Disclaimer: Not for the faint/foolish hearted; not an easy, fun read.
V, one of my best friends from school who's the proud papa of a nearly year old girl called me today - he said he feels about 50; and is too tired dealing with work, life, family and all the rest of it. He says he’s terribly stressed that he can’t see his daughter play ever!
It got me thinking about my childhood. Growing up was like a dream. I really was a little Queen ordering everyone around and getting everyone to do my bidding. If I wanted my dad to stay home from work, I asked him not to go. And he wouldn’t. In hindsight, he may not have been a great worker but he definitely was the best dad a little girl could want. No doll was too expensive, no desire unattainable.
At the same time, I wasn’t spoiled. Mom, dad and I had intense discussions on life. A typical talk - how I am to treat the less fortunate (like sharing pencils and other stationary with the maid’s children). If you are a single-child sharing is a skill that ought to be taught. Or just being normal and not high-handed with help. (I do wish a lot of people were taught this lesson.)
Later when we had a sort of financial downfall, I also learnt the importance of saving pennies and the whole waste-not-want-not deal. That really was a difficult time because once you’ve been used to comforts and luxuries, it’s hard not to have it again in your life - where you think twice before splurging on two expensive mangoes while earlier you’d think nothing of ordering the entire cartload.
But no matter what the financial situation, growing up, there was plenty of love. My parents were madly in love with each other – so much so that often I felt a little left-out. But I never missed having siblings because I always had friends who filled the void. Also, growing up, mom and I used to fight very bitterly like rival siblings and poor dad had to act like a peacemaker. I didn't miss much in that sense.
So when I look back at my childhood, I only remember love and comfort and clichéd though it may sound - a glorious harmony. And I see my parents as they were then, young, full of life with a zest for living and enjoying every moment as it came. And they made sure I was ridiculously happy as well. That knowledge again, comes to me only in hindsight, back then it was just the only way of being.
Did they have any existential moments? I recently asked my mom about it and she said she didn’t. Not until the entire anxiety of my dad’s voluntary retirement and life post retirement hit them. But by then I was old enough to know what I wanted, I was doing what I loved, I was financially sufficient and so when shit hit the roof, I could handle it. When my parents suddenly fell out of love, I could act as a counselor, be a friend to both, and try and work it out as a family. But by then I was old. Definitely younger than I now am, but old enough to handle tough times.
So were I to describe my childhood or the parenting I had in a word, I’d say - ease. It was simple, natural, and effortless. And my parents (both of them) were always available.
But these days, it’s different. There is so much pain, and trauma and angst involved in parenting.
Most of us don’t conceive easily.
And when we do it’s fraught with complications.
And when we eventually have those little buggers, we aren’t entirely natural or happy.
Like in the case of V who is stressed that he hardly gets to spend time with his daughter.
From the time I spoke to ST last week (first lover and now dear friend/father figure) and then when I spoke about it to Anu a few days back, I’ve realized that may be nature is trying to tell us something. I think it’s telling us to stop procreating. ST is of the opinion that the planet cannot handle another generation. Anu thinks that we hardly have any resources left to leave to the kids, what are we bringing them into?
And what happens if we do have a child and it does grow up and suddenly we aren’t good enough parents? And when we want to control its life and make its choices? When we subject our child to our modes and mores? When we come to depend on them emotionally, financially, physically? Who parents whom then?
And can we really thrust that responsibility so casually and yes, so selfishly on an unborn person?
Parent-child relationships are emotionally draining and physically exhausting the older we all get. So when V was bitching to me about feeling 50, I laughingly reminded him to not expect any sympathy from an 80 year old.
But it is an alarming thought. Can we, as a generation, be young enough for our children to have a happy childhood? And when our child is older, will we be fun and wise enough to love him/her and let him/her go their own way no matter how conventional/unconventional he/she grows up to be?
And talking to most of my friends who are all in complicated parent-child relationships, my ear-worm just wouldn't stop -
Mama, didn't mean to make you cry; sometimes wish I'd never been born at all...
Can we be at ease with tomorrow and yesterday?
As a parent or a child, is it really possible to love unconditionally and unselfishly?
I don’t know, what do you think?