Home  -  Back Issues  -  The Team  -  Contact Us
     Volume 5 Issue 112 | September 15, 2006 |

   Cover Story
   View from the    Bottom
   Straight Talk
   Special Feature
   Photo Feature
   Dhaka Diary
   Book Review
   New Flicks
   Write to Mita

   SWM Home

Straight Talk

Muddling Through

Nadia Kabir Barb

My mother once said that the best gift that a child can give a parent is that of sibling love and unity. There is nothing more rewarding for a parent than to see his or her children sharing a bond of affection and seeing them take care of each other. I understand this feeling all too clearly now as it gives me immense pleasure when I see my children playing together, looking out for each other and even protecting one another when the need arises. On the other hand it distresses me when I see them arguing and bickering even though this is a part of growing up. At one point in time I might succumb to a little bit of self indulgence and give myself a very tiny mental pat on the back with the thought, “Who knows? We might just be doing something right with the kids” crossing my mind. And then the next moment, in a most melodramatic way raise my hands heavenward and exclaim, “What on Earth are we doing wrong?” Unsurprisingly, I find myself quoting the very same lines my mother said to me on these occasions.

As we all know, the responsibility of being a parent is enormous. Once we bring children into this world it is up to us to provide them with a secure and stable family life. Or that is the premise with which most people view parenthood. Now, what constitutes a normal family life is a different matter altogether as normality is a very subjective and relative term. As no two individuals are alike, no two families will be the same. What we have grown up with is sometimes what defines normality to us. For some, a relatively informal upbringing with an abundance of physical affection is usual. For others physical affection may be something that is not customary and would create awkwardness. We all interpret things differently and therefore bring our children up in the way we feel it to be appropriate. I may have a very different view on what is important to me in terms of bringing up my children to the next person. For example, some parents in my daughter's school feel it necessary to encourage independence at a very early age walking to school, using public transport, handling of own bank accounts by the age of eleven! This is unthinkable for someone like me. To me it is more important to let my children be children for as long as is possible. I have no desire to thrust responsibilities on them before their time. I am all too aware of the fact that adulthood gives you an excess of responsibilities whether you like it or not. However I am sure that what is common to most of us is the desire for all parents to try and instill in their children some semblance of family values and the willingness and ability to nurture is something that is common to most of us.

When we talk about 'dysfunctional' families, we may speculate as to the cause of the breakdown in relationships between the members of the family. There may be an infinite number of reasons for this. It is also very hard to know what the dynamics between the members of a family are like especially as an outside observer, so in all probability there is no way we could be aware of the full extent of what goes on behind closed doors to really be able to pass judgement. It seems to me that the majority of the responsibility for keeping a family together lies squarely on the shoulders of the parents. It is up to us to install a sense of unity and interdependence. Arguments and disagreements are common in any family as long as they can be resolved. I am sure there has been at least one time if not many more in every parent's life where they have been mortified by the behaviour of their offspring in public. For some reason we feel that the whole world is staring at our progeny with disapproving eyes and blaming us for their misdemeanours and labelling us as “bad parents”!

In an ideal world, we would want our children to grow up in family environments which would enable them to feel worthwhile and loved. In surroundings such as this, they realise that their feelings and needs are also important and can be expressed to the other members of the family. Children who grow up in this kind of supportive environment are probably more likely to develop healthy, open relationships that carry on into adulthood.

However, intentionally or otherwise families may fail to recognise and provide for many of their children's emotional and physical needs. In addition, the way in which different families' communicate with each other may sometimes affect the expressions of feelings and needs of a child. Children growing up in such families are likely to develop low self esteem and consider that their needs are not of any significance and might even feel that they need not be taken seriously by others. This may result in them being unable to form any stable or lasting relationships when they grow into adults. It is so hard to know if we are doing the right thing as there are no manuals from which we can get guidelines.

It is always sad when you hear of brothers and sisters who do not get along with each other or do not talk to their parents for months and months. You constantly hear about feuds over property and money and that to me is just tragic. At the end of our lives, it is really not what we have or what we have attained that will be of any significance but the human environment that we are left with. If we have been able to ingrain in our children the need to coexist in harmony then we may be lucky enough to be surrounded by children and grandchildren in later life. To be honest all we can do is try our best and muddle our way through being a parent and let time tell the rest.

My husband would tell me that I am becoming rather introspective at this point and before any of you turn around and ask me whether I have suddenly acquired a degree in Psychology or become a Psychiatrist over night, let me assure you that I do not presume or pretend to speak as an expert on this matter but just talk from my observations and my own point of view.

Copyright (R) thedailystar.net 2006