Happy Parents' Day!
Parents' Day is held on the fourth Sunday of July every year in the United States. It is apart from the Global Parents' Day, proclaimed by the U.N., that is observes on June 1 every year. This one was established in 1994 when President Bill Clinton signed a Congressional Resolution into law for “recognizing, uplifting and supporting the role of parents in rearing of children.” Parental figures in the U.S. Receive the recognition for the role they play in the lives of their children on Parents' Day. The day aims to promote responsible parenting and to recognize positive parental role models. Exemplary parents from each state are nominated for “National Parents of the Year”, and those selected are honored at local, state and national levels. For Parents' Day schools across the country invite parents into the classroom to experience firsthand what a school day is like for their child. From children's perspective, it is a special day for them to honor their mother and father. The best way to mark this day for them is to spend some enjoyable time with their parents and letting them know how much they are loved and appreciated. And, it's a time to celebrate the family structure and family values.
The cultural compulsions might have motivated the country to legislate a law for parenting, but to think of it, good parenting is a God given gift to all parents and universally they strive to do their best for their children. In Eastern cultures, particularly in India, parents take it as their sacred duty to raise their children and be responsible for their upbringing right from their birth to the time they are grown up and settled in life, and even beyond till they breath their last. For this they are ready to sacrifice all that they have for them – time, money and most importantly, emotional bondage in bringing them up. In this context, one cannot but time and again bring back to memory that most touching concluding scene and your overwhelmingly emotional speech of a parent in the film 'Baghbaan'.
Parents' Day particularly takes me long back in the memory lane of my growing up years in Lahore. My father was a very busy person, with hardly any time for us during the day. But his absence was well compensated by our mother's omnipresent company and great devotion every minute of our growing years. However, on his part in parenting us, our father made it a priority to be with the family at dinner time every day without fail. In fact, he had made it mandatory for everyone in the family to be together at the dinner table. Mealtime at night was a ritual in our family which must not be missed by anyone. Apart from the family members, anyone around the dinner table was family, most often a friend of one or the other sibling. Father would generally jump-start the family conversation by asking questions like, "What did you like most about your day?" or "What was the best part of your day?" He would suggest slow down and savor the food, not so much to inculcate a healthy habit, as to give more time to enjoy mealtime conversation before clean up began. Indeed, this used to be the best quality time for the family in a day, the important elements being family cohesion and family communication. The atmosphere was essentially kept fun-filled, non-confrontational and stress-free by focusing on fun topics. Interestingly, Sunday evenings were an exception to the rule when there were no mealtime family meetings. Every one was free to come at anytime, or even eat out. It was an evening off for the cook as well as for our mother from the kitchen duty. We looked forward to the weekly off to go to watch a movie or to freak out with friends. Parents would take the opportunity to make social calls on friends and relations. The basic idea was family flexibility.
With school holidays underway, our family's annual summer travel ritual began. The family would head for the hills, most of the time for Srinagar, Kashmir, where our uncle was settled. This was a great way for the family to have some of that special time together, and a great way to get away too. Whether it was around the dinner table, or enjoying our vacations on the hills, we really had a wonderful family-time together.
When the time for us came to devote quality time to our children, the times had changed. Amid the hits to families' budget in the new economic order, at-home moms were already marching to work, to make both ends meet. Although most parents felt hurting to their pride to talk about it, the economic downturn and ever increasing inflation was forcing many to defer dreams of striking a better work-life balance. Amongst working parents, we were slightly better placed, with my wife working less hours and having more holidays in her school job than most other women who worked 9-5 in offices. She would come back from work almost the same time our son returned from school, and could devote rest of the day to him, even though it was at times too tiring.
With my absolute belief that we as parents would greatly benefit from joining together and sharing the trials and tribulations of parenthood, supporting each other, learning form each other, and lending loving advice and helping hand, I sincerely strived to play my part as a husband who is helpful. Let me elaborate my role by relating to an amusing anecdote: Our son was still in his elementary school when he upset his teacher by being adamant on answering incorrectly, which as per his teacher, was a very simple question of social studies. After she had taught the class the basics of our daily life from a lesson in the book, wherein it was clearly stated that in the family, the father goes out to work and the mother does the household, she asked our son, “Who makes breakfast for you everyday?” To which he replied, “My father makes breakfast for me everyday.” And repeatedly gave the the same answer in spite of being corrected by the teacher. We had to explain to the teacher that this was the only truth he knew. While his mother went to work early in the morning, I fixed breakfast for him and tiffin for the school, saw him off when the school bus came, and then went to office.
Parenting in Indian culture particularly, is for parents to do their best for their daughters to find the most suitable match for settling in married life. They remain concerned and responsible and cannot have a good sound sleep till they give away their daughter of marriageable age in marriage. This is one concern they can never be free from even if their daughter is doing well in her career and the thought of marriage is not at all that important a thing in her mind as so many other work related worries. I know of an interesting example where the parents travelled all the way to the U.S., where the daughter is presently settled, to present her with several alternative offers of marriage. They did not know, nor could ever imagine that their daughter was living-in with her American boy friend for quite sometime. We knew because they were living in our neighborhood. Suddenly the couple pretended a split. Reason, her parents were to visit her on vacation, and she did not want to shock them with her live-in relationship. My wife and I came to know the parents while on our walks in the nearby park. Their only topic of talk was their daughter - “We are very concerned for her remaining single for the sake of her career; our only purpose of paying her this visit is to put pressure on her to get married and to present her with several suitable matches from India to chose from, but she has no time to even look at their photographs; she works very hard, working till wee hours at her work”, and so on. Poor parents, they remained worried for their daughter's wedding till their departure, not knowing she would be reunited with her live-in boy friend as soon as their flight took off.
All said, whatever the individual circumstances, there is no greater gift in the world than what parents give to children- all their time and attention and, of course, love.
“I want some day to be able to love with the same intensity and unselfishness that parents love their children with.” - Shakira