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Involved parenting is not about being paranoid about your child. But yes, it does mean being fully aware of what is going on in your child’s life.
Following the heinous incident in Chennai where a 11 year old child was raped by multiple men, amidst a valiant outpouring of condemnation and calls for change, I stumbled upon a few posts on my social media where the posters had raised a question on parenting – or rather the role of the parents – in light of the extended time frame and multiple instances of violation before the plight of the girl came to light. Not following far behind were the other kind of posts – how dare we bring parents or anyone else’s responsibility into question here? Doing so is just supporting the rape culture.
Unfortunately, although possibly crafted with great passion and intention, the second is more damaging in my opinion. Why? Because this is not a battle of ideologies. We are talking children’s safety here. And yes, although it would be perfect if the world could be cleared of the malice of all kinds of child abuse with a brushstroke, awaiting that ideality is not worth the risk. Vigilance from parents and caregivers is absolutely what is needed while we wait for the bigger goals to be achieved.
Parents and immediate caregivers are the first line of defense any child has. In my recent trips to India, I have again and again noticed while visiting friends and families in predominantly young communities, multiple young children under the care of house helps all afternoon and through the evenings. In parks. Apartment common areas. Even malls and restaurants. I also witnessed such helps being the primary caregivers or attendants to children even after the parents have returned home or are around. Last October while in Kolkata, I received pamphlets advertising weekday boarding for children: if you are too busy, these highly upscale (and expensive) facilities will not only school your child during the day, they will also house them in the evening – for the entire week!
‘Too tired in the evening for homework and children watching television all through? We can help. We will ensure your child has proper nutrition and tuition, is excelling in schoolwork, has proper discipline and goes to bed on time during the work week. You can enjoy your weekends with them.’ Not verbatim but pretty close. I was extremely confused on why any parent would want this and then learnt that schedules, city traffic, work culture, moving away from home communities – literally everything – has made options like these not only viable for consideration but also vital in our thriving metros for those who can afford them.
Daily grind; exhaustion; pre-occupation with troubles that have no line of sight; personal, health or mental issues – all are valid reasons for distraction. But if it’s your child, the belief that he or she is under the same net of security and attention that you can provide, with hired help, is just an illusion. So even if you are devastated, desolate, tired beyond words yourself – if you have a child – recognize this and seek a remedy. Ask for help if you need to. Exhaust all options to make yourself fit to provide the intent and attention that your child deserves.
This problem could potentially be improved with better, high-security child care facilities, availability of services like child protection, higher ethics in business and stronger laws, but no system is foolproof. No net will be incident proof. And there is no substitute for a loved one’s close attention for prevention, early detection, and intervention.
This doesn’t mean that a drastic lifestyle change is needed. Neither is this a finger pointing against any group who might feel so (working mothers – this is not to single you out. I am a working mother myself and I am fast to take offense on reading posts on childcare, assuming immediately that it’s an attack on me, not my spouse. But it’s not. Both parents share this responsibility. And the more we take a larger share of offense, the more we hurt the cause of gender equality). Both parents have the right to have a career, pursue whatever dreams they have dreamt. What solution works for a family might be varied and personal. But if you have a child, he or she needs to come first. You need to pay attention. No matter how tired you are or what you are going through, you need to invest time with your child. You need to know what is going on with them. Who their friends are. Are they sad suddenly? Do they seem different? Who are all the people that have access to your child?
I am not advocating paranoia – I am advocating intense attention and common sense. Especially in populous societies like in India where a child gets exposed to multitudes of happenings through the day and has various elements crossing their paths – what else do you think will prevent a happening? A societal purge? A drastic improvement in laws? Maybe. But that’s not today. We need to start doing what we can today to keep our children safe in the reality we live in.
The outpouring, the condemnation, the boycotts and marches against the perpetrators and the crime itself needs to continue. I personally feel exhausted at the tidal rise and fall of such outcries and little change on the ground nevertheless and feel that we need a consistent, continuous uprising until change happens. But putting forward a case for prevention doesn’t take away from the angst against the rape culture and its perpetrators. And even if it does, it is worth it if another attempt can be prevented.
The rape culture needs to end. The prosecution needs to be faster, exemplary and foolproof. Societal changes need to go deep and pervasive. And parents need to increase vigilance. The entire society needs to increase vigilance. Let’s start at home with our own children. This is not judgment or blame. This is a plea.
Image via Pixabay
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Manages supply chain teams in Intel Corp. Blogger, writer and poet. Founder and Director Her
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