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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: