My kids have always mouthed off. When they were younger, I got reprimanded by my own mother and older relatives; because they thought the boys were irreverent and did not respect older people. The older generation thought parents were like demi Gods or dictators and I did not like it.
May be my kids were rude, but it did not matter to me, because, I thought they were brilliant! It takes intelligence to say the wrong thing at the most apt moment.
The older one had what is now diagnosed as ADHD and during those days was diagnosed as PFL (plain f%#@ing lazy.) So I sent him for tuition. Kid came home and asked me, “How much do you pay my tutor?”
I replied, “How does that concern you?”
He said, “Pay me, and I’ll study on my own.”
It had me laughing and reassured me that the boy had brains, somehow they shut down in class, but there was nothing wrong with the grey matter.
The younger one hated doing chores, if I asked him to do anything the reply was, “Am I your servant?”
It lasted until one day I refused to cook his lunch and asked him, in the same tone, “Am I your servant?”
It dawned on him, slowly and gradually that we had to do stuff for each other, and only then did the family unit work.
Now, suppose I had gone into the authoritarian parenting mode … the kind I had grown up in? I would have missed a lot – like knowing my kids. They would have never opened out to me; they would have never been my friends. Parenting lasts for about 15 to 20 years, give or take a few. Companionship lasts for life. They pull my leg, they have fun. They tease me and are very cheeky.
I stopped being the authoritative parent when they were 13 and taller than me. Authority is not something I am comfortable with anyway. By then, I had, in my own fashion, taught them right from wrong, not to lie, steal, bully and ill treat animals and smaller kids, and to share. That was the sum total of moral compass that I managed to instill. The rest, in any case, they had to learn on their own. Heck, the rest in any case, all of us have to learn on our own.
It worked, we are open, frank, caring and sharing. There is no stuffiness and if we are in trouble, we do not go to friends to confide or seek help. We are there for each other. I have never understood why being a parent gives anyone the moral authority to lord over another human.
Ritu Lalit is the author of two novels, A Bowlful of Butterflies published by Rupa & Co., and Hilawi published by Popular Prakashan. She is a single parent and blogs at www.phoenixritu.com