There are those days. Very often, there are those days, when I feel I am doing everything wrong as a parent. The days when I find myself constantly yelling at the kids for not doing things the way I think is right. The more I yell, the more they continue doing what I am yelling at them for yelling, and that only makes me yell more, which only makes them ........ you get the picture. I end up uttering threats I have no intention or ability to keep, they get confused and upset. And we all end up in a story silence, or loud wails which eventually end up with a group hug and lots of recriminations and sorries.
Those are the days when I tell myself I was never cut out for parenting. Days when I wonder why I ever decided to have kids when I am tempramentally unsuited to the task. Those are the days when I wish I were someone else - someone with the maturity to deal with kids. Someone who knows how to smile through crisises without losing the upper hand. Someone like a school teacher, or a child psychologist.
A colleague's wife is the Founder and Principle of a reputed school in Bombay. She's logged more hours of practicing child psychology than I have on Excel spreadsheets. She's also the mother of two teen daughters who look the epitome of stability. She is the kind of mother I would love to be.
On Monday, when I asked my collegue how his weekend was, he told me that he'd spent it in hospital. His daughter had consumed a bottle of toilet cleaner after an altercation with the mother, and had to be rushed to hospital to have her stomach pumped. She'd been kept under observation in the ICU for a few hours, before being shifted to a private room where the police met her to record her statement about the suicide attempt.
"But why?" was all I could say to my collegue.
Turns out the mother had pulled her kid up for her falling grades, and the kid decided either to end her life, or to scare her parents by pretending to do so.
Over the last few months, a not as good as expected academic performance has resulted in a spate of suicides among students in the city, but those are kids of other people. People who put pressure on their kids to perform beyond their ability. People who attempt to relive their life through their kids.
They are not the kids of enlightened parents who don't place unrealistic expectations on their kids. They are not the kids of parents who are trained to deal with kids and help them reach their full potential. They are definiltey not the kids of mothers who I thought were perfect.
When I think about it, a shudder runs up my spine. All we want is the best for our kids, but do we have any way of knowing what is going on in the minds of our kids? I will shout less, and love more. I will try to lead by example instead of telling my kids to do things. I will tone done my aspirations.
But, as parents, don't we also have the responsibility to lead our kids towards achieving their full potential? Isn't it also our duty to get them to do their best? We can't abdicate that duty, can we?
How then do we achieve that balance? Can we ever know what is going on in their minds when they seem to be sleeping soundly at night?