“How was your day, Jhilmil?” is the most common question that I ask my eleven-year-old daughter once I am back from work. I know she is gradually stepping into adolescence and I should be very careful in the way I treat her and speak to her. Sorry, I made a wrong statement. Shouldn’t we all, as parents, treat our children in an exalted way? Yes, it is necessary as it augments the child’s self-esteem.
I had brought up Jhilmil single-handedly. She was a toddler of two years when I had a divorce. Unable to bear the daughter’s break up (sigh!) my mother passed away soon after. So it was just the three of us – Me, Jhimil and my seventy-year-old father. While my childhood had always remained over protective under the watchful glares of my mother it was my father who advised that Jhilmil should be brought up in the exact opposite way.
Both my father and I have consistently remained courteous in our dealings with Jhilmil. And she too has reciprocated in the same manner. Jhilmil is an independent girl who can manage all her chores alone and to my surprise, I have never found her running to me for emotional support. Please don’t get me wrong. Jhilmil is certainly not the best child in this universe and I beg your pardon if my statement sounds overrated. I am here to convey a small message to all the parents and I am sure everyone will agree with me.
It so happened one day that my friend, Maitri, invited me and Jhilmil for lunch. I knew she had a son, Appu, a year senior to Jhilmil so I was more than happy to take my daughter to her place. I had earlier met Appu but this was the first time Jhilmil would be meeting him. We reached Maitri’s place well before lunch and we got our first jolt when Maitri screamed on top of her lungs and called Appu to greet us.
Relax, he is a child and we will be spending the entire day together so why make so much noise. Jhilmil softly asked me if Appu was deaf and I assured her that he wasn’t and was absolutely fine, just like her. I must admit Maitri had a lovely apartment and it was Appu who asked us to accompany him to the balcony so that he could show his new pet. Once again Appu was reprimanded for taking us to the balcony; he should have escorted us to the hall. So I had to divert myself to the hall with Jhilmil venturing out with Appu to see a caged bird sheltered in the balcony. No, it was a bird of different species and not a parrot. I heard Jhilmil asking Appu “Which bird is this?” with Appu replying “Love bird. It also had a wife but she (eye roll) had expired”. Pat! Came the thud on Appu’s back. “Naughty boy, how many times I have asked you to remain decent?” Maitri screeched.
“Look your son is behaving just like you” Maitri yelled at her husband, Abhay, whom I was meeting for the first time. So now Appu had already committed two mistakes and Jhilmil was quick enough to ask me if she was okay with her mannerisms lest she attracts the wrath of Maitri. We settled down on the couch with our glass of cool lemon juices when Maitri and Abhay asked the children to play in the other room. “Shut the door of your room, play inside and call me on my cell if you need something” Abhay dictated before packing off the children.
I was left flabbergasted. Why shut the door? Does this kid have his own cell phone? And why does he need to call his father on his cell when the father is sitting in the very next room with us? While I never allowed Jhilmil to touch my smartphone, Appu owned a mobile which had internet connectivity. Jhilmil was super excited to go to the other room and play when I resisted and asked them to keep the door open. I lied that Jhilmil is scared of closed doors.
I couldn’t withstand observing the fact despite Appu being the only child none of his parents spoke softly with him. Neither is he given respect nor is he given affection. During lunch, Appu asked for extra rotis. Yes, he was served those rotis but not before being fat-shamed. Appu is on the heavier side and the couple is contemplating on sending the child to the gym for weight reduction. After all, he is only eleven!
What is their problem? Post lunch Jhilmil refused to go with Appu in his room. On probing, she said “Appu is always busy texting on mobile, we don’t play. I find it boring.” Now before the couple could further beat or admonish Appu, I chose to speak to the child. The awkward Appu crept out quietly and stood as if I had punished him. “Appu, how about playing chess or carom?” I enquire. “Aunty, neither do I have a chessboard, nor a carom board, I play on my cell phone throughout the day. Give me Jhilmil’s number and we both can chat on whatsapp……” before Appu could finish further came the barrage of blows on his back from his mother accompanied with moral preaching from the father.
There was more drama but I am really not in a mood to write all. Do we, as parents, have some takeaway lessons from here? I mean I had said I am going to convey a small message.
During our stay, I never saw Appu smiling or looking happy. He had sad eyes and always looked shy. Appu had to leave for tuition class which is at a stone-throw distance from home but Maitri accompanied him fearing he would fall prey to the wrong company. So now make mountains out of moles. The boy is growing up in such contradictions that he has now grown used to them. I mean you yell, beat, fat shame your son and the next moment you accompany him to his tuition class lest he makes wrong friends. The boy is not even allowed to play cricket and here the parents are contemplating sending the child to the gym to reduce weight.
Is this parenting? It was the first and last time I had taken Jhilmil to their house and we both had had enough dose of our parenting lessons. It’s high time, Maitri and Abhay need to change their demeanor while dealing with the child. He is slowly stepping into adolescence. I sincerely wish that Appu grows up to be a good individual with a high self esteem.
So here’s just a personal account of parenting gone wrong which I witnessed. Do I need to say more?