Wednesday, August 25, 2004

An Incomplete Study

This was a study that I carried out a long time back (I guess it was back in 2000-2001) and as yet I haven't completed it so it's inconclusive.

Incomplete Inconclusive

Over the years it has become clearer and clearer that parents neither understand their children nor enjoy their company anymore. It is, as if a long curtain has come between “us and them”.

ABC, a 17 year old says, “I can make the world understand my point of view, but not them.”

If the simplest thing came out of a child’s mouth, it would be so difficult to understand that children speak little to their parents nowadays. And whenever they should try, they are met with failure. The gulf between parents and children is ever widening. Some children have tried to make it smaller but they are scoffed at and made fun of. So, every failure has made such children determined to get away from the people who find it so hard to understand their point of view.

“It’s not easy to live with one’s coffin on ones shoulder, is it?” says 24 year old UET, who ran away from his home once.

Over the time, it has also become evident that even if they do understand something, they act as if they don’t, which is worse. It is easy for them to point fingers in the child’s direction and make them the scapegoat to hide the shortcomings in their upbringing of him or her. Some children might ask their parents to tell them their mistakes so they can try to correct them. At times, it seems why would they make it easy for the children? They are never told and the child, who is just a child, can never find where he or she is at fault.

“So, they get away with always trying to correct me without ever telling me where the correction is supposed to be made,” elaborates KMC who is in his final year.

So, in this struggle, many years of the child’s life are wasted without any reason whatsoever. Children tend to be forgiving, but many end up asking themselves whether they can forgive their parents after a while.

AMC 23, who tried to fight her problems at home by moving to a hostel says she still cannot cope with the fact that her parents never used to listen to her and their arguments affected her in the worst way possible.

“Should I forgive my father for making a nervous wreck out of me? Should I forgive my mother who beat me because it hurt my father and in that way made me immune to most pain other than my own? If I forgive everyone then whom am I supposed to hold responsible for the death of the person that could have been me? Or am I supposed to hold myself responsible as if it was my mistake that I was born? And when I ask my parents this question, all they can tell me is that I am not being thankful for all that they’ve given me and all that they’ve done for me. I want to tell them and everybody to take away all these things from me and give me some peace of mind instead. Make me a healthy, normal person who enjoys life. Give love instead and somebody, just somebody hold me for a while so that at least I can die in loving arms. But this will never be.”

No more being able to cope with her problems, AMC tries to cloak them with short-lived affairs. These, she says, give her self-confidence.

Many of the people who were interviewed for this article held much the same opinion when it came to the question of how exactly the parents coped with their problems.

“I am fast approaching twenty-one and I feel so naked and tired. I feel like I’m eighty. I want to tell my parents that. They only pity me for my apathy but they don’t care. They tell me to get out of their sights because I’m too apathetic to be seen. So, have I done this to myself? Have I made myself reach oblivion? They’ve never had an answer and I don’t think that any of our parents will have an answer”, says IBMS, who uses hash usually to get away from his problems. When asked if hash really helps, he says it helps in forgetting that he’s attached to this world in a real way.

26 year old UOP, who quit smoking and hash recently told us that his father knew about his habit but never stopped him. He tried to beat him when he came to know about it. Later on he gave up and instead, it culminated in making life for his mother difficult as she was blamed for ruining their only son. “He used to come home and would start screaming at my mother though it was his fault. When I had wanted him around he was never there. He’s always been too busy and if he ever finds time to come home he tries to find reasons to fight with my mother. He would never ask, beta tum aisa kyon kar rahe ho (son, why are you doing this)?” When asked if his father had shown any positive reaction to his quitting, he shakes his head and says, “Nahin yaar, he’s only concerned with what people would say about HIS son. He also needed some reason to make my mother more miserable. Object yeh nahin tha ke mein charas chhor deita. Buss abba ne larai dalni hoti thi (the object wasn’t to make me stop using hash but father wanted to make a fight). Now he’s found some other reason to fight my mother and play the blame game”.

He goes on to say, “all you guys want is the most perfect kids without ever understanding that we are children and however old we grow, we’ll still be your children. We’ll still need your help and affection but you leave us alone in a lurch. You leave us in darkness when we are weak and want us to find our own way out. How can we? Why can’t you help us?”

UET came back home after a month of staying at a right wing camp near Lahore because he thought by that time his parents would be fine. He says that though his mother is more flexible to his views yet she curses him sometimes for running away and his father doesn’t even talk to him anymore. He says he suffers from depression and insomnia due to all the stress and everything has adversely affected his studies since he had to miss classes for that one month and now regularly misses them on account of sleeping in the morning rather than at night. “Why can’t my parents help me? Why can’t they help me out of my depression, my sleeplessness? Why do the always only tell me that I am sleeping late? Why don’t they ask me the reason why?”

Some children feel that parents are scared that by asking so the children might uncover the discrepancies in their training of their children. Most parents would rather blame each other than own up to the collective responsibility of understanding their child’s problems.

Parents should accept their mistakes by helping their children understand if and when they are wrong and why. Your child needs your help. Don’t set about trying to reason why children sometimes ask questions like this. Don’t label them crazy or out of their minds for asking questions. They might never again ask for help because it’s too late then.

123, who has tried committing suicide many times and is determined on doing so again if given a chance, says, “ …then still expect me to come asking for help of people who never in the first place know how to help. It seems to me that parents have ever been children to men and women like themselves. And it amazes me!”

She sought help from a psychologist whom she says told her that would be fine after she has passed through the turbulent years of puberty. 123, who used to go to this doctor when she was 17, is 25 now.

27 year old BankerPesh is young and successful. He has a nicely paying job with a bank. He says he will never get married. On being asked why he says, “my mother thinks that she has all the rights to decide whom I should be marrying. I fell in love with this girl about 2 years ago and I talked to my mother about her. My mother never said anything to me at that time but went to my father who in turn came to me and asked me if I cared about the honor of my family. I ask where does honor come from in all this? I wasn’t doing anything wrong. I wasn’t going out with the girl. I wasn’t going to run away with her. I’d simply told my mother I wanted to marry her but they flat out refused. It’s not as if she’s from some bad family or if there’s something wrong. My parents just don’t want to listen. They want me to marry one of my aunt’s daughters. Why should I? I have also thought of them as my sisters. And anyway how can I bring myself to forget that girl? I’m not a teenager nor is this a crush. I really love her and I’ve thought of marrying only her. I wonder why my parents cannot understand my sentiments?”

Like BankerPesh, many young men and women are questioning their parents’ line of reasoning. WorkerAntIsloo, 26, is a successful consultant for a multinational. She says she moved from her parents’ house in Lahore because she was being suffocated. “As soon as I graduated, my mother was on my case. At first, it was fine. It was amusing but then it was no more. I graduated with honors. It’s no joke. I’m my own woman. I was raised in an environment where I was told that being a woman and being independent isn’t any sin. But that wasn’t true anymore. It seemed as if that was all forgotten. Even my father who had been a pillar of support during all my growing years suddenly thought it was more important for me to settle down then do my own thing. It was just too much for me and I thought it better to move out then listen to things like, tumhari behan par kya asar paray ga (what effect will it have on your sister) and stuff like that.”

MultiKhi, 27, thinks the same but he says it was difficult for his parents to concentrate on him much when he had three younger siblings that his parents needed to take care of. He thinks that parents are keen to expand families without thinking of the repercussions for older children who tend to get neglected in this process. “Mein school jata tha to ammi abbu ko tayar kar rahee hoti thein (when I was about to go to school my mother would be readying my father). Abbu ko office janay ki jaldi hoti thi (father would be in a hurry for the office). Ammi munnay ke saath bhi masroof hoti thein (she also used to be busy with my younger brother). Mujhe lunch mil jata tha (I used to get my lunch). Phir school se wapas lekin abbu kabhi yeh nahin poochtay thay ke yeh chote kaise lagee (then I used to come back from school but my father never used to ask how I had hurt myself)? The older boys sometimes used to pick on me. Ghar akar ammi phir waise hi masroof (when I used to come back home my mother would still be busy). Unn sab ke paas time nahin tha ke poochtay (they didn’t have time to ask). Of course a gulf was created between my parents and me. When I was in college I started drinking with friends. It didn’t matter much. No one had ever told me what was wrong or right. Rather I should say no one had the time to tell me about all these things”.

Note: I've removed most of the original formatting. I had changed the names of the people for reasons of privacy. This survey was taken in part on the internet.

Saturday, December 22, 2001.

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