I make it a point not to write anything while I am into a book and to be honest, I can’t think of anything worth writing other than the subject of the book I am on, while it lasts. But we come across so many things in life that need addressing and more often than not, the solution to those are rarely found in books.
I take a class of English language communication with a senior group and recently one of the group members came upto me and told me that he didn’t think the class was working for him. It wasn’t as if the subject matter or delivery was difficult to get. It was just that he felt a lot of hesitation in front of his female counterparts. He was specific that his fear of or inability to interact with people of the opposite sex went beyond the classroom even to the social sphere. He conceded that to stay abreast with the world today, he needed to lose this shackle. I had noticed such fearful tendencies in other group members too.
I applaud him for having the courage to accept and discuss the leash that bound him, with me. I got thinking and realised that without actually registering, we make habits of certain things. Most of our mannerism and the way we carry ourselves in our lives, come from the things which may not be taught verbally at home but are observed and ingrained passively.
I find this hesitation and inhibition a regular feature of life in small town India. Rarely, have I come across families or parents who have managed to give a broad minded upbringing to their kids. The fear of speaking or performing in front of a gathering or group of people from the opposite sex is more common in adults than in children.
As we grow older we get more and more negatively conditioned at home & in the society. The gender difference, that cannot be denied by anyone in our small city lives, comes in the way of living freely. Even Co-educational institutions try and keep the two sexes in separate columns. In classrooms, we have separate rows and columns for girls and boys, in sports there are separate teams, for cultural functions, girls prepare a separate piece and the boys stay in their own spheres. Out of school, parents don’t allow friends from the other sex to mix up with us. Together, the schools and parents, condition a child so negatively that after an age even brother-sisters and cousins feel awkward around each other.
Do we think that keeping them separate like this would solve all the gender related issues and crimes that we come across in newspapers daily? In my humble opinion, if we stop them from doing anything, they would definitely want to go down that road. And mind you, when they do, it will all be hidden from parental scrutiny.
Isn’t it better parenting if we move with the times and acknowledge that on reaching teens our children require knowledge and guidance on this issue? Won’t it be preferable if our kids have the confidence that whatever it is they feel about anyone, they can share at home?
We were that age, not so long back and we cannot hide from the fact that human body and mind undergo a lot of change in our teens. Raging hormones are not an issue to be pushed under the rug and the solution is not to get our kids married young. We conform to the social traditions and maintain a steady gap between us and the kids in their growing up years. That ensures a fear and respect that fathers think they deserve but isn’t love between parents and the kids more important? Does maintaining distance from our kid, when he or she is growing up, make us more respectable in the society or is it just an exercise for boosting the self? To keep up that facade of respect and fear intact, we arrange marriages for our children without even asking them whether they wish to get married at that age or whether they have someone they would like us to meet as a perspective life partner. Limited by inhibitions, most children do as they are told. No wonder then, that we have such soul less, unhappy marriages wherever we look. Life becomes a compromise for both partners concerned.
Our children fear us and in the absence of any kind of guidance from us on matters related to sex, they turn to the next best option- their classmates or seniors, who have had a similar upbringing. But even that is passé now. Like everything else, the children find answers on the internet. Do you think that information, thus gleaned, is healthy for a balanced mental growth of a child?
Such trends don’t bode well for us as a society. I agree, things are changing but we still need to earn that confidence of our children if we want them to confide in us. We should be grown up enough to give them choices. After a point, a person can be a judge of what is right or wrong for him/her. Believe me, the values that we so painstakingly inculcate and grind into our children day in and day out, will stay with them when the time comes. We should have faith in their decisions and our efforts invested in them. If we don’t stand by them, when they make life – altering choices, who will? Unless we give up this medieval thought process that programs us to control every aspect of our child’s life, we will not be able to bring up confident, decisive, content, happy individuals that our children should be.
Let them out. Don’t curtail their innocent freedoms. Let them make friends on the basis of who they gel with instead of on narrow considerations of gender & caste. Let them choose- their lives, their friends, their jobs, their partners & their happiness.