Why is it that so many Indian adults are so opposed to the idea of dating? I find it odd that this is the knee jerk response to dating and relationships? I think that rather than telling your kids not to date, you need to educate them on relationships with other people and on love and then they will choose wisely and at the right time with the right person. This education needs to begin with a different kind of education first though, one of showing your child what real love looks like. We as children grow up watching our parents and our family and take our cues on society and relationships from them, and we see a lot more than you may think we can comprehend. But little things have a way of sneaking into our psyche in ways we don’t even imagine will influence someone that young.
I really urge you, parents, to not just love your spouse in the best way you can but to further the love to your own children. You should be able to tell your child, “You deserve someone who will love you like I did your mom” or “You should love her like I love your mother”. If this is what your actions say, you may not even have to tell them that. Girls will grow up with the realization that respect and love is something necessary in a relationship and a good first hand look on how women are supposed to be treated. Boys will also learn from their fathers how to treat the women in their lives and what is acceptable and what is absolutely not. I read once that a lot of men who abuse women come from families where abuse was prevalent.
I’m sure when you grow up in a house of abuse and see the horror in puts into the lives of your loved ones, you may decide to never do such a thing in your life, I can picture myself doing that. But sometimes perhaps, things gradually get ingrained as “normal” in our heads such as verbal abuse, anger, lashing out, physical abuse and I think as the normalization of it occurs, it desensitizes people to its horror, perhaps so they can find a way to cope with it (especially if someone doesn’t stop it ever) and as the child grows up, the normalization carries on. When stressful situations arise in the kids life, as an adult, at his/her wit’s end, they may revert back to that behavior they saw because that’s how they saw a stressful situation being dealt with.
So parents, I encourage you to think about how you deal with stressful situations in your life. How do you react to insult? To tangled Christmas lights? To losing a job? To the news of a new baby on the way? To a child losing his homework the 3rd time today and not knowing how? To your neighbor getting a new car? To struggles with faith?. I guarantee your child is learning how to deal with all these things and exaggerated versions of them in their lives, from you. Really examine how you react because you can say whatever you want but your child is watching what you do and it will be etched in their memory.
Do you grin and bear it even when you really need to stand up for yourself or someone else? Do you yell, scream and throw things instead of having a conversation or taking a quick timeout to calm yourself down? Do you get jealous of others instead of showing your child happiness is finding satisfaction in what you have? Do you always want more, more, more instead of teaching your child how to give and share and divide your time, love and money with others? Do you let your happiness be determined by what others think of you than by yourself and the people who really love you? Do you show your child how to always be open to ideas, even different from yours, because you never know? Do you teach them to search for answers to their questions and see issues from both sides instead of stubbornly locking your feet firmly in one spot and refusing to budge?
Coming back to the topic of relationships and love, if my parents simply told me “Stay away from boys” and gave me no other advice on the matter, I may be inclined to give advice on similar terms to my child- a more ‘just don’t do it’ approach. Instead, if I had a parent who said, “Listen, if you ever meet someone who you think may be the One, you don’t have to hide it from me or elope or anything. Come and tell me and I will do my duty as a parent to talk to his family and find out what kind of person he is. If I feel he is not a good match for you, I will tell you, but if you still want to be with him, then I will let you”.
Its a world of difference isn’t it? By the way, both those above quotes are from actual real life parents I know. The first closes the conversation and make the topic almost taboo while the second opens it up and gives the child a freedom with your parent. I will go on to say that one of the uncles from the first family actually told this child, albeit half jokingly, ” If you ever elope or do something stupid like that, don’t come back with your tears”. While the second parent told the child, “If you get married to a guy, even against our opinion, and some time later you figure out this is not a good relationship and you can’t be in it, you don’t have to be afraid, you can come right back home, no problem”.
I love the contrast of the two families because I think most Indian parents take the first option and you really miss out on the amazing opportunity to be a part of such an intimate part of your child’s life, to teach them about love, sexuality and all these things that will influence them for all their life, if they’re taught the right things. Additionally, the child from the second family will be more willing now to probably seek advice from their parents when something happens, thus ensuring more safe behaviors and this child is learning what love should be like from their parent. Love shouldn’t be a ‘don’t ask any questions’ deal- love is confusing, even without the hormones getting involved and sometimes a child really wants your opinion but if you close the conversation, you will never get the chance to be involved in such an intimate forming of themselves and their confidence, esteem etc.
I know I wandered off topic (I tend to do that a lot) but I think its important to really consider actions as parents. Parenthood is a calling to be answered with as much dedication as a religious answers their calling. My mother always says she is responsible not just for her soul but for ours and my father’s as well. I think that it is necessary to realize you are not here on earth to make your child to a doctor or engineer (kids can do that without parents), you are here to ensure they become good people and that their souls will return back to God. It is realizing your child is a gift from God- He sent you a soul to take care of and return to Him and if that’s something you’re bad at, then that is something you should really work on more than the other stuff. I know its easy for me to say, I know it is not an easy path, and I acknowledge sometimes it is a call of suffering like for St. Monica but we still don’t give up on them, at least in prayer because that soul is still our responsibility.
I hope this article from a child’s perspective encourages you to start the conversation about love and relationships rather than just nipping it in the bud.