Are we mollycoddling our kids? Are we raising a generation of sissies? I seem to be running into these questions everywhere I look. I won’t deny it: The first one has been plaguing me almost every single day of my mommy hood; as I am sure it has bothered many others of my kind. In fact, this parenting debate is almost cyclic (not to mention endless which is why I choose not to enter it though I have a ready reckoner for it – you’ll find it at the end of the blog); with each generation lamenting on how pampered (or not) their progeny is! My parents never miss an opportunity to chide me when they see me ‘pampering’ my toddler (Gosh! Are you still feeding him? Why, by the age of three you could eat an entire meal by yourself. Or, he goes to an air-conditioned school? What! You never even had an air-conditioner at home till you were sixteen!) Hmm. Well, hold your horses folks. The second question had me equally worried. After all, the millennials are the ‘I, me, myself generation’. Cut me some slack, or rather, cut our kids some slack. There is no reason to get paranoid. There is one thing we all seem to be missing out. It’s called evolution.
So what if my son goes to an air-conditioned school? He was after all, born in an ‘air-conditioned’ hospital, sleeps in an ‘air-conditioned’ room and rides in an ‘air-conditioned’ car, and what the heck, even plays in an ‘air-conditioned’ mall! He was born in an air-conditioned world – that is his environment. Just as my generation was born to a world of air-coolers (desert coolers, as they are popularly called). Yes, I know there is this whole debate of what will it do to his immunity, but I’m not worried. We adapted to air-coolers (and we were not worse off for it). He will adapt to his ‘air-conditioned’ world. And as far as feeding him is concerned, well, that is something I love to indulge in (he can eat by himself and is a pretty independent three-year-old otherwise) as that is the only time I can get his undivided attention and talk to him about his day.
Now, coming back to the point….My generation was born in pre-liberalization times. My parents and grandparents’ generations (the baby boomers) were still reeling from the affects of the world wars. Austerity was the need of the hour. It was only in the late eighties and nineties that liberalization and a fast growing great Indian middle class catapulted the Indian economy to new heights. The nineties and the new millennium saw consumerism in all its fine glory; and our kids are reaping the benefits of that growth. So yes, they are inundated with an ‘excess’ of everything, even options. (I can almost hear my mother’s voice scolding me as I write this…we never had options, you had few but kids today have too many! They are spoilt for choice….) Alright, they do have plenty of choices today; like other things that is good or bad, depends on how you choose to look at it. I choose to look at the good. It’s made them better decision makers; they are smarter, wiser, sharper, more focused and definitely know their mind. And because they have options, they are sticking around. (Unlike my generation, also known as Generation X, or the baby boomers, who chose to immigrate westward in search of ‘better options’. In fact, when I became a Facebook member, I was surprised to find almost sixty percent of my schoolmates settled in foreign lands!) They are compassionate, willing to make a difference and ready to take chances. That takes guts. I know many young kids around me who have quit high-paying jobs (or simply not taken one) to work with the underprivileged, or in the rural heartlands or simply follow their dreams. (According to Fortune Magazine ‘fifty-four percent of America’s millennials either want to start a business or have already started one and 46% of Gen-Y wants to start a business in the next five years, while 35% of Gen-X and only 21% of baby boomers do.)
So, we must be doing something right, even if it means a little bit of pampering. Love, as I know it, never hurt anyone. (With my three-year-old, it works wonders; not yelling or ranting but love and gentle reasoning.) Kids today, much like the generations before them, will face their own challenges; they will face fear, know pain and heartbreak and loss. And they will cope, I am sure of it. Love will only make the journey easier.
My ready reckoner:
My son will have to learn I know that all men are not just, all men are not true.
But teach him also that for every scoundrel there is a hero;
that for every selfish politician, there is a dedicated leader.
Teach him that for every enemy there is a friend.
It will take time, I know; but teach him, if you can, that a dollar earned is far more valuable than five found.
Teach him to learn to lose and also to enjoy winning.
Steer him away from envy, if you can.
Teach him the secret of quiet laughter. Let him learn early that the bullies are the easiest to tick.
Teach him, if you can, the wonder of books.. but also give him quiet time to ponder over the eternal mystery of birds in the sky, bees in the sun, and flowers on a green hillside.
In school teach him it is far more honourable to fail than to cheat.
Teach him to have faith in his own ideas, even if every one tells him they are wrong.
Teach him to be gentle with gentle people and tough with the tough.
Try to give my son the strength not to follow the crowd when every one is getting on the bandwagon.
Teach him to listen to all men but teach him also to filter all he hears on a screen of truth and take only the good that comes through.
Teach him, if you can, how to laugh when he is sad. Teach him there is no shame in tears. Teach him to scoff at cynics and to beware of too much sweetness.
Teach him to sell his brawn and brain to the highest bidders; but never to put a price tag on his heart and soul.
Teach him to close his ears to a howling mob… and to stand and fight if he thinks he’s right.
Treat him gently; but do not cuddle him because only the test of fire makes fine steel.
Let him have the courage to be impatient, let him have the patience to be brave. Teach him always to have sublime faith in himself because then he will always have sublime faith in mankind.
This is a big order; but see what you can do. He is such a fine little fellow, my son.
Abraham Lincoln’s Letter to his son’s teacher.