Family Values – An Umbrella Without A Handle?

Have you observed those touching your feet bending to be blessed? I have seen many trying to dangle their hand somewhere around my femur, leaning 20 degrees at the waist with minds and free hands fixed on keeping the falling pants or pallus in place. Not my idea of showering blessings – on those younger with visibly younger underwear, often.

Family Values – An Umbrella Without A Handle? - Children Opinions

A happy ‘hi’ makes me feel respected, or even just a warm smile! Which is not to say that I am stowing feet-touching away into the box of memorabilia in the attic, as yet. God knows, as do all the elders, it was one of the most beautiful gestures to bless and be blessed by. This here is a simple musing on how everything has a lifeline and a deadline – perhaps ideas of family values and their associated gestures too. And how we need to evolve them even as Darwin’s theory or some such evolves us!

The Why

Once upon a time, the list of values that a family stood for, collectively, was absolutely absolute. Say the 2 words and boom opened a huge umbrella with kin all sizes standing under it, believing in the same colour, texture and use of the umbrella and holding on to the handle together, for dear life – moral, familial, spiritual and all other kinds. You leave the handle and you are as good as excommunicated and a shame to be born into the said parivaar. In short, you agreed to never disagree and swore to pass on the list for all future generations to come – itemized, codified and to be followed with a finger on every pair of lips.

To quote the most used clichés of the century the world over – nothing is permanent but change, or, be the change, or, you are the change, etc. And that is the reason why over-arching and definitely aging codes of conduct and beliefs need to be reinvented, to suit changing contexts and move with times moving onward.

Let’s admit it! Our children are being born into situations and surroundings which, a generation back, was unimaginable. Exactly that will hold true for theirs, as one age makes way for another.

Codification does not help, especially in times when the child is encouraged to develop a mind of his own to live by and a life of his own to mind. Unquestioned and oft semi-understood “givens” followed blindly perhaps do no good, and do worse if not followed at all, since expectations of conformism are great and means of subversion equally aplenty. We need relevance to be understood by our children in their contexts. And we have to be understood in order to keep ourselves from becoming yesterday. And for that, we need to approach the idea of family values in a suitably flexible way.

The How

Family values mean what you as a family stand for and stand by. Hence, these beliefs, codes of behaviour and aspirations need to be chalked out and re-charted along with every member of the family – young, very young and very old. Which implies, we need to seek the opinion of our children and not just hand them a ready-made umbrella to stand under – worse still, with a handle they do not want to hold!

Family Values – An Umbrella Without A Handle?

As they go out into a world so different from the one we inhabited at their ages, we have to let them learn and unlearn, gather and shed, mould or re-shape values and beliefs that no longer fit the bill of survival and happiness in today’s world. Perhaps, find new symbols for Respect, Kindness, Generosity, Forgiveness, Responsibility, and so on. The family then has to sit around a round table, to discuss and redefine their beliefs as one organic whole, even if that means us parents learning our ABCs anew. The incipient hierarchy that came along with passing down rigid family values might as well go.

And as we do this, we need to differentiate between the oft-confused tradition, religion, values and ethics and understand how the evolution of any one does not compromise the foundation of the other. Only through this process of discussion (yes, Communication is the top most value in my family’s list) will we do justice to the term family values – shared beliefs not just of a family, but also by the family and for the family too.

The When

No time like Now.

It’s not easy being a parent. We know that! But it is even more difficult being a child. He has to balance himself between the previous generation’s ideas and his own influences that he gathers from his young context, often in conflict with the former. He needs to grow up while we relegate to ourselves just the act of growing old. To make things easy for them, we need to grow on too, along with them. Chances are that if the list of “family values” is one mutually found, the backbone to keep the family together has been strengthened beyond any doubts.

As I see my neighbour forcefully shoving bending her confused child to touch my feet, and trying to make me believe that her one-year-old already knows the gospel of Respect-to-Elders by heart, or an 8-year-old debating in words bigger than his feet, how best parents need to preserve family values by not running after money, I feel saddened by the show.

I can only pick the little baby up and hug her, a gesture both of us understand, or simply smile at that boy, ruffle his hair and correct his pronunciation of ‘family’ after his learnt-by-rote-debate is over.

We need to evolve. If we refused to, we would still be living in caves, universally non-vegetarian, wearing animal skin and painting in our leisure time. But then on second thoughts, that does not sound so bad, does it? Certainly better than being given an umbrella without a handle to hold!

Sakshi Nanda went from studying Literature to serving the print media and finally settling with two publishing houses who called her editor for a couple of hard-bounds, no more! She writes as a work-from-home mother to realize herself as well as to be read, both – with her 2-year-old boy and her sarkari babu beau as the greatest source of ideas and inspiration. She believes eating baby food is therapeutic and that the pen is man’s best invention, after diapers that is! Meet her at: sakshinanda.blogspot.in

  • Lovely post Sakshi.. The parents in India, go with a strange process while upbringing their kids… For example, they say, “khana kha lo warna devil aa jayega…” In a way, this makes a kid believe in devils and other shit for the rest of his life. Why can’t they try harder and make them understand the proper reason for eating their food. A Hindu family always talk shit about Muslims and a Muslim family talks in the same way about Hindus, all in front of their children. It makes them believe, that their friends of the other religion may be good human beings but certainly not good as ourselves. I know I am talking things not actually related to the post, but it felt like the best place to vent it. Thanks a lot for this lovely post…

  • be it feet touching or hugging .. just a way of respect .. it can be giving a hi5.i beg to differ a little but not to contradict.Yes times are changing .. so should the ways of respect be but how many of us know why in Hindu families we were asked to touch feet ??
    I know ! not many !!
    Even I did not and I never wanted to know and I hated this act of slavery I might say . One fine day, I somehow got the information while reading about why we do things in Sanatan Dharm( Hinduism as we prefer calling ) Today , I have heard elderly people making fun of me .. for touching their feet .. but I know thrice I repeat myself at different occasions .. I become the blue -eyed boy No! I dont do it be one ! I do it because I know what it means.
    Bottomline- culture and tradition are like fashion .. whats fading away will come back .. and its fading away because we do not bother to know or let our children know why we do something.Tomorrow , I may find going to temple is not the way of life .. as God lives inside .. and I will leave it. Many do not ! I know the reason why hence I go.
    Traditions of the past are fading down because of one mistake of the ancestors of ours .. they never bothered to know or let us know why we do things in the name of tradition !! 🙂
    Cheers !!

    • “Traditions of the past are fading down because of one mistake of the ancestors of ours .. they never bothered to know or let us know why we do things in the name of tradition !! ” – Absolutely! And that is why repeating them by rote or as automatons does not make me feel really “respected” when someone touches my feet. Thanks for reading, My Say! Your say is always very precious on my blog 🙂

  • Very true. You have outlined the facts and debated the issue beautifully. Although with every generation, family ties fade a little more, I believe the best families are those who can be friends with their younger generations.

    • Thank you Chaitanya. I am so happy you agree. It’s a controversial position to take, but God knows we need to do that sometimes, especially if we wish only the best for our children. I do not support codification of any kind. And I would at least try to be my son’s ‘friend’ in order to keep our communication channels always open. That is how Family Values need to be devised and designed. Thanks, again! 🙂

  • True, Sakshi. Well said. Yes, it is indeed important to take into account a child’s opinion and this, in part, also automatically teaches and empowers children to negate situations which make them uncomfortable. It is possible that children might present opinions that fall into the “not feasible” category but then again that is when parents use their skills to guide and explain things to children. At the very root of it all, the most important thing is to make sure the channels of communication remain open – always.

  • “It is possible that children might present opinions that fall into the “not feasible” category but then again that is when parents use their skills to guide and explain things to children.” – We cannot deny them a voice. It’s unfair. And like you say, what’s not reasonable will perhaps be explained away. 🙂 Thank you for reading, Most importantly, glad you agree. 🙂

  • sumanth

    Nicely Brought out. You gotcha fly with change.

    • Thanks, Sumanth! ‘Gotcha’ is one way to fly with the change. 🙂

  • There was a time I wondered what all the fuss about touching feet was. But after marriage I realized how happy I make my in laws when I follow traditions of their family of touching the feet. Guess what, now they hug me even before I am able to bend by ever expanding waist 🙂

    So I do not fuss much over these things and am happy when my nephews call me on my B’d ay or diwali and say hello uncle…. 🙂

  • My mantra exactly, Preasad. No fuss – neither expected nor executed. Just go and grow with the times. Look how your in laws are brimming full of hugs for you now. No more managing ‘expanding waist’ right? 😀 And I tell you that nephew is probably equally glad to be saying ‘hello uncle’. 🙂 Thank you for reading!