They say parenting is a beautiful experience. It has in store, a lot of ‘firsts’ for parents. The first time an expectant parent feels their baby’s kick in the womb; the first time they drop their crying toddler to school; the first time they celebrate their children’s graduation; the first time they see their children get married; the first time they welcome their grandchild. And each ‘first’ is a unique experience for parents that last a lifetime.
Sadly, not everyone gets a chance to be a part of this wonderful experience. Sometimes, it’s the choice an individual makes and at other times it is the circumstances. Perhaps, that is why parenting is often viewed as a privilege. Mary Chelladurai is an expert counsellor on parenting and children. She says, “A parent who sees parenting as a ‘privilege’ looks more at the best interest of the child. These parents lay boundaries keeping in mind the child’s holistic growth, respect children as individuals, and allow them to develop into independent, self-reliant adults.”
Of course, along with the privilege comes responsibilities. After all, raising children to become emotionally resilient adults is not an easy task. It needs a blend of both discipline and leniency. In this article, Soulveda explores the art of parenting by speaking to individuals at various stages of parenthood.
Parenting responsibilities begins from the day a couple knows they are expecting. From preparing financially for the baby’s arrival to taking care of the conceived mother, soon-to-be-parents have an array of responsibilities laid out for them. As expectant parents, Subha Subramanian and Jazwi Vasanth Thennavan relate to it well. Above everything else, they realise the importance of discussing with each other on how to be effective parents. “When it comes to parenting, Jazwi and I are on the same page. We, as parents, are responsible to raise our child to be a good human being, teach them values, and guide them on the right path. We will help them identify their interests and choose their own career path,” Subha says. Further, she says since every child is different, they would want to encourage their child to think on their own, do the right things by themselves and thrive in any given situation.
Being a single mom wasn’t easy for Jyoti. She has had to plow through her children’s ordeals single-handedly along with the financial difficulties.
After the child comes into the world, the responsibilities only get bigger. They do not end with feeding the baby, lulling the infant to sleep or changing diapers. Babies require lots of love and affection from their parents. Mother of three, Jyoti Victor says, “These days, many parents bottle feed their children as early as three months. After all, mothers too must get back to work. So, they put their babies in daycare or under the care of nannies. But unfortunately, nothing or no one can equal the love a parent could provide.”
Talking about her own parenting journey, Jyoti adds, “As a parent, I have had my share of ups and downs. Like most first-time parents I too was strict with my first-born. I wanted her to be the best in everything. I now feel that this approach has more negatives than positives. Thankfully, my daughter has grown up to be a fine, independent, intelligent woman. By the time the younger ones were born, I got wiser. I learned to be more laid back with them.” Being a single mom wasn’t easy for Jyoti. She has had to plow through her children’s ordeals single-handedly along with the financial difficulties. But now, when she looks at her children, there is a sense of satisfaction and contentment.
Parenting is a balancing act. Along with affection, patience is key, especially with teenage children. Saraswathi and Venkatesh Prasad have a teenage daughter. Saraswathy says it is not difficult to handle teenagers. “Parenting them demands an extra ounce of patience. It is certainly a lot easier when we’ve been friendly with our children right from the beginning. It is then that teenagers find it easy to trust us with their feelings,” she says.
With the newfound wisdom to listen patiently to their grandchildren and be non-judgmental, grandparents easily establish a strong bond with their grandchildren.
What Saraswathi has also noticed is that shouting, yelling, or instructions does not work with her daughter. She either retorts or refuses to listen. So, she tries to be patient and understanding. “Like most teens, my daughter is obsessed with gadgets. She also has a lot of friends and is constantly texting them. So, we make it a point to spend adequate time with her,” she says.
After years of hard work and balancing act, parents finally catch their breath when children grow up and settle down. But do they? Even as grandparents, parents could still be required to give physical and emotional support to children (and grandchildren) every now and then. With the newfound wisdom to listen patiently to their grandchildren and be non-judgmental, grandparents easily establish a strong bond with their grandchildren. And as for their own children, grandparents guide them to become better parents. They help them avert the mistakes they did when they were young. But above everything else, grandparents impart values about culture and tradition to future generations.
Take septuagenarian Lalantika Polamada and her husband for instance. They have five grandchildren. They visit their children and grandchildren in the US every summer. She fondly recalls how her grandchildren taught them to operate the laptop and the iPad. “My husband rides bicycles and plays badminton with them. And I tell them stories about our culture and heritage,” Lalantika says.
If there is one thing that is clear from talking to parents, it is that parenting is a responsibility. As philanthropist and socialite Rose Kennedy once said: “When you hold your baby in your arms the first time, and you think of all the things you can say and do to influence him, it’s a tremendous responsibility. What you do with him can influence not only him, but everyone he meets and not for a day or a month or a year but for time and eternity.” Despite being a big responsibility, parenting is also a privilege. For this reason and more, parenting is indeed a beautiful journey.