November 14 is celebrated as Children’s Day in India. I wanted to be a parent so I adopted 3 kids. One barks and the other two meow. Jokes apart, I always wished to be a parent to a human baby. My ex-boyfriend and I also planned the name of our child (as many over-enthusiastic, Bollywood influenced, heterosexual couples do). However, we broke up and we moved on in life and ended up parking this dream in the past and thereby dreaming new dreams.
There is an argument that gay people can’t be good parents. But the fact is that gay parents make as good as parents as straight parents do. I am not saying so because I am gay, this is basis hardcore research done by the American Psychological Association and others. In making a case for LGBTIQ parenting, they have argued, “There Is No Scientific Basis for Concluding That Same-Sex Couples Are Any Less Fit or Capable Parents Than Heterosexual Couples, or That Their Children Are Any Less Psychologically Healthy and Well Adjusted” (read the same here). It is not my place to argue how people need to bring up their children. I can only argue that children should be brought up in non-violent and non-abusive conditions. However, today is a good day to share a part of my diary on the way I believed my child would have a close to ideal upbringing so that I don’t impose the restrictions of a gendered, cultured upbringing I didn’t want.
There is merit in speaking from a space of innocence. They see things raw and are able to share things in ways unadulterated by lust and greed. They will be able to visualise things in a better way. There is sometimes merit in learning from a child than learning from an adult.
Education doesn’t mean only studies. There are several skills that children could learn while they are still growing up. What if one has some unique talents that could make them the next Sanjeev Kapoor or dance moves that could make them the next Madhuri Dixit? Madhuri is a science graduate, education does help, however, her degree didn’t stop her from exploring her art. And her parents never stood in her way of her decisions to pursue art. And anyway, even if they don’t become as big as the names above, they need to be happy for themselves, in their eyes. Expose them to all, let them choose.
We need to ensure that once the umbilical cord is cut, they are a separate entity. We can guide them, we can guard them, we should, however, work at ensuring that they don’t become a reflection of our thoughts. They are their own being. They will carve their own path. If you want someone to obey your commands, get a robot.
My parents did it, chances are that I do it with my kids too. It is a genetic disease in many ways. We can never stop ourselves from comparing our kids to other kids. Let’s stop that right now. Our kids need no benchmarking with other kids. And neither do other kids deserve the jealousy that we breed.
It is okay to come first, it is okay to not come first too, and it is okay to come last. It is just okay to have given it a shot and failed. It is okay if all children don’t excel. It is okay if they are second best or they enter the race as mediocre and remain mediocre. They need to be where their heart is. And the fact that they are happy in a field of their choice is what is important.
Gender is a social construct, give your child the freedom to build it. They need to be exposed to all genders. However, I will abstain from telling them that they are boys and should wear pants or that they are girls and should wear skirts. I will expose them to stories of people of all genders and tell them that it is okay if there is no congruence between their gender assigned at birth and the gender that they feel they are. No ‘boys play with cars and girls play with dolls’. But if my boy wants to play with cars, he will.
Children are not our property. They could be the legal heir to our property. You can’t beat them into believing anything. Also legally it is a crime if you beat your own child also. Stop it. Just because our parents beat us up, doesn’t mean we need to pass that on to the next generation. There is a thin line that divides disciplining and abuse, lifting your hand on a child is abuse and so is traumatising them emotionally. Be patient in explaining. They may take time to understand, you have to be patient. I have an option for those who cannot be patient – Don’t have a child.
Sex abuse is not something that we just read in the newspapers, it is something that happens in our homes. I will ensure that I tell my child the name of every body part, even the penis or the vagina. When we empower children with language, we also build a conversation to speak to them about the fact that I will believe in their story.
You could be a progressive mom or dad, however, you don’t have to be progressive enough to invade the privacy of your child. Be bold, but hold on…
I would like to make my kids aware of the best and what constitutes as abuse or misbehaviour according to my point of view. But also, I’d equip my child to make their own choices. It takes a lot of effort to go be make people aware and yet allow kids to take their own stance. Rather than forcing our notions of gender, sexuality, caste, religion and even biases regarding region, it is important that we let them choose and make their own life choices based on experiences. The idea that you are born into a caste, religion, sex is something that needs to be worked upon. You are not born into anything, but you could make a choice of being everything.
This children’s day – let us allow our kids space and time. And tell them that second best or standing the last is the best too. Let’s pull up our children, not pull them down.
Happy Children’s Day.