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:

  • arvindpassey

    This happens with a lot of us… even on the roads when a car swerves and breaks all the rules, you gnash your teeth and also notice that he has a religious mantra or symbol ‘sticker-ed’ on his rear windshield… so much for spirituality!

    Arvind Passey

    • Oh, so you have noticed that too? I tell you, it’s appalling, this coincidence. Maybe this is what Faith in His kripa is all about @arvindpassey:disqus 🙂 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Juztamom

    I agree. They are always there, watching every move and learning every second. And we do see a lot of parents being a bad example. Kids are like sponge, they absorb all the spills, you would see your moods spilled over them all the time. However I also think kids should understand the difference between being a child and being an adult. We should lead by examples but not everything can be taught by examples. Don’t be so hard on yourself. I think with time kids should also understand that adults have more privileges than them and NOT everything is questionable.

    • @juztamom:disqus Um, I wouldn’t categorise uncivil behavior, breaking road rules, or queues, parking badly, using abusive language as “adult privileges” (these are things I’m talking about in the post). Parenting is another word for Preaching, and writing about parenting is Preaching Personified. I make sure there is no discrepancy between what I write and what I follow myself in real life. The post also clarifies how, perhaps, an adult who thinks he can abuse because he is 18+ should not expect the younger lot to not abuse? That will be a very hollow expectation indeed! 2 books MAY create confusion. And even though they exist, asserting our “adult rights” may not be very well-taken/understood by our younglings. My son is 2.5, and that’s the milieu I talk from. Also, “We should lead by examples but not everything can be taught by examples.” – Yes, but neither can we expect them to learn through contradictions/hypocrisies unfolding in their very homes! 🙂 (PS – About adult privileges, yes, I eat alcohol filled chocolates and my son his Dairy Milk. I’m sure he understands! He better!! 😛 ;))

  • Abhijit Ray

    Nice article. First, you did the right thing. Second, you raised a very pertinent question. We need to be honest to ourselves and to the world. Otherwise, we shall only offer lip service. Our mouth will speak, but or character will reveal who we actually are.

    • How well put, @abhijitray:disqus. Indeed, we have to be honest to ourselves! Too many rule-books spoil the broth. And charity, in all forms, begins at home! NO excuses! 😀

  • nitika sipani

    Superbly written.. we adults are so manipulative in our own talks, whenever I tell about the harmful effects of tea or coffee, she must be definitely in her mind thinking, “why are you having it then??” And the day is not far when she would tell that also on my face.. 😉 .. but I feel its unavoidable, and we have to handle it smartly.. there are definitely two rule books 🙂

    • There sure are, sometimes 1 book for each generation, @nitikasipani:disqus 😛 “Smartly” is a good word. It shows one makes an effort to not allow-disallow good-bad according to age, gender, situation or temper. 😛 We all do our best. I just feel I shouldn’t make my little one feel any less than us adults, so when it comes to harmful (but yummy!) coffee, I just tell him how his milk shake is better. 😛

  • My father said “Bas ek hi ullu kaphi hai barbaad gullistan karne ko, har shaakh par ullu baitha hai, anjaame gullistan kya hoga” … so true, sadly

    • 🙂 True indeed, this beautiful line. And how sad! Thanks for reading, @phoenixritu:disqus

  • These conflicting messages that we as parents ( pot bellied or deprived of the pot) give to the young minds that make them wonder what happened! It is tough to be a role model all the time but kids are smart and they understand the dual roles played by parents very well. One better mind the ways before the kids questions ” But what about you?”

    • What a dreadful moment that would be when our kid asks “But what about you?” and we go “err, ahem, umm, argh, blah blah” 🙂 Thanks for reading, @desitraveler:disqus 🙂

  • Jairam Mohan

    Well, given that little R is only 2 yrs old, my wife and me haven’t had to face a situation where she discovers we do have two rule books at this point, especially when it comes to eating junk food, etc., but you have made an extremely interesting point with this post. I guess it is time for us to start thinking about it carefully now.

    PS: “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” this sentence had me in splits 😀

    • 😀 Thanks for reading, Jairam. Glad you find it ‘interesting’. My son is also just 2.5 but I can see signs of “questions waiting to be bombarded on us” on his face and in his expressions. So, I’m getting battle ready, and you could too. It;s never too early! 🙂

  • ronita

    such interesting write-up…enjoyed the humor part:) and somewhat could relate to it …no matter how much we think of revolving round the idealism quotient but somehow it falls apart many a times…the 2 separate rule book indeed exists;)

    • Indeed, @disqus_AAF5JtNsFS:disqus! Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • Thanks, @athenastake:disqus. I’m still wondering what Pappu was thinking. I’m hoping he was embarrassed. That should keep him from emulating his father! 🙂

  • Thanks, @JahidAkhtar:disqus 🙂

  • Good to know we;re on the same page, @disqus_z6rV768TBF:disqus 🙂

  • You’re welcome, @arvindprabhu:disqus You see, I had set the alarm more for myself than for any other parent. But then, if it makes your tick-tock ring too, why not! 😀 Thanks for stopping by! 🙂

  • “as long as those flaws don’t affect another’s peace of mind and space.” Absolutely, Nakshee. Thanks for reading! 🙂

  • Thanks, @disqus_BzRpO6C7uf:disqus

  • Reema Sahay

    Well said Sakshi. I completely agree with you and I personally try not to bring up 2 rule books. Of course, it is always a struggle. But can’t do anything about healthy / unhealthy food. I don’t give my son any chocolate [ a little bit just to taste] but I used to have once in a while [more portion than him]. My logic to myself was it is not a habit for me while for him it might become one. But now, even I have stopped having chocolates. So, actually, it is good if we try to follow one rule book for both generations because in the process we will be better versions of ourselves.

  • Sid Balachandran

    Great post Sakshi. The 2 different rule books concept is kind of a catch 22 thing. Sometimes you just have to..when it comes to stuff like junk food, I suppose its always better to be on the same page and the same book. I remember my granny used to say “If you are asking someone to not do something, you BL**dy well not be doing it in the first place.” Kudos for standing up to the “only this queue Bully”