Home   |  Issues  |  The Daily Star Home | Thursday, February 23, 2012


By Mahir Khan
Illustration: E. R. Ronny

Scene 1: Your whole class is going out on a study tour but you are stuck home. Why? Because it's 2012 and the world is ending? No, it's because your mother thinks it's not safe for you to go without parental supervision, even though there are at least a dozen teachers going along.

Scene 2: You are going to hang out with your friends but suddenly your dad comes to know of your little excursion, which your mom strategically put forward at the dinner table (yeah, they do that) and declares you are too young to go hang out with your friends. Of course being 18 you try to put forward a case to convince them otherwise but that only gets you called a beadob. You hang out with your friends, you might as well hang.

If you think you are the most unlucky kid in the world to have landed such merciless parents, then cheer up because almost every kid, other than that one friend we all have, had to face this.

This is the seeming curse of overprotective parents. Although Oxford dictionary gives a rather positive image on the word overprotective, in reality using it before the word parents is enough to make any kid shudder.

“My parents tend to worry themselves to death even when I am going to the shop across the street. Its not an exaggeration, my mom actually calls me up at least once if I have been out there for more than 10 minutes,” said Samantha Rahman, a first year IBA student. She further added, “I am not sure if this sort of prejudice only exists for girls but in the 21st century where everyone has equal rights, this should not be the case. Not letting me go camping or to picnics because God knows what sort of "WRONG STUFF" goes on there, even though all the other girls and boys are going, is kind of silly.”

Another A level student commented, “My parents (well, ammu really) didn't let me participate in this interschool thing because no teachers would be going with us and we were going to ISD. It was an MUN conference and I was in class 9 back then. Later she called up the school and made a scene about how they let students go off on their own and don't take enough care of their students. School scenes are the worst, I tell you.” Yes, this is where overprotective meets embarrassment.

It is somehow accepted that when it comes to girls parents are supposed to be overprotective. But there are some really unlucky guys out there who fall under the regime of these kinds of tyrant parents as well. The writer personally knows this guy who studies in the 12th grade, has a beard, his hair is already falling off and the fun part (for his friends at least) is his mom still drops him off in college, sits outside the whole day and take him home once the classes are over. No, he is incapable of moving about on his own and we used to wonder why his mom sits outside. And the sad result of this is, when he has to travel alone, he cannot even find his way home without taking at least two wrong turns and then asking for directions.

Of the few parents we asked about this overprotective nature of them, none actually admitted to being overprotective. The claims were of course violently rejected by their kids on condition of anonymity. The parents simply said that they worry about their children. One of the parents said, “Although our children get irritated sometimes, it is a part of parenthood to worry about them and it's also how we show that we care.”

"I'm a guy. I've had a pair of overprotective parents. All the way till college. Now that I've passed a certain amount of time, I can look back and see they may have had their points. They worried about stuff they thought I would get into trouble for. I did. So they were right. But the approach of trying to control everything was more problematic than helpful. It put a strain on our relationship." This coming from a 24 year old.

So what if anything is there that can be done about it? "A worried parent will continue worrying. Doubtful there is anything you can do about it. Just don't add to their worries. The important thing to remember is that 1) they do this because they are probably scared you will die no matter what you do. 2) This will pass." This coming from a 22 year old survivor. "It does get on your nerves. Things get difficult but it all passes. Just don't add to their worries by actually doing something they are afraid of."

One of those things that parents are afraid of is their kid falling in love and the ill effects of it such as dates, clandestine meets and unplanned future conceptions. Relationships happen. They can't be avoided.

So how do you make parents, overprotective ones, change? How do you get them to stop going ballistic about every little thing you do? Most likely you can't. But talking does help whether it be about staying out late, seeing someone or jumping over 10 busses with a CNG autorickshaw. Shutting off from your parents make things worse. Many young people feel estranged; they try to make their world more private, they hide from their parents because of the nosy worrying they expect. This is like adding fuel to fire. What can be done to mitigate the stressful effects of parents who try to control too much is for the young people to deal with it themselves; change the way you think. The parents will worry. The parents will try to handle everything. They will leave 35 misscalls on your phone. Accept it. Don't let it go past 2 misscalls. It's easier for you to change. Remember, it all passes. And when nothing else works, charm your favourite uncle, or grandma, the one person that the parent respects and is scared of. Talk. Don't shut off. Don't be a stranger.

If you guys remember the movie Finding Nemo, you'll remember that Nemo snapped under the lack of space from his dad and went on to touch the boat which got him captured and dragged to Sydney. You'll also remember that it was his dad, the clownfish Marlin (who wasn't very funny), who swam hundreds of miles from the Great Barrier Reef to Sydney to rescue him. The message is that all our parents love us, but they can just be a little hard to handle sometimes. Sincerely from someone who was never allowed to go to camp.


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