Recently my mom had come visiting; more to spend time with my infant son and a little to spend time with us. Now my in-law is here with us – more to take care and spend time with our son than much else. A trip we arranged for our convenience as well. Of course, we took this step to evaluate our options. But this taught us more about our parents and gave answers to most of what we are. Yeah, and an answer to what our options really are.
Firstly, what I find is that there is a sea of difference between my (and my wife’s) attitude towards my(our) son and his grandparents’ attitude towards him. All of us love him, alright. I find that our parents’ are quite adamant about having him do things the way they want it done. We generally try to see what he likes and suit ourselves to that. Both the parents are kinda blind and deaf to what his preferences are. Their argument – how would a 4 month old know? My argument is – Of course a 4 month old won’t know, but your style won’t change overnight when he turns 1 and starts to know. In fact, your style should not change if you want him to believe that you do the right things. He may not voice it, but he sure as hell will notice.
The baseline is that they don’t see the need to respect him as a human being. I know how much I was respected when I was in school or college. So I know the earliest they’ll respect his presence. And I strongly disagree with that. If anything, I want him to know that I listen to him and respect his views on any topic. I try to patiently listen to his ‘mmm’s and ‘aaah’s and answer him in his language as well. Of course, it looks like am just trying to entertain him and humour him. But I am trying to build a habit where he feels comfortable to voice his mind to me. I never could do that with my dad. To some extent, I still cannot without having to have a heated argument. I need to ensure that doesn’t happen between me and my son.
I also want to break this low self esteem situation that is deeply engrained in us Indians. We tend to bow down first. Bow to our knees. There is a verse from Bharathiar that roughly translates to – “when will this slavery fantasy ever come to an end?”. If he were alive today, he’d still be relevant asking that question. I hate it. But the truth is, it is a cultural thing. I wouldn’t say it came about because of our history. Our colonial history only aggravated it. But as a culture, only the aged are considered wise in India. Not wrong. Just that it eventually took the form that people who speak a certain language, belong in a certain community are wise. So much that we push our kids to wear ties and leather shoes and speak english even if they are interested in learning tamil or telugu or hindi. We want them to be “wise”.
And I want to break that for my son. A single most important reason, Rohini and I left the country to create our life elsewhere. In fact, we are thinking staying east as a whole is not very good for his self-esteem. But then at least we are in a multi-cultural society. And maybe we can teach him some of the things ourselves. One could argue that things can be taught back in India as well. Of course, just that it is that much more complicated.
I learnt much more. I learnt why my parents had a problem accepting Rohini or her family. I learnt why Rohini’s parents maybe a little disappointed with me. I understand why I am so afraid to do things, so afraid to live my life. I understand why I have better and more meaningful conversations with my sister than most others in my family. I basically just began to understand my parents. A tad too late, in my opinion.
I want to ensure my son understands a little about me very early on. At least, I want him to understand that he can use his privileges and not worry that his dad or mom would be angry with him. To understand that this world is his to live and to own. To create the life he thinks is best for him without wondering how his mom/dad would fit in. To understand that he need not fit them into his life – his life is his to live.