In this extract from the book 54 Reasons Why Parents Suck And Phew! by Dr Swati Lodha and her teenage daughter Swaraa Lodha, the latter bares her heart about the trouble with parents and their “permanent persuasive power”.
I always see my father jiggle the lock after securing the door. It is amusing to see a self-assured man always in doubt about his door-locking skills. Often, he comes back from the car to double-check the door, which must be writhing in pain due to his heavy shaking of the knob.
It all fell in place the day I observed my grandfather doing the same while locking the heavy doors of our home in Rajasthan. He rotated the keys inside the lock, checked the handle, pushed the door back and forth and then came out. He sat in the car and asked me, ‘Just go and check whether the door is locked properly’. I rolled my eyes in disbelief and was about to open my mouth in protest but my grandmother indicated to me to go and push the poor door once more.
My dad subconsciously does what my grandfather does.
Parents wield their power over children through genes. Parents wield some more power by passing on some habits to their children. Their power becomes too much when our beliefs and opinions become Mummy-fied and Daddy-fied.
We come in this world with a gift of their genes. The gift is wrapped by their habits with a ribbon of their beliefs tucked on it. I watch a film and my first reaction is, ‘I like it’, unless I hear my mom tearing it apart. I read an autobiography of a national hero and start to admire his life journey. Suddenly, I hear my dad talking about him as a marketing mastermind. His thoughts start rankling me.
Their general opinions, like ‘People of X community are good’, ‘Never trust any person from Y state’, ‘Dark skin tone is not beautiful’, become a part of our ‘growing-up narrative’ and then we get irrationally attached to theses generalizations. Why do you share your opinions with us? Damn it, they impact us. We start thinking like you. Your judgemental attitude, your biases seep into us. And God forbid, when we don’t agree with you, you hate us.
Your judgemental mindset and opinionated behaviour influences our growing-up years because:
* You want us to behave in accordance to your opinions. You neither expect us to like a person you dislike nor allow us to do so. A respondent mentioned that her father got upset when she spoke to one of his cousin’s daughter for a long time at a function, because he did not like that cousin of his.
* You stick to your opinions and beliefs. A friend of mine was given detention in school for bullying a younger child. It has been two years and though he improved and never misbehaved again, you firmly guarded your opinion about him. Your mindset is overpowering and fixed wherever your children are concerned.
* You only like ‘like-minded people’. We want to be liked by you. So we let ourselves become your cover version. I recently met a 6-year-old girl who was excessively chirpy around her mom and me. She sang loudly, pulled my hair and performed some somersaults. As soon as her father came, she became another person.
Her tone changed while talking to him, ‘How was your day, Daddy?’
‘Good. How was yours?’
‘Oh! It was nice. I loved school. I came and took a nap.’
‘What did you eat?’
‘I had milk shake.’
‘Good night everyone. Good night, Dad.’
She walked back to her room quietly. I felt like I was watching the little girl in a double role in a Hindi film. So much for getting liked.
Do you want to know about the power wielded by parents over their children and, hence, the world? Had it not been for parents of Robert Clive, India would not have been ruled by Britain for so long. Robert was a fearless and unruly child. As his poor parents could neither educate him nor nurture him, he became quite a handful.
Robert’s father, assuming a bleak future for his son, got him employed as a clerk in the East India Company. At 18, he was sent to Madras (now Chennai). He took military training and consolidated the British Army against the French Empire. His disapproving father changed the future of our country. Clive never wanted to come to India but he had to bow down to his father’s wishes. The founder of the British Empire in our country dominated mercilessly over everyone but got dominated by his father. This is the kind of power you exercise over us.
PV Sindhu, the famous Indian shuttler recently admitted on a TV show that her father, an Arjuna awardee and a famous volley ball player, encouraged her to be a sportsperson, but not in a team sport. That is why she chose badminton where she could be the only recipient of all the glory. This is the kind of power you exercise over us.
I tried to please you and seek your approval in the first decade of my life but the next decade brought out a rebel in me. Your mission to control me is met with my mission to resist you with all my might.
The more you push me, the more I push back. The more you threaten me, the more I talk back.
A father shows his authority when he says, ‘I am your father, you are not my father’. A mother uses her emotional power when she says, ‘I am your mother, and this is how you talk to me?’
My dopamine levels are soaring right now. I argue with you, challenge you and defy you because you are the safest point for me to vent out, to mess up.
This is my first childhood, but for you, it is the second. You saw yours too. Please don’t deny your run-ins with your parents when you were young. You will always influence our mindsets, our opinions and our habits because we are cut from the same cloth.
I do not wish to push you down when I disagree with you, I want to pull myself up.
I do not intend to ignore you, when I defy you, I want to seek myself out.
Please be patient when I shout, throw my hands or things and howl helplessly.
Whenever I run a race, I run faster in the last few seconds because I know that I can use all the buried energy just before the end. When you guys can see our adulthood round the corner, please muster all the buried patience to deal with our power struggles.
You are my ‘stage’ to play out my emotions.
I do not want to suppress it because I do not wish to poison myself in the long run.
Be the stage beneath my shaky feet and absorb my tears. If you hit back, I will topple.
How about replacing ‘anger’ with ‘patience’ from your default setting?
After all, you are my father. I am not yours.
(Extracted with permission from 54 Reasons Why Parents Suck And Phew! by Dr Swati Lodha, Swaraa Lodha, published by Rupa Publications.)