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Values & Education

Two Separate Rule-Books

First a little experience to be shared.

Here I was with my weekly vegetables in a bag, standing in the queue of the supermarket cash counter, and there was my better half taking the little one for on-demand push-cart spins. I thought gleefully how, as usual, I had chosen the less strenuous task of the day, when a big belly of a 40-something pushed its way in front of where my belly, if I had one, should have been.

2 Separate Rule-Books - When Parents Misbehave - Parents Set Examples

I would have pinched him into his rightful place, but for his 12-something son by his side who was nearly my height and weight and seemed like a loyal one who would come to fisticuffs in order to “protect” his daddy from a wild looking woman’s attack. (Their similar mohawks almost suggested a cult!) So, I acted prim and asked him to get in the queue, and certainly behind me.

This is a queue only, na!” he answered with a smattering of that accent my community loves to use at high decibels. “Sure is, but your place is behind me, not in front of me”, I mustered.

He lifted the pitiful looking dhania in his hand and said that, that is all he had to get billed so why create such a fuss, all the while increasing his tempo like a tempo’s engine which requires oil. By now, hungry-for-novelty onlookers had gathered around to see this verbal wrestling, even as my beau and boy enjoyed their spins out-of-sight of this arena (Oh Envy!)

How much you have to get billed is not the point, the…” I blurted curtly, when he cut me short “Achcha, toh what is the point, madam?” he asked, with the gilded Om around his neck shaking with anger. “The point is that your son is watching you misbehave with me right now!” I spat out, with my decibels as high as influence of my environment and reins of my parenting over it allowed.

There was silence. The match was over. Someone asked him to get back in line, and his dhania and his Pappu (forgive me!) gave me glances coming from mixed feelings, as if they still continued confused as to whose jersey to wear in this war of words. Something told me it was my colour they were cheering for throughout this totally avoidable nonsense!

This is one incident. Many such happen, in your lives and mine, where adults forget to behave themselves and the Gods around their necks watch in muted silence, wondering where all the “sacred” lessons went. In the mean time, the children get enveloped with a cocktail of embarrassment and incomprehension. Two reactions can be expected from the on-looking children. One, embarrassment with their parents’ behaviour, which makes them watch on from the sides in the silence of surrender. And two, association with and eventual appropriation of that kind of behaviour which make the children join the wrongdoers’ bandwagon and copy it in their own juvenile contexts. After all, it is their mother and father setting an example, even if a notorious one.

2 Separate Rule books

As I sit remembering that incident and wondering what that child must be thinking when his father roared like a buffalo with a blocked nose, questions rear their heads. Do we have a different rule book to practice out of and another one altogether out of which we preach to our children? And then, do we expect them to tow lines of behaviour different from the ones we, as parents, choose to walk on? Worse, are we failing to even expect good behaviour from our children, as we go on our own carefree spree?

Look around at your everyday.

We try our best to teach our tots politeness as a virtue, while we rudely dismiss a maid’s excuse for not coming the previous day. We tell them how “dirty” words should never be spoken, and use the roguish road-rage language ourselves when our parking spot is taken, or our expectations of hospitality not met at another’s wedding. We preach unquestioning respect for elders even as we sit discussing our own mothers-in-law in a not-so-respectful light with our girl friends. We expect our children to stand in queues in their school assemblies, but we forget the rule when standing in one ourselves. We teach them how God says we should help others, and turn a blind eye to the family hurt in an accident. Lying, gossiping, carrying tales and criticizing others are no-no, while we allow our adult selves to do exactly all of those – all in clear sight of our children.

There’s always someone watching, and I do not mean the Almighty. Children pick-up and pick-on the discrepancy between the 2 different sets of rule-books being used – one, a thick unabridged edition for them called ‘Thou shalt not’ and a barely-there book for the parents. They see different strokes for different folks do apply, and pick whichever suit their convenience, just like we do.

Here we rest thinking they are too young to understand contradictions and hypocrisies, and there their young minds have grown up enough and found an adult solution, in action or in words, to every childish situation that unfolds in their lives. At the end of their school fights, we cannot take them to task for the misbehavior in the school playground, because we as a parent lost our voice the moment we did something similar in ours.

I thought of all this even as I convinced and distracted the vegetable khichdi down my son’s gullet – waxing eloquent to myself and to him of how beans and tomatoes and even cardamom are nature’s gifts to man. And then, when he slept, I made myself a plate of instant noodles, certainly tasty but diagonally opposite from what was forced down his poor throat.

Yes, 2 different rule-books. And I need to mend my ways.

What about you?

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: