When I say ‘look around’ today, all that I mean is to keep your eyes glued on the screen of your laptop or smartphone and hop from one social media platform to another. This is what parenting has come to mean now.
You want to disagree?
Well, all you need to do is to look around and discover the sheer number of mothers (and fathers too in many cases) posting pictures, short clips, and texts about their kids that quite literally say: ‘Hey other parents now match this!’ We have kids saying and doing things that they barely seem to understand but are obviously enjoying all the attention. Every little artwork, craft-work, dance move, scribbled text, and the spoken word are flung around carelessly all over the ephemeral online universe that is in a hurry to bury updates in the catacombs of time. The stress that emerges because of this race is obvious on the parents as well as the kids. The online world is brimming with mommy bloggers, mommy instagrammers, mommy tweeple, mommy pinterestists, mommy facebookers and of course, mommy groups and mommy contests.
Is there anything wrong with this?
The nagging feeling that people like me have is that it isn’t just the race that is evident here but the presence of an orchestrated strategy to push mediocrity to the forefront. It is more like parents aggressively telling everyone else that their kid deserves a louder applause simply because they (the parents) have the ability and the opportunity to unlock the magical stage set by the social media. It is like implying that everyone else, including the have-nots, are dodos in the world of parenting. This is what is chromosomally wrong with this. This is as bad as smartphone companies hyping selfie cameras as having ‘beauty modes’. By the way, the affliction isn’t limited to parenting… just replace ‘parenting’ in the title with technology, travel, spirituality, photography, creativity, environment, art, acting, or anything else that comes to your mind and you’ll find the belligerent advances of mediocrity filling our lives. If doing all this is classified as difficult then I’m afraid parenting is losing its sense of direction.
How else can parenting be different in this age of technology?
Technology isn’t to be blamed here. Taking the help of google to get information that transforms homework into mini researches is fine provided it is the kid who has been taught to browse, search, assimilate,
and conclude. Imagine watching a video of a kid in primary school go to a party carrying a steel plate, bowl and spoon staring into the camera and saying: ‘I don’t accept plastic plates and cups. I care for my environment.’ This is all hogwash if the same kid asks for a chocolate wrapped in shiny plastic, writes with a plastic body pen, carries a plastic water bottle to school, plays with toys made with plastic and smiles (obviously off camera). You can also visit this website if you’re looking for a unique style of toy.
This is isn’t the only way technology can be harnessed by parents. Parents today have digital babysitters to assist in managing home from work places, net nannies to prevent unwanted sites to pop up while the kid is online, social media groups to discuss nuances with absolute strangers from every part of the globe, and raise issues like bullying or ragging in school and urge for stringent legal amendments. These advancements are definitely making parenting anything but ‘more difficult’. Parents in the past years did not have so much technology coming nearer to assist.
But – you insist – parenting is a difficult task today.
No, it isn’t. Parenting is still as complex as it was in the yesteryears. If you’re the sort of parent who is intent upon doing everything for instant gratification, you are certainly misusing all the advancements and advantages of prosperity. We have all seen parents over-ordering food in a restaurant, leaving a lot of it unconsumed and then updating on their social media page that they had gone with their child to a village to make him understand what poverty means. We all know people buying expensive clothes from stores like this unique baby boy clothes for a newborn you’ll love because we love them too much and want to see them well dressed but it does not have to be all the time. Go out and see the number of parents driving a car without using a seat belt or talking on the phone while driving or going on a two-wheeler without a helmet and you’ll know that real learning for a child comes because of what he or she SEES his parents do. I’ve seen young parents wear loud colours while on a jungle safari, talk incessantly inside a library, get into online brawls, trim certain vegetables in a store so they weigh less, jump queues by telling sob stories, and borrow books without returning them. Some of these parents lament that parenting is a difficult task. Buying books and never finding time to read them aloud or gifting a load of board games without once sitting down and playing with them or copying from texts on the internet so that a child gets an A-grade in school are all examples of what bad parenting will ever be.
If someone insists that today’s parents are more involved and that parenting is more difficult, my answer is an emphatic no. The degree of involvement of parents was the same decades ago as it is now. Even in the past were parents who never threw the wrapper of a toffee on the footpath, who allowed their kids to discover their own strengths, who searched for foot-over bridges to cross a road, who bought only what was needed, who read newspapers aloud and discussed vital issues, and who respected all professions. Values remain a theoretical abstraction so long as one only talks about them and never once follows them stringently.
Parenting is certainly difficult if one simply preaches. Good parenting doesn’t change with changing times and is all about leading from the front. All that one needs to remember is that kids follow what they see their parents do. It is dumb to believe that there are two sets of actions with one remaining exclusively for adults and the other for kids. #ParentingThenAndNow is just about different environments and not about different mind-sets.
27 March 2019