Learning to live and let live
Most people must be familiar with the British series Goodness Gracious Me. I personally enjoyed it very much when it was first released, years ago.
In one episode, an Indian family in the UK was bemoaning their son’s choice of occupation. They had wanted him to be a musician in a rock band or something cool and hip. The son, looking guilty and sheepish, said “But what is wrong with being a doctor? That is what I want to be”….
It was an amusing and sarcastic take on parents who want to live vicariously through their children, and fulfill the desires and ambitions they themselves could not achieve.
These days the old sort of parental control is much less evident, although there is continual pressure, certainly in South Asia, on children to get top marks in school, and to excel at every activity in which they participate.
Children, not surprisingly, have minds of their own from an early age. I got a lesson in assertiveness from young teen-aged granddaughter yesterday. I told her I had always wanted to be a Professor in some brainy subject, and I hoped she might want to be a Professor too some day. I was impressed and oddly happy when she replied gravely “I cannot live your dream, I have dreams of my own.”
Although I was just indulging in frivolous chit chat with her, I realized afresh that our duty to our children and grandchildren is to allow them to grow and develop in their own way. We can give them a good education, help them channel their energies in the right direction, and encourage them to develop their unique skills and talents. They have their own dreams, which change as their minds grow and develop over the years. Whatever the nature of their aspirations they need to be able to have the chance to work toward them.
Seniors of a more conservative bent tend to forget that we have had our day. We had our chances, made our choices and lived with them. We cannot expect to re-live our lives through our children. They should be allowed to choose their own options and make their own mistakes, self- destructive behavior aside; they should be able marry whomsoever they choose, divorce if they need to, and do whatever they feel is right for them. Family and social pressures, and the need to conform, are pernicious, hurtful and alienating.
A remarkable example of what a supportive environment and loving parents can do is to observe the transformation that has taken place in the lives of the second and third generation children of families that migrated to the UK, US and elsewhere. These young people were fortunate in that they got the opportunity to accompany their parents abroad. These parents may have started life at the bottom of the social ladder, but today their children and grandchildren are at the very top of the same ladder.
During the many years that we spent abroad during my husband’s diplomatic career, it was remarkable how exceptionally well the children of the clerical staff as well as the children of drivers and peons did. Many of these same children are in top positions in the four corners of the world today, as corporate lawyers, investment bankers and business tycoons.
In the countless cases where the children of poor and middle class families have done exceptionally well, they have certainly been motivated by the sacrifices their parents made to ensure that their children would be able to get a better education and a better kind of life than they did.
Many young people especially in our country may be undiscovered because of a lack of educational opportunities. What this talented young generation needs is the opportunity and the appropriate support to cultivate their talents and apply their intellect successfully.
It is the very least that children from all walks of life deserve.
Nasrin Sobhan is a freelance writer