My son's almost 11 and if i ignore his temper surges, still very much a baby, innocent and impressionable. His birthday is approaching soon, and we asked him what he wanted as a present, (a temporary lapse in sanity prompted us to ask him if he wanted a PSP, or Wii), he said NO to both. I was quite surprised!
He's most happy if you take him for a game of soccer or cricket, delirious if someone can kick ball with him all day. Those are the moments when i see the beautiful bonding between the two brothers, the natural ease with which the elder teaches the younger how to kick, how to bowl. Those are the memories which sustain me when they are at each other's throats, usually triggered by trivial matters.
He has been to friends' houses where everything is grand, cupboards overpacked with gizmos and unlimited pepsi/cocacola, in other words, a different life style from what he's used to. He's been to houses too, where it's been the opposite, low on frills but high on fun, quite like the much hyped about 'middle class' experience. He's always come back raving about the time he spent with his friends, whether it was the playstation or the game of soccer they played, never the inequality of it all.
When we moved to Singapore, we gave up a lot (wrt the support system) in delhi, our help, the driver and our cars. In Delhi, it was a constant effort to insulate the boys against the 'showing off' culture that the city is known for. It is so easy to get swayed away by affluence. There was an instance of a colleague buying a bigger car because his son was ashamed of the smaller one. Since when has contentment been measured with money? And what will happen when the money dries up?
In Singapore, we've opted not to take a car, because the public transport is one of the best in the world. Here we walk, we cycle, we take the local train,the bus or the cab, sometimes even all three, to reach our destination. Initially the kids had problems coming to terms with the forced walking, coming as they did from their chaperoned life where they had been chauffered everywhere. If you've lived in Delhi, you would know that the public transport is apalling not to mention the safety issues of sending children alone anywhere.
There were times, here, when Swaraj would ask why we didn't have a car. We would explain to him, about what he's been studying in school, about global warming, about the excellent infrastructure Singapore has to offer, about the need for it. There are times he doesn't understand, and just accepts it as a quirk of ours. But he accepts, which i feel is a big step forward.
It worries me when i see children his age, cushioned against the disappointments of life. I've seen them getting everything on a platter, and it scares me that the parents, in their bid to give them the best, are spoiling them silly. The new mantra seems to be, if you can afford it, then you must have it. The line between needing and wanting seems to be getting merged.
The 5 yr-old has a t-shirt which reads
"saw it, wanted it, threw a fit, got it!!!"
funny, because if he were to throw a fit, he would have definitely got it, a sound verbal thrashing :D
It is difficult to deny your kids something, but i realise the importance of saying no. I believe in what i've been told when growing up, of learning to handle little disappointments so that you are better at handling life's bigger challenges. Of using middles class ways of building up resilience and character. Of learning to want something bad enough to work for it. Even with all this, my mother feels that we've been bringing them up easy. Sometimes the effort seems tiring, going through all the arguments just to prepare him for something he has no clue about. Sometimes it's so easy to give in....
Till now Swaraj has been delightfully simple, happy with his sports activities and his allocated computer time. But it's getting increasingly difficult to strike a sane balance between needs and wants. Of knowing the difference between the two...of wanting him to know that whatever we own is the result of hard work and self denial...of wanting him to know about the value of money, the value of his soccer coaching, of wanting him not to take everything and everybody for granted, and of wanting him to know that value does not always mean money.
Whoever said parenting was easy? The difficulty level sure increases with their age!!! and I hope i pass, each time...:D