One of the problems that I see all around me in India is the immense pressure being put on children to study and score high marks in their schools. I see children after school hours attending extra coaching classes or parents spending hours helping them with their studies and this eats into their playing time. They are also burdened with so many books that is agonizing to see them carry these in their back packs. More home work is given to them than what I remember as having been the case when I was young. This is as applicable to children as young as three or four years old, as to older teen agers. The competitive spirit to enable the parents to crow about their children’s scholastic achievements is in some ways quite morbid. This is not how I remember our school days. We had plenty of time to play and stop to just fool around and that our children do not have this any more is saddening.
It is with this background that I post this blog as a guest post from my sister Padmini who writes regularly for various magazines. This appeared in the Eves Times On Line, an emagazine targeted at the Indian woman. “Mahila” in Hindi means woman.
The popular saying is that the youth are the future. I look at it differently. The youth are the present and need to work from today for a better future. It does not matter what age they are. Each one has to work to potential and parents have a big role in this endeavour.
That does not mean that parents have to turn into ‘Old men/women and the sea’ and ride piggyback on their kids shoulders. Dreams are individual visions that can be fulfilled or let to fall by the wayside.
My greatest grief is that kids are not allowed to dream their own dreams. They are chosen to fulfill family, school and college managements’ and society’s dreams. Have you recently seen a kid just standing and watching the world go by? Have you seen a child pick up a shell, a stone, a piece of something or the other and just look at it with wonder? Have you seen a youngster look at a rainbow in the sky with wonderment or think whether the thick bank of clouds will bring rain or weave myriad patterns in the sky? (It is another matter that their hands and mouth are busy interacting with their mobiles and their vision is concentrated elsewhere with alarming consequences like accidents sometimes!)
My daughter used to think that in Paris every other child was called ‘Huit’. She observed that mothers used to drag their kids walking rapidly ahead and say ‘huit huit’. She later found out that it meant ‘hurry up’ and not the given name of the child. How many adults have the patience to measure their strides to the shorter ones of children when they walk holding hands? Older people expect children to walk at their speed. Another sight that scandalised my daughter was the leash that Moms used on main streets in London to control and rein in their children. Leashes were something associated with dogs and not children in her mind.
When we match strides with our kids then we know where they are going. They need not necessarily stride on the path that you have been used to walking on. Yes! They can walk some distance with you, but soon they must take the ‘road less travelled’ or ‘not taken’ as Robert Frost spoke of so beautifully. Years later our roads will meet but it will be the older one who follows the child trying to match his/her strides. At that time it is for the younger one to adjust their stride to the parent’s slower one.
Let our children dream. It is not necessary for them to add every kind of skill and craft to their CV’s. If they are truly interested in something they will evince an interest. Then we can encourage them to follow it. I see parents applying so much pressure on their kids….look at them on the reality shows on TV where they sing, dance, joke like little puppets under the stern gaze of their parents. The threat of losing is reflected more on the parent’s face than the child.
Are parents putting their children on sale? I had a co-traveler who was going to Mumbai to shop for clothes and accessories because her ten year old daughter had been given her first chance to model for a health drink! You can see in shops the kind of clothes that are being sold and bought for under- nubile kids. They are imitations of revealing teenage and designer clothes. Skirts are shorter, tops are skimpier, straps are thinner and dropping off shoulders. Then we talk of paedophiles and leering satyrs. The kids sing double entendre and vulgar songs that have lyrics way beyond their ages and comprehension. Young children are being pushed into adult concepts, feelings and ambitions even before they can stand on their two feet. The TRP hungry media encourages children to ape their parents and sadly the parents feel flattered!
The current mind set is to talk about tomorrow and ignore the present forgetting that this very moment is the most valuable moment of our life. Let kids live their dreams and lives in the now. The big, bad world is awaiting them anyway!