Wednesday, February 20, 2008

through the blur of white wine

four glasses of wine, two coffees and an evening with a bunch of dear friends...

in short i was buzzed!

i did talk too much... giggle too much...and chattered on about utterly frivolous things.

and though the rest of the evening melted into one warm blur, i did hold onto one bit of the conversation...about, yes, ofcourse, parenting and children.

there were only two sets of parents- sanah's parents and meha's parents - but most of our friends are very much a part of the growing up of these two tots so it was okay that we talked about bringing up children.

paro teaches a spectrum of students at both the grad and post grad level. and she said something that stayed with me- we live in a world that is focussed on 'me'. she spoke about the students she deals with- self absorbed, with an unreal sense of self importance and with little concern for the people and the world around them.

our media, the market, the family reinforce the sense that its about 'me''my needs'' my choices'.a peverse creation of the importance of the individual.

and as parents, who are totaly absorbed with our children, how do we deal with this and not exacberate it?

i am an only child. my parents have a life of their own which includes a million friends and interests, but at the end of the day their focus on me is unadulterated. so although, at home, it was all about me, in the larger analysis it was never about me, and my parents very gently made sure i saw that.

i had an enviable collection of books and toys at home. but my mother made sure i found the whiff of libraries as delicious as that of warm gajar ka halwa. my father made sure i treasured the paper kites we flew and lost to other more accomplished kite fliers much more than the toys that sat at home and stared back at me.

today i look at the collection of books that we, our friends and family have created for sanah. her collection is extraordinary, and i have no qualms making our rooms more cramped with books. and i look around, there are no libraries around! so while children's publishing is booming, fewer books are accessible, unless you BUY them.

i had more toys than any of my friends in the building. the government of india ensured that. the canadian government was collaborating on a project that my father was a part of when i was born. so our township was filled with young canadian families. and they organised a baby shower when my mum was pregnant where they gifted me a life time of toys that their kids had outgrown. fisher price toys ages before they entered the indian market. and even a set of barbie dolls before the barbie craze hit this country.

so i was privileged. an only child. but somehow all checks and balances were largely maintained.

it made no difference to my friends that i was the one with a room to myself, and loads of toys and books. it was my house during the long vacation afternoons. the compound all evening to run and play about. the upvas ka khana at chandani's house. the tv in ami's house. and the garage for hide and seek and secret society meetings.

and the barbie family -well the fact that i had them actually traumatised me. true, their knees folded, and they had lovely silky long hair. but the mother -she had big boobs! i always felt like somehow i was the owner of something pornographic, before i even knew the word. we never dressed her up, and i would try and hide her behind the shelf because everyone giggled looking at her and my cheeks would burn with shame.

sanah's cheeks might not burn with shame if she has a barbie with boobs. all her friends will probably have the same if not more. and they all have toys gifted to them from kandivali, from toronto from sydney. and they will all have been made in china- fisherprice, barbie, educational wooden toys, or the ten rupee monkey that somersaults in slow motion.

so what is the path to keeping the checks and balances in place?

an alternative school will have privileged kids with designer toys. the neighbourhood school is as fancy as the next one.she can spot the paper windmill and the bamboo snake from my childhood only if we go to the edges of these privileged ghettos that make up our cities.

there are fewer chances of her meeting people who are not like her.

and i think thats what paro is talking about.

we have all begun to live in a bubble. a bubble that includes international airports as effortlessly as it does the local mall and little else, jhumritalaiya is only a funny word on mtv.

i guess as parents we have to somehow evoke the whiff of the library and the scratches of the hand me down toys. a whack here and there, insisting on discipline and politeness will not do the trick. ( even though i am pleased as punch that she has understood why aap and not tum)we will have to work much harder i guess.)


Space Bar said...

sigh. i worry about this a lot. there's the other issue that makes all this so difficult: when g plays with the construction workers' kids in the park sometimes, it takes him a while to get past the difference that he already sees between them. once a stick is out, or a ball or a kite, these differences disappear, but only for a while.

once, there were some old toys of his that i wanted him to give away and he wanted to give it to these workers' children in the park. i was in a dilemma. is it possible without being condescending - like some god in the machine coming to dispense favours?

as it happened, those children went away like constructions workers' children always do.

it's a bubble all right.

dipali said...

How do we enlarge the bubble? It exists, no doubt.
It's a tough call, because on the one hand we would like to give our children the best that we can afford, and we also want them to be sensitive and caring towards others, and especially towards those less privileged than themselves. And yet not patronising. Phew. Think and let me know,people, my mind boggles.
Perhaps by consciously showing the child your differentiation between a 'desire' and a genuine 'need', and by being as inclusive as possible.

Suki said...

Wow, now that makes me think because I am the epitome of the self-absorbed teenager. And quite unapologetic about it. The planet may not revolve around me, but MY world is me-centric, and deserves to be so.
I believe it's important to respect that everyone sees the world from a different perspective, that it's important for everyone to ensure their success. Simply put - "live and let live".

As for how to inculcate values in children... you've lost me there. For the next decade. I think Dipali puts things very well, though.

Banno said...

As you rightly say, it's the neighborhoods we live in, with the high towers, high walls, high gates. When we were growing up, in school, at home, the walls were not that high. And even if our parents may have felt the differences, we certainly didn't.

SUR NOTES said...

banno: the walls are higher and more opaque than they ever were.
i showed her your song on your blog- she was very peturbed and asked a lot of questions.
will attempt watching the film with her ( after i see at night-when it is quiet)

suki: your univ has a reputation for opening up the world. i dont think you need to worry at all.

dipali: its a tough one...but i guess we will muddle our way through this maze.

spacebar: you write it perfectly -once a stick, or a ball or a kite is out, the differences disappear -atleast for a while.

i see the municipal ground in front of my house. its abuzz with football and cricket with kids of all ages, sizes, and backgrounds. but they are all boys. no girls. even the seven year olds go for walks around their gated compounds! they cannot cycle on the roads.

Anonymous said...

Thanks for bringing this up - its a parenting dilemma of our time ! Nothing new to add: Agree with dipali - being as inclusive as possible, showing kids by example rather than telling them. Just like one attempts to do with the teaching of values in general??


Moppet's Mom said...

This is something I worry about too, with me being at home for Moppet full-time, I do think that Moppet gets rather too much attention sometimes. But then, she isn't yet two, and I tell myself that she's going to have to learn that it's not always about her fairly soon, once her brother comes along.

Oh, and if this is the kind of stuff you come up with when you're buzzed, here's to more drunken thoughts! :-)

anish said...

great post! it is really a more and more 'sanitized' and isolated world .. more so childhood. things are different. i went with my niece and nephew to a mall. there was so much noise in the childrens' section - arcade / video games .. but the kids were having fun.
book.. my father used to bring lots of books and always just before my exams. and i never abandoned them just because of the exams. it was fun to do something forbidden :)

the mad momma said...

i'm watching this space for more answers ...