Tuesday, August 14, 2018

Anjali - Parents Expectations, Said and Unsaid

I never understood the full meaning of what it meant when we say that children carry 'the burden of expectations'. The burden more or less seems to begin and ends with the parents who represent the society to the child. Children of successful parents carry this burden a lot more because of the constant comparison but it is not to say that children of less successful parents do not.
Tenzin is in Manali looking for herbs for Tibetan medicine. He sent me this pic.
Somehow it struck me while talking to one celebrity parent a few years ago that children assume this expectation, this role of making their parents proud whether the expectation exists or not. Watch any reality show, any child in his or her deepest moment and we hear them say 'I want to make my parents proud'. Their biggest fear - of failing their parents. I can get it when counsellors say - you can forgive anyone but not your parents. It's written into the code it seems.

That particular conversation led me to think that all we need to do as parents is to reduce that burden - expected or unexpected - from the child's shoulders and allow them to express themselves as they are. To tell them that we love them unconditionally and forever. And to demonstrate that in all our actions. Every parent tries hard to do their best for the child - some feel that the child needs to be pushed, some that the child needs to be left alone. The balance never seems right but long as the child is aware that this burden can be set aside and he or she will be loved despite that - it just might help that much more to make the journey bearable for the child.

So it was in a recent experience when Anjali was upset and in a quiet moment told me that she was unhappy that she was not being strong enough for us. I was surprised to hear that she felt she had to be strong for us. Which means that she should not cry or be sensitive or feel emotional when she wants to. I told her whatever I knew about being strong. I told her that it is fine to accept being weak, because weak is one end of the spectrum and strong is another and both exist in the same place. In fact I felt that accepting that we are weak is a sign of strength. It gives a kind of a resilience and flexibility that we normally do not get by putting up a facade of strength which could be rather brittle. She listened and heard me out and nodded. Hopefully it made whatever sense it did to her and she understands it the way it will help her be herself - fears and worries, joys and happiness, weakness and strength and all.

Deep inside I wonder if I am still seeking approval from my parents, somehow wondering if I failed them or made them proud. I somehow feel they might have wished that I was not so adamant in some things but in the end, be secretly proud of my naive addiction to the way of life I believe in. I feel they would be fine with whatever I have done or any of my siblings have done. I can see the joy in my mother's eyes and her pride at what my brother has achieved and at my books for she was an expressive one, and my father's gruff manner but very transparent ways of understanding our choices and trying to make them ours and not his. From up there, they would be quite happy we did what we did.

The paradox is that we are strong when we accept we are weak. We become weak when we force ourselves to be strong. It is when we are honest that we seem to find some deep reservoir of strength.

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