As a parent, I cannot help being disturbed when I hear about some unfortunate incidents. These days the news of children committing suicide is on the increase. Every time I come across such news, this question pops up in my mind - what ails our children? Alternatively, is it the parents who are to be blamed?
Let me share with you a couple of incidents here - both are real incidents, but I have tweaked the circumstances/details a little bit, so that the identity of the people are not revealed.
I am fed up of this life. Mom shouted at me again today. She is always angry with me. Whatever I do, how much ever I do, and she is always unhappy and shouting at me. I cannot take it anymore. I want to be free from everything...
How I wish I had died instead of you. Then Mom and others would have been really happy. That would have been one less problem for everyone. I wish I had been there with you that day and died along with you... I love you a lot Papa and I miss you very much!
Why did you have to go leaving us alone? I hate Mom and I don’t know what to do. I too want to die. So, I drank the solution of my contact lenses. I want to join you soon - and mom will be more than happy to get rid of me from her life....
I love you Papa!
Your loving daughter
I was shocked to read it - someone, most probably a teenage girl (the language and the writing indicated that much), has written this as a suicide note - I thought.
As I thought about it, I became more panicky. How do I deal with it? How can I find out who this girl is, without creating a scene or difficulty for her and her family? There was absolutely nothing to go ahead other than the information that the girl's father is no more. How does one track such a family from an apartment complex where hundreds of families stay? As soon as the lift stopped at my floor, I got out, dumped my purchases at home, and headed to my neighbour's flat. Though both of us were fairly new at the place, we had developed a friendship and I couldn't think of anyone else to discuss the matter with - firstly, the matter in the letter was serious issue; secondly, by attracting unnecessary attention on it, I didn't want the girl to be humiliated or disturbed.
So, we set out on a secret mission to locate the girl. Since it was a near impossible task, we took the help of another friend, who was a member of resident's association. Soon, by using the clues in the letter, we found out the identity of the girl. The story was heartbreaking - the father died in an accident, the mother was bedridden and the family (or what was left of it) was really breaking apart. The girl and the mother did not share a good relationship - not an uncommon scenario in a household with a teenager. The mother didn't like some of her activities - and the girl resented the mother's intervention in her activities - a verbal war was a routine at their home.
It turned out that the girl was in the habit of writing such letters. When we told the mother about this, she was more or less indifferent. Perhaps, after going through the greatest trauma of her life, this didn't seem like a big deal to her - or else, all said and done, she knows her daughter a lot better. I was a bit surprised, if not shocked, when she took the matter lightly.
Clearly, there was a lack of communication in that house. I felt that perhaps the mother should have taken the help of an expert and improve her relations with the daughter. But who am I to suggest such things to anyone?
In another case, the parents were upset with their son for not performing well in class. To add to the problem, the boy wasn't taking care of his belongings and the parents found one of the books in the toy box. They got angry and told him to go out of the house, saying that they don't want a child who is not responsible and act his age. Here also the child was a teenager. The child got really scared and went out of the house, as ordered.
Later, when the parents cooled down a bit they opened the door to let the child in. But to their horror, the child was not to be seen anywhere. They assumed that he went to play with friends in the neighbourhood and started searching for him at the usual hangouts. Soon, it was clear that the boy is not at any of his friends' home or even in the colony. As they asked the gatekeeper, he was positive that no child went out unaccompanied. Confused, panic and grief stricken, the parents started doing rounds of the neighbourhood. As the night set in, the boy walked in from outside. No sooner did he saw the parents he started crying and tried running away. But the parents managed to get hold of him and took him home.
It turned out that the boy was so upset with the parents that he wanted to run away. He went to a shopping mall few kilometers away and after spending sometime there, didn't know what to do and so he came back. Once he saw the parents again, he was reminded of the early incident and he wanted to run away again. The parents, of course, were relieved to find the boy and more than happy that he returned unharmed. When they came to know that the boy had gone so far all alone, they were horrified too.
When I heard of this incident, I felt bad for the boy. Did he commit such a crime that he had to be sent out of the house? After all, he is only a boy of 13 or 14 years of age.
In this case, it is the parents who were more to be blamed. They could have kept their cool and made the boy understand his fault. They could have been more patient and understanding. It got me thinking like never before. I couldn't help evaluating myself as a parent. And here is what I felt.
Very often, parents tell their children that if you will bring so and so marks, we will give you this or that. Of course, all parents want their child to be the best. But in the process, we end up making our children think that we love them conditionally. We give them an impression that we will love him only if he tops his class or scores good grades in school.
Children are delicate - they need to be nurtured with care and love. Let us make our children understand that we love them unconditionally. It is not their marks that matter in the real sense, but their attitude and effort. We love them for what they are, and not for the marks they bring back from school. Let us not evaluate everything by marks and grades. Let us help them to nurture their interests and not impose our will upon them.
Of course, we may have to guide them and be stern with them. But, as parents, let us not drive them away from us for some silly mistakes. Asking a child to go out of the house or telling him that we don't want a child like you is one of the cruelest words that one can tell a child. Even spanking or hitting might not hurt him that much. By using such words, we are telling him that he doesn't matter to us - what matters is the marks and good words that he brings from the school. There cannot be a more hurting thought than this.
So, as a parent, we need to understand that the children are individuals with their own aspirations and abilities. We should not impose our unfulfilled dreams on them. We are only caretakers and have to see to it that they are nurtured in the best manner. Let’s love them and care for them. Let’s help them know good and bad, right and wrong. Let’s not complicate their lives with our aspirations and dreams. Instead, let’s give them the courage to aspire and dream and to fulfill those dreams.
Of course, we need to make them strong enough that they don't fall easily. They need to know that setbacks are not the end of life. As parents, we need to let them know that we are there for them, no matter what. Though we all want our child to have everything in the world, let’s not forget to tell them that some of us have only limited means and that it is not a shame not to have everything.
Many of us have reared our children in such a protective environment that at the first setback, they think of suicide or other such drastic measures. We have very often said 'yes' to all their demands - whether just or otherwise - that they can’t take 'no' for an answer. By instant gratification and indulgence, we have corrupted our children. There is no point in blaming them when we have shown them the wrong path in the first place.
Parenting in the modern times is a tough job - but not an impossible one. All we have to do is listen to the children. Apart from the luxuries and other needs, let us also give them more of our love, time and care. Let them know that their parents are there for them - always. Then perhaps, the children will not take the extreme steps. Perhaps they will think a moment about us and our love, and it might pull them back from such decisions. If a child commit suicide, it is also a parent that dies. I hope that such a tragedy occurs in no house. For that, lets learn to be more loving and caring. I am hopeful that our children will know that we love them and will stand by them and help them overcome their difficulties.
Let the number of such happy households multiply.
Let me end this with what Khalil Gibran said about Children:
Your children are not your children.
They are the sons and daughters of Life's longing for itself.
They come through you but not from you,
And though they are with you yet they belong not to you.
You may give them your love but not your thoughts,
For they have their own thoughts.
You may house their bodies but not their souls,
For their souls dwell in the house of tomorrow,
which you cannot visit, not even in your dreams.
You may strive to be like them,
but seek not to make them like you.
For life goes not backward nor tarries with yesterday.
You are the bows from which your children
as living arrows are sent forth.
The archer sees the mark upon the path of the infinite,
and He bends you with His might
that His arrows may go swift and far.
Let your bending in the archer's hand be for gladness;
For even as He loves the arrow that flies,
so He loves also the bow that is stable.
Wishing all the parents out there happy parenting!