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Will your child feel comfortable coming up to you if he is gay? Or if she is going through heartache? Have you ensured that they will feel supported, no matter what?
As appreciation for the recently released movie Ek Ladki Toh Dekha Toh Aisa Lagaa pours in from people from different strata of society, I look back at several conversations I have had with my husband and my friends about how we’ll be ‘privileged’ if our kids decided to marry someone of the opposite gender. “With decriminalisation of same sex marriages, you never know how matters shape up, you know.”
However, after watching the movie, I am at a loss of words. To consider the possibility that my son might be gay and think that ‘I am OK with it’ is one thing, but to face such a reality and rise up to the occasion as a truly progressive, parent of the modern era, is an altogether different ball game.
I know I still have another 6-8 years to prepare myself and figure things out. But while I was watching the movie, I realised that there is another fear that engulfs me as a parent. It is the FOMO syndrome in its worst form. Yes, it’s the Fear Of Missing Out on that phase of my kids’ lives when they will be all wound up inside, fearing that opening up to their parents might have repercussions.
No, it’s not just about coming out of the closet with a revelation of their sexual orientation.
Remember that time in high school when you had your first heart break (even if you were only a teenager and it was just a crush)? I definitely want to hold my neck and stick my tongue out at myself at how I had sulked for months before I got my gears under control. I also want to apologise to my family and my friends who had to bear my mood swings without even knowing what had caught me. But as stupid and laugh-worthy as it may sound today, I know that I was really broken then. But on second thoughts, I also remember how stifled I had felt because despite my mother being there around me, always trying to figure what was wrong with me, I was too scared to confess anything to her.
“This is the time to focus on your career!”
“Are we working so hard and providing for all your needs so that you go and waste time and energy over a boy?”
These are the reactions I had anticipated and tried to keep my heartbreak under wraps.
Ever read about a teenager who ended her life, with a note that she knew that her parents would never understand her love for a guy from a different caste?
Well, we as educated and informed parents might have come a long way, but it’s not just heartbreak. There are other things too, that could lead your kid to feel distressed. Peer pressure, career related pressures, issues with body shaming are other things that I know for sure affect teenagers and young adults to a huge extent. And more often than not, the generation gap between the kid and parents is most evident in this phase. As a mother, it breaks my heart to even think that at a time when my kid’s soul is bleeding with the hurt, I might not be able to reach out to him and sooth him to comfort. But then, what could I possibly do to make sure that my kid does not feel trapped in a glass cube when the time arrives?
Until some time back, I would have possibly said that I would cross the bridge when I come to it. But today, as I walked out of the movie hall, the visions of how helpless and let down Anil Kapoor the father, felt when he reads through hundreds of pages of his daughter’s diaries, about all that she has been through all this while all alone tugged at my heart. Much as no child deserves to bleed her heart out, neither does any parent deserve to come to terms with the reality that they weren’t there when their child needed them the most. But what do we do about it? How can we ensure that when such a time comes, the kid does not hesitate to come forth and talk it out?
Obviously, a parent cannot go around the house, blowing a trumpet with such an announcement as, “Oh My Dear Child! If you are gay, or have any form of heartache to discuss, come to me. I am there.” So what can I as a mother of a six year old do today to prepare for the eventualities of the future?
I have made some promises to myself, so that I never have to face that moment of truth and say to myself,
“OH GOD! MY CHILD HAD TO BEAR THIS ALL ALONE!”
Never forget that my child is an adult in the making and what I tell him now, will remain with him forever.
Never shy away from conversations on issues that might be uncomfortable. A child’s mind is a clean slate. It will get filled up with what I tell him. That’s better than him trying to fill it up with faulty shades.
Never criticize others in front of my child. His innocent yet smart mind will draw the connection and conclude that the principles remain the same for everyone.
I am not a police person who has to reprimand the child for breaking rules. My role is that of a life coach, a mentor and a guide. It’s a long life, and the point is to pull back the kid on track whenever he goes astray.
I know as my kid grows and I too grow as a parent, I will add to this list. But for now, I feel if I am able to keep these promises, I shall be in a good position to assure myself that my kid will know who to walk up to if he needs to bare his heart out.
And yes, I always pray to god, to give me the strength to be able to stand by my kid’s side come what may.
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Darlings makes some excellent points about domestic violence . For such a movie to not follow through with a resolution that won't be problematic, is disappointing.
I watched Darlings last weekend, staying on top of its release on Netflix. It was a long-awaited respite from the recent flicks. I wanted badly to jump into its praise and will praise it, for something has to be said for the powerhouse performances it is packed with. But I will not be able to in a way that I really had wanted to.
I wanted to say that this is a must-watch on domestic violence that I stand behind and a needed and nuanced social portrayal. But unfortunately, I can’t. For I found Darlings to be deeply problematic when it comes to the portrayal of domestic violence and how that should be dealt with.
Before we rush to the ‘you must be having a problem because a man was hit’ or ‘much worse happens to women’ conclusions, that is not what my issue is. I have seen the praises and criticisms, and the criticisms of criticisms. I know, from having had close associations with non-profits and activists who fight domestic violence not just in India but globally, that much worse happens to women. I have written a book with case studies and statistics on that. Neither do I have any moral qualms around violence getting tackled with violence (that will be another post some day).
Gender stereotypes, though a by-product of the patriarchal society that we have always lived in, are now so intricately woven into our conditioning that despite our progressive thinking, we are unable to break free from them.
Repeatedly crossing, while on my morning walk ̶ a sticky, vine-coloured patch on the walkway, painted by jamuns that have fallen from the jamun tree, crushed by the impact of their fall, and perhaps, inadvertently trampled upon by walkers, awakens memories of the mulberry tree that stood in my parents’ house when I was growing up. Right at the entrance of the house, the tree caused a similar red and violet chaos on the floor, which greeted us each time we entered the gate.
Today, as I walked by this red-violet patch, I was reminded of an incident that my mother had narrated to me several times. It had taken place shortly after her marriage and her arrival in this house from her hometown.