In our middle class set up anything out of the ordinary not only raises eyebrows but also attracts more than just attention. People stare openly with curiosity, disdain and sometimes approval – all depending on what kind of reaction is warranted.
I remember my mother telling me when I was growing up how horrified everyone was when Jyoti Phansalkar got down from her bicycle and slapped the roadside Romeo who tried to act fresh with her. Seeing Jyoti as a mild mannered 80 year old woman it is hard to imagine her as a firebrand pigtailed teenager cycling all over town let alone having the guts to slap someone in a public place. In those days, my mother said, it was not only a bold thing to do but also quite unexpected . Good girls never did such things . If someone was rude or lecherous, all one did was look down and hurriedly slink away.
Times have changed though and today women are expected to stand up for themselves and even if they have been assaulted and molested, are praised for their courage in bringing their tormentors to face the law. Indeed mores have changed and today’s grandmothers now encourage their grandchildren to face up to things boldly, acknowledge them publicly even.
The freedom to publicise things is not restricted to crimes and abuse but also to personal convictions. No longer are young children condemned for sexual preference that are not traditionally accepted. Nor are children condemned for live-in relationships, flaunting partners without any ties or even abandoning families. Laissez faire seems to be the flavour of the decade and everyone is free to do what he likes. After all we are all making informed choices.
But on the other hand there is also the old adage that one man’ s meat is another’s poison. Where does one draw the line between the freedom of expression and acceptable behaviour? It is all very well to encourage a child to follow its natural leanings and aptitudes but will that freedom extend to deviant behaviour? Obviously not.
And acceptable behaviour itself is dependent on societal norms. For instance drinking alcohol is accepted in certain cultures while it is taboo in others. Similarly polygamy is acceptable in certain cultures and prohibited in others. Even in cultures where certain behaviours are accepted, there are limits to acceptance such as drinking alcohol in moderation and drinking in excess. Also there are extenuating circumstance under which deviant behaviour is accepted. For instance killing another human is definitely wrong but acceptable in self defence or even excused if carried out under the influence of a mind altering substance or mental instability.
So to what extent will you encourage your child to do his/her own thing?
There have to be certain prescribed limits and the child must learn that the world is not really his oyster. He is free to do what he wants as long as it falls in the realm of socially acceptable behaviour. And it is up to us parents and caregivers to teach a child how to accept the limits of his behaviour. There are certain acts that are taboo and even if one is prepared to face the consequences of one’s actions should be exercised with due caution and restraint.
As a mother of two thirty-year old daughters and a grandmother of a nineteen week old grandson, Sunita Rajwade has been there and done that. A hands on mom, she has seen two girls grow successfully through baby hood, toddler hood, adolescence and adult hood; solving their maths problems and contributing to their angst of growing up with a mom “who doesn’t understand”. But now as a grandmother, she’s being appreciated for her “wisdom” and “understanding” and would like to share my experiences of this wonderful journey from motherhood to grandmotherhood.