Clash of the Titans

“Children are a heritage of the Lord”. So says a verse in the Bible. Every day, countless babies are born in various places around the world. The little baby’s tiny cries after exiting the womb bring joy to all around. The baby is the cynosure of its parents’ eyes. Who would even consider that some years down the line, there would be no love lost between them?

Parenting is quite an arduous task. It is a huge responsibility, having to watch over another person. Hence, it is not a job for the immature. For many parents, watching their baby grow—first steps, first words, learning to eat solid food, learning to use a small potty—is a thing of joy. They watch their baby gradually get bigger, and pledge to protect their child at all times, like infantry soldiers in a dugout.

For the babies, what a weird situation it must be! Having to rely on someone else for all needs, having to cry to draw attention to whatever the problem may be. Someone else decides when the baby eats, sleeps, where the baby goes to, what security measure to deploy for the baby. It must be a very “unpleasant” time for babies. The just cannot wait to grow up.

With time, the baby grows. The baby goes from one school, one class, to another. As the “baby” grows, the string is gradually slackened, as the parents allow their child to bear more responsibilities. In the process, the “baby” tag is dropped (or is supposed to be dropped).

Where am I going with all this? A friend recently complained to me about her mother’s behaviour. She has finished her undergraduate programme, and she is even a bit older than I am. Yet, her mother treats her as if she is still a baby. Shaming rants in front of neighbours and other strangers are now an established routine. It is a complaint that I could relate with because at some time in the past, it used to be my dad’s modus operandi.

As this friend recounted her ordeal, she was angrily flustered. “What does she mean?” “What is wrong with this woman?” “Am I a baby?” “I’ll pay her back”. As I tried my best to pacify her (even attempting to use God for coercion), I noted that this was a problem common in many families, especially, families with teenagers and young adults. At the root lies the natural proclivity of both sides.

The parent is driven by a protective instinct. As a mother hen that covers her chicks with her wings, and is ready to ward off predators with her beak, most parents would go to any length to “protect” their children. The logicality of their actions is not considered. All that is important to them is to protect their child from some perceived danger. This sometimes leads to an overbearing attitude.

On the other hand, the child is driven by a thirst for freedom. After spending 36 weeks in the womb’s claustropilic cavity, at delivery, the child sought freedom. That is the driving force. Many childish decisions are linked to this. It is what leads to stubbornness and aggressiveness. Rules are seen as a barrier to freedom. Peers offer a feeling of camaraderie, which the child readily accepts in a bid to fly.

Protection meets freedom. Any law enforcement official knows that both words are mutually exclusive to a large extent. You cannot fully protect someone who is free to go anywhere or act anyhow. Tough decisions have to be made. Who would make them? It all boils down to communication.

Communication issues lead to unwarranted problems. People, who ordinarily should be on the same team, end up seeing themselves as enemies. Inability to communicate properly leads results in good-intentioned actions, words or rules being perceived negatively by the other party. I learnt this the hard way. Years of trading shouts with my dad achieved nothing. It simply reinforced the wall between us. When respect entered the mix, ego had to be thrown away as we learnt that to get the other person to do anything; one had to be able to articulate his line of view.

Inasmuch as many children, no matter their age, need to respect their parents, parents also need to learn to respect their children. The child standing next to you is not the baby whose diapers you used to change. Get that “baby” image off your mind. Think of that child as a fellow adult, and be a good salesperson of your rules. At a certain age, rules should not be slammed down. Rather, a two-way discussion that explains your reasons, while accommodating your child’s interests or reservations would result in a mutually beneficial arrangement. The child would personally stick to those guidelines if they clearly protect his/her interests.

I have advised my friend to sit with her mom, and gently explain her reservations, or get someone who her mom respects, to talk with her mom. Either way, I have made it clear that communication, not a face-off, would solve their problem. I hope she takes my advice. The alternative is for the titans to continue their clash.

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