some of the things, I suppose, we could view with indulgence. After all, they do not do the least harm to anybody. Long hair, dangling earrings, heavy chains may be pardoned in a boy—so can be done regarding the girl sporting the brightest shade of lipstick, heavy make-up or the simpering affecting manners. This is a phase they go through and from which they would recover. If we only remember that we too went through such a phase once upon a time, we too thought that our parents did not understand us, much heart ache could have been avoided. Actually there is nothing origil in this line of thought. Generation after generation of young people have said the same things, have behaved in the same way. So unless it is something serious, I suppose, we should realise that gradually they will outgrow their outrageous mannerism.
An old gentleman boasted to me only the other day that in his youth he was a devil-may-care type of person. Apparently he was the heart-throb of many beautiful damsels—girls swooned when he smiled at them, he said with pride. The way he went on talking about his past life and the conquests he made, it seemed to me as if the town was littered with the broken hearts of his rejected love-lorn damsels. Then he added with a frown, “But damn it, I was not a delinquent like my son. I was not a long-haired nincompoop like him. He does not know where to draw the line. He does not know a spade from a club and yet he goes to play cards, if you please. He wears such ridiculous clothes that I would not wish myself to be dead in a ditch in such weird costumes. He is gallivanting around aimlessly and has not the least notion as to how he is going to mage after my death. But would be listen to me? Of course not—to him I am just a senile fussy old man without an iota of wisdom”, he ended his monologue bitterly.
I smiled and said that perhaps his son would think in the same way when he was his father’s age; probably he would have the same derogatory ideas about his son yet unborn. I persolly think that there is nothing to worry about the misadventures of our children. Perhaps they are bolder, more outspoken and more defiant than what we were in their age. For them it is not a sin to disobey one’s parents, though in the past the parent’s wishes were regarded as divine commands. But it is no longer so. But after all, it is bound to happen with the passage of time. I suppose that is what is meant by progress. Modern youths are no longer emoured of filial duty.
I too did many foolish things in my youth ages back. Today I have entered the category of senior citizens which is perhaps a polite way to refer to the old people. But I can’t help feeling ashamed of my own silly attitude in my young days. I did many ridiculous things and made myself a laughing stock and despair to my parents. I became the butt of every good-tured and malicious joke. Once I wanted to be somebody else. I imitated her so much that I did not seem to have a soul of my own. She was everything that I was not—beautiful, vivacious and glamorous. She had a face to launch a thousand ships. Unfortutely she had a stone where her heart should have been. I came to know it much later. At that time I found out that my idol had feet of clay. Of course I learnt about it much later—but the disillusionment was not less painful. After her betrayal I spent sometime weeping, then seething and later on sulking. Then I took a grip on myself and promptly forgot all about her. It was only tural, as I was an out and out headonist. Rarely did my conscience cast a barrier in the way of my careless hedonism. Of course it was a long time back, when I was a mere green girl. But now even autumn is over and winter has set in my life. I believe that now I am sane and sensible with both feet firmly on the ground and hence I am not floating in the cloud as I did in the past. Actually in the past I was a heaving mass of fantasy. Not only that—now I admit freely that I was a lily-livered coward. I was the human equivalent of an arm chair, always accommodating. But all these experiences and frustrations have helped me to become a saner person—or so I believe. Those frustrations have totally shattered my illusions. I now wonder how I could behave so foolishly and so irresponsibly in my youth. And now I talk about responsibility and duty to the younger members of my family. It is really funny and amusing as well. Once I tried to cripple myself trying to break in some new pair of shoes with stiletto heels, which were a good two inches smaller than my feet—but not any more. Today I cannot even dream of doing such foolish things. Now I pride myself on the fact that I am now a practical, sensible old woman, who can distinguish a diamond from its imitation.
That is why we parents should not despair of our children. Every person, I believe, go through these same kinds of phases. We should not really try to change our children; we should not, I believe, frown on their weird dresses or seemingly irresponsible and atrocious behaviour. It would be better for us to realise that the children are not extensions of their parents. They are separate individuals with their own ideas. Their views and opinions deserve to be given attention and respect. I think that the children should be allowed to get into all sorts of adventures and scrapes—so that they can emerge unscathed and acquire confidence in their abilities. Parents should let the child take one step in front of the other without warning him that he might fall into a puddle. We should refrain from shielding the child from every wind that blow. Let him learn through mistakes. Untried children are always unsure. So to develop their self-confidence they must be allowed to learn by themselves through trial and error method. At the same time we should keep a covert eye on them to ensure that they do not cross the line of decency, decorum and discipline.
It is a fact that situation at present is extremely bad and the young people are floating like rudderless boats. Almost every day the news papers and news channels report about juvenile crimes, which are too serious to ignore. At such time parents cannot look the other way. We hear of teegers being involved in many horrendous crimes like rape, murder, abduction, drugs and other horrible crimes. These crimes do bring much anxiety and fear to the minds of the parents. It is only tural. Parents may not be able to control their children beyond a certain age. Hence I think that it is very important for the parents to give proper guidance to their children in their formative years. They have to be guided in the right direction. But they must not be pushed forcibly, which may have an adverse effect on them. Parents have to give proper direction to the child with affection and tact, even if he has done something wrong. I think that lessons on morality should be imparted to the children in their young age, since they are adaptive to new ideas when they are young.
Because of the lack of moral sense, the minor children get involved in so many horrible crimes, that is not only unthinkable, but frightening as well. Hence it is imperative for the conscientious parents to give moral guidance to the children in their young age with prudence and patience. We may ignore their long hair, dangling earrings, outrageous dresses, silly talks and mannerisms, as they will outgrow them in time. But their crimes cannot be condoned. Therefore what is very important is value-based education. Here the role of parents and the teachers is very important. Once values are instilled in their tender minds, they are not likely to tread the wrong path. I believe that now-a-days “moral science” has been included in the school curriculum. It is no doubt a step in the right direction, but it has not brought forth the desired result. It is only to be expected, since moral education has not been given due importance. It is taught only in the junior classes as a theoretical subject. But morality cannot be regarded as a theoretical study, it must have practical application. The teachers must make the children understand that to be a moral person they must practise morality in their everyday life and they must be able to distinguish between ‘right’ and ‘wrong’. Mere moralizing is not enough, it must be practised with sincerity and devotion. I think that if the parents are wise, honest and respectable, they can make the children follow the right path. Of course only good and honest parents can do so. Therefore, to make our children really good persons we ourselves have to be good. If the parents are dishonest, corrupt, selfish and capricious, then how can they teach morality to the children? The same goes for the teacher as well. A teacher worth the me must be a good and honest person in order to teach morality to the students. As we know, example is much better than preaching. I think for the wrong and immoral activities of the children parents also should bear the blame.
The problem has to be solved with proper deliberation. The parents have to realise their responsibility to their children. Today’s parents view the world with coloured spectacles. In this world of cut-throat competition they want their child to outshine others. They hope that in future their child will have a very good job will an excellent salary. Their ambition for the child is materialistic and morality does not come into it. Private tutors are engaged to teach diverse subjects, so that the child can shine brilliantly in the examition. Besides that he has to learn other things like music, arts, sports, swimming and everything under the sun. They want the child to be master of all the trades, which is not possible. As a result of all that pressure, he may be Jack of all trades, but master of none.