Sunday, July 27, 2008

The need for a want...

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

64 comments:

--xh-- said...

whn I was a kid, i have thought about the inequalities, and I knew that I will get something only if i need it, not if I want it - and when all is said and done, I am happy that my parents did it that way, and never isolated me from the realities of life.
I am sure, when the kids grew up, they will realize what a good thing you have done by making them realistic and helping them to differentiate between want and need.

~nm said...

Isn't it that we learn the simplicities of life and the happiness in them from our kids? :D

manuscrypts said...

true..a needlessly wanting generation :)

Joy said...

Suma, According to me each generation has its own challenges. If you compare present to prev gen, then present seems to live in luxury. Same way, we were in much better position that our parents and they from theirs and so on. When need and want in the sense of "getting stuff" is getting merged, I am sure they are getting apart somewhere else. The challenge would be how to know it and patch it.

And yes, you would pass all your tests with flying colors but definitely learn something out of them - "want and need" of next gen.

brocasarea said...

when i was young my mom never used to take to me to market since i used to demand many things!..now i realize why she used to deny that!!...
"the surest way to failure is by trying to please everyone"anomymous!

rayshma said...

u will, gurl! u sure will.

i don't know if all parents who cushion their kids from everything in life are spoiling them.
i've always had everything that i may have wanted... before i even realized that i wanted it. that was dad's way of pampering me. but at the same time, the "value" of things was ingrained in me. so i wasn't at any point of time condescending to others who didn't have what i did. neither did i take things for granted. i never knew want... but i still learned that i had to work hard to get wherever i needed to.
i think if parents can manage to explain the "value" of things... the child turns out okay. at least as okay as me ;)

Rambler said...

suma..hey where can I get that tshirt ...sounds apt for me :)
Regarding children not being easy with both the high end things and the middle class life, I think at one age this does not matter, only in early/late teens this may start attracting.
And people buying bigger cars to please kids, I have a feeling they might use their kids as an excuse, it is very natural for a kid to ask for things, be it a car, or a toy, or any thing which attracts them, but are they really serious about them?

Preethi said...

Very well said Suma. I sometimes wonder too.. Cheeky gets everything even before he thinks of them.. his wants and needs are fulfilled without as much as asking.. so how is he going to learn he is not going to get everything in life? Oh yes we sometimes say no to his demands just so he will know .. but he doesn't care when I say no.. he accepts it.. I wonder if I am really teaching him the art of accepting the no.. or if he really did not want the toy in the first place?
I will have to find out.. for eg when he wanted a bicycle for his 3rd birthday,I told him he could have one in summer, when we are back from India and then later when we were back I pushed it another couple of months for various reasons. He would remind me but never once threw a tantrum.. but then I wonder, maybe he did not want it as much as I wanted him to have it! If you know what I mean!! Sorry for ranting off.. this is something which has been on my mind a lot!!

Balu said...

So true,Suma. It can be tough when needs and wants strenously contest each other. In your case, you are lucky as a parent!

Compassion Unlimitted said...

At 11 you said he is a baby,right,believe me you will say the same thing at 21,31 & well beyond that.Indian mother syndrome lasts beyond a lifetime too!!Nothing wrong dont worry.
Needs & wants ,do make them necessary & sufficient.things will fall in place.One is sure you are doing a great job in parenting & anxiety is part of it.Like pickles & curd rice.More of pickles & anxiety tears flow down !!
Good luck
TC
CU

Suma said...

xh

i'm sure you and i hav ebeen brought up right...but believe me, when you see the items my kids used to come home with, from school, saying it was a kid's b'day you'll understand

so much so his school in delhi had to pass a rule that the birthday child can distribute only chocolates/candies so that there is no disparity...

Suma said...

~nm...

true...
you also learn about the joneses frm them too...



manu..
trust you to sum it up just right!! ;)

Suma said...

~nm...

true...
you also learn about the joneses frm them too...



manu..
trust you to sum it up just right!! ;)

Suma said...

joy,

when i posted this, i thought about you... i know you believe that each generation has its own challenges and merits...

perhaps living in delhi has exposed me to a culture which i had never witnessed before...

Suma said...

brocas...

there, i've shown you the light...:D

and i didn't get your last line?

Suma said...

ray

heh..heh...you did turn out right!! a nice view from the other side...even i had quite a shelterd life...i don't remember being deprived, but then perhaps my wants were few...

but at the same time we knew teh value of everything, those holidays, those treats..it all had a meaning attached to ti...

if you get everything before you even think you need it, what happens when you really badly want soemthing and cannot get it?
and i'm talking at a young age, not now when you have the power of maturity and reason...

Suma said...

rambler...

herad of tantra t-shirts? they have a cute range...:)

an dbelieve me, kidfs tehse days have a very good udea of carsvs status...
i had a wagon R (which incidentally, I bought with my own money) we also had an elantra but the wagon r would be the one which was used in te car pool..and this 6 yr-old girl (the car pool) would always try to convince me why i shd get the elantra to school or give me reasons why i shoud bring her innova (they had 3 cars..)

i rest my case!!!

Suma said...

preethi...

this is exactly what i think i thought when swaraj said no to the Wii...i was like ..huh..!! i know that if i bought it, he would surely enjoy it immensely...but the point is, he's not crazy about having it...

and rant away!!! it helps clear a few cobwebs in my head too...

:)

Sumana said...

Very aptly said Suma. Kids definitely need to know and understand what they can have and what not. The reasoning that goes to make them understand this at times leads to arguments.The necessities and luxuries need to be separated out.

WhatsInAName said...

Suma :)
You have beautifully stated the dilemmas of the Indian middle class of today. Whether Delhi or Singapore, Mumbai or Bangalore, those of us who have come up the hard way will always cherish those values and want our kids to know the value of things.
I feel that there is no harm in saying NO... in fact, kids should learn to accept it. And "throwing a fit" is something for which I "give it" too :))
Lovely post!

Veens said...

it is so scary.. really! think... of ME being a parent.. who is still a KID... whining for this and thats of life!

well i wud say... my mom.. has been the same... she alwas made it a poit to make us understand that what we have is all the fruits of the hard word done bt dad alone and waisting it... is like insult to his hard-work.

i suddenly want to knw whats the diffr btw need and want... and hw to make kids like me understand it ? :(

brocasarea said...

@ suma..it means its always not right to do things just to please others..we shd also do the right thing some times!..i find it very much true!...

ceedy said...

hahah

I so agree with the "trashing"

and come to think of it...parenting is the toughest "reality show" ever...I guess

and in contrast to this - see how a pampered child who hates it is fighting to struggle in my new short story blog...

Ziah said...

And I loved this piece:)

I guess this need vs. want battle is the biggest curse of materialism:) The further we move from our selves, the harder we fill the void with wants... :(

Joy said...

You thought of me while posting? I can't stop laughing... :)

Neera said...

A topic very close to my heart and as I was reading ur post I kept thinking ..it keeps getting tougher with age and u summed it thus. I am happy to know, even if its thru ur blog a delightfully simple child like Swaraj. You are doing the right things if he yearns for and enjoys the soccer game more than the gizmos. But at the same time I totally understand ur concern as peers start playing a Major role around this time. Much good luck for u and in fact all the parents ..everyone needs it!

Wrote a post on exactly the same feelings that you dwell on here

http://ouralmosteverydayblog.blogspot.com/2008/01/cultivating-values.html

Suma said...

sumana...

that's right...they are growing up in an age where everything is so competitive an materialisic...it is normal to want things but not to expect they should and must get it...( and if he grows up deciding he will work at getting what he wants , then that would be perfect too)

Suma said...

wian...

i've not grown up the hard way at all...we were very comfortably brought up but probably because of the lack of exposure, our wants were not great...still somehow, the value of what we got seeped in...for that i'm thankful...

i belive in saying no too, after explaining why..tho ofcourse he may not always agree...:(

Suma said...

veens..

:)....i'm sure you know what i'm talking about and don't worry, when you become a parent, you are going to follow the same path, your mother did ...

Suma said...

brocas...

right, doc!!

Suma said...

ceedy...

i just read your story...a totally different perspective, wasn't it? a good one there...

Suma said...

ziah...

you said it so well, as usual...

and i have a grouse against people who fulfil their wants through someone else's hard work...


joy...

you laughed? why was that? :)


neera
i read your post and must say, it said everything and more...and thanks for the good wishes...:)

Compassion Unlimitted said...

why comments on mine missing..crybaby here..Ha Ha
Tc
CU

Suma said...

balu...

like i said, he's impressionable and therefore still malleable...i'll consider myself fortunate if as an adult, he can see this difference himself

Suma said...

CU

so sorry...not replying to ure comment was unintentional...

and the pickle/curd analogy made me smile...cos i love curd rice with lots of mango pickle...

and baby was a term to indicate his simplicity...but yes...they will always be my babies...tho the younger protests saying "I'm a big boy, amma" ...boys...sigh

Karthik S said...

This is the high time to teach values to kids. Wish u luck to get pass in this real exam.

Well written.

Cheers :-)

Pavi!!!! said...

Wat a lovely post! simple choice of words n conveyed it all so well.

I am so so so scared of parenting..for a whole bunch of reasons that u've stated n plenty else.
Give 'em enough, instil values blah blah blah...every1 says this all so easily...but im sure its not easy to do.
Sis n I were brats as children but turned out okay eventually. Didn't study in the IIM..but hv a decent job. The one thing abt us..we knew how hard it was for mom n dad to provide us with every li'l thing that they did. We drank (alcohol) but dint become addicts..u get the drift.
When it comes to Freedom, pampering, strictness, rules etc etc How much is too much..or How much is enough is an extremely challengin Q!

Oh Gosh..this thing makes me so so so nervous..i cld rant endlessly (when we dont hv a child!imagine when we have one!!) I dont want my kids to be blamed or suffer later on in life..coz of bad parenting :(

Aarthi said...

1st Congrats for not failing till now and
2nd All the Best...not to fail in future...I know how tough it is...I see my mum everyday...:)

Just Jen said...

very very true! when those kids grow up they will be completely unprepared for not getting what they want...sigh
If you want I can make you a gold card with Suma on it!!

Ps said...

He said no to a PSP?!! I love your son!!
Incidentally I have told atul that he can have a PSP when he saves and buys it with his own money.He keeps asking--I keep saying that.ALL the other boys his age are hooked.I keep pointing out to him that its because we have resisted buying a PSP that he is so fond of reading.I really wish you lived in my neighbourhood!! We think so alike!
Cheers
Preeti

forgetfulone said...

You seem to be raising a son whose interests and values will reflect your own, and that is a good thing. Parenting sure can be difficult.

Romila said...

Hats off to you, Suma for having mothered for 11 years instilling values and demarcating strictly between needs & wants.

Just a mom of two and half years ol' I am already having tough time explaining things to my kid without raising my voice.

Mom's like you give me inspiration.Thank you for this lovely post.

Na.Su.Krishnan said...

The need to think about others, the need to behave simple, the need to give respect, the need to speak in mother tongue..All are going away from todays kids, unless parents take care of...

Solitaire said...

Sigh! I am sure parenting can be hard. Especially because we are a generation apart from these kids!

rayshma said...

tough questions... me no have answers! and u'll be there to help me when i have a kid! :D
p.s.: tagged u!

Suma said...

karthik...
thanks...yes, its great if kids realise the value of what they do have...


pavi...
easy girl,...its not that tough...as long as you know when to stop...

as for parenting, it does go beyond changing diapers and tantrums...an di think when teh time comes, you will make a great one...:)

Suma said...

aarthi
thank you, thank you...


just jen..
oh yes i do..i would love that, thank you...

Suma said...

preeti...
:)...i'm still surprised that he said that...and i'm wondering whether he even realises what a big opprtunity he missed ;)
he reads a lot too...and computrer time is quite regulated at home...he listens to the rules, because he helped me make them...

forgetful one..
i hope so, only time will tell..and thank you for those kind words

Suma said...

romila,
that's one of teh sweetest thinghs you could hav etold me..thank you..and believe me, handling a two yr old is nothing when compared to handling a preteen...

nsk..
if kids ae getting spoilt, its the parents who have a great hand in it...

solitaire...
its hard at times but very fulfilling too...its hard to describe the feeling when you see the kids excel at something, or do something wich makes you proud...

raysh..
sure, will do it soon...

pink dogwood said...

We just got a newsletter from school about the school year that starts in a few weeks. My younger one (9 yrs) was reading it and comes over and says - "I guess I will be packing my lunch for the whole 4th grade" . I said why is that - she said that lunch had gone up another 50 cents - now it is $2.50. I had to laugh out loud. I told her that that's ok, we can still afford it, but the only reason I say no to school lunch is because she can pack healthier stuff from home :) She looked so relieved knowing that we can still afford to buy lunches once in a while.

I loved this post - and I agree whole heartedly.

I wish you were my neighbor - I was looking at your top 10 list from July 7th post and I also have pottery, meditation, manage my temper on my list - we could have worked on them together :)

Madhumita. said...

First of all, my son just got the exact same t-shirt as your younger one ... but the message didn't hv much to recommend it except the cute factor. :). But hey, he's a kid and maybe I take things too seriously.

On the fact that you use public transport instead of your own, that is so good to hear. Not just because of environmental issues, but also because of what such a move represents. Your kids will grow up being very comfortable in their own skin. Honestly, i think about simpler living and higher thinking but its a huge leap to actually implement. Someday, soon ... :)

Rohini said...

So true. I think kids have to learn that they cannot have everything they want. It prepares them well for real life where there parents won't be there to cater to their every need... making your child happy right now by giving into his every demand would only set him up for an unhappy adulthood, in my opinion...

Just Jen said...

Just stopping by to give you an update to my new blog url, I'm hoping this will ditch the watchful eyes of my 'troll'. http://humbleopinion2.blogspot.com/

Nags said...

beautiful post. and i totally agree with the need-want merge happening. its just the sad story of rich getting richer and more comfy while poor get worse. if kids are born into a family where their parents can put good food on the table every day then that itself is good i guess. things are just too easy for them these days.

singapore is definitely not as comfortable as india is, and i definitely miss the domestic help i had and to be honest, i crib, a lot! but i am sure i will get used to it cuz i have seen my mom do all the housework herself at one point in our lives. its just the way things are :)

Mama - Mia said...

what you say is so so true! just because parents can afford it today, we want to give kids everything!

we have hardly bought toys and all for Cubby. for one he got gifted lots of them and some hand me downs in great shape!!

i dont buy him super expensive clothes! and i have to thank M for keeping me sane when i am sorely tempted by something silly!!

and then we complain that our kids have become too demanding!

i really admie the way my parents inculcated so much sesne that we knew better than to ask for somthing when given everything else on another occassion! :)

great post Suma!

cheers!

abha

Gazal said...

55 comments!!!!!

bowing in reverence

as for parenting...ek aag ka dariya hai aur doob ke jana hai....its a tough job convincing the kids about the value of money esp when they feel....
"why not... just go to the ATM and get some more mummy"

Keshi said...

Excellent post Suma!

In today's competitive and fats moving world, children r trapped in artificial childhoods and excessive WANTS. Needs arent even questioned anymore. Everyone WANTS somethings and the speedy ratrace proves it.



**It worries me when i see children his age, cushioned against the disappointments of life


me too! my nieces n nephews hv a store-room full of extravagant toys and computers n wutnots! And they r only 7yrs and 4yrs old!


When I was a child, my parents never got me everything I WANTED. I had wut I NEEDED and I never ASKED for anything more.


Keshi.

Keshi said...

Abt Parenting in this era..yes I agree, it must be hard for u. Cos times hv changed and we r in the cutting-edge Tech era now. But its imp for u to teach ur kids wuts NEEDS and WANTS are. Dun force ur opinions on em, just teach em, and let em take over from there.


Keshi.

Madhu Rao said...

Meandered in from Labnol. It is heartening to see a good write up about the challenges of parenting. Looks like you are doing the right things Suma.

Have a 2.5 year old and a 2.5 week old and it's a challenge. I think it's even harder to say NO for mothers. Like the saying goes, 'They take the baby out of the womb and replace it with guilt..'

My wife is currently gunning for Tina Fey's greatest achievement -- not her screenplays or TV productions, but the fact that she has been able to get her 3 year old to say "Sorry" & "Thank You" :-)

Madhu Rao
www.indimag.com

Suma said...

pink dogwood...
i wish we could meet too..i'm highly impressed by your motivation levels...yes, we seem to have quite a few interests in common too...

@ madhumita...
frankly, i used to love my chauffered existence in delhi but then there was a need for it..here there is absolutely no need to have a car and it is an healthier option too...surprisingly teh boyz have taken to the extra walking well...

@rohini,
yup, you said it well...i guess the fault lies in overindulgent parents because i've noticed that kids adapt themselves fast ...we are the ones who worry over everything...

Suma said...

@jen...
hey thanks, i've updated your new url...
hope the troll doesn't bother you now...

@nags..
:)
you must be missing home quite abit too...but as you rightly said, you adjust soon enough..besides, you are on a new journey of your life, so it should be fun...;)

hey abha,
...yes, we spoil them in teh name of love, and then the child fails to realise where teh limit lies...
cubby is going to grow up into a super sensible boy

keshi...
when you earn, you are able to determine your limit...i've seen overindulged adults who still live off their parents' hard earned money and that gets my goat...

gazal!!!

lol...don't bow, i'm sure that out of those comments, atleats 15 must be my own replies :P
yes, the ATM...everready source of cash

Suma said...

@ madhu..

yes, saying no and not feeling guilty sure needs practice...i'm quite seasoned sayer of no, by now...:D

Antarman said...

Helloo:) A post after my heart. Exactly the way I think,I have also brought up my children like that-some things u can aford, and some not, if u still want them , then save for that atleast 50 % and rest i will contribute. And today I am proud to say that they are very sensible adults.
There is a word-delayed gratification, and it is a must to teach them, other wise sometimes , in their adult life, if they dont get anything which they want they feel very depressed. They should understand from their childhood that everyhting cant be had on platter, some u get and for some u have to work hard.
It teaches them the value of money as well as hard work.
loving does not mean giving only, its judicial giving, judicial withholding.

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