The parental trap

Published On: May 29, 2017 12:25 AM NPT By: Aleena Udas Sharma

My son’s gesture made me feel special and loved; it was a gift, priceless and straight from the heart

Isn’t there something magical about waking up early on a weekend—the rest of the world is still asleep and you are willingly giving up those extra bits of restful bliss that one is allowed after a hectic week? The silence of the dawn is not just mesmerizing, its mere presence in a normally audio-intensive existence is powerful. Last Sunday, it was touch and go; I almost beat the alarm before it went off... a duel that my clock keeps winning but I hope to beat it one of these Sundays. But this particular Sunday turned out to be very special indeed for an entirely different reason: there was an envelope half tucked under my pillow. It was my son’s Mother’s Day gift to me.

 There was a poem that he had written and it went like this:
You hold my hand when I am about to fall
You lift me up when I want to rise
You never make me feel weak and small
You are indeed a blessing in disguise.

You are my voice when I want to speak
Helping me conquer my inner fears
You are my hope when things look bleak
With a smile, you always wipe my tears.

You are the lens through which I see the world
Clearing my views and my perceptions too
You have magic and happiness is what you unfurl
Truly blessed I am, to be a part of you.

My son’s gesture made me feel special and loved; a gift, priceless and straight from the heart; a poem which beautifully described the bond that we share. We crack the silliest of jokes and laugh like mad; we fight for the television remote and sulk like children do and we talk about life lessons and philosophy like adults too. The best part of my day is when I see him at the door, back from school. Though tired and drained by Delhi’s relentlessly scorching heat, that smile he greets me with when I open the door, is matchless.

I smile back at him but somewhere deep inside me there is an insecurity, of missing this bond when he grows up and leaves. Don’t get me wrong. I want my child to grow, to scale great heights, and soar higher than the birds in the sky. But I cannot help wish that when he is in this wonderful flight, achieving his aspirations, he remembers us, his parents, waiting for that tight hug that we always gave each other. When he grows into an adult and starts his own family, we would also have grown into aging parents and probably weak and dependent on him.

Dependency is what changes everything. It changes the way we perceive things, it changes the bond we share as parents and children, and it also changes the very meaning of having a parent. Everything looks and feels different. When children get to sit on the other side of the table and parents are no longer the providers but the receivers, some parents are left to fight their own battle of neglect, disrespect, and isolation. The agony compounds with deteriorating physical strength and geriatric illnesses.

One reason children abandon their parents is the expectation one has of them. Many parents expect their children to look after them in old age. Some expect them to be around when they are too weak to stand, and others expect them to be as loving as they were when young. But this is what the younger generation doesn’t like. It doesn’t want to be bound by such expectations. And this makes me wonder, are we as parents expecting a bit too much? But doesn’t this expectation come involuntarily? Isn’t this what was ingrained in us by our culture which offers parents the equal status as Gods?

Ironically, when I see many such ‘Gods’ begging for alms at the traffic signal, I start to believe that the fault is ours, as parents, as educators, and as a society. Somehow in this rat race of urbanization and modernization we failed to focus on our traditional value system. Therefore, there are some children who prefer to celebrate their parent’s birthdays on social media but they seldom have time to spend with their aging parents. They are busy. Busy with work and busy with other commitments.

Even our parents had work to do, commitments to meet and were busy attending to our needs. But I can’t remember a day when I needed them and they said they are busy. No one is always busy. It just depends on what number you are on their priority list.

I am sure there are many parents who would agree with me and many who would disagree. They may be the ones who are blessed with children, who talk to them, look after them and who have time for them. They are the ones who don’t get to hear ‘Is there anything important? I am busy, can we talk later?’ Unfortunately, many others are not so blessed.

I was a witness to an incident recently that left me shattered. It happened at a mobile repair shop near our place where a frail looking man in his 70’s had come in to get his mobile phone repaired. The shopkeeper checked his phone and returned it saying that the phone was perfectly okay. The old man insisted that he checked the phone again. The shopkeeper again returned the phone saying that there was nothing wrong with it. I saw his grief-stricken eyes when the man helplessly asked, ‘If my phone is okay, why hasn’t my son called me for an entire year?’

Hearing those words, my heart sank and for many days I couldn’t forget the pain on his face. There were many thoughts crisscrossing my mind. I started to wonder why and how the equation changes when children grow up. Why do we as parents feel so vulnerable about our lives when we grow old? Or is it that we fail in providing the right tools to our children to help them navigate their lives? There are many parents, like the man at the shop, who still cling to the bleak hope of getting to hear from their children. There are others who have given up hope and are counting out their last days. There are some who are living the life of an extra baggage.

Parents everywhere go through the same roller coaster ride of happiness, sorrow, struggles, tears and a hopeless expectation that the ride never ends. But life comes a full circle when we get old; when we also age and we begin to hope more and do less. We hope to be remembered; we hope to continue being loved; we hope to get more of such beautiful poems. And we hope that we can forever remain—Truly blessed to be a part of you my son.

The author is a New Delhi-based freelance writer

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